Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Shondor Birns & Danny Green: Cleveland's Killer Celebrities

In 'The Valachi Suite'

Now Fratianno found himself in Carmen Marino's office, fingered by Ray Ferritto as having been involved in the Danny Greene murder.

Since Ohio still had capital punishment, he was threatened with death from both sides.

As with Ferritto, Zuckerman relates, Marino pulled no punches.

"Look," he said, "to be perfectly frank, I have a partner in this case and he wants to prosecute you and see you fry in the chair.

"Personally, I don't give a damn if we're going to kill you or we're going to use you. That's going to be your decision. What I want to know is whether you have any information of any use. ..."

"And I'll tell you something else. Before this office makes any deals with you, you're going to first plead guilty to the Greene murder. Oh, yes, you are. And then I'm going to hold back sentencing as long as I possibly can to make sure you've done all your promised before I ask a judge to reduce your sentence.

"This is all so we understand each other — whether you cooperate and go free or get prosecuted and fry, either way, you walk like a man."

"Where do you want me to begin? Jimmy asked.

Fratianno protested he had little usable information.

Zuckerman continues:

"Well, that's OK too," Marino said. "You see, Fratianno, I don't give a shit about Danny Greene's murder; I've got more than enough to see the whole lot of you fry or die in prison. And, as I told you, I don't care what happens to you.

"I also don't give a damn about Ahearn and the feds." He paused to let it sink in. "What I care about is me. What can you do for me? What I'm looking for is what you can tell me about organized crime."

Fratianno finally agreed to tell what he knew about the Greene case, but insisted his life would be worthless if he were to testify in Cleveland.

"I can give you the entire leadership of the Los Angeles family," he said. "They were all involved in clipping Bomp. Isn't that enough?

The session broke up. Ahearn took Fratianno back into FBI custody. Agent Nick Lore took the "good cop" role as opposed to Marino's "bad cop." He brought Fratianno prosciutto, capicola and Havana cigars while he tried to get him to cooperate.

He brought in Fratianno's wife Jean, who urged him to "get into the program" — the seven-year-old Witness Security Program, under which he would be freed and given a new identity when he had completed testifying against his former associates.

Meanwhile, he would live in the "Valachi Suite" at a prison in Texas — the one that had held Joe Valachi, who in 1962 became the first Mafioso soldier to tell the FBI — and the public — about the inner workings of the Mob.

Joe Valachi
Joe Valachi

Fratianno still held out. Christmas passed. His desperation grew. 

Finally, on Jan. 10, 1978, he signed an agreement. He would plead guilty to the Greene murder, but would not have to take the witness stand. And he would testify for the FBI in the trials of the Los Angeles Mafia leaders and other leaders around the country. If he kept his promises, he would be released as a protected witness.

As Carl Sifakis' "Mafia Encyclopedia" puts it, Jimmy Fratianno became "the highest-ranking Mob figure ever to 'turn' and testify against important crime leaders."

Next: The Dominoes Topple 

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