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Archive for Friday, April 7, 2006

Mafia cops’ guilty of murder

April 7, 2006

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— Mafia cops forever.

That's what a Brooklyn jury branded two former NYPD detectives Thursday - finding them guilty of betraying their badges and the city in an evil mob compact sealed by greed and murder.

In the end, longtime pals Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were convicted of eight gangland slayings and leaking confidential information about mob informants to the Luchese crime family for cold cash during decorated careers as New York's finest.

"In the 160-year history of the police department, there have been shocking cases, but nothing like this where police officers committed murders for gangsters," said Thomas Reppetto, a historian of the NYPD.

Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, showed no emotion as the jury forewoman, speaking in a soft, barely audible voice, pronounced them guilty after 10 hours of deliberations in the sensational racketeering trial.

To many, the verdict - the panel declared them guilty of all 70 charges - came as no surprise after a trial marked by overwhelming evidence and a shocking absence of much of a defense.

Eppolito's daughter Deanna kissed a crucifix on the rosary around her neck while her sister, Andrea, made the sign of the cross.

But there would be no divine intervention for Eppolito and Caracappa, who U.S. Atty. Roslynn Mauskopf said "perverted the shield of good and turned it into a sword of evil."

"Their names should never be associated with the fine men and women of the police department," Mauskopf said outside Brooklyn Federal Court. "They were members of the mob and this verdict proves it."

Judge Jack Weinstein immediately revoked their $5 million bail and set sentencing for May 22. Both men face life in prison without parole.

The portly Eppolito handed over his wedding ring, necktie, a necklace and belt. Caracappa, his stick-figure friend, waved to his brother Dominick.

Then the partners in crime were led off to jail.

"Dad, it's not over," Andrea Eppolito assured her father as he waddled out of the courtroom.

Caracappa's attorney, Edward Hayes, and Eppolito's attorney, Bruce Cutler, said they would appeal the verdict.

"I like Steve," said Hayes, choking back tears. "He's a very self-contained man. He said, 'Everything will be all right."'

"It's an appearance of justice, but it's not justice," Cutler added. "It's just the beginning of the struggle, and I won't abandon it."

The overwhelming conviction rested largely on the testimony of jailed businessman Burton Kaplan, whose story was backed up by other prosecution witnesses.

Kaplan, 72, told jurors he was the go-between for murderous Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso and the detectives.

He laid out the road map of how Eppolito, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family, and Caracappa joined forces with the mob in the mid-1980s, a partnership that led to eight murders - including two in which the duo was directly involved.

Kaplan said Casso had the cops on retainer at $4,000 a month and paid them as much as $65,000 to carry out one murder.

In all, the feds say, Eppolito and Caracappa pocketed at least $375,000.

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