Victor Orena

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Victor Orena
Born (1934-08-04) August 4, 1934 (age 82)
New York City
Criminal charge Racketeering, murder
Criminal penalty Life plus 85 years
Criminal status Incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution, Terre Haute; Terre Haute, Indiana
Conviction(s) March 10, 1997

Vittorio "Little Vic" Orena (born August 4, 1934)[1] is a New York City mobster who became the temporary acting boss of the Colombo crime family.[2] A challenge by Orena to boss Carmine Persico triggered one of the bloodiest Cosa Nostra wars of the late 20th century, and the last major Cosa Nostra war in New York to date.

Biography[edit]

Background[edit]

Born in New York City, Orena's father died when he was a child. Orena spent time in a reform school and eventually dropped out of high school. According to his son, Orena entered the mob life because the wise guys were the big figures in the neighborhood, the nice clothes, cars, and the "glamor" of it and the fact that some of these men had rough beginnings.[3]

In the early 1970s, the new Colombo boss, Carmine Persico, allegedly had a few people "made" into his family, even though the "books" had officially been closed since 1958, barring any new inductions. One of these men was Orena, who rose through the ranks and operated in Brooklyn, Long Island, and New Jersey primarily in labor racketeering. Orena was a well dressed individual who projected a traditional business image.

Brooklyn capo[edit]

In 1986, Carmine Persico and several leading Colombo figures were convicted of racketeering charges. A year later 1987, Carmine Persico and "acting boss" Gennaro Langella were convicted in the Mafia Commission Trial and sentenced to 139 years in prison. To run the family in his absence, Carmine Persico named his brother, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, as acting boss. However, Allie Boy was slapped with loansharking charges and skipped out on bail. In his brother's absence, Persico created a "Ruling Committee" of Orena, Joseph Russo, and Benedetto Aloi to run the family. At the same time, Orena was promoted to caporegime of the crew that had formerly been led by Carmine's son, Alphonse "Little Allie Boy" Persico. Orena was able to set up operations almost everywhere in the New York and New Jersey area.

When John Gotti became Gambino boss in 1986, Orena was able to expand his criminal dealings with the Gambinos. Orena now became a top earner in the Colombo family. Orena also increased his influence with brothers Vincenzo and Benedetto Aloi, leaders of the Colombo Brooklyn faction. Orena was also close friends with Lucchese crime family mobsters Victor Amuso and James Burke.

Acting boss[edit]

In 1988, Persico disbanded the "Ruling Committee", which had been decimated by convictions and imprisonments. He intended to pass the family to his son, Alphonse. Since Little Allie Boy was in prison after being convicted in the 1986 "Colombo Trial," Persico made Orena acting boss. Persico made it clear that Orena was merely a placeholder until Little Allie Boy's release. However, he also gave Orena the right to induct members and order murders on his own authority—two powers rarely granted to acting bosses.

In November 1989, Orena allegedly ordered the murder of Colombo mobster, Thomas Ocera. Ocera was allegedly skimming mob profits, had let police seize Colombo's loansharking records, and had supposedly killed an associate of John Gotti. On November 13 Gregory Scarpa, who was in fact an F.B.I.informant with a 30-year relationship, strangled Ocera with a length of piano wire. It was later known that Scarpa had no contact with Orena, in fact he was the catalyst in the plot to kill Orena, using his top men Carmine Sessa and John Pate in the hit that failed. Most believe it was because of Orena's strong stance against narcotics, while Sessa and Scarpa and Pate were secretly in the drug business. Scarpa, Sessa and John Pate all cooperated with the F.B.I.[4]

Power play[edit]

By early 1991, Orena felt that he should become boss in his own right. He felt Persico was out of touch and keeping the family from making money. In addition, Persico had been negotiating for a television biography. Orena and several others, remembering how federal prosecutors had used Joe Bonanno's tell-all book as evidence in the Commission Trial, believed this proposed special would bring unwanted law enforcement interest on the family. He first asked the Commission to summarily remove Persico and declare him boss, but the Commission refused, saying that Orena should instead follow Mafia tradition and ask his capos if they supported him or Persico. In accordance with these instructions, Orena instructed consigliere Carmine Sessa to poll all the capos (three of them Persico relatives including brother Theodore) to see if they favored him taking over the family. Instead, Sessa alerted Persico. An enraged Persico ordered a hit on Orena and gave the contract to Sessa.

Assassination attempt[edit]

On June 20, 1991, a five-man hit team including Sessa, John Pate, and Hank Smurra converged on Orena's Long Island home and waited for Orena to arrive home. As Orena was driving down his street, he recognized several men in the parked car. Realizing they were waiting to kill him, Orena drove away. By the time the gunmen spotted Orena, it was too late to act.[5][6]

Third Colombo war[edit]

The Colombo conflict soon spiraled out of control. On November 18, 1991, Cutolo sent a team to attempt to murder Gregory Scarpa, the Persico's top capo and an infamous hitman. The team ambushed Scarpa as he was driving with his daughter and granddaughter, but Scarpa and his family managed to escape unharmed. On November 18, Persico loyalist Smurra, a member of the June assassination team against Orena, was shot dead. On November 29, Sessa survived a murder attempt while driving his car.[7]

On December 3, Scarpa sent a team to kill Orena soldier Joseph Tollino. Tollino escaped, but his companion, Genovese crime family mobster Thomas Amato, was killed accidentally. On December 5 and 6, Cutolo sent teams that murdered Persico loyalists Rosario Nastasa and Vincent Fusaro. On December 8, Orena supporter Nicky Grancio was murdered. Soon after that Matteo Speranza, an innocent employee of a shop owned by Persico associates, was murdered by the a young Brooklyn underling Anthony Libertore and his Father, who were trying to make a name themselves with Joe Scopo, of the Brooklyn faction of the Colombos.[7] The Libertore's co-operated with the F.B.I. once imprisoned but were not found credible.

By this time, the Colombo warfare was receiving a great deal of public attention. On December 16, 1991, the Brooklyn District Attorney summoned Orena and the other Colombo principals to a grand jury meeting to testify about the conflict. The mobsters all refused to testify.[7]

As the war progressed into 1992, Orena was indicted on charges of murder and racketeering. To ensure his personal safety, Orena had gone into hiding at his girlfriend's new house, which was still under construction in Valley Stream, New York. Orena outfitted the basement into a small apartment for himself. On April 4, 1992, agents arrested Orena at the house. A search uncovered four shotguns, a large supply of ammunition, and a bullet-proof vest. In testimony made in 1997, Gregory Scarpa Jr. would claim that his father planted the guns in the house to frame Orena. However, this charge was never proven.[8]

Imprisonment[edit]

On December 22, 1992, Orena was convicted of racketeering, the 1989 Ocera murder, and other related charges.[4] He received three life sentences plus 85 years in federal prison.[8] By late 1992, the shooting war had petered out and Carmine Persico remained in control of the Colombo family.

On March 10, 1997, a judge refused to overturn Orena's conviction. The appeal was based on an alleged conspiracy between Scarpa and his FBI handler, Lindley DeVecchio, against Orena during the Colombo war.[9] On January 16, 2004, a judge denied Orena's appeal for a new trial.[10]

As of May 2013, Orena is serving a life sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) near Terre Haute, Indiana.[11] While in prison, Orena has become a Catholic Eucharistic minister, helping the priest administer the host and wine to inmates during mass.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Vito Orena". Division of Gaming Enforcement Exclusion List. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  2. ^ The Colombo Family: Junior's War by Anthony Bruno (trutv.com)
  3. ^ a b Smith, Greg B (September 21, 2002). "Family wants retrial for 'different' man". New York Daily News. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H. (December 22, 1992). "Acting Crime Boss Is Convicted of Murder and Racketeering". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Raab, Selwyn (2006). Five families : the rise, decline, and resurgence of America's most powerful Mafia empires (1st St. Martin's Griffin ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 333. ISBN 0-312-36181-5. 
  6. ^ Lubasch, Anrold H (September 1, 1991). "Prosecutors Tell of Colombo Family Murder Plot". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c McFadden, Robert B (December 17, 1991). "Brooklyn's Mob War Interrupted With a Quiet Day in Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Brandt, Lin DeVecchio, Charles. We're going to win this thing : the shocking frame-up of a mafia crime buster (1st ed.). New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 0-425-22986-6. 
  9. ^ Fried, Joseph P (March 11, 1997). "Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Murder Convictions of 2 Mobsters". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Cornell Smith, Katie (January 16, 2004). "NO RETRIAL FOR WISEGUY KILLER". New York Post. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Victor Orena". Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Carmine Persico
Colombo crime family
De facto boss

1990–1993
Succeeded by
Carmine Persico