Throughout its history, the State of Connecticut has always been a haven for the underworld. Through the years, they’ve played host to hundreds of gamblers, racketeers, and mobsters from a variety of different crime families. Yet, oddly enough, Connecticut never had a “homegrown” resident Mafia Family to call its own.
Instead, at least five different crime families: New England’s Raymond Patriarca Family, three of New York CIty’s notorious Five Families (the Genovese, Gambino, and Colombo), as well as New Jersey’s Simone DeCavalcante Family, all competed to grab various pieces of its territory, thereby carving up The Nutmeg State like a pizza pie.
But despite Connecticut technically being one of the six states that make up the greater New England area, arguably the two strongest underworld organizations to ever ply their nefarious trade there were the Gambino and Genovese Families out of New York. And depending upon which particular decade we discuss, it was a tossup as to which was the largest and most powerful of the two. But, for certain, each Family had a very significant presence within the state.
The Carlo Gambino Family
The Family headed by Carlo Gambino has always been a major presence there. Over the years, this Mafia network controlled a major regime that was based in the City of Bridgeport and headed by a resident “capo di decina” they appointed to oversee a formal rank-and-file membership of both inducted soldiers and numerous crew associates.
The Family ran far-flung horse and sports bookmaking operations and a policy-numbers lottery that spanned a good portion of the state. In addition, this crew dabbled in all the other usual organized crime pursuits like high-stakes floating dice and card games, loansharking, truck hijacking, restaurant and nightclub extortion, business infiltration, strong-arm work, and murder.
And although the crew’s home base was Bridgeport, through the years, the Gambino Family’s Connecticut faction also operated to varying degrees in many other cities and towns like Fairfield, Stratford, Danbury, Ansonia, Darien, Derby, Trumbull, New Haven, East Haven, West Haven, Milford, Shelton, and Hartford.
Enter Frank (The Cigar) Piccolo
The Gambino Family’s best-known and most notorious leader arguably was a young mafioso by the name of Frank Louis Piccolo. Born and bred in the East Harlem section of New York City, by the time he reached his mid-twenties, the Piccolo family had relocated up to Bridgeport. There, he started what would later become a lengthy police record, logging his first arrest with the Bridgeport Police Department. By the mid-1950s, Piccolo had become a very notorious presence around town.
As he rose in power and status through the years, law enforcement authorities said he regularly maintained contact with numerous top racketeers, including Family boss Carlo (Don Carlo) Gambino himself, underboss Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce, and such important fellow capos as John (Johnny Angelo) Angelone, Giuseppe (Joe) Arcuri, Michael (Skinny Mike) Catalano, and Rocco (Rogie) Mazzie, to name but a few.
Other close contacts included New England boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca and his underboss William (The Wild Man) Grasso, Connecticut-based Genovese soldiers like Vincent Pollina and Salvatore (Sabby) Basso, and important mob associates like Genovese Family mobsters Francis and Gus Curcio.
He also reportedly maintained close friendships with mafiosi from his old East Harlem neighborhood like Lucchese capo Anthony (Tony Higgins) Castaldi and soldier Paul (Paulie Legs) Zerbo, who were both suspected of being a source of narcotics supply for Piccolo and his men.
It is said that Piccolo originally came “up” under the guidance and tutelage of Bronx capo Arthur (Chink) Leo. He was also close to another old-timer named Ippolito (Paul the Greaser) Agresta. Although Federal authorities listed Agresta as a soldier, nonetheless, he was a respected and pivotal figure within Connecticut’s underworld for decades and a man that Piccolo was very close to. That is, of course, until Agresta was found murdered in 1974.
Less than seven years later, it would be Piccolo’s turn to meet the Grim Reaper.
Despite his prestige, something nefarious was afoot, and the chickens finally came home to roost in 1981. This was when several gunmen caught up to Piccolo on a Bridgeport street corner as he talked into the receiver while standing at a public phone booth. Piccolo’s assassins rushed up and shot him to death with a carbine rifle in broad daylight, right in front of shocked pedestrians.
The Mob’s Seven-Year Itch
After Piccolo’s murder, his former position as caporegime was awarded to a former close colleague and subordinate of his named Tommy DeBrizzi. Better known as “The Enforcer,” DeBrizzi was a strong-arm-type thug who had been Piccolo’s righthand man for many years. DeBrizzi lasted as the new capo for seven short years until, he too, was assassinated in 1988. He disappeared one evening while out on the town. His corpse was discovered a week later, frozen stiff, inside the trunk of his own automobile in the Town of Trumbull.
The King is Dead, Long Live the King!
Next up, was a Calabrian-born young hoodlum named Anthony Megale. He was a former Piccolo crew associate who had since been formally inducted into the borgata and then quickly elevated within the ranks to capo status. He, too, lasted just one year before he found himself getting buried under a series of federal and state indictments. Megale was later convicted and sent away for a lengthy term of incarceration. But as luck would have it, his jail sentence turned out to be the least of his problems. Because just a few months after his eventual release from Federal Prison, he was dead from a heart attack. He had just turned 62 years old.
In more recent years, Connecticut’s mob has become a shell of its former self. Like most of Cosa Nostra, the last vestiges of any significant “organized” crime activity, and the previously feared and respected mob figures of yesteryear, has waned. Gone are the days of a Piccolo, DeBrizzi, or Agresta. Today, what is left of their membership, if anything, is at best, a shadow of decades long past.
What follows below is the known rank-and-file membership of both inducted soldiers and associates, alike, who comprised what was known as the Gambino Family’s Connecticut crew, “The Frank Piccolo Regime.” Collectively, they had a surprisingly large underworld presence in the state. They were, in fact, the equivalent of a small Family, in and of themselves.