Christopher Furnari

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Christopher Furnari
Furnari.jpg
Born 1924 (1924) (age 90)
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Nationality Italian American
Occupation Consigliere of the Lucchese crime family
Criminal charge
racketeering
Criminal penalty
100 year sentence
Criminal status Alive
Allegiance Lucchese crime family

Christopher "Christie Tick" Furnari, Sr. (born 1924, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn) is a Lucchese crime family mobster serving life in prison. During the 1980s, Furnari served as the family consigliere until his 1986 racketeering conviction.

Early years[edit]

In 1924, Christopher Furnari was born in New York to first-generation Sicilian-Italian emigrants from Furnari, a commune in the Province of Messina in Sicily. By age 15, Furnari was managing his own loanshark operations in Brooklyn and Northern New Jersey. By 1943, the 19 year-old Furnari had already served two prison terms for armed robbery. Furnari was also sentenced to 15 to 30 years after a trial where him and several other youths were arrested with 3 girls in a car and charged with rape.

In 1956, Furnari was released from prison on parole. Furnari became an associate of Gaetano "Tommy Brown" Lucchese's crime family through Furnari's connection with mobster Anthony Corallo. During the late 1950s, Furnari became involved in illegal gambling and loansharking. Furnari soon became an influential member of the Brooklyn faction of the family and was earning $25,000 a day. In 1962, at age 38, Furnari became a made man in the Lucchese family. In 1964, Furnari became a caporegime.

The Lucchese powerbase was traditionally the Bronx faction; the first three family bosses, Gaetano "Tom" Reina, Tommaso "Tommy" Gagliano, and Tommy Lucchese were based in the Bronx. In contrast, Furnari belonged to the less influential Brooklyn faction. Furnari operated his crew in Bensonhurst at the 19th Hole, a nondescript bar and mob social club. His crew was involved in illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, burglary, narcotics dealing, and occasional murder contracts. At this time, Furnari's criminal record included convictions for assault and sex offenses.

Furnari controlled New York District Council 9, which represented 6,000 workers who painted and decorated hotels, bridges, and subway stations in New York. Furnari managed the Council through the union secretary and treasurer, James Bishop, and Bishop's associate, Frank Arnold. Bishop and Arnold would pick up cash payments from the contractors, who charged a 10 to 15 percent tax on all major commercial painting jobs, and passed the payments to Furnari.

The 19th Hole[edit]

The 19th Hole, Furnari's social club, was the hub of criminal activity in Bensonhurst. Mobsters from every New York crime family conducted business in the club and socialized over food and drink. In the mid 1960s, aspiring mobsters Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso joined Furnari's crew. Furnari saw that both men could make money and were willing to use violence if needed. Furnari put Amuso and Casso in charge of a large bookmaking operation and debt collecting operation.

In 1967, family boss Tommy Luchese died of a brain tumor, leaving the family to be run by an interim boss, Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti.[1] Luchese's real successor Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, was convicted of bribery in 1967 and sentenced in 1968 to prison for two years. Tramunti served as acting boss, even after Corallo was released from prison in 1970. In 1973, with Tramunti's imprisonment, Corallo finally became the official Lucchese boss.

In the early 1970s the Five Families of New York organized crime decided to "open the books', allowing a new generation of mob associates to become made men. Furnari immediately sponsored Amuso and Casso for family membership and then made them overseers of the "Bypass Gang", a highly successful burglary ring. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Bypass Gang reportedly stole hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, jewelry, and other merchandise.

Consigliere[edit]

In 1980, Furnari was promoted to consigliere in the Lucchese family. He wanted Casso to take over as capo of the 19th Hole crew, but Casso declined and endorsed Amuso instead. Casso opted to become Furnari's aide; a consigliere is allowed to have one soldier work directly for him.

Furnari now enjoyed enormous influence both within his own family, the other New York families, and crime families from other US cities. Furnari continued to oversee his criminal interests from the 19th Hole, but spent much of his time providing advise and mediation for family members as well as settling disputes with the other families. Furnari reigned as one of New York's top Mafia bosses throughout the early 1980s until his 1985 racketeering indictment.

The Commission Case[edit]

On February 25, 1985, Furnari was indicted in the Mafia Commission case, one of the biggest Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) ever brought against the mob.[2] Furnari was indicted as a result of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe that used undercover surveillance and bugging techniques against the mob leaders. The bug that snared Furnari had been placed in Salvatore Avellino's Jaguar car. The bug recorded Corallo conducting business with Furnari and other family leaders. Pleading not guilty to the charges, Furnari was released on $1.75 million bail pending trial.[3]

The Russian Mafia[edit]

In early 1986, while Furnari was awaiting the Commission trial, the Lucchese family uncovered a new, protentially lucrative racket. A Russian-American crime family based in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, run by Ukrainian immigrant Marat Balagula, had started to bootleg gasoline. By collecting gasoline taxes from customers and then not paying them to the government, Balagula was making very large profits. When Colombo crime family capo Michael Franzese started pressing Balagula for extortion payments, Balagula went to Furnari for help. Casso later reported on a meeting at the 19th Hole, in which Furnari told Balagula,

"Here there's enough for everybody to be happy... to leave the table satisfied. What we must avoid is trouble between us and the other families. I propose to make a deal with the others so there's no bad blood.... Meanwhile, we will send word out that from now on you and your people are with the Lucchese family. No one will bother you. If anyone does bother you, come to us and Anthony will take care of it."[4]

As a result of the 19th Hole meeting, the Five Families imposed a two cent per gallon "Family tax" on Balagula's bootlegging operation, which became their greatest moneymaker after drug trafficking.[5] According to one former associate,

"The LCN reminded Marat of the apparatchiks in the Soviet Union. He thought as long as he gave them something they would be valuable allies. Then all of a sudden he was at risk of being killed if he couldn't pay to the penny.[6]

According to author Philip Carlo,

"It didn't take long for word on the street to reach the Russian underworld: Marat Balagula was paying off the Italians; Balagula was a punk; Balagula had no balls. Balagula's days were numbered. This, of course, was the beginning of serious trouble. Balagula did in fact have balls -- he was a ruthless killer when necessary -- but he also was a smart diplomatic administrator and he knew that the combined, concerted force of the Italian crime families would quickly wipe the newly arrived Russian competition off the proverbial map."[7]

On June 12, 1986, one of Balagula's rivals, Russian gangster Vladimir Reznikov, entered Balaguloa's nightclub in Brighton Beach. Reznikov pushed a 9mm Beretta handgun against Balagula's skull and demanded $600,000 and a percentage of Balagula's rackets. After Balagula acceded to his demands, Reznikov told him, "F--- with me and you're dead -- you and your whole f---ing family; I swear I'll f--- and kill your wife as you watch -- you understand?"[8]

After Reznikov left the nightclub, Balagula suffered a massive heart attack. He insisted, however, on being treated at his home in Brighton Beach, where he felt safer. At home, Balagula asked Casso to come help him. Casso gave these instructions to Balagula, "Send word to Vladimir that you have his money, that he should come to the club tomorrow. We'll take care of the rest."[9] Casso also requested a photograph of Reznikov and a description of his car.

The next day, Reznikov arrived at Balagula's nightclub to pick up his money. Lucchese soldier Joseph Testa confronted Reznikov and fatally shot him. According to Casso, "After that, Marat didn't have any problems with other Russians."[10]

Conviction and life sentence[edit]

In September 1986, Furnari went on trial in the famous New York Mafia Commission case along with Corallo and underboss Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro. The charges included extortion and labor racketeering within the labor unions and construction industry, and murder for hire of former Bonanno crime family boss Carmine "Lilo" Galante. Galante had been gunned down on July 12, 1979 allegedly on the orders of the Commission. Some have argued that Furnari wasn't on the Commission then and had no connection with the Galante hit. However, Furnari could not use this as a defense argument.

By the fall of 1986, Corallo realized that he, Santoro and Furnari would not only be convicted, but were facing sentences that would all but assure they would die in prison. Furnari persuaded Corallo that either Amuso or Casso should become the new boss. At a meeting in Furnari's home, Furnari, Amuso and Casso all agreed that Amuso should succeed Corallo as boss.

On November 19, 1986 Furnari was convicted on all counts, including the Galante murder.[11] On January 13, 1987, Furnari was sentenced to 100 years in prison without parole. After the sentencing session, Furnari and the other defendants met with their lawyers in a back room of the courthouse for a final meal and a bottle of wine. Corallo gave the traditional Italian toast of Cent'anni (May we live 100 years), at which time Santoro stated, "I think it's time to get a new toast". Furnari and the other defendants just laughed.[12]

With the imprisonment of Corallo and Furnari, Amuso became boss, and Casso became consigliere and later underboss. Peter "Fat Pete" Chiodo took over Furnari's Bensonhurst crew.

Aftermath[edit]

In 1990, Amuso and Casso became fugitives to avoid prosecution in the famous "Windows Case."[13] In 1992, Amuso was captured and sentenced to life in prison. In 1993, Casso was also captured; however, in 1994 he struck a deal with the government to testify against Furnari and other family leaders.

In 1995, Furnari started challenging the "no parole" stipulation of his sentence in court. The government had previously revoked Casso's witness deal with prosecutors, and in 1996 Casso was sentenced to life in prison. Furnari's lawyers insisted that Casso's court testimony against Furnari was tainted.

In July 2000, the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the parole board officials had been denying Mr. Furnari's parole eligibility on the tainted assertions of mob turncoat Casso. However, in 2001, the Bureau of Prisons National Appeal Board ruled that Furnari was a multiple murderer and was not eligible for parole, based on what some people considered to be Casso's discredited testimony. On February 15, 2006, Furnari filed a habeas corpus petition in District Court claiming that the United States parole commission improperly had denied him parole. On June 20, 2007, the court denied his petition.

Furnari's lawyer is also trying to establish that former Lucchese acting boss Alphonse D'Arco's statement regarding Furnari's knowledge of murders carried out when he was consigliere was false because D'Arco was in custody from 1983 through 1986 and would have known about Furnari's involvement only through hearsay. While Furnari's lawyer appeals this decision, Furnari is serving his prison term.

As of November [14] 2011, Furnari is imprisoned in the Allenwood Medium Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. His projected release date is November 24, 2044, effectively a life sentence.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Clines, Francis X. L.I. Police Record A Mafia Funeral - Mourners at Services for Luchese Are Photographed (July 16, 1967) New York Times
  2. ^ Lubasch, Arnold H (March 1, 1985). "Reputed Crime Bosses Arraigned". New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "11 PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO RULING ORGANIZED CRIME IN NEW YORK". New York Times. July 2, 1985. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Carlo 2008, p. 120
  5. ^ Friedman 2000, p. 53
  6. ^ Robert Friedman, "Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob has Invaded America," 2000. Pages 53-54.
  7. ^ Philip Carlo, "Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss," 2008, page 152.
  8. ^ Carlo 2008, p. 153
  9. ^ Philip Carlo, "Gaspipe: The Confessions of a Mafia Boss," 2008, page 154.
  10. ^ Friedman 2000, p. 55
  11. ^ Lubasch, Arnold H. (November 20, 1986). "U.S. JURY CONVICTS EIGHT AS MEMBERS OF MOB COMMISSION". New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  12. ^ "JUDGE SENTENCES 8 MAFIA LEADERS TO PRISON TERMS" By ARNOLD H. LUBASCH New York Times January 14, 1987
  13. ^ Raab, Selwyn (November 28, 1992). "'Most Ruthless Mafia Leader Left; Leader on the Lam Runs the Lucchese Family, Agents Say". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Christopher Furnari". Bureau of Prisons inmate Locator. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia: Second Edition. New York, Checkmark Books. 1999
  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiots Guide to the Mafia. Indianapolis. Alpha Books. 2002
  • Raab, Selwyn. The Five Families. New York. St Martins Press, 2005.
  • Lawson, Guy and Oldham, William. The Brother Hoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia. New York. Pocket Books, 2006.

External links[edit]