Murders Remind Buffalo of the Mafia
Buffalo Special Edition News
September 24, 2008
By: Charles Ravington
BUFFALO, NY – On April 3, 2007, Monty Masimi was found murdered in his car with multiple bullet wounds in his back and head. While Buffalo Homicide Detectives arrested a suspected killer this month, the drug-related murder of Masimi provides a glimpse into the bloody history of Buffalo’s Mafia and the troubling times that organized crime in Western New York is certain to face.
Salvatore “Sammy” Vacanti, 24, of Tonawanda, was arrested this September and pled not guilty after authorities charged him as the triggerman in the ’07 drug-slaying of Masimi outside Jacobi’s Restaurant on Kenmore. The 17-month investigation has ignited rumors on Buffalo’s streets that authorities want to strike a major blow to narcotics distribution organizations in the Buffalo-Niagara area and their links to whatever remains of Buffalo’s once powerful Mafia Family.
No, Masimi and Vacanti were never a part of the Mafia. They both, however, were known drug dealers operating in the violent criminal trade traditionally controlled by the Mafia. While the ‘grand old days’ of the mob are long gone, authorities are currently looking into a series of unsolved murders in order to bring charges against whatever Mafia element still exists in Western New York.
In June of 2004, the F.B.I. announced intensions of linking a string of underworld murders to the leaders of organized crime in Buffalo. In February of ’07, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson joined the investigation by having the police DNA lab look into clues remaining from murders more than 25 years ago. The man whom the F.B.I. alleges has been the mob boss since the early ‘80s, Joseph E. Todaro Sr., was the prime suspect in the 1965 murder of Charles Gerass. In ’74, mob captain John Cammilleri was murdered on the West Side on Rhode Island street on his way to the wake of Frank ‘Blaze’ LoTempio. The same year, Albert Billiteri Jr., the son of a top loan shark in the crew of captain John Cammilleri, was also murdered. Billiteri Jr. was allegedly dealing drugs and had robbed a mob associates mother. His alleged killer, Faustino Novino, was attacked a few years later by Mafia enforcers John C. Sacco, the Sicurella brothers, Joe Todaro Jr (the alleged current underboss) and Lenny Falzone (the alleged current consiglieri). This information came from Novino himself, who eventually became an informant against his mob attackers.
These ‘ancient’ murders and a dozen more have been linked to the remnants of Buffalo’s Mafia. Police looked into drug-related murders like William Esposito (’76), Peter Piccolo (’79), Robert Warner (’81), Joseph SanFratello (’85), Alan Levine (’86), Michael Ress (’90), Paul Gembella (’92), and Michael Baldi (’93). Other past murders of Mafia members and informants being examined include Frank D’Angelo (’74), Sam Rizzo (’77), Joseph Vera (’77), Billy Sciolino (’80), Carl Rizzo (’80), and Big Al Monaco (’84), among others.
Joseph |Todaro sr was the prime suspect in the 1965 murder of Charles Gerass
September 1965: Town of Tonawanda real estate salesman Charles Gerass is found hogtied in the trunk of his Cadillac in a parking lot at the intersection of Sheridan and Delaware; the murder, believed to be linked to the mob, remains a cold case for over forty years.