George "Georgie Neck" Zappola (born 1960) is a New York mobster and caporegime with the Lucchese crime family who became infamous for smuggling a sperm sample out of prison to impregnate his girlfriend.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City in 1960. In the mid-1980s, Zappola joined the Lucchese family, working for the Brooklyn faction that was run by underboss Anthony Casso. Zappola became one of Casso's closest allies and in 1990 was promoted to caporegime. Both his father and a paternal uncle, small-time criminal associates of organized crime, were each murdered by unknown gunmen, in homicides that were never solved. Despite this, George still wanted to become a 'made man' in the Mafia.
A Brooklyn faction-leader, Zappola joined the labor and construction racketeering operation that earned the most money for the family. This operation was run by Steven Crea of the Bronx faction. He helped Anthony oversee his various business enterprises: a bagel factory that supplied local McDonald's restaurants, numbers rackets, and slot machines.
Zappola enjoyed watching professional Major League Baseball games and fights in bars around Brooklyn. He was a regular patron of Bruno's Hair Salon in Bensonhurst, where he would get a massage and a pedicure. Zappola was fastidious about his appearance and obsessed about his weight, walking six miles every day to stay trim. He wore a gold watch that was a gift from Casso, inscribed, "To George, a true friend, from Anthony." George was careless about police surveillance and electronic counter-surveillance, and carried a cell phone to which only Casso had the number. Zappola was Casso's most trusted contract killer.
In 1987, Zappola participated in the ambush murder of Lucchese capo Michael Pappadio. Lucchese boss Vittorio Amuso and Anthony Casso had ordered Pappadio' death after he refused to give up one of his rackets. After several Lucchese mobsters surprised and beat Pappadio in a bagel shop, Zappola shot him in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.
In February 1990, Zappola traveled to Los Angeles, California to supervise a hit on fellow Lucchese soldier Anthony DiLapi, which was carried out by Alphonse D'Arco's son "Little Joe" D'Arco. On the night in question, D'Arco and Zappola were dressed in hooded sweatshirts. Little Joe had a .380 Beretta and a .357 Magnum. Zappola remained hidden, supervising Little Joe and ensuring that DiLapi was actually murdered. DiLapi walked into a parking garage carrying a garment bag. Little Joe stepped out of the shadows and shot him. As DiLapi collapsed, D'Arco walked over to DiLapi and delivered the coup de grace, firing a shot directly into his head.
In May 1990, Zappola and George Conte shot James D. Bishop, a Democratic district leader and former head of the painters' union in Whitestone, Queens as he was parking his car. The Lucchese family had controlled and looted the District Council 9 of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades (IBPAT) for years. The mobsters would receive kickbacks from contractors in exchange for bid rigging and allowing the use of cheaper non-union workers. When it appeared that Bishop might cooperate with prosecutors in a state investigation of the district council, the Lucchese family ordered Zappola and Conte to murder him.
The early 1990s turned into a disaster for the Lucchese family. In 1991, Vittorio Amuso was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to life in prison. With Amuso in prison, Casso assumed the family leadership. However, Casso was soon indicted himself on murder and racketeering charges and fled the state. During this period, Crea was elevated to Underboss, acting on direct orders from the absent Amuso and Casso. In 1993, Anthony Casso was captured in New Jersey.
In 1993, Zappola and capos Frank Papagni and Frank "Spaghetti Man" Gioia Jr. saw an opportunity to wrest power away from new Underboss Steven Crea. With his ascension to power, Crea had shifted the family's power center away from Brooklyn, the power bases for Zappola, Pagagni and Goia, back to Manhattan and the Bronx, the historic power base of the Lucchese family. Zappola, Papagni, Gioia, and Consigliere Frank Lastorino started planning to murder Crea. The disaffected mobsters also conspired with Casso to kill then Acting Boss of the Gambino crime family, John A. "Junior" Gotti in retaliation for the killing of Patrick Testa. Allegedly, Zappola and his fellow conspirators also wanted to kill Gotti's rival Nicholas Corozzo, in an attempt to split up the Gambino family by causing an internal civil war. Unfortunately for Zappola and the other mobsters, legal problems thwarted all of their plotting.
Indictments and prison
After his 1993 capture, Anthony Casso decided to avoid prison by becoming a government witness. Towards 1994, Zappola was indicted on racketeering and murder charges. As it turned, Casso was dropped from the Witness Protection Program and sent to prison for life. Although Casso never testified, the threat of his testimony convinced Gioia, to cooperate with the government for protection. Gioia's testimony would lead to massive indictments of racketeering, extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling, bribery, money laundering, fraud, conspiracy and murder charges.
As winter of 1993-1994 set in and Casso's March trial date neared, he had grown more desperate. After two previously failed breakout attempts, Casso dreamt up the idea of ambushing the bus that transported prisoners from the MCC in lower Manhattan to the Brooklyn federal courthouse. Casso instructed Zappola to surveil the area. Recently promoted to captain, Zappola had hidden out in California and Florida for a time before returning to New York City to assist Casso and oversee his various business enterprises and was therefore entrusted with coordinating his breakout.
After studying the path the bus followed, Zappola decided the optimal place for an assault was opposite the Jehovah's Witness Watchtower building a few blocks from Brookyln's federal courthouse. The area was mostly industrial, with a warren of streets linked to a series of local avenues and express ramps. Multiple escape routes were available. Casso's crew on the outside would overtake the bus, cut the locks on its doors, and shoot their way in, to free Casso, paramilitary style. The plan for the assault on the bus caused divisions among the Luccheses incarcerated in MCC. Casso was determined to go, and so was Frank Lastorino. But Sal Avellino, another wiseguy facing RICO charges, was going to stay on the bus when the others ran, as was Michael DeSantis.
The plan presented enormous difficulties. First, the plotters had to be sure Casso was actually on the bus on the day they struck, a difficult thing to accomplish due to tightly restricted communications with prisoners. An acting Lucchese capo visited Casso in the MCC often. In preparation for the escape, Casso and his capo surreptitiously swapped running shoes during one visit. The shoes worn by prisoners were standard-issue rubber-soled laceless sneakers. There were two electronic signal devices hidden in the soles of the pair Casso kept. The crew on the outside would be able to detect the signal and know that Casso was on the bus when they hit it. Planning continued into the New Year as Casso's collaborators monitored his hearing dates.
Finally, their chance came. Early in 1994, on a cold winter day, Casso was in court by dawn. At ten in the morning the capo took up his position at the corner of Cadman Plaza and Tillary Street, outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse, waiting for the prisoner bus to emerge from the gated sally port. As soon as he received the signal from Casso's sneaker, the capo would contact one of the crew by radio. The attack would begin. But hours passed and the bus failed to emerge from the courthouse. The capo remained on his watch until two-thirty in the afternoon when he abandoned his post due to the cold. He hadn't received Casso's signal. The bus was delayed that day due to the extreme weather. Casso didn't return to the MCC until five-thirty.
In January 1995, Zappola was indicted on federal charges linking him to four killings and conspiracies to kill other members of the Lucchese family. In January 1996, Zapolla was indicted in a broad murder and racketeering indictment. In June 1996, Zappola pleaded guilty to several murders, including the 1990 Bishop slaying. Zappola was eventually sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Sperm Smuggling Incident
In October 1996, while being held at Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Zappola bribed a federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guard $1,000 to smuggle his sperm out of the facility. The sperm was taken to a Manhattan fertility clinic, where it was frozen for the future impregnation of Zappola's girlfriend. However, the girlfriend changed her mind about the scheme and went to the government. Authorities retrieved the sperm from the clinic, obtained a court order for a blood sample from Zappola, compared the DNA, and got a positive match. In 1999, the government fired the prison guard and charged him with smuggling the sperm. During this time, Zappola also bribed BOP correctional officers to receive special food, wine, and visitors along with information from BOP computers.
Release & Promotion
In 1997, Zappola was transferred to the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution, a medium security prison in Central Pennsylvania. He was released on March 3, 2014.
When the Lucchese administration was indicted in the years following his release from prison, Zappola was slated to take over as acting boss, but was still on parole. Therefore the position was instead given to Michael DeSantis instead. In 2021 however, he was given leadership over the family's New Jersey Faction instead.