Mob Hits and Heists: New Jersey’s Infamous Organized Crime Cases

Mob Hits and Heists: New Jersey’s Infamous Organized Crime Cases

New Jersey has a long and colorful history when it comes to organized crime. From the mob wars of the early 20th century to more recent high-profile murders, the Garden State has seen its fair share of mob-related violence. Heists and robberies have also been a specialty of Jersey crews looking to line their pockets through less-than-legal means.

Here’s a look back at some of the most notorious mob hits and robbery jobs pulled off in New Jersey over the years:

The Killing of Dutch Schultz

In 1935, Jewish-American mob boss Dutch Schultz was gunned down at the Palace Chophouse in Newark. Schultz, who headed up numbers rackets and bootlegging operations during Prohibition, was killed alongside three associates in a brazen daytime hit. While theories abound as to who ordered the killing, from rival mobsters to Schultz’s own cronies, it marked a seminal moment in Jersey’s organized crime history. Schultz’s murder captured headlines across the country for its boldness and brutality [3].

Willie Moretti Whacked

Willie Moretti was a top captain in the Genovese crime family when he was shot to death in a Cliffside Park diner in 1951. Moretti had deep ties to Frank Sinatra and Hollywood, leading to speculation that his increasingly erratic behavior was a liability. When word spread that Moretti was talking openly about mob business, it likely sealed his fate. His murder in broad daylight in front of patrons shocked the community [3].

John Lardiere Meets a Grisly End

Former Genovese family soldier John Lardiere disappeared from his Maplewood home in 1977. Nearly a year later, his mutilated corpse was found chained and wrapped in plastic bags floating off the coast of Staten Island. He had been stabbed dozens of times. The brutal mob-style hit was carried out by up-and-coming Genovese member Michael Coppola, looking to make a name for himself. Coppola wasn’t charged until new DNA evidence linked him to the murder over 20 years later [3].

Judge Edwin Helfant Slain in Atlantic City

In 1978, mobsters from the Philadelphia crime family assassinated municipal judge Edwin Helfant in Atlantic City. Helfant was having drinks with his wife in the Flamingo Hotel when he was shot multiple times at close range. The judge had failed to deliver on a $100,000 bribe to arrange a light sentence for a mob associate. The brazen public killing of a sitting judge shocked Jersey [3].

Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo Murdered

Reputed Genovese family captain Anthony Russo was found shot dead in his Long Branch apartment in 1979. Russo was said to be the Genovese boss of Monmouth County at the time he was killed. The 57-year-old mobster had refused to testify about organized crime activities before the State Commission of Investigation just years earlier. His gangland-style murder remains unsolved decades later [3].

Peter Calabro Killing

In 1980, Peter Calabro, a reputed member of the Genovese crime family, was shot dead mob-style in his car in Saddle River. Years later, infamous hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski confessed to the killing. Kuklinski claimed the hit was ordered by Gambino family mobsters angry that Calabro had murdered one of their own. Kuklinski ultimately pleaded guilty to Calabro’s murder [3].

Vincent “Jimmy Sinatra” Craparotta Bludgeoned

One of the most brutal and public mob killings in Jersey history was the 1984 baseball bat beating of Genovese associate Vincent Craparotta. Three men savagely clubbed the 56-year-old to death in broad daylight in a park in Ocean County. The mob-sanctioned murder was carried out after Craparotta was overheard talking openly about organized crime dealings [5].

James Randazzo Shot Down

In 1993, Gambino family soldier James Randazzo was gunned down in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn in Tinton Falls in another brazen mob hit. Randazzo, 39, was shot multiple times at close range by suspected Genovese family hitman Ray Cagno. Cagno is serving a life sentence for the well-planned rub-out [5].

Lawrence Ricci’s Corpse Found in Trunk

The 2005 discovery of Genovese capo Lawrence Ricci’s decomposing body in the trunk of a car behind a diner in Union City was a throwback to classic mob hits of old. Ricci vanished just before the verdict in his waterfront racketeering trial. His disappearance led to a mistrial. Fears that Ricci might become an informant if convicted likely led to his demise [4].

Bonanno Crew Robs World Trade Center

In 1993, a crew of Bonanno crime family associates pulled off a daring late-night robbery at the World Trade Center. The mob burglars rappelled down an elevator shaft from the roof into a diamond merchant’s vault. They made off with more than $1 million in jewels, cash, and trading stamps. Several robbers, including a retired NYPD officer, were eventually arrested [1].

Mob Crew Hits Armored Truck

In 2007, a team of mostly elderly mobsters with ties to the Lucchese and Bonanno families staged an armored truck robbery in Monroe Township, making off with over $1 million. The geriatric gangsters had lengthy rap sheets and experience pulling off big scores. Several pleaded guilty and received lengthy prison terms for the violent heist [1].

Jewelry Store Smash and Grabs

Through the 2000s, Genovese and Gambino family crews repeatedly pulled off brazen daylight smash-and-grab jewelry store heists across New Jersey. Armed robbers would use sledgehammers to quickly smash display cases and grab expensive merchandise in violent takeover-style robberies. Millions in jewels were taken over the years before authorities dismantled the mob theft rings [2].

While the heyday of the Jersey mob may have passed, these crimes show how mob violence and larceny have long shaped the Garden State’s history. And with new generations of wiseguys looking to make their bones, more infamous mob tales may still be written in the future.