Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MARRIED TO THE MOB: MAFIA WIVES AND MISTRESSES

Goodfellas

 

John
John "Porky" Zancocchio
Ann Coppolas marriage is an extreme example of the pitfalls of being married to the mob, but not all wiseguys are so heartless. Many gangsters have been known to treat their wives well and not just in terms of material possessions. Frequently mob wives are often charged with crimes along with their husbands, and many mobsters will agree to a plea bargain to get their wives off the hook. Reputed Bonanno family soldier John Porky Zancocchio was just such a goodfella when it came to his wife and family.

Zancocchio ran a major New York bookmaking operation, which, at its height, pulled down $280 million a year. Among his high-rolling clients was banished former baseball great Pete Rose. But in 1990 Zancocchio was hauled into court on federal tax evasions charges. The feds turned up the heat on Porky by charging his wife Lana with mail fraud. They also threatened to charge Porkys mother, who had allowed her son and his capo to buy a pizzeria in her name, which they called Mama Rosas. Putting the women in legal jeopardy had the desired effect. Zancocchio pleaded guilty to failing to file an income tax return and was sentenced to one year in prison with a fine of $100,000.

It was a noble gesture on Porkys part, but mobstersand their wivesdont always learn from their lessons. Eleven years later, in 2002, Zancocchio was again hit with tax fraud charges and so was Lana. The charges stretched from 1995 to 2000, and the combined weight of the alleged offenses made a plea bargain impossible. Both husband and wife ultimately pleaded guilty, although the charges against her were lighter. Porky faced up to 71 months in prison and fines up to $300,000. Lana could have been sentenced to 16 months, but her attorney was able to negotiate a deal where she could serve her sentence at home and continue to raise her children.

Ray Liotta, who played Henry Hill in Goodfellas (AP)
Ray Liotta, who
played Henry Hill in
Goodfellas (AP)
Henry Hill, the mob associate whose story was the inspiration for Martin Scorceses classic Mafia film, Goodfellas was blessed with a tremendously loyal wife. Hill, an associate in the Lucchese crime family, could never become a made member of the Mafia because he wasnt 100% Italian, but that didnt stop him from participating in some major crimes in the New York City area, including the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist in which more than $4 million in unmarked cash was stolen from a warehouse at Kennedy Airport.

As recounted in Pileggis Wiseguy, Henrys wife Karen endured more hardships than the average American wife. When Henry was flush, life was sweet, but when his scams werent paying off, they had to scrounge like paupers. When Henry went away to prison, Karen was left alone to fend for herself and raise the kids. Worst of all, Henrys cocaine dealing led to addiction, and Karen was sucked into that seductive whirl as well.

Lorraine Bracco, who played Karen Hill in Goodfellas (AP)
Lorraine Bracco, who played Karen
Hill in Goodfellas (AP)

In Pileggis book, Karen Hill took the long view of her relationship with a mobster: I suppose if I wrote down the pros and cons of the marriage, lots of people might think I was nuts to stay with him, but I guess we have our own needs, and theyre not added up in the columns. He and I were always excited by each other, even later, after the kids . . . I would listen to my friends talk about their marriages and I knew that for all my troubles, I still had a better deal than they did.

 

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