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Hollander - November 2, 2006 11:10 AM (GMT)
Reputed mob boss linked to 'old-time Mafia'

By Jason Cato
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, November 2, 2006


Running numbers in East Liberty might have introduced Michael J. Genovese to the underworld of organized crime, but it didn't satiate the criminal appetite that took him to the top of Pittsburgh's mob scene.
The head of the all-but-vanquished La Cosa Nostra crime syndicate that once dominated Western Pennsylvania died Tuesday at his West Deer home. He was 87.

"He was the old-time Mafia here," said Kenneth McCabe, the former special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh FBI office. "Most people think of the Mafia like 'The Godfather' movies. That's what they were."

Michael A. Genovese, 41, said his father was a retired car salesman, not the mobster portrayed in news reports.


"I always looked at the articles in the newspapers," the younger Genovese said. "If he did half of the stuff they said he did, he should've been in jail. That tends to make me believe you shouldn't believe everything you read."

Michael James Genovese never was charged in mob-related crimes, but that had more to do with being well insulated than from not associating with organized crime, federal and state investigators said.

Genovese was born and reared in East Liberty, where he once controlled the numbers racket, according to a report by the defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

His climb through the Pittsburgh crime clan included a stint as capo and underboss to Sebastian John LaRocca, who became boss in 1956.

In November 1957, Genovese was part of the Pittsburgh contingency that attended a notorious summit of mob bosses from across the country in Apalachin, N.Y., according to the crime commission.

By the late 1970s, LaRocca's age and health forced him to begin yielding his power to Gabriel Mannarino, Joseph Pecora and Genovese, according to the crime commission. Pecora was convicted on gambling charges in 1979. Mannarino died in 1980.

Genovese took over the Pittsburgh clan, one of 24 original La Cosa Nostra families in the U.S., when LaRocca died in 1984.

Under Genovese's reign, the Pittsburgh Family dominated illegal gambling in Western Pennsylvania, the panhandle of West Virginia and eastern Ohio, the crime commission said. It was a major drug trafficker in Pittsburgh and was heavy into loansharking, scams and theft.

Age and federal prosecutors began catching up with organized crime in Pittsburgh by the early 1990s.

Charles "Chucky" Porter, who was Genovese's right-hand man, and Louis Raucci Sr., were indicted by a federal grand jury in March 1990 on charges including distribution of narcotics, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, gambling and racketeering.

Stake-outs at L.A. Motor in Verona, where Genovese worked, revealed him meeting with Porter and Raucci almost daily, according to the crime commission. A wire inside the business, however, never recorded Genovese making any incriminating statements. He was careful to go outside when talking to Porter and Raucci.

Though the indictment against Porter and Raucci did not name Genovese as boss, several witnesses during the trial testified that he was the head of the Pittsburgh crime family. Other witnesses in mob trials in Ohio did likewise.

A funeral prayer will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday at William F. Gross Funeral Home, Penn Hills. Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in St. Bartholomew Church with burial in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Penn Hills.

Bugsy - November 3, 2006 04:34 PM (GMT)
I heard about his death recently. Do you know if he was in anyway related to Vito?

Hollander - November 4, 2006 11:50 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (Bugsy @ Nov 3 2006, 10:34 AM)
I heard about his death recently. Do you know if he was in anyway related to Vito?

I think they were cousins.

Greetings

Hollander - November 4, 2006 12:03 PM (GMT)
Obituary: Michael J. Genovese / Government said quiet businessman was mafia boss
April 9, 1919 - Oct. 31, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006

By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Whenever his name would appear in the newspapers as head of La Cosa Nostra in Western Pennsylvania, Michael Genovese would tell his girlfriend: "They got the wrong guy."

The government said they didn't.

Wiretaps of his former Larimer Avenue business, trial testimony in 1990, surveillance by federal agents and reports by the former Pennsylvania Crime Commission all identified Mr. Genovese as the top mafia boss here for the past 20 years, when he took over for Sebastian John LaRocca in 1985.

He could be a bit of a braggart, as revealed by those FBI wiretaps, but Mr. Genovese generally fit the profile of the old-school "man of respect" who dressed to perfection and operated quietly from behind the scenes.

So quietly, in fact, that the FBI never could convict him.

He'd been identified as one of the Pittsburgh family's three representatives at the infamous mob conference in Apalachin, N.Y., in 1957, and refused to testify about it before the U.S. Senate Rackets Committee.

He also went to jail in the 1970s for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating organized crime here. Agents always suspected him of laundering his money through commercial real estate in Oakland and Shadyside and had information that the driveway at his home had been paved at county expense.

But they couldn't get evidence to prosecute a crime boss renowned for his reclusive, low-key style.

"He beat us at the game," said Roger Greenbank, the former FBI agent who dogged the mafia here for much of his career. "To me, it's kind of sad in that it's the end of an era, and the end of a chapter for the FBI in Pittsburgh."

Mr. Genovese, who had long been ill with bladder cancer and heart disease, died in his sleep Tuesday at his home, a converted barn in the rolling hills of West Deer where he had lived for some 50 years.

He was 87 and had been bedridden for weeks, cared for by his second wife, Jennie, 53.

His first wife, Alice, died in 1998, a passing largely unnoticed by the public, because Mr. Genovese did not have himself listed as a survivor.

Jennie had been his girlfriend for three decades; the FBI used to watch him slip away from his car dealership in the afternoons and go to see her. She met him when she was 24 and running a nail salon near the Holiday House in Monroeville, a reputed mobster hangout at the time.

"He came in to have his nails done and he never left," she said yesterday. "For me, he was always there when I needed him. I knew him as a good man. I knew him as a classy man, a very proud man. But he did keep things to himself."

Her only complaint was that he could be a pain because of his insistence on a proper appearance at all times. "He always dressed meticulously. Everything had to match, his shoes, everything," she said.

To her, he was a successful car dealer and businessman.

But federal prosecutors and agents, who won convictions against his top lieutenants, Charles Porter and Louis Raucci Sr., after the 1990 trial, said they knew who and what he really was.

He ran his criminal enterprise from L.A. Motors on Larimer Avenue in East Liberty, at one time a working-class Italian neighborhood where illegal gambling was controlled by the mafia since the 1920s.

But while mobsters all around him went to jail, Mr. Genovese proved too crafty and insulated. Secretive by both nature and design -- especially after the 1980s wiretapping exposed his operation -- he was the opposite of such flashy modern gangsters as John Gotti.

"He did not want his name in the spotlight at all, from what we could tell from people we talked to and what came out at the trial," said Ed Reiser Jr., an IRS agent who helped build the 1990 case. "He did not want to be the front guy."

Born in 1919 in East Liberty, Mr. Genovese was a product of the close-knit Larimer Avenue community. He started as a numbers runner and later worked for a concrete company operated by Mr. LaRocca; the two later became partners in a vending business.

By the 1960s, the government said he was "co-boss" with Mr. LaRocca of the Pittsburgh family, one of 24 original mafia organizations in the United States. In time, Mr. Genovese came to control numerous properties in Monroeville, East Liberty and elsewhere.

In the late 1970s, Mr. LaRocca's health began failing and he yielded much of the power to three men -- Gabriel Mannarino, Joseph Pecora and Mr. Genovese. Mr. Pecora went to prison in 1979 and Mr. Mannarino died of cancer in 1980, leaving Mr. Genovese as the heir apparent.

He took over in 1985 with Mr. Pecora as his underboss, the government said.

According to the crime commission, the mob had become lethargic under Mr. LaRocca, but Mr. Genovese changed that.

"For many members and associates of the Family, Genovese was a 'breath of fresh air,' " says one report. "The Family became more active and aggressive both in reasserting its dominance in the Pittsburgh area and in expanding into new territories in Ohio and Erie."

Mr. Genovese retained family control over such traditional activities as illegal gambling and loansharking, but he expanded into video poker and drug dealing.

Through it all, even the dangerous trade in cocaine that proved to be the mob's undoing across America, he took care to keep himself isolated from underlings who could turn on him.

"He was smart. Proceeds from illegal activities were usually paid to him by one person, and very discreetly," said Mr. Greenbank. "It was all cash with him."

Regardless of the source of the mob's money, Mr. Genovese always got his cut. The late mobster Frank Amato once said, "Michael Genovese, at some point, gets a portion of everything."

What he did with it all is hard to know. Jennie Genovese said he didn't have any money and was living on Social Security. She said his medical treatments were paid for by Medicare.

"This man has no money. There's no money. People think he has lots of money and he didn't," she said. "We were going month by month."

The authorities who chased him and his cronies for years don't believe that and suspect he invested in real estate through a company in Highland Park.

The funeral arrangements for Mr. Genovese are by William F. Gross Funeral Home, 11735 Frankstown Road, Penn Hills.

In the old days, the FBI would turn out in force for such a mob chieftain's funeral, as would any number of "wiseguys."

That probably won't happen this time. Most of the old mafia members are dead, La Cosa Nostra itself appears to be a dying organization and the FBI is focused on fighting terrorism.

"It truly is the end of an era," said Mr. Greenbank.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Genovese is survived by his son, Michael A. Genovese; daughter Alice Sikovsek; and his sister, Frances Puccurelli.

Visitation will be at William F. Gross Funeral Home from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today. Funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Bartholomew Church, 111 Erhardt Drive, Penn Hills.


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Laurentian - November 5, 2006 02:02 PM (GMT)
'Burgh's mob ties may sleep with the fishes

By Jason Cato
PITTSBURG TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, November 4, 2006


Michael J. Genovese's burial in a Penn Hills cemetery Friday might as well have served as a funeral for Italian organized crime in Pittsburgh, federal investigators say.

The once-powerful crime syndicate has been dormant for a decade, and now its 20-year "Boss" is dead. Some members and associates are around, but no one knows who might succeed Genovese as leader of Pittsburgh's crumbled La Cosa Nostra empire.

"It's an end of an era," said IRS agent Ed Reiser Jr., the last of the active federal agents who brought down the Pittsburgh mob. "As far as the La Cosa Nostra family, I don't know if there's anything left here of any significance."

Old age, drug dealing and dogged investigations decimated the Pittsburgh mob, investigators say. Genovese's death Tuesday closes a storied history more than 80 years in the making.

It reminds the hunters of the one who got away.

"A lot of people got a lot of time, and people like Genovese were lucky not to get caught," said Bob Garrity, retired FBI special agent who once headed the organized crime squad in Pittsburgh. "I feel bad we didn't get him and that we didn't put him away. I hope there's a God and that God already took care of him."

A bloody history

Pittsburgh's La Cosa Nostra clan, dating to the 1920s, was one of 24 original U.S. mob "families." Its history often was marked by violence.

Stefano Monastero, the first boss of the Pittsburgh family, was murdered in 1929. He was succeeded by Guiseppe "Joseph" Siragusa, who became known as the "Yeast Baron" of Allegheny County for supplying bootleggers the necessary ingredient for beer-making. He was shot and killed in 1931 inside his Squirrel Hill home, in what was "believed to be part of a nationwide 'purge' of the old-line mafiosi," according to a report by the defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

John Bazzano Sr. was next in the line of succession, but his reign lasted only a year. New York mobsters armed with ice picks stabbed him more than 20 times inside a Brooklyn restaurant and stuffed him in a burlap sack as punishment for improperly authorizing a hit.

Vincenzo Capizzi replaced Bazzano and ran the Pittsburgh family until he stepped down in 1937, allowing Frank Amato Sr. to take over.

The Pittsburgh mob expanded its territory throughout Allegheny County and beyond under Amato. Kidney disease forced Amato to resign in 1956 and brought the family under the control of Sebastian John LaRocca, until his death in 1984.

The Sicilian-born LaRocca kept a low profile but was respected by underworld members nationwide. He was "a man of respect," the crime commission said, and held fast to "traditional 'mafia values' of obeying orders, keeping secrets, and effective use of violence."

Genovese controlled the numbers racket in East Liberty under LaRocca and eventually served as a capo.

In 1957, LaRocca, Genovese and Gabriel "Kelly" Mannarino represented Pittsburgh at the infamous national meeting of mob bosses in Apalachin, N.Y.

When LaRocca's health deteriorated in the late 1970s, he ceded much of his power to Genovese, Mannarino and Joseph Pecora. Many people believed Mannarino was intended to take over the Pittsburgh mob. But when LaRocca died in 1984 at age 83, Mannarino was dead and Pecora was in jail.

That left the 71-year-old Genovese as heir to the Pittsburgh Family throne.

Expanding influence

Like his mentor, Genovese kept a low profile and adhered to Mafia values.

He ran a criminal empire from behind the scenes, and often over meals at the Holiday House restaurant in Monroeville, a favorite mob hangout, or from a Verona used car dealership where he worked, the crime commission said.

The commission described Genovese as "a quiet-yet-autocratic leader, who expanded the family's influence and enlarged its criminal portfolio."

The Pittsburgh mob had stagnated under LaRocca, but Genovese built it into Pennsylvania's strongest family.

"Pittsburgh was pretty substantial," said Ken McCabe, a retired FBI special agent who once headed the Pittsburgh office. "It had influence from here to the Youngstown, Cleveland and Buffalo areas."

Under Genovese, the Pittsburgh mob became a major drug trafficker and the region's principal loanshark while continuing to control gambling and other illegal markets.

But while Genovese helped reinvigorate a waning organization, the direction the mob chose -- particularly in trafficking narcotics -- proved to be its downfall, federal agents said. Gambling and other traditional mob rackets usually brought a few years in prison; drug convictions brought much more. These convictions primarily fell on younger members or associates, destroying the mob's line of ascension.

"A lot of these younger guys who could have been up and coming got picked off one by one," said Reiser, of the IRS.

Mounting arrests

Until the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force was created in 1982, federal law enforcement agencies largely worked alone and without consulting one another. The new task force brought them together. It marked the beginning of the end for the Genovese crime family, Reiser said.

"It was just a flow for about six or seven years where one investigation led to another," Reiser said.

East Liberty drug dealer Eugene "Nick the Blade" Gesuale was the first major catch. He was convicted in the mid-1980s for running an extensive narcotics operation. Now 63, he isn't projected to be released from federal prison until 2013.

Next, federal agents flipped drug dealers Marvin Droznek and Joseph "Joey" Rosa, whose father was Frank J. Rosa, a former capo, and whose grandfather was Joseph Sica, a one-time consigliere in the LaRocca/Genovese Family.

Information provided by Droznek, Joey Rosa and other investigations led to the largest organized crime prosecution in Western Pennsylvania's history.

In March 1990, a Pittsburgh grand jury indicted Charles "Chucky" Porter and Louis F. Raucci Sr., along with seven associates, on charges including drug distribution, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, gambling and racketeering. Porter was considered to be Genovese's "right-hand man," while Raucci was said to "sit on the left side" of the boss, according to the crime commision report.

Both men were convicted. Raucci died in prison in 1996. Porter, 72, of Penn Hills, was released in 2000 after his 28-year sentence was halved for helping the FBI investigate mob operations from New York and New Jersey, to Florida and California, including narcotics operations in Pittsburgh.

A mob of one

Much of the information used to convict Porter and Raucci came from wiretaps hidden inside L.A. Motors, the Verona car dealership where Genovese worked as a salesman. While "everyday" conversations were held inside, Genovese took people outside individually to discuss mob business, Reiser said. The FBI eventually placed a microphone in a tree where the men often stood and talked, but agents never obtained enough information to charge Genovese with mob-related crimes.

"We narrowly missed him," said Garrity, the former FBI agent. "He just escaped the web when we got everybody else."

Still, by taking down mobsters directly beneath Genovese, Reiser said government agents effectively destroyed the criminal empire run by a man fond of staying in the shadows.

"He showed up to the Holiday House one morning and nobody else showed up to meet him," Reiser joked.

GangstersInc - January 26, 2007 07:52 PM (GMT)
Son of W.Va. gambling kingpin pleads guilty
By Jason Cato
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, January 25, 2007

The son of a late Wheeling, W.Va., gangster pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday for his role in a major gambling ring.

Christopher Paul Hankish, 44, of Scott, was charged in November with conspiracy for his connection to a multimillion-dollar bookmaking operation headed by former video poker kingpin John "Duffy" Conley.

State police and the state Attorney General's Office began looking into gambling activity involving Conley, formerly of the South Side, in February 2005. Wiretaps on several of Conley's cell phones last fall revealed a widespread gambling ring. An investigator with the Attorney General's Office testified last year in federal court that Conley's gambling operation involved a number of people associated with organized crime. He specifically named Hankish as one of those people.

His father, Paul "No Legs" Hankish, was a West Virginia mobster whose legs were blown off in a car-bomb assassination attempt. The elder Hankish was tied to the Pittsburgh mob, and he dominated gambling in Wheeling and Fayette County, according to the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission.


Paul Hankish died in federal prison in 1998 while serving 33 1/2 years for racketeering, gambling, cocaine distribution and income-tax evasion.

Chris Hankish was a codefendant in a 1990 federal case against Charles "Chucky" Porter and Louis F. Raucci Sr. -- a trial that effectively ended organized crime in Pittsburgh. The younger Hankish pleaded guilty to cocaine conspiracy and distribution charges in 1991 and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

The latest investigation revealed that Conley handled more than $3 million in bets over 28 days in November and December 2005, some involving Hankish, investigators said.

Conley returned to prison in May for violating the condition of his parole by again involving himself with illegal gambling. He has not been charged in the ongoing gambling case.

Hankish will be sentenced June 8 by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab.

Dennis Stewart also pleaded guilty yesterday to a conspiracy charge for his involvement with Conley's operation. Prosecutors said Stewart regularly accepted "lay-off" bets from Conley. He will be sentenced April 19.

Jason Cato can be reached at jcato@tribweb.com or 412-320-7840.

GangstersInc - June 16, 2009 02:54 PM (GMT)
Former mobster honored with award at Minor League Football Hall of Fame

Photo below
Joe Bellante (center)
Andrew Russell/Tribune-Review

About the writer

Luis Fabregas can be reached via e-mail or at 412-320-7998.

By Luis Fabregas
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 14, 2009

Joe Bellante's dark past is clearly behind him.

That much was evident Saturday when the mobster-turned-minister received a special award from the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame for his contributions to improve the lives of young people.

"It's been a long road," Bellante said moments before getting the Ray Mansfield Memorial Award at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. The award is named after the Steelers center and member of the Super Bowl winning teams in 1974 and 1975. "I put the past behind me because of the Lord. I gave my life to him."

Bellante's award capped a morning ceremony to induct eight new members into the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame, which has an exhibit on the history center's third floor.

"This is your home, and we're happy to have you in your home today," Museum Director Anne Madarasz told the crowd of about 75 people.

Bellante, 68, of East Pittsburgh, worked for organized crime in Pittsburgh in the 1960s, but turned his life around when a fellow mobster almost killed him in 1972 with two bullets in the face. Bellante became a counselor and minister and vowed to help youngsters stay away from violence and crime. He has been chaplain of the football team at Peabody High School for 35 years.

"He really had a different life, but he has accepted Christ as a savior, and he has given back to the community," said Hall of Fame representative Tom Averell. A committee selected Bellante from about 35 candidates. "This is an extreme honor. We really scrutinize people."

Bellante, who was ordained in 1986 in the Independent Assembly of God Church, was accompanied by his wife, Sally, his sons Joe and Vincent, and several grandchildren.

He said he finds inspiration from the young people he counsels, and he likes to take his message to inmates at the Allegheny County Jail, which he frequently visits.

His message is simple: "No matter what, there's always hope," he said.

Those inducted yesterday into the Hall of Fame included:

Richard Mamajek, center and defensive tackle, Thiel College, J.J. Doyle Football Club;

Dan McGrew, center, Purdue University, Detroit Lions NFL, Buffalo Bills AFL, Wheeling Ironmen;

Richard Landis, linebacker, Chambersburg Cardinals;

Keith Urich, official referee, 1983-present;

Robert Martineau, official referee, 1974-2003;

Melissa Yeck, linebacker, Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Women's Football, Pittsburgh Passion;

Richard Thomaselli, fullback, West Virginia Wesleyan, Houston Oilers, Green Bay Packers, Montreal CFL, Charleston, West Virginia Rockets;

Ronald Graham, Sr., linebacker, Tuskegee Institute, Pittsburgh Wolf Pak.




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