DeCavalcante crime family

DeCavalcante Family
Founded by Stefano Badami
Founding location Elizabeth, New Jersey
Years active 1900s-present
Territory Northern New Jersey, Trenton, Atlantic City. The family also maintains territory in New York, Connecticut and Florida[1]
Ethnicity Men of Italian descent, other ethnicities as "associates".
Membership (est.) 40 made members,[1] approximately 200 associates
Criminal activities bookmaking, building, cement, and construction violations, bootlegging, corruption, drug trafficking, extortion, fencing, fraud, hijacking, illegal gambling, loan-sharking, money laundering, murder, pier thefts, pornography, prostitution, racketeering, and waste management violations
Allies Five Families of New York, Patriarca crime family of New England, Philadelphia crime family, and the Pagans Motorcycle Club
Rivals Various gangs over NJ, including their allies

The DeCavalcante crime family is an organized crime family that operates in Elizabeth, New Jersey[1] and surrounding areas in the state and is part of the nationwide criminal phenomenon known as the American Mafia (or Cosa Nostra). It operates on the other side of the Hudson River from the Five Families of New York, but it maintains strong relations with many of them, as well as with the Philadelphia crime family and the Patriarca crime family of New England. Its illicit activities include bookmaking, building, cement, and construction violations, bootlegging, corruption, drug trafficking, extortion, fencing, fraud, hijacking, illegal gambling, loan-sharking, money laundering, murder, pier thefts, pornography, prostitution, racketeering, and waste management violations. The DeCavalcantes are, in part, the inspiration for the fictional DiMeo crime family of HBO's dramatic series The Sopranos.[2] The DeCavalcante family was the subject of the CNBC program Mob Money, which aired on June 23, 2010[3] and The Real Sopranos TV documentary (first airdate April 26, 2006) directed by Thomas Viner for the UK production company Class Films.[4]



The DeCavalcante family was not recognized as an autonomous crime family by The Commission until the regime of Simone DeCavalcante. There were several bosses in North Jersey during the Prohibition era controlling transportation of alcohol and whiskey into New York City. There were two Mafia families based in New Jersey: the Newark family headed by Gaspare D'Amico, and the Elizabeth family headed by Stefano Badami.[5] The New York City families had crews operating in New Jersey: the Masseria family's New Jersey faction, and the Reina family's Jersey crew. There was also Abner Zwillman, a Jewish gangster operating in Newark and Philadelphia crime family operating in South Jersey.

In 1935, Vincenzo Troia, a former associate of Salvatore Maranzano's, conspired to take over the Newark family, and he was murdered.[6][7] Two years later, in 1937, D'Amico fled the United States after a failed assassination attempt on his life, ordered by Joseph Profaci. The Commission decided to divide up his territory among the Five Families and Badami's Elizabeth family.[8]

Stefano "Steve" Badami became the boss of the Elizabeth-Newark family; however, his reign proved to be very disruptive, as members of the Newark and the Elizabeth factions began fighting for total control of New Jersey. Badami kept controlling the crew up to the 1950s, but he was suddenly murdered in 1955 in what appears to have been another power struggle between the two factions. Badami's underboss and fellow mobster Filippo Amari stepped up to run the illegal operations.

Filippo "Phil" Amari was a mobster recognized by US law enforcement as being heavily involved with extortion, labor racketeering, loansharking, and narcotics activities in Newark and New York City. He was considered the new head of the New Jersey organization, but his reign proved to be very short, as there were multiple factions operating underneath who all conspired to take over. While still in charge, he relocated to Sicily and was replaced by Nicholas "Nick" Delmore. Delmore attended the infamous 1957 Apalachin Convention to represent the small New Jersey crime family, with underbosses of Elizabeth and Newark Frank Majuri and Louis "Fat Lou" LaRasso.

Delmore kept running the organization until he became ill in the early 1960s, and the rebellious times of New Jersey had ended. He died in 1964, and his nephew Simone DeCavalcante was installed as new boss of the officially recognized "DeCavalcante crime family" of North Jersey.

Simone DeCavalcante

The official criminal organization began with Simone DeCavalcante, a diplomatic "old school" don known as "Sam the Plumber" and "The Count". He was born in 1913 and was a mobster involved in illegal gambling, murder, and racketeering for most of his life. He died of a heart attack at the age of 84.

Between 1964 when he rose to power and 1969 when he was incarcerated, he doubled the number of made men within his family. He owned Kenilworth Heating and Air Conditioning in Kenilworth, New Jersey as a legal front and source of taxable income, for which he gained the nickname "Sam the Plumber". Sam DeCavalcante also claimed to be of Italian royal lineage, so another nickname he bore was "The Count". He gained much respect because he won a coveted place on the infamous Commission, a governing body for the U.S. Mafia which included the Five Families of New York and the Chicago Outfit of the Midwest. Mob representatives of Miami were also included.

DeCavalcante and 54 associates were charged and tried; he pleaded guilty to operating a gambling racket turning over $20 million a year. At the same time, a New York State report indicated that he and another Mafia family controlled 90% of pornography stores in New York City. DeCavalcante was sentenced to five years and, after he was released from prison, he retired to a high-rise condo in Florida and largely stayed out of Mafia business, although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believed that he was still advising the family into the early 1990s.

John Riggi

After DeCavalcante left prison in the mid-1970s, he appointed Giovanni "John the Eagle" Riggi as acting boss of the family while he stayed semi-retired in Florida. DeCavalcante stepped down as boss officially in 1980, passing leadership to Riggi,[9] who had been a business agent of the International Association of Laborers and Hod Carriers in New Jersey for years. Riggi was promoted to the position of official boss, and he reaped the enormous benefits of large labor and construction racketeering,[9] loansharking, illegal gambling, and extortion activities. Riggi also had the family maintain their old traditions, which Sam DeCavalcante saw as unnecessary.

Riggi used his power and influence to place subcontractors and workers at various construction projects around the state, and the DeCavalcantes were able to steal from union welfare and pension funds. Riggi continued to run the family throughout the 1980s, with underboss Girolamo "Jimmy" Palermo and Stefano Vitabile as consigliere,[10] after Frank Majuri died of health problems. It was around the mid-1980s that Riggi fell increasingly under the influence of Gambino crime family boss John Gotti.[11]

After Riggi's conviction for racketeering, he appointed John D'Amato as acting boss of the family in 1990. D'Amato was later revealed to have participated in homosexual acts and was murdered in 1992.[12] Riggi continued to run the family from his jail cell, but he appointed Giacomo "Jake" Amari as his new acting boss. All was seemingly settled until Amari became ill and died slowly of stomach cancer in 1997. This caused a massive power vacuum within the family, with high-ranking members pushing to become the next boss of the DeCavalcante crime family.

The Ruling Panel

After acting boss Amari's death, Riggi organized a three-man ruling panel in 1998 to run the day-to-day business of the crime family,[13] consisting of Girolamo Palermo, Vincent Palermo (no relation), and Charles Majuri,[14] with Stefano Vitabile as the reputed consigliere and adviser to the three.

The Panel, however, infuriated longtime captain Charles Majuri, who had been a hardworking member of the family since his teens and felt that he was wronged when he was not selected as the only acting boss.[14] To gain complete control of the DeCavalcante family, Majuri decided that he should murder Vincent Palermo, leaving himself in charge of the family.[14] Majuri contracted soldier James Gallo to murder Vincent Palermo; however, Gallo was a strong ally and friend of Vincent Palermo's, and told him about Majuri's plans.[14] In retaliation, Vincent Palermo decided to have Majuri murdered. However, after one plot fell through, the murder was eventually called off.[14]

Informants and convictions

Toward the late 1990s, the Ruling Panel kept running the DeCavalcante crime family with Giovanni Riggi still behind bars as the boss. The downfall of the DeCavalcante family was precipitated in 1998, when an associate named Ralph Guarino became an FBI informant, in an effort to avoid a long prison sentence in connection with taking part with two others in a heist of $1.6 million from the World Trade Center.[14] Guarino spent 10 years undercover working for the FBI. He wore a listening device and recorded conversations that mobsters would have about criminal business. During Guarino's time as an informant, fellow mobster Joseph Masella was gunned down on the orders of Vincent Palermo.[14] Using information provided by Guarino, US law enforcement launched a large scale arrest on December 2, 1999 of over 30 members and associates of the DeCavalcante crime family.[15] Palermo realized they would likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars and decided to cooperate with the FBI in exchange for a lenient sentence.[15] This resulted in the arrest of 12 more men less than a year later.[15] This decimated the crime family's hierarchy and put it on the brink of extinction.[15] Other top members, like Anthony Rotondo and Anthony Capo, also agreed to become government witnesses.[16]

In 2001, 20 mobsters were charged with racketeering, seven murders, 14 murder conspiracies, attempted murder, extortion in the construction industry, and stock fraud.[15] This was the fourth indictment of the family since 1999. Since then, several other top mobsters agreed to become government witnesses in exchange for being given lenient or no sentences at all. US law enforcement even put Giovanni Riggi on trial, who was hoping to be released in 2003, and he was sentenced to 10 additional years in prison.[9]

Current position and leadership

Between 1999-2005, about 45 men were imprisoned, including the family’s consigliere and seven capos.[17] With the decline of the DeCavalcante family, New York's Five Families have taken over many of the rackets in North New Jersey.[14] It is unknown how much influence, if any, John Riggi still maintained in the family. He was in jail since the early 1990s until his release from prison on November 27, 2012.[18] Riggi died in August 2015 of natural causes. In early 2005, longtime soldier Joseph Miranda took over as acting boss and inducted up to 12 members as he tried to rebuild the family before stepping down as acting boss in 2006.[17] Sicilian immigrant Francesco Guarraci is now believed by law enforcement to be the current acting boss of the DeCavalcante crime family.[19][20] Joseph Miranda continues to serve as the DeCavalcante underboss.[20]

In March 2015, the FBI arrested 10 members and associates of the crime family on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and distribute drugs. Members arrested include a 71-year-old captain Charles Stango and a 72-year-old consigliere Frank Nigro.[21]

Historical leadership

Boss (official and acting)

(excluding Gaspare D’Amico[22])

Underboss (official and acting)

Consigliere (official and acting)


Northern New Jersey Faction

South Florida Faction

Current soldiers

History of Membership

Deceased Members

Government Witnesses


  1. 1 2 3 The Changing Face of Organized Crime in New Jersey: A Status Report (PDF). May 2004. pp. 121–125.
  2. Stasi, Linda (2010-06-23). "Story behind the real 'Sopranos'". New York Post. Retrieved 2012-03-18.
  3. Mob Money. CNBC. June 23, 2010.
  4. Thomas Viner (Director) (April 26, 2006). The Real Sopranos. Class Films.
  5. Newton, Michael (1957). The Mafia at Apalachin. p. 95.
  6. "Chronological History of La Cosa Nostra in the United States, January 1920 - August 1987". The Nevada Observer. January 8, 2006.
  7. Nelli, Humbert S. The business of crime: Italians and syndicate crime in the United States. p. 203.
  8. DeVico, Peter J. (2007). The Mafia Made Easy: The Anatomy and Culture of La Cosa Nostra. Tate Publishing. ISBN 1-60247-254-8.
  9. 1 2 3 "SICK DON GETS 10 Real Soprano too ill for court". Daily News. New York. September 27, 2003. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  10. "Fbi's Star Snitch Admits Fibs". Daily News. New York. May 21, 2003. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  11. Zambito, Thomas (2004-11-17). "Don's Long Shadow Creeping Into Trial Of Brother". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  12. "RELIVING A GORY RUBOUT Big-time turncoat tells how a wiseguy got his". Daily News. New York. May 13, 2003. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  13. "REAL 'SOPRANO' SINGS N.J. mob boss cut secret deal". Daily News. New York. October 24, 2000. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Mob Money. CNBC. June 23, 2010.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Feuer, Alan (April 20, 2001). "New Charges for Mob Family as U.S. Indictment Names 20". The New York Times.
  16. 1 2 "Mob Story". 2003-05-09. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  17. 1 2 Capeci, Jerry (2005-05-21). "What's Left of the Mob". New York Maganize. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  18. "John Riggi". Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  19. Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger. "Reputed head of mob crime family, N.J. man are indicted on extortion charges". Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  20. 1 2 State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (2004). "The Changing Face of ORGANIZED CRIME IN NEW JERSEY – A Status Report – DeCavalcante". SCI 2004 Report. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  21. "FBI announces 10 New Jersey mafia arrests". Associated Press. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  22. Critchley, David. The origin of organized crime in America: the New York City mafia, 1891-1931. p. 290.
  23. "Stefano Badami". Organized crime and illicit traffic narcotics. 1. p. 333.
  24. Capeci, Jerry. The complete idiot's guide to the Mafia. p. 70.
  25. Ten Members and Associates of Decavalcante Organized Crime Family Arrested - Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey
  26. "Real Life Sopranos". 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  27. 1 2 DOJ Press Release United States Attorney Southern District of New York
  28. Profile of DeCavalcante crime family capo Charles Stango - Gangsters Inc.(12/02/2016)
  29. "THE MOB ON WALL STREET". Businessweek. 1997.
  30. "Decavalcante Indictment". Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  31. "DOJ Press release on DeCavalcante Indictment" (Press release). 1999-12-02. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  32. "Inmate Locator: Gregory Rago". Bureau of Prisons.

Further reading


Court proceedings

News and reports

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