By David Amoruso
Posted on October 14, 2006
George Fresolone was the first mobster who taped his induction into the Mafia. His information led to indictments against 38 mobsters, including Philadelphia boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo. In 1994 his autobiography came out, titled “Blood Oath: The Heroic Story of a Gangster Turned Government Agent Who Brought Down One of America’s Most Powerful Mob Families.” This profile is largely based on that book.
George Fresolone was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1953. He grew up in the Down Neck section of Newark. His father was a bookmaker and ran a numbers operation. Being in that business it was impossible to evade the mob, so too for his father who would become a mob associate. George Fresolone knew at a young age the life of a mobster was the life he wanted. In his autobiography he says: “It was really simple: In that kind of working-class world, everyone else broke their backs at some job they hated, trying to make a buck. But the wiseguys just hung around, and the money seemed to roll downhill into their pockets. And they were respected. Next to the parish priests, they were the most respected guys in the neighborhood.”
While Fresolone was still in high school he started to hang around Pasquale “Patty Specs” Martirano. Martirano was a made guy in the Philadelphia Crime Family. Fresolone became his driver, a job that had good prospects. Martirano started grooming Fresolone, teaching him the rules and codes of La Cosa Nostra. After being Martirano’s driver for two years Fresolone and Martirano decided Fresolone should try something on his own. By the mid 1970s Fresolone had his own bookmaking and numbers business.
When Fresolone was getting involved with the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Family, the boss was Angelo Bruno. Bruno became boss in 1959 and had led his Family with a gentle but firm hand. But by the late 1970s through early 1980 Philadelphia mobsters had had enough of Bruno. Bruno stood in the way of their earnings. Bruno had put a ban on narcotics trafficking but most mobsters knew about the Cherry Hill Gambinos (major Sicilian drug traffickers) who operated in his territory and paid him a percentage. A lot of wiseguys also felt he was passing up on too many business opportunities in Atlantic City. On March 21, 1980 Angelo Bruno was murdered in front of his home. The Philadelphia Family had just begun its descent into darkness. Several mob murders later Nicodemo Scarfo emerged as the new boss.
Two and a half years after Bruno’s murder George Fresolone was arrested for the first time. But he wasn’t worried: “This arrest was no big deal; it was just part of doing business. I was a first time loser, so I was not too worried. First-time bookies almost always got probation.” A month after his first arrest, police came looking for him again. But his in-laws warned Fresolone and he briefly went into hiding before turning himself in. On March 12, 1983 Fresolone was busted again! This time in Queens, New York. It still didn’t worry Fresolone but due to his dumb lawyer he eventually was sentenced to a maximum of four years of which he had to serve at least half. While in prison Fresolone received some good news: Patty Martirano was promoted to capo. Since Fresolone was very close to Martirano it meant he had a good future ahead of him. Fresolone spent some time in freedom on an appeal bond but it didn’t last forever and he went to prison on July 12, 1985. Before going away to prison his fellow mobsters assured him they would look after his family, Fresolone believed them. It wouldn’t take long for him to see the truth.
Excuses, excuses, that is what the Fresolones heard when he and his wife asked for help from their “friends.” “We’re all broke.” “The cops are all over us, and we can’t make any moves.” And “I’ve never seen things so tight” were some of the excuses Fresolone heard when he started making calls. Fresolone was fed up with them and would get his revenge. He would climb the Mafia ladder and make them pay. The problem was however that several of those guys had been made while he was in prison. They had already climbed the Mafia ladder and outranked him. When Fresolone got out of prison Acting Boss Anthony Piccolo assured him that he would’ve been straightened out together with them if he hadn’t been in prison, and that he would be straightened out very soon now that he was out of prison. “Straightened out” means becoming a (made) member of a (in this case Philadelphia) La Cosa Nostra Family.
There were about a dozen men in “Patty Specs” Martirano’s crew. Fresolone, although not a made guy, was the closest to Martirano, and according to himself he was also Martirano’s biggest earner. Other men in Martirano’s crew like Joseph “Scoops” Licata and Anthony “Slicker” Attanasio (both made guys) were earning but kept it to themselves. Or as Fresolone said: “This was truly the every-man-for-himself gang.” Scoops and Fresolone never got along but now that Scoops was made he acted different towards Fresolone: “His whole attitude seemed to say: I’m made and you’re not.”
Patty Specs Martirano was high on the target list of authorities. Martirano was the leader of the Northern New Jersey faction of the Philadelphia Crime Family and therefor an important guy to take down. Through a mole Fresolone learned that Martirano was being bugged. They looked everywhere and eventually found a bug in a car of a crew member. The heat was on and Martirano fled to Argentina. Several weeks passed but when he came home after a long night he found cops at his house. The cops were New Jersey State Police and Detective Sergeant Ed Quirk told Fresolone they were there to arrest him on a warrant charging him with racketeering, conspiracy, usury, usury as a business, and promoting gambling. Martirano faced the same charges and was also charged with being a leader of organized crime. Martirano’s crew was re-organized: Martirano would remain the official capo and Fresolone (out on bail) would be the only person to communicate with him. Scoops Licata was designated “first among equals.”
After his arrest Fresolone was called several times by Ed Quirk, who tried to get him to cooperate. Fresolone knew they wanted him to give up Martirano, something he didnt want to do. Martirano was like a father to him. Fresolone talked to Martirano by phone several times. During one of those calls Martirano told Fresolone he wanted to leave Argentina and go to the Calabria region in Italy. But Martirano worried about getting caught when he entered Italy. To protect Martirano Fresolone became an informant. Fresolone called Quirk for a meeting and made his demands clear. He said Martirano was not in the US and had no intention of coming back to New Jersey. Fresolone said he was willing to cooperate if Quirk could guarantee him that he would not issue any kind of international warrant for Martirano and not actively try to track him down. After some more talks Fresolone and Quirk made a deal: Fresolone would become a “confidential source,” this meant he would “confirm” certain bits of information. He didn’t go all out and tell them all he knew.
George Fresolone was a good earner, but he wasn’t a millionaire. He made good money but as fast as the money was coming in, it went back out. Fresolone was supporting his family, Martirano in Italy, Martirano’s wife and kids in Newark and also Martirano’s girlfriend. At one point Fresolone didn’t have enough cash to send to Martirano, so he went to Scoops Licata (first among equals) to ask him for $10.000 to give to their capo Patty Specs Martirano. Fresolone had to beg, after that Scoops came up with a couple of grand. This showed Fresolone for the second time how things went in the Mafia, the I in Mafia was what it was all about. Then Ed Quirk played Fresolone a tape of a bugged conversation between “Slicker” Attanasio and “Turk” Cifelli in which the two mobsters were discussing Fresolone: “Who the fuck does he think he is?” Slicker said. “He ain’t straightened out. In fact he ain’t shit. It’s time we put him in his place.” This shocked and angered Fresolone a lot, and when Nicky Scarfo Jr told him that Underboss Philip Leonetti had flipped, Fresolone decided he too would go all the way to get out of the mob.
All the way meant wearing a wire. Fresolone recorded hundreds of conversations while cooperating. It is interesting that he also recorded conversations he had with Patty Specs Martirano. Throughout his book he says he wants to protect Martirano, yet here he was, recording his voice. Fresolone does say he didn’t think Martirano had much longer to live, and wouldn’t be alive long enough to be convicted or stand trial. Still it is an interesting note.
By the summer of 1990 Fresolone’s induction into La Cosa Nostra was imminent. In a June 14 meeting (which was recorded) Martirano told his crew that he had been made Underboss of the Philadelphia Family and that he would take a more active role in running things. Martirano also said that Acting Boss Anthony “Cousin Anthony” Piccolo would pressure Scarfo Sr to make some new members. The first group of men on the list to be made were: Fresolone, John Praino and Anthony “Slicker” Attanasio.
The induction ceremony was set for July 22, 1990 but was called off and a new date was planned. Fresolone almost did not participate in that one. At a card game Fresolone met Michael Perna’s brother, Ralph, who told him that: “Someone close to Patty Specs has screwed and is working for the state.” The information came from a mole in the Attorney General’s Office. Fresolone was shocked and asked who the rat was. “Don’t know.” Perna replied. “But our guy will keep looking, and I’ll let you know as soon as I hear.” A meeting of everybody involved in the operation was called to decide whether or not to pull out Fresolone. Fresolone said he wanted to continue, he would be able to record an induction ceremony of La Cosa Nostra, the operation would go on.
The ceremony took place on July 29, 1990 in John Praino’s house in the Bronx. Five men would become “made guys” today: George Fresolone (37), John Praino (47), Nicholas “Turk” Cifelli (68), Vincent “Beeps” Centorino (in his late 50s) and Nicholas “Nicky O” Oliveri (42.) Anthony Piccolo was running the ceremony, seated next to him was Pasquale Martirano (who at this point was in the final stages of liver cancer.) Soon after Fresolone was given the rank of capo, the four men who were made with him would be his crew.
Shortly after Fresolone went on a “vacation,” the vacation consisted of checking out cities and houses where he and his wife and kids would spend the rest of their lives. While on vacation Fresolone got a call from Nicky O who told him Patty Specs Martirano had died.
Ever since Scoops heard about Fresolone becoming made and upped to capo he was furious and bitching and moaning. Scoops hadn’t been invited to attend the ceremony. Scoops started a major beef, saying a “list” had not been circulated before the ceremony. Among the New York Families it is a rule that a “list” of names of proposed members are circulated among the Families to see if anyone has a problem with any of the names. The Philadelphia Family isn’t obligated to circulate a list but out of respect has done so in the past, except for this time. The new guys had been made so if a new list would be circulated and someone had a problem withone of the new members, that new member would have to be killed. This was Scoops plan. It was a good time for Fresolone to stop his work as an informant.
On Wednesday, March 17, 2002 George Fresolone died of a heart attack at an undiclosed location. He was 48.
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