Mob prince Alphonse (Allie) Persico, who is serving life for the 1999 rubout of then-underboss William (Wild Bill) Cutolo, has been linked to the gangland-style slayings of two high-flying penny-stock promoters who were killed that same year in a Colts Neck, N.J. mansion where one of the men lived, Gang Land has learned.
Authorities have long suspected that mobsters or Russian gangsters were behind the execution murders. But this is the first time that investigators have tied Persico and the Colombo family to the well-executed, late-night hits of Alain Chalem and Maier Lehmann on October 25, 1999.
Persico, 55, was jailed 17 days before the hits went down, right after FBI agents found loansharking records at the mobster's Brooklyn apartment as they searched for evidence linking him to Cutolo's slaying.
Recently, however, investigators have uncovered evidence that Allie was a business partner of Chalem's going back to 1996, sources tell Gang Land.
"They were partners in a scuba-diving business venture in Key West, Florida where Persico was spending a lot of time in the late 1990s," said one investigative source. Authorities have found evidence that the men raised more than $250,000 in seed money that was funneled into an account that Chalem controlled, the source added.
"There's no question that Chalem raised a lot of money for him, in the millions," said another source. "He raised the cash through a private placement. I heard Allie bought two dive boats but that for some reason the deal fizzled out," the source added.
Chalem was an occasional guest aboard the "Lookin' Good," a 50-foot speed boat that Allie docked in Key West, sources say. The men even toyed with the idea of opening up a Key West-based travel agency that would complement their scuba-diving business.
During that same time frame, sources say, Persico's cousin, Sean Persico -- a son of imprisoned family capo Theodore Persico -- was observed by law enforcement officials driving a car that was registered to Chalem's father.
In addition, Sean Persico, now 41, and Chalem were also "silent partners" in a classic "pump and dump stock scheme" that the men allegedly operated out of Toluca Pacific Securities, one of two shady brokerages that Chalem worked for during the late 1990s.
Neither man was ever charged, but authorities and other sources say that Sean Persico used a crew of corrupt brokers he controlled to "pump up" the prices of stocks that Chalem gave him. The crooked brokers touted the stocks to unsuspecting investors who would buy them and end up with worthless paper when Chalem would "dump" his own holdings at artificially high prices.
Two other Persico cousins, Daniel Persico and the late Frank Persico, have been prosecuted for stock scams over the years. Chalem's name doesn't appear to have popped up in those cases, as far as Gang Land could determine.
The two men were killed in classic gangland-style: assassins shot them numerous times, using two handguns to pump 10 bullets into the men. State and federal authorities in New York and New Jersey believe that Chalem, who had moved to the central Monmouth county township of huge sprawling homes about 40 miles south of Manhattan that spring, was the target of the hit and that Lehmann was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The slayings took place between 8:30 PM and 1 AM, when the men were found lying in pools of blood on the dining room floor of Chalem's white-brick mansion. Friends who had been trying to reach him for hours made the gruesome discovery after driving to the secluded 10-acre estate in the sleepy suburban hamlet. The murder weapons were not recovered.
Thanks to their many high-flying schemes, Chalem, 41, and Lehmann, 37, didn't lack for enemies -- or suspects in their murders. Early on, the Newark-based DeCavalcante family was suspected in the slayings. The so-called real Sopranos' main man on Wall Street, capo Philip Abramo, had controlled Toluca Pacific, and soldier Anthony Capo was quickly fingered as one of the gunmen.
Capo, however, squelched that theory after he was indicted on racketeering and murder charges, and began cooperating that December with federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Capo admitted several mob killings, but insisted he had nothing to do with the Colts Neck murders.
At that point, state and federal authorities began focusing on Russian organized crime members. For several years, federal prosecutors in Newark, working with state police, the FBI and SEC, used a federal grand jury investigation in an effort to get to the bottom of the double homicide. Despite several leads that pointed in that direction, including a cooperating witness who told the feds he had seen several gun-toting Russian gangsters in Chalem's house, that also turned out to be a dead end.
The re-direction of the Colts Neck murders probe from Russian gangsters to the Colombo family bears an eerie similarity to the initial investigation into the 1997 murder of New York City police officer Ralph Dols. As Gang Land reported in September, in the days after that slaying, scores of witnesses and tipsters -- including confidential police and FBI informers -- told detectives that Russian organized crime figures had been responsible for the murder of Dols, who was shot to death in front of his Brooklyn home.
The blame-it-on-the-Russians theory went nowhere, however, and now, three Colombo mobsters are awaiting trial in Brooklyn Federal Court -- and the possibility of the death penalty -- sometime next year.