The Lucchese crime family has a new rat problem in the form of former wiseguy turned government informant John Pennisi. He is set to take the stand for the first time on behalf of the feds at the upcoming trial of veteran mobster Eugene Castelle.
According to reports Castelle has had quite the up and down career in the New York Mafia. He held the rank of captain before allegedly becoming the families underboss for a short time but was identified by the feds in his latest indictment as a soldier. He was part of a large racketeering conspiracy case that targeted members of the Bonanno and Lucchese families early last year. He was charged with various crimes including conspiracy to commit extortion and is facing up to 20 years behind bars if convicted. He was offered a sweet plea deal by the feds that would have allowed him to plead guilty to gambling charges and serve only 8-14 months behind bars while avoiding trial and the chances of a much harsher sentence.
“Eugene (Boobsie) Castelle”
But Castelle surprisingly turned down the plea offer and decided to roll the dice. After seeing alleged Bonanno family acting boss Joseph Cammarano Jr and underboss John Zancocchio who were charged in the same case beat the wrap in March he figured he may be able to do the same. This unexpected turn of events led to the feds having to unveil their new snitch sooner than they planned to.
They were reportedly hoping to have Pennisi debut as a witness in the much larger trail against Lucchese family leaders set to take place later this year. That racketeering trial includes alleged street boss Matthew Madonna and underboss Steven Crea Sr. who face multiple charges including murder of former Purple Gang leader Michael Meldish.
Prosecutors claim that had to keep the fact that Pennisi was a government witness under wraps until now for safety reasons. The 39-year-old mafia snitch had been recording conversations with fellow mobsters in recent months. It’s still unclear as to what kind of evidence that the feds have from Pennisi that would help to prove that Eugene Castelle is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with or of being part of a racketeering enterprise.
According to a Gangland News report, Pennisi became a made man in the Lucchese family back in 2013. He was a soldier in a crew led by Castelle’s brother capo John (Big John) Castellucci. According to the report he was inducted into the family along with other new members at a mob ceremony led by Madonna. He claims Madonna brought a large hunting knife to the ceremony and he was so impressed by it he kept it as a souvenir. As soon as he flipped he turned it over to the feds.
The feds plan to introduce this and more as evidence against Madonna in his upcoming trial. They also plan to introduce new evidence believed to have come from Pennisi that alleged underboss Steven Crea encouraged and suggested the murder of two men in 1998 and 1999. While the case linking both mobsters to the Meldish hit may be somewhat weaker than the feds would like it seems they may still have enough to nail both Cosa Nostra leaders. It will also be interesting to see as to whether or not the gamble pays off for Eugene Castelle.