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Shopkeeper Fights Off Armed Robber with Lollipops

Shopkeeper Fights Off Armed Robber with Lollipops


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The robber had a gun, but the guy flinging lollipops won

Wikimedia/DDGuy

A shopkeeper fought off an armed robber by throwing lollipops.

A German shopkeeper was either very brave or very foolish this week when he found himself being held at gunpoint by a robber: Instead of handing over the money, he started throwing lollipops in self defense. The shopkeeper was also very lucky, because his barrage of lollipops worked.

According to The Local, the shopkeeper was at work at around 10 on Thursday night when a man came in wearing a mask and carrying a gun. The man demanded all the money in the register, but instead of giving it to him, the shopkeeper reportedly started hurling lollipops at the masked man holding a gun at him. Somehow, the shopkeeper got very lucky and the bewildered criminal ran away from the barrage of lollipops without anyone being injured or killed.

Once outside, however, the robber reportedly took off his mask and the shopkeeper got a good look at his face. The robber and his accomplice turned out to be two 15-year-old boys from the area. Police say that when they investigated the boys’ homes, they found the mask and the gun. Both of the boys were arrested for attempted robbery.


The law is confusing because there are things in some states that are legal, but remain illegal in other states. Many people purchase edibles in Colorado. These edibles take various forms but essentially are made by infusing THC into what would otherwise be a legal recipe for brownies, candies, etc. And there is the problem.

Georgia has an organized schedule of drugs that are illegal to possess. Schedule I, II, III, IV, V and then Dangerous Drugs. Schedule I being the "most serious" and Dangerous Drugs being (albeit counterintuitively) the least serious. Georgia has determined that the THC used to infuse these edibles is a Schedule I drug. Georgia specifically defines the illegal THC in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-25 as follows:

Tetrahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid which does not contain plant material exhibiting the external morphological features of the plant of the genus Cannabis. (emphasis added).

Basically, when marijuana (THC) becomes so concentrated that it no longer looks like weed it becomes a felony. Meaning that edibles, possession of even just one, is a felony and is oftentimes charged as such by prosecutors in Newnan, Carrollton, Fayetteville, and other places throughout the State of Georgia.


Police in Baltimore City may soon have another resource to fight violent crime in the city. On Friday, December 20, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced the launch of a special pilot program that will utilize surveillance planes. Planes would fly over the city to monitor and record incidences of violent crime in Baltimore City. The data and information collected could then be used to determine strategies to prevent and solve crime.

This won’t be the first time surveillance planes are flying over the city. In 2016, police were criticized for conducting a similar program without informing the public. The program was terminated after it drew swift condemnation from privacy advocates and the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore.

This new pilot program will run for 120 to 180 days starting in May of 2020. Commissioner Harrison worked with the plane’s operator to determine a set of guidelines that will be both effective and protect the privacy of residents. Surveillance will only be used to investigate serious crimes like murder and armed robbery, and video will not be live-streamed. The police department will not have direct access to the video or data that is collected. At the conclusion of the program, the data will be analyzed to determine its effectiveness.

Media Briefing: Commissioner Harrison Discusses Surveillance Plane https://t.co/jjXXgTi0cu

— Baltimore Police (@BaltimorePolice) December 20, 2019

Taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund the pilot program. Instead, the department will look to philanthropic organizations for funding.

The city will also hold a series of public meetings in order for the public to ask questions about how and when the planes will operate. Commissioner Harrison said the planes are just another possible tool law enforcement could use to battle violent crime in the city.

What do you think about surveillance planes? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Man sentenced for killing candy shop owner

This blog takes a closer look at murder in the city.

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

A 23-year-old man convicted in the shotgun slaying of a popular neighborhood shopkeeper was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 50 years.

Joevone Martell Jordan was convicted in October of first-degree intentional homicide and attempted armed robbery in connection with the killing of Roland Haefner. Haefner was killed June 17, 2009, at the Silver Spring Variety Store, 8305 W. Silver Spring Drive. He was 77. Haefner sold candy, soda and other items in his store and was known to neighborhood children as "Grandpa."

Roland Haefner

Jordan's family turned him in to police after his mother found candy in his bed, and he told a cousin he was involved in Haefner's robbery and murder. With his mother's permission, detectives searched Jordan's bedroom and found a sawed-off shotgun and a camouflage jacket like one witness had described the suspect as wearing.


Bloglander

How much is enough to make innocent men whole after they've spent nearly five years in prison for a crime they didn't commit?

The answer, apparently, is $2.25 million — the amount that Spokane County's insurer agreed to pay to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged "reckless" detective work and witness tampering by police. But for the three men wrongfully convicted of an armed robbery in 2009, there are some holes in their lives that money will never fill.

"It devastated me and my family," says Robert Larson, one of the three wrongly convicted men. Larson says the strain of his conviction contributed to his parents splitting up. Then, his father died only months after Larson was released, he says: "I can't describe it."

Larson, along with Paul Statler and Tyler Gassman, were released from prison in 2012 after their convictions were overturned. They've been working to rebuild their lives and clear their names ever since.

"I don't think it's enough money for what they went through, but it's our hope that it helps them move forward, and that the Sheriff's Office takes it very seriously and takes steps to prevent this from happening in the future," says Micah LeBank, the men's attorney.

Following the agreement, however, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told the Spokesman-Review that he believes the case should have gone to trial and "all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary."

"They had no case, and that is evident in that they received $750k each," Knezovich writes via text message to the Inlander. "A case like this is valued at $15-20 million each if true. Settlements happen when [the] plaintiff has a weak or no case."

In sworn testimony ahead of the settlement, Knezovich has defended the work of the two detectives — Bill Francis and Doug Marske — whose problematic investigation led to the bad convictions. Knezovich says the detectives conducted a thorough investigation, despite his own sergeant's conclusion to the contrary following an internal review.

The sheriff's reaction is typical of other high-profile settlements with his office.

Knezovich criticized the county's $2 million settlement in 2013 with the family of a Spokane Valley pastor shot to death on his own property by a deputy.

More recently, following the $1 million settlement with the family of a Spokane Valley teenager who died after he was hit by a speeding deputy's vehicle, Knezovich took the opportunity to absolve his deputy of blame . Holyk's mother, Carrie Thomson, says the sheriff has misled the public about details of the fatal accident from the very beginning.

"Frankly I think our community deserves better leadership," Statler says of the sheriff's reaction to the settlement in his case.

"That guy shouldn't even be where he's at," Gassman says when asked about Knezovich's response. "He allowed this to happen. I feel like it's his job to say that."

As for the case itself, the men's convictions hinged on testimony from a jailhouse snitch, which turned out to be false. Sheriff's Office Sgt. Tim Hines, who looked into claims that a detective lied and tampered with a witness leading up to the wrongful convictions, called the investigation "extremely poor police work."

That included detectives' failure to verify essential pieces of evidence, including the jailhouse informant's statements.

"As far as efforts to corroborate it, it doesn't appear they made any," Hines says in his sworn testimony. He adds: "I wouldn't have had to ask somebody 'should I try to corroborate this?' I would've known that. That's common sense."

Aside from the federal lawsuit, taxpayers could also be on the hook for the detectives' missteps to the tune of about $750,000.

This year, Spokane County Judge John Cooney declared the men "actually innocent," meaning they are entitled to compensation under the state's wrongful conviction statute. That bill for taxpayers comes to about $750,000, according to the attorney handling that portion of their case.

But it's unclear whether Statler, Gassman and Larson will get that money. Washington's law says individuals must waive their right to sue in order to receive state compensation.

LeBank believes they'll still get paid by the state.

"There's been finding of fact and conclusions of law indicating they're entitled to money under the statute," LeBank says. "The state now has to pay that money, and nothing in the statute allows them to avoid payment. If the state chooses to fight it, in my opinion, that's frivolous."

During phone conversations with the Inlander, each of the three men expressed relief that they're finally able to put this behind them.

Gassman is working in construction and says he's looking forward to spending time with his family.

Larson found work as a drug and alcohol rehab counselor and is focusing on raising his three kids.

Statler is also raising a 2-year-old, and says he's working on publishing a children's book.

"Nothing can ever replace the time we lost, but I'm glad to have this jump start and help my son move forward," he says. "For me, I just want to raise awareness about the issue, and about the dishonesty of the police — hopefully get some policies changed."

This post has been updated with Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich's statements. Knezovich strongly disagreed with the Inlander's headline, saying: "Bottom line is [the] headline is false, but what's new? Good thing there is no IA process for the press. They'd find this one fake news."


Life of Violence Catches Up to Suspected Murderer, 11 : Crime: Chicago officials believe that Robert Sandifer was executed by his gang after he killed a teen-age girl.

In a city that, like Los Angeles, is so often numbed by the exploits of ruthless gang murderers, the saga of Robert Sandifer was sadly familiar--except for his tender age.

The object of a three-day police hunt, Robert was the suspect in the shooting death of one teen-ager and the wounding of two others. He was found early Thursday, a murder victim himself. His body lay face down under a viaduct, shot in the back of the head.

Robert Sandifer was 11 years old.

He was sought for the slaying Sunday of Shavon Dean, 14, who was struck by a bullet apparently meant for a member of a gang. She wanted to be a beautician and had slipped out of her house that night, despite her mother’s urgings that she stay inside, to visit a candy store and practice her skills on a neighbor’s hair.

Robert was nicknamed “Yummy” for his love of cookies, and he stood less than five feet tall. He was also a member of the Black Disciples, a street gang whose ranks number in the hundreds and are alleged to be involved in the drug trade, car thefts, extortion, prostitution and credit card fraud. Police theorize that his own gang, seeing him as a liability, executed him.

He was a “tough shorty,” the name gang members here give to their baby-faced members. His personal rap sheet listed eight arrests in connection with crimes ranging from armed robbery to auto theft.

Illinois children’s services authorities were searching for a facility for him outside the state after 13 local agencies turned him down because of his age. Robert, said Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy, “was in trouble from the moment he was conceived. His family made him a sociopath.”

Robert came from a disturbing background, but, Murphy added, it was far from unique. “Believe me,” he said, “we see this 100 times a week.”

Nationwide, the most recent FBI statistics show, 267 children under the age of 14 were charged with murder in 1992, up 50% from the decade before. “It’s not a diminishing problem. It’s going to get worse,” said George Knox, director of the National Gang Crime Research Center at Chicago State University.

Robert was the second of seven siblings. When he was 3, the state took Robert, who was covered with cigarette burns and bruises that appeared to be caused by an extension cord, out of his mother’s custody. He was turned over to his grandmother, who raised him with little discipline in the house that at various times contained as many as 19 other children, Murphy said.

“If this child was protected five years ago, you save two people,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said on Wednesday, before Robert’s corpse was located. “You save the young woman who was killed and you save the young offender.”

The two children lived a block apart in the Roseland section on the far South Side and had what one relative called “a hi-bye relationship.” On Thursday, neighbors drifted back and forth between their homes, where makeshift shrines to each had been fashioned.

“I love you, Shavon,” a cousin had scrawled on a banner hanging from a cyclone fence at the dead girl’s frame house. “Heaven is the place for angels like you.” Bouquets of sunflowers and carnations were already wilting. On the sidewalk, candles burned inside rose-tinted vases.

At Robert’s house, five boys stepped up to write their names with a blue marker on a piece of cardboard affixed to the wrought-iron railing of a porch where his grandmother, Janet, was sitting. She leaped out of her chair.

“Why’d y’all let my baby go like that?” she bellowed at them. “Why’d y’all leave Yummy shot?”

Mute, jaws grinding beneath clamped teeth, they finished signing. Then they retreated down the alley while two men grabbed the distraught grandmother tightly around her arms and forced her inside the house.

“Robert’s no symbol,” said his aunt, Bay Sandifer. “They’ll probably be shooting tonight.”

There was certainly shooting on Sunday.

In the afternoon, a 16-year-old gang member was shot with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun. Robert was wanted for questioning in the attack.

At 8:30 p.m., the same weapon was firing away at a group of teen-agers playing football police say they may have also been gang members. Another 16-year-old boy was wounded in the leg and Shavon Dean, who had sneaked away from home minutes before, was killed.

Just looking at Robert’s file, Murphy said, he could have predicted “it was only a matter of time before he would be dead or killed someone. It just happened sooner, not later.”

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services first made contact with Robert’s mother in 1984, when he was not yet a year old. The situation was investigated again in 1985 and 1986 before five children were removed from the home because of “inadequate supervision and a risk of harm,” said department spokeswoman Martha Allen. Robert’s mother, Murphy said, was addicted to crack cocaine.

“As time passed,” Allen said, “it became apparent to us that the grandmother was not supervising the children adequately either.”

His first arrest, at age 8, was for shoplifting. Then, in rapid succession, came arrests for criminal damage to property, robbery, attempted armed robbery. He bragged about his standing in the Black Disciples.

He and an older brother ran away from their grandmother’s home frequently. Late last year, they were made wards of the state. Robert was placed in a diagnostic center for evaluation. He got into a fight with a teacher there, and ran away in March.

He was picked up in April in a stolen car.

Authorities placed him in a juvenile-detention center. Shortly after his release in July, he was tormenting the neighborhood again. Eli Roberts, 17, said “Yummy” smashed a window in his white Oldsmobile 88. He retaliated by heaving the younger boy’s dirt bike into the street.

Several days later, “Yummy” grabbed a gasoline can from the back seat of the Olds, poured it over the seats and lit a match.

“He took off, like he always does when he knows he’s in trouble,” Eli Roberts said. “We didn’t see him ‘round here for a week.”

Within weeks, Juvenile Court Judge Thomas R. Sumner ordered the state to find a home for Robert outside the Illinois boundary. In the meantime, he decided over the state’s objection, to return Robert to his grandmother’s care.

By the end of the month, Robert had been arrested twice more--for burglary and for armed robbery.

Then came the spate of shootingsfor which Robert was in turn killed by his own, police speculate.

“These organizations are very selfish,” said Police Supt. Matt Rodriguez at a press conference. “And he was a perfect example of someone who was apparently doing the bidding of gangs and is dead because he was expendable.” Authorities are pursuing what they call “good leads” and say they think they know where Robert was during the days he dropped from the scene.

Shavon Dean’s mother, Debra, took no comfort in the fate of the alleged murderer. “I’m just sorry it happened to the boy,” she said.

As she spoke, she noticed a woman in a black leather jacket signing Shavon’s banner. It was Robert’s aunt.

In a moment, the two women were sighing together.

“We got to do something about these gangbangers,” Sandifer said. “It’s terrible, it don’t make no sense.”


A Beginner's Guide to Curbing Coronavirus Anxiety With Cannabis

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, studies have shown that Americans have been giving into their vices more than ever lately, and we get it. Amid weeks spent inside in social isolation, millions of jobs lost and a very depressing 24-hour news cycle, it would be unusual if you weren’t experiencing some form of anxiety, or at the very least, cabin fever.

While the importance of keeping good habits has been advocated by many mental health experts, the drastic uptick in sales of anything vice-related — from sex toys to alcohol — shows that we’re all in search of a little distraction. In fact, data from market research firm Nielsen suggests that U.S. alcohol sales spiked 55 percent in the week ending March 21, with online sales up an astounding 243 percent. In a survey by Alcohol.org, 1 in 3 respondents reported that they are likely to increase alcohol consumption in isolation.

Replacing sports-bar meetups with Zoom happy hours might offer some much-needed on-the-spot relief, but turning to booze in times of stress has major downsides, too. Downing too much alcohol can reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases, and besides that, it’s a depressant — temporarily boosting serotonin levels only to lower them in the long run, and causing or exacerbating depression as a result.

The bottom line is that an ounce or two on the rocks is fine, but increased alcohol use over days or weeks might suppress immune responses or lead to a greater susceptibility to pneumonia.

Enter stage left: cannabis, a demonstrably safer alternative, with some added benefits.

While alcohol acts as a downer, weed has been shown to help ease anxiety, insomnia and physical aches and pain. While those who typically enjoy the stuff have gotten a bad rap as being lazy, giggly and insatiably hungry, cannabis is often medically prescribed to help manage nausea and weight loss, and can be used to treat glaucoma.

However, recent headlines have warned about the dangers of smoking cigarettes and weed as coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, and their habit can increase the risk of suffering more severe complications in the case that they contract the virus. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to indulge that require zero inhalation, from taking edibles to using medical-strength CBD oil.

“So far, edibles don’t seem to do anything to the airways,” Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association told Refinery29. “They give you some of the same psychoactive effects as smoking, but they don’t put you at any increased risk if you get COVID-19. I would prefer all my patients use edibles instead of smoking.”

For those of you who have used some of the extra time at home to get experimental in the kitchen, here’s your cue. Use your newfound skills to whip up some quick cannabutter and crack open some new recipes, like this one for weed-infused ribeye with chimichurri.

Don’t get too ahead of yourself though: first you have to know your strains.

For combating anxiety

For those with specific ailments, we encourage you to give a licensed dispensary a call, as they will be able to give you the best recommendation. What we can say is that those experiencing an uptick in daily anxiety might want to check out some indica or indica hybrids (a mix of strains that are dominantly indica). Built for relaxation, indica is perfect for both mental and muscle relaxation.

Not only are indica strains perfect for decompressing after a long day, they also have your back (literally) when it comes to muscle soreness, whether caused by a hard workout or sitting in the same chair all day long. Indica delivers a body high that gives you a heavy, relaxed feeling while increasing your dopamine levels.

Local dispensary Herbal Alternatives recommends strains like Pincher’s Creek, which they describe as a “sweet strain with great, long-lasting effects” and say helps with mood elevation, giving bursts of energy throughout the day to help battle anxiety and depression. For evening use, they recommend a strain called Humble Pain. Perfect for fighting depression, it gives you an “almost euphoric and uplifting feeling.”

Catching some quality Zzzs

Need another reason to choose edibles above smoking? They actually take effect much more slowly, considering they first need to be digested and processed through the liver. This slow burn makes them effective at helping you stay asleep through the night.

According to the experts at HelloMD, one of the best strains to put you to sleep is called Harlequin, which is actually a sativa-dominant hybrid. “Harlequin is high in CBD and is known for its ability to relieve pain, stress, anxiety and depression. Though it’s sativa-dominant, Harlequin is known to be a calming strain that helps people fall and stay asleep. It’s particularly good for people who have anxiety-driven insomnia, because it has very little to no psychoactivity.”

Other sleep-inducing favorites of theirs include Cookie Jar, a hybrid known for helping with headaches and providing full body relaxation effects, as well as the insomnia-countering White Widow, a balanced hybrid praised for its cerebral, relaxing qualities.

When there’s work to get done

Trying to get out of bed on the weekend for an at-home workout? Suffering from the dreaded midday slump? This is where sativa, known for its energizing power, shines.

While everyone experiences the effects of cannabis differently, sativa is best used for revving up creativity, and can even sharpen focus, making it perfect for putting you in the positive mindset needed to slog through a few dozen more emails. This happens because sativa provides a boost in serotonin, the feel-good chemical that helps to regulate learning, mood, sleep, anxiety and appetite.

One of the best strains for mental clarity carried by Herbal Alternatives is Classic Jack, a sativa-dominant strain that’s known for providing a high that keeps you feeling “blissful, clear-headed and creative.”

Where to buy

While states like California and Colorado have given the green light to recreational cannabis sales, DC has been trapped in somewhat of a grey area. Back in 2014, when Initiative 71 was passed, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana became legal for anyone over 21, as well as the transference of up to one ounce to another person as long as no money is exchanged.

Those wanting to go the official route can apply for a medical card and then visit one of DC’s seven medical marijuana dispensaries, which are still open, since they are deemed essential services. Metropolitan Wellness Center, Capital City Care and the National Holistic Healing Center are all options.

Got your card already? As of last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Department of Health also announced an emergency rule that now allows registered patients to order cannabis directly to their homes from dispensaries.

If applying for a card seems too tedious, another option is the many delivery services in DC that offer weed as a “gift with the purchase” in order to comply with local laws, such as High Speed or Joint Delivery. Sure, you may not need any stickers, tie-dye pencils or even inspirational quotes spoken aloud to you, but that is technically what you’ll be paying for when they come to deliver your bud or edibles

And let’s be real, it definitely can’t hurt to hear the motivational words of John Lennon or Maya Angelou during these hard times, especially when they’re accompanied by some very special Rice Krispies treats.

This article was featured in theInsideHook DC newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Beltway.


Cornell McKay’s overturned sentence calls eyewitness testimony into question

Is eyewitness identification enough when all the other evidence points to someone else—and the jury never hears it?

Photography by Wesley Law

He smells the food and thinks of the cans of cat food you get at Family Dollar. Cornell McKay’s been locked in this square of concrete and steel at the St. Louis City Justice Center for 16 months, waiting for trial without a gulp of fresh air. So much is embarrassing: “They can literally come in at 4 in the morning, and you got to get naked for them, spread your butt cheeks so they make sure you ain’t got a knife up there,” he tells his grandmother, “and you gotta do that in front of 100 other naked stinky dudes.” He gets called “a Bible thumper,” gets into fights, worries about who’ll be thrown into the cell with him next. It’s like dogs in a pound, he says—what’s some little Chihuahua gonna do with a pit bull? If he does snap back, he’ll be in even more trouble, and he’s already looking at 10 to 30 years. I ain’t even lived to see 30 years, he thinks. I gotta fight this. All I need is somebody who’s not an asshole to hear this case. He reads all the depositions, summarizes documents like he’s a first-year law student. Looking around, he thinks, I’m not here to hang out with you dudes. I’m going home. And then he’s sitting in court, and it feels like The Hunger Games, like he’s there for everybody else’s entertainment, all because he looks like some other dude. And his lawyer can’t even get a word in, and that gavel’s banging.

To detectives in the Ninth District of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, it looks straightforward:

Around 8:35 p.m. on August 10, 2012, Jane Doe pulls up in front of her Central West End condo and starts unloading groceries. A young, thin, clean-cut African-American man in khaki shorts and a light-colored T-shirt steps close and threatens her with a silver pistol. Keeping her eyes fixed on him, terrified she’s about to be shot, she gives him $50 and her white HTC EVO cellphone and runs inside.

Her husband, who’s been out walking the dog, finds her in their condo with the lights out, still shaking. When she describes the young man, he realizes with a jolt that it’s got to be the same guy he said hello to—they even made brief eye contact—and later saw running. He calls 911.

Jane Doe promises police she’ll use her online account to track any calls made with her stolen phone. On August 13, she puts the first batch of phone numbers and times into an Excel spreadsheet and emails it to the Ninth District. She sends another batch several days later.

That Saturday, August 18, around 2:20 in the afternoon, there’s another armed robbery two and a half blocks away. The victim is Megan Boken, a bubbly blond volleyball player who’s come back to her alma mater, Saint Louis University, for a tournament. When she resists and screams, the robber fires two bullets, at close range, into her neck and chest. Then he jumps into the passenger seat of a white Pontiac Sunfire that speeds off.

Witnesses describe a young, thin, clean-cut African-American man.

The cellphone Boken refused to give up lies in a puddle of blood outside her Volkswagen. Blood spatters her tan leather purse, its strap broken in her struggle, and drenches one of her blue flip-flops. She is raced to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where she is pronounced dead.

That something so awful could happen in broad daylight in a neighborhood of historic brick townhomes and bright patio umbrellas chills its residents. But a reassuring tweet from the mayor’s press secretary says the victim and her attacker “appear to have known each other.”

It’s a hasty conclusion, probably based on an early guess that the killer could have been inside the car—and it’s wrong.

This was not a drug deal or a secret romance it was panicked brutality—the senseless murder of a young woman because, on a sunny afternoon in a public place, she resisted being robbed. Mayor Francis Slay apologizes personally to the Boken family. St. Louisans extend hot sympathy and outrage. The story stays at the top of the news for days.

The cops need to find this guy fast.

On August 20, homicide detective Jerone Jackson calls the Ninth District and asks about similar armed robberies in the area. The Ninth District comes up with a few, one of them the Jane Doe case from eight days earlier.

Ninth District detective Anthony Boettigheimer is assigned, that very day, to the Jane Doe case. He runs the phone numbers in the Excel file through something called the Crime/Matrix database. Lamont Carter’s name shows up. Boettigheimer does a link analysis, and the computer spits out 15 or 20 names connected in some way to Lamont Carter.

Narrowed by physical description, the stack funnels down to one young, thin, clean-cut African-American male: Cornell McKay. He’s a high school dropout on probation for burglary.

Boettigheimer and two other detectives drive to Jane Doe’s condo and show her six photos stuck in a single frame. McKay and one other man are relatively light-skinned the other four men have darker skin.

She identifies McKay without hesitation. Her husband cannot identify any of them.

Police officers start calling around, looking for McKay. He comes to the station the next morning. Detectives handcuff him to a table in an interview room and grill him about his recent whereabouts, hoping for a double solve.

His alibi for Boken’s murder holds strong, but his account of that Friday evening (now 11 days ago) is a wobbly sequence, remembered after he’s had some time to think, of borrowing money from his mother for a haircut, buying a soda and chips at a candy store, and visiting family friends. When police ask the store owner whether she remembers him coming in that evening, she says no.

The next day Jane Doe is shown a physical lineup of McKay, 20, and three other men (two of them more than 30 years old). She identifies McKay, and this time her husband does, too. She also checks the box that states, “I am certain that I have made a correct identification of the subject.” Her husband does not.

McKay is booked and charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. Another detective later tells Boettigheimer that McKay was uncooperative and verbally abusive while they booked him, and as he entered the Justice Center he yelled to other inmates that he was a member of the Ones, a gang in his old Plymouth and Hodiamont neighborhood.

At least for the armed robbery, they figure, they’ve got their guy.

Once more, but from McKay’s point of view: “I never even said that. Why the hell would I tell the police I’m a member of the Bloods? [Ones are Bloods.] When they had me in handcuffs, some people I knew yelled, ‘What they got you locked up for, blood?’ All just ghetto. They’re saying, ‘That’s f—ked up, man. They lock you up for that white girl?’ In my neighborhood, that’s how they talk to you. They’ll say ‘cuz’ or ‘blood’—it’s their turf. It’s that you’re from there.”

And yeah, for sure he’s furious when they book him: “Man, this is bullshit. I ain’t done nothing.” He’s never been locked up, and he’s scared. Here he comes to the station willingly, not even knowing why, and sits there waiting 90 minutes for the detectives to show up, every second a minute long. Then they cuff him to a table and start grilling him. He’s already heard about the Boken murder—he remembers his grandma’s voice on the phone, resigned and worried at once: “They’ll be looking at every young black man in St. Louis.” His stomach does a roller coaster drop. Is that what this is about? With relief, he tells them that he wasn’t even in St. Louis this week. They say this is something that happened the week before, and suddenly he’s arrested.

Sure, he’s friends with guys from his old neighborhood. Had to be. He’d gone to grade school and middle school in Affton, but when his stepdad died and his mother couldn’t pay the rent, she and her three sons had to move to a little apartment in one of the roughest parts of the city, Plymouth Avenue near Hodiamont. “Gangs and drugs and everything else you see in movies about the ’hood” is how he sums it up. His life got chaotic fast.

He’s no angel—but he’s not a deceiver, either. His problem’s more that he blurts stuff out. He’s always been quick with a comeback—his mom used to call him her little Bart Simpson—and his teachers never appreciated the wordplay. He’s not stupid—he loves art and books and writing, and religion’s always interested him—but he can’t do math to save his life. Just after his 18th birthday, he dropped out of school.

One evening that spring, he hung out with a friend of his cousin’s: “Wrong crowd, everybody young and dumb and broke, and one dude had the bright idea to break into Langston Middle School and steal some computers. When we saw him go in and come back out carrying one, everybody else went in.” McKay didn’t get caught—others did—but when he decided to get himself into a GED program, he showed up at the police station for a record check and there was a warrant waiting for him.

That’s the burglary—unarmed—on his record. He’s not proud of it. He pleaded guilty. The only other mark on his record is, at 16, riding MetroLink without paying.

As for Lamont Carter, he and 20-year-old McKay are linked in the police database because two years earlier, McKay was shot in a drive-by on Plymouth Avenue. McKay was living at home with his mother, at 5963 Plymouth. The shooting took place a few doors down—closer to 5944 Plymouth, where Carter’s mother lived—and McKay was injured. (He was friends with Carter’s younger brother and is pretty sure Lamont, 10 years older, wasn’t even living at home then.)

Lately, McKay’s been living with his grandmother and riding his bike to the Covenant House program, trying to get his GED. This week he’s been in Washington, Mo., staying with the Rev. Chris Douglas, a youth minister he met at Covenant House. Somebody in Douglas’ congregation knew of a job at Ziglin Graphics & Sign, and McKay worked long days boxing up thousands of brake pads and made $500. He was thinking he’d celebrate, maybe take himself out to eat at Panda Express.

Douglas has been showing him how to save money, how to register a car. How to do stuff the right way, by the book, and not just slide by because nobody ever showed you anything different. He’s pulling his life together.


Before & After : Things Didn’t Work Out as Expected for Former Santa Ana Stars

George Tuioti sat down to write a letter last August. His wedding was approaching and thoughts drifted back. There was a lot to remember.

Had it been seven years already? Those days with Scootie, Bobby, Robert and all the guys he had grown up with, played sports with, from the Jerome Center until they graduated from Santa Ana High School in 1988. They had been winners. More importantly, they had been friends.

Most were coming to the wedding.

Scootie Lynwood was coming. He wouldn’t miss it. He had always been their leader, their voice and, of course, their point guard. When they wanted to do something, anything, they cleared it with Scootie. He had been an author of the pact. They would always attend the weddings. Yeah, Scootie would be there.

Bobby Joyce would be missing. Man, no one played basketball like Bobby Joyce, with those long arms and that big grin. At one time, you said Adam Keefe, Don MacLean and Bobby Joyce in the same breath. Two are now in the NBA. Bobby is now a rumor. People have seen him here or there. He has done this or that.

Robert Lee, the best friend a guy ever had, also would not be there. He was the greatest running back in the world--so Tuioti thought at one time. Didn’t he outplay Glyn Milburn one night? Milburn is now in the NFL. Robert stopped running after high school, at least with the football.

“We’ve been through so much, all of us,” Tuioti said. “There was never a nickel between us. We ate at each other’s houses. We slept at the houses. I had to let Robert know I still loved him.”

Tuioti, who provides security at a juvenile halfway house, wrote to Lee, who is serving a five-year sentence for armed robbery at Ironwood State Penitentiary in Blythe. The Himalaya-like crevice that separated their lives didn’t matter. They were still best friends. The memories were there. Good memories.

They didn’t lose a football or basketball game as freshmen in 1984-85. They won a Southern Section football championship as sophomores, reached a second title game as juniors and the semifinals as seniors. In basketball, they won three Century League titles and reached the section semifinals as seniors.

On graduation day, they huddled under a tree, crying.

“This is it, this is it,” Lynwood kept repeating.

Joyce stopped him and said, “No, we’ll never be apart.”

Athletics would take them far, that had always been the plan. But they would stay together. That, too, was the plan.

Tuioti finished the letter. . . . If you were here, Robert, you’d be my best man . . .

Tuioti got married that week. But there were gaps in the wedding party. No Robert. No Bobby.

Jerome Center All-Americans

It’s rough at Jerome Center.

The first time Rick Bentley took that fifth-grade basketball team there, he also took the police. The court was cleared for two hours while his youth team practiced. The routine lasted for a week and the message got through. For two hours each day, the Sixers had the court in the older residential area, north of Santa Ana Valley High.

It made the Sixers special.

Lynwood, Lee and Willie Lane were the first to join. They had been in diapers together. Then Lynwood brought in Joyce, a lanky kid who spoke Spanish. Tuioti and the others followed. They were the Bills when they played football in the fall. They were the Sixers the rest of the year.

“There were guys I knew who had been in and out of jail,” Tuioti said. “They would just hang out on the street and the cops would hassle them. They always told me, ‘You got the sports and you got the grades. This is not for you.’ They pushed us all away.”

Tuioti would walk to Lee’s house, then they would pick up Lynwood, then Joyce and the others. Gang turf changed with each block--Bloods, Crips, F-Troop. But no one shot at them, no one even hassled them. Sometimes they would run, but not out of fear. It was training.

Even before high school, they were local legends. They did not lose a football game from the sixth grade through junior high. The Sixers went 180-2 during that time. They swore they would go to the same high school.

“You heard these kids were coming,” said Century basketball Coach Greg Coombs, then at Santa Ana. “When they were freshmen, we would walk into gyms and people would be talking about this freshman class at Santa Ana.”

As freshmen, they were 10-0 in football and won their first basketball game, 128-37, and didn’t come close to losing all season. It was heady stuff.

Said former Santa Ana assistant Greg Katz: “We always told them, ‘Don’t be a Jerome Center All-American.’ ”

Dale Jordan, who works at Valley Liquor in Santa Ana, has known Lee for years. As kids, Lee, Lynwood and Lane would come into the store to buy candy. So Jordan knew the face that night in 1992. He just didn’t recognize the man.

Lee stumbled in, shot in the leg and side.

“He was dripping blood and I said, ‘Robert, what happened?’ ” Jordan said. “He didn’t say a word. He grabbed three half-gallons of liquor off the shelf and walked out.”

Jordan said the police were waiting outside, but Lee struggled and yelled that he didn’t want to go to the hospital.

“He was flying,” Jordan said. “It’s pretty sad. He had everything going for him.”

Lee’s fall was epic, and tragic.

It was hard to find a better high school running back. He gained 4,401 yards in three seasons, still the sixth-best total in Orange County history. As a sophomore, he gained 602 yards in four playoff games, including 231 in a 31-21 victory over Mission Viejo in the Southern Section title game.

When he didn’t have football, the problems began.

When Lee was in the seventh grade, his father died. The Sixers’ basketball team showed up at the funeral, in uniform. He had his friends. Yet they weren’t enough.

No one recruited Lee his senior year. They came to see Tuioti.

“On every recruiting trip I had, I asked them about Robert,” Tuioti said. “I tried to hustle Nebraska. I told them I will not go unless Robert goes.”

Lee tried to play at Orange Coast College, but quit after three days. The spiral began.

Lee ordered pizza on March 6, 1992, then refused to pay. The delivery man knocked on the door and Lee came out with a knife. Lee was convicted of two counts of second degree armed robbery and received a five-year suspended sentence. He was picked up for probation violations twice and tested positive for cocaine twice.

Lee spent three months in the Orange County jail. Two days after his release, his sister called the probation office and said Lee was smoking crack cocaine at home, according to probation department reports. Lee was picked up, but refused to submit to testing.

His probation was revoked and he is now at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe. The State Corrections Department is not allowing inmates to be interviewed while it reviews the policy.

“I asked him about the drugs one time and he blew up at me,” Lane said. “That wasn’t like him. I was his friend. You have to have a strong mind to get out.”

Tuioti played linebacker with viciousness and quarterback with finesse. In basketball, he was a power forward. He came from a stable home, with two parents, and had good grades.

There was no doubt about it, Tuioti was a recruiter’s dream. He signed with USC. Then high school ended.

First, he failed to make the required score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Then, he tore knee ligaments before the Orange County All-Star game.

He went to San Diego State and sat out a year. A doctor examined the knee and told Tuioti to not play football again.

“They told me I could clean up tables and stuff,” Tuioti said. “I wasn’t going to embarrass my family by taking a free ride like that. If I was going to do janitor work, I might as well get paid to be a janitor, earn it like my father.”

Tuioti went to Rancho Santiago, and played football and then went New Mexico State, where he was an All-Big West defensive end. He received a degree in criminal justice and came home to Santa Ana.

“I knew a lot of people who were getting in trouble,” Tuioti said. “I saw kids in high school who were just like myself, getting into the gang situation. The heroes kids have aren’t the local high school star, like when I was growing up. Their heroes are Reebok, Nike and a Raiders jacket. I had to help.”

Tuioti applied for a job with the Orange County probation office, then the county went bankrupt. He now works for a company contracted to run security at a center that houses juveniles who are about to be released from custody.

In the afternoons, Tuioti is an assistant coach for Foothill.

“My dad worked two jobs to support us,” he said. “He told me to do what I had to do on the field and he would take care of the bills. I was lucky.”

Can I Have Cheese With Mine?

The 39-cent hamburger stand was the place to be. Lynwood would demand the group’s money, all of it, and order the hamburgers. Each guy got the same, whether he chipped in 39 cents or $5. That was just the way it was and always had been.

“We used to call Scootie our cumulus cloud,” Katz said. “If he was up, we were going to have a great practice. If he was down, get out the umbrellas.”

His father left when he was 5. His mother split without a word when he was in high school. Moody? Coaches were lucky he had “up” days.

If there is a blueprint for failure, Lynwood held the patent. Bad neighborhood, no parents, a teen father.

Yet, this spring he will receive his associate arts degree from Rancho Santiago. He has applied at USC, Southern Methodist, Howard and Long Beach State and intends to study business administration.

“I was always going to succeed,” Lynwood said. “No matter what I did or what came up. It was never a question.”

Lynwood had help from an eclectic group.

“My kindergarten teacher would pick me up every day to go to school,” Lynwood said. “I lived with Coach Bentley for a while. I lived with this lady, Della Dunning, who bought me clothes. I would mow the lawn and she let me stay for free.

“I’ve been blessed. It’s like I’ve been a car on a highway and along the way there have been lots of gas stations.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few pot holes.

Lynwood was kicked off the basketball team as a junior for several violations. When he returned as a senior, the team reached the semifinals.

“We knew that this was a group, that control-wise, we were going to have to sit on them,” Coombs said. “We wanted them to have the opportunity to go on if they had the talent.”

Lynwood had the talent. He was one of the top point guards in Southern California. But when his high school career ended, he didn’t want the opportunity.

He had a daughter, who now lives with her mother in Atlanta. Lynwood was determined to be involved with his child. He played one season at Fullerton College, then went to work.

“I had no ambition to be a basketball player,” Lynwood said. “I had responsibilities and those took over.”

He worked on the loading docks for a newspaper for five years and is now a delivery man for an overnight mail company. He has reconciled with his parents and tried to be a good one himself.

Said Lynwood: “I may come back after college and coach. I can’t give to the people who helped me, but I can give to someone else.”

I Got Stuff. They Need It More.

Coombs got a call two years ago from Bobby Joyce.

“He wanted to know if he could help coach,” Coombs said. “I told him to come by. He never showed up.”

Lynwood got a telephone call a year ago. It was Joyce.

“He said he needed to talk with me and it was real important,” Lynwood said. “He never came over.”

Joyce’s life has become shrouded in rumors.

“We all felt Bobby was the one who was going to make it,” Tuioti said. “He was a man as a child. If he wanted to dunk on you, he would just do it.”

Joyce, a lanky 6-7, was considered one of the top basketball recruits in the nation. He was also the flash point of their last games as a group.

Santa Ana seemed to have El Toro beat in the football semifinals in 1987. But, with seconds remaining, El Toro quarterback Bret Johnson heaved one last pass from midfield in a hard rain. Joyce went for the interception instead of just flicking the ball away. El Toro’s Adam Brass grabbed the ball from Joyce’s hands and scored. El Toro won, 13-12.

Months later, the Saints were playing MacLean’s Simi Valley team in the section basketball semifinals. Joyce and a Simi Valley player got into a fight in the third quarter and both were ejected. Without Joyce, Santa Ana lost, 76-61.

“Those will always be the two things people remember about Bobby,” Tuioti said. “It’s a shame. There was so much more to him.”

Coombs remembers Joyce getting money for his birthday as a senior. He went out and bought an expensive toy fire truck and donated it to a children’s charity.

“They were asking for $5 Christmas gifts and this truck must have cost $25-$30,” Coombs said. “I told him that was too much. He said, ‘I got stuff. They need it more.’ That’s the Bobby I want to remember.”

Joyce played a season at Riverside Community College, then transferred to Nevada Las Vegas. He sat out the 1991 season--when the Rebels won the national championship--then sat on the bench the next.

He put on weight and got married, then disappeared. Joyce left the team for personal reasons in October, 1992.

Dennis Scallman, a bus driver who has looked after Joyce for nearly 20 years, is the only old friend to have seen Joyce recently. Scallman had to bail him out.

Joyce was arrested in Las Vegas for battery with intent, battery and robbery last November. Scallman sent bail money.

It’s not the first time Scallman has come to Joyce’s aid. There was the night Joyce said someone was trying to kill him and asked Scallman to get him to the airport. Another time, he was playing basketball in Mexico and some trouble occurred. Scallman never asked, he just sent money.

“I believe Bobby was embarrassed,” Lynwood said. “How could he come back and just be Bobby? If he wasn’t Bobby the basketball player, who was he? I think he lost his identity.”

“People still talk about those guys,” Coombs said. “It was as talented a group of athletes as I’ve seen in one class.”

Lane works two jobs and helps with his brother’s rap career. Leo Leon is married with four kids. Donovan Mauga is a chiropractor. Sergio Rocha died of a heart attack.

Lynwood has a kid. Tuioti got married.

Those who made the wedding were survivors. Those who were missing . . .

“When I think of Robert Lee and Bobby Joyce, I’m just glad they are alive,” Lynwood said. “So many guys we knew are dead. Robert and Bobby can still make it.”


Lawyer says his mob client claims to have helped bury Jimmy Hoffa

Alfonso “Little Al” D’Arco, acting head of the Luchese crime family, was the first mob boss to turn government witness. He flipped for the feds in 1991 and helped send more than 50 mobsters to prison. Now in witness protection, D’Arco shared his story with reporters Jerry Capeci and Tom Robbins for their new book, “Mob Boss.” Here D’Arco reveals details of one of New York’s most storied pizzerias, Ray’s. While the name became famous, its real business wasn’t pepperoni and cheese — it was heroin.

In 1959, a lean, dark-haired young hoodlum from Little Italy named Ralph “Raffie” Cuomo was released from prison after serving a stretch for armed robbery. He’d been caught robbing a posh restaurant across the street from the Waldorf-Astoria. A shootout erupted. One of Cuomo’s pals was shot dead and a cop wounded. Cuomo took a pistol-whipping from police. His picture ran in the papers, blood streaming down his face, a patrolman tauntingly pointing a gun at his head.

But he served less than three years. Back home and looking for a new start, Cuomo opened a pizzeria on the ground floor of an old tenement at 27 Prince St., where he’d grown up. He used recipes his mother had brought from Italy. He called the place Ray’s Pizza. (He would later explain that “Ralph’s Pizza” sounded too “feminine.”) He was a good cook. He had a white pizza, no tomatoes, that drew crowds. The restaurant became popular, the name famous. But sauce and mozzarella were only a sideline.

The shop’s real trade was drugs.

The chef’s supply chain for narcotics came via a notorious family that lived around the corner on Elizabeth Street. The DiPalermo brothers were all leading members of the Luchese crime family, the Mafia borgata of which Little Al D’Arco would later become acting boss.

Police pose with Ralph “Raffie” Cuomo (right) and Joseph Benanti following a failed Prince Street holdup in 1956.

Oldest of the clan was Joseph “Joe Beck” DiPalermo, a short, wispy man with thick horn-rim glasses considered by law enforcement to be “the dean of the dope dealers.”

Younger brothers Charles “Charlie Brody” and Peter “Petey Beck” DiPalermo served as able assistants. After Charlie Brody married Raffie’s older sister, Marion, Cuomo was welcomed into the family business.

Al D’Arco had always been wary of Raffie Cuomo, considering him too wild to be trusted. Today, from witness protection, D’Arco recalled, “He was a stickup guy, taking chances on armed robberies.”

But the pizza parlor and its adjoining clubhouse soon became headquarters for “the Prince Street crew,” a prime gathering spot for local mobsters.

“Raffie went into business with Charlie Brody and the rest of the Becks moving heroin,” D’Arco said. “He became a big narcotics guy.”

There were a few business setbacks. In 1969, Cuomo was caught with $25 million worth of heroin in his car trunk. He served a few years, then went back to the pizzeria and started dealing all over again.

None of the Prince Street crew used drugs themselves. But they had another addiction that drove them to ever-larger heroin deals. “They were all degenerate gamblers. Each one of them. They would gamble a hundred thousand dollars, lose it, and then have to do another dope deal,” D’Arco revealed.

Most nights, Cuomo was somewhere laying down a bet. “He’d be at the racetrack three or four times a week, the Meadowlands. And he was at the casinos in Atlantic City all the time, didn’t matter how much he lost.”

He still had enough loot left over for side investments. The chef ran a sports-betting operation, specializing in weekly football sheets. He also loaned cash to those in need. “He was a shylock, he had a lot of money out on the street,” said D’Arco.

The drugs and the cash were handled in the pizzeria’s unfinished basement, directly beneath the ovens. “The place had whitewashed walls and like a dirt floor.” Tree trunks, polished but untrimmed and dating from the turn of the century, held up the floor joists.

“They had one of Joe Becky’s kids, Anthony, going over to the East River Savings Bank at Lafayette and Spring Street with bags of bills. They had a guy in the bank on their payroll who handled the money for them. They made millions in babania — heroin. All the brothers and Raffie did. That’s what they were all about. They never stopped dealing. They were at it night and day.”

They also tutored D’Arco in the trade. He tried several heroin deals with the crew, hoping to score some of the big money for himself. But he was less successful. One shipment was rejected by customers as worthless. Another buyer turned out to be a federal drug-enforcement agent. Arrested and convicted in 1983, he served three and a half years in prison.

When Al D’Arco got back to Little Italy, he found Raffie Cuomo and the Prince Street crew still flourishing. Only now their drugs were being sold locally, to neighborhood kids. Even two of Al’s children had become users.

D’Arco was irate. “I blamed the Prince Street crew, Petey Beck, his brothers, and all of them.”

He wasn’t the only one. Drugs had been sold out of a small Puerto Rican-owned bodega down the street from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral School, the Catholic grade school on Prince and Mott streets.

“They were selling drugs out of that store and their own grandchildren were going to the school on the corner. This nun from the school went out and screamed at them, right in front of their club there on Prince Street.”

Al D’Arco wasn’t about to become a crusader. He was a gangster. Drugs sold and consumed elsewhere, he rationalized, had nothing to do with him. But the line had been crossed when his gangland pals had let it be peddled on their own streets.

Selling drugs was supposed to be against mob rules, a potential death penalty for violators. But that was mob make-believe, Al knew. Mafia members and crews broke the rule regularly, with apparent impunity. Leaders of his own Luchese crime family had been caught in massive drug schemes, without suffering any consequences. It was business, he figured. Making money.

But he hadn’t seen needles going into the arms of friends, or rent and food money going to feed the addictions of parents instead of their children. He’d been spared the robberies and break-ins afflicting neighborhoods where junkies did anything for a fix. That was someone else’s world. Not his own. Now it was in his own family, flowing into the veins of his own children.

“When I found out what was happening in the neighborhood, the first guy I grabbed was Petey Beck. And I took him to a luncheonette on the corner of Mott and Spring. I told him, broadly, like, ‘You know, if I ever get the f–king c–ksuckers pushing drugs through these Puerto Ricans in this neighborhood, I am going to kill every f–king one of them.”

Mob protocol prohibited D’Arco from accusing DiPalermo, but the mobster got the point. “He was a made guy. A captain. I wasn’t going to say nothing direct at him. Him and his brothers and Raffie, because of all their gambling and need for money, were pushing it to the kids. How could you do that?”

The warning had little effect. A few weeks later, Cuomo called Al into the club next to the pizza parlor.

“Raffie tells me he has four kilos of heroin to sell. I didn’t scream at him. He was a made guy, too, just like me. I just looked at him and said I wasn’t interested. That I was on parole and couldn’t take the chance.”

Meanwhile, Ray’s Pizza was a bigger hit than ever, the name now synonymous with the city’s best pies. Cuomo briefly branched out, opening another Ray’s on the Upper East Side, but he soon sold it. Others rushed to capitalize on the connection, each claiming to be the original. There was Famous Ray’s in Greenwich Village, Original Ray’s Pizza on First Avenue, a One and Only Famous Ray’s in Midtown, even a chain with parlors around the country.

At one point, Cuomo tried to cut himself into the profits from the fad he’d launched, seeking to trademark his now-celebrated name. A complicated legal battle ensued, and he dropped it. But when reporters came knocking on Prince Street to ask what he thought about what he’d started, Raffie Cuomo, an apron tied around a growing paunch, scoffed at the pretenders. “Their pizzas give us a bad name,” he said. “There’s nothing like our ‘Ray’s.’ ”

He shyly refused to pose for photos. He had no interest in having his picture in the papers again. What he also didn’t say was that competition didn’t really worry him. He was doing just fine with drugs. Often, he didn’t even bother to hide it.

One day, D’Arco watched with surprise as Cuomo bolted out of the pizzeria to his Cadillac parked in the lot next door. “He says, ‘I gotta make a delivery,’ and runs out.” But he wasn’t delivering pizzas. “He pops the trunk, pulls out a bag with a couple of kilos and walks right into the street with it. Then he jumps in another car and takes off.” The pie man returned an hour later, acting as if nothing had happened.

It was no mystery to law enforcement what was going on at the heralded pizzeria. But proving it was another matter. Three times, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office planted bugs inside the pizza parlor and on the street outside in hopes of catching Cuomo and his pals in the act. It was close, but no cigar.

Wiretap affidavits submitted to court by DA Robert Morgenthau during a one-year-long probe in 1989 stated there was “reasonable cause to believe” that Cuomo, D’Arco and other Luchese crime-family associates were “committing the crimes of criminal sale of a controlled substance.”

On a late February night that year, investigators watched as Cuomo put a white shopping bag — filled with narcotics, they believed — in the trunk of his car and invited D’Arco and a fellow Luchese mobster over to look.

Detectives saw D’Arco reach inside the trunk, then lick his fingers. It was “a gesture that indicates the ‘tasting’ of narcotics,” prosecutors claimed in a court affidavit. But this time, they were wrong, D’Arco said. “Nah, that wasn’t dope. That was food. Raffie made a big tray of sausage and peppers. That’s what I was tasting. It was delicious.”

When he wasn’t cooking up heroin deals, Cuomo still liked to work in his kitchen. D’Arco, who was justly proud of the fare at his own nearby restaurant, La Donna Rosa, regularly stopped by Ray’s for a bowl of Italian soup — pasta e fagioli. “Every Wednesday, he’d make this pasta fazool. It was the best I ever had, I gotta give it to him.”

D’Arco told the FBI that story and many others when he broke with the Mafia in the fall of 1991 after learning that his Luchese-family bosses were plotting to kill him. A couple of years later, another Luchese defector who had carried out multiple major heroin deals with Cuomo provided even more details.

In October 1995, drug-enforcement agents arrested the Ray’s Pizza founder, charging him with operating a vast narcotics network from New York’s most famous pizzeria.

Cuomo delayed the inevitable for several years, finally cutting a favorable deal, agreeing to serve four years. At sentencing, his attorney made a last-ditch effort to reduce the term further, arguing that prison stress could kill his 62-year-old client, who was ailing from heart disease, diabetes and recent back surgery. Prosecutors pointed out that the pizza artist seemed to be in decent shape. He’d spent the previous night betting at the Meadowlands.

He survived that third prison term, returning to Prince Street after doing his time to oversee his still popular restaurant. That’s where he was in April 2008, when complications from the diabetes and the heart ailment did him in. Services were held across the street at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Three years later, Ray’s sold its last pies when Cuomo’s family shuttered the landmark pizzeria.

As things turned out, the real estate was almost as profitable as the drug sales. In 2011, Cuomo’s heirs sold the five-story tenement at 27 Prince St. with the old tree trunks in the basement.

Adapted from “Mob Boss: The Life of Little Al D’Arco, the Man Who Brought Down the Mafia” by Jerry Capeci and Tom Robbins. Out Oct. 1 from St. Martin’s Press.


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