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Peter Chiodo

Peter "Big Pete" Chiodo (born 1940) was an Italian-American gangster and capo in the Lucchese crime family who later became a government witness. He is the nephew of Frank Signorino.

Background

In 1987, Chiodo became a made man in the Lucchese family in a ceremony held in an apartment over a funeral home in Queens. In 1989, Chico became a capo in charge of funneling payoffs from Local 580 of the Ironworkers' Union to the Lucchese leadership.

Murder of Jimmy Bishop

Chiodo was involved in the murder of painters union official Jimmy Bishop on May 17, 1990. That morning Bishop had left his girlfriend's apartment building on Powell's Cove Boulevard in Queens and walked into a Lucchese ambush. Bishop was sixty years old, a hard-drinking, loud-mouthed union leader. He had been the secretary-treasurer of the eight thousand-member New York chapter of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades for sixteen years. Bishop had also been an associate of the Lucchese crime family since the late seventies, when he turned to the mob to run off a rival union official who had been appointed to clean up Bishop's notoriously corrupt district. From then on Bishop was "on record" with "Fat Pete" Chiodo and the Luccheses, protected but also vulnerable to the whims and machinations of the family.

Bishop's troubles with the Luccheses dated back months before the May 1990 ambush. They had blocked Bishop's bid to be elected to the board of the International Brotherhood. Bishop was told to bow out of the race or face physical harm. The message came from the heads of the Lucchese family Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who wanted to place their own man in power. Bishop was a blowhard boozer whom they considered unreliable. Bishop resigned from the union and went straight to the NYPD for protection.

When Bishop turned to the NYPD, the Organized Crime Investigation Division (CID) and the Manhattan DA's Office were conducting an investigation of corruption in the painting business. Bishop became a confidential informant (CI) and gave them the insider account of the scam. In return, they promised to keep him alive. But confidential informants presented a serious challenge for state authorities. Because of RICO's effectiveness, the federal government had developed an elaborate Witness Protection Program to safeguard cooperators. The state had no equivalent. The NYPD had to improvise, with little money, support, or expertise. The department's procedure was to assign a team of detectives to take the CI to a cheap out-of-town motel and stay in hiding until the danger passed. He was initially moved to Canada but after a while Bishop took his chances and came back to New York.

At approximately 11am, Bishop was operating his 1988 Lincoln automobile in the parking lot in the rear of 162-01 Powell's Cove Blvd. While driving out of the parking lot he was shot numerous times in the head and body. Within half an hour of the murder, detectives from the 109th Precinct found and interviewed a schoolteacher who had been having an affair with Bishop. She told the detectives Bishop had been secretly cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in an investigation into organized crime. The teacher described a warning Bishop had just received from the mob.

In early June, nearly a month after her husband was killed, Bishop's widow presented the lead detective with a letter. Bishop had written the letter a year earlier, leaving instructions that it was to be opened in the event of his death. It described a meeting in a Staten Island motel with Fat Pete Chiodo. Chiodo had told Bishop he would be killed if he opposed the candidate of the Luchese family in the upcoming union election.

Bishop had previously reached out to a friend with a wiseguy contact who knew a Brooklyn barber who knew Chiodo and arranged to have Chiodo and Tommy "Irish" Carew beat down a rival official early one morning in the stairwell of the union headquarters on West 14th Street in lower Manhattan. Chiodo and Carew used pipes; the man ended up in the hospital in a coma.

Waste and Tiger Management

In the late 1980s solid waste removal was one of the main rackets of the Lucchese crime family. The industry was worth billions of dollars and growing rapidly, with the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island reaching capacity. A new business emerged trucking trash to rural areas in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Inevitably, gangsters infested the industry, fixing contracts, bribing powerful politicians, and strong-arming unions and union presidents and legitimate operators -- the same operating procedure as in the painting industry. Mobbed-up companies baled hazardous material, like needles and medical waste, with regular garbage to save money. hundreds of millions of tons were hauled every year. Profits were phenomenal. The Lucchese crime family controlled the waste management industry in New York, and billions of dollars a year from garbage hauling and recycling. Some ofthier businesses was run out of a storefront on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. Pete Chiodo was one of the soldiers in charge of keeping the unions in line. By this time he had already become a capo under Vic Amuso and Anthony Casso and had been given the 19th Hole to operate A social club Amuso and Casso used to run their affairs.

In the winter of 1988, a secret multi agency investigation of garbage hauling was launched. Tiger Management was one of the targets. Investigators from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office were engaged in surveying a trailer that Tiger Management kept in the industrial wastelands of New Jersey. Listening devices had been placed inside the trailer on St. Patrick's Day, when no one from Tiger Management was on the site. They picked up voices in the trailer conversations and were able to detect and record telephone conversations. Investigators set up in a hotel room across the street and half a block away from the trailer to conduct video surveillance and take photographs of all vehicles and people coming and going.

On April 18, 1989, the hotel room was manned by Victoria Vreeland, a young investigator on the first assignment of her law enforcement career. As she stood in the window watching the Tiger Management trailer, Chiodo drove a large mobile home onto the property, then got out and started to crawl on the ground outside of the trailer. Vreeland quickly became concerned. She knew technicians had also been under the trailer installing the listening devices and there was a chance the man would see exposed wires, thereby revealing the investigation.

Chiodo conducted himself as if he had no idea he might be under observation. Vreeland recorded the scene on videotape. Chiodo climbed out of a hatch on top of the trailer. He got a ladder from the mobile home and climbed up the pole. Then he got back in the mobile home and drove to the next telephone pole and did the same thing at each pole all the way down the street. He was working diligently for forty-five minutes. That day all the wiretaps went down. The next day the bugs went down. The cover of the investigation had been blown.

Windows Case

In 1989, the Lucchese family began worrying about indictments from the Windows case. The Luccheses and three other New York families had participated in a window replacement scheme that stole millions of dollars from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Worried that construction union leader John Morrissey might testify in this case for the prosecution, family leaders ordered Chiodo to lure Morrissey to New Jersey, where he was murdered.

In 1991, Chiodo was charged with violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the Windows case. Faced with a solid government case, Chiodo decided to plea guilty in return for a lighter sentence. However, Chiodo's plea angered Lucchese official boss Vittorio Amuso and official underboss Anthony Casso, both in hiding from the law. Convinced that Chiodo was going to betray them Amuso and Casso ordered street boss Alphonse D' Arco, the acting boss, to kill Chiodo. Casso and Chiodo had been good friends for years.

Assassination attempt

On May 8, 1991 five Lucchese assassins ambushed Chiodo and his friend in a black van with uzi submachine guns at a gas station in Staten Island where he was working on a car. Chiodo received 21 bullet wounds in the hands, arms, legs, torso, shoulders, and his face but survived the attack, his friend died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds. over 200 shots were fired at him, that destroyed his car he was hiding behind. Doctors credited Chiodo's 500 pound (227 kg.) weight for saving his life. Following the unsuccessful assassination attempt, Lucchese mobsters delivered a blunt threat to Chiodo's lawyer that they would kill him and Chiodo's wife and children if he testified. According to Chiodo, he decided to become a government witness to protect his family. The government quickly brought Chiodo's immediate family into the federal Witness Protection Program.

With the failure of his hit squad to murder Chiodo, D'Arco soon became afraid of the wrath of his bosses. After a 1991 meeting during which he feared being murdered, Alphonse D' Arco went into hiding and soon became a government witness himself.

Government witness

In September 1991, using a wheelchair due to his wounds, Chiodo testified in the Windows trial. Chiodo stated that he had undergone a "transformation" from a violent and ruthless gangster to a man with a conscience. When asked what prompted this transformation, Chiodo replied "I was shot 21 times".

Chiodo's remaining family in Brooklyn soon suffered brutal retaliation from the Lucchese crime family. On March 10, 1992, Lucchese hitman Michael Spinelli and two Lucchese hitmen ambushed Patricia Capozallo and Frank Capozallo, Chiodo's sister and her husband, with uzi submachine guns while she and her husband was driving in Bensonhurst, while stopped at a red light the Lucchese hit squad opened fire, Patricia suffered severe wounds to the arms, back, shoulder, and neck but survived, however, her husband Frank unfortunately instantly died from numerous gunshot wounds to the head and neck, the submachine guns nearly destroyed her car and blowing it up. after her husbands death, Patricia was devastated, she quickly left New York, and moved to Canada, and changed her her first and last name. On February 2, 1993, the body of Frank Signorino, Chiodo's uncle, was found in the trunk of a car in East New York strangulated and stabbed over forty times. Two of Chiodo's cousin's, the son and daughter of Frank Signorino, 31-year-old Anthony Signorino and 24-year-old Katherine Signorino were both found in a trunk of a car in Harlem with their hands tied behind their backs and both of their throats were cut from ear to ear, and they had numerous gunshot wounds to the head, neck and torso. Frank Signorino's wife was a target for Lucchese crime family retribution but immediately left town, allegedly moving to England. Five of Chiodo's closest friends and associates were all viciously killed by Lucchese assassins. Almost all of Chiodo's family and friends were either brutally attacked, injured or killed by the Lucchese crime family.

Chiodo provided valuable evidence that helped convict both Vittorio Amuso and Anthony Casso as well as many other gangsters. While testifying in different cities, the government had to fly Chiodo in a special plane due to his morbid obesity. In July 1997, Chido testified against Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante in another Windows-related racketeering trial.

On September 11, 2007, Chiodo was sentenced to 17 years in prison on racketeering charges. However, due to his testimony, Chiodo was to serve no time in prison. Chiodo is currently in the Witness Protection Program.

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