Cops make the deadliest Mafia hit men

By David Amuroso

Cops and mobsters will never be the best of friends. But every wiseguy trusts that if he surrenders to the law he will not be murdered. Ironically, it’s that belief that got a bunch of gangsters killed. Not by the cops, but by their underworld rivals who abused the trust all members of society, including criminals, place in the badge and the uniform by playing dress-up as they went hunting for their enemies.

When a police officer yells “Freeze!” a suspect knows that he can stop moving without being shot. Though if he continues to run his chances of being shot increase significantly. But imagine a famous serial killer standing a hundred feet from you, yelling at you to “Stop moving!” Would you stop? Or would you run like hell? Preferably to the nearest police station?

The same rules apply within the underworld. When a cop tells a gangster to “Freeze!” they will usually do so. Unless they are in the middle of a drug deal or bank robbery of course. Running from the law is part of their profession. But if they are just walking on the street and a cop tells them to stop, they will have no problem with that.

Yet when one of their rivals tells them to do the same their mind will start racing. “What does this guy want? Why is he telling me to stop? Is he packing?” If there is a gang war going on, he will not even think, he will just start running to safety or pull out his gun and start blasting. If your enemy tells you to stop it won’t be so he can kiss you on the cheek. It’s more likely he needs you to stand still so he has a clear target from afar or can get close enough to stab you through your heart.
Gangsters Inc. dug up four examples of mobsters using the badge to whack their enemies.


Salvatore Maranzano had made it. After eliminating his arch rival, Joe Masseria, in April of 1931, he had become capo di tutti capi, boss of bosses, of Italian organized crime in New York. He now oversaw an enormous criminal empire that had grown rich from bootlegging and was expanding into every aspect of American businesses.
 At several large gatherings all mobsters came to pay their respects to Maranzano. Mafia soldier-turned-government witness Joseph Valachi recalled attending one such meeting in the Bronx, “The place was packed. There was at least four or five hundred of us jammed in. There were members there I never saw before. (…) There were so many people, so many faces, that I didn’t know where they came from.”

Besides receiving respect, Maranzano also used these events to emphasize his new status. According to Valachi Maranzano spoke Italian and explained that things would be different, that in the new setup he was going to be boss of bosses. He left no doubt about his position and it was clear to the men attending that taking his title would be ill-advised.

Still, gangsters are exactly the type to embark on an ill-advised journey and it wasn’t long before Maranzano picked up on the lack of loyalty among a group of young mobsters led by Charles “Lucky” Luciano.

Soon, the Sicilian boss of bosses was planning Luciano’s demise, explaining to Valachi that he couldn’t get along with Luciano and his pal Vito Genovese and that they had to get rid of them before they could control anything. He also added Al Capone and Frank Costello and many other prominent mobsters to his kill list. He told Valachi he had one more meeting with Luciano and Genovese the next afternoon at his office in Midtown, Manhattan. After that they would go to the mattresses, mob speak for going to war.

That day, September 10th, 1931, Maranzano was at his office arranging false identification documents, a specialty of his, for some fellow Italians. Later that afternoon, he expected Luciano and Genovese to show up. He would put on a charade and perhaps lay the groundwork for a deathtrap.
Things took a different and unexpected turn though.

Five men claiming to be federal agents entered Maranzano’s office and quickly took control. One man held a couple of people waiting in the anteroom at gunpoint, while the others took Maranzano into his office.

There, he realized these were not the usual federal agents that would raid his business. For one thing, they had knives and were trying to stab him to death. The assassins had picked knives because gunshots would attract a lot of unwanted attention in Midtown, Manhattan, in broad daylight on an afternoon when people were shopping, working, and wandering the streets.

But the killers had underestimated the old mob boss’ tenacity. While they were stabbing him Maranzano fought back ferociously. As Maranzano did everything in his power to stay alive, the hit men had had enough and fired several bullets into his body. With the sound of gunshots cracking through Manhattan, they fled the scene of the crime as fast as they could.

Despite being in a state of high alert Maranzano did not see the hit coming in this fashion. Federal agents raiding the business of New York’s boss of bosses? Nothing out of the ordinary there. And how could he not trust those agents? Hell, he might be able to gain their full trust by corrupting them with a nice envelope of cash. Unfortunately for him it was all an act. Except for the knives and bullets. Those were real.


Before he became Cosa Nostra’s boss of bosses and his leadership style earned him the nickname The Accountant, Bernardo Provenzano was known as The Tractor. Long explanation short: He was a mean SOB and stone cold killer who spread death everywhere he went.

By the 1960s, Provenzano’s deadly reputation preceded him. When fellow Mafiosi saw his face they were immediately on high alert. As a prolific hit man he was always looking for new ways to sneak up on his targets. Especially when those targets were part of the Mafia and knew how the game was played.

 A target like Palermo mobster Michele “The Cobra” Cavataio (right) for instance. Described in Clare Longrigg’s book Boss of Bosses as “a cunning killer with a face like a gorilla and a turbulent past.” According to Longrigg, Cavataio found himself pushed aside by the new generation of Mafiosi and was suspected of inciting a Mafia war. As if that wasn’t enough he also threatened to release a map of the Palermo Mafia families including names of all the members. Not the best way to threaten your way back into power.

For Cavataio Provenzano and Toto Riina arranged a meticulously planned hit. They needed to make sure the grumpy mobster was dead and retrieve the map and list he had in his possession.

On December 10, 1969, two police cars arrived at the office of a mobbed up builder located at Viale Lazio 106 in Palermo. Inside the two cars were Riina, Provenzano, and five other mobsters, the six of them all dressed in police uniforms. While Riina stayed in one of the cars, Provenzano and the others raised their machine guns and in true police fashion raided the office.

“Freeze!” the Mafia killers yelled as they burst through the door. But before the stunned wiseguys inside could even process what was happening, one member of the hit team opened fire, showing none of the restraint that is common for the uniform he was wearing.

After that the room lit up with gunfire as both sides fired shots at each other. Several members of Provenzano’s crew suffered gunshot wounds. Cavataio, The Cobra, lived up to his nickname as he shot one of the assassins in the chest and Provenzano in the hand. It proved to be futile, and he knew it when he dived beneath a desk and played dead, hoping the killers would leave thinking their job was done.
 Cavataio might have been correct. After a violent shootout in which several members of the murder squad were wounded, most crews would consider it a job well done and seek medical help as soon as possible. Most mobsters would do that. But not Bernardo Provenzano.

He still needed that map and list with names. Provenzano started patting down Cavataio who quickly sprang back to life and attacked him. Surrounded by five dead bodies, the two men themselves bloodied up, adrenaline pumping, The Tractor and The Cobra both went for the kill in order to survive. This was up close and personal.

At one point Cavataio pointed his gun at Provenzano’s face and pulled the trigger. Click. Click. He was out of bullets. Provenzano’s weapon jammed and was equally useless when it came to firepower. So he decided to use it in a different way, clubbing Cavataio unconscious with it.

With The Cobra laying still on the floor, Provenzano got out his handgun and shot him dead.
The Viale Lazio massacre became one of the most infamous hits in Cosa Nostra history. It cemented Bernardo Provenzano’s reputation as a skilled and cold-blooded assassin who would always get his man. No matter the cost.

 On Valentine’s Day most people are thinking about their loved ones. Husbands browse the stores in search for that one gift to tell the wife how much they love her, while youngsters arrange to meet up at the park for a romantic walk and a kiss.

And then there’s Chicago Mafia boss Al Capone. Though Capone undoubtedly arranged for something romantic for his wife or one of his mistresses, his main business of that day was giving the gift of death to his arch rival George “Bugs” Moran.

The two mob bosses had been duking it out since 1926 when Moran became the leader of the North Side Gang after Capone had his predecessor “Hymie” Weiss killed. The Chicago Mafia had been hunting for members of the North Side Gang after the gang’s leader had crossed their boss Johnny Torrio. And they had a lot of success too! But each time the gang replaced its dead leader with a new one who was just as ferocious in keeping the war going.

Capone had had enough. If he wanted to end the war he had to take out not just Moran but several of his key confidants as well. On February 14, 1929, St. Valentine’s Day, he found the opportunity he was waiting for.

Throughout the war between the Mafia and the North Side Gang, Moran had acquired a taste for Capone’s booze. He would send out his troops to hijack trucks filled with that illicit product or steal it in other ways. The Capone gang knew what its enemy wanted. They had their bait.

Capone delegated the task of murdering Moran to “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, real name Vincenzo Gibaldi, while he himself arranged for his alibi by going to Florida. Using a front man, McGurn offered Moran a load of stolen Capone booze. The man was told he would need to deliver a sample at a garage at 2122 North Clark Street so the gang could check the quality.

As Capone’s men were stationed near the garage they kept an eye out on who arrived. After six men had entered the garage there was still no sign of Moran. Perhaps it was impatience, perhaps it was the adrenaline, whatever it was when a seventh man went into the garage the lookouts were certain “Bugs” Moran had joined the group. They were wrong. But by that point they had already passed on the message and the hit was on.

With seven members of one of Chicago’s most violent gangs in one place Capone’s men took no chances. They had disguised a black rental car as a police car by placing a siren on top and four hit men were dressed as officers of the law. They were counting on their trustworthy uniforms to give them the edge against a bunch of trigger-happy stone cold killers.

 When they made their entrance Moran’s men must’ve been perplexed. Cops were usually paid off and if they weren’t then who snitched on this transaction? Before they could point any fingers however, Capone’s men lined them up and completely obliterated them with bullets. “Some seventy rounds were fired with machine guns, and once the victims were motionless, some of them received pointblank shotgun blasts to their faces. Each victim received dozens of wounds, methodically spread throughout each body. The carnage was so brutal that some copses were said to have been nearly severed at the waist,” author Gus Russo wrote in The Outfit.
After the bloody hit, Moran went into hiding and his gang slowly disappeared from the scene. He later told police, “Only the Capone gang kills like that.”

As you have read in our three other stories, a gangster in police uniform is one deadly motherfucker. Still, he has nothing on an actual police detective who has no qualms about pulling the trigger on whoever and who has the ability and power to operate above the law.

 Meet Stephen Caracappa (photo, left) and Louis Eppolito (photo, right), two decorated New York City Police detectives who got away with murdering for the Mafia for over two decades. The two men were dubbed “the crystal ball” by Lucchese family mob boss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso for their ability to provide him with information that helped him predict who was a rat or enemy and where they were hiding.

Casso put a lot of trust in the two dirty cops. So much so that he did not hesitate to use them to kidnap a man he suspected of involvement in an attempt on his life. The attack happened in September of 1986 and Casso barely escaped death. One of the men who had tried to kill him was Gambino family associate James Hydell. Knowing that the violent Lucchese boss was looking for him Hydell was cautious and laying low. So Casso ordered Eppolito and Caracappa to pick Hydell up and deliver him to him. And they did. They forced Hydell in the trunk of their car and drove to Casso. After Eppolito and Caracappa left, Hydell was tortured by Casso who wanted to know who had ordered the attempt on his life. It wasn’t until Casso had all the names of those involved and had exacted enough violent retribution on Hydell that he killed him.

The Mafia Cops had made their bones. Information given by Eppolito and Caracappa would continue to bring death to many doorsteps as Casso and his men went on a rampage against anyone they perceived as, or were told was a threat. As a result of the Mafia Cops at least eight people were killed, including an innocent man whose bad luck was that he had the same first and last name as a wiseguy.
But it wasn’t until 1990 that the Mafia Cops showed just how much they had descended into hell. Gambino capo Edward Lino was driving on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn when he was pulled over by Eppolito and Caracappa. Lino had no reason to worry since these men were cops, he probably thought.

As a veteran mobster Lino had done and seen it all. For two years Casso had a contract out on Lino’s life, but yet here he was, breathing and all. It had been four years since Lino and two other Gambino wiseguys had dispatched a hit team to whack Casso and “Gaspipe” felt it was high time Lino himself was dispatched to hell.

 As Lino parked his car along the highway on that November day he had no idea that the cop car that pulled him over was being driven by two demons in disguise. Caracappa slowly walked over to Lino’s car where the mobster was waiting and had just rolled his window down. When Caracappa was close enough he pulled out his gun and fired several well-aimed shots. A few seconds later Lino’s bullet riddled corpse was bleeding all over the interior of his car (photo right).

The elusive and cautious Gambino captain was dead. Death by Mafia Cop. Casso couldn’t have been more pleased.

Despite mounting evidence and testimony given by Anthony Casso, Caracappa and Eppolito managed to retire to Las Vegas where they lived across the street from each other, in freedom. Still close as ever. And that wasn’t the only thing they continued doing. They also continued acting like Mafia Cops or, more accurate, Mafia thugs. They supplied people with meth and no doubt bragged about knowing Tony the Fish and Carmine the Giant from Queens.

But the Mafia is not the only entity with a long memory. Justice never forgets either and authorities were working round the clock to bring the two corrupt detectives down. And just like the mob the Department of Justice usually gets its man.

In March of 2005, Caracappa and Eppolito were arrested on racketeering and murder charges. After a trial in which Eppolito was represented by famous mob lawyer Bruce Cutler, the two disgraced cops were found guilty on all charges. They are currently spending the rest of their lives in prison.