Broward County has long been a playground for the Mafia. All the bigs have spent time here, from Al Capone to Meyer Lansky to lesser-knowns like Anthony "Tumac" Accetturo and Ettore Zappi.
Then you have Broward School Board Chairwoman Jennifer Leonard Gottlieb.
No, Gottlieb is not in the Mob. And this is in no way meant to imply that she has any hidden connection either. She is completely innocent (well, in terms of Italian organized crime anyway). But her mother Gloria's side of the family back in New Jersey, where JenJen was born, had some interesting connections. This isn't groundbreaking news, more like an entertaining diversion -- how could I resist a post that combines two of my favorite topics, Broward politics and Mafia trivia?
Here's some quick history for those of you interested:
Gottlieb's mother was born Gloria DeVino in Newark. The DeVinos have had a used truck and parts business in Newark for nearly the past five decades, begun by Gloria's late father, Angelo Rex DeVino, Gottlieb's grandfather.
The business was a family affair. Running the business with her grandfather was her uncle, Anthony "Babe" Devino, who continues to manage the business along with several of Gottlieb's cousins. That's where it gets interesting.
In early 1988, mobster George Fresolone began working undercover for the New Jersey State Police, and he busted numerous mobsters in "Operation Broadsword." Fresolone wrote a book about the operation titled Blood Oath. In that book, Anthony "Babe" DeVino plays a recurring role as a "Gambino-Gotti" crime family associate.
Fresolone wrote in the book, which was published in 1994 by Simon & Schuster, that Anthony Devino helped run illegal monte card games and supplied guns to the Mob as well, sometimes using the truck and parts business as a backdrop.
The informant Fresolone most recently made the news in 2001 when he alleged in court that the HBO series The Sopranos stole a plot line from his book for an episode in which Tony Soprano's nephew Christopher is "made" into the Mafia. Fresolone died of a heart attack the following year at age 48.
Inside, you can read some passages from Fresolone's book about Babe DeVino.
In one section of the book, Fresolone writes about a "big-time bookmaker and major drug trafficker" named Anthony Dente telling Fresolone, who is wired by the police, about a plan to rob and possibly kill another drug dealer who was said to keep $1 million in a safe at his Summit, New Jersey, home. Also involved in the plan was Gerry Chilli, a Bonanno family associate who happens to have ties here and was arrested in Hollywood in 2005. From the book:
The police stopped the robbers on the way to the crime and made arrests.
Another interesting excerpt comes when a representative of the Colombo crime family named Dominic "Doode" Prosperi wanted to start an illegal baccarat game in the back of a deli in Newark. The deal was that a quarter of the profits of the game would be given to two other families, including DeVino's Gambino crew. From the book:
Having to split only a quarter of the cut did not go down too well with our guys, especially Slicker, or with the Gambinos, especially Babe DeVino. But in the end we decided that something was better than nothing, so we agree to go in.
Then suddenly the offer was withdrawn... Scoops, Slicker, and DeVino were angry and they got a lot angrier when I found that the twenty-five percent we had been offered was going to go to the [Genovese crime family instead].
A meeting was called to discuss the matter. I told Scoops, Slicker, and Babe that I had learned that Guliermo, a Genovese guy who was around the "Chin," Vincente Gigante, would get the twenty-five percent cut because he was going to bring his whole crew down from Paterson to play in this new game. Guliermo was an Italian of the old school... We called guys like this "greaseballs" or "greenhorns," and we didn't have much regard for them...
"He's a two-faced motherfucker," DeVino said of Doode. "Did you speak to that greaseball? Were you at the game? I knew something was in the wind."
"He told me, 'Ah, Jimmy worked out a deal with them,'" I said.
.... "Yeah," said DeVino. "I knew something was in the wind. He wouldn't talk to me about it. He wouldn't tell me what happened."
"And now he says no," Slicker said.
"Yeah," I replied. "Now he says no."
DeVino was defiant. "If we don't go, they ain't going to have nothing. Them greenhorns are coming looking to shoot at us. What do you think they're coming for?"
In the end, the game came and went, and so did Operation Broadsword, which busted numerous mobsters in the book. While I can't find official confirmation, Fresolone writes that DeVino was ultimately sentenced to probation for apparently minor crimes.
What does it all mean? Not much, other than there is always just a few degrees of separation between the Mafia and... just about everything in South Florida.