Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The Raso-Albanese and the 'nrdrangheta Wars
Appendix A: San Giorgio Morgeto and the Culture of Death
Whatever the origins of the feud between the clans of the Raso-Albanese and the Facchineri, the first act of aggression appears to have been a killing on March 23 1964, when a Facchineri ally named Domenico Geraci, was murdered. However, because of the existence of the Mafia Calabrese, the vendetta that would have erupted was quickly controlled, although it would come to boil at times in the early 1970's before the organization began to fracture and fragment in 1975, triggering a feud that would last until the mid 1990's. The feud had two municipal turfs: one was San Giorgio Morgeto, the other was the municipality due south of it, Cittanova.
It may be a coincidence that the feud began the spring after Tony Silvestro died. It is however, not unreasonable to think that in an poor land like the hills of the southern Calabrian Aspromonte, local members of a powerful Canadian 'ndrina like the Morgeti, would have had an economic advantage over less connected clans, so it is not unreasonable to think that with the deaths of both Tony Silvestro and Mike Silvestro the year before him, old clan alliances and territories would begin to shift. There can be no way of knowing for certain how those relationships altered when Frank and Sam Silvestro became the dominant Morgeti in Ontario, although they shared power with Welland and Hamilton Morgeti, and with Dominic Longo in California, while not forgetting that Cutts Carere was a power in his own right and was still in the mix doing his own thing, whatever that actually was, and then ultimately, there was Carere's old prison companion, Sam Sorbara, who built a dynastic line of his own in Woodbridge.
There was another incident that may have had an affect on the Morgeti, one that occurred sometime in 1963, when the Italian paramilitary police, the carabineri, discovered one of the few copies of the codes of the 'ndrangheta ever found: it was a document now known as the code of San Giorgio Morgeto. It had been discovered in the home of Giuseppe Mammoliti, who lived in nearby Taura Nova, down on the plains leading to the western coast of Calabria. As implied by the possession of the code, Mammoliti is an SGM clan name, and one that is associated with Ontario's Morgeti. The name itself probably derives from the village of Mammola, a community about ten miles east of San Giorgio. Toronto mobster Rocco Zito from Oppido Mamertina (which borders Cittanova on the south, is said to have come to Canada with orders from a Mammoliti boss that allowed Zito to move directly into a position of power in Canada. One of the bosses of Oppido Mamertina, Francesco Mammoliti had been murdered by a man named Domenico Barbaro in 1954, around the time that Zito came to Canada. But I'll come back to Rocco in Part Two of Volume Three.
As for the Raso-Albanese and the Facchineri, the two clans had been around for decades, as noted in Volume One, when a man named Francesco Raso had killed his Albanese nephew in the 1890's for violating the code of the Society. According to a Wikipedia article on the Facchineri, 20 members of the clan had been tried at a session of the Grand Court of Calabria in 1916. So however old the clans are, or however long their involvement with the Honoured Society, and whatever consequences were -or weren't -experienced in San Giorgio following the death of Tony Silvestro, events in Calabria began to change about eight months after his death .
Limited internet resources can be used to trace the feud back (via online Republicca Italia newspapers) to 1985 and through some of the back stories in those articles -to events in the 1970's. As noted, one of those accounts has the feud beginning on March 23 1964 when Domenico Geraci was killed: it was a murder that was revenged by the Facchineri's through the killing of Antonio Albanese. (Geraci is a San Giorgio name, and several members of that clan had traveled to Ontario with others of the village prior to the 1930's. Whether Dominic was from San Giorgio isn't stated.) Later that year on September 23 1964, there was another murder in Cittanova, one in which the clans were defined as the Raso-Abanese-Gullace-Mamone, supported by the Piromalli, versus the Facchineri-Marvasso supported by the Tripodi.
In the 1960's, the head of the Facchineri clan was a man named Luigi, who had several sons (although one or more of the following might have been a nephew) Dominico, Vincenzo, Michael and Giuseppe. In 1964, all four members of that generation survived some kind of hit on the family orchestrated by the head of the Raso-Albanese, Francesco Raso (who was presumably married to an Albanese.) The modern Facchineri allies in San Giorgio Morgeto are the Valente-Mercuri-Ferraro as well as the Sorbaras and Landini's. In 1970, a Raso-Albanese ally, Celestino Gullace was murdered. Some kind of retaliation ensued, and then things simmered down until something else happened in 1971. That's the sketchy part of the feud, the prehistory in the absence of complete documentation. After that the story develops more clearly.
On Easter Monday 1975 a pregnant woman named Carmela Guerrisi, the wife of Giuseppe Facchineri, (son of Luigi ?) who, along with her son Dominic, 11 and his cousin Michael Facchineri, 8 were tending some pigs on the outskirts of Cittanova, when 5 'sicarii' opened fire on the three of them. Michael and Dominic were killed. Carmela was hit, but she and her unborn child, whom she later named Dominic survived. The story was later turned into a TV series in Italy, called A Child Fleeing. Another version of the story is that the unborn child was named Luigi, who plays a role later in the feud.)
Pantaleone Sergi, now a professor at the University of Calabria, but at the time a journalist whose name appears on most of the feud stories, detailed the 1979 flight of Carmela Facchineri and her children, Rocco and Vincenzo and the -by then -four year old Dominic (Luigi ?) who, along with some children from the Raso-Albanese were removed from Cittanova by the authorities in order to save their lives, after it had become obvious that the children were living in an atmosphere of terror that was causing them almost daily nightmares, surrounded as they were by barbed wire, armed men and by 'wolf dogs' howling on the roofs of their homes and by other extreme protective measures. As Sergi notes, it was the duty of the women in a feud to teach vendetta to their sons. Carmela and her children were given new lives in Umbria, where they lived in secret for over a decade. For Pantaleone, Carmela “had the courage to break the chains of the culture of death.” By the time the TV show aired in 1991, the people of Cittanova didn't know what any of the boys looked liked.
In the 1970's-80's, the Calabrian mafia had used kidnapping as a fund-raising tool, the most famous of which snatchings was the one of John Paul Getty Jr. In another one, on May of 1984, Alfredo Sorbara, the communist mayor of Giffone had been kidnapped by 28 year old Rocco Facchineri the son of Vincenzo. On April 9 1985, Rocco was arrested. Up north in Turin, the Raso-Albanese, who had come to Calabria in the 1950's, and who police regarded as the dominant force behind kidnappings in that region for over a decade, were no longer being regarded as the main players in the field. A week and a half before Rocco Facchineri's arrest, on March 31 1985, 60 year old Francesco Raso, who had been hiding in the bush since the mid 1970's was captured near Piana di Gioia. Police believe he had ordered the hit on Carmela and the boys as well as other hits. The feud, however ,which had been for the most part defused by the removal of the children, exploded back into a full-blown crisis during the summer of 1987.
On May 24 1987, Michele Facchineri, the boss of the clan, who was in jail, had been allowed by a judge to attend the marriage of his daughter, another Carmela, to a man named Antonio Reale of Cimino. Forced to wear handcuffs, Michael was one of the last survivors of the bloodshed against his father's family by the Raso-Albanese in 1964. In less than a month and a half police would come to suspect that the marriage was more than just a dynastic alliance between two powerful 'ndrangheta clans. The police had been dealing with a feud in Cimino involving the Reales, a feud that had already seen the death of 35 people since 1966, one of whom was a priest whose only sin appears to have been his willingness to conduct a funeral for one of the murder victims. After July 4 1987, when five people -enemies of the Reale's -were murdered near Cimino, police began to suspect that a new front had been opened in the old feuds.
On July 9, four 'sicarii' opened fire on a vehicle occupied by Cittanova boss Francesco Raso, 45, and his 18 year old nephew Raffaele Albanese. The gunmen escaped into the Aspromonte forests only to reappear near a lobster stand where they opened fire on known Raso-Albanese associates John Avignone 47, Girolamo (Jerome) Bruzzi, 54, and Rocco Catalano, 36. All victims died. Avignone had just been accused of trying to poison Vincenzo Facchineri in prison. 53 year old Vincenzo Cannata, who had been wounded in the gun battle, was arrested.
A day later, Vincenzo Longo 37, a native of Cittanova and an associate of the Facchineri, was gunned down in his doorway in the village of Molochio, which sits about ten miles south of his birthplace. The village happened to be the place where, the same week Francesco Raso had been arrested in 1985, Paul Perri of Plati had been discovered hiding out before his own arrest on kidnapping charges.
O July 17 of 1987, two cousins, a butcher, 42 year old John Ienco and 39 year old Vincenzo Ienco, a headstone maker, were murdered in Cittanova. Both were associates of the Raso-Albanese. On July 19, on the road between the east and west coast, near the village of Zomaro, Antonio Lombardo, 50 and his three sons, Dominico 21, Angelo 17, and Massimo 12, kin of the Facchineri, returning home from buying cloth, were shot at while driving through Raso-Albanese territory. The father was hit but escaped the truck; after the shooters left, he returned to find his sons wounded. He managed to get into Cittanova proper for help but by the time he did, Angelo had died. The attack appears to have been the last straw for locals who insisted that all levels of government do something. Three days later the local government became the newest victim of the feud when the mayor canceled demonstrations because he feared there would be a massacre and the coalition that ruled Cittanova un-raveled over its inability to agree on what to do to solve the problems.
By the end of the month, the tragedy of the feud had shifted to Milan, where a man named Antonio Tropeano, a 57 year old Cittanova native and Facchineri associate, murdered his own family, including his wife Girolama Rao. His youngest son, who was out of the house, was the only survivor. Just why the police thought the suicide-murders were connected to the feud the July 30 1987 article didn't say. Tropeano's role in the clan also isn't made clear, although he had served 12 years in prison for the attempted murder of his cousin Mimmo who had allegedly been a police informer. The fact that Antonio's older son Joseph had become a drug addict and was constantly robbing the family, probably added to the father's mania. Presumably, Antonio's shooting of his nephew, coupled with his jail time for carrying out the sentence against Mimmo on behalf of the 'ndrangheta, combined with his son's addictions, had become a source of torment to him, and he simply lost his reason to the culture of death.
Vincenzo Facchineri reappears in the news at the end of August, but this time, as a prisoner in the jail infirmary who didn't want to leave the clinic after rioters took over the prison where he was incarcerated in Rome. The long, hot, deadly summer finally ended in Calabria and an uneasy silence reigned as autumn turned to winter. On January 19 1988, three wanted Facchineri cousins, Vincenzo 21, Vincenzo 20, and Girolamo 17, who had holed up in a San Giorgio Morgeto hovel, hidden in some woods owned by Joseph Fazari, 59, were discovered by the paramilitary police. A gun battle ensued, which was won by the carabineri. Another man, who was un-named in the article, escaped.
On January 27, Antonio Reale, married to the daughter of Michael Facchineri less than a year before, was murdered in Cimino. A few weeks after that, on Valentine's Day, during a carnival organized by the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, the dread that had haunted Cittanova during the summer returned in full force when a fifteen year old boy gunned down another boy over a insult outside a movie theatre. Francesco Megna, the son of some local community activists, shot and killed Joseph Gentile on the street in front of a group other kids goading them on. The entire town seems to have been stricken by the killing, which had no connection to the feud, except as a direct consequence of the ideology of vengeance.
Things simmered but did not erupt in Cittanova throughout the summer of '88. And then on October 28, a farmer named Joseph Berlingieri, 45, a Raso-Albanese associate, was killed by a rifle shot while he was getting into his car. On January 28 1989, the feud returned to Turin, where a 21 year old Cittanova native named Urbano Denver was found slumped over the wheel of his car, shot three times in the head. The police's only clue to what might have happened was that the murdered man's brother Francesco was married to Anna Facchineri, daughter of Dominico, killed in the feud back home years before. (Presumably her father was one of the original Facchineri's murdered in the mid-1960's.) On April 11, 38 year old Romeo Marvasa's name was added to the list of the feud's dead, the Marvasas were one of the Facchineri's early allies.
In May, a whole new issue arose in the countryside around Cittanova, namely, herds of cattle owned by the Raso-Albanese had been causing havoc for nearly a decade: hunters in the woods were afraid of harming one with stray bullets, the cattle were grazing on everyone's farms and eating everything they could. The main highway had become so dangerous because of wandering cows that higher levels of government were being asked to take care of the problem. People were so terrified of the Raso-Albanese that no one in local authority would take responsibility for forcing them do something about the cattle. By May of 1989, regional prosecutors had finally fenced in the “sacred cows” only the fences were being cut and the cattle were escaping. Nothing would be done for several more years.
On June 13 1989, the paper was reporting that police had arrested four fugitives in a hideout in the forest near Cittanova. All four were dressed like the Sylvester Stallone character Rambo, they had Rambo film posters on the wall of their hut, and were armed to the teeth, including eleven Hungarian guns, four pistols, thousands of rounds of ammo for luparo (the short shotgun beloved of mafia hit men) armour, wigs, and glasses. Arrested were Girolamo Raso, released from prison two years before, Vincenzo deRaco 21, Carmelo Pronesti, 24, and Francesco Gullace, 40. A younger man, Franco Audino, 18 had been followed by the carabineri while carrying food supplies into the mountain. The Gullace clan and the deRaco's are listed in the Wikipedia article about the Facchineri, as early allies of the Raso-Albanese, while the Gullaces often appear as an extension of the clan ie. Raso-Albanese-Gullace in mob watcher lists. Likewise with the Pronestis.
On May 23 1990, Dominic Giovinazzo 45, and Francesco Rositano 38, of Taurinova were added to the list of feud dead. On February 20 1991, Luigi Facchineri, 44 of Cittanova, the head of the clan and who had been on the run since the previous August, and Cesare Giovinazzo 34, of San Giorgio Morgeto, who had been missing for two years, were both found dead, killed in an ambush near Giffone, so presumably the Giovinazzo's were allies of the Facchineri. The carabineri had been informed via an anonymous phone call of where to find the bodies. The caller was believed to have been a man who had escaped the ambush. On November 3 1991, the first episode of the television show “The Fleeing Child” aired. It was revealed in the show, that Domenico-Luigi Facchineri's mother, Carmela Guerrisa, was serving 17 years for her part in an otherwise unexplained kidnapping that had revolved around the “needs of her family.” It was only at that point, that people learned that the (by then) sixteen year old Dominico-Luigi was living in Umbria. Not surprisingly perhaps, Umbria is listed as one of the Facchineri's northern regions of operation. So between Carmela's kidnapping scheme serving “the needs of her family.” and the rise of the Facchineri in Umbria, the efforts of the authorities to intercede on behalf of the family appear to have backfired. Things quieted down after the TV show, perhaps because it was around that time that the Calabrian mafia, torn apart because of dozens of feuds similar to that detailed here, decided that business required less blood and more cooperation, and so established new territories.
Italian police and the carabineri however, continued to hunt those involved in the earlier feuds, and those involved in the new mob businesses, in Calabria, and in the northern extensions of the southern clans. On Feb 27 1994, the Italian paper was reporting that evidence from a penititi, Giuseppe Scriva, had led to the conviction of Rocco and Francesco Albanese for killing Marcello Marvasa. Giuseppe Avignone was convicted of killing Dominico Monteleone, while a second Francesco Albanese and a Tomasso Cosentino were convicted of killing a Varone. Filipe and Carmine Geraci, were given life sentences for crimes related to the feud and clan activities. And on the other side of the feud, a man named Antonio Fedele was convicted of assassinating Raffael Albanese and Antonio Raso. And finally, Michele and Vincenzo Facchineri, as well as Saverio Monteleone were sentenced to 30 years each on a kidnapping charge.
In the 1995 restructuring of the Honoured Society, the Raso-Albanese were given control of Cittanova to the heights of Zomaro which marks the northern rural outskirts of the municipality, while the Facchineri were given control of San Giorgio Morgeto, their southern border being set in the rural outskirts of the municipality. Prior to that negotiated peace, and since the start of vendetta, more one hundred people had been killed. According to the Gazetta del Sud, the Raso-Albanese had been the victors in the long feud. Business went on however: in 2003, based on an investigation that began in 1997, Michele Facchineri, 69, Rocco Facchineri 36, Michele Varone 31 of a village called Maropoti, and several other men including a Dominic Napoli of San Giorgio Morgeto were convicted of money-laundering, and had their assets seized by the state. On March 22 2005, according to the Gazzetta del Sud, Salvatore, Joseph and Michele Facchineri, were convicted and sentenced for crimes ranging from extortion, bodily harm, intimidation, and weapons offenses. Vincenzo Salvatore and an another Joseph Facchineri were also sentenced, along with several of their associates. In Oct of 2007 a Fazzari associated with the Raso-Albanese-Gullace was convicted for illegally disposing of massive quantities of toxic wastes in a cave. Business improved, peace between the clans held, and corruption expanded exponentially.