A power struggle in the Rochester, New York mafia raged for almost a decade, setting the city’s underworld ablaze in war for most of the late 1970s and early 1980s and pretty much spelling the end of organized crime in the city from that point forward. The fight for local gangland supremacy would go on to include three separate factions dubbed by the area’s media and law enforcement the A, B and C Teams, respectively, hence the fierce and muddled feud being known as the Alphabet War.

The A Team was led by the crime family’s sitting administration, boss Sam (Red) Russotti, underboss Salvatore (Sammy G) Gingello and consigliere Rene (The Painter) Piccaretto – seen in an FBI surveillance photo above. The B Team was headed by former acting boss Tommy Didio and backed by previously dethroned don Frank Valenti in prison, while the C Team had one-time Gingello bodyguards Tommy Torpey and Tommy Taylor at the helm.

The Alphabet War Timeline (1972-1984)

May 1972 – Rochester Godfather Frank Valenti is booted from the boss’ seat in a meeting at the Red Lion Inn with Red Russotti and Rene Picarretto after Russotti and Piccaretto discover Valenti is hoarding profits from a secret stash of rackets being conducted by a local mob subunit which reported directly to him. Russotti takes Valenti’s place as boss as Valenti leaves for exile in Arizona and is soon indicted and convicted on racketeering charges.

June 5, 1972 – Rochester mob soldier Dominic Chirico, a Valenti lieutenant and the leader of his secret subunit, is shot-gunned to death outside his girlfriend’s apartment building.

November 23, 1973 – Rochester mob enforcer Vincent (Jimmy the Hammer) Massaro, a Valenti loyalist, is killed and stuffed in the trunk of his car after bucking under the thumb of the city’s new mafia regime.

December 1974 – Rochester mafia associate William (Zeke) Zimmerman flips, leading to the flipping of soldiers Charles & Angelo Monacchino and Joe (Spike) LaNovara, a chain-reaction that results in charges being brought in the Jimmy Massaro homicide.

November 10, 1976Sam (Red) Russotti, his underboss Salvatore (Sammy G) Gingello, his consigliere Rene (The Painter) Piccaretto and others are convicted at trial for murdering Jimmy Massaro and sent to prison. Russotti names Tommy Didio, a bodyguard of Gingello’s, as his acting boss and their relationship strained quickly.

January 31, 1978 – Amid a massive scandal in the police department and prosecutor’s office regarding tainted and manufactured evidence in the Massaro case, Russotti, Gingello and Piccaretto have their murder convictions tossed and are set free. Refusing to get back in line behind Russotti’s regime, Didio goes underground, seeks support from an incarcerated Frank Valenti through Valenti’s brother and aide-de-camp Stan, and prepares for war.

April 23, 1978 – Young, swaggering Rochester mob underboss Salvatore (Sammy G) Gingello, 39, is killed in a car bombing in front of Ben Café Society Social Club after a long night of doing the town with his bodyguards, Tommy Torpey and Tommy Taylor, who survive the explosion. Dick (Molly) Marino assumed underboss duties in

Spring 1978 – The city erupts in a spat of shootings and bombings connected to the Alphabet War: a number of Russotti’s betting parlors are bombed and B Team hit man Rosario Chirico, the brother to slain Valenti hit man Dominic Chirico, survives being shot by a sniper on May 25.

July 6, 1978 – Rochester mob chief and B Team boss Tommy Didio is machine-gunned to death inside a room at the Exit 45 Motel in Victor, New York.

July 30, 1978 – Rochester mafia associate and B Team member Rodney Starkweather is shot three times and flips soon thereafter.

December 17, 1981 – Rochester mob capo and labor union leader John Fiorino is shot-gunned to death outside the Blue Gardenia restaurant by John (Mad Dog) Sullivan, on orders of the C Team. The Blue Gardenia was a favorite area mob haunt of that era and was owned by Rochester mafia associate Ben (Benny Manning) Managazze. Fiorino was the Teamsters vice-president in the Rochester region.

March 1982 – Members of the C Team severely beat a Red Russotti betting-parlor operator, putting him in the hospital for a month for not paying them tribute. Court records show in reaction to the assault, Russotti via Piccaretto placed open murder contracts on the C Team.

May 25, 1982 – Rochester mobster and C Team member Nick Mastrodonato is allegedly slain by A Team hit man Dominic (Trigger Dom) Taddeo.

August 26, 1982 – Rochester mobster and C Team member Gerry Pelusio is killed in a hail of shot-gun fire in an attack on him and his brother and fellow C Team affiliate Tommy Pelusio. A Team hit man Dominic Taddeo is again linked to the latter Alphabet War violence.

November 1982 – Red Russotti and Rene Piccaretto are indicted with eight other A Teamers in a wide-reaching federal racketeering case.

April 2, 1983 – Rochester mobster and C Team member Dino Tortarice is killed outside his home in another murder tied to Taddeo.

April & November 1983 – Rochester mob capo and A Team member Tommy Marotta survives attempts on his life in the spring and late fall of ‘83, with the April attack seeing him shot seven times. Marotta was Sammy Gingello’s right-hand man in the 1970s and Tommy Didio’s first cousin.

October 1984 – Red Russotti is convicted in his federal racketeering case, pulling him off the street for good. Russotti died of a heart attack in a Michigan prison hospital in June of 1993.

The Rosters

The A Team

Sam (Red) Russotti

Salvatore (Sammy G) Gingello

Rene (The Painter) Piccaretto

Dick (Molly) Marino

Salvatore (Sammy Camps) Campanella

Eugene (Gene the Firecracker) DeFrancesco

Dominic (Trigger Dom) Taddeo

Anthony Colombo

Joe (Joey T) Trieste

John (Johnny Flap) Trivigno

Angelo (Oskie) DeMarco

Tommy Marotta

Anthony (Tony G) Gingello

Loren Piccaretto

Angelo Amico

Joseph (Joe the Hop) Rossi

Anthony (Tony Dags) D’Agostino

Nick (Bugsy the Fence) Fosco

Lou (Louie Tree Tops) Imburgia

Joseph (Joe the Genie) Geniola

Joseph (Joe Desserts)  La Dolce

Anthony Oliveri

Bobby Palmiere

Joey Tiraborelli

Don (Monroe Street Donnie) Paone

Orlando Paone

Lou (Yamaha Louie) Santonato

Robert (Bobby Fernwood) Silveri

The B Team

Tommy Didio

Dominic (Sonny) Celestino

Charles (Charlie the Ox) Indovino

Frank (Fast Frankie) Frassetto

Angelo Vaccaro

Rosario Chirico

Tony Chirico

Rodney Starkweather

Billy Barton

Vinnie Tobacco

Vincenzo (Vinnie the Captain) Cottone

Jimmy (Crazy Carlos) Bates

The C Team

Tommy Torpey

Tommy Taylor

Lou DiGuilo

Danny Bookles

Paul Comfort

Ray Sampson

Dino Tortarice

Jimmy & Stevie McAfee

Nicky Mastrodonato

Gerry, Tommy & Mike Pelusio

Richie Tribunella

Mario Tribunella

 

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