The reputed boss of what’s left of the once-powerful Buffalo mafia, east coast mob elder-statesman, Leonardo (Leonard the Calzone) Falzone, died of natural causes this week at 81 years old and after a decade as the alleged leader of the continuously-shrinking Magaddino crime family in western New York. According to the FBI, Falzone assumed command of the Family in 2006 from Joseph (Big Joe) Todaro, Jr., who voluntarily stepped down and retired to focus on his legitimate pizza and chicken-wing empire.
A two-time convicted felon, the suave, well-liked, outgoing, but feared Falzone, per federal court records, had previously served as the organization’s consigliere beginning in 1987 under Todaro’s dad and predecessor as don, Joseph (Lead Pipe Joe) Todaro. Lead Pipe Joe died peacefully in 2012. Falzone was considered a suspect in more than one murder conspiracy at the time of his death and handled overseeing all loansharking activity for the Magaddinos from the 1970s into the 1990s.
For decades, Falzone was a power broker in area labor union affairs, working out of Local 210 in the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), administering the Local’s pension fund and health and welfare benefits. He was convicted of federal racketeering and loansharking in 1994 and did five years in prison, getting released in July 1999. One witness against Falzone at his trial recounted to jurors of having to seek Falzone’s permission in order to set up a gambling and juice-loan business on the west coast in Las Vegas, where the Buffalo mob operated a crew, and how Falzone threatened to “bash his face in” if he didn’t sign an affidavit admitting complete responsibility for Falzone’s criminal enterprise..
Informants have told the FBI that Falzone helped arrange the March 1980 mob execution of William (Billy the Kid) Sciolino, a young wiseguy and reputed hit man, believed to be feeding the government information on Local 210’s underworld dealings. Sciolino, 40, had been a driver and bodyguard for capo Danny (Boots) Sansanese and was a Steward at Local 210. He was shot to death at a construction site in broad daylight. Nobody’s ever been arrested in the case.
In the summer of 1989, Falzone was intercepted on a bug in his car discussing the recent murder of Mike Ress with then-Buffalo mafia capo John (Fat Johnny) Sacco. The 39-year old Ress and Sacco dealt drugs together and were both cooperating with authorities. Sacco allegedly killed Ress on August 9, 1989.
“That kid (Ress) was too much of a headache, you did the right thing,” Falzone was recorded telling Sacco on the morning of August 11 in his union-issued Buick.
Ress vanished on his way to a meeting at Sacco’s house. His remains have never been found. Sacco died of a massive heart attack behind bars shortly thereafter awaiting trial in a giant narcotics case. He reported directly to Falzone in the local mob hierarchy, per court records, and was observed on multiple occasions by FBI surveillance units passing what were thought to be cash proceeds from his drug business to Falzone in tribute envelopes.
The passing of Falzone parallels the fading landscape in the western New York mafia. With Big Joe Todaro in retirement and Falzone’s death, only a few men with serious ties to the area’s mob old guard still exist today. The current status of local gangland figures Russ Carcone, Victor (Vic the Mutt) Sansanese, Frank (Butchie Bifocals) BiFulco and Robert (Bobby Snowball) Panaro is unknown.
Panaro, 72 and a Todaro cousin, is said to have acted as Falzone’s acting boss at some point in the Calzone’s low-key reign and before that was the Buffalo crime family’s representative in Las Vegas. BiFulco is 71. Carcone and Sansanese are each local mob scions: Sansanese’s father was Boots Sansanese – some have claimed he replaced Falzone as consigliere upon Falzone getting upped to boss a decade ago. Carcone’s dad Benny used to be the Maggadino’s capo in Utica, New York.