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Anthony Casso is a member of the Lucchese crime family who was the first major crime boss to be kicked out of the witness protection program.
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Casso was arrested in 1972 in relation to one bank job, but the case was dropped after the witness refused to identify the suspects. During the 1970s and 1980s, Casso's crew stole an estimated $100 million worth of valuables and cash for banks alone.
A rising star in the criminal underworld, Casso had support and encouragement from Christie Tick Furnari, a capo within the Lucchese crime family. It was for Furnari that Casso reportedly committed his first murder in the mid-1970s,
permanently silencing a drug dealer who was thought to be an informant. Not long after this killing, Casso became an official member of the Lucchese family. He continued to murder, or arrange murders, throughout his criminal career. To Casso, his motto seemed to be "kill or be killed."
To fuel his drug business, which included marijuana, cocaine and heroin, Casso owned a cargo jet and numerous boats. He also engaged other money-making schemes, including a gas-tax scam with the Russian Mafia and a window-installing racket for city-owned projects. To launder his illegal profits, Casso operated a number of legitimate businesses, including several restaurants.
While raking in lots of cash from his various criminal efforts, Casso worked hard to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities. He always made sure to have his meetings in loud places, such as near a jukebox in a bar, to prevent his comments from being caught on tape. To keep track of any investigations into his activity, Casso had a number of law enforcement figures on his payroll.
In the 1980s, Casso got caught up in the violent clash within the Gambino crime family. He was asked to help avenge the killing of boss Paul Castellano, whose assassination was arranged by John Gotti in an attempt to seize power. In 1986, Casso helped set up a plot to blow up John Gotti, but instead his associate ended up killing underboss Frankie DeCicco in a car bombing instead.
That same year, Casso himself came under fire. A hit team tried to take him out on September 14 near a Brooklyn restaurant, shooting him six times. Casso survived his injuries and went on a rampage against those who tried to kill him. Allegedly he had two New York City detectives, Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, track down one of the shooters, James Hydell. The detectives delivered Hydell to Casso, who first tortured him for information before killing him. Hydell's body has never been found.
The detectives also reportedly helped him locate Nicky Guido, another participant in his attack. Unfortunately, they gave him the address of the wrong Nicky Guido, and Casso had an innocent civilian gunned down. Not even a brutal mistake like this slowed Casso's desire to eliminate anyone who he perceived as an enemy or a threat.
By the late 1980s, Casso became second in command, working as an underboss for leader Vittorio "Vic" Amuso. The two proved to be quite the murderous pair. They took out nearly anyone within their own organization who criticized them.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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