Gangland Wire Crime Stories is a unique true crime podcast. The host, Gary Jenkins, is a former Kansas City Police Intelligence Unit Detective. Gary uses his experience to give insigtful twists on famous organized characters across the United States. He tells crime stories from his own career and invites former FBI agents, police officers and criminals to educate and entertain listeners.
.22 Cal. Killers
The .22 Caliber Killings: Inside the Mafia’s Infiltration of Two FBI Field Offices
During the post War period to 1968, the FBI and a few local police department Intelligence Units made liberal use of extrajudicial hidden microphones and wiretaps. In 1968, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. This statute authorized the first legal use of audio surveillance by law enforcement. The FBI created a large list of confidential informants. Many of them were street-level thugs and a few high-ranking mobsters. Since they did not have extensive electronic surveillance, they needed these men for probable cause to obtain the new legal wiretaps. Of these valuable informants, fifteen made-men were placed on the extremely confidential Top Echelon Informant list.
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Access the Top Echelon List
In 1971, a young lady named Irene Kuczynski was a typist at the FBI’s Newark field office. A New Jersey Mob associate named Peter Szwandrak learned about this employment when he worked at Western Electric with her husband George. Peter told George Kuczynski a New Jersey Mob boss named John “Johnny D” DiGilio would pay for any files his wife could get and copy. George Kucznskui was already a spouse abuser and when his wife refused, he beat her several times until she agreed to get some files. DiGilio gave Geroge $100.00 per delivery of any files his wife copied and brought home. DiGilio was extorting money from shipping companies and conducted a loan sharking business. He learned from the FBI documents that two members of his crew, loan shark and gambler Vincent Capone, and Frank Chin, an electronics expert who moonlighted doing wiretaps and sweeping for government microphones, were talking to the Bureau. The FBI caught the Kuczynski’s and they agreed to testify. In July of 1975, the government charged Peter Szwandrak and Harry Lupo with the theft of FBI documents. They could not make a case on DiGilio. After this acquittal, unknown persons shot and killed Vincent Capone while his Cadillac was stopped at a traffic light. Someone murdered Frank Chin in the basement parking lot of his Manhattan apartment. In an interesting turn of events, the FBI lab results revealed that both men were killed by the same 22‐caliber pistol.
FBI goes into high alert
Once they discovered the theft of documents in the New Jersey field office was linked to the murder of witnesses, the FBI went on high alert. During the middle 1970s, they had noticed informants were being killed at every level. The newspapers reported on a rash of .22 cal. murders during this time and the FBI knew these were mostly informants. The FBI knew this entire leak of informant data did not come from the single theft at the New Jersey Field office. They theorized that the mob had paid persons to infiltrate the FBI throughout the United States.
Cleveland has a Mole
Cleveland mobster Anthony “Tony Lib” Liberatore had a car dealership and he learned that one of his employees named Jeffrey Rabinowitz was engaged to a young woman named Geraldine “Gerri” Linhart and that she was a clerk in the Cleveland office of the FBI. Gerri Linhart was getting a divorce. She did not earn much working for the Bureau and she was trying to sell a house she had received in the settlement. She had a hard time getting this house sold Liberatore had someone contact her and they promised to make her financial troubles disappear. She was advised that she only need to do some favors in return. She started selling files to Liberatore and his capo James “Blackie” Licavoli. Among those files was a complete list of FBI informants. An example was the name Danny Greene who was in a battle with the Italian mafia over control of a labor union. He had been informing on the Mafia for years. In an interesting turn of events,
New Years Bonus
Gangland Wire 2021
I wish all you guys a Happy and Prosperous 2022. Like everybody else, I feel like I just lost a year and more. The podcast kept me going and all of your emails, comments on the Gangland Wire Facebook page and the website, your emails, and every other way you sent me good wishes made my work worthwhile. I was able to finish my third documentary film, Ballot Theft: Burglary, Murder, Coverup. I especially thank every wiretapper who invested their time and money into making this a better production. My friend and fellow filmmaker, Terence O’Malley were able to put on the third annual Mafia Film Festival and premiere Ballot Theft in November. We are almost back to normal. I appreciate every PayPal and Venmo donation more than you will ever know. Some of the highlights over the year were the Montreal Mafia with Cam Robinson, the four-part series on the Pizza Connection, the Elaine Smith interview on Ken Eto, One of my personal favorites was with Steve St. John and Joe Pistone on Lefty Ruggerio, My last interview ever with my recently deceased friend Denny Griffin as a tribute to Frank Culotta, and the two-part interview with Michael DiLeonardo.
Gangland Wire 2022
This next year, I will continue researching stories and finding great guests who lived the life of a mobster or a copper or agent who investigated the mob. Please feel free to send me suggestions for guests and mob stories. I plan on spending a little more time with my YouTube channel, Gangland Wire. Until this last year, I had looked at this as a method to entice folks to my audio podcast. I have learned that many folks watch YouTube and never go to the podcast apps. I plan on another motorcycle tour of mob sties in the spring with my friend Kate Kozal. We are heading south through Hot Springs Arkansas (Owney Madden and the prohibition era resort for many mobsters). We will travel south into Louisana and end up in New Orleans where we will look at many mob sites along the way.
Basil Banghart Chicago Mobster
Basil Banghart was known as “The Owl” because of his unusually large eyes. In the 19202 and 30s, the cops and the press knew him as an underworld legend. He was a man that escaped from every prison from Atlanta to Soledad. He could fly planes, drive like a race car driver while shooting a machine gun with deadly accuracy. He committed mail heists that totaled at least a million dollars. Prison officials labeled him a professional criminal with an unfavorable prognosis. In short, Basil Bqnhart was an astute criminal who was without social conscience or scruples. Additionally, they reported his I.Q to be 107.
A couple of older professional thieves named Gerald Chapman and George Dutch Anderson took a liking to Basil Banghart in the Atlanta Federal pen. They tutored him in the fine arts of mail robbery and prison escapes. In this first sentence at the federal pen in Atlanta, Banghart made his first escape attempt by jumping 25 feet from a window into a marsh area outside the walls. Authorities captured him across the county in Montana shortly. He escaped again with George Chapman in 1927 and the police caught him a year later trying to steal a car in Pittsburgh. Adding insult to injury, during this arrest and transport back to Atlanta, Banghart escaped again. He was being escorted by an F.B.I. agent. He was able to get to a phone alone and he called the local police and claim he was an F.B.I. agent who was escorting a prisoner he had been overpowered by the prisoner and the prisoner had taken the agent’s gun and credentials then handcuffed the real agent. He described the agent and claimed he was really the prisoner. When the cops arrived with drawn guns and confronted the agent, Banghart was able to walk out during the confusion and melee. The police found him a few months later in Knoxville in February of 1930. After he returned to Atlanta, Banghart escaped again and was arrested less th...
Prison story with Steve St. John
Gary interviews Steve St. John about an interesting character Steve met in prison. Stephen Blumberg once lived off a $72,000 annual family trust fund. But, he helped a dark secret compulsion that will send him to prison more than once. Blumberg started as a child removing doorknobs and stained glass windows from the old houses that were slated for destruction in his childhood home of St. Paul. MN. His interest in Victorian architecture started his fascination with rare books. he found in college that the University of Minnesota library held thousands of like. Blumberg initially took items as a way to create a reference collection for his own use. Steve tells some great prison stories about this strange man.
In 1990, federal authorities arrested Stephen Blumberg for the theft of thousands of rare books from 268 or more universities and museums throughout the United States and Canada. The government valued this haul at about US $5.3 million. In 1991, a federal judge sentenced Blumberg to 71 months in prison gave him a $200,000 fine. It was this conviction that sent him into a federal joint with my friend Steven St. John.
On December 29, 1995, he completed his sentence and the BOP released him.
Show notes by Gary Jenkins
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John Ambrose U.S. Marshall
Witness Protection Failed
The story of John T. Ambrose
Merry Christmas Wiretappers. I am here in the studio alone today, and while noodling around, I found an interesting Chicago Outfit story that I had never heard. A U.S. Marshall named John Ambrose was assigned to help protect a government witness named Nick Calabrese. He revealed the location of this important witness in the Family Secrets trial.
U.S. Marshall’s Office
The well-respected U.S. Marshal’s office is responsible for the security of government witnesses. The Mob and the Chicago Outfit, in particular, are well known for witness intimidation and even murder. So, WitSec (Witness Security) is a dangerous job on one hand while being boring on the other.
According to the U.S. Marshals Service website, that agency is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement entity, serving our country since 1789. President George Washington appointed the first 13 U.S. Marshals. At that time, Congress tasked them with arresting fugitives, the housing and transport of prisoners after arrest, before conviction and sentencing, plus witness security. The Marshals must protect all federal judges and their courtrooms. To the present day, they are a little-known but very active law enforcement agency. In the fiscal year 2010 alone, the Marshals Service arrested more than 36,100 federal fugitives. They are often assigned to Federal Task Forces in large cities for drug investigations when they are not out chasing criminals.
The most sensitive function of the Marshals Service is the WITSEC or Witness Security Protection Program. The Marshals Service provides for the security, health, and safety of government witnesses and their immediate family members when there is evidence they are in danger because of their testimony. Most of their protectees were witnesses in organized crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, and other significant criminal enterprises prosecutions. The program started in 1971, and Marshals have relocated and protected more than 8,300 witnesses and 9,800 of their family members since that time. So far to date, no WITSEC participant who followed security guidelines was harmed while under the active protection of the U.S. Marshals. But there have been leaks, and today I am going to tell you about one.
One of the most crucial witnesses against the Chicago Outfit was Nick Calabrese. We have interviewed his nephew Frank Calabrese Jr, and I suggest you go back and listen to that for more on the Calabrese crew. But Nick worked under the direction of his brother Frank Calabrese Sr. as part of a murder team and juice loan collection service. They were part of the 26th Street crew or Chinatown crew under a capo named Angelo The Hook LaPrietra. The headquarters was a social club called the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club at 26th and Princeton.
On July 28, 1995, the federal government indicted Nicholas Calabrese and nine other organized crime figures using threats, violence, and intimidation to enforce the loan-sharking racket from 1978 until 1992. The other defendants were Frank Calabrese, Sr., Frank Calabrese, Jr., Kurt Calabrese, Robert Dinella, Philip J. Fiore, Terry Scalise, Kevin Kudulis, Louis Bombacino and Philip Tolomeo.
Nick Calabrese eventually was found guilty of racketeering. On August 27, 1997, a Federal judge sentenced Calabrese to 70 months in federal prison. Now that is only five years and ten months. At his sentencing, Nicholas Calabrese apologized to the court, saying, “I caused a lot of problems for a lot of people.” I assume he had made his deal by then. As part of the plea arrangement, Calabrese admitted taking part in 14 murders ordered by The Hook LaPietra.
The Chicago Tribune reveals the Secret
After Nick Calabrese agreed to testify, the F.B.I. interviewed him in a federal correctional facility in Milan, Michigan. In 2003,
Dominic Taddeo – Rochester Mob
Dominic Taddeo and the Rochester Crime Family
Gary and his regular contributor Mob author and historian Camillius Robison discuss this obscure but important mob figure, Dominic Taddeo. The Rochester New York crime family was thought of as a major crew under Stefano Magaddino, the boss of the Buffalo New York Family. He asserted ownership and ran it through a member of the Buffalo family named Jake Russo. Russo was a weak leader and fell out of favor with Maggidino. Stanley Valenti from Buffalo and Frank Valenti, brothers, worked under the Pittsburgh mob boss, Jake LaRocca. Russo mysteriously disappeared in September 1964. Frank Valenti declared himself boss of Rochester. Magaddino was getting older and his inaction allowed Valenti to create his own Rochester Mafia family and he got recognition from the Commission. Frank Valenti ruled with an iron fist and after several high-profile mob murders in the late 1960s and in 1970s, law enforcement brought in a lot of assets to break the Rochester family. The Valentis fomented an audacious plan to defer law enforcement interest. On Columbus Day, 1970, members of the Rochester family planted bombs in two Black churches, the Monroe County Office Building, the U.S. Federal Courthouse, and the home of a union official. This ruse worked and the police and FBI suspected anti-Vietnam War protesters or other radical groups and shifted resources away from La Cosa Nostra. Amazed that his plan had succeeded, Valenti ordered further bombings to three synagogues and the home of a federal judge. They also hatched a plan to assassinate the county sheriff. After this audacious plan worked with some limited success, Valenti was confronted by some of his underlings about his running a separate crew and keeping all the profits to himself. By the end of the 19790s, the Valentis left Rochester and a new regime took over. the new leaders were Samuel “Red” Russotti became boss. Salvatore Gingello was the underboss and Piccarreto retained the position of consigliere. They had the backing of the New York Bonanno family and this ended any influence the Pittsburgh Family exerted over Rochester.
Taddeo picks the winning side
By the 1980s, Dominic Taddeo had risen to be one of the most vicious hitmen of the Rochester family. He became part of a hit team known as the A-Team working for the boss “Red” Russotti. During this time the Rochester family experienced a long mob war with many murders. In 1982 and 1983, Taddeo shot Nicholas Mastrodonato, Gerald Peluso, and Dino Tortatice to death during local mob wars. Rochester Consigliere Rene Piccarreto ordered A-Team hit man Dominic Taddeo to eliminate members of the renegade team. Taddeo was responsible for murdering Nicholas Mastrodonato on May 25, 1982. That August, Taddeo shot and killed Thomas Peluso, who was trying to take over the Rochester gambling operation. Taddeo shot Thomas Peluso, wounding him, and killing his brother Gerald. In August 1982, Taddeo killed Dino Toratice. Then in 1983, He shot Thomas Marotta seven times on April 13. Marotta survived and was known as the Rochester Clay Pigeon. In October 1987, federal authorities named Dominic Taddeo as a suspect in the shootings. He disappeared from sight for the next three years until someone captured him in 1989 and brought him back to Rochester. Dominic Taddeo pleads guilty to the murder of three men. A court sentenced Taddeo to 24 years in prison on that guilty plea and later the court gave him an additional 30 years on RICO charges.
On the Lam
The most interesting story out of Rochester and this murderous hitman, Dominic Taddeo is stranger than fiction. The FBI learned he had been storing cash, guns, camouflage clothing, binoculars, silencers, and other firearms accessories in several different New York and Pennsylvania storage facilities. They alleged Dominic Taddeo rented these lockers to store equipment and cash to use in a plot to free Carlo...
Jeffrey Sussman and Holocaust Fighters
Jeffrey Sussman and the Holocaust Boxers
This episode is a little different because we don’t deal with organized crime but with our friend Jeffrey Sussman on boxers who fought for the Auschwitz Concentration Camp guards and other Jewish fighters and the Nazis. One more thing, I am experimenting with placing a transcript of the show in the show notes. Let me know if you like or dislike this in the show note.
Gary Jenkins 1:33
Welcome, all you Wiretappers Gangland Wire is back here in the studio. We’re talking with our good friend Jeffrey Sussman back in New York City. Welcome Jeffrey, great to have you back.
Jeffrey Sussman 1:44
Thank you, Gary. It’s a pleasure to be back.
Gary Jenkins 1:47
Guys. Jeffrey’s working on a book on Las Vegas. And he just interviewed me a little bit about what I remembered about the skim and that era of Las Vegas asked me a lot of detailed questions is going to be an overall view of Las Vegas, I would say right.
Jeffrey Sussman Speaker 2:02
It’s going to be a view of how the mob first came to Vegas in the late 1940s. And then how corporate America kind of took it over in the 1980s 90s.
Gary Jenkins 2:12
Interesting. There’s a guy kind of working on a documentary about this overall view of the mob from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. And then the mob got involved in the casino business. I did a little bit of research working with him on it. And it’s interesting how back then, the Los Angeles Police was more like the mafia. And then they move up to Las Vegas one of them did and start one of the early casinos and then the Italian Mafia kind of moved in behind this Los Angeles vice commander. I heard about you have another book that came out recently called Holocaust Fighters, Boxers Resisters and an Avengers I’m sorry, folks, I’ll send I couldn’t read my own writing down here. These guys that used to be I, you know, I’m not the slickest podcast host in the world, but we have a good time here. But Jeff, I’m really interested in this topic. I know you have a long-standing interest in boxing for can’t really remember the reason now your father took you to boxing a lot when you were a kid and you knew some boxers.
Jeffrey Sussman 3:17
Well, my father was an amateur boxer. He gave me boxing lessons when I was 12 years old. And then after that, he knew a man named Lou Stillman, who had a famous boxing gym in New York called stillness. And he took me there and Lou Stillman arranged for a middle way. He gave me ten boxing lessons. And this was in the late 1950s. And the unbelievable price for the 10 boxing lessons was $100. And when I finished like a Stillman gym t-shirt, and I asked this guy the middleweight if I could get in the ring and box with someone, and I was a little skinny kid said to me, don’t be an idiot. You’re never gonna get out of the room. You’re gonna be killed.
Gary Jenkins 3:59
You were in Stillman gym in the 1950s era right in the middle of lot of mobsters.
Jeffrey Sussman 4:07
There were a lot of mobsters. And that’s where the subject of one of my books Rocky Graziano used to train. And as a matter of fact, the only film that I think is available of Stillman is in the movie Somebody Up There Likes Me, which is a film of that Rocky Graziano and part of it was filmed in that gym. I think it was torn down in the early 1960s. And there’s an apartment building.
Gary Jenkins 4:27
Interesting. I just met a guy named Fratto, from Des Moines and he said his uncle was in the plane when Rocky Graziano went down.
Jeffrey Sussman 4:37
That was Rocky Marciano.
Gary Jenkins 4:38
I mean, oh, that was Rocky Marciano. That’s right. I got my Rockys mixed up.
Jeffrey Sussman 4:42
A lot of people do.
Gary Jenkins 4:44
Great work Gary,Love the podcast! Gary has a wonderfully engaging style of presentation that really draws the listener in. Some of the criticism of the podcast re. inaccuracies in details aren’t a concern as the overall content has a fantastic flavour that invigorates the narrative.
Discovered from the referral on Mobbed Up and now can’t switch it off. Gary’s knowledge and interesting interviews really bring these bad good fellas to life.
Love from the UK!
Long time interest in the subject of the Mafia/Mob etc. Discovered this podcast very recently and I’m absolutely hooked! Gary is a great host and his guests are always of a high standard and offer tons of insight. Also Gary has a natural style which I find very engaging and funny. The interaction with the guests and co-hosts is always brilliant. Top show!!