Stephen Caracappa (l) and Louis Eppolito (r)

By David Amoruso
Posted in 2006
Copyright ©

I kept a sawed-off shotgun in my locker for just such occasions. It fit snugly under the folds of my trench coat. I spotted Frankie sitting at a card table walked up behind him, stuck the barrel in his mouth, and ordered him to his feet. “bye motherfucker” was all I said , and he lost his whole insides . as I backed him into a wall I watched the stain in his pants get bigger and bigger. Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be my father. I was walking like a wiseguy, talking like a wiseguy. ... I cocked both barrels. “Please” he begged, “please”. For one instant, I had this wonderful, heady urge to pull the trigger."
- Louis Eppolito in his autobiography “Mafia Cop”

On a Wednesday night March 9, 2005 retired police detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were arrested at Piero's Restaurant in Las Vegas. They were both hit with Racketeering charges, including; eight murders, two attempted murders, one murder conspiracy, obstruction of Justice, drug distribution and money laundering. According to prosecutors Eppolito and Caracappa had been working for and with the mob.

Louis Eppolito was born July 22, 1948 in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. When Louis was eight years old, his father Ralph asked him if he knew anything about fighting. Louis went into a fighting position. His father then punched him right in the jaw. His father then proceeded to learn Louis how to fight. At one point Louis said to his father that he was bored. His father reacted: “What I’m teaching you here is self preservation, how to live on the street.” Ralph was known on the street by his nickname ’Fat the Gangster’ and he was part of the much feared Mafia.

Louis didn’t know this...yet. When he was twelve years old his father took him to the bar where he said he worked as a bartender. It was in this bar, The Grand Mark, that Louis was introduced to the Mafia and its men. When Louis got older his father started talking to him as an adult. At one point Ralph told Louis about how he got made. Telling him about a “rat bastard that had to go”. And Ralph taught Louis many more lessons about “the life”. Louis was being groomed to become a mobster.

But Louis decided he didn’t want to become a mobster, he decided to become a cop instead. Louis was the type of cop that made headlines. A tough cop, tough but honest. But his mob family was always there. And he continued to pay other mobsters respect when he saw them. These contacts put him in a difficult position. Other cops and federal agents were wondering if Louis the cop had turned on the force. Louis had felt the resentment from some of his colleagues, especially when his uncle Jimmy was murdered. Uncle Jimmy was James Eppolito a capo in the Gambino Family.

The recent indictment of Eppolito isn’t the first time he is in trouble with the law. In 1983 he was a suspect in a corruption case involving heroin trafficker Rosario Gambino. Authorities said Eppolito had leaked information to Gambino. Eppolito was acquitted of all charges in that case. But did the accusations cause Eppolito to turn over to the other side? At the end of his book “Mafia Cop” Eppolito says: “When the Mafia gave their word, they kept it.”

By 1985, authorities say, Eppolito and Caracappa were working for the mob. Stephen Caracappa was at this point a member of Organized Crime Homicide Unit. A unit which he helped form. Here he had access to a flood of secret information on the mob. His specific assignment was investigating the Lucchese Crime Family. The Luccheses, at that point, were at the beginning of a leadership change. Anthony “Ducks” Corallo would soon be indicted and convicted in the famous “commission trial” together with the rest of the leadership of the Family. The new leaders that emerged were Vittorio Amuso and his right-hand Anthony Casso. These two men would send the Lucchese Family into a deep hole. These were men who were thirsty for blood and would kill people simply because they considered them “creeps”. Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, prosecutors say, was the man who gave the orders Eppolito and Caracappa would eventually carry out. Casso gave his orders through a drug dealer named Burton Kaplan. Casso and Kaplan were close associates. So close that Casso's home in Brooklyn was, for a long time, listed in Kaplan's name.

On Sept. 6, 1986 Casso (picture on the right) was the target of an attempted hit. Wounded he fled to a nearby restaurant leaving his car behind. When investigators arrived at the scene and inspected the car they were shocked to find license plate numbers of unmarked cars the police used while on surveillance. After the hit attempt on his life, Casso allegedly asked Eppolito and Caracappa to step up their efforts. He put them on his payroll for $4000 per month. Any additional ‘work’ was “extra”. The extra work would include murder. The first victim of the Mafia Cops was Gambino associate James Hydell. Hydell was one of the men who had tried to kill Casso. Eppolito and Caracappa allegedly forced Hydell in the trunk of their car and delivered him to Casso. It would come out later that this ‘delivery’ would be the only time the two detectives and Casso met face to face. When Eppolito and Caracappa left, Hydell was tortured by Casso who wanted to know who had ordered the attempt on his life. When Hydell had told Casso, Casso killed him.

On their murderous route Eppolito, Caracappa and Casso left several bodies, including one that had nothing to do with crime. Nicholas Guido was murdered because Casso’s killers had mistaken him for a Gambino Family associate who went by the same name and lived in the same neighbourhood. The information for the hit came from Eppolito and Caracappa. In 1990 the two detectives hit a new low by personally murdering a Casso rival. On November 6 of that year Edward Lino, a Gambino Family capo, was murdered on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. He was pulled over by the two, by then, retired detectives, Caracappa walked over to Lino’s car and shot him from close range. Lino was suspected by Casso to have been involved in the hit attempt on his life. Lino was also involved in the murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano and his underboss Thomas Bilotti. Thomas Bilotti was a childhood friend of Stephen Caracappa. For this piece of ‘work’ Eppolito and Caracappa allegedly received $65.000 from Casso.

Anthony Casso was arrested in January of 1993 after being 30 months on the lam. A year later he made a shock move: he decided to cooperate with authorities. Besides admitting his role in 36 murders Casso told authorities about two highly decorated detectives he had on his payroll. He said Burton Kaplan, the man who served as a go-between, could corroborate his story. But when investigators went to Kaplan to seek his cooperation he didn’t tell them anything. The case came to a total standstill when Casso misbehaved while in a special prison unit for cooperating witnesses. Authorities also found out he had lied to them on several occasions. As a witness Casso was now worthless. In 1998 Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It seemed Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa had survived. Until Burton Kaplan had a change of mind. Kaplan was at this point serving a 27-year sentence for narcotics trafficking and probably thought it would be nice if he could see his daughter and grandson a bit more often. And so he decided to become a cooperating witness and tell authorities about his role in the murderous web of the two NYPD detectives and the Mafia.

Eppolito and Caracappa pleaded not guilty and are currently free on $5 million bail. Judge Weinstein has had harsh words for the prosecutors in the case: "The charges seem to me to be relatively stale, and the statute of limitations problem is going to be a serious one." The statute of limitations in such a conspiracy case is five years. The prosecution contends that Eppolito and Caracappa took part in a criminal conspiracy that continued well after they had left New York. The two men are charged with taking part in a drug deal in Las Vegas. That drug deal would, legally speaking, extend the length of the conspiracy, making the statute of limitations no longer applicable. Prosecutors have made several changes to the indictment, resulting in the deletion of two murders in January 2006.

In February 2006 federal prosecutors filed new court documents asking permission to introduce evidence of a number of uncharged crimes they claim Eppolito and Caracappa played a role in. Prosecutors Mitra Hormozi and Robert Henoch said they believe the actions are evidence of motive, intent and planning of the crimes that are charged in the case. The information comes from turncoat Burton Kaplan and includes such allegations as: “that Caracappa once told Kaplan, a convicted marijuana smuggler, that both he and Eppolito, early in their career as cops, robbed delis for extra cash.” According to court documents Eppolito allegedly assaulted two prostitutes who were harassing one of Caracappa's clients. On another occasion, Eppolito threatened to assault the husband of one of Caracappa's clients who was harassing the client, according to court records. Caracappa was a private investigator at this time.

Caracappa’s lawyer said: “At this point I don't care what they say, Stephen Caracappa is an innocent man” And Louis Eppolito told reporters "I was a good, hardworking cop for 22 years." "I don't deserve this." The trial is set to begin on February 21, 2006.

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