Reputed Mobster Ordered Killing Over Suspected Gambling Machine Theft: Prosecutors

Posted on: December 22, 2020, 01:37h. 

Last updated on: December 23, 2020, 05:05h.

Prosecutors in New York want a judge to consider a 1997 stabbing death to figure into the sentencing this spring of a reputed Genovese family mobster, according to a news report. The death was reportedly over a gambling machine theft.

Richard Ortiz
Richard Ortiz, seen here, was killed in 1997 after leaving a bar in New York. He was stabbed several times in the stomach, according to published reports. (Image: The Journal News)

In court papers filed last week, prosecutors allege John Tortora Jr. ordered the November 1997 killing of a man suspected of stealing from his Joker Poker gambling machines, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News.

An attorney for the 63-year-old Tortora asserts his client, known as Johnny T., had no involvement in the decades-old killing, the newspaper reported. Richard Ortiz, a 29-year-old landscaper, died after being stabbed in the stomach outside a Yonkers neighborhood tavern, according to published accounts. Yonkers is just north of the Bronx, a New York City borough.

Prosecutors also said Tortora ordered Ortiz killed for providing law enforcement with information about the Mafia’s criminal activities, according to the newspaper.

Attorney Barry Levin denied Tortora was a member of the Genovese crime family. The lawyer said his client did not own the gambling machines Ortiz was suspected of stealing from, according to the Journal News.

Earlier this year, Tortora pleaded guilty to lesser charges unrelated to Ortiz’s death, including what prosecutors said was the reputed mobster’s 20-year involvement in a sports-betting operation, the newspaper reported.

A federal judge has scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 1. Tortora faces up to seven years in prison.

Two cooperating witnesses against Tortora, including a reputed Lucchese crime family associate, have pleaded guilty in connection with Ortiz’s death, according to the Journal News. However, there is no federal court database of their arrests or guilty pleas, the newspaper reported. The case against them is only included in court documents that Tortora’s lawyers have filed.

‘Joey Electric,’ ’Tony Meatballs’ Due in Court

Another case involving gambling and reputed organized crime figures made news recently in Philadelphia. Federal prosecutors there have accused 15 Mafia associates of illegal gambling, loan sharking, and drug trafficking.

The defendants include Joseph “Joey Electric” Servidio, 60, Anthony “Tony Meatballs” Gifoli, 73, and Louis “Louie Sheep” Barretta, 56, according to news accounts.

Prosecutors said the crime family extended its operations from Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore, especially in Atlantic City.

US Attorney William McSwain said the mob remains a “problem,” but “isn’t what it used to be, and thank God for that.”

“We will not rest until the mob is nothing but a bad memory,” he said.

The defendants are scheduled to appear before a federal judge on Jan. 8, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Las Vegas Wiseguys

The Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino also was in the news during recent weeks regarding its 25th anniversary.

The movie stars Robert De Niro as a casino operative, based on mob associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. Sharon Stone plays his wife, while Joe Pesci portrays a character patterned after Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro. In the 1970s and early ’80s, Spilotro was the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Las Vegas. He and his brother, Michael, were killed in a mob hit in the Chicago area in 1986 and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

The Mob Museum in Las Vegas recently hosted an event to celebrate the movie’s anniversary. The event featured Nicholas Pileggi, who appeared via teleconference.

Pileggi, a former New York City crime reporter, cowrote the screenplay with director Martin Scorsese. Pileggi also wrote the 1995 nonfiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, which became the basis for the movie.