Carmine "Fish" Romano (August 21, 1935 - January 28, 2011) was a New York mobster and captain in the Genovese crime family who controlled the Fulton Fish Market distribution center in Downtown Manhattan.
Mob control of Fulton Fish Market
Beginning in the 1920s, the Fish Market had been controlled by mobsters. Unloading crews would extort "parking fees" and kickbacks from out of town fish companies. If a company refused to pay, the unloaders would let the fish spoil. Mr. Romano ruled a Fulton empire of guns, drugs, gambling, extortion, punishment beatings, murder, hijacking, assassinations, and theft. Mob employees and mob-controlled companies and industries received special benefits. The Market’s security force operated a protection racket for retail shops and vehicles located on the margins of the Market waterfront. Two of Romano's top soldiers would become powerful captains in their own right sharing the Fish Market, Rosario Gangi and Alphonse Malangone Across the street from the Fish Market was Carmine's Restaurant, which was owned by Carmine's uncle. Upstairs from the dining room was Romano's headquarters for operations at the Fish Market. He is the brother of Vincent Romano and Peter Romano and the cousin of Genovese mobster, Augie Cataldo also involved with the Fulton Fish Market and owner of Grampas Comedy Club of Staten Island. Augie spent 10 years in prison for racketeering, gambling, extortion and is currently Captain of the Genovese crime family. Augie Cataldo father of Pete Cataldo, Genovese soldier who runs part of Local 731 Laborers Union located in New York. Carmine Romano was secretary-treasurer of Local 359 of Seafood Workers’ Union, the head of the 2,000-strong union that controlled the unloading and moving of everything at Fulton, where $13 billion a year of fish was bought and sold. Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan say that over the years he helped skim billions of dollars from Fulton, where the Mob had had a stranglehold since the 1920s.
When he ran the vast shady side of Fulton, Mr. Romano inspired the kind of fear usually reserved for natural disasters and impending death.
“I can’t answer your question because I’m not prepared to die,” one Fulton businessman told a federal prosecutor who asked him under oath if he knew Fulton union boss Carmine Romano in 1981.
The man, who prosecutors did not identify during the federal trial, chose to go to jail for 90 days, and pay $66,000 for contempt of court rather than testify to even knowing Mr. Romano. “I mean no disrespect. I’m afraid of what will happen to my wife and children,” he said.
Yet another reluctant witness against Mr. Romano’s union, Anthony D’Andrilli, was shot five times -- in the chest, face, neck, hand and head -- outside Mr. Romano’s union office in April 1981 on the day after he accepted a subpoena from the government.
Incredibly, the man survived.
Manhattan U.S. attorney Daniel Bookin, who prosecuted Mr. Romano in 1981, described Mafia infiltration of Fulton to New York city newspapers with one simple word “total.”
Prison for Romano
When the federal government finally went after the Mob in Fulton first with a Department of Labor probe in 1980, then with a flurry of civil suits in the late 1980s and ’90s the prize at the end of their hunt was the Brooklyn-born Mr. Romano. Authorities made some small efforts to clean up the corruption. In the late 1970s, Romano was removed from the leadership of the seafood union for extorting wholesalers and enforcing a cartel. Finally, in 1981 Mob boss Romano was shifting control into New Jersey to his younger crew. Romano top Captain took control of operations in New Jersey and was untouched for many years. Later in 1982 Romano was convicted on racketeering and sent to prison for 14 years. However, Genovese domination of the market continued.
Before going to prison in 1981, Romano tried to intimidate the current non-mob owner of Carmine' restaurant into selling it back to Romano's uncle. According to court documents, Romano and associates visited the owner on the morning of January 21, 1981. They began their visit by breaking glasses, smashing all the windows, mirrors, tables, and chairs, throwing food around, destroying the coffee and cigarette machines, and yanking the stove out of the wall. Finally, they robbed the cash register and left. Despite this attempt at intimidation, the owner refused to sell it back.
Cleanup of Fish Market
In 1994, new mayor Rudy Giuliani launched a campaign to end mob control of the market. Through civil suits and new regulations, the city expelled mob employees and vendors and ended the extortion rackets against honest seafood vendors. The Genovese family retailiated with arson and wildcat strikes, but were unable to stop the city.
In 1999, Romano was released from prison and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he was the owner of Hygrade Ocean Products. In November 2005, the City of New York moved all seafood wholesale operations to a new facility in Hunts Point in the Bronx and permanently closed the Fulton Fish Market. Romano died January 28, 2011 in New Bedford.