June 20, 2020 — Uncle Sam tried to pull a fast one on Lucchese crime family power Matty Madonna last year, but the New York Times put a wrench in his plans. United States Attorney Scott Hartman included former Harlem heroin boss Nicky (Mr. Untouchable) Barnes on his list of potential witnesses for Madonna’s 2019 murder and racketeering trial. The only problem was, Barnes was dead.

Jerry Capeci wrote of the ethically-questionable prosecutorial tactic in his Gangland News column this week. Capeci is the unofficial dean of American crime writing.

It appears the misdirection in the Lucchese prosecution was being used by Hartman as a means of leveraging some type of plea from Madonna, who was found guilty last fall of ordering the gangland slaying of mob associate Michael Meldish, a close friend and enforcer of his for decades. Meldish and Madonna worked together with Nicky Barnes in the dope game.

In the 1970s, Madonna supplied Barnes the heroin he used to take over the New York drug trade and establish himself as the biggest African-American crime lord of his generation. Barnes founded “The Council,” a ruling body of Black heroin barons inspired by “The Commission,” in the Italian mafia. While in prison in the 1950s and 60s, Barnes was mentored by Madonna and Joseph (Crazy Joe) Gallo of the then-Profaci crime family (today known as the Colombos).

Gallo was killed in 1972 in New York’s Little Italy, gunned down inside a restaurant as he ate a late-night meal for his birthday celebration. The murder was depicted in last year’s smash Netflix film The Irishman with comedian Sebastian Maniscalco playing Gallo in his first serious acting role.

Barnes entered the Witness Protection Program in 1981 after he felt he was betrayed by The Council in the wake of his own federal narcotics conspiracy conviction and imprisonment. Oscar-nominee Will Smith is slated to star in an upcoming film about Barnes’ life.  

Madonna, 85, was acting boss of the Lucchese clan from 2009 through 2017. Attorneys for Madonna were worried at the prospect of Barnes taking the stand and filed a motion to try to block it from happening. It was a moot point. The New York Times blew the lid off Hartman and the U.S. Attorneys Office’s ploy when in June 2019 the paper broke the news Barnes had died of cancer seven years earlier under an assumed name at age 78.

Madonna’s victim, Michael Meldish, was a feared mafia strong arm and hit man for the Lucchese crime family. Meldish was one of the leaders of the New York Purple Gang of the 1970s, which served as a mafia farm club for the Luccheses and the Genovese crime family. The FBI connected him to at least a dozen contract mob hits.

Meldish would often act as a collector for Madonna and the pair frequently socialized together. But their relationship soured when Madonna loaned Meldish $100,000 and Meldish refused to pay him back. At a sitdown to try and resolve the issue, Meldish cursed at Madonna, allegedly telling him to “fuck off.” On November 14, 2013, Meldish, 62, was shot to death in the passenger’s side of a Lincoln sedan in his Throggs Neck neighborhood in the Bronx.

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