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March 2015


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Real Life ‘Bada Bing’ Boss Gets His Reward For Spilling The Beans About The Mob

Anthony (Tony Lodi) Cardinalle (Gang Land News photo)

Jerry Capeci is a former New York Daily News reporter and mob expert. Gang Land News is a paid subscription site. This article is published with permission.
By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

A mob associate who ran the Bada Bing — the Lodi, New Jersey strip club that served as headquarters for fictional TV mobster Tony Soprano — is headed to the jailhouse. But it’s just for a short stretch, one he could almost do standing on his head, or one of the other gymnastic stances practiced by his bare-chested dancers in the jiggle joint on Route 17.

Anthony (Tony Lodi) Cardinalle will serve a 30 day prison term for spilling his guts about a real Garden State mob crew that was run for years by powerhouse Genovese capo Tino Fiumara.

The light sentence is Cardinalle’s punishment for having introduced the undercover operative in the FBI’s three year investigation of the waste hauling industry in New York and New Jersey to a key soldier in Fiumara’s “Lodi crew.” Cardinalle, is slated to begin his short stretch behind bars at an undisclosed federal prison next week.

Manhattan Federal Judge P. Kevin Castel imposed sentence after the feds lauded Cardinalle’s cooperation, and his lawyer submitted 40 letters of praise about the “gentleman’s club” guru. The letters flowed in from family,friends, employees, law enforcement officials, as well as the Mayor of Lodiand Johnny Pacheco, the legendary musician/bandleader dubbed the father of Salsa Music.

Castel also fined the 63-year-old Cardinalle $10,000 and ordered restitution of the $3400 that he extorted from Charles Hughes, the FBI informer in the case. Cardinalle is the last of 19 convicted mobsters and associates who have been sentenced in the case. The charges against ten others were all dropped.

Like virtually every letter writer, Pacheco cited two important reasons why Cardinalle deserved a break: His friend is a loving family man, the music man said, one who is the primary support of a 32-year-old daughter afflicted with cerebral palsy, Tonielle. He is also a charitable, all-around good guy whenever friends, relatives, workers, business associates and even total strangers find themselves in need of a loan, a job, a place to stay, or a shoulder to lean on, Pacheco added.

“The Pacheco family” met and learned firsthand of Cardinalle’s generous, helpful nature in 2000 when “Anthony employed one of my son’s friends, took him under his wing” and taught him the food service industry where he’s worked ever since, wrote Pacheco. “I believe this part of his personality, where he looks to help everyone in his path, led him into the current case,” he wrote Castel.Cardinalle’s generosity aside, the sentencing letters reveal the many ways in which real life gangsters were actively involved on many levels in a business that, with help from the HBO series The Sopranos, has become a national symbol of mob life.

Cardinalle pleaded guilty to being part of a racketeering conspiracy, and with shaking down Hughes, who tape recorded more than 500 conversations from 2009 to 2012. But even though Tony Lodi was in bed with the mob,attorney Alan Silber wrote that his client’s actions were not really dishonest,but based on a desire to collect $25,000 that was owed to him for rent and for damage to an apartment that he had leased to a codefendant and his family.

That’s what drove Cardinalle to introduce Hughes to Genovese mobster Peter (Lodi Pete) LeConte and associate Frank Oliver in 2011 when his deadbeat buddy, codefendant Howard Ross, came to him with a proposition to get involved in the garbage business, Silber wrote. His client wanted Hughes to hire Ross so he could pay his long overdue debt, he wrote.

Cardinalle rejected Hughes’s “stated attempt to attract money to revitalize his garbage company, but agreed to contact people who might be interested,” wrote Silber.

But when push came to shove, his client took responsibility for his actions, not only by pleading guilty, but making a telling statement to the Probation Department.

“I knew there were secret mob interests in the deal that Frank Oliver and Peter LeConte wanted to make to create a new garbage company,” Cardinalle said. “I thought it was their deal, not mine; So I ignored the fact that the mob was part of the deal. Although I said (Hughes) could ‘take it or leave the deal,’ when I reminded him of what would be the likely consequences if he didn’t take it, I was extorting him to accept it out of fear of the consequences.”

None of the tape-recorded meetings that Cardinalle and his “Lodi Crew” cohorts had with Hughes in 2010 and 2011 took place in Satin Dolls, as the Bada Bing is called in real, New Jersey life. But they had several in The Harem, another one of Tony Lodi’s adult entertainment clubs on Route 17, a hop, skip and two jumps away from Satin Dolls.

Unlike Satin Dolls — which promotes itself as the “Bada Bing! Club” and which posted the words, “Thank You Jimmy, Farewell Boss,” on a sign outside the club when James Gandolfini died in 2013 — The Harem is described on its website as “An Upscale Restaurant & Nude Cabaret.”

The Harem is where Cardinalle, LeConte and Oliver told Hughes that they would be taking control of him and his waste hauling company from aging Genovese gangster Carmine (Papa Smurf) Franco. It’s also where Tony Lodi was heard collecting one $500 weekly protection money  payment from Hughes. “Good, give me 500 a week,” said Cardinalle. “That is 3000 you gave me. I don’t write it down.”

In court papers, Silber conceded that “Cardinalle was aware of LeConte’s role in the Genovese crime family, and that Oliver had friends in organized crime,” long before Hughes arrived on the scene.

But the lawyer traced his client’s dealings with the powerful crime family to Cardinalle’s late father and former business partner, Anthony Sr., who died in 1988.

“Cardinalle’s experience and relationship with the Genovese crime family was a legacy from his father’s association with it,” wrote Silber, noting that the elder Cardinalle “built residential properties on land he had purchased in Lodi” and left the properties to his son when he died.

Silber wrote that his client “started his own vending machine business years ago,” and had “also started and initially managed four adult entertainment/nightclubs.” But the lawyer did not disclose whether the Genovese crime family had any hidden interests or received any protection money from his client or his father over the years, and he did not return repeated calls for comment.

For many years, according to court records, Cardinalle and his wife of 34 years, Luceen, a former elementary school teacher, owned and operated Satin Dolls. But today, their 25-year-old daughter Loren owns and operates the club as well as a second strip joint that her father gave her.

Cardinalle’s income, wrote Silber, “is derived primarily from the rental” of properties he inherited from his father, which still keeps him very busy.

“Between managing his residential properties and his responsibilities at his two clubs, Cardinalle is always working,” wrote Silber, noting that his “drive has made the businesses successful and lucrative, ensuring that his family, particularly Tonielle, is taken care of.”

Like Cardinalle’s wife, and his daughters, Silber argued that Cardinalle deserved probation because he is the primary caretaker for his afflicted daughter, who lives with her parents in Saddle River.

But he also cited the constant danger Cardinalle will face because of his cooperation as a second reason why he should receive probation.

“The government has acknowledged Cardinalle’s cooperation as ‘noteworthy and significant,’ and that he not only risked injury, but also was actually beaten and robbed in what was, in all likelihood, revenge or punishment for his cooperation,” wrote Silber.

The lawyer wrote that “LeConte, the principal offender in the extortion,” received a year and a day — despite sentencing guidelines calling for 27-to-33 months. He also noted that Oliver, and a second mobster who pleaded guilty after learning that Tony Lodi was cooperating, Anthony (Muzzy) Pucciarello, each received probation.

“Cardinalle should not receive a sentence that is harsher,” he argued. But Castel thought otherwise and imposed two 30 day sentences, one for racketeering, the other for extortion, ordering them both to be served at the same time, beginning Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day.

Editor’s Note: If you’re wondering why this column does not contain any information from the sentencing, including an indication why Judge Castel rejected the request for probation and gave Cardinalle 30 days, it’s because the entire transcript of the January 29 proceeding was ordered sealed.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to state whether the courtroom was closed during the sentencing, or if the transcript was later sealed. Each situation would seem to violate Justice Department Guidelines which state: ” There is a strong presumption against closing proceedings, and the Department foresees very few cases in which closure would be warranted.”

She also declined to state whether the prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Brian Blais, acted according to Justice Department guidelines which state: “Government attorneys may not move for or consent to the closure of any criminal proceeding without the express prior authorization of the Deputy Attorney General.”

Meanwhile, following a request from Gang Land, Castel ordered Silber and Blais to explain in writing why the transcript and all the court papers pertaining to the sentencing “ought not be unsealed and filed on the public record.”

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