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Giovanni "John the eagle" Riggi

Giovanni "John the Eagle" Riggi (born 1925-died 2015) was a New Jersey mobster and member of the DeCavalcante crime family since the 1940s, before the family had acquired its name. Riggi was the leader of the "Elizabeth crew" in the family when he was a Caporegime. He had been the acting boss during the 1970s and has been the official boss since around 1980. Riggi is currently incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Devens, Massachusetts on extortion and labor racketeering convictions. Ercole DiMeo the named but unseen character from the HBO TV series The Sopranos is supposedly based on Riggi.


Riggi has a large and reportedly extremely wealthy family. It is known that at least three of Riggi's sons, Emmanuel "Manny" Riggi, John "Junior" Riggi, and Vincent Riggi are "Made men" within the DeCavalcante crime family at the rank of Soldato (Soldier), or possibly even Caporegime (captain). It is also thought that other blood relatives that mostly reside in and around Elizabeth, New Jersey are connected, but whether to the point of "made men" or merely associates remains unclear.

Business Background

John Riggi had been a business agent of the "International Association of Laborers and Hod Carriers", in New Jersey for years. After DeCavalcante left prison in the mid-1970s, he appointed Riggi as acting boss of the family while he stayed semi-retired in Florida. DeCavalcante stepped down as boss officially in 1980, and Riggi was promoted to the position of official boss of the DeCavalcante crime family, a crime family with close ties to the Five Families of New York and represented at meetings of The Commission by the Genovese crime family, Riggi reaped the enormous benefits of large labor and construction racketeering, loansharking, illegal gambling and extortion activities as well as a large legitimate income. Riggi also had the family maintain their old traditions. Riggi established a close friendship with new Gambino crime family boss, John Gotti.

Whilst serving as boss, Riggi ordered the murder of Staten Island, New York resident Fred Weiss, a former journalist for the Staten Island Advance newspaper and real-estate developer in September 1989. The murder was allegedly a favor for Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, who was worried that Weiss was a government informant and that this would put the Gambino and DeCavalcante families at high risk. Weiss and two mob partners had purchased a vacant property in Staten Island and started illegally dumping large amounts of dangerous medical waste there. When local authorities uncovered the scheme and started investigating Weiss, the two mob families became nervous. Gotti, who worried that Weiss might become a government witness in exchange for leniency requested that the Decavalcantes murder Weiss to protect them. On September 11, 1989, Vincent Palermo and Anthony Capo as well as a crew of twelve other DeCavalcante associates in a convoy of four vehicles drove to the New York condominium of Weiss' girlfriend. As Weiss left the building and climbed into his car, Palermo and Capo got out of their vehicle, approached Weiss and murdered him by shooting him in the face multiple times. Both of them would become "made men" as a result of this.

Leading from jail

While in jail, Riggi appointed a ruling panel to take control of the DeCavalcante crime family until his release, but the acting boss of the panel, Gaetano Vastola was arrested and jailed as well. John D'Amato then appointed himself acting boss. D'Amato's reign was short, as it soon became clear that he had been recruited by the Gambino crime family and had been conspiring to murder Vastola. Later in 1991, D'Amato came into an argument with his girlfriend, who was also involved with Anthony Rotondo. She told Rotondo that when she and D'Amato were out at clubs during the evenings, D'Amato would be swinging and have sex with other men. Reportedly, Rotondo became quite upset that someone within the family was taking part in homosexual acts and shared it with the current administration members Giacomo Amari, the reputed Underboss, and Stefano Vitabile, the powerful Consigliere, who decided to have D'Amato murdered after informing the incarcerated Riggi. In January 1992, D'Amato was reported missing. His body has never been found, although US law enforcement recovered his car with some of his blood in it. Vincent Palermo, Anthony Capo and Anthony Rotondo would later testify about this murder against their former associates. In 2006, Philip Abramo, Giuseppe Schifilliti and Stefano Vitabile were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in the murder. Riggi had another 8 years added to his sentence.

It was believed that Riggi continued to run the family from jail despite being a very sick man in his old age. He was released from the Federal Medical Center, Devens on November 27, 2012.

On August 11, 2015 Riggi died at the age of 90 and was replaced as boss of the DeCavalcante crime family by Francesco Guarraci, who also died the following year.