Jimmy Caci & LA’s Buffalo Faction
“When I talk, I might give the impression that I’m a wiseguy, but it’s not true. I’m not a criminal. I’m not a gangster. I’m not a Mafia guy.”
– Vincent “Jimmy” Caci, Los Angeles family caporegime
The majority of the Los Angeles crime family’s members were not from California. Some were from Cleveland, like Aladena James “Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno and the Milano brothers, a few were from New Jersey, such as Louis “Little Man” Caruso and John “Jersey John” Aquilante, while others were from New England, namely Raymond DeRosa and Luigi “Louie” Gelfuso Jnr.
Prior to Peter Milano’s reign as Los Angeles boss, the extent of LA-Buffalo relations is probably best summarised by Stefano “The Undertaker” Magaddino’s opinion of Frank DeSimone:
“Yeah, he’s an attorney, don’t forget. He’s stupid in reference to the Cosa Nostra. He should not be an amico nostra or he’ll be ruined.”
Magaddino was not wrong, as DeSimone’s low-key reputation was tarnished by his attendance of the Apalachin meeting in 1957, outing him as a mobster to the public. Marred by the deportation of his Sicilian underboss, Simone “Sam” Scozzari, as well as internal family divisions due to conflict with Fratianno, Frank “The Bomp” Bompensiero and John “Handsome Johnny” Roselli (Filippo Sacco), among others, DeSimone died in 1967 having spent his last years directing the family through his second underboss, Nicolo “Nick” Licata.
This does not necessarily mean that there were no Los Angeles members from Buffalo prior to Milano’s takeover of the family. Angelo Polizzi (1913-1988), a caporegime whose crew at one point included members James “Danny Wilson” Iannone and Salvatore Louis “Dago Louie” Piscopo, was originally from Buffalo. Dominic Longo (1920-1985), of Longo Toyota fame, was another SoCal member that had ties back to upstate New York.
However, by 1984, following the death of Dominic “Jimmy Regace” Brooklier (Domenico Brucceleri) and Pete Milano’s official assumption of power, further connections to Western New York began to open.
Vincent “Jimmy” Caci
Vincent Dominic Caci was born on the 1st of August, 1925 to Alfonzo and Josephine Caci in Westfield, New York. Caci’s obituary states that he was one of eight children, with at least three other siblings, Charles, Onofrio and Salvatore, being involved in organised crime.
Little is documented of Caci’s early life and his connections to the Buffalo mob but it is known that he was never inducted into The Arm, despite being involved in the vending machine business with other Buffalo associates in the Syracuse area. Nicknamed “Torchy” for his work as an arsonist, Caci was arrested in 1972 for his role in a conspiracy to blow up a vending machine company and received three years in state prison.
Per a former close associate, Japanese-Italian Kenny “Kenji” Gallo, Caci was offered membership in three different East Coast families – the rogue Rochester group headed by Frank Valenti, the Scranton mob, led by legendary underworld don Russell Bufalino and then the Buffalo family itself. Jimmy would end up rejecting all these proposals, apparently because of the added pressure from law enforcement on inducted LCN (La Cosa Nostra) members, citing that he had already served enough prison time.
There appears to be a mistake, likely over confusion between brothers, where it is often claimed that Jimmy Caci served a prison term at the Attica Correctional Facility, over an eight-year period for armed robbery. This does not appear to be the case for Jimmy Caci (though he did serve a different sentence at Attica) but instead for his brother, Charles “Bobby Milano” Caci, who was sentenced to a decade’s imprisonment alongside fellow future Los Angeles member Stephen “Stevie the Whale” Cino, for a string of armed robberies in both Buffalo and California during the 1960s – where Bobby Milano was living at the time.
They were convicted through testimony provided by Pasquale “Paddy” Calabrese, a Buffalo stickup man and the subject of the 1980 film Hide in Plain Sight, starring James Caan. Also convicted were two Buffalo family heavyweights, Pasquale “Pat Titters” Natarelli and Frederico “Freddie Lupo” Randaccio, along with associate Louis Sorgi. Natarelli, Randaccio and Cino all received twenty year sentences.
Calabrese would effectively be the first person to enter what would become the Witness Protection Program (WPP), alongside his girlfriend and her two children. Jimmy Caci would later Kenji Gallo in Los Angeles that he hated James Caan because the Caci name in the film was associated with an informant. Gallo claims in his blog that Bobby Milano met with Eugene “Gene” Gotti, brother of John Gotti, in order to address the issue – Caan was friendly with Colombo mobster Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo. It appears nothing came of it, likely to the annoyance of the Caci brothers.
Also during the 1970s, Salvatore “Sam” Caci, another of Jimmy’s brothers, held presidency of LIUNA Local 210, which up until the mid-1990s was controlled by the Buffalo mob. Sam Caci introduced James Moore, a banker who was involved in illegal gambling, to other labour leaders. During Moore’s trial for racketeering, Buffalo associate John “Jimmy” Fasanella testified against Nicholas “Sonny” Mauro, who had made the original introduction between Caci and Moore. Listed as part of a 1996 indictment targeting mobsters in Local 210 and identified as a former president of the union, Caci seemingly was not convicted of any crimes related to racketeering. He died in 2002, aged 72. The eldest Caci brother, Onofrio “Al”, was actually an inducted member of the Buffalo family, though little is known of his activities. He died in 1974.
Released from prison sometime in the mid-1970s, Jimmy Caci moved out to California (where Bobby Milano had previously been residing) and by 1978, was identified as an associate of Michael “Mike Rizzi” Rizzitello by California’s Organized Crime Control Commission, despite seemingly still being on parole. That same year he was acquitted of charges related to the sale of a stolen painting – in Buffalo federal court no less.
Of note, despite being identified as an associate of Mike Rizzi’s, Jimmy Caci is nowhere to be found in The Last Mafioso, which may indicate that he was more or less on the same level as associates Robert “Fat Bobby” Paduano and Louis “Lefty” Castiglione, at least in the eyes of a high ranking LA family member like Jimmy Fratianno. It can be assumed that Caci was inducted sometime past Fratianno’s cooperation, as Rizzitello never mentions his induction to Jimmy, unlike Thomas Ricciardi’s ceremony. This would place Caci getting made sometime in the late 1970s, likely by 1979, though it is possible that Caci was only inducted sometime in the early 1980s.
Per Kenji Gallo, Jimmy was inducted in a Palm Springs hotel room, following a golf game and dinner with Pete and Carmen Milano. Regardless, he also does not provide any sort of time period for the ceremony.
Furthermore, in spite of his identification by law enforcement as a Rizzitello affiliate, it is very possible that Caci was actually connected to Los Angeles caporegime Peter John “Pete” Milano instead. Milano, whose crew operated across various areas in SoCal, had ties to the Palm Springs area where Caci and his group operated. It is evident that Milano was later the one to bring Caci into the LA family and therefore, Jimmy may have instead been associated with his crew.
As the 1970s rolled into the 1980s, various disasters had begun to decimate the Southern California family – the Forex indictments, Bompensiero’s murder and Fratianno’s cooperation to name a few. Dominic “Jimmy Regace” Brooklier, Samuel “Sam” Sciortino and Giacchino “Jack” Lo Cicero, the boss, underboss and consigliere respectively, had all been convicted on Fratianno’s testimony, leaving a vacancy in the Los Angeles mob’s administration. Pete Milano would step in and seemingly by 1981 was in control of the family, according to former Cleveland underboss, Angelo “Big Ange” Lonardo.
Milano was not a conventional Los Angeles leader, at least in comparison to the mobsters that had preceded him. He was certainly no Jack Dragna, he had not manipulated a family poll to seize power like Frank DeSimone, he hadn’t been chased out of another city like Nick Licata and had not previously served on the family’s administration like Dominic Brooklier. Rather, Pete Milano’s ascension to the throne stemmed from the fact that he was merely still on the street, not in poor health and had long standing mafia connections through his family.
By 1984, Dominic Brooklier had died in an Arizona federal prison, leaving Pete Milano as the uncontested boss of the Los Angeles crime family. By this point, he had appointed his brother, former Cleveland LCN associate and disbarred lawyer, Carmen “Flipper” Milano, as his underboss, while retaining Jack Lo Cicero as the consigliere – the last no. 3 man that Los Angeles ever had. With a renewed administration and an apparent ambition to revitalise the family, Milano appointed two new, potentially three, caporegimes by 1984. They were Luigi “Louie” Gelfuso Jnr, Vincent “Jimmy” Caci and then possibly Louis “Little Man” Caruso.
Mike Rizzitello, incarcerated at this time, was also probably still a captain, though he had grown distant from Milano and may have been shelved for his association with Fratianno and Louis Tom “Louie” Dragna. Of additional note is John “Jersey John” Aquilante, another possible caporegime. Based out of San Diego, he was involved with pornography and died sometime in 1992, though it is generally believed that he had no crew answering to him. It should be noted that Aquilante’s membership in the LA family was never outright confirmed, with various sources and documents providing conflicting information.
Following the 1987 bust that plagued Milano’s mob, related to the information gathered by the undercover Fiato brothers (Anthony and Lawrence), Caci was temporarily the street boss for Pete Milano, while both he and his brother, Carmen, alongside other members like Louie Gelfuso, battled the charges brought on by the Fiatos. Jack Lo Cicero had initially been considered for the position but was too ill to manage.
Prior to this and throughout the mid-1980s (all of the following were considered soldiers by the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, by June of 1985), there were several new members inducted into the Los Angeles family. Of interest here are those with ties to Buffalo – Rocco “Rocky Bigfoot” Zangari, Charles “Bobby Milano” Caci and Stephen “Stevie the Whale” Cino, all Buffalo natives and all assigned to Jimmy Caci’s crew.
The Caci Crew
Zangari, described as a drunk by Kenji Gallo, was part of the “Buffalo faction” of the family and had been known to associate with John “Johnny DeMatte” DiMattia (also spelled DeMattia), a wannabee mobster and minor bookmaker who had allegedly faked a heart attack to get out of participating in a gangland hit. Zangari wasn’t known for being any sort of great racketeer but did appear to think of himself as a “tough guy”, according to Palm Springs restaurateur Mel Haber. In an interview with The Desert Sun, Haber recounts how Zangari entered his establishment and insultingly told him that he [Zangari], would turn the place “into a garage.”
Haber then spoke with former Fratianno associate, Irving “Slick” Shapiro and a few days later, Rocky Bigfoot returned but this time to apologise to Haber for his conduct, saying that he would “never get out of line again.”
Zangari died in 2016, aged 82.
Bobby Milano by the 1980s, was used an enforcer in the Caci crew, while still performing at various establishments in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs areas. Charles Caci had married singer Keely Smith sometime in the 1970s (some sources list 1975) and the pair were known to perform together at times. Frank Sinatra, who was close with Smith, reputedly gave the bride away at the couple’s wedding ceremony. Following his death from liver cancer in 2006, Bobby Milano was inducted into Palm Springs Walk of Stars. Born October 16th, 1936, he was 69 when he died.
Some of Caci’s music can still be heard online – I personally think it’s not half-bad.
As for the last of Jimmy Caci’s soldiers, Stevie Cino, he was described as a gentleman by Gallo. Operating out of Las Vegas, Cino was the “most low-key, patient and soft-spoken” member of Caci’s crew and following Jimmy’s arrest on charges related to a telemarketing scam in 1996, was appointed as acting capo. Cino was incredibly overweight and struggled to sit in restaurant booths but was otherwise described as an amicable individual by Gallo, who he often worked with.
In the early 1990s, Cino and Gambino caporegime, Natale “Big Chris” Richichi, along with his son, Salvatore and pornographer Kenneth “Ken” Guarino were involved in a plot to bribe a Las Vegas stagehands union official, with some sources even listing this official as being the union’s president. Stevie Cino would be convicted in April of 1997 for this bribery attempt and received 3 years probation, 4 months of home detention and a $2,500 fine.
Additionally, Stephen Cino and Charles Caci were apparently best friends, according to memorial information on Cino’s obituary page. He died in March of 2013, aged 76.
As for associates of the Caci crew, they included an apparent Caci cousin, one John “Fat Johnny” Lantino, Kenny “Kenji” Gallo, Orlando “Ori” Spado, Vincent “Vince Lupo” Arcuri, Robert “Puggy” Zeichick (formerly associated with Anthony Fiato) and Stephen Mauriello, whose father, Alfred, aka “Mops”, was an associate of The Arm back in Buffalo. Gallo, Spado and both Mauriellos would all eventually cooperate with the government. Arcuri died in 2015, at 83 years old.
In the late 1990s, beset by legal troubles, as mentioned before, Jimmy Caci deferred control of his operations to the Las Vegas-based Cino. Caci had been arrested again due to Ori Spado’s cooperation, who let the LAPD know that Jimmy was still active in the mob despite being on parole. Spado believed that he should be subject to less serious charges, due to his information about Caci and because he would soon be an inside source for law enforcement, as he was going to be inducted by “the little guys” – Louie Caruso and Tommaso “Tommy” Gambino, who Spado claimed to be liked by.
Herbie Blitzstein’s Murder, Las Vegas & the End of the LA Mob
Sin City, by 1996, was occupied by many members and associates of the Los Angeles family. Underboss Carmen Milano, Tommy Gambino, Louie Caruso and Stevie Cino operated in the area, just to name the members. Former Genovese associate Anthony “Fat Tony” Angioletti and former Outfit associate John Branco, both confidential informants, were also involved with LA’s operations in the area.
The Buffalo faction of the LA family, as well as the Buffalo mob itself, through soldier Robert “Bobby Snowball” Panaro, had begun to work with another former Outfit figure, Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein. Previously associated with Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro and his crew in Las Vegas, Blitzstein had working relationships with both Cino and Panaro, as well as connections to Carmen Milano. Detailed in Breakshot, John Branco and Tony Angioletti, along with another hood called Tony Muso, approached Kenji Gallo and told him that the Milano brothers wanted Blitzstein dead, as he was supposedly an informant and the LA mob wanted control of his loansharking rackets.
Scoffing at the idea, Gallo recognised that the Milanos and most of the Los Angeles family with any stake in the matter, would realise how futile murdering Blitzstein would be. Not only would it attract unwanted attention, it would be difficult to seize control of his loansharking customers as there wouldn’t be any information as to who these customers were, amounts owed etc.
Meeting with Cino, Branco and his group presented their argument as to why Blitzstein should be murdered. Firmly disagreeing, Cino said that he liked “Fat Herbie”, was in business with him and that the whole idea was “stupid” – indicating that he was not authorising anything (not that he even had the authority, as that was left up to the boss, Pete Milano). Gallo claims that if Branco had approached Caci for permission, “Jimmy would have bitten off his nose and spat it back in his face”, further displaying the unwillingness on the part of the LA mob to murder Blitzstein.
What Robert Panaro had to say about the ordeal is not entirely known, though Louie Caruso on the other hand, may have encouraged it on the surface. Known to be boastful and for building himself up as a hardened Mafioso, the reality was that Caruso had been embarrassed at a sitdown with Jimmy Caci, apparently was only really involved with organised crime due to a mid-life crisis and effectively just served as barrier between the law and Pete Milano – “more bark than bite.”
Blitzstein was murdered on the 6th of January, 1997, by Richard Friedman and Antone Davi, street thugs hired by a contingent of fringe mob associates from Buffalo and Los Angeles. His murder had not been authorised by Peter Milano nor by either of the Todaros back in New York. According to law enforcement, Peter “Cookie” Caruso (no relation to Louis Caruso), Anthony DeLulio and Joseph “Joe” DeLuca had burglarised Blizstein’s home during the day and had left it accessible for the hitmen. Other associates implicated in the murder were Stephen and Alfred “Mops” Mauriello, who both cooperated. “Mops” had been responsible for hiring Davi and Friedman.
Panaro, Cino, Louie Caruso and Carmen Milano were indicted on charges related to the Blitzstein murder – the Buffalo natives were charged with ordering it, while Caruso faced charges related to counterfeit travellers cheques and obtaining money from Blitzstein’s rackets once he was gone. Milano admitted to his role in the family, while also outing his brother as the boss of LA’s rackets, under pressure from racketeering charges. Acquitted of the murder but found guilty of extortion, Panaro received seven and a half years while Cino drew a fifteen-year sentence. Caruso received two years in federal prison and two years’ probation, while Milano received 21 months. “Flipper” Milano also claimed that the Los Angeles family had effectively disbanded by 2000, as well as seemingly authorising the burglary on Blitzstein’s home but not agreeing to his murder.
The fallout from Blitzstein’s murder extended itself to the other members of the Buffalo faction, despite having limited involvement with the former Outfit associate. Bobby Milano, Rocky Zangari and Jimmy Caci were all convicted of being involved in selling counterfeit travellers cheques (a racket that Louie Caruso also had a hand in), among other charges, most being released in the early 2000s. In contrast to Cino, they all received minimal sentences.
The Whale regained his freedom on 08/14/2008, dying in 2013, at 76 years old. Jimmy Caci was out by 01/18/2002 and resided in Palm Springs until his death in 2011 (86), whereas his brother had received the lightest sentence (home confinement) and was back to singing by May of 2001. Bobby Milano would die in 2006, at 69. As for Rocky Bigfoot, he left federal prison on 03/21/2002 and moved back to New York state and died in Rochester on 04/16/2016 at age 82.
Some crew associates, namely Ori Spado and Kenji Gallo, remained involved with organised crime. Both would become associated with the Colombo family in New York – Spado with John “Sonny” Franzese and Gallo with Theodore “Skinny Teddy” Persico Jnr, though he was first affiliated with Sonny as well.
Peter Milano as well as Louie Gelfuso, managed to avoid any charges related to the Las Vegas fiasco, while Big Mike Rizzitello was serving a thirty-three-year sentence by this point, obviously having no involvement in the Blitzstein hit. Robert Panaro, following his release, may have been involved on the administration of The Arm, depending on how you view the status of Buffalo’s LCN family. He is still alive, aged 80.
Once arguably the strongest, most active crew in Milano-era Los Angeles, the downfall of the Buffalo faction effectively marked the end of the road for the final remaining family on the West Coast and by the aforementioned estimate of turncoat underboss, Carmen Milano, the Dragna family had essentially dissolved by the start of the new millennium.
The Albert Iavarone Situation
Addressing recent developments, it might seem that Buffalo-LA connections may not have ended with the Caci crew, though it is potentially strained these days, due to the reputed induction of Albert Iavarone. Allegedly made into the Los Angeles family, as a favour to the New York families, by Tommy Gambino (speculated to be the official boss of the LA family remnants), Iavarone seemingly served as a liaison between LCN and Canadian organised crime. His induction was either in 2017 or 2018, depending on the source.
Murdered in Hamilton, in September of 2018, his death has been attributed to the ongoing struggle between organised crime groups in Canada. Iavarone’s induction may have upset current Buffalo boss, Joseph “Big Joe” Todaro Jnr, though there is little to suggest that any violence was ordered on the part of Todaro. The Hamilton area has historically been affiliated with The Arm.
Iavarone’s death potentially marks the first murder of a Los Angeles family member since 1977 – the last, officially, being that of former consigliere and confidential informant, Frank Bompensiero, some forty-five years ago. It seems unlikely that Gambino, or for that matter, any remaining SoCal members, will be involved in any retaliatory plots.
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