Who the Heck was Vincent “Jimmy” Angelina?

Jimmy walking with Colombo Underboss Gerry Lang (Daily News)

A common occurrence with Mafia figures is that we seem to know more about their last five minutes on Earth than all their previous years combined. Unfortunately, Vincent James “Jimmy” Angelino (sometimes spelled Angellina or Angelina) is no exception to that. It’s amazing how we know so little about the exploits and criminal highlights of the one-time Acting Boss of the Colombo Crime Family, yet at the same time, we know in excruciating detail the last day of his life.  

A Career in the Mafia 

Where to begin? Vincent Angelino was born in 1936. His childhood and early years are somewhat of a mystery to me from all the books I have read about the Colombo Crime Family. Maybe that’s a testament to his ability to stay under the radar of law enforcement, or maybe his early years as a hoodlum were simply uneventful and uninteresting. In any case, Angelino started to become relevant in the mid-1970s and we start learning more about who he was and what he did. Depending on who you asked, Jimmy was made in either 1975, 1977, or 1978. Two notable individuals that were made alongside him that will become relevant were Michael “the Yuppie Don” Franzese and Salvatore “Big Sal” Miciotta. 

His first major crime happened in March of 1978. “Scotty” Americo was a rather large Italian who thought it would be a good idea to abuse a brother of a made man. Big mistake. With the approval of Carmine Persico, Tom DiBella and Andrew “Mush” Russo put together a hit team that included Angelino and Miciotta as the shooters, John Minerva as the driver and Michael Franzese as the get-a-away driver. Angelino shot first with 00 buckshot from a shotgun and Big Sal followed up with a revolver. When the job was done Angelino flew out to the Diplomat Hotel to let the Bosses know everything went off without a hitch. According to Big Sal, the hit team got inducted the following Halloween night. Jimmy was placed in Andrew Russo’s crew and quickly got involved in loansharking and hijacking. Soon he would be called upon to do more “work” for the Family. In the early 1980s, Jimmy was part of a hit team with Big Sal and “Champagne” Larry Carroza that murdered an unknown male connected to the Gambino Crime Family through his brother. Reason for the execution? The victim sold drugs near the corner of where Colombo soldier Anthony “Chucky” Russo’s mother was living. This time Big Sal used the shotgun and Jimmy used a pistol to murder the victim as they were sitting in their car.

Andrew Russo (Newsday)

In March 1982, Russo was on shaky grounds with Carmine Persico as a result of his troubles with bribery and the IRS. Persico, who was in prison after a hijacking conviction, was slated to take over the Colombo Family after his scheduled released in 1979. Wanting to speed up his return to the streets, Russo got in-contact with someone who turned out to be an undercover IRS agent that got both Persico and Mush jammed up for bribery and obstruction of justice. As a result, the infamous Greg Scarpa advised the FBI that Jimmy Angelino was the acting captain of Russo’s crew and was on his way to become its permanent one. During this time Jimmy and other Colombo members were seen visiting fellow captain Joseph “Joe T” Tomasello’s house, whose residence was being used as a meeting place to discuss “much” Family business. Two months later Scarpa went back on his previous statement and affirmed Andrew’s captain status, although the latter was still in a tenuous position giving the impending IRS case and the fact that he took money from others. Although Jimmy would have to wait a bit longer to become a caporegime, it highlighted that Angelino was highly looked upon by the Family’s patriarch and was ready to move up the ladder. Michael Franzese in his book, Quitting the Mob (1992), also noted that Jimmy was a rising star in the Family and wrote how orders from Brooklyn would be relayed through him.

The killings for Jimmy, however, were not over and he participated in at least two more murders during the early 1980s. The first was the tragic botched hit on the Peraino family. On the evening of January 4, 1982, father Joseph Peraino Sr. and Joseph Jr. were walking down Gravesend, Brooklyn when their assassins arrived. Big Sal and Jimmy Angelina were the alleged triggerman that chased the duo into the home of the Zuraws. The hitmen got overzealous and shot wildly killing Joseph Jr. and former nun Veronica Zurwa. Joseph Sr. escaped with a bullet in his ass and the Colombo Family got hit with a bad headline. Jimmy’s last known murder was that of his crew member, “Champagne” Larry Carroza. Though he fervently denies it, in all likelihood Michael Franzese ordered the death of his “best” friend for one reason or another. It is unknown who the triggerman was. Big Sal in his debriefings claimed he pulled the trigger on Larry. Michael in his debriefings claimed Angelino and “Chucky” Russo were responsible. Others still claim it was Michael himself who killed his friend. Still from here on out, Jimmy was no longer going to get his hands dirty. His aspirations were much bigger than that.  

(L:R): Salvatore “Big Sal” Miciotta and Jimmy Angellina (LCN Bios)

While Jimmy Angelino was busy putting in “work” for the Family, his captain was facing a much bigger problem. A RICO was coming down on him. Andrew Russo alongside the entire leadership and hierarchy of the Colombo Crime Family was arrested in October of 1984. The 51-count indictment highlighted the wide ranging criminal reach of the Family, ranging from labor racketeering activities in six union locals to loansharking and extortion. Everyone involved got stiff sentences, with Russo himself catching a 14-year bid in prison. All of the sudden the top positions were open, and it was time for the new generation to move up. Jimmy Angelino would finally have a seat at the big table.

A Seat at the Big Table 

The year 1986 was a catastrophe for the Colombo Crime Family. Rocked by convictions in the Colombo Trial and the Commission Case, all of the Family’s old leaders were in prison. Carmine Persico wanted to keep power within his bloodline, but his son wasn’t scheduled to be released until the early 1990s. To maintain his power, Carmine designated Anthony Scarpati, in February of 1986, to be the Colombo’s “Street Boss”. In this capacity Scarpati was used as a liaison to the other Families and relay messages and instructions on Family operations from prison to James Angellina and “Joe T” Tomasello. According to Scarpa, these two were the most active and trusted captains by Persico still left on the street and they essentially ran the Family for him. In the event that Scarpati was taken off the street, Angellina and Tomasello were to assume control of the Colombo Family.

(L:R): Anthony Scarpati (Pinterest user Dom Woods) and Joseph “Joe T” Tomasello (LCN Bios)

During summer of 1986, Scarpati was demoted from his position and Jimmy Angellino was bumped up to the Acting Boss position. Tomasello continued to be a captain, but became part of a rotating panel that assisted Jimmy in the day to day running of the criminal enterprise. The duo continued getting instructions from Persico through his brother Teddy Sr. In July 1986, Scarpa advised that Benedetto “Benny” Aloi was added to the administration panel. It was also during this month that Vic Orena was promoted to be the acting captain of “Little Allie Boy” Perisco’s crew. At some point both Little Vic and Joseph “Jo Jo” Russo would be part of the administration panel and alongside Benny Aloi would run the Family upon Jimmy’s incarceration while Pat Amato would function as the acting captain for Angellina’s crew. By summer of 1987, the Colombo’s, Bonanno’s, and Lucchese’s all used three men panels to govern their Families while their respective Bosses were incarcerated, a reality that Vincent “the Chin” Gigante did not like. The Oddfather wanted to put another Commission together, but wanted only one individual to speak for each Family. The Colombo’s sent back a message to the Chin saying that any individuals in the “Acting” capacity would be capable of sitting in Commission meetings. Gigante wasn’t the only Boss displeased with the way the Colombo administration was set up.

Jimmy’s luck with law enforcement finally ran out and he was indicted on September 10th, 1986, alongside captain “Joe T” for conspiring to receive hijacked television equipment. Unlike the previous massive Colombo undertaking that was Operation Starquest, all it took to ensnare the current Colombo administration were some VCRs and a petty thief. It’s baffling given their positions at the time, but I guess wiseguys are always looking out for a score, however big or small it may be. Ralph Schneidman, a petty thief-turned-informer testified that Jimmy and Joe T paid him $1,500 for nine stolen VCRs that were delivered to Angellina’s Gravesand, Brooklyn social club. As it turned out, however, the “stolen” VCRs were actually purchased by the FBI as part of orchestrating this sting operation. The pair was convicted of conspiring to buy stolen VCRs on December 1st, 1986 and this conviction carried a 5 year sentence. Keeping things in perspective, this was a rather tame charge and the duo ended up serving only about 10 months.

At the same time, Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso was in a pickle. On September 14th, 1986 he was shot by three men and he didn’t know who was responsible. Frantically searching for answers, Angelina met with Gaspipe to tell him that Jimmy Hydell was heard talking about the alleged murder attempt on Casso. Hydell suffered a gruesome death at the hands of Anthony Casso, helped by his two corrupt cops.

Angellina’s bust as a result of a low-level thief is puzzling given the level he was operating on and the different rackets he was involved in. For instance, alongside the Genovese Crime Family, Jimmy controlled and extorted the N.Y.C District Council of Carpenters. Vincent alongside Colombo capo Thomas Petrizzo controlled the President of the union, Frederick Devine. The Genovese had two members working inside the union, Anthony Fiorino (brother-in-law to Liborio “Barney” Bellomo) and Leonard Simon. This was particularly relevant when it came to controlling the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Control of the center was extremely lucrative for organized crime because it involved easy work, overtime, and opportunities to make additional money via selling stands and loansharking. Angellino controlled the day-to-day hiring of carpenters at the Convention Center, while Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro, a soldier in the Genovese Crime Family, had the power to approve any major decisions. To further bolster the influence of organized crime at the Javits Convention Center, crucial carpenter positions were given to organized crime associates.

The Jacob Javits Convention Center was supposed to be the new crown jewel for New York City and reinforce the city’s position as America’s dominant hub of commerce and innovation. Yet since its 1986 opening, the Convention Center was ripe with corruption and mob control that actively pushed away companies seeking to showcase their products. For example, conventions held at Javits dropped from 96 in 1989 to 70 in 1994 with delegate attendance dropping by half a million during that period. Why was this the case? Sky-high labor costs, pay-offs, theft, and phantom union workers. Labor costs per square foot were 7 cents in Chicago compared to $3.88 in New York. An example of the insanity going on at Javits was that it reportedly cost $75 to screw in one light bulb! Union seniority rules were trampled as fresh from prison mob-connected carpenters received favorable overtime pay. It was extremely hard for the government to clean up the Convention Center because mob-connected workers were employed by separate decorating companies hired by show managers. As a result, the mob’s tax on exhibitors encouraged them to go elsewhere and trade shows were filled with mob-run businesses. Besides just overseeing the Javits Center’s operations, Angellina also co-owned a company alongside Big Sal called Ex-Serv that helped set up displays there. Surprisingly this privilege wasn’t free for the Acting Boss as the two men paid $60,000 to the Colombo and Genovese Crime Families for the right to operate their business. The gravy train for the mob would end when famous social media personality Sammy “the Bull” Gravano performed his civic duty and exposed the corruption. The aforementioned Vincent Cafaro, would also testify against Devine and the union was purged of its Mafia ties. 

(L:R): “Big Sal” Miciotta, “Barney” Bellomo, Vincent Cafaro, and Frederick Devine (Daily News)

Besides his activities at the Javits Center, Jimmy was also involved with labor racketeering in the Garment Center. According to Selwyn Raab, the Colombo’s had a smaller stake than the Gambino’s and Lucchese’s in protection payoffs from Garment Center companies resisting unionization attempts. Angellina, specifically, was an official and the Colombo representative at the Greater Blouse, Skirt, and Undergarment Association. This trade group represented about 700 ladies garment manufactures and was jointly controlled by the Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese Crime Families. The association negotiated industrywide wage packages with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. Garment contractors were coerced to join the trade group under threat of not getting any work and had to pay $50 a month dues. Jimmy Angellina had an office with the association on West 34th St. that he frequented and incidentally was also the last place he would be seen alive.

In July 1987, Greg Scarpa reaffirmed Jimmy Angelino’s position as Acting Boss, however the power dynamic in the Family was changing. By summer of 1987, Joe T was noticeably absent from numerous Family meetings and as a result Persico reduced his authority for his unwillingness to assume responsibility. Furthermore, Joe Waverly was placed as the acting captain for Joe T’s crew. The landscape changes rapidly in the mob and soon enough an unsuspecting Jimmy Angelino was demoted from the Acting Boss position and was put in as the Family’s Consigliere. In the process, Pasquale Amato took over Jimmy Angelina’s crew on a permanent basis. Carmine reshuffled the administration often and Jimmy probably didn’t think much of this move. Soon enough, however, Jimmy would lose his ability to think.

Down the Stairs We Go 

On April 3rd, 1988, Greg Scarpa reported that Vic Orena was appointed the Acting Boss and that Jimmy Angelino was broken down to the rank of official Consigliere. Benny Aloi, by the way, would be put in as the official Underboss. During that summer, Angellina met with Gambino Boss John Gotti and other high ranking members of that Family to discuss some unknown business. Later that summer Jimmy approached Greg Scarpa to inquire if the “Grim Reaper” knew a reliable fence that could help Angellina sell some stolen jewelry he had. Despite the demotion, things appeared to have been business as usual for Jimmy.

(L:R): “Little Vic” Orena (Newsday) and Benedetto “Benny” Aloi (Daily News)

Despite the supposed unity La Cosa Nostra is meant to represent, the Colombo Crime Family was all but united during this tumultuous time. Greed, treachery and hunger for power were in the air during the fateful month of November 1988. Now we know when, where and who killed Jimmy Angelina. What we don’t know is why exactly he was killed. For what it’s worth, Michael Franzese in his book claimed his mob pal was killed because Jimmy was trying to muscle in on the Gambino Crime Family’s interest in the Garment District. One can see where he is coming from given that Angellino was last seen leaving his office in the Garment Center. However, this sentiment is not shared by our other three primary sources on the events surrounding Jimmy Angelino and his demise. To me then, that shows that by 1988, Franzese was pretty much out of the loop on Family affairs and was not informed of the inner-political machinations.

Greg Scarpa told us that Jimmy fell out of favour because he was refusing to step down as Consigliere in favor of “Benny” Aloi as ordered by Carmine Persico. Aloi would, of course, serve on the administration as part of Orena’s faction. It seems that from prison, Carmine was oblivious to the fact that Orena was building and consolidating his power base. This can be seen from Larry Mazza’s fateful meeting with Jimmy Angelina, as the latter was making his last power move. 

Sometime during 1987, Angelina met with Gregory Scarpa, Larry Mazza, and several others to discuss the atmosphere and the tension the Family was facing. Despite being a cousin of Carmine, Orena was unsatisfied at the temporary nature of his very powerful position. As such he began polling the other captains and building support within the Family to depose Persico and become the official Boss of the Colombo Crime Family. Moreover, Orena was being extremely selective in who he brought into the Family. By and large new inductees came from Queens, Orena’s power base, and guys like Larry Mazza and Joseph “Joe Fish” Marra were passed over in 1986. The only associates from Brooklyn that were inducted coincidentally happened to be from Bill Cutolo’s crew, a staunch Orena ally. Whether Angelina was on the side of Orena or if he wanted to regain his power with the help of Greg Scarpa is unknown. What we do know is that in November of 1988, Carmine ordered his death.  

On November 28th, 1988 Dennis DeLuca picked up Vincent Angelino from his Garment District office to drive him to the New Jersey home of Colombo made man Aurelio “Ray” Cagno. Parked inside the garage, Angelino proceeded to enter the staircase to walk up the stairs. To his shock, Carmine Sessa and Billy Cutolo stood at the top of the stairs and unloaded their weapons. Jimmy died then and there, slumped against the wall. That was it for Vincent Angelino, his final stop. Jimmy’s name, however, was not forgotten. Jimmy would continue to torment his murders as they heard his name echo in Federal courts. 

The first act of business was to clean up the crime scene and bury the body. Rocco and Ray Cagno would stay at the house to clean up any evidence while Jimmy LeGrano and others would carry away Jimmy’s corpse. Gregory Scarpa dutifully notified his FBI handler about what took place and expressed surprise given Jimmy’s popularity and how unusual it was to kill a Consigliere. Scarpa would go on to explain how annoyed John Gotti was at Persico’s constant shuffling of the administration and forced the Colombo’s to appoint a permanent hierarchy. In a subsequent debriefing during the Third Colombo War, Scarpa implied that Angellina was indeed eliminated for trying to make a power move to the displeasure of Persico and Orena. Carmine Sessa, who was appointed as the Family’s new Consigliere, would later testify in the winter of 1993 that Jimmy Angellino was killed on Persico’s orders for skimming Family money. As you can see the reasons are somewhat conflicting.

(L:R): Ray Cagno (Ashbury Park Press), Carmine Sessa, and William Cutolo (Daily News)

Meanwhile, Ray Cagno, Rocco Cagno, and Salvatore Lombardino would go on to kill another Colombo member by the name of James Randazzo on May 17th, 1993. The investigation for this murder allowed police to search Ray’s house which unnerved Rocco who secretly began to cooperate with law enforcement by wearing a wire. As a result of this, the Feds began to arrest Colombo gangsters en masse. William Cutolo, Michael Spataro, Frank Campanella, Joseph LeGrano, Dennis DeLucia, Ray Cagno, Rocco Cagno, among others were all arrested for the killing of Angelino in 1988. Ray, Dennis and Joseph were convicted for his murder.

But it wasn’t all great news for the good guys nor for Jimmy’s ghost. His shooter Will Cutolo was acquitted by a jury for the gangland slaying of Jimmy Angelino on December 20th, 1994. The reason? Cutolo’s defence team was able to plant doubts regarding the testimony of Colombo turncoats Larry Mazza and Sal Miciotta. Another factor was the allegations swirling around Greg Scarp’s role as an informant and corrupt handling from his FBI Agent Lin DeVecchio. All that was enough for the jury to acquit Will Cutolo and his six associates. And his other shooter? Carmine Sessa turned informant soon after his April 1993 arrest. He was the highest-ranking member of the Colombo Crime Family to become a cooperating witness. He admitted to personally killing three men and one woman. Jimmy Angelino was among the victims he confessed to murdering. Carmine Sessa is now a free man living in WITSEC after helping convict countless mobsters. 

I wish Michael Franzese, his good pal, would do a video on Jimmy Angelino and tell us more about his mob career.

Sources include: The Colombo Mafia, The Colombo Family by Andy Petepiece, LCNBios, Quitting the Mob by Michael Franzese and Dary Matera, and various articles from the Daily News (New York), The New York Times, and other newspapers.