Colombo family boss Carmine Persico has been able to maintain his grip on the Cosa Nostra family since he took control back in the 1970s even though he has spent much of his life behind bars. Loyal underlings and deep families ties have allowed Carmine to remain the official boss of the family for approx forty years but could the Persico era finally be coming to an end. Some of the NY Mafia families have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence over the last few years under new leaderships aided by a decrease in FBI scrutiny due to the fight against terrorism. But the Colombo family has seemingly been unable to take advantage of these developments and remains the weakest of the five families.
The future of the Colombo family may hinge on its ability to break away from the past and bring about an end to the reign of the Persico family. Carmine also known as “Junior” or “The Snake” was in his prime as a mafia boss when he was sentenced to 100 years behind bars after being convicted in the infamous Mafia Commission trail back in 1986. The then 56-year-old mobster had already been the boss of the family for about 14 years and was gaining in power and influence. When he went to prison he invoked his right to retain the title of boss in an effort to make sure he not only maintained control but that lucrative family profits continued to be kicked up to him. He needed someone on the streets he could trust so be immediately appointed his older brother Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico to acting boss.
But Allie Boy’s reign would be a short one because he skipped bail on loansharking charges a year after being promoted. Carmine wanted to keep a blood relative atop the family but his son Alphonse “Little Allie Boy” Persico has been convicted in the Colombo Trial in 1986 so he named capo Victor “Little Vic” Orena as acting boss. Orena’s appointment was only intended to be a temporary one until Allie Boy was paroled and was able to take the reigns. But by 1990 Orena’s loyalty to Persico had deteriorated and he believed the family was missing out on lucrative opportunities under Persico. He decided to make a move to take control of the family using his ties to the powerful Gambino family and then boss John Gotti. But in an effort to avoid bloodshed the Commission refused to recognize him as the new boss.
Orena began to seek approval to take over from inside his own family but consigliere Carmine Sessa alerted Periso to the ongoing coup. Persico ordered a hit on Orena that was eventually botched leading to the start of the third bloody Colombo family war. By the time the war ended in the early 1990s at least 12 members had turned informant including high profile mobsters like Sessa mostly in an effort to save their own lives. When the dust had settled more than 58 members and associates including 42 from the Persico faction and 16 from the Orena faction were behind bars including Orena himself who was convicted on RICO charges and himself sentenced to 100 years. Carmine’s fight to keep control of the organized crime family almost led to it being dissolved by the Mafia commission.
Little Allie Boy eventually took over as boss after being paroled in 1995 and Carmine once again had the blood relative he wanted in control on the streets. But his reign ended after ordering the murder of then underboss William “Wild Bill” Cutolo because he had supported Orena during the war. Cutolo’s son would agree to wear a wire for the feds in an effort to seek revenge and collected enough evidence to send Little Allie Boy and underboss John “Jackie” DeRoss to prison for life on RICO charges. The family would go on to appoint several street bosses including Joel “Joe Waverly” Cacace, Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli, Ralph F. DeLeo, and Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo over the years. But the family has been unable to recover from the damage done by Persico’s efforts to keep control and stay atop the power structure.
Many believe that the Persico family era needs to come to an end for the Colombo family to have any chance to recover and begin to rebuild. The recent conviction of Carmine’s son Michael Persico took yet another of those loyal to the longtime mafia boss off the streets signaling what may finally be the beginning of an end for the Persico’s. Carmine is now 83 years old and although he has recently petitioned to be released from prison it seems unlikely that he gets out while he is still alive. It is unclear as to how much influence he actually has on the day to day operations of the crime family today with so many of his family members and loyalist behind bars now but one thing seems clear the youngest of the New York Mafia families needs to turn the page at some point and that point may be sooner rather than later if it plans to survive.