Money Talks & Bullshit Walks
The Pardon of Angelo 'Gyp' DeCarlo
Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo was a caporegime, or captain, of New York's Genovese family. DeCarlo was called "a methodical gangland executioner" in FBI files. This assessment was upheld by the 1970 release of transcripts of the electronic surveillance of Sam "The Plumber" Decavalcante and by the testimony of mob defector Gerald Zelmanowitz.
In September 1968, according to Zelmanowitz' testimony, Zelmanowitz had vidited DeCarlo's office only to find Louis Saperstein "lying on the floor, purple, bloody, tongue hanging out, spit all over him." Saperstein owed $400,000 to the Genovese family and was having problems paying the $5,000 per week interest.
According to Zelmanowitz' testimony, "I thought he was dead. He was being kicked by Mr. Polverino and Mr. Cecere. He was lifted up off the floor, placed in a chair, hit again, knocked off the chair, picked up and hit again." DeCarlo ordered his men to stop the beating and told Saperstein to repay the loan by December 13 or he would "be dead."
Saperstein died on Nov. 26, 1968, of what was called "gastric upset." Before his death he had written to the FBI telling them of the threats that had been made by DeCarlo. This letter prompted an autopsy that found a large amount of arsenic in Saperstein's body.
In March 1970, DeCarlo was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, based partly on the testimony of Zelmanowitz, and sentenced to 12 years in a federal penitentiary. According to the FBI file, in 1972 while DeCarlo was incarcerated in Atlanta, Frankie Valli and "The Four Seasons" performed for the prisoners. DeCarlo asked Valli to get in touch with his old friend, Frank Sinatra, and ask him for help.
By this time Sinatra was very close to both President Nixon and Vice-President Agnew. Nixon, of course, was in need of money for his re-election campaign. According to the FBI files, Sinatra made a $100,000 cash contribution to Maurice Stans. Peter Malatesta, a member of Agnew's staff and close friend of Sinatra, contacted John Dean and asked for a presidential pardon for DeCarlo.
Sinatra made another payment of $50,000 in December 1972, and two days later DeCarlo was pardoned. The grounds for the pardon were that DeCarlo was terminally ill, but according to Newsweek and FBI files, DeCarlo was soon "back at his old rackets, boasting that his connections with Sinatra freed him." He died the following year of cancer.
The FBI dismissed the allegations against Sinatra, but Senator Henry Jackson of Washington, chair of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, charged that the pardon "bypassed normal procedures and safeguards."
Jackson's investigation led to serious charges against President Nixon, the U.S. Marshall Service and the IRS, but action was pre-empted by Agnew's resignation and the Watergate scandal. No charges were ever brought against Sinatra.
In the late 1960s Sinatra took on the role of an organized-crime icon. The top hoodlums of whatever city he appeared in heavily attended his concerts. Among the people who attended his performances regularly were Santos Traficante Jr., boss of Florida, Carlos Marcello, boss of New Orleans, Frank Piccolo, Gambino farmily capo in Connecticut, Frank Balistieri, boss of Milwaukee, as well as a host of lesser mobsters.
In 1964, Sinatra's connections to the mob were so well known to the FBI that Special Agent Elison, of the Las Vegas division, attempted to develop Sinatra as an informant. Elison and Sinatra had become friendly during the investigation into the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson discouraged this plan and it was dropped.
Sinatra was often used by the mob for his fame and his connections in politics and entertainment. Sometimes he was the victim of their schemes and by the late '60s skimming the proceeds from Sinatra performances was a favorite activity of mobsters. Sinatra, for his part, gained prestige and self-esteem from his association with the mobsters. He also gained a great deal of wealth. He died May 15, 1998 in Los Angeles of heart attack at age 82. He wasn't a "made" Mafioso, but the Mafia made him.