New York gangster John Bologna was FBI informant for nearly two decades in midst of the Al Bruno murder plotSPRINGFIELD – Both castigating and in defense of New York gangster John Bologna, an admitted co-conspirator in the 2003 mob murder of Adolfo Bruno, federal prosecutors have offered a conflicted presentencing memo in advance of his sentencing.
The 34-page summary — filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where the case ultimately landed — offers a fascinating picture of a mobster whom investigators have previously gone to great lengths to protect.
Bologna is a Westchester, N.Y.-based wiseguy and onetime “right hand” of former Genovese mob boss Arthur “Artie” Nigro, according to court records. He is among eight gangsters in Western Massachusetts and New York convicted in connection with conspiring to kill Bruno, longtime boss of the crime family here.
Two trials in New York City in 2011 and 2012 featured a handful of “made men” from Greater Springfield who provided a rare, public and detailed glimpse of the inner workings of the Mafia.
Bologna is set to be sentenced on May 7 in federal court in Manhattan on charges of murder, extortion and racketeering conspiracies to which he pleaded guilty in late 2009. These include the Bruno murder plot.According to testimony, Bruno was targeted as a weak link in a power struggle here as he fell out of favor with New York mob bosses. Bruno was gunned down by a paid hitman in the parking lot of an Italian social club in Springfield’s South End on Nov. 23, 2003. Investigators struggled to piece together a solid case for years, and now say Bologna was a reluctant, but critical, witness who helped put it all together.
Bologna, 71, never made it to the witness stand because by the government’s admission – they discovered he was at once an FBI informant, a liar, a bully, an instigator and murderer.
Court records submitted in advance of his sentencing document Bologna was an informant for 17 years while ascending through the ranks of first the Gambino, then the Genovese crime families. He ultimately landed in the latter’s inner circle. Bologna helped plot murders, orchestrated shakedowns and manipulated the entire crime landscape in Greater Springfield from 2001 to 2003, prosecutors say.
In short, he was not the most believable courtroom witness and a potential embarrassment for the FBI.
“Bologna would not present as a credible individual to a jury, given his history of duplicity and repeated withholding of information. Bologna would be easily led, through cross-examination, to say things that were inaccurate; and Bologna still may not be telling the whole truth as to things about which the Government does not know,” a prosecutor wrote in the sentencing memorandum.
Federal prosecutors routinely file so-called 5K1.1 motions in support of government witnesses who offer testimony against their former cohorts. Those motions generally persuade judges to mete out far lower sentences than those called for by federal guidelines.
Cases in point in the Bruno case: Frankie Roche, the shooter whose sentencing stakes plummeted from a possible death penalty to 14 years in prison after he testified at both New York trials; Felix Tranghese, who was sentenced to four years in prison as opposed to a life sentence for his testimony; and Anthony J. Arillotta, Bruno’s successor who spear-headed Bruno’s murder and a series of unsuccessful vendettas against other rivals. Aside from Bologna, Arillotta is the only informant left to be sentenced in the case but may get a single-digit sentence for a string of murder plots.
Because Bologna lied to investigators even after he signed a formal cooperation agreement in 2007, he will face his sentencing before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel with a somewhat tortured sentencing memo by the government. The memo notes that Bologna began loosely cooperating with the FBI in the 1990s and was classified as an informant, but became a “cooperating witness,” a separate classification, in 2007 when he was implicated in a sports-betting operation in New York.
According to the government’s memo, Bologna began his association with the Gambino family four decades ago.
“John Bologna was a long-time associate of the Gambino Organized Crime Family, who from the 1970s to the 1990s ran large-scale bookmaking operations and assisted in the Gambino Family’s corrupt control of the garbage industry throughout the 1990s,” the memo reads.
Bologna switched teams to align with Nigro and the Genovese family in 1999 but no further details about the defection are provided in the memo. Bologna was never “made” but became Nigro’s “right-hand-man” in overseeing rackets in New York and beyond until Nigro was jailed on extortion charges in 2006.
Nigro was “acting boss” of the powerful crime family and is now serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2011 in connection with the Bruno murder and other crimes. Also convicted in the same trial were brothers Fotios “Freddy” and Ty Geas, of West Springfield, and mob enforcers. Emilio Fusco, a made man from Longmeadow, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy in a separate trial in 2012. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison though he was acquitted of the murders of Bruno and low-level associate Gary Westerman.
In 2001, Bologna began shuttling back and forth between New York and Springfield to step up extortion efforts at Nigro’s behest. He became close with Arillotta, while the two swaggered around strip clubs and other businesses they identified as marks, the memo states. The move to edge out Bruno was born.
In previous interviews, Massachusetts state police said they approached the FBI in New York when Bologna was noted in surveillance efforts at the time. Bologna mysteriously and abruptly stopped coming to Springfield. State police said they suspected a leak, but Bologna’s status as an informant was not confirmed until years later. The U.S. attorney’s memo does not address that aspect of the case.
Arillotta, an ambitious gangster, assembled a crew that began asserting themselves through shake-downs, a takeover of an illegal slot machine business, and beat downs and murder plots against anyone who crossed their paths. Most of it took place at Nigro’s urging, with Bologna managing nearly every maneuver, according to court records.
“Although Bologna did not have a direct role in the planning of the (Bruno) murder or in giving the order itself, he knew full well that the order had been given. Indeed, on multiple occasions when Arillotta and Tranghese were slow to carry out Nigro’s order, Bologna told them to ‘do what they had been told to do’ in carrying out the murder,” the memo states.
After formally signing on with the FBI in 2007, Bologna recorded 100 conversations with his associates, according to court records. These included one with Arillotta in 2008. Arillotta was intensely under investigation for the Bruno murder after he was released from state prison on a loan-sharking conviction. Bologna was dispatched to draw incriminating statements from Arillotta about the murder. The effort fell flat. Arillotta did not take the bait, according to the court memorandum.
“In general, however, Bologna continually and dependably recorded conversations during this period,” prosecutors said, while adding that he sometimes resisted his FBI handlers’ instructions to meet with certain individuals.
When Bologna entered a nine-count guilty plea on charges brought in connection with the Bruno murder, he was allowed release with no bail, as he continued to cooperate. His deal only began to unravel in earnest when Arillotta was arrested in early 2010. Arillotta was convinced Bologna’s cooperation was enough to seal any number of life sentences against him even though the evidence, in truth, was spotty by trial standards.
Arillotta, on the other hand, was a dream witness for investigators. He shared every detail of his criminal history while Bologna was evasive and left out critical details of his own involvement in several schemes.
“In essence, Arillotta described Bologna as the instigator for a good deal of the tension that arose in Springfield prior to Bruno’s murder. As Arillotta described it, when Bologna started coming up to Springfield, it was as though dollar signs flashed before Bologna’s eyes and saw a city ripe for the taking. In addition, Arillotta explained that Bologna was always pitting mobsters against each other, and creating strife where none had previously existed,” the memo states.
Arillotta stunned investigators when he confessed involvement in the attempted murder of New York union boss Frank Dadabo in 2003. They had no idea it had been Arillotta and the Geas brothers who had shot Dadabo several times at Nigro’s behest, prosecutors wrote. Even Arillotta was confused during his early debriefings with federal investigators, because he assumed Bologna had already clued them in.
“I have no idea why I’m not already charged with this,” Arillotta said during one meeting, according to the memo.
But, Bologna had hedged and withheld information in many instances. He also neglected to tell investigators he supplied Arillotta with AK-47 weapons. He was warned multiple times by the government to “come clean,” the memo says. The government finally bailed out of its agreement with him in 2010.
“Bologna’s withholding of information was repeated, and it was significant. More to the point, given the seriousness of Bologna’s underlying conduct and the importance of his information in charging others with serious crimes, it was inexcusable,” the memo states.
The government did some hedging of its own, concluding that Bologna was both a villain and a savior for the case and expanding the investigation far beyond the early suspects.
Prosecutors calculate Bologna’s sentencing guidelines call for around 30 years in prison, although they concede they would support a sentence “somewhere below” given the “value of his cooperation.”
“For approximately ten years, beginning in 1996, Bologna led a double life, as a mobster committing crimes with the Genovese Family on the one hand and providing the FBI confidential source information about certain Gambino Family members and associates on the other,” the report says.
Prosecutors concluded that Bologna was a lost cause when he was considered a potential defense witness in the New York trials. They asked why he was unconcerned about Arillotta blowing the whistle on the Dadabo shooting and Bologna responded that he “thought more of the kid” and believed he would lie to save others in the Mafia.
“Even though Bologna had been through the cooperation process, he still somehow did not accept that he and others were truly obligated to tell the whole truth,” the memo concludes.
His lawyer, Andrew G. Patel, concedes Bologna never had the “come-to-Jesus” moment prosecutors require from a totally compliant cooperator. He also states in his own memo that his client is deaf in one ear, walks with a cane, as had been “passed from prosecutor to prosecutor” over his years of cooperation and never had the chance to develop a trusting relationship with any single investigator.