Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roy DeMeo

Beginning of the End

Sometimes Chris Rosenberg, who felt like a son to Roy, would introduce himself as Chris DeMeo. Also like Roy, he would go out on his own in business deals. When a drug deal went bad in 1979 with some Cubans in Florida, Roy learned that Chris had scammed them using his last name, DeMeo. Chris had also told them that he had a powerful father living in Brooklyn, and he was involved with three Cubans and two Jewish men who had gone to New York and had disappeared.

That meant that when the Cubans came looking for the man who had stiffed them and possibly snuffed their associates, Roy's family would be right in the line of fire. That was unforgivable. Yet Chris was like a son to Roy and when the Cubans told him what would satisfy them, he blanched. They wanted Chris dead, with a notice in the newspaper that it had been accomplished. Otherwise they would come looking for him themselves.

Nino had his nephew instruct Roy to take care of it. But Roy stalled for several weeks, and the order was given again. Still Roy stalled, and withdrew into his home, paranoid that the Cubans would come looking for him. At one point, he spotted a dark-haired young man sitting in a Cadillac outside his home, apparently looking through some papers. Roy's wife, Gladys, said that the man had come to the door that day trying to sell a vacuum cleaner. It seemed an unlikely story to Roy. He felt sure it was just a way to see if Roy lived there. In light of the fact that the man was still hanging around in the neighborhood, and that he certainly looked Hispanic, Roy decided to take action and save his family. He and a cousin who was there with him got guns and went outside to confront the man.

Roy went marching out to the car. The man looked up, started his car and drove off, with Roy in his own car tailing him and shooting at him. After seven miles, Roy caught up and shot the man seven times, killing him. Then he went back home, herded his wife and three children into the car and took them to hide out.

When they eventually came home, Roy learned what he had done: The "Cuban" outside his house had been an eighteen-year-old college student, Dominick Ragucci, who was legitimately selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door as a way to put himself through college.

Roy had made a mistake. He sold his Cadillac, and according to his son, Albert, in For the Sins of My Father, Roy wept over the murder of an innocent "civilian." It was one thing to kill other "soldiers" or to kill informants or people who double-crossed him on a deal, but this boy should not have died. Albert viewed his father as a genuinely caring man who was devastated by this error.

And yet the Chris Rosenberg situation was still up in the air. Roy knew he had to act. Calling the crew together one night without Chris, Roy told the others that he would do the shooting. He had brought Chris into the life, he would take him out. As hard as it was for him, he had a duty. This was part of being a made man.

The incident took place on May 19, 1979. Roy asked Chris to come, and after Chris had greeted Roy with a kiss on the cheek, Roy shot him in the head. The others finished the job and put the body into Chris's car so it would be found and reported. That settled the Cuban crisis, but another one was on its heels.

This time, a family member was telling Castellano that Nino and Roy were dealing in drugs, so Nino decided that the man and his son had to disappear. Yet the job was badly botched and got Nino arrested, while Roy ran off.

The murders continued unabated, even as Nino got out on bail. Detectives began to link some of them and the crew began to fall apart. Nino's attempts to foil his conviction failed and he went to Attica. He picked Roy as his "stand-in" man, which did not please Big Paul, who was growing tired of all the killings. Nino had no idea yet how this arrangement would contribute to his downfall.

From the crew, Henry and Freddy were arrested for two murders. They were also tied to the stolen car ring. Soon the other crew members were under investigation, but Nino's conviction was overturned and he was out.

Yet the FBI agents watching them were putting more pressure on everyone, from Paul Castellano on down the line. The government had a powerful weapon in the RICO law (Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), enacted to go after Mafia crime families. It allowed witness protection, wiretaps, and the power to empanel grand juries. The penalties for such criminal enterprises were stiffeven just for membership. Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter Mack took over the case, looking for anyone who would implicate Roy DeMeo in murder, and he was a bulldog. The task force kept pressuring Roy, who grew more agitated, just as they hoped. Finally they got a break with the arrest of a crew member, Vito Arena, who began to roll at once. He described the murders in which he had been involved and even showed investigators some of the body dumpsites.

Roy soon found out that Vito was a government witness, so he made himself scarce. The police delivered a grand jury subpoena to his home. Roy told Nino and Paul about Vito's defection, and Paul realized that Vito knew about him as well. Roy would have to go before a grand jury, and he could not be trusted.

The FBI's surveillance equipment picked up a conversation in which John Gotti was asked, on behalf of Big Paul, to accept a contract on Roy. Gotti declined because Roy's gang was known to be dangerous.

Big Paul finally ordered an end to those things that were getting them all into trouble, notably the drugs and the members who were acting out too much. He gave Nino the task of taking care of Roy DeMeo, as depicted in Boss of Bosses, saying that DeMeo "loved killing too much."

Nino had brought him into this life, in a way, so he would take him out.

Roy's son, Albert, writes about how frightened his father was during those days, and how he would take his son aside to ask him to do things in preparation for Roy's sudden departure. Roy was thinking about going "into the wind," as mobsters referred to being on the run, but he also realized that he might be killed. He'd brought trouble down on the family and someone was going to end his connection with them, one way or another.

He was right. Before the government could have their way, the family got him first.



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