Longform

The Miniacis and the Mafiosi

Page 6 of 9

In addition Miniaci is listed as the registered agent for a corporation called Oakland Pasta Co., which is owned by the Castellano sons, who were set up in business by their father -- the Godfather -- and now run a myriad of companies in South Florida and New York.

The Castellano sons were propped up in business by Big Paul in Brooklyn back in 1970 with a company called Dial Poultry, according to FBI agents Joseph O'Brien and Andris Kurins, who wrote an acclaimed book about the Godfather titled Boss of Bosses.

"Dial Poultry, it seemed, stopped just short of extortion in persuading its business partners to play along," O'Brien and Kurins wrote. "It was all but impossible to establish the existence of kickbacks. Most discouraging of all, it was very difficult to get business people to testify about their own dealings with the Mob."

The agents wrote that while mother Nina Castellano might have wanted her sons to be good citizens, "criminality couldn't be so easily sloughed off in a single generation; you couldn't slip out of guilt as if were a suit of clothes. More often than not, mobsters' kids found ways of screwing up." The Castellano sons "underscored the difficulty of truly flying free of a Mob nest," the authors wrote. If it sounds like the two agents had strong opinions about the Castellanos, consider that they spent five years investigating Big Paul and got unparalleled access to the family by bugging the living room of Castellano's multimillion-dollar New York home.

Castellano Sr. used to boast that he'd not only made himself a millionaire but also made each of his children one as well. Though the Godfather was riddled with bullets by Gotti's thugs and left dead in a Manhattan street in December 1985, the Castellano family is alive and well in Fort Lauderdale, operating out of their Sunrise Boulevard offices in a Castellano-owned building.

Big Paul had often preached about pushing the Mafia into legitimate business, and in his own family, at least, it has worked remarkably well. The Castellano children, who are now middle-aged, own several restaurants -- Bobby Rubino's and Big Louie's pizza chains among them -- and a number of other active corporations, including several pasta companies. They also have had considerable property holdings in South Florida.

There is no evidence that Paul or Joe Castellano has ever broken any law. But an admitted Mafia bagman named Pasquale Nigro tied the Bobby Rubino's restaurant chain to Gambino crime-family skimming two years ago, according to federal prosecutors.

Bobby Rubino -- another former Dominick Miniaci business associate -- himself is long gone from the restaurant chain bearing his name. The endeavor began in Broward County in the late '70s and now includes 12 restaurants, most in South Florida, but also with franchises in California, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Singapore, and Jakarta. According to Nigro, Rubino's first general manager, Rubino was never really in charge anyway --he was only a front man for the Mob.

Nigro told federal prosecutors in 1996 that it was a man named Ettore Zappi, Frank and Anthony Galgano's grandfather, whom he called "boss" at the first Bobby Rubino's restaurant, located in Margate. Nigro eventually went on to manage the Bobby Rubino's restaurant in West Palm Beach.

Zappi was a colorful old man who liked to dance it up at ritzy nightclubs. He was also identified by the FBI, the MIU, and Mafia turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano as a capo in the Gambino crime family. His onetime attorney: Ira Marcus.

Nigro testified that Rubino introduced him to Zappi. Soon Nigro was driving Zappi around and having coffee with him at Hidden Harbor Marina in Pompano Beach. It was Zappi who told him what to do with the cash in the register at Bobby Rubino's, Nigro told prosecutors.

Zappi's instructions: "After lunch, close down the register and take all that money and put it in a different envelope. Guest checks also."

Nigro said he would put the cash and guest checks, which amounted to up to $500 a day, aside until the end of the week. Then he'd hand-deliver it all to Zappi. After Zappi's death in 1986 at the age of 83, Nigro starting giving the money to Natale Richichi, another geriatric gangster, who federal prosecutors allege took over Gambino family interests in South Florida.

Nigro's testimony was used against Richichi in a federal racketeering conviction in 1996. Richichi is now in prison. Nigro also testified that he picked up cash for the Gambino family from one of strip-club king Michael Peter's establishments, which helped lead to Peter's pleading guilty to lesser charges of mail fraud. The dual convictions make Pasquale Nigro, who gained immunity from prosecution with his testimony, one of the most important witnesses against the Mob in Broward County history.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman