Anthony "Big Tony" Peraino (May 10, 1915- October 18, 1996) was a New York mobster in the Colombo crime family who financed the ground-breaking pornographic film Deep Throat. Peraino got his nickname "Big Tony" allegedly due to his weight (over 300 pounds).
Early Family History
Anthony and his brother Joseph are the sons of Prohibition era Mafia boss Giuseppe Piraino. The Peraino brothers' father was a member of the Sicilian Mafia and immigrated to the United States from Sicily around 1911 after escaping from the Palermo prison where he had been sentenced to 25 years. Joe Piraino settled in New York around 1911, but it is unknown if he was already married upon his arrival. What is known is that Anthony was born approximately 4 years after his father's arrival from Sicily, and that his father immediately joined his fellow Sicilian countrymen in New York's Italian underworld and started to climb the ranks of the New York Mafia. By 1930, Piraino had become the boss of the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn area rackets, taking over bootlegging, gambling and extortion activities once controlled by boss Frankie Yale. Piraino was said to be an associate and ally of powerful New York Mafia boss Salvatore Maranzano, and on the night of March 27, 1931, Piraino attended a "bootleggers summit" in Brooklyn, where he was murdered as he left the meeting. he is suspected of being another casualty of the Castellammarese War, but his death could have been the result of separate Mafia conflict that was occurring within the Brooklyn bootlegging community. Author and Mafia historian Patrick Downey has theorized that Piraino may have in fact been the patriarch of the Profaci crime family, the precursor to the Colombo crime family, because Piraino's criminal interests, Brooklyn territory and several members of his group were absorbed into the group led by Brooklyn based Mafia leader and Maranzano ally, Joe Profaci, a theory that is supported by some, and dismissed by others. Another strong fact that lends to Downey's theory is that both of Piraino's sons, Anthony and Joseph became members of the Profaci-Colombo crime family. At some point the spelling of the Piraino family name was changed to its present spelling.
Tony Peraino was a "made man" member of the Profaci crime family most likely sometime before the books were closed for membership in the late 1950s, and like his father he climbed the ranks of the New York Mafia to become one of Colombo crime family's biggest earners. Peraino helped develop pornography into one of organized crime's biggest moneymakers after narcotics and labor racketeering. He was aided by his brother Joe "The Whale" Peraino, his sons Louis "Butchie" Peraino and Joseph C. Peraino, and his nephew, Joseph Peraino.
The Peraino family financed and produced the most profitable pornographic film of all time — Deep Throat. Louis produced the movie and his father Anthony loaned him the initial $22,500 in production costs. The Perainos used a unique procedure by leasing the theatres and employees for all proceeds. To ensure compliance, they sent their own employees or associates known as "checkers" to run the movie houses.
Anthony and Louis used profits from Deep Throat to build a vast financial empire in the 1970s that included, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), "ownership of garment companies in New York and Miami and investment companies".
The Perainos controlled various adult and porn industry interests based in New York, Los Angeles and South Florida, from adult bookstores, to peep shows and adult movie theaters. Joseph Peraino later became involved in the distribution of another very successful pornographic film, the Devil in Miss Jones, and from his base of operations in California's San Fernando Valley, Peraino would maintain a tight grip on the Colombo crime family's interests in the porn industry well into the 1990s.
Almost from the time of Deep Throat's release in 1972, prosecutors started going after the Peraino family. In 1975, Anthony and brother Joseph were convicted for conspiracy to distribute Deep Throat. In 1976, Anthony was convicted on conspiracy to ship obscene material interstate. This conviction was for the distribution of Deep Throat on video tape. However, before he could be sentenced, he jumped bail and disappeared for the next five years, reportedly to Italy.
In February 1979, as part of the 'Mi Porn' Operation, FBI agents raided adult movie theaters, warehouses, retail stores, and offices across the country. Anthony's two sons were arrested in the New York office of their company, Arrow Film and Video, and charged with interstate shipment of obscenity in the form of hardcore videos. Louis received six years in prison and Joseph C. received three years. Also arrested in the 'Mi Porn' case was Gambino family Capo Ettore Zappi.
In 1981, in poor health, Anthony turned himself in to authorities. In 1982 in Memphis, Tennessee, Anthony was sentence to ten months in prison and $15,000 in fines for his 1976 conviction and for jumping bail.
Decline of the Perainos
With the Perainos under siege from law enforcement,a dispute between the Peraino brothers over their pornography and business empire was settled in favor of Anthony by the administration of the Colombo crime family. On January 4, 1982, gunmen chased down Anthony's brother Joseph and nephew Joseph Jnr. in a residential area of Gravesend, Brooklyn. Joseph Sr. was paralyzed and Joseph Jr. was killed.
In 1986, Anthony was reportedly involved in producing and distributing pornography out of Florida. He and Louis amongst other interests controlled an adult movie theater, the Gamecock, in Broward County, Florida.
In September 1996, Anthony Peraino died in California of natural causes.