In the 1980s, Anthony Casso was second in command of the Lucchese crime family. He had built his wealth through drugs and various money-making schemes. Eventually in the 1990s when he was acting boss, he was apprehended by the authorities and is currently serving several life sentences.
The youngest child of a dock worker and a homemaker, Anthony Salvatore Casso was born on May 21, 1940, in Brooklyn, New York. Both sets of his grandparents had emigrated to the United States from Naples, Italy. Casso grew up in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, then a largely Italian American community. There he saw firsthand the wealth and power of La Cosa Nostra, or the Mafia.
Casso's godfather, Sally Callinbrano, was a capo in the Genovese crime family. Casso's father, Michael, while not in the Mafia himself, enjoyed friendships with a number of connected individuals, including Callinbrano. Michael earned the nickname "Gaspipe" because he was known to carry a piece of lead pipe with him wherever he went. Anthony Casso inherited his father's nickname -- but had a different weapon of choice.
Casso developed a love for guns and hunting early on. His father often took him hunting and for target practice, teaching him how to handle a .22-caliber rifle. By his teens, Casso had become a skilled marksman. Casso, a poor student, started hanging out with a gang of neighborhood kids who called themselves the "South Brooklyn Boys." He had his first run-in with the law in 1956, when he and his fellow gang members were arrested during a fight with a rival Irish gang.
At 17, Casso received a special gift from his godfather -- a "no-show" job down on the docks. This was the first of several such jobs he got because of his mob connections. A high-school dropout, Casso soon found other ways to fatten his wallet. He became a partner in an after-hours club, and started robbing loads from trucks on the docks. As Casso prospered, he always tried to look the part of a made man, or Mafia member, wearing expensive suits and usually carrying a gun.
Life of Crime
In May 1968, Casso married Lillian Delduca. The two had known each other for years. In 1971, the couple welcomed a daughter, Jolene. Their son Anthony, Jr. arrived in 1974. Casso made sure that his wife and children had the best of everything.
Ruthless and cold-blooded, Casso publicly displayed his penchant for violence in 1961, according to Philip Carlo's Confessions of a Mob Boss: Gaspipe. Known to carry a gun, he engaged in an altercation with a local junkie after the junkie bothered a girl from the neighborhood. Casso became incensed and ended up shooting the junkie several times and seriously wounding him.
The following year, Casso was convicted of bookmaking. He only spent five days in jail for the crime. In his early criminal days, Casso focused much of his energies on theft. He paid off truck drivers to steal their goods and sell them on the street. Eventually moving on to bigger jobs, he and his crew started robbing banks and jewelry stores. 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."
Lucchese Crime Family
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.
Rise to Power
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. At one point, the duo even wanted to execute the family's entire New Jersey constituency.
Tipped off by an FBI informant, Casso learned in May 1990 that he and Amuso were soon going to be indicted. He, Amuso and 13 associates were facing charges of racketeering and extortion in relation to their operation to rig contracts with the New York City Housing Authority for replacing windows, later known as The Windows Case.
Both Casso and Amuso decided to flee before they could be arrested. For more than 30 months, Casso helped run the Lucchese organization while in hiding. Al D'Arco served as the official acting leader of the family for a time, but Casso was pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Casso ordered the killing of Gambino capo Edward Lino, who was reportedly shot by Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito.
Another attempted murder would prove to be Casso's undoing. He thought that hitman Fat Pete Chiodo had turned informant and ordered his murder. In May 1991, a three-man team tried to eliminate Chiodo while he was trying to fix his car at a service station on Staten Island. They shot Chiodo 12 times and left him for dead. Despite the severity of his injuries, Chiodo actually survived the attack. He had previously refused to cooperate with the authorities, but he changed his mind after the shooting.
After Amuso's capture in 1991, Casso became the acting boss of the Lucchese family. He ordered the death of Al D'Arco after he learned that D'Arco was skimming money from him. Afraid for his life, D'Arco ended up becoming an informer in exchange for government protection.
Arrest and Conviction
In January 1993, the authorities closed in on Casso. They arrested him as he got out of the shower of the Mount Olive, New Jersey, home he was hiding in with a girlfriend he had known since childhood. Casso was found to have approximately $340,000 in cash and a stash of FBI confidential documents with him at the time of his arrest.
Held without bail, Casso tried several times to escape and even plotted to have the judge on his case murdered. He reportedly had a falling out with Amuso. According to one report, Amuso believed that Casso had turned him in and refused to help Casso in any way.
Now on his own, Casso decided to become something he detested -- an informant. He admitted his involvement in at least 36 murders. In March 1994, Casso pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including racketeering, extortion and 14 counts of murder. For his testimony against other mob figures, he was offered a recommendation for leniency in his sentencing.
Unfortunately for him, Casso only knew how to be a mobster, not a cooperating witness. While in prison, he got into fights and bribed guards to bring him special food and drinks. Casso also got into trouble for talking badly about two other key FBI informants: Al D'Arco and Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano. Longtime associates, Casso claimed that Gravano had been involved in more crimes that he had admitted to, including drug dealing and additional murders.
In 1997, the authorities ended their agreement with Casso, citing that he had broken many conditions of the leniency deal. He has the dubious distinction of being the first major crime boss to be kicked out of the witness protection program. The following year, Casso was sentenced to 13 consecutive life sentences. He made several attempts to appeal this decision, but he had no luck.
Life in Prison
Casso gave an interview to 60 Minutes in 1998, talking about his life of crime and his association with retired NYPD detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito. The government, however, had no interest in using Casso to convict the two corrupt cops. Instead they got Casso's associate Burt Kaplan to testify about the pair's criminal activities in 2006. Kaplan had acted as Casso's middle man in his dealings with Caracappa and Eppolito.
Still making waves, Casso sent a letter regarding former NYPD detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito around the time of their trial. Casso now claimed that the pair were innocent of the charges he had previously fingered them on. Unfortunately for Caracappa and Eppolito, no one believed Casso's change of heart. The two former cops were convicted of racketeering in 2006. Their convictions were later thrown out by a judge, but they were reinstated on appeal. Caracappa and Eppolito both received life in prison for their crimes.
Currently serving several life sentences, Casso will not likely ever set foot outside of prison again. After residing at the Supermax prison within the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, where he sat in jail alongside such other notorious criminals as fellow mobster Sammy "the Bull" Gravano and Theodore Kaczynski ("The Unibomber"), in 2013, he was transferred to A Residential Reentry Management (RRM) facility in Minneapolis. RRM is a type of halfway house for inmates in Federal custody.
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