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DeSimone in January 1979, shortly before he went missing.
|Born||Thomas Anthony DeSimone
May 24, 1950
Cambridge, Massachusetts, US
|Disappeared||January 14, 1979
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 14, 1979
New York City, New York, US
|Other names||"Two-Gun Tommy
|Known for||Associate of the Lucchese crime family
Portrayed by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas
Thomas Anthony DeSimone (May 24, 1950 – January 14, 1979), also known as Two-Gun Tommy or Tommy D, was a Sicilian-American gangster and associate of the Lucchese crime family in New York. DeSimone was a grandson and nephew of Los Angeles mob bosses, Rosario DeSimone and Frank DeSimone, respectively. He was married to Angelica "Cookie" Spione, but had many mistresses, including Theresa Ferrara. In the 1990s, Martin Scorsese's film Goodfellas, the character Tommy DeVito (played by Joe Pesci) is based on DeSimone.
Thomas had a sister, Dolores, and two brothers who were both Gambino crime family associates, Robert DeSimone and Anthony DeSimone. Anthony was murdered by mobster Thomas Agro in 1979. Thomas was the brother-in-law of mobster, Joseph "The Barber" Spione, who was slain for refusing to help kill DeSimone in the late 1970s. Thomas had a fourth sibling, sister Phyllis, who was Jimmy Burke's mistress from the time she turned 16. Thomas is the ex-father-in-law of Gambino crime family associate Salvatore DeVita.
Thomas' father owned and lost a printing shop, due to a compulsive gambling addiction. Both DeSimone's grandfather, Rosario DeSimone, and uncle, Frank DeSimone, were bosses of the Los Angeles crime family. DeSimone's paternal grandfather, Rosario DeSimone became the boss of the Los Angeles crime family after Vito Di Giorgio was killed in Chicago in 1922. DeSimone's paternal uncle, Frank DeSimone, was a criminal attorney turned mobster; "Uncle Frank," as he was known, replaced Jack Dragna in 1956, after the latter's death, becoming the second DeSimone family member to become the Los Angeles crime family boss.
DeSimone was introduced to the Vario Crew in 1965. Henry Hill said in Wiseguy, "Jimmy [Jimmy Burke] came by the cab stand one day with a skinny kid who was wearing a wiseguy suit and a pencil mustache. It was Tommy DeSimone. He was one of those kids who looked younger than he was just because he was trying to look older. Jimmy had been a friend of Tommy's family for years, and wanted me to watch out for Tommy and to teach him the cigarette business and to help make him a few bucks."
DeSimone was infamous for his violent temper: His sister was quoted saying "Tommy's teenage years revolved around boxing, lifting weights, smoking cigarettes, and beating the shit out of a punching bag he kept in a spare room. He had a short fuse, and an animalistic appetite. He would drink almost a gallon of whole milk a day. His only other childhood hobby was collecting different kinds of pocket knives he kept in an old cigar box under his bed." While playing pinochle with Joseph Iannuzzi and Agro, he would throw darts at the other players when he started losing. Henry Hill's ex-wife Karen said in Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy, "Tommy DeSimone always drove around in a brand-new car and wore expensive clothes, and he and Angela lived in a two-room tenement slum," while Hill described DeSimone and Burke by saying, "It didn't take anything for these guys to kill you. They liked it. They would sit around drinking booze and talk about their favorite hits. They enjoyed talking about them." An ex-police detective named Frank Santarsola said "It gave him enjoyment to break somebody's wrist, murder somebody, beating someone with a bat." Hill later described DeSimone as a "pure psychopath" and "Tommy was fucking loose horse, a fucking homicidal maniac and was always strung out on coke constantly." Hill suggested that DeSimone had something to prove because his older brother Anthony had become an informant and was allegedly murdered by the Gambino crime family for that.
During the 1960s, DeSimone and fellow associates Henry Hill, Joey Allegro, and Stanley Diamond would go on regular hijackings. While hijacking, DeSimone would always carry his gun in a brown paper bag. "Walking down the street, he looked like he was bringing you a sandwich instead of a .38." Hill said.
DeSimone committed what is believed to have been his first murder on March 15, 1968 at the age of 17. He was walking down the street with Hill when DeSimone spotted Howard Goldstein, a passing pedestrian, a random stranger unknown to either gangster. Hill recalls DeSimone turning to him and saying, "Hey Henry, watch this." DeSimone yelled, "Hey cocksucker!" and pulled out a .38 caliber pistol, and shot and killed Goldstein. Hill exclaimed, "That was cold-blooded, Tommy!" DeSimone replied, "Well, I'm a mean cat."
Murder of William "Billy Batts" Bentvena
In the book Wiseguy, Henry Hill said they threw a "welcome home" party at Robert's Lounge, which was owned by Jimmy Burke, for William "Billy Batts" Bentvena (confused as William Devino), a made man in Carmine Fatico's crew (the same crew John Gotti was a part of) in the Gambino crime family.
Bentvena had just been released from prison after serving a six year term for drug possession. Hill states in Wiseguy that Bentvena saw DeSimone and asked him if he still shined shoes and DeSimone took this as an insult. Hill also said that Bentvena provoked DeSimone because he wanted to impress some mobsters from another crime family. A couple of minutes later when that issue was going to be forgotten, DeSimone leaned over to Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke and said "I'm gonna kill that fuck." Hill saw that he was serious about it. A couple of weeks later, on June 11, 1970, Bentvena went over to "The Suite" owned by Hill in Jamaica, Queens to go drinking with DeSimone's crew, including Hill, DeSimone, and Jimmy. Later that night DeSimone took his girlfriend home and Burke started making Bentvena feel comfortable. Twenty minutes later, DeSimone arrived with a .38 revolver and a plastic mattress cover. DeSimone walked over to him at the corner of the bar and attacked Bentvena. Before Bentvena was attacked, Jimmy Burke tightened his arms around Bentvena and he was pistol whipped with the .38 revolver. He was so inebriated that he couldn't defend himself.
In the book Wiseguy, Hill said that before DeSimone started to beat Bentvena, DeSimone yelled, "Shine these fucking shoes!" DeSimone killed Bentvena not only because he had insulted him, but also because Burke had taken over Bentvena's loanshark business while Bentvena was in prison. According to Hill, Bentvena had been complaining to Joseph N. Gallo about getting back this racket. Not wanting to return the business to Bentvena, Burke knew sooner or later Bentvena would have to be killed. After the beating, the three men put Bentvena in the trunk of Hill's 1970 Buick Electra and later while the three men were driving on The Van Wyck Expressway, they discovered that Bentvena was not dead. Later, they visited DeSimone's mother's house to get a knife, lime and a shovel. Later in the drive, closer to their destination, Hill said it had been an hour of DeSimone driving and he kept getting mad about the noises in the trunk and finally slammed the brakes and leaned over for the shovel and that Burke and DeSimone "didn't actually shoot him, they just stabbed him, thirty or forty fucking times, fucking horrible."
Hill does not mention a knife, but claims Burke and DeSimone finished Bentvena off by beating him with a tire iron and the shovel, respectively and the men later buried him under a dog kennel. At the time of the murder in 1970, Bentvena was 49 years old and was a respected and a feared made man in the Gambino crime family, as well as a personal friend of future Gambino boss John Gotti. Murdering a made man without the official consent of his family's leadership was an unforgivable offense in the Mafia code of omerta, especially by a rival family and a mere associate such as DeSimone, and it was this murder (after the Gotti crew definitively tied DeSimone to the killing) that led to DeSimone's own murder as retaliation.
Murders of Gianco, Cersani, and Jerothe
DeSimone's third murder is described by Hill in Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy, and also is portrayed on film in Goodfellas. A young man named Michael "Spider" Gianco was serving as a bartender at a card game, where he and DeSimone had an argument (after Gianco forgot about DeSimone's drink) that resulted in DeSimone pulling out a handgun and demanding that Gianco dance for him. DeSimone shot him in the foot when Gianco refused. A week later, when Gianco was again serving drinks (now in a full leg cast), DeSimone started to goad him about his wounded foot spurring Gianco to reply, "Why don't you go fuck yourself, Tommy?" After a stunned silence, a delighted and impressed Burke, having now developed a respect for Gianco for sticking up for himself, gave Gianco some money before jokingly teasing DeSimone, who hadn't said or done anything in retaliation, about "going soft". DeSimone, in his usual way, took the teasing seriously and lost his temper, fatally shooting Gianco three times in the chest, angrily demanding of Burke if that was "good enough for him". Burke and Hill were furious with DeSimone's lack of control; Burke yelled, "All right, you dumb fuck, if you're going to be a big fucking wiseguy, you dig the hole!" and made him bury Gianco's body in the cellar by himself.
Hill stated that after he saw this he was truly convinced that DeSimone was a total psychopath. It is believed that Gianco's body was subsequently moved, because it was not found in that location. There is also recent speculation as to whether "Spider" Gianco even existed as the police never found a birth certificate or family and friends, indicating that Hill possibly made the story up. But on the Howard Stern Show, Hill said that "Spider" was buried next to the Robert's Lounge, which was owned by Jimmy Burke, along with other bodies.
His fourth murder, according to Hill, occurred when DeSimone and another associate named Stanley Diamond got carried away after being asked to "rough up" a witness to a robbery. After a truck heist, a foreman had refused to allow Burke to unload the cargo of a hijacked truck in his warehouse, and vehemently protested because they had no union cards. Burke attempted to reason with the man, who stood his ground and refused to be intimidated. Burke later sent DeSimone and Stanley Diamond to the man's house in the boondocks of New Jersey, with instructions to threaten and "rough up" the man to ensure he would cooperate with Burke in the future. DeSimone and Stanley Diamond, angry and so worked up about having to drive all the way to New Jersey, ended up beating the man to death.
DeSimone's fifth murder occurred when Jimmy Burke ordered the murder of his best friend, Dominick "Remo" Cersani, who became an informant and was going to set Burke up in a cigarette hijack for Burke to get arrested. Burke got suspicious about Cersani and later found out from one of his friends from a Queens, New York DA's office that Cersani was talking to the NYPD and that they were going to arrest Burke on a truck hijacking charge. DeSimone and Burke killed Remo that same week. The pair met Remo at Robert's Lounge and said to him "Lets take a ride." DeSimone strangled Remo with piano wire. Henry Hill said in Wiseguy that "Remo put up some fight. He kicked and swung and shit all over himself before he died." Burke had Remo's body buried next to the bocce court behind Robert's Lounge. It was said that whenever Burke and DeSimone played bocce with their friends, they would jokingly say "Hi Remo, how ya doing?"
DeSimone killed Gotti protégé Ronald "Foxy" Jerothe on December 18, 1974. DeSimone had dated Jerothe's sister and had beaten her up, prompting Jerothe to threaten to kill him. When DeSimone heard about the threat, he went to Jerothe's apartment and knocked on the door. Jerothe opened the door and punched DeSimone in the face. DeSimone then shot Jerothe between the eyes.
DeSimone was alleged to have taken part in the December 1978 Lufthansa heist from JFK International Airport, the largest robbery in U.S. history at the time. The loot is reputed to have amounted to almost $6,000,000, of which only a fraction was recovered. DeSimone was spotted because he had very well polished shoes, too well polished for an airport employee. He was the one who suggested recruiting his ex-cell mate Angelo Sepe for the heist.
DeSimone then murdered Parnell "Stacks" Edwards. DeSimone was a good friend of Stacks and was disappointed to hear that he had failed to get rid of the truck used in the Lufthansa Heist in New Jersey, where the evidence would be destroyed. When DeSimone was told by a ranking mafioso that he could become a made man because of this hit, he agreed. Once he found out where Stacks was hiding, he visited Stacks and shot him six times in the chest and head with a silenced pistol. In Wiseguy, Hill mentioned that DeSimone had killed "around" four people in prison, bringing his body count to approximately 11. Hill commented that DeSimone would sometimes kill someone just because he wanted to try out a new firearm and wouldn't hesitate to use someone as human target practice.
Hill stated that he and Jimmy Burke didn't know how many people DeSimone had killed.
Disappearance and death
It is believed that DeSimone was murdered as a reprisal for having killed two of John Gotti's close friends, specifically William "Billy Batts" Bentvena and Foxy Jerothe. On January 14, 1979, DeSimone's wife, Angela, reported him missing. She said she had last seen Tommy "a few weeks earlier" when he borrowed $60 from her.
Following the Lufthansa heist, Theresa Ferrara, Martin Krugman, Robert McMahon, Joe Manri, Parnell Edwards and Paolo LiCastri had all been murdered by Burke, who wanted to avoid paying them their share of the loot. For years, the New York Police Department and the FBI believed that DeSimone had either been murdered by Burke, or that he was in hiding to avoid being killed. DeSimone's brother-in-law, Lucchese family member Joseph "The Barber" Spione, also disappeared shortly afterward.
When Hill became an FBI informant in 1980, he told authorities that DeSimone had been murdered by the Gambino crime family. Despite the oft-given date of death of January 14, 1979, the exact date of DeSimone's murder is uncertain. Henry claimed that in "the week after Christmas," he and Jimmy Burke had gone down to Florida to straighten out a drug deal gone bad. Tommy had remained behind in New York because he was going to be made. When Jimmy called to see if the ceremony had occurred (the code phrase was to ask if Tommy had seen his godmother yet), Burke was told that it had been called off due to a heavy snowfall. The next day, Burke found out that DeSimone had been murdered; he slammed the phone down and began crying, as depicted in the film Goodfellas. Henry also indicated in both the book Wiseguy and the DVD commentary to Goodfellas that DeSimone had been killed when Martin Krugman disappeared on January 6, 1979.
In 1994, Henry Hill, in his book Gangsters and Goodfellas, gave an expanded story of the events leading up to DeSimone's death. Hill's wife, Karen, had been having an affair with Hill's boss, Mafia caporegime Paul Vario. When Hill was sentenced to prison, DeSimone approached Karen for sex. When she turned him down, DeSimone attempted to rape her. In retaliation for the attempted rape, Vario approached the Gambino crew and revealed that DeSimone had murdered Jerothe and Bentvena without first seeking permission from the Gambino crime family, violating Mafia protocol. Sometime in late December 1978, or early January 1979, DeSimone was contacted and told that he was going to be "made." Peter Vario and Bruno Facciolo took him to an unknown location, where he was murdered.
There are two theories as to who actually killed DeSimone. According to mob informant Joseph "Joe Dogs" Iannuzzi, Thomas Agro claimed in 1985 that he was the driving force behind the murder. Agro also claimed to have murdered DeSimone's brother Anthony after he turned informant. Agro also suggested murdering the eldest and last remaining brother, Robert. According to Ianuzzi, Agro would often laughingly refer to killing the third DeSimone brother, stating that "Maybe it's time to go for the DeSimone trifecta!" Another account, told by Henry Hill in Gangsters and Goodfellas, states that John Gotti himself was the assassin. On May 17, 2007, on the Howard Stern Show, Hill reaffirmed that Gotti had killed DeSimone. He also added that the death "took a long time," as Billy Batts had been a personal friend of Gotti's and he wanted DeSimone to suffer before he died.
DeSimone was declared legally dead by the FBI in 1990, the same year Goodfellas was released. He was thought to have been buried at a suspected "Mafia graveyard" on the Brooklyn-Queens border near John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the body of Al Indelicato was found in 1981 and the bodies of Philip Giaccone and Dominick Trinchera were recovered by police in 2004.
In popular culture
DeSimone's infamy rests on his depiction by actor Joe Pesci in the 1990 movie Goodfellas (renamed Tommy DeVito in the film), a role for which Pesci won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The movie took some artistic liberties: primarily, DeSimone was six years younger than Hill in real life, not the same age (as implied when they first meet). While depicted in the film as a small man with an attitude, DeSimone was a large, burly enforcer, standing at 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and around 225 pounds. Paul Cicero (based on Vario) at one point states that Tommy is a "good kid, but a cowboy with too much to prove."
Although based on DeSimone, Tommy DeVito also functions as a composite character. The DeVito character is substituted for various individuals not portrayed in the film; for example, in the double date scene where Hill meets his future wife, Tommy DeVito is substituted for Paul Vario's son, Paul Jr., who actually went on the date.
Hill, nevertheless, calls Pesci's portrayal "between 90 and 95 percent accurate", mentioning only that the diminutive Pesci did not physically resemble the tall, muscular DeSimone. Pesci was 46 years old during production of Goodfellas, while DeSimone was only in his teens and twenties during the real-life events depicted in the film, and is believed to have been murdered at age 28.
Also, in real life, Vario allowed the Gambinos to kill DeSimone in retaliation for the murder of Batts and Foxy Jerothe, whereas in the film, elder members of the family solely execute Tommy DeVito for killing a "made man" without permission, shooting him in both the front and back of the head. Hill's narration makes a reference to the true events, saying DeVito was murdered as "revenge for Billy Batts and a lot of other things." In the film, DeVito is shot and killed by Tuddy, based on Paul Vario's younger brother Vito and by Vinnie (Charles Scorsese), based on Thomas Agro. Unlike his real-life counterpart, DeVito's body is found shortly afterwards and is given a funeral, though he is "shot in the face" specifically so that he cannot be given an open-casket funeral.
- Rashbaum, William K. with contributions from Fisher, Janon (6 October 2004). "Sometimes, Mob Victims Have Plenty of Company". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "Feds Search 'Mafia Graveyard' in New York". Fox News. October 5, 2004.
- Bone, James (October 6, 2004). "FBI digs deep to unearth men who crossed the Mob". The Times (London).
- "Remains of Mafia captains identified". CNN. December 22, 2004.
- Pileggi, Nicholas, Wiseguy: Life In A Mafia Family, Simon & Schuster (1986) ISBN 0-671-44734-3
- Hill, Henry, Gangsters and Goodfellas: The Mob, Witness Protection, and Life on the Run, Taco Salad for Mafia, M. Evans and Company, Inc. (December 25, 2007) ISBN 1-59077-129-X
- Ianuzzi, Joseph, Joe Dogs: The Life and Crimes of a Mobster, Simon & Schuster (June 1993) ISBN 0-671-79752-2
- Hill, Gina; Hill, Gregg, On the Run: A Mafia Childhood, Warner Books (October 2004) ISBN 0-446-52770-X