Geno Chiarelli (Aug. 5, 1942 - June 14, 2012) was a powerful figure in the Pittsburgh crime family who excelled in narcotics, extortion and armed robbery.
Chiarelli was born in 1942 in Manatoriccio, Italy, but it's not clear when he came to the U.S. and under what circumstances. He was raised in New Kensington and lived in that area his entire life. He served in the Marines from 1961 to 1965 and was stationed for part of that time in Okinawa, Japan.
Chiarelli later worked as a general contractor. Federal agents called him the "mob carpenter" because he worked on the homes of other mobsters, including boss Michael James Genovese and underboss Charles "Chucky" Porter. In the 1970s, he also was involved in running the Showboat Club, a troubled, mob-related Downtown night spot that was shut down in 1972. At the time, he was living in the former Hilton Hotel, Downtown, after his new split-level home in New Kensington burned to the ground in what police said was an arson. The home was valued at $35,000 and was insured for $70,000.
While carpentry was his trade, Chiarelli's real job was money-maker for the mob, according to federal agents and the former Pennsylvania Crime Commission he specialized in big-ticket heists, arson, extorting drug dealers and distributing Florida cocaine in Pittsburgh on a massive scale in the 1980s.
Chiarelli was implicated as the mastermind behind the 1982 St. Patrick's Day robbery of an armored truck at the Purolator Armored Inc. terminal in Brentwood, when two men disguised as FBI agents stole $2.5 million.
Police and FBI agents still marvel at the professionalism on display in that carefully planned caper, but no one was ever charged. The $2.5 million would be about $6 million in today's dollars, putting it among the largest armored-car heists in U.S. history.
The same is true for the heist at First Seneca Bank of Greensburg in 1986. Chiarelli and three other men disconnected the alarm system, cut through the roof of the bank and drilled a hole in the vault.
Once inside, they stole the Westmoreland County district attorney's cash from forfeitures, as well as $2 million worth of antique wheel-lock pistols and an antique sword inlaid with jewels belonging to a Greensburg collector.
The men were caught in Tampa in 1987 when they tried to sell the guns to the owner's insurance company in a deal monitored by the FBI, leading to an 80-mph chase through city streets. Chiarelli escaped but surrendered two days later in Pittsburgh.
Conviction and later years
He was eventually sentenced to five years in prison, but it was the wide-ranging racketeering case in 1990 that sent him away for nearly two decades, the longest federal term ever served by a Pittsburgh Mafia member.
He was 69 when he was released from federal prison in 2008 and was one of the few made members of the Pittsburgh mob left on the streets. Chiarelli died of natural causes on June 14, 2012.