Over three and a half decades ago, recently-deceased Buffalo mob don Leonardo (Leonard the Calzone) Falzone was a central figure in the planning and carrying out of a murderous 24-hour purge of potential troublemakers for Local 210 of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) which Falzone held a plum administrative post at until his mafia ties forced his resignation in 1995, per FBI records. The back-to-back slayings of Buffalo mobsters Carlo Rizzo and William (Billy the Kid) Sciolino in the early spring of 1980 sent shockwaves through the western New York underworld.

Rizzo, an old-school Magaddino crime family capo, was kidnapped and murdered on March 6, 1980. Sciolino, a young syndicate soldier and one-time favorite of area mob brass, was gunned down by a team of assassins as he watched television in a construction-site office trailer in broad daylight the following afternoon, on March 7, 1980. Falzone’s name popped up as a suspect in both homicide investigations, according to FBI records and court filings, tabbed by at least one informant as the man in charge of coordinating the details of the two executions tied to union affairs out of Local 210.

Falzone died of natural causes earlier this week. He was 81. The FBI believes he became boss of the beleaguered Buffalo mafia in 2006. He had held the job of the Magaddinos’ consigliere since 1987, per police documents.

In the 1970s, Falzone rose through the ranks of the labor union and the Buffalo mob simultaneously. Appointed the pension fund administrator for Local 210, he held the purse strings for tens of millions of dollars-worth of loans. On the streets, he became known as a valued and accomplished enforcer for the city’s mafia, according to FBI records. His name surfaced as a suspect in several gangland-related murders and shootings. There were ten mob hits in the Buffalo area between 1974 and 1979 and Falzone was eyed by authorities for a role in five of them, per sources in law enforcement.

So when Local 210 ran into problems with Carlo Rizzo and Billy Sciolino at the beginning of 1980, according to FBI records, Falzone was called upon to solve them. After Local 210 member Albert (Big Al) Monaco showed up dead on the side of a barren dirt road in Evans, New York in 1984, Falzone got named by informants for relaying orders for the hit to soldiers Luciano (Dilly) Spataro and his son-in-law Johnny Spinelli.

The 64-year old Rizzo was the Magaddinos’ liaison to a number of the country’s other regional crime families and at the forefront of a dental-insurance scam the mafia in Buffalo was operating through Local 210 along with mob figures in Cleveland, Florida and New Jersey. Falzone administered Local 210’s healthcare insurance benefits. Sciolino, 40, was a Steward at Local 210, a reputed hit man and protégé of already-deceased Buffalo mob capo Daniel (Danny Boots) Sansanese.

By the late 1970s, the FBI began what became a decade-and-a-half quest to rid Local 210 of underworld influence. Rumors were floating around that Sciolino had started telling union secrets to the government, per a police intelligence memo drafted in 1981, and Magaddino organization powers worried that Rizzo “knew too much” and couldn’t withstand a future bust and prison sentence without doing the same.

Rizzo disappeared on the evening of March 6, 1980 on his way home for dinner with his wife. His badly-decomposed corpse was found five weeks later in the trunk of his car, hogtied and shot in the back of the head. The day after Rizzo got killed, Sciolino met his fate at a construction site for a public transportation service center, felled by a hit squad of masked gunmen in his office.

Investigators focused in on Falzone early in the Sciolino murder probe. Falzone’s car was ticketed parked next to where the getaway car was abandoned. The FBI searched his residence and union headquarters as a part of the inquiry which never resulted in any charges being filed. Falzone and a host of fellow Buffalo mob Local 210 stalwarts were indicted in 1983 for bilking the union of $150,000, but they beat the case.

As Falzone fought Uncle Sam in court, Big Al Monaco, one of the Buffalo mafia’s lieutenants tasked with looking after certain portions of the crime family’s loansharking operations, was thought to be skimming collection proceeds, some of which were earmarked for Falzone and the others’ defense fund, informants told the FBI. Monaco was lured to legendary west New York wiseguy and wet-work specialist Dilly Spataro’s home where Johnny Spinelli, married to Spataro’s daughter, pumped three bullets into the back of Monaco’s skull on April 3, 1984.

Spataro, 82, is currently in prison on multiple murder counts. Spinelli lasted until 1986 – he was slain for his drug abuse, mistreatment of Spataro’s daughter and the fact that he had first-hand knowledge of possibly a half-dozen mob hits or more.

Falzone was indicted again in May 1994.This time for racketeering and loansharking and this time he was convicted, doing five years behind bars. A federally-authorized bug installed in his Buick in the late 1980s revealed conversations between him and mob capo John (Fat Johnny) Sacco, the Magaddinos’ narcotics chief in the Buffalo area, where Falzone tells Sacco he “did the right thing” in murdering his drug-dealing partner Michael Ress, calling Ress “too much of a headache.” Ress vanished on August 9, 1989 and his body has never been dug up.

Sacco died in 1990 of a heart attack in the Niagara County Jail facing a large drug conspiracy case. He and Falzone were famously part of a troop of executioners in the summer of 1976 sent to eliminate rogue mobster Faustino (Frosty) Novino, who killed the son of Buffalo mafia capo Albert (Babe) Billiteri. Novino shot his way out of danger after being ambushed at the Connecticut Club banquet hall, wounding Sacco and as he recalled on the witness stand in court years later, crashing into and over Falzone as he fled, even pushing his gun into Falzone’s chest and pulling the trigger, only to have the gun jam.

 

 

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