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.
Fans of the HBO mob show “The Sopranos,” never got the answer to the big question: Did Tony Soprano die in the last episode?
We last saw the Soprano family on June 10, 2007 eating at a New Jersey diner. Tony was knocking back onion rings. the family was getting together.
But it looked as if Tony was about to get knocked off at the diner. The show ended and we never knew.
Well, apparently Martha P. Nochimson of Vox asked the show’s creator David Chase at a coffee shop.
“No he isn’t.”
DETROIT — Giacomo “Black Jack” Tocco, the reputed head of the Detroit Mafia for more than three decades, who kept a relatively low profile — more so than infamous mob brothers Vito and Anthony Giacalone — died Monday night at age 87, mob expert Scott Burnstein of the Oakland Press reported.
Tocco, who was long suspected of having ties to the 1975 disappearance of James Hoffa, died of natural causes according to Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home in Sterling Heights. The funeral will be Friday.
Raised in the upscale Windmill Pointe section of Grosse Pointe Park, Tocco earned a finance degree from the University of Detroit In 1949, according to an entry in Wikipedia.
He went on to own businesses around the state and built an impressive real estate portfolio, all while managing to maintain a fairly low profile, particularly when it came to media attention. The Giacalone brothers, who were capos, and underlings of Tocco, had far more recognizable names in Metro Detroit.
“Jack was very low-profile, highly intelligent and business savvy and really the opposite of what people would view as a typical gangster, the kind you see in movies and on television,” retired FBI agent Mike Carone told the Oakland Press. “I think that’s why he was able to stay under the radar for such a long time and avoid a lot of the pitfalls of being a mob boss, such as violence and long prison sentences. He was one of the last of a dying era.”
Tocco’s only felony conviction came in 1998 in a major racketeering case, which sent him off to federal prison for two years. Before that, his only previous conviction was for attending an illegal cock fight, according to a history of the Detroit mob on the FBI’s website.
Burnstein writes that Tocco owned the Hazel Park Raceway for more than four decades. Last summer, FBI agents searched former property he owned in northern Oakland County, looking for Hoffa’s body. The search set off a circus-like atmosphere — replete with an army of FBI agents, the media and curious neighbors. The feds came up empty.
The tip came from the former second in command of the Detroit mob, Anthony “Tony Z” Zerilli, a now elderly man who was Tocco’s first cousin. Zerilli, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, told the feds that he was informed of what happen to Hoffa after he left prison. He fell out of favor with the mob.
Prior to his passing, Tocco was considered the most-tenured mob don in the United States, having taken power in 1979 at a ceremony the FBI photographed. He ruled unchallenged until his death, said Eric Straus, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in the United States Department of Justice. Straus spent two decades investigating Tocco.
Retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal, in an interview with Deadline Detroit Tuesday night, recalled that June 11, 1979, was the very day that it was officially announced to made-members of the Detroit Mafia that Tocco was taking over as boss, replacing Tony Zerilli, who had lost his juice in the organization.
Stejskal said he was part of an FBI surveillance team that followed some mobsters, including Tocco and Vito Giacalone, to a barber shop on Gratiot in northern Macomb County.
The men exited the shop and got into a van. Stejskal and his fellow agents followed the van to a game farm north of Chelsea.
The agents saw it was a big gathering, and Stejskal recalls thinking:
“Whatever it is, it’s a big deal. The only people there were all made guys.”
He said he and another agent quietly went behind an archery target on the property that was owned at the time by reputed mobsters Antonio and Luigi Ruggirello.
“I had my camera with a 300 mm lense and I started taking pictures,” Stejskal said.
Eventually, from intelligence, the agents learned that the gathering officially marked the start of Tocco’s long reign as Detroit’s reputed Godfather.
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If you wondered who the snitch was who helped the feds charge a top mobster in the legendary 1978 Lufthansa Airlines robbery, wonder no more.
Mob expert Jerry Capeci of Gang Land News, in an exclusive, reports that the snitch is a “low level hood who for years was in the right place at the right time.”
He writes that the snitch is 67-year-old Gaspare (Gary) Valenti, a cousin of Vincent Asaro, the powerful Bonanno family wiseguy indicted in the heist that netted $6 million.
Valenti is an unlikely songbird of the mob’s best-kept secrets. He has a short rap sheet and a shorter mob pedigree, records show. But for many years he was in an excellent position to see what his Cousin Vinny was up to. And the mob tales he spilled to the feds provided the key evidence leading to the arrest of the 78-year-old Asaro for the Lufthansa heist, as well as for a 45 year old murder.
Gang Land News is a paid subscription site, but it’s worth it.