The Myth of Mob Gallantry
Dorothy Fiorenza: The Things We Do For Love
The New York Daily News called her a "brainy beautician" when Dorothy Fiorenza took the stand in 1999 as the key witness against her former lover, Colombo family boss Andrew Russo, but the cosmetologist-turned-lawyer-turned-government informant sure didn
Over three days of testimony, with a different exotic hairstyle each day that garnered as much press as her devastating testimony, Fiorenza recalled how she met Russo while working at a
The next day, according to court records, Russo's nephew told Fiorenza his uncle thought she "was the best thing since sliced bread." The 32-year-old law student and the 60-something mobster hit it off immediately and began an affair.
Russo took Fiorenza to dinner at Elaine's and to see "Phantom of the Opera." She told the court how he often complained about the "heat" he was under from police who wanted to see that he was sent back to prison where he had just finished serving an eight-year stretch. Swept up in the romantic notion of being a mafia goumada, or girlfriend, Fiorenza became even more valuable to Russo after she passed the New York State Bar Exam and was able to pass almost unobstructed through security at the
Speaking with Jo Jo in carefully scripted conversations that prosecutors alleged were filled with secret messages, Dorothy later claimed she had no idea that her discussions were actually bits of coded advice from father to son.
The relationship soured when Dorothy realized that Russo was interested in a monogamous relationship on her part while he played the field and remained strangely loyal to his wife. Along the way, Fiorenza met Teresa Castronova, the "other" other woman who had ID
"He wanted to be with me but not exclusively," a weeping Fiorenza testified. "He was obligated to other people -- to his wife as well."
"And you wanted him exclusively for you?" Russo's lawyer asked.
"Yes," she replied. "There were other people around who he was involved with and it was getting crazy."
The one-way monogamy requirement was troubling to the self-described "mob groupie" who had met Larry Tattoo while visiting Jo Jo in the MCC. When she announced to Andrew Russo that she was ending the relationship to marry Larry, the boss was furious, she testified.
Russo was infuriated that she was involved with a lower-ranking mobster, she testified, adding that a friend of Russo's told her that many members of the
In the end, that
"We went to the government for assistance, security, for our safety," she said.
Prior to taking the stand in the elder Russo's trial, Fiorenza pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for her role in the scheme.
Like so many other women who are suckered by the romance of the mob, Dorothy paid a very high price for her blind love. She lost her license to practice law and was portrayed by the defense in Russo's case as a mentally unbalanced and "troubled" woman whose life went downhill when she married a convicted murderer.
Shortly after Russo was convicted, Larry Tattoos and Dorothy Fiorenza entered the federal witness relocation program. By 2001, they had separated and Dorothy had applied for reinstatement to the New York Bar, claiming she had been mentally ill with bipolar disorder when she pleaded guilty to obstruction. The court turned down her request.