Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Real Life Sopranos

Christopher Moltisanti

Tony Soprano has a hot-headed nephew he sometimes loves like a son and sometimes wants to strangle. Christopher Moltisanti, whos related by blood to Tonys wife Carmela, is a reckless wannabe who too often shoots first and thinks later. In the later seasons of the show, Christopher begins to show some maturity, and Tony eventually gives him what he wants more than anything else, to be made (inducted into the Mafia). Unfortunately Christopher has a bad habit of screwing up at the most inopportune times.

Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti
Michael Imperioli as
Christopher Moltisanti
Actor Michael Imperioli plays Christopher with a true-to-life mixture of arrogance, ignorance, and earnestness. Christopher is so devoted to Tony, he often mouths off to him when he disagrees with Tonys decisions, but only because he wants whats best for his boss. Christopher is impetuous and trigger-happy, but of all of Tonys crew, hed be the first to take a bullet for his captain.

On the show Christopher Moltisanti represents the younger generation of the mob. Hes somewhat computer literate (though he does have trouble saving the drafts of his ill-fated screenplay about the mob), and hes heavily involved with stock fraud, one of the Mafias newer illegal ventures. He showed real courage when he fought off an ambush in the second season; killing one of his attackers while sustaining life-threatening gunshot wounds himself.

Nicky Scarfo Jr.
Nicky Scarfo Jr.
The New Jersey mob experts choice for a real-life parallel to Christopher Moltisanti is Nicky Scarfo, Jr. of Philadelphias Bruno-Scarfo crime family. Why pick someone from Philadelphia, which is more than 90 miles from Essex County the epicenter of the Sopranos world? Because the Philly mob has longtime ties to New Jersey with an active crew operating out of Newark as well as a major stake in the unions that service Atlantic Citys gambling casinos. And why Nicky Scarfo, Jr., son of the Nicodemo Little Nicky Scarfo, former boss of the Philadelphia family and one of the most violent, cutthroat mobsters in modern Mafia history?

Nicodemo 'Little Nicky' Scarfo
Nicodemo 'Little
Nicky' Scarfo
Well, the obvious parallel is the hit that Scarfo Jr. survived on Halloween 1989 when two hitmen opened fire on him in Dante & Luigis Restaurant in South Philadelphia. Despite being riddled with bullets, Scarfo managed to survive. But Scarfos father felt that it was too dangerous to keep him in the City of Brotherly Love, so he sent his son off to north Jersey where he was put under the care of the Newark faction and formally inducted into the Mafia to further insure his safety. By the rules of the Mafia, a made man cannot be rubbed out without sanction from a Mafia commission made up of bosses from several different crime families. Once Scarfo Jr. got his button, he wasnt just an anybody anymore. Now permission would be needed to kill him.

Christopher sets himself up in the offices of a stock brokerage where he and two young thugs under his command pressure the brokers to push stocks that the Sopranos have bought in bulk at rock-bottom prices. When the stock prices rise as a result of increased buying, the mobsters sell and take their profits. The stocks inevitably sink back to their real value, and the customers are left shouldering the loss. The crime is known as pump and dump.

Stock-price manipulation is one of the areas where forward-thinking gangsters from the younger generation are making their money. Nicky Scarfo, Jr. wasnt into this particular scam, but did put his considerable computer savvy to good use with illegal sports betting and loan sharking. Scarfo, who had once worked for a Florida software company, computerized his illegal operations, allowing him to increase the volume of his businesses. He was able to handle it all with just one partner, thanks to his computer knowledge.

Ironically, when Scarfo was arrested for these activities, he inadvertently became the champion of computer-privacy advocates. The FBI needed evidence of wrongdoing so a judge could sign a search warrant for Scarfos place of business. The evidence was gathered by installing a hidden keystroke recorder on Scarfos computer. (The feds either broke into Scarfos office and planted a piece of hardware or else hacked into his system and spied on him with a software program. The FBI wont say.) The keystroke recorder, as its name states, records every stroke on the keyboard of the computer thats being monitored. Over a period of thirty days, the feds were able to snoop on all of Scarfos transactions and obtain his all-important password, which gave them access to his files. Privacy advocates led the charge against the government, contending that this use of a keystroke recorder is the same as a wiretap without a proper warrant. The feds disagreed, saying that they did not intercept Scarfos incoming e-mail messages, they simply recorded the keystrokes that Scarfo himself entered into his computer. The issue was debated throughout two years of pre-trial hearings, but ultimately Scarfo cut a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to illegal gambling. Hes now serving a 33-month minimum sentence. In a detail worthy of {The Sopranos}, the keystroke recorder revealed that Scarfo Jr.s password was his fathers prison ID number.

Despite his cyber skills, Nicky Scarfo Jr., is far from a cerebral computer nerd, and like Christopher Moltisanti, hes been known to let his emotions get the best of him. He was convicted of threatening to stab an Atlantic City bar manager in March 1996. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison. Allen Salkin in his New York Post article reports that in 1998 when Scarfos father was sentenced to life imprisonment, thus sparing him the death penalty, a jubilant Nicky Jr. stood up on a hotel dining room table, swigging from a $250 bottle of champagne.

How do I feel? Scarfo Jr. shouted. I feel like a seventeen-year-old kid with a fistful of $100 bills in a whorehouse!

Christopher Moltisanti couldnt have said it better.



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