Devastating testimony may bury NY 'Mafia Cops'
Copyright 2006 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC
Motel 6 he wasn't.
When drug dealer Burton Kaplan wanted "Mafia Cops" Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa to know he was home and ready to talk business, he would turn off the porch light at his Brooklyn house and wait patiently in the darkness for them to arrive.
Kaplan's secret signal could easily serve as a fitting metaphor for what he has done to his old pals' chances at trial.
With four days of devastatingly detailed testimony, Kaplan seemed to douse all but a tiny flicker of hope that the scandal-tarred ex-detectives can emerge victorious at the end of their racketeering and murder trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The aura in Judge Jack Weinstein's courtroom is similar to the atmosphere that hung over John Gotti in the courtroom across the hall 14 years ago after Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano took the witness stand at the Dapper Don's last stand.
Kaplan has punctuated tales of kidnapping and murder with mesmerizing specificity, like how Mr. Eppolito visited him in a Manhattan hospital where he was recovering from eye surgery to report a successful 1990 mob hit and matter-of-factly explained why Mr. Caracappa had fired the fatal shots: "Steve's a much better shot."
Equally important has been the turncoat mob associate's testimony about the private lives of both men, without correction from their attorneys. Kaplan described the interior of Mr. Eppolito's Las Vegas home and meetings with his family members, including his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law. He recalled similar details about Mr. Caracappa's personal life, including two cats that he and his wife, Monica, kept as pets in their Manhattan apartment.
"Kaplan knew the names of the cats, but Robert must have thought that would be overkill," a law enforcement official, referring to lead prosecutor Robert Henoch, said.
While Kaplan may have dimmed the lights on Messrs. Eppolito and Caracappa, he opened a window on another allegedly corrupt former NYPD detective.
Kaplan, who implicated Messrs. Eppolito and Caracappa in 12 murders, testified that during the early 1960s he helped dispose of the body of a man who was murdered by an ex-detective whose uncle was a "legitimate" business associate of Kaplan's.
He knew the former detective, whose name and phone number were in his address book, as Wes Daley, but law enforcement officials told Gang Land his name was Harold Daley. He dealt in stolen cars and drugs, and he coerced Kaplan to drive a murder victim to a Connecticut burial ground in the trunk of a car, Kaplan testified.
Kaplan minimized his involvement in the 40-year-old murder. He didn't know the victim or why he was killed, but when Daley - "he was a criminal," Kaplan testified - asked him to chauffeur the corpse to the Nutmeg State, the longtime Luchese family associate saw it as an offer he really couldn't refuse.
A habitual gambler, Kaplan owed Daley money at the time, and he saw the task as an "opportunity" to catch up on his payments to Daley, who was the nephew of a Kaplan business associate in the glass business.
Besides, he testified, "I felt if I said no, I would have some kind of problems with Wes over the money I owed him.
He called me and I went. I don't make any excuses for that. I did it. I was wrong. I made a choice. I did it. I am guilty of it."
Asked by Mr. Eppolito's lawyer, Bruce Cutler, whether driving alone in a car with a dead body in the trunk in the dead of winter was "unsettling," Kaplan said the ride was much worse.
"I drove by myself and it made me very, very uncomfortable. I trembled all the way up to Connecticut in the car by myself. I was scared to death," he said.
Once he arrived, Kaplan said, he "met another friend of Wes's who was supposed to have dug a grave for him [but] the weather was too cold. He couldn't dig into the ground. And he asked me if I would go with him and throw the body in the water. And I did."
Neither Mr. Cutler nor Mr. Caracappa's attorney, Edward Hayes, probed very deeply about the murder or into Kaplan's dealings with Daley, so little else surfaced about the activities of the retired detective, who federal authorities say is deceased.
Yesterday, a police spokesman told Gang Land that the NYPD was still looking into the matter and could neither confirm nor deny anything about Daley, including whether he had even worked for the NYPD.
Kaplan began dealing directly 476 2174 600 2185with Messrs. Eppolito and Caracappa in October 1987, a month after their go-between, Mr. Eppolito's cousin, Frank Santora, was killed in a gangland-style slaying in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
A courtroom observer who heard Kaplan testify about Santora's death was stunned last week when he walked into another courtroom and heard that acting Bonanno boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano was on trial for the rubout of a mob figure named Frank Santoro.
"Only in Brooklyn can two witnesses be testifying about the same murder in two trials going on at the same time in the same courthouse," the spectator said in amazement.
Alas, as an old editor once said, "Great story if true."
The Frank Santoro that Vinny Gorgeous allegedly killed spelled his name differently and was shot to death as he walked his dog in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx in 2001.
Soon, as early as today, the feds will call Basciano's one-time righthandman, Dominick Cicale, to the stand hoping that he can turn out the lights on Vinny Gorgeous.
A former member of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood testified last week that John Gotti offered $100,000 to the white supremacist prison gang to kill an inmate who had suckerpunched the mob boss while they were housed at Marion Federal Penitentiary in 1996.
Turncoat AB member Glen West testified that Gotti told him about the bounty after another AB inmate had forwarded the Dapper Don's request to one of four Brotherhood leaders on trial for racketeering and murder in Santa Ana, Calif.
As Gang Land reported four years ago, inmate Walter Johnson punched Gotti bloody on July 18, 1996, one day after the Dapper Don had hurled racial epithets at the younger, muscular black inmate during a confrontation in an indoor recreation area.
Within two weeks, according to the indictment, Gotti offered a murder contract to two Aryan Brotherhood members, whose leaders approved the contract and sent word to members throughout the federal prison system that "Johnson was to be murdered at all costs."
Johnson, who spent most of the next five years in solitary, was released in May 2001. A month later, he was back in prison, for killing a cop in Washington, D.C. He was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
This column and other news of organized crime will appear later today atwww.ganglandnews.com.
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