FBI plucks alleged New Jersey mobster from Las Vegas area home
By Launce Rake
Tales of the Mob in Las Vegas typically are seedy stories of yesteryear. But if the FBI is right, they also are stories of the here and now.
An alleged captain in New Jersey’s DeCalvacante crime family is alive and living here. Charles “Beeps” Stango, 71, was arrested this week in Henderson and charged with, among other crimes, murder, pimping and cocaine distribution. Nine alleged associates of Spango, including his son Anthony Stango, 33, were rounded up and charged back in the crime family’s home turf in central New Jersey.
The DeCalvacante family garnered a bit of notoriety a few years ago when a number of people, including law enforcement and crime family members themselves, noticed that its modern history seemed to parallel the fictional history of a crime family on the HBO series The Sopranos. Not coincidentally, The Sopranos also takes place in New Jersey and its creator, David Chase, is from New Jersey.
As with the fictional crime family, the DeCalvacante family struggled to make it to the top ranks of organized crime. Back in the closing years of Prohibition in the early 1930s, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano organized the big five New York crime families into The Commission. The New Jersey mobsters didn’t make the cut. Nonetheless, the organized crime family worked well with its friends across the Hudson River, and shared profits with the Big Five, as well as with Mob families in nearby Philadelphia and other East Coast cities.
Historically, the DeCavalcante family has been associated with the whole range of Mob profit centers: loansharking, illegal gambling, prostitution, construction-industry rackets, labor union infiltration and corruption, drug dealing, murder, theft and extortion. The family’s roots go back to the Prohibition era, but it was Simone DeCavalcante who took over the crime family and put a stop to violent power struggles in the mid-1960s. Born in 1913, he headed the family until he stepped down in 1982, and even elevated the family to The Commission sometime in the 1960s, according to Mob historians.
In recent years the family’s fortunes, like those of other Mob families, have not fared well. Struggles for leadership – with one boss being murdered because of reputed gay relationships – have sapped the family’s strength. The Gambino family of New York, when it was headed by John Gotti, grabbed money and power away from the DeCavalcantes. And between 1999 and 2005, about 60 family members were arrested and 45 imprisoned on various federal and state charges, decimating the leadership.
Charles Stango may have joined other Mob leaders who relocated to the Southwest to get away from the heat of law enforcement and the chill of winter weather. Scott Deitche, a Tampa, Florida-based expert on the Mob, says the Southwest and the Sunshine State seem to be popular destinations for some of the older bosses.
“Palm Springs still has some older guys out there. It was [Los Angeles capo] Jimmy Caci’s stronghold until he died a few years ago,” Deitche says. “Bobby Milano of the L.A. family and Tony ‘Joe Batters’ Accardo from Chicago both lived out there. Joe Bonanno [of New York’s Bonanno family] moved out to Tucson in the late 1960s, and according to many insiders, still wielded tremendous influence in La Cosa Nostra activities well after he ‘retired.’ Many of his close confidants spent a great deal of time out there.”
Deitche says a lot of people assumed the DeCavalcante family was largely an artifact of the past.
“On my end, I think this bust will be surprising to some who wrote this family off,” he says. “The Decavalcantes hit a major setback in the late ’90s, early 2000s when [family leaders] Vinny Palermo, Anthony Rotondo and a few other guys flipped. However, there were rumors that when Frank Guaracci took over the top spot, he beefed up the ranks with some Sicilians. The Decavs always had a significant Sicilian faction.
“Former boss John ‘The Eagle’ Riggi was released from prison in late 2012, but he’s around 90 so I don’t think he’s involved in this case. One other thing I noticed is that there were a number of younger associates – guys in their 30s and 40s. Not something you’d associate with the Decavs, whose made guys definitely tilted toward the Early Bird Special crowd.”
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Charles Stango, known as “Beeps,” has five felony convictions, including a 1981 conviction for homicide. The more recent murder charge stems from Stango’s alleged order to murder a rival in the prostitution business in New Jersey who insulted the family’s leadership. Federal officials say Stango told an informant to pay two members of a motorcycle gang $25,000 each to kill the rival. Stango appeared Thursday evening before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe in Las Vegas, and Koppe ordered him held in jail pending his transfer to New Jersey.
Reports indicated that Stango received permission for the hit on the rival from the DeCavalcante consigliere, or top adviser, Frank Nigro, who is 72 and living in New Jersey. Nigro was one of those arrested Thursday.
In a written statement, Federal officials said the busts show that the Mafia is far from done.
“Though its ranks have been thinned by countless convictions and its own internal bloodletting, traditional organized crime remains a real problem,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey. “As today’s complaint shows, members and associates of a long-standing organized crime family continue to ply their illegal trade, selling dangerous drugs and illegal cigarettes, promoting prostitution and threatening internal scores with violence and death.”
But the most recent arrests will hurt, said Richard Frankel of the FBI in Newark, New Jersey. “This is a severe blow to the La Cosa Nostra family,” he said.