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Ex-Cops Found Guilty of Killing for the Mafia

The longtime New York detectives provided an underboss with a steady supply of information.

April 07, 2006|Ellen Barry | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who served for decades as New York City police detectives, were convicted Thursday of carrying out murders and abductions for a Mafia underboss.

Over the course of a three-week trial, witnesses described men who used their badges to disarm victims: In one case, Eppolito and Caracappa turned on flashing police lights to pull a driver over to the side of the road before shooting him dead through the car window.

All the while, they provided Mafia underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso -- who boasted to friends in mob circles about having a "crystal ball" -- with a steady stream of intelligence from police files.

The jury found that the two former cops participated in eight murders, two attempted murders and one murder conspiracy -- as well money laundering, obstruction of justice and drug distribution. They each face a sentence of up to life in prison.

"We gave them their power. We trusted them, and we expected them to protect us," U.S. Atty. Roslynn Mauskopf said after the verdicts were reached.

"They didn't deliver us from evil. They themselves were evil personified."

The two men were arrested last year in Las Vegas, where they had retired after a combined 44 years on the force. Eppolito, 57, was trying to break into screenwriting after winning a few acting roles, such as Fat Andy in "Goodfellas." Caracappa, 64, a thinner and less flamboyant man who was known by detective colleagues as "the Stick," followed his former partner to Nevada and moved into a house on the same block.

Witness Burton Kaplan gave 14 hours of testimony about the relationship that grew between the two detectives and Casso, a Luchese family underboss known for his brutality. From 1986 to 1990, Kaplan said, Casso paid the two a $4,000-a-month retainer, as well as lump sums for killings. For the traffic stop murder of Eddie Lino, for instance, they got $65,000.

After retiring from the force, Eppolito wrote a book, "Mafia Cop," in which he described how as a young man he had rejected the Mafia tradition of his father, nicknamed "Fat the Gangster," and his uncle, known as "Jimmy the Clam."

Several members of Eppolito's family, which has gathered daily in the first row of seats in the courtroom, wept as the jury forewoman replied "proven" to each of 70 counts of racketeering. His daughter, Andrea, who fingered rosary beads as the trial ended, excoriated the verdict.

"People have called this the worst case of corruption that New York has ever seen, and I agree. But it was not on the part of my father, and not on the part of Steve Caracappa. The corruption came from the government," she said. "My father did not do these things."

But Eppolito appeared resigned Thursday, as he has since the trial began. After closing statements Monday, he stood in the lobby with a queasy look on his face.

He said that he had been helpless to correct the record while witnesses lied on the stand, and that the testimony of men now dead would have exonerated him.

"This is a game to me; this is a joke," he said. "It's disgusting, it's disgusting. I sit there and hold my stomach together."

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