Informant tells of life in the mob, S. Florida murders

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

By Ann W. O’Neill
Staff Writer

February 15, 2005

He was the youngest of a violent crime crew, and they called him “Babyface.” Now he’s a government informant telling a U.S. District Court jury all he knows about the violent, mob-connected gang allegedly behind a string of robberies and three 1995 murders in South Florida.

With a heavy Queens, N.Y., accent, Joseph Kondrotas, 26, described what it was like to grow up in the Young Guns, a crew that prosecutors say reports to New York’s Gambino family.

During two days on the witness stand, Kondrotas described a life of drug dealing, extortion, stealing cars, armed robberies, loan sharking, witness tampering and murder. The crimes stretched from New York to Fort Lauderdale.

He told jurors that his mentor, Kevin “Capone” Antinuche, worked for reputed Gambino captain Ronald “Ronnie One Arm” Trucchio, 53, who is on trial in Miami on racketeering charges. Everybody in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens knew Trucchio was a “made guy” in the mob, he said. Everybody respected him.

In his testimony, Kondrotas portrayed himself as an eager student of gangster life who won the confidence of his elders. Antinuche, Edward “Eddie Wrecker” Callegari and Trucchio trusted him and talked about their crimes with him, he said.

Although he had heard about Trucchio for years, Kondrotas said he didn’t meet him until late 2003, when they were in the same cellblock at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. He said he ingratiated himself by cleaning the disabled inmate’s cell, making his bed, tying his shoes and clipping his nails.

“He took a liking to me, very quick,” Kondrotas testified. “I figured I’d better put up and act accordingly. I’m looking up to him because he’s a legend in the neighborhood.”

In jail, Kondrotas said, Trucchio complained that the Young Guns had gotten him in trouble by wanting too much too soon.

“You guys just went all crazy,” Trucchio told him, adding, “You don’t become a gangster overnight. It took a long time for me to become a captain. I was around good people.”

Trucchio and a dozen Young Guns were indicted in late 2003. Without Trucchio’s “blessing,” Kondrotas said, all the Young Guns pleaded guilty, leaving the boss to stand trial alone.

Kondrotas said he dropped out of school in the fourth grade, left home, and began running with Antinuche. He stole cars at 12, sold cocaine at 13. He became a full-fledged Young Guns member at 15 when he carried a shotgun into a Queens supermarket, his first armed robbery.

“I felt like a million bucks,” he said.

Trucchio received “tribute,” a share of their criminal earnings, Kondrotas testified. “Once you’re with somebody,” he said Antinuche explained, “that’s what you do, pay tribute in hopes of getting your button and becoming a made member.”

Kondrotas described the 1995 Florida robbery and killing spree at the center of the government’s case, telling how they held up a supermarket in Boca Raton and committed a home invasion robbery. They hit a man with a shovel, he said. Then, they hit his dog.

A few days later, they allgedly robbed a Fort Lauderdale jewelry store. He flew back to New York carrying the loot, including a bag of jewels for Trucchio’s “tribute.”

While jailed together in Miami, Kondrotas said, Antinuche provided vivid details of three unsolved South Florida slayings — the October 1995 murders of Vincent D’Angola and Jami Schneider in Fort Lauderdale and Mark Rizzuto in Boca Raton.

“He told me that `Johnnie Boy’ Borelli, Eddie Callegari and Kevin Antinuche went to Vinnie’s house,” Kondrotas testified. “Vinnie was sleeping in the bedroom with Jami. Johnnie Boy shoots Vinnie while he was sleeping.”

But Borelli “froze up” after shooting D’Angola, he said. “Jami jumps up and starts screaming. She sees him shot in bed,” the witness recalled. Callegari grabbed the gun and shot the woman, “a whole clip in her face. Then he reloads and shoots another clip” from the .22-caliber pistol.

Later, Kondrotas added, Callegari told him he regretted not taking Schneider’s necklace. “She was actually wearing a necklace from the jewelry store robbery. If he had known, he would have taken it off,” he testified.

Callegari also fired the shots that killed Rizzuto, a Boca Raton Little League coach who was a friend of D’Angola’s, Kondrotas said. Both men had been involved with the Young Guns’ Florida crimes and the others were afraid they’d talk, he added.

No one has been charged and the murder investigations remain open.

Kondrotas said he decided to cooperate last year after learning of a “crazy” scheme to kill Trucchio, the prosecutors and witnesses. “I don’t want to go down with this ship no more,” he testified. “I didn’t even know why I was standing up for these guys.”

Under cross-examination, Kondrotas acknowledged that he faked symptoms of mental illness, tricking prison doctors in two states. But he repeatedly denied faking his story to the jury to shorten his sentence.

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