May 17, 1943|
March 31, 2011 (aged 67)|
Bosko "The Yugo" Radonjich (Serbian Cyrillic: Бошко Радоњић, Serbian Latin: Boško Radonjić; 17 May 1943 – 31 March 2011) was an American Serb nationalist and later leader of the Westies, a predominantly Irish-American gang based in New York's Hell's Kitchen.
Radonjich was born in 1943 in Užice. Bosko's father, Dragomir, a teacher, was captured and executed during World War II by the Partisans for belonging to the Chetniks led by general Draža Mihailović. Stigmatized as a son of a royalist Chetnik soldier, Radonjich grew up in communist Yugoslavia under Tito.
In his late twenties, Radonjich fled the country and immigrated to the United States in 1970. Physically leaving Yugoslavia was no easy task for a person of his family background and he used a friendship with Red Star Belgrade footballer Milovan Đorić (also a son of a fallen Chetnik) to achieve this. Đorić sneaked Radonjich onto the team bus headed for Graz, which allowed him to get across the border. After some time in Austria, Radonjich went to Italy before immigrating to the United States.
Once in America, Radonjich settled in Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York City. He also joined the Serbian Homeland Liberation Movement (SOPO), an anti-communist and terrorist organization headed by Nikola Kavaja. Sharing royalist and anti-communist views, the two men became lifelong friends.
Already known to Yugoslav state security UDBA, Radonjich's activities began to be monitored even more closely by its agents. In 1975, Radonjich took part in a bombing at the Yugoslav mission to the United Nations in which no one was hurt. In 1978, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the 1975 bombing of a Yugoslavian consul's home and for plotting to bomb a Yugoslav social club, both in Chicago.
Upon his release in 1982, Radonjich moved back to New York's West Side and began working as a minor associate of Jimmy Coonan. He seized control of the gang following the imprisonment of many of the Westies leadership during the late 1980s. Under his leadership, he was able to reestablish the Westies' former working relationship with the Gambino crime family under John Gotti, and was involved in the jury tampering during Gotti's original 1986 trial for racketeering. One of the jurors, George Pape, didn't disclose that he was a friend of Radonjich during jury selection. After he was empanelled, he let it be known that he was willing to sell his vote to help acquit Gotti. Gambino capo and future underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano paid Pape $60,000 to guarantee at least a hung jury. Pape was convicted for his misconduct in 1992 and sentenced to five years in prison.
Radonjich supervised Westie underling Brian Bentley's highly successful burglary ring using two Hispanic gang members until the arrest of Pavle Stanimirović and his group in the early 1990s. He was an associate of Vojislav Stanimirović and his son, Pavle (aka Paul Montana, aka Punch), of the YACS organization. Later investigations under Michael G. Cherkasky, chief of the Investigations Division of the District Attorney's Office, would eventually force Radonjich to flee the United States for good in 1992 to avoid prosecution.
Back in Serbia
Since 1990, Radonjich had already spent a sizeable amount of time in Serbia, mostly dividing his time between Belgrade where he owned a night club named Lotos in Zmaj Jovina Street and Mount Zlatibor where he owned a casino named Palisade and where he also later built a casino named Club Boss located at Kraljeve Vode.
As the Bosnian War broke out, Radonjich became a close adviser to Radovan Karadžić, the Montenegrin Serb leader charged with war crimes (on the run from 1996 until 2008), whom Radonjich described in a 1997 Esquire article penned by Daniel Voll as: "My angel, my saint." Due to Zlatibor's close proximity to the Bosnian border, Radonjich also helped the Serbian war effort by providing funds for weapons and equipment as well as by arranging for soldiers to rehabilitate and rest. Throughout this time Radonjich maintained links with Serbian state security service (renamed from UDBA to SDB after the dissolution of SFR Yugoslavia) and its chief Jovica Stanišić with whom he shared a friendship. In autumn 1995, Radonjich was involved in the release operation of two French pilots who were shot down over Bosnia by the Republika Srpska Army and held captive for more than a month.
1999 arrest in Miami
This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Though based in the Balkans, Radonjich frequently travelled abroad, especially to Caribbean and South American destinations. During one such trip in late December 1999 after almost a decade spent in the former Yugoslavia, Radonjich was arrested by U.S. custom officials in Miami, Florida. Actually, he was on a plane from Europe to Cuba where he was going for New Year's celebrations, but after learning that Radonjich was on the passenger list, the FBI got the plane re-routed to Miami where he was arrested in spectacular manner as the entire airport was shut down.
He had been indicted in 1992 for giving a $60,000 bribe to a juror in the 1987 racketeering murder trial of John Gotti, and thus was held without bail as a wanted fugitive. The charges against Radonjich were dropped after the key witness in his case, Gravano, was arrested for drug related offenses. Gravano had been the Gambinos' intermediary between Radonjich and the corrupt juror, Pape. However, the case against Radonjich was based almost entirely on Gravano's testimony, and Gravano's arrest made prosecutors believe his testimony would not be credible.
Radonjich was freed in March 2001. He immediately left the United States and went back to the former Yugoslavia. In subsequent interviews Radonjich claimed the FBI had ulterior motives for persecuting and harassing him:
In the late 1980s I found out through my sources that FBI along with the Justice Department is preparing to arrest and put on trial the boss of bosses John Gotti. Unfortunately for me, only three people in America at that moment were allowed to have this piece of information - the federal prosecutor, the FBI director, and the US Attorney General. In order to protect this classified information, FBI decided to arrest me, so I had to leave America and seek refuge in Yugoslavia. Because of this they issued an arrest warrant for me based on which they organized my kidnapping on 31 December 1999 in Miami.
During spring 2003, following the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić, Radonjich was arrested and questioned as part of Operation Sablja, a wide-sweeping police action initiated by the Serbian authorities under the state of emergency. After spending three days in prison, Radonjich was released. He died following a brief illness in Belgrade, Serbia on 31 March 2011.
In popular culture
- In the 1998 made-for-TV movie Witness to the Mob, a very loose depiction of the life of Sammy the Bull, Radonjich is played by Stephen Payne.
- Niko Bellic, the main character of Grand Theft Auto IV, may have been inspired by Radonjich; both are Serbian criminals with ties to Italian and Irish organized crime.
- Srbin šef irske mafije;Glas javnosti, 19 January 2000
- Bio opasniji od Karlosa;Večernje novosti, 12 November 2008.
- Feuer, Alan (May 5, 2000). "Jury-Fixing Case Dropped After Arrest of Gravano". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
- Lovac na Tita koji je pomirio irsku i italijansku mafiju;Blic, 2 April 2011
- Umro Boško Radonjić, Mondo.rs, 1 April 2011.
- Dennis Hevesi (9 April 2011). "Bosko Radonjic, Gambino Family Ally, Dies at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- Davis, John H. Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. New York: HarperCollins, 1993; ISBN 0-06-016357-7
- English, T.J. The Westies: Inside the Hell's Kitchen Irish Mob. St Martin's Paperbacks, 1991; ISBN 0-312-92429-1
- James Ridgway de Szigethy, "J.R.'s Mafia Year In Review – 2000", AmericanMafia.com
- Daniel Voll "Radovan Karadzic: A Deeply Misunderstood Mass Murderer" by
- Radonjich obituary, nytimes.com, 9 April 2011