Gambino Crime Soldier Gets 30 Years for Murder of Cousin

Edward “Cousin Eddie” Garafola had been a made man in New York’s Gambino crime family for 30 years or more.  And that may be how long he’ll wind up behind bars – assuming he makes it that far.  On September 5, 2007, Garafola, now 69, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 30 years in prison for taking part in separate plots to kill a cousin and a brother-in-law.  The former plot was successful; the latter was not.  Garafola pleaded guilty in October 2004 to luring a cousin, Edward “Eddie the Chink” Garofalo (note: the last names are spelled differently), to his death at the hands of two hit men back in 1990.  Additionally, Garafola had participated in the planning of a hit, never carried out, on former Gambino underboss Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano nearly a decade later.  Garafola, moreover, was deeply involved in union corruption.


Edward Garafola had been a soldier in the Gambino family since the 1970s.  For him, “family” was about home as well as work.  His wife, Frannie, was the sister of Sammy Gravano, who over time would carry out nearly 20 murders at the behest of his own boss, the now-deceased John Gotti (“the Teflon Don”), until he turned against Gotti, helping prosecutors secure a court conviction on their fourth try in 1992.  Gravano never liked his brother-in-law, but put up with him anyway.  “He’s caused me nothing but trouble with his devious ways, always looking for the angle,” said Gravano.  “A couple of guys in my crew wanted to whack him.  You can’t trust him, they said.  But he’s got a big edge with me.  His wife is my sister and I ain’t ever going to hurt her…”


Garafola was even less crazy about Gravano.  Around 1999, he helped set in motion a plan to assassinate him, a plot masterminded by John Gotti’s older brother, Peter, the latter having recently taken over the family business from John’s son, John A. Gotti, Jr. (“the Dopey Don”), who now was in prison.   Gravano had been living openly in Arizona for several years following his testimony; Garafola reportedly was enraged Gravano had flipped for the prosecution.  But Gravano, along with his immediate family and about 30 other persons, were arrested in February 2000 for trafficking in the drug Ecstasy.  In happier times, such as they were, Garafola had been more than willing to do Sammy the Bull’s bidding.  On August 8, 1990, he made a phone call to a cousin, Edward Garofalo, luring him to his death at the hands of a pair of Gravano’s top hit men, Frank Fappiano and Joseph D’Angelo.  Gravano had suspected Garofalo of cooperating with law enforcement.  In October 2004, Garafola pleaded guilty to both crimes, though the following year he tried, unsuccessfully, to convince a federal judge to retract the guilty plea in his cousin’s killing.


Garafola, as reported in Union Corruption Update, was knee-deep in the affairs of local construction unions and a crooked developer in New York City.  He’d received large sums of money in a ghost-worker scheme in connection with the construction of the new headquarters of the New York (State) Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) at 2 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.  In November 2004, Garafola pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court on money laundering, fraud and other charges.  A 43-count indictment, handed down only two months earlier, indicated (among other things) Garafola had received weekly cash payments of $12,500 from developer Frederick Contini in exchange for ensuring the filing of phony union time sheets.  He’d given a good portion of the money to his son, Mario, plus various representatives and associates of International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14.  Contini had pleaded guilty to fraud in July 2004, admitting that he billed the MTA for $14.3 million in labor costs, about $10 million more than the actual figure, laundering the balance through shell companies. 


Mario Garafola in turn had embezzled a combined more than $800,000 in pension and other benefits from locals of the Laborers and the Carpenters & Joiners unions.  U.S. Attorney’s Office documents indicate that the younger Garafola, through construction companies he owned:  1) billed the MTA for the 2 Broadway project at union rates while hiring nonunion workers; and 2) siphoned off contractually-mandated benefits meant for union employees.  He was convicted for fraud, and sentenced in August 2005. 


The scam involved extensive falsification and concealment of assets.  Financial detective work by an unnamed special agent for the IRS’s New York office proved central to untangling the web of mob, union and developer relationships.  “An important investigative piece of this case was tracing the flow of money,” said Special Agent Joseph Foy, spokesperson for the office.  Thanks to investigations such as these, the Gambino crime family is a good deal less able to infiltrate legitimate enterprises than it was a decade or two ago.  (New York Post, 9/7/07; New York Daily News, 9/7/07; New York Times, 9/7/07; U.S. Department of Justice, various documents; other sources).