CATALANO, Salvatore "Toto" (1941- ):
The Zip invasion of the American Mafia hit its zenith
under Salvatore "Toto" Catalano, a criminal who
exhibited a terrifying penchant for double-dealing.
Long a "protege" of crime boss Carmine Galante,
who sponsored many of the Zips coming from Sicily,
Toto was regarded by authorities as a prime mover,
along with many family bosses in New York and
around the country, in the plot to assassinate
Galante, an operation accomplished in spectacular
fashion in 1979. It was a move that made Catalano
and his supporters richer than they had ever been,
reaping millions in drug profits from heroin smug-
gled in from Sicily where it had been processed by
Sicilian crime families.
What horrified many American mafiosi was the
senseless slaughter and violence Catalano and the
other Zips engaged in to further their aims. Toto was
considered one of the wildest. Without the slightest
qualm he had his own cousin and namesake mur-
dered when he developed a strong heroin addiction.
Toto felt his cousin's blabberings might endanger the
entire drug operation that later became popularly
known as the Pizza Connection.
After the Galante murder, Paul Castellano, the
reputed boss of bosses of the American Mafia,
decided to fill Galante's position with the Zips.
According to assistant U.S. attorney Richard Martin,
the lead prosecution in the Pizza Connection trial
from 1985 to 1987, Big Paul had a sitdown with
Catalano and his leading aides at Martini's Restau-
rant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to "work out the new
terms of payment for the heroin franchise. . . .
Carmine Galante was out of the way; now the money
would go straight to Castellano himself. "
Louis Freeh, another assistant U.S. attorney and
later head of the FBI, said: "We know that the Sicil-
ians have been paying off the U.S. bosses on heroin
all along. . . . Paul Castellano got paid, in spite of
threatening others with death for dealing."
Catalano readily agreed to Castellano's terms,
which were more favorable than what the Zips got
from Galante. But would the agreement last?
Despite the agreement Castellano continued to
have woes with the Zips. They grew stronger in what
had been Gambino family strongholds, and they
operated rackets without seeking Gambino family
approval. Violence broke out and a full-scale war
loomed. But the battle never began. The govern-
ment's Pizza Connection prosecution netted Cata-
lano and all the important Zips, and Castellano fell
under the guns of the John Gotti forces that took
over the Gambino family.
Even after his arrest Catalano remained a threat,
apparently penetrating the secrecy of the witness
protection program to learn the whereabouts of
some of the witnesses who testified against him. He
continued making threats even after the conclusion
of the long trial and while appeals were still pend-
ing. In the end Catalano's terror campaign was neu-
tralized. He was sentenced to 45 years, meaning
that if he served the full time he would be 91 years
old when released.