NYC Mob war unlikely despite recent hits

NEW YORK –A pair of mob shootings in three days, one of them reminiscent of a hit on last week’s episode of “The Sopranos,” prompted speculation of a nascent Mafia war in New York City.

Not likely, according to mob experts who say “The Life” – as mobsters refer to their criminal pursuits – rarely imitates art these days. In an era of dwindling Mafia initiates and multiplying federal informants, gangsters are more dangerous to each other by sitting on the witness stand than by “going to the mattresses” as in “The Godfather.”

“Years ago, there were things worth killing for,” said Howard Abadinsky, a St. John’s University professor and author of several books on organized crime. “It wasn’t like today. It sounds funny, but murder is a serious thing to get involved in these days from a wiseguy’s point of view.”

Recent history bears him out. The last real New York mob war, involving the Colombos, began in 1991 and claimed 13 victims, including a teen bagel shop worker killed in a case of mistaken identity.

The last hit on a mob boss occurred six years earlier, when “Big Paul” Castellano was murdered by John Gotti and a cadre of Gambino family underlings.

The Mafia’s ruling Commission has been widely reported as having imposed a moratorium on murder within the ranks, with the heads of New York’s five families acknowledging that internecine killings are bad for business.

“Murders were ruled off limits in the ’90s, after the Colombo war,” said veteran mob chronicler Jerry Capeci, author of “The Complete Idiots’ Guide to the Mafia.” “Murders were out to keep the heat off.”

That wasn’t enough to save Rudolph “Cueball” Izzi, a 74-year-old reputed Genovese family bookmaker and loan shark. Izzi was found dead Thursday on a bed in his Brooklyn apartment, a single gunshot wound in his head.

Two days earlier, a Gambino family associate with a lengthy mob lineage was wounded in a drive-by shooting just 1 1/2 miles from Izzi’s home. Robert DeCicco, 56, was winged while sitting in his car outside a Brooklyn pharmacy in a neighborhood that serves as the mob’s heartland.

That shooting echoed the penultimate episode of “The Sopranos,” where killers blasted at consigliere Silvio Dante in a car outside the New Jersey strip club that fictional Tony Soprano’s gang uses as a headquarters.

There was one major difference: the television shooters were more accurate. Silvio ended up in a coma; DeCicco walked out of a police station hours after the attempt on his life.

“I’m all right,” he said while walking down the precinct steps. “I feel very good.”

FBI spokesman Jim Margolin acknowledged the twin shootings raised the question of whether a mob war was possible. “I’m not aware that it’s one we’ve answered,” he said.

Several theories were broached: Gambling debts were involved. Revenge was a motive. The killings were linked. Or perhaps someone with a grudge against Izzi used the DeCicco shooting as a smoke screen to take him out.

No arrests were made in either case.

The murder try on Robert DeCicco was familiar, if unfortunate, terrain for his family. His uncle, Frank DeCicco, had lured Castellano to his death outside Sparks Steak House in December 1985. Frank, who became the Gambino family underboss, was killed four months later by a retaliatory car bomb.

Robert’s father, George, continued in the family business after Frank’s death, becoming a constant presence on the Mafia scene.

Hours after his son was shot, George DeCicco told reporters outside his home that an explanation was beyond him.

“You got all these crazy people, these terrorists doing crazy things,” he said. “I’m shocked just like anybody else.”

NYC Mob war unlikely despite recent hits – By LARRY McSHANE – Associated Press Writer – http://www.sunherald.com/312/story/73345.html