Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Myth of Mob Gallantry

Arlyne Brickman: Two Decades in the Underworld

Arlyne Brickman found out the hard way that the perception and reality of being a woman in the underworld were vastly different. Not only was Arlyne a woman, but she was also Jewish, and as a non-Sicilian, was relegated to second- or third-tier status in the eyes of the mobsters whom she grew up admiring.

But Arlyne was more than just a moll: she was also an income-producer for the mob and ultimately an informant she prefers to use the term cooperating individual who helped bring down some of the leaders of New Yorks five mafia families.

For 20 years, Brickman was feeding information to the government about her underworld connections while continuing to engage in loansharking and bookmaking.

I participated. I was a player, she told CNNs Larry King in 1992. In other words, I had a business with the fellow I was going out with. I had a number business. I had a sports business We also had a shylocking business. I mean, it was a shylocking where he took most of the money and it was like for loans.

In the book about her life, Mob Girl, Brickman took great pains to separate herself from the women who merely go along with their mob boyfriends for the ride.

A groupie is somebody like that follows the mob or something, she said. No, I was intimate with them. I did favors for them. I participated in different activities with them and I just was always around them.

But in the early 1970s, her admiration for the mob died when she was raped in the basement of a mob hangout. When she approached her wiseguy friends for justice, her pleas were ignored.

It was after that incident that she realized she was on her own as far as the mafia was concerned and like so many others, began placing her own wants and needs ahead of the syndicate.

I thought that somebody would help me but nobody did. And I found out that I'd have to help myself and I did, she said. Oh, I got back at everybody. Believe me, I did.

In her book, she explained her actions this way: I'm a great believer in revenge.

Still, Brickman did not go to the government until her own daughter was targeted by Bobby Frischettis crew because of unpaid drug debts. Frischetti threatened to rape Brickmans daughter and Arlyne fought back the only way she knew how. She went to the feds and strapped on a wire.

I owed a shylock loan and I had to pay it and, if I didn't pay it, they were going to rape my daughter, she said.

As part of the deal, the government paid her debts and used her information to force a plea deal.

For the next two decades, Brickman conducted a delicate balancing act that pitted the two sides against each other. She doesnt consider herself an informant because in her mind an informant is someone who helps police to get themselves out of a jam.

I do this voluntarily and for money, she told King.

It wasnt until she ran out of money that she went public with her story and incurred the wrath of the mobsters who had fallen because of her treachery.

Brickman participated in trials against men like Carmine Persico and Colombo capo Anthony Scarpata, and even helped bring down a former boyfriend of Madonnas who was suspected of being a major drug dealer. But for much of her career before going public, she worked behind the scenes, assisting law enforcement by gathering evidence.

I wore wires for 22 years. I worked for 20 different agencies, she said. And there were quite a lot of arrests, but it didn't come to the point where I had to go into the courtroom and testify. And finally, there came a day, greed of money, whatever it was- There came a time when I needed money and I decided to become a witness instead of a cooperating individual.

Even then, when she went public and put her life at risk by testifying, Arlyne refused to express remorse for the path she chose.

It was a glamorous life. Some days you had bad days. Some days you had good days. It isn't like in the movies. I mean, it isn't as glorified as people come on and say, she told CNN. Listen, there are days when you bought jewelry and you had to hock the jewelry. And there were days when you had money, and there were days when you had no money.

Not everyone agrees with Brickman. Teresa Carpenter, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Brickmans biography, told People magazine she felt sorry for her subject.

"Arlyne and I see her life through different lenses," Carpenter said. "She sees her life as glamorous, and I see it as a tragedy."

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