Catching Up W/ The Mafia In Springfield (MA): Bars Linked To Infamous Mob Associate Getting Attention From Cops

In some more magnificent reporting by Masslive.com’s Stephanie Barry, we’ve learned that notorious Springfield, Massachusetts mob associate Rex Cunningham is connected to a pair of local taverns recently raided by state authorities (read Barry’s story here). Massachusetts State Police executed search warrants at both O’Brien’s Corner and the Blarney Stone in April, drinking establishments in which the 65-year old Cunningham is alleged to hold some form of interests in. Cunningham is a rather legendary enforcer, bookie and loan shark in Springfield history.

The mafia in Springfield has long been an outpost of New York’s Genovese crime family. A convicted felon and racketeer who served almost 15 years in prison for bookmaking and extortion, – he once stalked a debtor to his sister’s wake and broke his arm -, Cunningham’s career in the underworld dates back to the Springfield mob’s Scibelli era when the region was a tightly-run ship overseen by Francesco (Frankie Sky Ball) Scibelli’s and his two brothers “Baba” and “Turk” and ace protégé Adolfo (Big Al) Bruno.

Cunningham came up under Springfield mafia elder statesman Mario Fiore and came to be known as one of Western Massachusetts’s most feared collectors. He headquartered his affairs out of Dillon’s Tavern until his jailing in the spring of 1995. The FBI bugged his office at Dillon’s Tavern and his cellular phone.

When a debtor’s sister passed away in the early 1990s, Cunningham saw it as a perfect opportunity to attack the man (Ron Goulet) who had borrowed $15,000 and was dodging paying him back. Government tapes were rolling as he recounted the incident to a lieutenant of his in the summer of 1992.

“Oh yeah, well I got him, his sister died. So I got him, we sat outside the wake. I went myself because, I prefer that. I sat outside the wake. I followed him, a perfect tail. Followed him and as he got out of the car. I grabbed him and threw him outta of the fucking car. Took him behind the Gaslight (Lounge). Had three guys waiting there, beat him with fucking pipes, tire irons. I dropped his car keys on his chest. I told him we just beat your ass. And I said I’ll call an ambulance for you. We left him bleeding all over the place…..When he got out of the car at first, I said to him the bad news is, I said, is there’s no meeting like I told you. And I said nobody’s here but me and I’m gonna beat your ass. Then I smashed him in the face and he went down and them three guys come out from behind a dumpster. And I backed off and I said, ‘one guy at a time and don’t hit him in the head’. He went down pretty quick and he didn’t wake up til the next week”

In an interview with Barry in 2011, a little less than a year after he was released from prison, Cunningham discussed the good ole days.

“We had a tough group of guys…..if you did something wrong you took a beating,” he said. “There’s still money on the street. Everyone is still taking bets, but it’s a free for all….its’ a viper’s nest of snakes and rats.”

Scibelli died in 2000. Bruno was slain in 2003, shot dead as he departed his Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Social Club located in Springfield’s mobbed-up South End. Big Al’s headline-grabbing murder was plotted by Anthony (Bingy) Arillotta a one-time protégé of his intent on replacing him as the Genovese clan’s capo in Springfield.

Bingy Arillotta became a witness for the government. So did Bruno’s assassin, Arillotta’s wildcard strong arm, Frankie Roche. A former Arillotta loan shark named Albert Calvanese is alleged to be the current Springfield crew boss.

Arillotta’s former mob superior, imprisoned Genovese street boss Arthur (Little Artie) Nigro, was convicted of ordering the Bruno hit and is in the process of appealing his case. Appeal briefs filed last year show that Rex Cunningham’s cousin and one-time partner in a sports gambling business, Springfield strip club baron Jimmy Santaniello was being extorted by the area mafia and had been an FBI informant, even delivering the government intelligence on Cunningham’s criminal activities beginning in 1992. Santaniello’s uncle is Mario Fiore, Cunningham’s gangland mentor.

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  1. Ragnar

    Sure you can see a HBO doc on utube of an undercover cop that busted scibelli