DeCARLO, Angelo "Gyp" (1902-1973): New jersey racket
A longtime New Jersey boss of Mafia loan-sharking,
gambling activities, and stolen securities operations,
Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo was maudlin about the
Mafia. Based on FBI tapes made from illegal bugging
of DeCarlo's office from 1961 to 1965, some star-
tling sentiments were revealed. Released under court
order, portions of the transcripts appeared in the
press. As reporter Fred Graham noted, "reputations
collapsed throughout New Jersey as racketeers were
quoted as swapping favors with police chiefs, prose-
cutors, judges, and political chieftains."
Among those who saw their political fortunes
wrecked were Hudson County political boss John J.
Kenny and Newark mayor Hugh Addonizio. Con-
gressman Peter Rodino escaped censure by the public
by explaining away satisfactorily the kind of things
said about him. Singer Frank Sinatra got another
heavy dose of the constant linking of him with mob
Equally important was the picture painted of
DeCarlo himself, especially in view of the kindly
treatment he was to receive later from a national
administration. DeCarlo spoke glowingly of the old
days in the "combination" and his self-approval of
his role as a thug and murderous brute. At one point
Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg, a notorious mob
enforcer, asked him: "Will you tell me why every-
body loves you so?"
DeCarlo's reply was honest if perhaps not totally
responsive. "I'm a hoodlum," he announced proudly.
"I don't want to be a legitimate guy. All these other
racket guys who get a few bucks want to become
The tapes, typical of many mob conversations,
turned to discussions of past murders, which, what-
ever embellishments or contradiction with known
facts, were reflective of the characters involved.
DeCarlo had to observe rather philosophically to
other mobsters that victims "as little as they are, they
He seemed most happy reminiscing about one vic-
tim to whom he said,
"Let me hit you clean. " ... So the guy went for it . . .
we took the guy out in the woods, and I said, "Now lis-
ten . . . You gotta go. Why not let me hit you right in
the heart, and you won't feel a thing?" He said, "I'm
innocent . . . but if you've gotta do it . . . " So I hit him
in the heart, and it went right through him.
DeCarlo almost certainly had a financial mystery
man named Louis Saperstein poisoned with arsenic,
but when DeCarlo and an aide were sent to prison in
1970 for 12 years, it was for extortion, not murder,
in the Saperstein case.
DeCarlo was back on the front pages just 19
months later when President Nixon mysteriously
commuted his sentence and let him out of prison,
only one of four acts of clemency Nixon granted that
year out of hundreds of applications.
What made the clemency so unusual was the odd
way it came about. DeCarlo petitioned for his
release, claiming he was suffering from cancer; he
had made that claim for years. Normally such a
request would automatically be routed to the
Newark prosecutor's office and then through Crimi-
nal Division in Washington for recommendations,
before reaching the attorney general. This particular
petition simply zipped straight to Attorney General
Richard Kleindienst who approved it and shot it on
Coming out of prison on a stretcher, New Jersey mafioso
"Gyp" DeCarlo was said to have enjoyed special pull when
he won a lightning-fast presidential pardon in 1970.
Although suffering from cancer, he was well enough to
carry on mob rule for a time.
to White House Special Counsel John Dean. Presi-
dent Nixon's signature came through so that
DeCarlo could be released two days before Christ-
mas, 1972, a touching reward for a kindly hit man
who popped a victim straight through the heart to
save him pain, especially from an outspoken remem-
Naturally the tale churned through the Washing-
ton gossip mill. There were reports that, through
Vice President Spiro Agnew, the clemency had been
arranged by singer Sinatra — whose smiling picture
graced DeCarlo's office wall and whom DeCarlo, on
tape, praised lavishly. There was also talk that
DeCarlo had contributed handsomely to Nixon's
reelection campaign, which would be a stirring
example of citizenship for a man behind bars.
Denials and no-comments filled the air and Special
Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox even conducted
an investigation into the irregular events. Nothing
came of the probe.
DeCarlo had returned home on a stretcher and
then seemed well enough to pick up his mob rule.
But 10 months later he succumbed to cancer. His
death revealed an added bit of irony. DeCarlo had
been hit with a $20,000 fine when he was sentenced,
and he was told that if he did not pay the fine by
October 25, 1973, he would be returned to prison.
DeCarlo died on October 20, his debt still unpaid.
To the very end DeCarlo managed to live by his
stated credo: "I don't want to be a legitimate guy."