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Friday, June 20, 2014

THE POPE OF NEWARK

I believe that morally, the American economy and politics rests on a series of contradictions. For example, it is legal for the most profitable industry in the world (oil) to skim off $ 4 billion in profit before taxes, but if an individual should protest this “depletion allowance” by refusing to pay for a $40 fill up, the police will rush to arrest them. The real crime in America is to not stealing enough. 
Consider the rise and fall of Hugh Joseph Addonizio (above). When asked why, after twelve years as a respected congressman, he decided to run for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, the short, bald, bullnecked blunt talking man they called “The Pope” explained, “There's no money in being a congressman, but you can make a million bucks as mayor of Newark" Over two terms, from 1962 to 1969, Mayor Addonizio made more than a million dollars. But that was still not enough.
At the end of February 1959, when Jewish mobster Abner Zwillman, was found hanging by the neck in his West Orange apartment - just after receiving a subpoena to testify before a grand jury, a 60 year old Genovese crime family capo named Richie-”the-boot”- Boiardo (above) was given sole permission to plunder Newark. Richie earned his moniker because he avoided wiretapping prosecutors by using public pay-phone booths. In Jersey parlance, Richie was always “in da boot”. It was a very profitable place for Richie to be.
During the late 1040's and early 1950's, Newark invested heavily in urban renewal, replacing thousands of substandard single family homes with 46 huge impersonal apartment blocks. Their construction proved a gold mine for organized crime. 
 The new white elephants were badly built, but the graft from their construction allowed Richie the Boot to build a "Transylvanian traditional." mansion and estate in Livingston, New Jersey. He adorned the gated entrance with a garish statue of himself astride a horse (above), towering over a row of busts of his children,  resembling, to my mind, clowns in an amusement park game. And in a position of honor was the effigy of Richie's eldest son Anthony, aka Tony Boy.
Tony Boy (above) took over the family business just as the long planned Southside Sewer project was finally getting started. The primary contractor was Paul Rigo, who had founded his company after winning $65,000 in the Irish Sweepstakes. He pleaded with The Boot to lower his required kickback to 5%, but Richie insisted, “You'll pay 10%, or I'll break both your legs.” Then Tony Boy offered a solution, He had set up a shell company called Kantor Supply. The subcontractors all paid their kickbacks with regular business checks. Kantor would then issue invoices to match those payments. Rigo could use his construction company to launder that cash before distributing it to Richie, Tony Boy and “The Pope”, Mayor Addonizio. For this service, Rigo could keep 10% of everybody's kick, making a profit for himself.
There were just three problems with this gravy train express. First, there has never been honor among thieves. That's why they are thieves. Tony Boy was seeing a psychiatrist, and some of his soldiers were calling him “a nut case.” Another of Tony Boy's soldiers, Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo (above), even called him a “weasel”, and referred to “The Boot” as “the most treacherous fucker in the world”. Secondly, there was a real Kantor behind Kantor Supply. Plumber Irving Kantor took a 5% cut for running the shell company, but he was not a healthy man. And unhealthy men are prone to soul cleansing confessions. And thirdly, Newark was not a healthy city.
By 1965 Newark was half Italian and half African American, and burdened with an astronomical tax rate, thanks to the kickbacks. The manufacturers in Newark, who had once paid middle class salaries, had moved south to find lower taxes. The local unemployment rate was over 8%, and among young black men in Newark it was almost 40%. Ten percent of the city residents survived on welfare. Of the 136,000 apartments in the city, over 40,000 (mostly those (above)  built by Richie Boiardo ) were substandard or dilapidated, and Mayor Addonizio had just announced a plan to replace several public housing blocks with a medical school, proving that in Newark “urban renewal” had become synonymous with “Negro removal”. And finally, of the 1,400 officers in the police force, only 150 were African-American. This all came to a head about 9:40 pm on the evening of Wednesday 12 July, 1967
On that hot, humid night, two Newark Police Officers, John DeSimone and Vito Pontrelli, pulled over a taxi at the corner of 15th Avenue and South 9th Street. According to the officers, the cab had illegally passed them on the right side. According to the taxi's African-American driver (above) the police car was double parked. 
Half an hour later, when a crowd saw the bleeding driver dragged into the 4th Precinct station, it set off six days and nights of looting and burning that left 26 people dead, and $10 million in property damage. The root cause of the Newark Riot, said a Governor's commission, was a “pervasive feeling of corruption” in Newark. The most common phrase heard around town was “Everything in city hall is for sale.”
The Essex county prosecutor now empaneled a grand jury to investigate the new summer home Mayor Addonizio had just bought with a loan from Paul Rigo. But the minute that happened, Richie and Tony Boy were aware of it. One of Tony's soldiers, John “Big Pussy” Russo (above), bluntly warned Paul Rigo “Keep your mouth shut.” And when Rigo was served with a subpoena, Rigo found a note in his car which read, "This could have been a bomb. Keep your mouth shut." Not surprisingly Rigo lied to the grand jury. Then the IRS subpoenaed the books for Kantor Supply.
Caught in a three way squeeze between the mob,. the feds and the grand jury, Paul Rigo asked his lawyer to cut a deal with the feds. Almost immediately, Rigo received a phone call, telling him bluntly, “Keep the hell away from the federal building!”. When he realized there must be a leak in the prosecutor's office, Paul Rigo was on the next plane for Acapulco.
From Mexico Paul Rigo called a high powered lawyer in Washington, D.C.. and through him revealed to the feds that he had a diary, recording in code every sub contractor who paid, when and how much, and every mobster and politician who received cash, dates, and amounts. Addonizio (above) was dragged back in front of the grand jury. This time, “The Pope” took the fifth amendment. It didn't help. Addonizio was indicted along with 11 others, for 65 counts of money laundering, extortion, tax fraud, and perjury. 
Even that didn't stop him from mounting a campaign for a third term as mayor. He would eventually lose his seat, but even while on trial Hugh Addonizio won 45% of the vote.
The trial began with Irving Kantor, testifying from his hospital bed. The dieing man recounted his phone conversations with Richie “the Boot”, and how he handed the cash over to Paul Rigo, for distribution.. Rigo testified for two straight weeks, detailing many late night meetings in empty offices. It was during one of those meetings that Rigo told Addonizio, I don't know why in the world you ever left Washington and a nice job in Congress to come up here in this mess.” Addonizio (above) had replied, “Simple. There's no money in Washington, but you can make a million bucks as mayor of Newark.”
The case was handed to the jury just before 5:00 pm, 22 July, 1970. They were back by midnight. Their verdict was guilty for all the defendants. Two months later the judge sentenced Addonizio and Richie the Boot to ten years in prison and $25,000 fines.
It wasn't a bad outcome for the mayor, really. Convicted of “literally delivering (Newark) into the hands of organized crime”, and for the bargain basement price of a million dollars, Hugh Addonizio could almost pay the fine out of petty cash. It was the tax penalties that broke him.  
But after just five years The Pope of Newark was paroled. He returned home to raise and race homing pigeons, and died of a heart attack at 67 years of age, in February of 1981. On the day of his funeral, all the flags in Newark were lowered in his honor.
Anthony “Tony Boy” Boiardo also died of a heart attack, on April 20, 1978. Just a year later, the big mouth, Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo, was found in his bathrobe and slippers, with three bullets in his brain. He'd been killed by three members of his own crew, who shot him and then stole cash and property from his house. A day after his body was discovered and removed, the assassins broke back into the murder scene, and returned the property. But they kept the money.
The longest living of the conspirators was Richie-”the-boot”- Boiardo (above) . After Tony Boy's death he rarely left his Livingston estate, tending his tomatoes under a sign that read “The Godfather's Garden”, as Richie was convinced he had been the role model for the infamous literary and movie gangster, Vito Corleone. The Boot suffered a heart attack and died in November of 1984, at the age of 95 -  just another crook who had not stolen enough to become a hero of capitalism.  Crime, you see, does not pay. But politics does, and well enough to make it legal.
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