The Vario Crew

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The Vario Crew
Founded byLucchese crime family
Founding locationNew York City
Years active1950s-present
TerritoryVarious neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island
EthnicityItalian, Italian-American made men and Irish and other ethnicities as "associates"
Membership (est.)Unknown
Criminal activitiesRacketeering, bookmaking, loan-sharking, extortion, gambling, burglary, cargo theft, conspiracy, counterfeit consumer goods, murder, smuggling, fencing, hotel robbery, hijacking and jewelry heist
AlliesGambino, Genovese, Bonanno and Colombo crime families
RivalsVarious gangs.

The Vario Crew is a group operating within the Lucchese crime family. It was controlled by capo Paul Vario from the early 1950s into the early 1980s, when Vario, Jimmy Burke, and a number of other associates were imprisoned, primarily due to the testimony of another long-term associate, Henry Hill. Hill's life in the Vario crew was the subject of Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy and Martin Scorsese's crime film adapted from that book, Goodfellas (1990), starring Ray Liotta as Hill. Today the crew is still active, but less influential than before, and was recently led by Domenico "Danny" Cutaia.[1]


Paul Vario's power[edit]

Paul Vario received money from members of his crew and local criminals. Vario's crew was involved in hijacking cargo shipments from JFK Airport in Queens, NY; they also ran several loansharking and bookmaking operations in Brooklyn.

James Burke, a close ally of Vario's, ran a crew of hijackers that would pay off truck drivers and then unload the goods at a warehouse Vario controlled. Another ally of Vario's was John Dioguardi, a Lucchese family capo who controlled labor unions in New York City. In the 1970s, when Vario and Burke were imprisoned, the majority of Vario's bookmaking operations were taken over by his Russian Jewish associate, Martin Krugman.

Henry Hill's drug organization[edit]

Two of Vario's crew members, Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke, began dealing in amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Hill ran his criminal enterprise with his wife Karen, William Arico, Anthony and Rocco Perla, Robin Cooperman, and Judith Wicks. In early 1979, Burke and Hill began selling heroin.

After Robert "Bobby" Germaine Jr., the son of Henry Hill's drug partner, became an informant, Hill was monitored. In 1980, Hill was arrested for drug dealing and looking at several life-sentences. He accepted the option to become an informant.

Hill's testimony led to 50 convictions. In 1980, on Burke's orders, Angelo Sepe shot and killed Bobby Germaine, Jr. in Kew Gardens, Queens.

Burke was given 20 years for fixing sporting events and a life sentence when the authorities convicted him for murdering scam-artist Richard Eaton. Vario was given a 12½-year sentence during the KENRAC trial.

Robert's Lounge Crew[edit]

The Robert's Lounge Crew was a semi-independent group of criminals working under the Vario Crew, led by Jimmy Burke, and based in Burke's bar, Robert's Lounge. They were active from 1957 to 1979.

The Robert's Lounge crew comprised numerous members, some described as inept, whose specialties included armed robbery, hijacking, and murder. Although an independent outfit, they were closely associated with the Lucchese Family through which Burke had a longtime friendship and working relationship with Vario.[2]

Historical leadership[edit]


  • 1950s–1988 – Paul Vario — in 1984 he was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison; he died on May 3, 1988
    • Acting 1970–1988 – Vito "Tuddy" Vario — Vario's younger brother
  • 1988–1991 – Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco — served as Street Boss from May 1990 to January 1991, then became the Acting Boss; he became a government witness on September 21, 1991[3]
  • 1991–2018 – Domenico "Danny" Cutaia — released from prison on October 5, 2013[4] died August 14, 2018

Past members and associates of the crew[edit]

These are past members and associates who have retired, been murdered, or died other ways.

  • Clyde Brooks (associate, died in 1994)[citation needed]
  • Frank James Burke (associate, murdered on May 18, 1987)[5]
  • Jimmy Burke (associate, died on April 13, 1996)[5]
  • Louis Cafora (associate disappeared in March 1979)[5]
  • Thomas DeSimone (associate, murdered on January 14, 1979)[5]
  • Richard Eaton (associate, murdered on July 18, 1979)[5]
  • Henry Hill (associate, became a witness in 1980, died on June 12, 2012)[6]
  • Martin Krugman (associate, disappeared on January 6, 1979)[5]
  • Angelo Sepe (associate, murdered on July 18, 1984)[5]
  • Louis Werner (associate, convicted on May 16, 1979)[5]

Former headquarters and hangouts[edit]

The crew operates throughout the New York City; these are some of its former headquarters and hangouts.

Government informants and witnesses[edit]

  • Richard Bilello – associate, murdered on October 28, 1974[citation needed]
  • Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco – became a witness on September 21, 1991
  • Theresa Ferrara – became a government informant, disappeared on February 10, 1979[5]
  • Peter Gruenwald – associate, became a witness in 1978,[5] died in 1979
  • Henry Hillassociate, became a witness in 1980, died on June 12, 2012[6]

In popular culture[edit]



  1. ^ "Inmate Locator: Domenico Cutaia". Bureau of Prisons.
  2. ^ "Robert's Lounge Crew". TruTV.
  3. ^ "Declaration of Alphonse D'Arco in Mason Tenders RICO Suit". October 5, 1994. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  4. ^ "Inmate Locator: Domenico Cutaia". Bureau of Prisons.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j May, Allan. "The Lufthansa Heist Revisited: Cast of Characters". p. 20. Archived from the original on 2012-04-28.
  6. ^ a b "Henry Hill, Inspiration For "Goodfellas", Dead At 69". MTV. June 13, 2012.
  7. ^ Hill, Henry & Schreckengost, Bryon. A Goodfella's Guide to New York: Your Personal Tour Through the Mob's Notorious Haunts. pp. 90 and 135.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ Pileggi, Nicholas. Wiseguy: Life In a Mafia Family. pp. 104, 145.
  9. ^ Hill, Henry & Schreckengost, Bryon. A Goodfella's Guide to New York: Your Personal Tour Through the Mob's Notorious Haunts. p. 77.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Pileggi, Nicholas. Wiseguy: Life In a Mafia Family. pp. 102–103.
  11. ^ a b c Postiglione, Louis M. Did I Win Or Did I Lose?: 77 Years of Wisdom. p. 68.
  12. ^ Pileggi, Nicholas. Wiseguy: Life In a Mafia Family. pp. 120, 122.