NEW YORK - Thomas and Rosemarie Uva were not exactly criminal geniuses.
The couple liked to rob Mafia-run social clubs in Little Italy and elsewhere around the city, which, as just about everyone knows, is a really good way to get killed.
They even had the audacity to force mobsters to drop their pants as they swiped their cash and jewelry and cleaned out their card games.
The holdups proved predictably hazardous: The Uvas got whacked on Christmas Eve 1992.
Fifteen years later, the story of the bandits who made the mistake of stealing from the mob is playing out at the trial of the man accused of murdering them, a reputed Gambino crime family captain named Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia.
"There's virtually no greater insult than robbing the Gambino family where they socialized and hung out," federal prosecutor Joey Lipton said last month in opening statements in Brooklyn.
Prosecutors claim that John A. "Junior" Gotti, while acting boss of the Gambino family once led by his father, sanctioned the killings - a charge he has denied. Pizzonia's attorney, Joseph R. Corozzo Jr., told the jurors they would hear testimony that members of the Bonanno crime family were the real culprits.
Corozzo noted that the government was relying on an unsavory cast of Mafia turncoats to make their case, including former Gambino capo Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, who got his nickname as a child after a dog bit him in the face.
The case reflects a new willingness among several old-school gangsters - some admitted killers like DiLeonardo - to break the mob's vow of omerta, or silence, and help prosecute graying reputed gangsters like Pizzonia, 65, for crimes dating back decades. In 2005, Bonanno boss Joseph "Big Joey" Massino stunned the underworld by becoming the first boss of one of New York's five Mafia families to flip.
Exactly why the Uvas gambled with their lives by robbing mobsters remains a mystery. But their former boss at a New York collection agency, Michael Schussel, offered some possible clues for resorting to making collections of a criminal kind.
Schussel testified that Thomas was a Mafia aficionado who asked for days off to attend the trial of the elder John Gotti, the Gambino don who died behind bars in 2002. The couple lived in Gotti's neighborhood in Ozone Park, Queens.
"He was obsessed with the mob," the witness said.
Authorities say the Uvas began their robbery spree in 1991, apparently believing that social clubs - home to high-stakes card games - would provide an easy mark.
Rosemarie, 31, took the wheel of the getaway car and Thomas, 28, armed with an Uzi submachine gun, stripped patrons of their money and jewelry and made the men drop their pants. The couple became known on the street as Bonnie and Clyde.
The moonlighting was stressful: The day after one of the holdups made headlines, Rosemarie showed up for work looking pale and fainted to the floor, her ex-employer said.
By the time the Uvas had hit his Cafe Liberty in Queens a second time, Pizzonia had tired of their act, DiLeonardo testified.
Pizzonia "was very angry, as everybody else was, that these guys had the nerve to go around robbing clubs, like committing suicide," DiLeonardo said. A plan was hatched to track down the couple by getting their license plate number, he said.
On the morning of Dec. 24, they were sitting in their Mercury Topaz at an intersection in Queens when they were each shot three times in the back of the head. The car rolled through the intersection and collided with another vehicle before it stopped; police officers found a stash of jewelry with the bloody corpses.
The killers vanished as mob bosses argued behind the scenes over who should get credit, DiLeonardo said. During a sitdown with his Bonanno counterpart Massino, the younger Gotti set the record straight. The Bonnie-and-Clyde hit, Gotti said, was "our trophy."
comments powered by Disqus