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Other Fed make mobs shakedown case

Dish Caught on Tape
Feds make mob shakedown case

By Anthony M. DeStefano

December 23, 2002

Say what you want about reputed Gambino crime family captain Anthony Ciccone, but the balding 69-year-old mobster at least holds spouses in high esteem.

"All our wives are good kids, they're not like us, thank God," Ciccone, who is known as Sonny, told some reputed mob associates at a Staten Island restaurant bugged by investigators.

But those sweet words appear to be the nicest thing Ciccone said during hours of secretly taped conversations at Brioso Ristorante. The rest may send him to prison on charges he tried to shake down actor Steven Seagal - in a business dispute with the star's producer - and numerous businesses on the Staten Island waterfront.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are planning to use the tapes, and more, to make the case that Ciccone and others, including reputed Gambino boss Peter Gotti, ran rackets on the Staten Island docks, shaking down labor unions and businesses. The trial is to begin Jan. 6 amid widespread rumors last week that a plea bargain was in the works

Snippets from the nearly 2,000 tape recordings made by state and federal investigators were disclosed in June when federal prosecutors got Ciccone held without bail. More extensive draft transcripts of the tapes were made available to Newsday and contain everything from agita over ringing cell phones to what prosecutors said is evidence of an alleged Seagal shakedown.

The recordings, some boring or disjointed, used state-of-the-art technology and are said to be of often excellent quality in capturing the words of Ciccone, International Longshoremen's Association official Frank Scollo, 76, reputed Gambino soldiers Primo Cassarino, 46, and associate Richard Bondi, 43, as well as Seagal film producer Julius Nasso, 50 - all of whom were indicted [Nasso will be tried in September.].

But as any viewer of "The Sopranos" knows, restaurant mob-speak is laced with expletives and the sound of dinner plates and wine glasses, making it hard for even the best bugging devices to pick up conversations.

Ciccone, long reputed to be the Gambino mob's main boss on the waterfront, sounded like a solicitous Italian grandfather imploring guests to dine.

"Eat. Eat. Eat," Ciccone said to Nasso. "Eat first."

Other times, Ciccone was annoyed about having to answer his cell phones: "Those -- phones," as he put it.

When Nasso was late to Brioso's because he didn't have his driver's license when stopped by police in traffic - his mother had to bring it for him - Ciccone flashed anger.

"Jules, I meant, I meant 1:00 on the 26th of July - not September," he said.

Digressing to the issue of retrials, Ciccone said it was unfair the government gets more than one bite at the apple, especially when the mob is the target.

"When it comes to Cosa Nostra ... yeah, when it comes to that, they're willing to retry ya," he said.

But, in the main, Ciccone held court for hours talking about waterfront labor situations and, more extensively, problems surrounding the activities of Seagal and what had to be done about him, according to the tape. Ciccone and Cassarino spoke a lot about Seagal, including things they had read about the actor's life and European travels in People magazine.

Federal prosecutors believe that Ciccone, Nasso and Cassarino tried to shake down Seagal for hundreds of thousands of dollars, at one point meeting with the actor in January 2001 in the Gage & Tollner restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn. The threats were continued, prosecutors contend, during some subsequent meetings in California and Toronto.

The Brioso's tapes indicate that Nasso had sold some film distribution rights during the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, a deal that packaged a minor movie financed by some Brooklyn investors with a yet-to-be-made Seagal feature. But when Nasso's and Seagal's relationship soured in 2000, there was no film to complete the package as Nasso had promised, the tapes show, a fact that dumbfounded Ciccone.

"Why, why would you wanna do it for nothing?" Ciccone asked Nasso.

"To help them recoup their loss," Nasso said.

"For what?" Ciccone continued.

"In other words, if a hundred thousand dollars on a -- table, whatever the -- it is, 10,000 why would you leave. To put a plug for Steven, who you got breaking my -- ," Ciccone asked. "I got -- threaten every -- day and you want to throw something in there for nothing."

Prosecutors contend Ciccone was angry because Nasso was promising other people money from the Seagal extortion. Ciccone's defense attorney, George Santangelo, has said the tapes do not prove any extortion of Seagal took place.

"There is no evidence on any of the tapes that anyone communicated a threat to Steven Seagal, and the government knows it," said Barry Levin, one of the attorneys for Nasso.

Seagal's attorneys have said the actor has done nothing wrong, and is the object of a public-relations campaign waged by Nasso.

Ciccone also berated Nasso for saying he had given the producer the right to sue Seagal, something prosecutors believe was part of the shakedown.

"I told you it's okay to sue Steven Segal . Which I did. Which I did. But I don't want the -- world to know. I don't need you go and tell every -- body, every -- brother," Ciccone said.

Eventually, Ciccone bid farewell to Scollo, a longtime union official with an ailing wife, and then badmouthed the elderly man.

"He's a dumb -- ," said Ciccone after Scollo left, "Sometimes I think he is dumb [inaudible]. He is -- dumb."

But Scollo may have the last laugh. He reportedly pleaded guilty in November to a racketeering charge and has agreed to cooperate with the government. It could spare the aging union official a long prison sentence - and assure Ciccone a longer one.

My Luncheon

With Sonny

Excerpts from surveillance tape transcripts.


Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone, 69,

reputed captain in Gambino crime family

Primo Cassarino, 46,

reputed soldier in Gambino crime family

Richard Bondi, 43,

reputed Gambino crime family associate

Julius Nasso, 50,

pharmacist and movie producer, former business partner of actor Steven Seagal


Brioso's Ristorante, Staten Island


April 18 and July 26, 2001


Ciccone: ". . . I don't want you talk about tell people I gave you right sue Steven Segal the way this got going to kill him in a month [sic]. All I need is to get around New York that he that I gave the okay to sue

him ..." [sic]

Ciccone: "Don't you ever, ever bring somebody in for --- nothing , on something I am --- doing. That's right. Anybody. You understand what I am saying?

Anybody, without telling me first. Tell me first . . . I don't give a --- who they are, think that I am going

to threaten this dirty --- and they are going to write on my . . . "


Cassarino: A hung jury should be a victory. You know what I am saying . . . these --- get paid. You're on

trial, you spending all this money on lawyers and everything. You get a hung jury. . . "

Ciccone: ". . . and you keep paying at least, at least, I say the minimum thing the government should do is,

if you get a hung jury the first time . . . if there's a hung jury the first time, if they bring a trial again. If

you get another hung jury, the --- government should pick up your --- lawyer, your --- legal


Bondi: "Right"

Ciccone: "It's only fair. They're costing ya twice for the same trial. How about if you go three times, and it

cost you again . . . So what do you do? You just keep paying the lawyers? And then ain't that another

way for the government to take advantage of ya, to break ya?. . . When it comes to Cosa Nostra yeah,

when it comes to that, they're willing to spend the money to retry ya"

Nasso: "The money to retry ya."

SOURCE: Draft transcripts