Monday, July 28, 2008

Who's Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Richard Cantarella

From wikipedia and quite a story. Go know that a KVer is in the witness protection program?
Richard Cantarella aka “Shellackhead”(b. 1944) was an New York mobster who became a caporegime for the Bonanno crime family and later a government witness. Cantarella was born on the Lower East Side, Manhattan and raised in Knickerbocker Village, a public housing development that was home to many Bonanno family members. A skinny kid with jet-black hair, Cantarella got the name "Shellackhead" from the hair oil that he used. In 1963, Cantarella started working at the nearby New York Post distribution center as a delivery truck driver. The Bonanno family controlled the distribution center through a local union of newspaper workers. Cantarella and his cousin, Bonanno mobster Joseph D'Amico, would serve as “hired muscle” on the newspaper's loading docks for over thirty years. Starting in 1988 and lasting until 1991, Cantarella became a so-called “tail man”, a worker who rides on the back of the delivery truck and unloads the newspaper bundles. However, Cantarella paid a laborer $20 a night to do the work while he collected his $700 a week in wages.
Cantarella is cousin to Frank Cantarella and Bonnano soldier Anthony Mirra and uncle to Bonanno soldier Joseph Padovano. Cantarella's uncle is Bonanno capo Alfred Embarrato. Cantarella is married to Lauretta Castelli and is the father of Bonanno crime family mobster Paul Cantarella and daughter Tracey.
During the late 70's, Cantarella became friends with Manhattan City councilman Richard Mazzeo, the Director of Real Estate for the City of New York's Marine and Aviation Department. Mazzeo controlled the dispensing of leases for newsstands and parking lots at the terminals for the Staten Island Ferry, which commutes between Manhattan and Staten Island in New York Harbor. In return for granting leases, Mazzeo received large kickbacks from the leasees. Cantarella had told Mazzeo that a newspaper vendor at the Lower Manhattan terminal was operating an illegal sportsbook operation. This information allowed Mazzeo to break the vendor's lease and evict him. In return, Mazzeo installed Cantarella as the vendor's replacment. By the 1980s, Cantarella controlled newspaper stands on both Staten Island and Manhattan. Cantarella and Mazzeo became close friends and briefly shared an apartment in Upper Manhattan. The two men made hundreds of thousands of dollars on their lease scams.
However, things changed in 1983. Mazzeo lost his job, was convicted of tax charges, and spent six months in jail. Mazzeo started using illegal drugs and Cantarella started worrying that Mazzeo might become a government witness. After consulting with other Bonanno members, Cantarella decided to murder Mazzeo. On the evening of Nov. 14, 1983, Cantarella, Embarrato, D'Amico, and Patrick Romanello met Mazzeo at a sanitation garage in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Mazzeo was meeting them at the upstairs garage office to see about getting a job. As the men walked down the stairs, Cantarella shot Mazzeo in the head. After shooting and stabbing the body several times, they loaded it into a black plastic bag and dumped it. The body was discovered five days later.
In 1982, the Bonanno family was rocked by the revelation that one of their associates for several years, Donnie Brasco, was actually a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) undercover agent named Joseph Pistone. Cantarella's cousin Mirra was among those responsible for introducing Brasco into the family. After the family executed capo Dominick Napolitano, another Brasco friend, the terrified Mirra went into hiding. Family boss Joseph Massino ordered Cantarella to murder Mirra. On February 18, 1982 Cantarella convinced Mirra to meet him at a parking garage in Lower Manhattan. As Cantarella and uncle Alfred Embarrato kept watch, D'Amico climbed into Mirra's silver Volvo and shot him in the temple at point blank Beginning in 1991, Cantarella started using his son as an accomplice in many of his criminal operations. In 1994, Cantarella and other mobsters kidnapped a wealthy businessman at his office, drove him home, forced him to deactivate the burglar alarm system, and robbed him of cash, jewelry and other valuables. As part of the plan, they forced the victim to start paying protection money to Cantarella. Cantarella also extorted $250,000 from another businessman, using part of the stolen proceeds to purchase a 1962 Pontiac convertible automobile for his wife.
In 1992, the State of New York started investigating allegations of racketeering and fraud at the New York Post. The target was the Bonanno family and its control of the newspaper. During the investigation, the family became concerned that Robert Perrino, a delivery superintendent at the paper, would cooperate with prosecutors. Perrino had been operating a number of criminal scams at the Post, victimizing both fellow employees and the company. Perrino's main contact with the Bonanno family was Salvatore Vitale
Vitale approached Canterella and asked him if he would murder Perrino. Vitale suggested to Cantarella that he could take Perrino's job at the Post. Cantarella, a lifelong friend to Perrino, raised no objections. Vitale then told Bonanno consigliere Anthony Spero that Cantarella wanted to eliminate Perrino. Spero gave Cantarella permission and the following week Perrino disappeared. In December 2003, Perrino's skeleton was excavated from the floor of a construction company in Staten Island. Perrino had been shot multiple times to the head.
With the imprisonment of Vitale in the early part of this decade, Cantarella became acting underboss for the family. However, in October 2002, Cantarella was himself indicted on racketeering charges that included the Perrino murder, arson, kidnapping, loansharking, extortion, illegal gambling, and money laundering. In December 2002, Perrino accepted a deal to avoid prison time and became a government witness along with his son Paul and his wife. In early 2003, the Bonanno family realized that Cantarella had become an informant.
In June 2004, Cantarella testified at the murder trial of Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, admitting in court his own role in the 1983 Mazzeo killing. In July 2007, Cantarella testified at the murder and racketeering trial of Bonanno mobster Vincent Basciano. As of 2008, it is assumed that Canterella and his family are part of a Witness Protection Program.

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