Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lucchese Family

Little Al's Dilemma

Anthony Casso
Anthony Casso

At this point, acting boss "Little Al" D'Arco must have thought he'd fallen down the rabbit hole and landed at the Mad Hatter's tea party.   Amuso and Casso were getting more unreasonable and making less sense.   As author Ernest Volkman writes in his book Gangbusters, at a clandestine meeting, Casso gave D'Arco a list of 49 names -- people Casso had slated for execution.  D'Arco scanned down the list and realized that half of these people were Lucchese members.  When D'Arco questioned some of Casso's choices, the underboss said they all had to be killed because they were "creeps."  According to Volkman, at another meeting Casso promised that he would throw a party when he finally came out of hiding and invite all the "creeps" so he could kill them all in one place. 

John Gotti
John Gotti

Amuso showed his megalomania when he ordered D'Arco to recruit a bomb expert from the Philadelphia Mafia family, who would rig an explosive that would kill Gambino boss John Gotti.  D'Arco pointed out that there would most certainly be retaliation from the Gambino family, and the Lucchese family didn't need any more trouble.  Amuso told him not to worry about it because "the robe," Genovese boss Vincent Gigante, would support them.

These two were out of control, D'Arco must have thought.  If they could order the deaths of their own family members and their loved ones, how safe was he?  The writing on the wall came when Amuso demoted him and made him one of a four-man committee appointed to run the family.  He knew that Amuso and Casso held him responsible for the botched hit on "Fat Pete" Chiodo.  "Little Al" decided he'd better start watching his back more than usual.

On July 29, 1991, FBI agents captured Vic Amuso and his bodyguard at a suburban mall near Scranton, Pennsylvania.    They surrendered peacefully, but the news of Amuso's arrest did not put D'Arco's mind at ease.  If there was a contract on his head, it was still in effect, and Casso was still at large.

Six weeks later, D'Arco walked into the Hotel Kimberly in midtown Manhattan and took the elevator up to a suite where the acting Lucchese hierarchy had planned to hold a meeting.  As soon as he stepped into the suite, he knew instinctively that something was wrong.   According to Alan May, "D'Arco noticed one of the men had a bulge under his shirt, a sure sign he was carrying a weapon."  Coming armed to a meeting was a clear violation of Mafia protocol.  The man with the bulge excused himself and went into the bathroom.  When he returned, the bulge was gone.  D'Arco's stomach sank.  It was a classic setup.  The next guy to go into the john would come out with the gun in his hand.

"Little Al" was certain that he was their target.   He had to be, he thought.  He tried to think of a way he could escape, but he was outnumbered.  He'd never even make it to the door. 

When another man went into the bathroom, D'Arco was convinced his number was up.  But when the man came out, nothing happened.  He probably wasn't the designated shooter, D'Arco figured.  Maybe he just had to go pee.  The shooter had yet to make his move.

That's when D'Arco decided he had to get the hell out of there.   He made a quick excuse and left the suite, hightailing it to the lobby and out onto the street.  He scanned the block outside the hotel but couldn't find his driver, a sure sign that he'd been marked for execution that day.  He quickly flagged down a cab and went directly to his home, where he gathered up his wife and family.  They immediately fled for their lives.      

D'Arco felt betrayed.   He had lived his life by the Mafia code and had been 100% loyal to the Lucchese family, but the rules set down by the godfathers of previous generations didn't mean anything anymore.  Amuso and Casso had gone off the reservation, not him.  It shamed him to be running away, because he hadn't done anything wrong.  His first thought wasn't to run into the arms of the law, but with a wife and a big family to protect (particularly his son Joseph, who had been part of the hit team that failed to kill "Fat Pete" Chiodo), and no one in the mob willing to help them, D'Arco had little choice. 

"Little Al" D'Arco became the first Mafia boss in history to turn state's witness and testify against his fellow family members after the government agreed to put him and his extended family in witness protection.  He wouldn't be the last.

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