Vincent Papa

Vincent C. Papa (1917 New York City - July 1977 Atlanta, Georgia) was an Italian-American mobster associated with the Lucchese crime family. He became notorious for masterminding the theft of the French Connection heroin from the New York Police Department (NYPD) property office.

Early years

Born in New York City, Papa grew up in the Astoria neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens. A longtime partner of Long Island drug kingpin Anthony Loria Sr., Papa became a respected underworld figure. Their main supplier is believed to have been Genovese crime family associate Louis Cirillo.

Vincent Papa's Crew was based in Astoria, Queens and held court at Astoria Colts Social Club and Ditmars Car Service. Prudenti's in Long Island City was another place of Business. Johnny Dio Dioguadio was Papa's main hook to the bosses. Anthony Loria, was based out of The Bronx and also in North Babylon out on Long Island. He would get major amounts of heroin from Papa directly or through Virgil Alessi who had various areas of control throughout the city. Loria was basically the main source for all the heroin on Long Island in late 1960's - early 1970's. Loria sold to Angelo Paradiso (who turned states witness, thus bringing down the whole distribution network) Nino Fazio and Mr. Huff. Huff was known for being flashy, driving a black Cadillac and wearing fur coats blinged with diamonds and gold. Huff would sell up in Harlem and parts of the Bronx.

French Connection Theft

NY Chart of the "French Connection" heroin trail. Circa 1973 NYC

A major narcotics distributor for many years, Papa along with Virgil Alessi, Johnny Dio and Anthony Loria, plotted the famous French Connection drug thefts. Between 1969 and 1972, New York Police Department detectives stole approximately half a billion dollars in confiscated narcotics from the New York City Police Property Clerk's office in Lower Manhattan. Over 400 pounds of heroin and cocaine disappeared back into the streets. Although some of the drugs were eventually recovered, the majority was lost forever. The French Connection theft became the biggest corruption scandal in NYPD history and one of the most spectacular crimes in city history. This theft was never solved.

Papa's crew, whose members included Loria, and a large group of detectives who would go to the property clerks office and steal the heroin, distributed close to $1 million in heroin along the East Coast of the United States during the early seventies. It was widely suspected that Papa sold the stolen drugs.

Papa was arrested on Feb 3, 1972, with another man in a car in which a green suitcase containing $967,550 in cash had been found. Joseph Ragusa, a convicted heroin dealer who was the prosecution's principal witness, testified that he had “stashed” two suitcases containing about 160 pounds of pure heroin, with a wholesale value of $1.5 million, in his apartment for Papa.

Papa's infamous theft was later made famous by the movie The French Connection II.

Prison and death

In 1975, Papa was convicted and sentenced to a 22 year term for conspiracy to distribute heroin at the Atlanta Federal Prison in Atlanta, Georgia. A year later he pleaded guilty to contempt and other Federal charges growing out of the theft of the French Connection drugs. In 1977, Papa was stabbed to death in prison as he was coming down a ramp to an exercise yard in the penitentiary. It is alleged that he was murdered by the Aryan Brotherhood, hired by rival mobster named Herbie Sperling. The motive for Papa's murder remains unclear. However, when prosecutors were still investigating the French Connection thefts, then-United States Attorney Rudy Giuliani allegedly leaked a deal that Papa had made with the government. Papa had promised to release the names of agents working for the United States Organized Crime Strike Force who were giving information secretly to Papa's organization. Under the terms of the deal, he would not be prosecuted for heroin trafficking. Giuliani, desiring the publicity he would gain from prosecuting Papa for heroin trafficking, ignored the deal and spread the word that Papa had become an informant. This information prompted the Lucchese family to order Papa's murder a short time later.

Grave

Papa is buried in Queens, New York, in St. John's Cemetery, the so-called "Mafia's Boot Hill". This cemetery holds infamous underworld figures such as Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Joe Profaci, Vito Genovese, Joseph Colombo, John Gotti and Carlo Gambino.

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