December 24, 2020 – One of New York mafia power Anthony (Gas Pipe) Casso’s men entered the Witness Protection Program in 1992, only to reemerge as a mob associate in the Motor City less than a decade later, per federal records and first-hand accounts.

In September 1999, Lucchese mobster Bobby Molini was rechristened “Bobby Sorrento” and relocated to Rochester Hills, Michigan, an upper middle-class suburb north of Detroit, after serving nearly 8 years in prison for dealing drugs. It didn’t take him long to get into trouble in his new town. Or find Italian organized crime figures to pal around with in his new identity (Molini’s WITSEC identity has been changed for this story).

“You can take the Goodfella out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the Goodfella, that’s what we learned about Bobby Molini,” said a chuckling former member of the U.S. Attorneys Office in Detroit on the “Molini in Motown Affair.” “Seriously though, I think the Program began moving LCN (La Cosa Nostra) guys to non-LCN cities after that. It became standard protocol to ship those guys to the sticks to avoid a Bobby Molini situation from ever occurring again. Most of us were in the dark about the whole thing until the very end. Someone told me, ‘You know one of Gas Pipe’s guys is living in Detroit under a new identity and the FBI thinks he’s working with the Tocco-Zerilli boys.’ I said ‘Wait, what? Gas Pipe Casso from Brooklyn?’ Casso was like the Boogeyman back then.”

The maniacal and murderous Gas Pipe Casso, 78, died behind bars earlier this week of complications related to the COVID-19 virus. Rising to underboss of New York’s Lucchese crime family in the 1980s, Casso became drunk on violence and mayhem before flipping and joining Team USA himself upon his arrest in 1993. Authorities place his body count in the dozens.

Bobby Molini came up in the mob in the Lucchese family’s famed Vario crew, immortalized on the silver screen in the movie Goodfellas and headquartered out of the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. Crew patriarch Paul Vario was played by actor Paul Sorvino in the Martin Scorsese-helmed gangster-flick classic. Casso was from South Brooklyn and rose through the ranks of the Lucchese mob in the so-called “19th Hole crew.”

Molini specialized in narcotics trafficking. Through his first-cousin, Lucchese soldier, Anthony (Tony Monroe) Grado, Molini was introduced to Lucchese loanshark and enforcer Thomas (Tommy Red) Anzeulotto and borrowed $40,000 (at 20 percent interest) in what was supposed to be a short “bridge loan” for ten days in the spring of 1991 as a means of securing a large shipment of marijuana from Texas.

The drug deal fell apart and Molini fell deep into debt to an unsympathetic Tommy Red Anzeulotto. Grado, one tough customer himself, played intermediary between a growing more angry by the day Tommy Red and his cousin.

The situation came to a head in the summer of 1992, laying the groundwork for Molini’s cooperation and eventual move to the Motor City.

On June 8, 1992, Molini agreed to meet Grado and Anzeulotto at a Brooklyn drug store to make a payment on his loan. Anzeulotto was dissatisfied with the $1,000 dollar amount and dragged Molini out to the parking lot for a beating.

Tommy Red rained down blows on Molini’s face, head and neck and smashed his car windows, according to court records. Grado and Anzeulotto pushed Molini into Tommy Red’s car and drove him to an isolated patch of a local park where Tommy Red placed a gun in his mouth and threatened to kill him if he didn’t make a lumpsum payment to clear the debt in the days to come.

Instead of clearing the debt, Molini went straight to the feds and signed up for witness protection.

Molini’s cousin Grado (nicknamed “Tony Monroe” because he lives in Monroe Twp., New Jersey) and Tommy Red were both nailed in an extortion case revolving around the debt and its attempted collection. Grado did time for that case and then more recently took a drug pinch for pushing pills and is back in the can until 2027.

Per wiretap evidence in his drug case, Grado, 57, threatened to feed a doctor he was using to write prescriptions “to the lions at the zoo,” if he ever began freelancing. Grado told the doctor he “would put a bullet in his head,” if he took orders from anyone else in the narcotics conspiracy. “Tommy Red” Anzeulotto, 58, has been clean since walking free in 2001.

It was around this time, Bobby Molini, renamed “Bobby Sorrento,” resurfaced in mob circles, only it was in Michigan and he was an official member of the Witness Protection Program and receiving federal funding to live. Molini’s mom and the grandmother he shared with Tony Grado were relocated with him to the Metro Detroit area and provided houses on the same street he lived on in Rochester Hills.

According to federal records, Molini linked up with a group of Motown Goodfellas working for Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli, the Detroit mafia’s then underboss. Molini was soon “put on record” with Zerilli, who despite being the Tocco-Zerilli crime family’s No. 2 in charge since the 1970s, still ran his own crew of soldiers, scamsters, bookies and bandits and operated pretty much autonomously from his first-cousin, Detroit’s stately and distinguished Godfather Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco.

Playing the role of brash New Yorker, Molini ruffled feathers pretty quickly.

He kept the fact that he was in the Witness Protection Program hidden, however, wasn’t afraid to brag of his New York mob ties, including name-dropping his connection to Gas Pipe and the Varios, to establish better standing.

“The guy loved to tell stories, he name dropped the New York big shots, the Goodfellas stuff,” recalled a Detroit mob affiliate present at a number of social situations with Molini during that time period. “Tony Z knew who he was, knew he was from New York, but nobody really did any vetting. He (Tony Z) wasn’t paying much attention to a person like that. He had bigger fish to fry.”

At some point in 2001, Molini began engaging in an illicit love affair with the girlfriend of an associate of reputed wiseguy, Eugene (Genie Boy) Baratta, a son-in-law of Tony Zerilli, per federal records and more than one person familiar with the situation on a first-hand basis. Molini, per sources, also began bad-mouthing Baratta and Zerilli, resulting in Baratta being “irate.” At least two sit downs were called to iron things out, per sources.

Molini and the group of Zerilli crew members he was running around with were indicted in an extortion and burglary case in 2003, but the case would wind up getting tossed and Molini disappeared from sight, whisked away by the feds in the dead of night and deposited into another part of the program outside Michigan. The case was centered around the attempt to collect a $50,000 gambling debt from the son of a Metro Detroit restaurateur.

Zerilli was found guilty in his own federal racketeering case in 2002 and sent to prison for five years. The one-time regal mafia prince – son of Detroit’s longtime beloved Godfather Joe Zerilli and the son-in-law of legendary New York don Joe (The Olive Oil King) Profaci, a founder of the Five Families –, was unceremoniously stripped of his underboss position by Jack Tocco when he was released from prison in the late 2000s and subsequently put “on the shelf.” Tocco blamed Zerilli for the 1996 Operation GameTax bust they both would up having to do time behind bars for.

Zerilli’s brother-in-law, New York mob figure, Salvatore (Jersey Sal) Profaci, a retired capo in the Colombo crime family, allegedly attempted to broker a peace between Zerilli and Tocco, but was unsuccessful, per internal FBI briefing reports on the beef. Zerilli retaliated by telling the FBI that missing Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa was buried on farm property Tocco once owned in Oakland Township, Michigan, less than a 10 minute drive from where Molini was placed in the WITSEC program and resided in Rochester Hills for close to five years.

Hoffa vanished from a Bloomfield Township, Michigan restaurant parking lot on July 30, 1975 on his way to a lunch meeting with one of Tocco and Zerilli’s top lieutenants. A May 2013 search of the Oakland Township property came up empty.

Zerilli and Tocco died less than a year a part, at 87 and 88, respectively. Tocco died of heart failure in the summer of 2014. Zerilli died of natural causes in Florida the next spring in March 2015. “Jersey Sal” Profaci passed away in 2018.

Today, Molini, 56, is living under another identity on the west coast, according to sources. The Zerilli crew, which had been in operation since the 1950s, was disbanded by the Detroit mob following Zerilli’s shelving, per FBI records related to Jack Tocco’s reign as boss.

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