Gambino Family Administration Member Convicted of Racketeering Conspiracy Involving Two Murders
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 17, 2013|
Following a five-week trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn today found Bartolomeo Vernace, a member of the administration of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the “Gambino family”), guilty of a racketeering conspiracy spanning 1978 through 2011. As part of the racketeering conspiracy, the jury found that Vernace participated in all nine racketeering acts alleged in the indictment, including the 1981 double homicide of Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese, heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, and illegal gambling.
The verdict was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George C. Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
The evidence at trial established that Vernace, also known as “Bobby Glasses,” “Pepe,” and “John Canova,” had a long career in the mafia beginning in the early 1970s and culminating in his induction and rise to become a powerful Gambino family captain who served on the three-member ruling panel overseeing the family that was established in 2008. Vernace was arrested on January 20, 2011, as part of a national sweep of almost 100 members and associates of organized crime led by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Among the crimes he committed for the mafia, Vernace, together with two Gambino associates, murdered Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese in the Shamrock Bar in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens on April 11, 1981, after a dispute arose between a Gambino family associate and others in the bar over a spilled drink. The associate left the bar and picked up Vernace and a third accomplice at a nearby social club. A short time later, the three men entered the bar and gunned down Godkin and D’Agnese—the owners of the bar—as the bar’s patrons fled for cover.
In the weeks after the murders, Vernace went into hiding while one of his close associates, Ronald “Ronnie One-Arm” Trucchio, a rising star in the Gambino family who would later become a powerful captain, sought to question witnesses from the Shamrock Bar that night, placing those witnesses in fear. While in hiding, Vernace was indicted under the alias “Pepe” in the Southern District of New York on heroin trafficking charges. Years later, Vernace, who had avoided state charges for the murders and who had never been identified in connection with the heroin trafficking indictment, returned to Queens and to an active role in the Gambino family. Over the next two decades, his power within the mafia grew as he became actively involved in robbery, loansharking, and gambling, while operating a large and profitable crew from a café on Cooper Avenue in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens.
In 1998, Vernace was charged in Queens County Supreme Court with the Godkin and D’Agnese murders but was acquitted after trial in 2002. During testimony from the first week of the federal trial, an eyewitness to the murders testified that he had lied during the state trial about Vernace’s role in the murders due to fear of retribution. In the federal case, the eyewitness testified he recognized all three assailants but that he had been afraid to testify against them because, in his words, “two men were dead over a spilled drink. I think that was reason enough to be afraid.” The eyewitness further described how, moments before the murders, he saw Vernace pointing a gun at Godkin’s head and taunting him and that he saw one of Vernace’s accomplices threatening D’Agnese with a gun. According to the medical examiner, Godkin was killed by a gunshot to the chest fired from point-blank range, and D’Agnese died from a gunshot to the face.
In addition to the Godkin and D’Agnese murders, the jury found the other seven racketeering acts proved, including heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, and gambling and found the defendant guilty of separate firearms and illegal gambling charges as well.
“Organized crime has been depicted by Hollywood as a group of criminals with honor. This case shows what organized crime is really all about—murder, mayhem, and making money off of the weaknesses and addictions of others. Today’s racketeering conspiracy conviction of a powerful Gambino family leader demonstrates, yet again, this office’s unwavering commitment to holding individuals who choose a life of organized crime accountable, regardless of the age of their crimes,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “The defendant spent the last 40 years pursuing a career of crime, including the vicious double murder, as well as traditional mafia rackets. With this verdict, Vernace has finally been brought to justice and will be held to account for the destruction and pain he has inflicted on his victims and their families. We sincerely hope that today’s verdict helps bring a measure of closure for the families of Vernace’s murder victims, for whom justice has too long been denied.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency responsible for leading the government’s investigation, and to the United States Marshals Service for its assistance during trial.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “The 32 years since Vernace took part in the ruthless double murder of two good men represent half his lifetime. They have not been years spent atoning for those murders. It has been time spent living the life of a mob soldier, capo, and overseer—half a lifetime committing and directing crimes for the Gambino crime family. We expect that Vernace’s remaining years will be spent behind bars where he belongs. There is no expiration date on the FBI’s resolve to see justice done.”
When sentenced by United States District Judge Sandra L. Townes, Bartolomeo Vernace faces a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amir H. Toossi, and M. Kristin Mace.