Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss
Author: Philip Carlo
I lost my Kindle in early November on an overnight bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, and thus began a dark two weeks of no reading for me. I was sad. But then I spotted this book on the shelf of a cheap hotel along the river of remote Bukit Lawang in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, where my twin and I had traveled to see Orangutans in the wild. I stole it without contributing another, surely incurring some karmic debt.
This book is a biography of a young man, Anthony Casso, who grew up in an Italian-American family in Brooklyn in the 1940s. His parents had come to the US in a time of massive immigration to the US from all over the world. In this book I learned that in one decade around 1900, 4 million Italians came to the US at a time when the total US population was ~75 million. Many of them competed hard for jobs and other opportunities against immigrants from other countries, like Ireland, and faced a ton of adversity from all sides. Some Italian immigrants to Brooklyn at this time were educated in the ways of the Sicilian Mafia, and created a support structure for these Italian Americans to secure the opportunity they had come to search for. They called it La Costa Nuestra (“our thing”). Unfortunately, this structure often involved killing people in public in New York City, racketeering, exploiting control of labor unions, and more.
The young boy readers are introduced to at the beginning of the book eventually grows up to be Gaspipe: one of the most notrious leaders of the New York mob in the 1980s and 90s. He kill stons of people, runs coke and heroin from South America, skims money off the top of all the gas pumps in New Jersey, and more. He’s got Judges and NYPD on his payroll, and uses Police Officers to kidnap anyone he wants. It’s fascinating.
Spoiler alert in this next paragraph, but its too cool not too share:
Gaspipe is eventually caught by the FBI and is probably the biggest Mob catch they’ve ever made. He agrees to tell all in exchange for 8 years in prison, the same deal another similar guy got. They shake hands, and Gaspipe actually does tell everything he knows. But what he knows actually discredits the under-oath testimony of the other guy, who was a key witness for the FBI in other cases. So instead of revisiting the other cases, the FBI tells Gaspipe they “don’t want to hear anything about” the other guy, and sweet what he’s saying under the rug. They then refuse to use him as a witness in any other cases, since he discredits their existing cases, and so they never make good on the plea deal they made. And so he’s going to die in prison. By the end of the book the author has successfully made you feel bad for the guy, but of course then you remember that he killed like dozens of people and stole millions from innocent civilians.
Did you know who the lead Assistant Attorney General was in this whole federal government effort that broke down the New York mob in the 90s? Rudy Guliani! He made his name breaking up the mob before eventually running for mayor of New York as tough on crime, taking credit for rebuilding NYC after 9/11, and on to be one of the most unscrupulou campaigners for Trump in 2016. It’s interesting to know where he comes from.
This book is a thrilling account of a time I was too young to really remember. I couldn’t put it down. Read it!