November 12, 2020 – Springfield (MA) mobster Ralphie Santaniello was let off house arrest last week, per MassLive resident mobologist Stephanie Barry, who broke the news of Santaniello’s ability to now roam free in a story back on Thursday about the early prison-release of Springfield wiseguy Frank (The Shark) Depergola via a motion for COVID-19-related relief.
Santaniello’s standing in the local underworld is a hot-button topic these days, according to sources in Western Massachusetts. His dad’s too.
The 52-year old Santaniello and the 64-year old Depergola are longtime members of the Springfield mob crew and went down in the same 2016 racketeering and extortion bust. Santaniello slapped around a shakedown victim wearing a wire who refused to pay protection to the mob for his tow-truck company.
When he was locked up four years ago, Santaniello was a shot-caller in the crew, either No. 1 or No. 2 in power, per sources. While behind bars, he allegedly “lost his stripes” after his father, Springfield mob elder statesman Amedeo Santaniello fell out of favor with crime family brass in 2017 for snapping a chummy photo with a known informant.
Depergola took his first pinch for extortion in the 2000s as a collector and driver for then crew skipper Adolfo (Big Al) Bruno. Frank the Shark was driving for Bruno the night he was killed in cold blood in the city’s South End in November 2003 for angering bosses in New York.
The Springfield mob crew has always been an offshoot of New York City’s Genovese crime family. Amedeo Santaniello, 81, was Big Al’s former right-hand man until he was put on the “pay no mind list” in the late 1990s and retreated to Florida. Following Bruno’s assassination, Amedeo returned to Massachusetts and back into the fold under Bruno’s successor, Anthony (Bingy) Arillotta, a friend of his son, Ralphie’s.
Arillotta’s cooperation decimated the Genovese crime family’s leadership in New York and reflected poorly on the entire Springfield regime, resulting in the city’s “capo” duties being pulled from anyone in Western Mass and placed in the hands of a Genovese administrator in Connecticut. Upon Arillotta turning government informant in 2010, Ralphie Santaniello and his first-cousin, Albert (The Animal) Calvanese, assumed command of the Springfield mob crew on a day-to-day basis on the ground in Massachusetts (despite not holding official captain status and deferring to Genovese superiors outside of the commonwealth), with Amedeo acting as their top adviser, per sources.
The elder Santaniello and the elusive Calvanese escaped entanglement in the 2016 legal onslaught. Calvanese, 57, remains in the FBI’s crosshairs, per sources,, having previously worked as a collector and enforcer for both Bruno and Arillotta and known around town today as the reputed head honcho of the local mafia.
When it came to Amedeo, his real problem, which may also be Ralphie’s problem, didn’t arise until a year after his son went down when he bumped into former Springfield mob soldier Felix Tranghese, who had joined Arillotta on the witness stand at the Genovese trial as a star witness, and allowed a photo to be taken of the two standing next to each other and smiling. The photo soon made its way onto social media, went “gangland viral,” and set the underworld in Western Mass ablaze with chatter. New York was none too pleased.
Tranghese, 68, along with Arillotta, was tasked with organizing the conspiracy to bump off Bruno. Shortly after Bruno’s murder, Arillotta put Tranghese on the sidelines, shelving him with a construction-site beating delivered by two of his henchmen. They reunited for Team America in 2011 to put Genovese acting boss Arthur (Little Artie) Nigro away behind bars for the rest of his life.
Little Artie Nigro, according to sources, was livid after hearing of the image showing Amedeo Santaniello buddying up with Tranghese at a well-known Western Massachusetts pizza parlor was circulating and ordered Amedeo and his son Ralphie shelved as punishment for the transgression. Amedeo had been at odds with his nephew, Calvanese, at the time as well and that added to the decision, per sources.
The 74-year old Nigro died of natural causes in prison in April 2019. Some sources say Ralphie Santaniello, who had been locked up with Nigro, smoothed things out for himself and got an “un-shelving” in the months before Little Artie kicked the bucket.
Ralphie Santaniello was released from federal prison in the spring. Sources say he is eager to “get his button,” now that he is free. FBI wiretaps in his 2016 case picked up talk of Santaniello being proposed for membership in the Genovese crime family.