In some respects, a racketeering indictment unsealed yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn is a classic in the mob canon. A Mafia soldier and four associates stand charged with killing one of their own. There are accusations of loan-sharking. There is arson. There is assault.<lj-cut>
And among the court papers prosecutors filed in the case are several sensational details that depict the murder for hire as a grisly and awkward affair. The victim was lured to a secluded landmark, a Victorian mansion on a hilltop on Staten Island, but he proved hard to kill. When an effort to strangle him failed, he was stabbed, then dragged to a nearby pond and drowned. His body was dismembered with hacksaws and incinerated in the mansion's furnace.
The charges reveal another interesting aspect to the case: The mob associate and former marine who prosecutors say was paid $8,000 by a Bonanno crime family soldier to carry out the hit is black. And one of his accomplices disposing of the body that day is Hispanic. Both are something of a rarity in the Mafia, not an enterprise known for its commitment to diversity.
Prosecutors contend that the soldier who ordered the murder, Gino Galestro, oversaw a crew of several associates, including the former marine, Joseph Young, 27, and the three other men charged in the indictment. Law enforcement officials said that the victim, Robert McKelvey, 39, had committed crimes with the men and had run afoul of Mr. Galestro, a former newspaper delivery driver for The New York Post and The Daily News and a former official of the drivers' union.
Mr. McKelvey, one of the officials said, owed Mr. Galestro money and had angered him. "He had a big mouth," the official said of Mr. McKelvey, who lived on Staten Island.
A fourth associate, who took part in the murder and several other crimes with the defendants, recently began cooperating with F.B.I. agents and prosecutors and told them about the April 2005 killing, according to a letter asking a federal judge to hold three of the men without bail. The letter, by an assistant United States attorney, Joey Lipton, did not identify the witness.
The cooperating witness told F.B.I. agents and prosecutors that the murder had occurred at the hilltop landmark known as the Kreischer Mansion, at 4500 Arthur Kill Road in the Charleston section, which neighborhood residents have long said was haunted.
Last month, F.B.I. agents searched the home and conducted forensic tests in an effort to find traces of blood, but are still awaiting the results.
They learned that the mansion's owners, who had no knowledge of the crime and are developing the property as an assisted living center for older people, had replaced the furnace as part of their renovations.
A lawyer for Mr. Young, who was living at the mansion at the time of the murder as its caretaker, said his client had no criminal record.
"We intend to enter a plea of not guilty and proceed to trial on these matters," said the lawyer, Felix T. Gilroy.
Prosecutors said Mr. Young served seven months in the Marine Corps before going AWOL and getting an other-than-honorable discharge.
Mr. Young was arrested in January on the arson charges that are part of the racketeering conspiracy. He was charged with murder for hire last week in the killing of Mr. McKelvey, and held without bail on Wednesday.
Mr. Galestro, 37, who was convicted of loan-sharking conspiracy on April 22, 2005, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and is expected to be released on June 8. Prosecutors said he sought and won a lighter-than-usual sentence in that case, citing among several reasons his wife's pregnancy. He will be arraigned on the new charges in several weeks. His lawyer, Richard Ware Levitt, declined to comment.
Both Mr. Galestro and Mr. Young — who also face charges of murder in aid of racketeering and murder for hire — could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges.
The three other men charged, John Tufarelli, 25, Jose Garcia, 34, and Stefan Cicale, 32, were arrested yesterday morning.
They pleaded not guilty at their arraignments and were held without bail at a hearing in front of Ramon E. Reyes Jr., a United States magistrate judge. Lawyers for the three men declined to comment.
Prosecutors believe Mr. McKelvey was murdered in late April 2005, sometime around Mr. Galestro's sentencing. Several days later, his sister filed a missing persons report, which described him as 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes and a tattoo of a bird and a skull on his right forearm. The report said he was last seen wearing a black sweatshirt and black sweat pants.
The accusation of a black man serving as a mob associate is rare, but not extraordinary. Blacks and Hispanics are barred from becoming full members of organized crime by Mafia protocol, which requires members to be full-blooded Italians.
"It certainly is not unprecedented — it's unusual," said Jerry Capeci, a newspaper reporter, author and organized crime expert who runs the ganglandnews.com Web site. "But when it comes to making money, the mob will go into business with blacks, Latinos, Asians — anyone who they think will put money in their pockets."
In fact, while Jewish and Irish criminals have served as high-level mob associates, black criminals in similar roles are rare, though there have been significant figures.
They include Leroy Barnes, known as Nicky, a Harlem heroin merchant in the 1960's and 70's associated with the Bonanno family, and Ellsworth Johnson, known as Bumpy, who was involved in gambling and narcotics in Harlem in the 1930's, 40's and 50's.
More recently, black criminals associated with the Genovese and Gambino families have been involved with groups that extorted money from construction contractors under the guise of seeking more jobs for minorities at particular construction sites.
While Mr. McKelvey had been missing for more than a year, his neighbors had few fond memories.
Marcella Liotta, 49, a homemaker across the street from the small bungalow at 413 Hunter Avenue on Staten Island where he lived until he disappeared, called him a "shady type of guy," and said the police were often called to his home regarding complaints that he beat his girlfriend.
"We're not sorry to see him go," she said.
A man at a relative's home on Staten Island — who said he was Mr. McKelvey's brother-in-law but would not identify himself further — said the family did not know why he was killed.
"He was a guy who didn't deserve that," he said.
Ann Farmer contributed reporting for this article.