Surviving family members of the late William Cutolo can’t turn back the clock, but at least they can look to the future. On December 28, a federal jury in Central Islip, Long Island, N.Y., after an eight-week trial, convicted Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico and John “Jackie” DeRoss, respectively, acting boss and former underboss of New York’s Colombo crime family. The pair had been accused of murdering Cutolo after his disappearance over eight years earlier. Union Corruption Update has covered the story extensively, noting that a little-known New York City union, Industrial & Production Workers Local 400, likely had served as a parking place for mob profits from a stock fraud scheme run by Persico’s now-deceased brother, Frank.
By the spring of 1999, a bloody civil war within the Colombo family was coming to a head. Jackie DeRoss recently had been released from prison for racketeering and conspiracy, having served as acting underboss for Carmine “the Snake” Persico, father of Alphonse Persico. Then-acting boss Victor Orena wanted total control over the family. The Persicos weren’t about to give it to him. William “Wild Bill” Cutolo, an Orena ally, was underboss, but the younger Persico wanted to replace him with DeRoss. On May 26, 1999, Cutolo was dropped off to meet Alphonse Persico and Jackie DeRoss in a park in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. He never returned. Prosecutors maintained all along that this was a case of murder, though Cutolo’s body was never found. Persico and DeRoss allegedly had Cutolo killed because they feared he would seize power while Persico’s father was in prison for loan-sharking. Victor Orena currently is doing life in federal prison for murder, racketeering and conspiracy.
Persico and DeRoss, now 53 and 70, respectively, were indicted for murder in October 2004. Their attorneys had suggested that Cutolo faked his own death, and with his wife’s full knowledge. This was the second attempt to convict the pair; the first trial ended in a hung jury in November 2006. They also were acquitted of an attempted 2001 hit on a Cutolo ally, Joseph Campanella. Key to the prosecution’s case this time was the playback of a March 2000 conversation secretly taped by Cutolo’s son, William, Jr. DeRoss was recorded as telling the elder Cutolo’s widow, Marguerite, and her grandchildren, at the time aged 7 and 5, that they would be “hurt” if she didn’t provide “evidence” clearing Persico of her husband’s murder. The widow didn’t testify the first time around, whether out of fear or her participation in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program since 2001. This time, however, she and her daughter, Barbara Cutolo-Cardinale, testified, and convincingly.
John DeRoss and Alphonse Persico also were deep into union corruption. According to court testimony, the pair met in 1999 to decide whether to divert $10 million from the Industrial & Production Workers Local 400 pension fund toward a Wall Street stock scam, which wound up ripping off investors by about $50 million before the feds busted it in June 2000. The central player was Frank Persico. They agreed to the diversion. The money might have been forthcoming were it not for fund administrator Kathleen Joseph’s refusal to sign it over. This “request” took place about a week after Cutolo’s murder. That raises the question: What was a relatively new and obscure union local doing with that kind of money in the first place? Perhaps Persico and DeRoss might have some answers as they contemplate potential life sentences. (Newsday, 12/29/07; Associated Press, 12/29/07; other sources).