Say this for Michael Persico, the handsome, smooth as silk 53-year-old heir to a legendary mob family: He managed to stay out of trouble for a very long time.
That streak came to a dramatic end last week when Persico was arrested and jailed without bail along with his prison-hardened, rough-and-tumble cousin Theodore (Skinny) Persico Jr. on racketeering charges that could keep both men behind bars for the rest of their lives.
The cousins are charged with using a trucking company they controlled to shake down the Testa Corporation, a Boson-based excavating company involved in the Ground Zero cleanup for untold hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickback payments in recent years.
Along the way, according to court papers filed in the case, the duo secretly met with other top wiseguys from New York to Boston as they used threats of violence and economic harm to line their pockets with cash.
Teddy, 46, is an oft-convicted alleged crime family leader and transcripts revealed him as the rough and tumble cousin, ever ready to break a head when he thought it would help.
"If it was up to me, I'd go get a gun and shoot them, or stab them," Skinny Teddy raved in one of many conversations that were picked up during a three-year FBI probe.
Michael however, is cut from a different cloth. He appeared in court wearing designer jeans, an open collar shirt, and a blue, crushed velvet sports jacket befitting the businessman he is. He was visibly shocked when he was ordered confined behind bars in much the same way as his famous father, Carmine, who is the Colombo family's official boss, and his brother Alphonse, its former acting boss. Father and son are both serving life sentences.
Michael's surprise, and that of his sisters and his lawyer, is understandable. Until Tuesday, Michael had never been charged with a crime, and a pre-trial service report by U.S. Probation officials stated that the community's safety could be assured by the substantial $3 million bail package that was offered by family members.
Attorney Sarita Kedia told Gang Land that she will soon appeal that ruling to the Brooklyn Federal Judge assigned to the case.
The distinctive - and effectively different - styles of gangsterism used by the Persico cousins were detailed in tape recorded conversations that are contained in court papers the feds used to convince a magistrate judge to detain both men as dangers to the community.
Codefendant James Bombino, identified as a key player in the racketeering scheme, described the understated - but very effective - methods that Michael Persico used to extort payoffs from the Testa Corporation during a discussion he had with a cooperating witness five months ago.
During the talk, Bombino, 47, explained how Persico instructed him to deal with a woman executive of the company when Bombino sought permission to threaten her.
"He said, 'I don't mean threaten her physically, I mean threaten the job... We got to light a fire under their ass. Where's the check?'"
Two months later, on December 17, Bombino told the wired-up turncoat that Persico had re-iterated to him that it was still not yet wise to resort to violence: "He says, 'You said all the right things, everything was perfect, we had to do it this way, so when we gotta do what we have to do to get our money, they can't say nothing because we gave them the opportunity to pay us.'"
Soon after, wrote prosecutors Amy Busa, Michael Tremonte, and Duncan Levin, "Testa Corporation began paying the defendants' company the money owed to it."
Michael's way is not how Teddy Persico views The Life.
"If it was up to me, I'd go get a gun and shoot them, or stab them, or beat them up when I seen 'em," he told a wired-up turncoat in early 2008, referring to Gambino family mobsters.
Skinny Teddy, who has been behind bars for one reason or other for 20 of the past 25 years, graphically explained how his lifestyle differed from that of the cooperating witness - as well as most people, both in or out of the mob.
"You're not me," said Teddy Persico, in what could be the understatement of the decade.
"You're a guy who wants to work and make a living, I think. I got nothing. They can't fuck with me because I got nothing to lose and they got everything to lose. You can't fuck with them because you've got everything to lose and nothing to gain by getting physical. I can get physical all day long."
"I got nothing to lose, I can get crazy. I don't give a fuck; what are you going to do, put me in jail? What am I going to lose? My wife, my kids, my house that I own, my $2 million house that I own, or my car? I don't own nothing. I got no wife, I got no kids. I can act like a fool. I'm telling you what I can do, I know you can't do that, I know you don't want to do that."
Another defendant is Colombo associate Edward (Tall Guy) Garofalo Jr. - whose father, a mob-connected demolition contractor who was killed by the Gambino family in 1990 during John Gotti's reign. Garofalo Jr., 43, has a similar view of the world as his close pal Teddy, according to the court papers.
Garofalo, who was overheard stating that Teddy should withdraw his protection of the wired-up mob associate if he failed to fork over cash tributes, was also caught discussing his own violent tendencies for dealing with problems that troubled him over the years.
In the late 1990s, the Tall Guy used a baseball bat to beat two associates who cheated him. A few years later, he used his fists to pummel a worker who complained about low wages, then had his unconscious victim dragged into the street. In 2004 or 2005, he used a broomstick to beat another complaining employee, then warned him that the next time he would use a pipe.
Bombino and Garofalo, who are charged with being part of a racketeering enterprise with the Persicos from 2003 until 2010, and a Colombo soldier charged only with extortion, Thomas Petrizzo, 76, were also detained without bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein.
Garofalo's wife, Alicia DiMichele, 36, who allegedly joined her hubby in stealing welfare and pension benefit funds from union laborers in Teamsters Local 282, was released on bail, as was reputed mob associate Louis Romeo, who is charged with extortion.
Romeo, 44, injected the only bit of humor that emerged during the long proceeding before Magistrate Orenstein.
When the judge told him to steer clear of organized crime associates while free on bail, Romeo appeared confused and said: "I didn't know I was an associate of organized crime until an hour ago."
Note: In an earlier edition of this column, which was corrected on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Gang Land incorrectly reported that a Gambino associate who had been the focus of a sitdown between the Gambino and Colombo families in February 2008 was the wired-up turncoat in this case. That associate was released by the Gambinos to the Colombo but is not a cooperating witness in this case. Gang Land regrets the error.