The Law came calling on a Colombo crime family mob prince recently, but the encounter was settled peacefully - in fact, quite happily if you can believe it. The call came out of the blue from the state Organized Crime Task Force to convicted bookmaker and wannabe reality-TV star Chris Colombo.
Colombo, the motor-mouth son of the late Joe Colombo - who ruffled the feds when he starred in House Arrest, a comedic HBO look at his home confinement in 2005 as he awaited trial for racketeering - was told that the state wanted to return some cash that had been seized from him several years ago.
According to Colombo, the caller was Thomas Mullen, the chief investigator for the OCTF, who said he had a nice present for Colombo, along the lines of those doled out in the old 1950s TV series, The Millionaire, in which a benefactor named John Beresford Tipton would give unsuspecting folks a million dollars.
Mullen didn't have a million bucks, but he did have $10,600 that the OCTF had seized from Colombo and never used as evidence at trial. It was now seeking to return the cash, or at least some of it: Mullen's proposal was for Chris to get a third of the money, and for the OCTF to keep the rest as a kind of fee for services rendered. Colombo, always looking for another bit for his comedy routine said he understood perfectly: The OCTF wanted to "whack it up" with him.
"The guy was a gentleman," recalled Colombo. "It was the first conversation I had with the organized crime task force that I wasn't handcuffed. But I knew that if he was offering me a third, I probably deserved the whole thing, so I told him to work it out with my lawyer."
Colombo's attorney, Jeremy Schneider, did some quick negotiating: Mullen agreed to reverse the split, with $7,600 for Colombo and $3,000 for the OCTF. Schneider said he went easy on the task force. "We could have sued and gotten it all back," he told Gang Land, but he and Colombo decided that would not have been worth the trouble - or the cost - of a law suit.
Mullen declined to comment about the matter. But sources say the money was "chump change" that is part of "millions of dollars" in cash that was seized over the past two decades that OCTF is seeking to return to its rightful owners before keeping the funds for its own use.
Colombo, who was indicted in 2004 on racketeering, extortion and gambling charges along with his mobster brother Anthony and 17 others, tried unsuccessfully to cop a plea deal to gambling charges and went to trial in 2007. He beat the racketeering and extortion charges but was found guilty of bookmaking, and sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
This summer, he completed his post-prison supervised release and is currently working along with the producer of his HBO show, Chris Gambale, on a proposed reality-TV show with the working title, An Honest Living, which Colombo assures us is what he's all about today.
During the 1990s, and into the New Millennium, he was a fun-loving bookmaker, but not a violent extortionist that the government made him out to be, says Colombo.
"I'm a comedian, my thing is humor," said Colombo. "Funny thing I learned after I was convicted," he added. "When I was in prison, I was the only inmate who was really guilty of a crime. Everybody else I met was innocent."
Meanwhile, Michael Persico, a son of the Colombo crime family's current boss, Carmine (Junior) Persico, appeared in court last week for the first time since he whipped the feds and his federal judge four months ago by winning his release from prison as he awaits trial for his own racketeering indictment.
At a brief appearance Friday before Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Sandra Townes, whose ruling keeping Perisco behind bars was reversed in May by a federal appeals court, it was disclosed that Persico is trying to negotiate a plea deal to resolve the charges against him. Unlike Chris Colombo's, however, any deal Persico makes won't be a laughing matter. It is sure to involve time behind bars, not any cash back from the law.
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