By Scott M. Deitche
In July 2014, I wrote a post about an unusual arrest just outside New Orleans. Police had pulled over a van with stolen license plates. When they opened the back of the van, they noticed it had been gutted and customized to serve as an “assassination vehicle.” There were two chairs positioned in front of two slide windows. They also found a .22 rifle, silencer and a magazine with bullets.
The van’s occupants were Dominick Gullo and Joseph Gagliano. Gullo, 72, was involved in the casino industry for many years, including serving as vice president of gaming operations for the Showboat Operating Company. He did not have a criminal record or any known ties to organized crime.
However, Gagliano, 55, was one of the last reputed mobsters in New Orleans. He was the son of the late Frank Gagliano (aka Fat Frank), one-time underboss of the Marcello crime family. In 1995, Gagliano pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud a casino gambling boat in Biloxi out of $500,000. Later that year, he also pleaded guilty to his role in the massive Worldwide Gaming case, which centered on a scheme by organized crime to infiltrate the video poker industry in Louisiana. In court documents, Gagliano was referred to as a reputed member “of the New Orleans crime family.”
After being pulled over, Gullo and Gagliano told investigators they had just purchased the van earlier that day for $300 from a woman they didn’t know and had not even looked in the back of the vehicle. However, detectives discovered that Gagliano had the windows installed two months before their arrest. The men were booked on federal weapons charges.
In late January, before they were scheduled to go on trial, both men pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered silencer. On May 14, Gagliano was sentenced to 28 months in prison because of his past felony conviction coupled with the gun possession charge. Gullo was sentenced to five months in prison. Both men received a four-month credit for time served. Gullo will be out in June, while Gagliano won’t be released until May 2017.
While the case is over, it’s still unknown exactly what the two men planned to do with the van and the weapons. Gagliano’s lawyer maintained that his client converted the van so he could sell “snoballs” (popular New Orleans frozen treats) out of it. Investigators intimated they believed the van was going to be used for violent purposes.
While the true purpose may never come to light, it’s safe to say it probably did not foretell the rebirth of the New Orleans Mafia, a crime family that was decimated by increased law enforcement pressure and the inevitable march of time.
Scott M. Deitche is the author of five books on organized crime. He is the senior writer for Tampa Mafia magazine, and has also written dozens of articles on organized crime for local and national magazines and newspapers. He has been featured on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, A&E, C-SPAN and both national and local news and radio shows.