The death of Pittsburgh mobster Adolpho (Junior) Williams of a heart attack at 82 years old last week had people in Pennsylvania talking again about the 1988 murder of mafia associate Bobby Mancini, a Williams rival, bookmaker, “down-&-out” policy boss and police informant – Mancini’s homicide has never been solved and Williams died still the No. 1 suspect in the case. Fellow Pittsburgh wiseguy Eugene (Geno) Chiarelli’s death almost four years ago set off similar discussions about another notorious unsolved area mob slaying: the killing and disappearance of Steel Town U.S.A racketeer and restaurateur Joe Bertone in 1985.

Chiarelli (d. 2012), a mafia lieutenant in the Pittsburgh crime family and Bertone’s business partner in a string of drug deals, was charged in a murder conspiracy related to Bertone’s execution, but was acquitted. Bertone’s body has never been found. He was last seen around 10:15 p.m. on the evening of June 17, 1985 at mob associate’s George (Sonny) Jordan’s trucking company in suburban Pittsburgh.

At the time he vanished, Bertone was beefing with Chiarelli over money and drugs, per court records. He was also suspected of cheating Sonny Jordan and his son out of $100,000 in a cocaine deal where he substituted sugar for the blow he purported to be selling and hatching an additional scheme to bilk drug-pushing partner Joey Rosa out of $20,000.

The entire hugely-profitable Pittsburgh mob coke ring was conducted under the auspice of syndicate underboss Charles (Chucky) Porter, who was pocketing 10 percent of every multi-kilo sale his troops were moving. Convicted as the lead defendant in a giant 1990 federal RICO and drug case that included Chiarelli as well, Porter became an informant while incarcerated and entered the Witness Protection Program. Rosa preceded him into the so-called “Witsec Program.”

A military veteran and expert carpenter by legitimate trade, Geno Chiarelli was known in mob circles as a high-scale heist and narcotics specialist, pulling more than one seven-figure haul burglary in his day and flooding the streets of Western Pennsylvania with copious amounts of cocaine in the late-1970s and 1980s. He was tied to a 2.5 million dollar boost of an armored truck on St. Patrick’s Day in 1982 and a 1986 bank heist that netted among other things, over two-million dollars-worth of antique weaponry (rare Civil War Era pistols, a precious-jewel laden sword), among other high-price robberies.

Bertone operated a sports book and juice-loan business out of his Joey’s Restaurant in the 1970s and first part of 1980s. The popular eatery was burned to the ground. Twice. Originally in 1978, and then after it was rebuilt and reopened, again in 1982. By the mid-1980s, Bertone was deep in debt and, according to court files, began doing drug deals with Porter, Chiarelli, Rosa and a mob pal of theirs’ named Louie Raucci, in order to raise capital.

Rosa was a young, aspiring button man with a healthy mafia pedigree. His grandfather was Penn Hills capo Joe Sica, a longtime Pittsburgh mob stalwart, his dad was mob soldier Frank Rosa. Louie Raucci was Joe Sica’s protégé and the man who introduced Joey Rosa into the Pittsburgh mafia’s coke machine and specifically Bertone, who became his partner in a number of illegal enterprises.

Prior to Raucci and Bertone taking a liking to the twentysomething Rosa, he was a petty weed and blow dealer, well on his way to establishing a reputation on the streets as a cowboy, not earmarked for potential induction into the mob – he was tied to a robbery of deceased crime family underboss Gabriel (Kelly) Mannarino’s house on the day of Mannarino’s July 1980 funeral. When he forked over $30,000 of a $300,000 score he made from orchestrating the robbery of his own jewelry store in 1984 to Pittsburgh mob powers, he was personally invited into the syndicate’s inner-sanctum by freshly-minted boss Michael Genovese, embraced and kissed on both cheeks by Genovese at a mafia get-together in Florida, according to court testimony.

Rosa was the government’s star witness at the 1990 RICO trial of Porter, Chiarelli and Raucci – they were all convicted, Raucci died in prison in 1995. Chiarelli did 18 years behind bars and came out of prison in 2008. The cagey Genovese avoided indictment in the case, dying peacefully and free in 2006.

Defense attorneys in the case painted a picture of Rosa being either the triggerman or at the very least heavily involved in the Joe Bertone hit. More importantly, there was evidence to support that belief.

Bertone’s falling out of favor with Pittsburgh mafia brass began in the spring of 1985. On a trip to Florida to meet with the operation’s supplier (Cuban cocaine wholesaler Ramon Sosa based out of Miami,) in early April 1985, Bertone and Geno Chiarelli bickered openly over money and respect throughout the four-day stay, per FBI documents. Tensions became so heated by the end of the month, according to these documents, Chucky Porter was forced to intercede and call a sit down to try and settle the quarrel.

The week following the Easter holiday that year, Bertone ripped Sonny Jordan off for 100 large in coke (the sugar-substitute scam) and then loaned him the money to pay back Porter, Chiarelli and Raucci on the soured deal at seven percent interest. In May 1985, Bertone and Chiarelli got into a loud verbal spat at a local bar over Chiarelli tipping off Jordan to what Bertone had done, per court files. Word was circulating fast. Joe Bertone was living on borrowed time.

Regarding what happened the night he disappeared the next month several theories emerged. At 10:00 p.m. June 17,1985, Bertone called his wife from the car phone in his Cadillac and told her he was going to stop off at Jordan’s trucking company in Duquesne before returning home with groceries. He called Rosa immediately thereafter and told Rosa to meet him at Jordan’s office. This is where things become hazy.

Rosa claims that when he arrived at Jordan’s office, he saw Bertone’s Cadillac being driven off the premises by someone he didn’t recognize and upon asking Jordan if he had seen Bertone at his office, Jordan denied Bertone was ever there. Jordan died in a truck accident in 1988. He told investigators and Bertone’s wife and daughter that Bertone was at his office that night but left after receiving a phone call.

Bertone’s new-model Caddy was discovered abandoned at a suburban motel parking lot on June 27, 1985. His widow Louise was summoned to Chucky Porter’s house and given $20,000 in cash. Rosa told authorities Porter and Chiarelli ordered Bertone dead and that Porter only gave his widow the money to avert suspicion away from him in her mind.

Speculation and assertions surrounding Rosa’s possible involvement in the Bertone murder are bolstered by allegations of Rosa’s own braggadocio. Pittsburgh mob associate-turned-informant Marvin (Babe) Droznek testified in court that Rosa bragged of killing Bertone and knowing where his body is buried. Droznek told jurors that rumors were swirling that Bertone’s days were numbered and that Porter had placed a contract on his head in the weeks leading up to him disappearing. Two Porter confidants spoke to Droznek of Porter issuing orders for Bertone to be killed during the first two weeks of June 1985.

Rosa allegedly told other underworld associates that he shot Bertone twice in the back of the head with a 9 millimeter pistol. When Rosa was arrested, FBI agents confiscated a 9 millimeter pistol from the house he shared with his aging grandfather Sica.

Johnny Vento, a Rosa drug courier, testified that he saw Rosa’s cousin, Anthony Bacco shoot Bertone to death in Jordan’s trucking company garage as Rosa looked on and that Rosa himself told him that he and Bacco took and buried Bertone’s body in the Westmoreland County town of Level Green. Per Vento’s testimony, Rosa said that Bertone was being clipped because he was “cheating people he shouldn’t be in drug deals.”

Babe Droznek cooperation, earned by the FBI in 1988, led to Rosa’s decision to join Team America the same year. U.S. Prosecutors believed that Chiarelli provided the murder weapon in Bertone’s slaying and Porter set it in motion – neither were convicted of the homicide counts in the RICO case. Under cross examination at trial in 1990, Rosa admitted to bragging about committing the Bertone murder, but explained he was lying to enhance his gangland standing.

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