Longtime mob buster Gerard Conrad, who helped put scores of wiseguys behind bars working as a grunt agent on the FBI’s Gambino crime family squad and later as the hands-on supervisor of a revamped squad that now investigates two crime families, retired last week after a quietly illustrious 25 year career as a G-man.
A CPA, Conrad began his FBI career in Chicago and worked organized crime cases there for five years, three under John O’Neil, the counter-terrorism expert who died in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Conrad, a New Jersey native, transferred to New York in 1994, working white collar crime cases for four years before joining the Gambino crime family squad in 1998.
Since then, Conrad played important roles in every major case the squad has made, including two racketeering indictments against Peter Gotti and 23 codefendants, three other racketeering cases involving mobsters in New York and Italy, and a huge 62-defendant case that included the Administration of the Gambino crime family in 2008.
Two years later he shared the podium with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and New York FBI boss George Venizelos when they announced a racketeering indictment that charged powerful Gambino capo Daniel Marino with the murder of his nephew and 13 codefendants with a litany of other crimes, including sex-trafficking charges involving a minor — a 15-year-old girl.
Conrad, who supervised two major Mafia Takedown Day cases — racketeering against capo Alphonse Trucchio and 20 cohorts and the murder indictment of consigliere Bartolomeo (Bobby Glasses) Vernace for the 1981 Shamrock Bar murders — supervised the FBI squad that currently investigates the Gambino and Luchese crime families for six years.
“Gerry was one of the finest agents I have ever worked with,” said retired FBI agent Philip Scala, whom Conrad succeeded as squad supervisor in 2008.
“The squad will miss him. He’s profoundly humble, with an unlimited willingness to sacrifice for his people and their mission.”
Conrad also knows that it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes open, and pay attention to what’s going on around you, because sometimes when you least expect it, you may come across some evidence that can help put a murderous mobster behind bars for life — even on a walk in the park.
That’s what happened to him at about 3:45 pm on August 15, a warm and lazy afternoon when he took a break from his FBI duties and spotted three very familiar faces sitting at a table and chatting behind a cyclone fence in Forest Park, a short stroll from his Kew Gardens office.
“I saw Bobby Vernace, JoJo Corozzo and Alphonse Trucchio,” Conrad recalled last year as one of the final witnesses at Vernace’s racketeering and murder trial in Brooklyn Federal Court. That’s Vernace, in the blue shirt on the left. Corozzo is in the middle. Trucchio on the right.
He wasn’t close enough to hear what they were saying but he knew that putting the three mobsters together just might be relevant at some point, so, he testified, “I immediately called back to the office to get some agents there with a camera” to record the session for posterity.
Conrad kept his eyes peeled on the trio, “from across the park” until agents Robert Herbster and William Johnson got there, and took photos of the trio, still talking to each other at 4:22 pm. Ten minutes later, they took one of Vernace, 65, and Corozzo, 72, who were speaking privately, as Trucchio, 37, stood out of earshot about 20 feet away.
The discussion between the two older mobsters lasted “just a short while,” said Conrad, “two to three minutes.”
The photos weren’t smoking gun evidence. But prosecutors were able to use them, along with Conrad’s detailed account, to tie Bobby Glasses to two powerful Gambino mobsters some 25 years after he had gunned down two bar owners and convince the jury that the killings were related to Gambino family activity and that Vernace was guilty of racketeering and murder.