Gambino family captain convicted of double-murder

gambino family captainA federal jury in Brooklyn on Wednesday convicted Bartolomeo Vernace, an upper-echelon member of the Gambino Organized Crime Family — one of the five families of La Cosa Nostra in New York — for a racketeering conspiracy spanning 33-years between 1978 and 2011, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, the jury found that Vernace participated in all nine racketeering acts alleged in the indictment, including the 1981 double-homicide of Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese, heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, and illegal gambling.

The Gambino crime captain is facing life imprisonment without a chance of parole.

The evidence at trial established that the 64-year-old Vernace, a/k/a “Bobby Glasses,” “Pepe,” and “John Canova,” had a long career in the mafia beginning in the early 1970s and culminating in his induction and rise to become a powerful Gambino family captain who served on the three-member ruling panel overseeing the family that was established in 2008.

Vernace was arrested on Jan. 20, 2011, as part of a national sweep of almost 100 members and associates of organized crime led by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Among the crimes he committed for the Mafia, Vernace, together with two Gambino soldiers, murdered Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese in the Shamrock Bar in the borough of Queens on April 11, 1981, after a dispute arose between a Gambino family associate and others in the bar over a spilled drink, according to court papers.

The associate left the bar and picked up Vernace and a third accomplice at a nearby social club. A short time later, the three men entered the bar and gunned down Godkin and D’Agnese — the owners of the bar –as the bar’s patrons ran for cover.

In the weeks after the murders, Vernace went into hiding while one of his close associates, Ronald “Ronnie One-Arm” Trucchio, a rising star in the Gambino family who would later become a powerful captain, sought to question witnesses from the Shamrock Bar that night, placing those witnesses in fear.

While in hiding, Vernace was indicted under the alias “Pepe” in the Southern District of New York on heroin trafficking charges. Years later, Vernace, who had avoided state charges for the murders and who had never been identified in connection with the heroin trafficking indictment, returned to Queens and to an active role in the Gambino family.

Over the next two decades, his power within the Mafia grew as he became actively involved in robbery, loansharking, and gambling, while operating a large and profitable crew from a café in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens.

In 1998, Vernace was charged in Queens County Supreme Court with the Godkin and D’Agnese murders but was acquitted after trial in 2002, with witnesses admitting they were too terrified to testify.

The eyewitness in the federal trial described how, moments before the murders, he saw Vernace pointing a gun at Godkin’s head and taunting him and that he saw one of Vernace’s accomplices threatening D’Agnese with a gun. According to the medical examiner, Godkin was killed by a gunshot to the chest fired from point-blank range, and D’Agnese died from a gunshot to the face.

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