Alleged New York mob boss and noted 1970s mafia narcotics trafficker Matty Madonna got busted for drug dealing in the Bicentennial summer of 1976 after he went looking for a heroin source in Southeast Asia, according to court records. The cagey, heavily-respected 82-year old Madonna is two years into a 3-to-5 year state prison sentence in New Jersey for bookmaking and racketeering and is said to be the acting head of New York’s Lucchese crime family. His venture into the burgeoning Bangkok heroin market was pretty much dead in the water from the very start 40 years ago.

This week’s Gangland News column penned by legendary mob scribe Jerry Capeci reports Madonna is on the verge of being indicted for his role in the November 2013 murder of high-ranking Lucchese associate and reputed hit man Michael Meldish, the former leader of East Harlem’s “Purple Gang,” of the 1970s and 80s. Taking its nickname from the ultra-violent all-Jewish mob in Detroit during Prohibition, the east coast Purple Gang was a drug peddling, shakedown and murder-for-hire crew loosely affiliated with New York’s traditional Five Families. A number of ex-Purples, including current reputed Genovese crime family power Daniel (Danny the Lion) Leo, went on to climb the ranks of the mafia in New York.

Madonna famously supplied heroin to iconic Harlem drug kingpin and African-American crime lord Leroy (Nicky) Barnes through much of Barnes’ reign atop the New York Black underworld in the 1970s. The ambitious and flashy Barnes, who created his own mafia-structured syndicate known as “The Council,” was indicted in January 1978 and eventually entered the Federal Witness Protection Program. Barnes and Madonna met each other as inmates in New York’s Green Haven State Prison.

Less than two years before Barnes went down in his case, Madonna got popped trying to smuggle six figures worth of heroin into the United States from Bangkok, Thailand. Per court records, Madonna and his then-partner in the drug business Salvatore Larca dispatched an underling of theirs named Joe Boriello to Thailand in May 1976 in order to secure a wholesale heroin distributor. The next month, Boriello smuggled a kilo of heroin back into the United States and Madonna and Larca sold it for a $100,000 profit.

In August 1976, Boriello was sent back to Bangkok with two couriers, Gene Travers and Jan Portman, and tasked with making a 10-kilo purchase and smuggling it through U.S. Customs for sale in New York. Travers and Portman were arrested on August 17 carrying five kilos apiece of heroin in their luggage at the airport in Honolulu, Hawaii and immediately agreed to cooperate.

That same day all the way across the country, DEA agents followed Madonna to the Hertz rental car outlet at New York’s LaGuardia Airport where he rented a red-colored Ford Granada which he drove to a parking garage down the block from his Bronx residence. Madonna and Larca took Boriello to the garage the following day and instructed him to drive the Granada to Travers’ apartment in a nearby neighborhood, pick the 10 kilos of ‘H’ up – believing the two packages of drugs had made it through Customs unscathed – and deliver them to another parking garage in Manhattan located directly across the street from the famed F.A.O Schwarz toy store, where they would be waiting for him.

Boriello became the next domino to fall for the feds when he was arrested on August 20 leaving Travers’ apartment with the 10 kilos of narcotics in a leather suitcase. Like Travers and Portman before him, Boriello flipped on the spot and he took the DEA with him for his rendezvous with Madonna and Larca in Manhattan.

Two teams of DEA agents watched on as Boriello handed over possession of the Granada with the 10 keys in the trunk to Madonna and Larca at the parking garage and drove away behind the wheel of Larca’s Cadillac. As Madonna and Larca prepared to depart in the Granada, the car was swarmed by the DEA and the pair were arrested.

Madonna was convicted at a November 1976 jury trial and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. Larca eventually got his button in the Genovese crime family, closely aligning himself with Liborio (Barney) Bellomo, the Borgata’s current reputed boss. Released from prison in 1995, Madonna rapidly ascended up the pecking order of the Luccheses, being placed on a three-man ruling panel in the 2000s and by the early 2010s running the syndicate on a day-to-day basis with Steve (Stevie Wonder) Crea.

 

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