In Brooklyn, NY Michael Catapano, the nephew of reputed Colombo underboss John "Sonny" Franzese, has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in the pokey after pleading guilty to extorting a pizzeria and gambling club as reported by John Marzulli for the Daily News. Last July Uncle Sonny was convicted on federal racketeering charges involving the shake down of two NYC strips clubs and a loan shark operation, and the legendary 93-year-old mobster faces up to 20 years when he is sentenced next month.
The Colombo crime family long has been involved in the smut rackets – massage parlors, porn distribution, sex clubs – and Sonny Franzese allegedly had an interest in the porn classic Deep Throat. At one time Franzese allegedly did business with reputed Genovese capo Matthew Ianniello who was a dominant player in the gay bar industry. An October 8, 1967 article ("Mafia Increasing Investments in Business on L.I.") by Charles Grutzner from The New York Times states: "Franzese is reported to have a concealed stake in several bars, motels and cocktail lounges, including places patronized by homosexuals. A sideline in the operation of such spots is the blackmailing of wealthy or prominent patrons." Steve Ostrow, the owner of the infamous Continental Baths at 230 West 74th Street in the Hotel Ansonia, alleges in his 2007 memoir Live at the Continental: The Inside Story of the World-Famous Continental Baths that the Colombo crime family provided his gay bathhouse with protection from rival mob families after he agreed to install its vending machines on the premises.
In sentencing Catapano yesterday, U.S District Judge Brian Cogan "also found that the defendant had participated in a plot to influence a witness suspected of cooperating against mobbed-up lawyer Paul Bergrin in a prostitution and money laundering case." Bergrin, a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, was convicted in May 2009 in connection with running a Manhattan brothel as reported by The Associated Press: "He was accused of taking over an escort service after the 2005 arrest of its founder – one of his law clients." The Manhattan District Attorney had accused Bergrin of using the whore house "to offer sexual favors to unnamed New Jersey law enforcement officers and jail guards – people who were in a position to keep him informed about what inmates might be planning to cooperate against his clients" as reported by David Kocieniewski for The New York Times.
It turned out that the prostitution case was the least of Bergrin's troubles. The legal eagle now is behind bars without bail following a May 2009 federal indictment for his alleged role in the murder of a witness against one of his clients and attempting to hire a hit man to whack a witness against another client. Two potential witnesses against Bergrin recently have pleaded guilty as reported by Joe Ryan for The Star-Ledger: "[L]ast month . . . a Monmouth County cocaine trafficker, Vicente Esteves, pleaded guilty in the case and told a federal judge in Newark he conspired with Bergrin to murder a witness. * * * [I]n August, . . . a second lawyer charged in the case, Thomas Moran, admitted guilt and said he helped run Bergrin's operation, which authorities say also dabbled in mortgage fraud and drug running."