Separating Fact from Fiction in the Hit on Mobster Joey ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo

The author is an organized crime researcher.

By Andy Petepiece

Frank Sheeran

Charles Brandt’s bestselling book, “I Heard You Paint Houses” is the foundation of Martin Scorsese’s new film, “The Irishman.” Brandt conducted many interviews with long-time Teamster Frank Sheeran who claimed he killed Jimmy Hoffa. Among many other crimes that Sheeran took ownership of was the 1972 murder of notorious Mafioso Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo. Sheeran lied to Brandt about this event which brings all his other statements into question.

Most experts agree that the Colombo family put out a contract on Joey Gallo. Sheeran’s story was that he was ordered to carry out the hit after running into Gallo at the Copacabana night club in the early hours of April 7, 1972.  Sheeran claimed he knew that Gallo would be in Umbertos restaurant later on and that he had a seating plan of the new joint. These latter two points are outright lies.

On that fateful night Gallo was accompanied to Umbertos by his new wife Sina Essary, her young daughter Lisa, Gallo’s recently widowed sister Carmella Fiorello, associate Peter “Pete the Greek” Diapoulos, and his date Edith Russo.  After the shooting, Sina Gallo and Carmella explained to the police and FBI that they had initially planned to go to Luna’s restaurant but found it closed. They then accidentally came across Umberto’s and decided to go in to eat. (see FBI report NY92-4123)

Peter Diapoulos later confirmed this version in his book “The Sixth Family” on page 143. After seeing a show at the Copacabana, Greek wished to call it a night but, “he (Gallo) …wanted to go to Su Ling’s. It was closed… Then he decided on Luna’s….but it was shut and dark when we drove up.” Diapoulus then explained how they turned a corner and came upon the still open Umbertos. The Gallo party went in much to their later regret. They ended up there by chance.

The versions of Carmella, Sina, and Diapoulos are in accord. There was no way Sheeran would know beforehand they would be in Umbertos let alone have a seating plan of the place.

Brandt either didn’t check the FBI reports on the shooting or chose to ignore them. Instead, he believed Sheeran’s version. This confidence was misplaced.

An FBI report sent to FBI Director Hoover at 10:10 AM, the day of the killing, includes Gallo’s sister’s description of the shooter to the NYPD. “Lone assailant described by sister as white, male, five feet seven inches, Italian, age early forties. ”

According to “top echelon informants” quoted in an April 12/72 FBI memo “…the participants in the gang killing of Joey Gallo were Carmine DiBiase, also known as Sonny Pinto and his close associate (Phil Gambino) …”

An April 13/72 FBI report contains this information, “NYPD has a witness (Carmella Gallo) who stated photo of (the brother) of Vincent Aloi, Acting Boss, Colombo Family, resembles individual who killed Gallo. It is noted that the photo of Carmine DiBiase closely resembles photo of (Benny Aloi)….” Carmella has picked the wrong guy, but this person looked like an Italian and NOT Irishman Sheeran.

Lead Shooter

Peter Diapoulos recognized DiBiase as the lead shooter.  On page 144 of “The Sixth Family” the Greek states, “Just then, at the side door I saw Sonny Pinto. ….Sonny firing shots right for our faces.” Diapoulos knew DiBiase and recognized him immediately. This was NOT Frank Sheeran shooting.

Diapoulos goes on to describe how he saw the three shooters fleeing, “I made Sonny Pinto and two other guys. I had the piece (gun) out and threw the bolt, a shell flipping out….” (This .25 bullet was found by the side door on the floor) ….I emptied and had nothing left.” Sheeran makes NO mention of being fired at as he fled.

Another direct participant in the shooting was Colombo associate Joseph Luparelli. Not long after the Gallo hit Luparelli fled to Los Angeles fearing for his life. He turned himself into the Santa Anna FBI office and told them the whole story contained in an April 18/72 FBI report.

“On early morning April six or April seven seventy-two he (Luparelli) observed Joey Gallo and (Diapoulos) entering Umberto’s restaurant… (Luparelli) contacted Carmine Di Biase and (Phil Fungy Gambino). (Luparelli) and (Fungy) returned to Umbertos restaurant in (Luparelli’s) car while Di Biase arrived in his own car with two unknown subjects.  Di Biase, accompanied by the two unknown subjects entered Umbertos where Di Biase shot and killed Gallo.”

Two direct participants in the shooting knew DiBiase and said he was the lead gunman in the Gallo hit. Gallo’s sister didn’t recognize DiBiase but described him to a “t” and picked out a picture of another hood which looked remarkably like that of Di Biase. What does Brandt have in terms of eyewitnesses besides Sheeran?

After “I Heard You Paint Houses” was released (2004)  a female involved with the media happened to be talking to an associate about Brandt’s book. This person stated that she was present at the Gallo hit. Brandt jumped all over this “collaboration” and used it to defend Sheeran’s account. The eye witness statements and the shooting scene evidence put her version of the event into serious question.

We are fortunate that the NYPD did a thorough examination of the shooting scene. (see diagram)

The side door from which Diapoulos, Luparelli, and Carmella Gallo stated the shots came from is in the lower left of the diagram. Just inside the door is an unfired bullet from Diapoulos’ .25 Titan semi-automatic pistol. (Labelled S10) That bullet confirms Diapoulos’ account of firing at the fleeing three hitmen.

Same Caliber Slug

Nearby is a .32 bullet (S8). It is the same caliber slug that killed Gallo. DiBiase was firing this gun for his associates all acknowledged that DiBiase killed Gallo. Also, Diapoulos stated DiBiase was the first one who came in shooting. It makes sense that this slug ended up in that location for that is where Gallo and Diapoulos and the others were sitting.

Along the right side of the diagram is the bar. You can easily see all the slugs from that area. The three men were shooting as Gallo fled towards the front door at the top of the diagram. Near the front door is yet another .32 slug fired at Gallo just as he reached the exit.

The ballistic evidence shows that there were four weapons: A .32, a Smith and Wesson .38, a Colt .38, and Diapoulos’ .25 Titan. Sheeran claimed he used two guns. He also boasted that he was a precision shot. As you can see from the spray of bullets along the counter its clear the shooters were anything but proficient.

Then there is the final blow to Brandt. Sheeran said he fired at Gallo from the counter/bar. Oops—all the bullets were going the other way!

It is unreal to me that Brandt’s female witness didn’t describe in great detail all the slugs roaring across the restaurant. She must have accepted Sheeran’s account of deliberately wounding Diapoulos from the bar then killing Gallo after following him out into the street. (NONE of the witnesses reported anyone shooting at Gallo out in the street)

The eyewitness identification of DiBiase by Diapoulos and Luparelli is rock solid. Carmella fingered a picture of an Italian guy who looked remarkably like DiBiase as the lead shooter. None of the three identified anyone even remotely resembling Sheeran. Their accounts are backed up by irrefutable ballistic evidence. The bottom line is that Sheeran was not there, which means he conned Brandt about the Gallo killing.

The Sheeran lies about Gallo severely weaken Sheeran’s other claims.  Brandt accepted that Sheeran was telling the truth about everything since he was dying and wanted to make peace. Sheeran went to his grave a liar. Brandt gained fame and financial reward, but he will always be the man taken in by a veteran hood.

Note 1:

The shooting diagram has been available to the public since its publication of Albert A. Seedman’s book “Chief” in 1974. Freedom of Information requests for the files of Joey Gallo provided much detail on his death. I can only assume that Brandt wasn’t aware of this material when researching the Sheeran book or in the many years since.

Note 2:

An FBI report describes how witnesses mentioned a tan or brown sedan racing from the Gallo shooting scene. The FBI then went to the licensing authority and found that DiBiase had a brown 1971 Pontiac registered. This information lines up nicely with Luparelli’s statement that DiBiase used his vehicle during the Gallo shooting. It also supports Diapoulos’ story of firing at a fleeing car.

Note 3:

From photographs, Luparelli eventually identified Frank “Cisco” Lociciero and Benny Lociciero as the two other shooters. Unfortunately, the FBI report said he also thought a picture of a  third person might be one of the two other killers. Luparelli had earlier noted that Phil Gambino was in his block car during the hit.

(Andy Petepiece wishes to thank his friend and colleague, Dan Moldea, author of The Hoffa Wars, among other books.)


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