Friday, February 6, 2009

Pizzeria Owner Who Pistol-Whipped Customer May Be Mob Informant

PALM COAST -- Sometimes a good story begins with simple introductions.
Meet Joey Calco, a noted mob informant whose testimony helped federal prosecutors convict multiple members of New York's infamous Bonanno crime family.
Meet Joseph Milano, a Palm Coast pizzeria manager accused of attacking two customers who complained about a calzone they had purchased from his restaurant, Goomba's Pizzeria.
What do Calco and Milano have in common?
For starters, a civil court lawsuit filed last year by a Palm Coast teenager claims Milano sexually harassed her when she was working at his restaurant. In court documents, she says Milano told her he had killed people and is in the federal witness protection program.
Joey Calco is a confessed killer whose testimony and cooperation with federal officials led to the conviction of several ranking members of New York's organized crime world, court records show. Calco also offered key information to international officials about the Sicilian Mafia, court records show.
Records also show Milano and Calco share the same birth date -- March 26, 1968.
There are physical similarities. In fact, an expert on Joey Calco and his mob associates, from what was once known as the "Bath Avenue Crew" in New York, says Calco and Milano appear to her to be the same person.
"That is absolutely, positively him (Calco)," Michele McPhee said in a telephone interview Thursday after seeing a recent jail mug shot of Joseph Milano.
McPhee is an author and journalist who has written books about Calco and his crew after federal officials' takedown of several members of New York's infamous Bonanno crime family several years ago. One of McPhee's books, "Mob Over Miami," gives an inside look into the Bath Avenue Crew and former mobster turned South Florida club informant Chris Paciello.
So is Joseph Milano actually Joey Calco?
That question might never have arisen if not for an 11-year-old with a picky palate.
Milano was arrested Jan. 23 and accused of beating and pistol-whipping two customers after they complained about a calzone they had purchased for one of their daughters earlier in the day and demanded a refund for the botched order.
Video footage of the alleged attack was captured on the restaurant's surveillance system. That video eventually was released by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office and played in the media for the entire world to see.
Meanwhile, numerous court documents, interviews and tips from the community led The News-Journal to investigate Milano's criminal history and personal background, which revealed several additional similarities between Joseph Milano and Joey Calco.
An employee at Milano's restaurant said in a telephone interview after the Jan. 23 attack that Goomba's startup capital and financial backing comes from Milano's mother.
Milano's application for an occupational license and other business documents filed with the state named Guiseppina Calco as the business owner. Guiseppina Calco later removed herself and named Milano as president of the business in May 2008, state business records indicate.
McPhee said a source in the New York Police Department's organized crime unit confirmed to her that Guiseppina and Calogero Calco are the infamous mobster Joey Calco's parents.
Guiseppina Calco is 64, according to voter registration documents.
Joey Calco spoke to the judge at his own sentencing after the conclusion of the federal cases he testified in against his former crime family friends, saying he'd lost a brother and his sister was hurt because of his connection to the mob. His family was forced to flee to Florida because of it, Calco told the judge.
Did Joey Calco eventually join his family in Flagler County as Joseph Milano?
Property records show Guiseppina and Calogero Calco lived in New York and had a home on the corner of Bath Avenue and Bay 13th Street prior to moving to Florida. It's where Joey Calco's climb through the ranks of a New York mob family began when he was just a child, court records show.
Calco's childhood home was just three houses away from Anthony Spero, the Bonanno family's consigliere, and just around the corner from an elite social club where New York's most well-connected mobsters often congregated, court records show.
Records show Guiseppina and Calogero Calco eventually purchased three Palm Coast properties: One in 2003, another in 2004 and the latest in 2007. Joseph Milano and Kristy Leal live in one of the properties and Milano has survivorship rights to that property in the event of Guiseppina and Calogero's deaths, property records state.
Records also indicate Milano married Leal on Jan. 29, just days after the story of the calzone attack appeared in the local media.
Other Calcos, believed to be relatives, live in the Volusia and Flagler area, some on the same Palm Coast street, property records show.
The possibility of a Calco family reunion in Florida didn't surprise McPhee. She said several of the federal witnesses who testified against Spero and other key mob figures years ago are now living "the high life" with families and friends in new cities and states. Often the new locales offer active social scenes and warmer climates.
"It seems that everyone in the Bath Avenue Crew knew exactly how to take advantage of the WitSec (Witness Security) program," the NYPD source told McPhee.
And Calco may not be the only informant having trouble staying hidden and out of trouble since testifying against his former New York crime family. McPhee said other mob-rats-turned-protected-witnesses in Calco's crew have gotten into trouble since they were given new identities.
It also made sense to McPhee's NYPD source that Calco would find himself back in the criminal mix.
"Calco was feared and revered in Brooklyn," he said, adding it was likely Calco could be "lured" into old habits involving power and money.
As of Thursday, Goomba's Pizzeria was still open and serving customers but was no longer delivering food to local schoolchildren after a school district contract expired Monday. Writing on the store's windows announced that the pizzeria was under new ownership. Employees wouldn't say who the new owners are.
One employee did say on Wednesday that Milano had not returned to the restaurant since video and media coverage of the Jan. 23 incident over the calzone was made public.
Milano's home was guarded Thursday by a large dog apparently corralled by an invisible electronic fence. A neighbor said she recently saw Milano working on the eaves of the home. She said it appeared he was installing security cameras.
The United States Marshals Service, which administers the federal Witness Security Program, did not return a call Thursday made by The News-Journal. Flagler County Sheriff Donald Fleming declined to comment.
And State Attorney R.J. Larizza said through a spokesman that his agency has no knowledge Milano might be a federal informant and prosecutors intend to review and move forward with the battery case against him in the same way they would any other case.
One final note: A former Goomba's employee told The News-Journal that three men in a Lincoln Town Car bearing New Jersey license plates showed up at Goomba's the day after the first calzone attack story appeared in the national news.
They asked for "Joey Calco."
Records show Calco's life entwined with New York mob
Joey Calco spent years working as a hit man for the Bonanno crime family, court records show. His nearly lifelong climb through the ranks of the mob family began when he was just a young child.
Calco grew up in a home three houses away from Anthony Spero, a high-ranking mobster, and just around the corner from an elite social club where New York's most connected mob men often congregated, court records state.
Calco later would turn on those criminal leaders he long sought to serve, providing testimony in federal court that led to Spero's conviction for his involvement in multiple murders. It was Spero who ordered Calco to commit at least one of those murders and in the case against Spero, Calco testified as to his compliance.
Calco also provided critical testimony and information to federal investigators about the Sicilian Mafia and a variety of other faces in New York organized crime, court records show.
After the federal cases against Spero and others concluded, Calco faced his own destiny in a courtroom. He was charged with eight criminal counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, drug distribution, murder, being an accessory to crimes, and use of firearms.
All but two of those charges were dismissed by the judge at the request of state and federal prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation and testimony in other cases.
At Calco's sentencing, the mother of a man Calco admittedly killed -- Jack Cherin Jr. -- begged the court to keep a killer off the streets.
"Nothing will change the fact that Joey Calco will always be a murderer who has and always will put his own needs and desires above those of society," said Ms. Cherin, whose first name was not included in court documents.
She went on to tell the court, "we are aware that the law rewards cooperation, but how much of a reward does a repeated murderer merit?"
The judge said he felt compelled to give Calco a light sentence for his crimes in view of his crucial cooperation in the takedown of New York's organized crime problem, court records show. The sentence also was designed to encourage other organized crime members to follow in Calco's footsteps in testifying against other organized crime figures.
At his sentencing, Calco apologized to his victims and family for his misdeeds, saying to the judge, "if you give me another chance, I won't let this court down and I won't let you down, your honor."
A Look Back
1993: Joseph (Joey) Calco fired two bullets into the back of Paul Gulino's head in Gulino's mother's New York home. At the time, Gulino was the acting leader of the Bath Avenue Crew -- an organized gang of criminals that included Calco. Calco later admitted he shot Gulino as he left the room to get Calco something to drink.
1999: Ranking Bonanno crime family member Anthony Spero is indicted for his involvement in three murders, including the murder of Paul Gulino.
2001: Calco testifies against Spero, saying it was Spero who ordered Gulino's murder.
2004: Calco was sentenced for his own criminal dealings. The judge, at the request of state and federal prosecutors, dismissed all but two of the eight charges against him. He was sentenced to serve nine years in prison -- minus 10 months' time served -- and five years of supervised release.
2006-2007: The time period during which a Social Security number was issued for Joseph Milano, who also has the same date of birth as Joseph Calco.
2007: Joseph Milano opens Goomba's Pizzeria in Palm Coast.
2008: Joseph Milano is accused of sexually harassing a female employee and assaulting another a few weeks later. Both incidents reportedly occurred at his restaurant. The State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the case involving sexual harassment and the other case remains in limbo, with the charges not yet formalized or dropped.
2009: Joseph Milano is accused of attacking two customers, pistol-whipping one when he demanded a refund for a botched calzone order. BY HEATHER SCOFIELD
SOURCE: New York federal court records; local court records; News-Journal research
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