By Scott M. Deitche
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. Deitche is scheduled to speak at The Mob Museum at August 9 at 1 p.m. on The Havana Underworld: Mafia Influence from Tampa to Cuba.
On the night of May 7, 2014, deputies with Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department pulled over a white van at East William David Road and Metairie Road in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. They had received an alert from traffic cameras in the city designed to look out for stolen plates. The van’s plates matched ones that were stolen.
Two occupants, Dominick Gullo and Joseph Gagliano, emerged from the vehicle and deputies searched the van. What they found was something you only hear about in movies. The van was 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, a silencer and a magazine with bullets.
The men were originally released, but the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) started an investigation. Last week, the ATF charged Gullo with possession of an unlicensed silencer and Gagliano with being a felon in possession of a gun.
Gullo, 72, was involved in the casino industry for many years, including a stint in Las Vegas. He was a shift manager at the Frontier hotel-casino from 1988-92, then relocated to New Orleans in 1993 to work at the Showboat casino on Lake Pontchartrain, rising to vice president of gaming operations for the Showboat Operating Company. Gullo currently owns a company, Avanti International, with an address right where the deputies pulled the van over, on East William David Parkway. His name does not show up in any public records as tied to organized crime. His passenger, however, has a far more interesting pedigree.
Gagliano, 55, is the son of the late Frank Gagliano (a k a Fat Frank), the one-time underboss of the New Orleans Mafia, colloquially known as the Marcello crime family. The Marcellos received their moniker after their influential boss, Carlos Marcello. Carlos ran a small family size-wise, but he had an outsized impact on criminal (and political) operations along the Gulf Coast. Marcello ran the crime family from 1947 until he went to prison for a racketeering conviction in 1983. His brother Joseph then became acting boss. Carlos Marcello was released in 1989, but by that time his health had severely declined and he died on March 3, 1993. Leadership of the family shifted to Anthony Carollo, with Fat Frank as his underboss.
It was around this time that Joe Gagliano came onto the radar of law enforcement. In 1995, Gagliano pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud a casino gambling boat in Biloxi, Miss., out of $500,000. In court documents, Gagliano was referred to, along with his father, as “reputed members of the New Orleans crime family.” Among the others convicted in the case was John Vaccaro, a soldier in the Los Angeles crime family (derisively known as the Mickey Mouse Mafia).
Later that year, Gagliano also pleaded guilty for his role in the massive Worldwide Gaming case, which uncovered an attempt to infiltrate the video poker industry in Louisiana, between members of the Marcello and New York-based Gambino crime families (named as unindicted co-conspirators in that case were Vincent LoScalzo and Steve Raffa of the Tampa-based Trafficante family). Most of the Marcello crime family, including Anthony Corollo and Fat Frank, went to prison.
The Worldwide Gaming case was a major nail in the crime family’s coffin. The small family lost most of its members in the years following (Fat Frank died in 2006, and Anthony Carollo died in 2007), and the remaining crime figures, including Joe Gagliano, fell out of the limelight.
It was commonly believed among law enforcement and Mob researchers that the Marcello crime family was all but defunct. But this case may reveal exactly what the current situation is in the New Orleans underworld and cast a light on what Gullo and Gagliano were planning. The pair is expected to go to trial in August.