|New Jersey|  John Riggi

Birth: February 1, 1925

Death: August 3, 2015

John "The Eagle" Riggi was the boss of the DeCavalcante Family from 1980 until 2008. He has been in jail since 1990 and ran the family throughout acting bosses and ruling panels.

Influence in the union
Giovanni "John" Riggi was born in 1925 in New Jersey. He became a business agent for Local 394 in 1964, a promotion he recieved thanks to Simone DeCavalcante. Due to his influence in the union the DeCavalcante family had been able to extort jobs, goods and services from the construction industry in New Jersey. Riggi also controlled several building contractors in Staten Island. Each day he would arrive early at his office and met with workers in order to grant them jobs. During the 1970's he was indicted once for extorting thousands of dollars from a union worker, but was acquitted.

Becomming the DeCavalcante boss
In 1969 Sam DeCavalcante was convicted for extortion and was sentenced to 15 years. During his absence John Riggi became the acting boss for a significant period until the boss was released again in 1976. However, a couple of years later DeCavalcante descided to retire. John Riggi was chosen as the new boss of the family, with DeCavalcante working as a senior adviser.

With 7 active crime families operating in New Jersey, the DeCavalcante family was the only one of which New Jersey was their actual stamping ground. The family operated in 2 main areas, being Newark and Elizabeth. As boss he oversaw the families labors influence, construction industry, illegal gambling, thefts, loansharking and extortion operations. He appointed Giralomo Palermo as his underboss and Stefano Vitabile as consigliere.

Murders on behalf of the Gambino family
During the mid 1980's Riggi began to have frequent meetings with newly Gambino boss John Gotti. Because the DeCavalcante family was small in comparesment with the Gambino family and were often referred to as "peasants", he wanted to benefit from his relation towards Gotti. In 1987 Gotti demanded the disposal of Corky Vastola, a capo in the DeCavalcante family. Vastola had been jailed together with John Gotti that year for extortion. For some reason Gotti didn't trust Vastola and was convinced he would become a rat. When Gotti got out he met with Riggi and explained he wanted to see Vastola dissapear. However, the FBI was also listening in and kept Vastola in jail to keep him safe.

In 1989 Gotti again asked Riggi to organize a hit against a mob associate, this time the victim was a Staten Island businessman namd Fred Weiss. Together with Gambino members John D'Amico and Joseph Watts, Riggi organized and ordered his murder. This time the FBI didn't hear of the plan and Weiss was murdered on September 11, 1989, by Jersey gunmen containing Vincent Palermo, Anthony Capo and James Gallo.

Arrest, conviction and substitutes
In late 1989 Riggi and several others were arrested for labor racketeering. The crackdown by the FBI made some members becoming nervous. In one case a soldier named Joseph Garafano was murdered because some believed he would flip during an interrogation. While being locked away Riggi appointed capo John D'Amato as acting boss. However, D'Amato shocked and disgraced his men when he turned out to be homosexual. In 1991 D'Amato went missing, his body has never been recovered. To restore the inner frictions Riggi appointed Jake Amari as next acting boss, but he stepped down again in 1994 after being diagnosed with cancer. In a third effort to secure the families leadership Riggi appointed a ruling panel, consisting out of Charles Majuri of Newark, and Vincent and Girolamo Palermo (not related) of Elizabeth. At first the ruling panel worked fine but the old feuds between Newark and Elizabeth slowly began to take form again, even leading to a murder plot inside the ruling panel when Majuri tried to whipeout Vincent Palermo, who in return also tried to murder Majuri. However, no one got killed and the peace got restored in some way.

Although having a difficult time to find the right leadership inside his organization he still had wories of his own while being in prison. In August 1990 41 people, including John Riggi, were charged with racketeering based on almost 400 secretly recorded conversations by George Fresolone, a member of the Scarfo family. During the case Fresolone explained how he raised $15.000 each week to hand over to Riggi, who then gave some of the money back for the Jersey leaders of the Scarfo family.

On July 10, 1992, Riggi pleaded guilty to charges of theft and extortion in second degree and was sentenced to 12 years in addition to his federal sentence. In 2000 his son-in-law Sean J. Richard, who married his daughter Sara in 1996, also took the stand against him. During the trial he once described Riggi's son Emmanuel as "so fat he breaks chairs at every family function" and told every detail of their labor corruption. Richard also testified against Lucchese acting boss Steven Crea. After the trials he was placed in the witness protection program together with his girlfriend, a stripper, leaving Sara Riggi behind with their children. In 2003 Riggi eventually admitted his part in the Fred Weiss murder and told he did it as a favor to John Gotti. By then he was a sick man and started to suffer from prostate cancer to high blood pressure. In 2012 he was released from prison and lived in a house in Edison, New Jersey. He passed away in August, 2015.

(Source:,, "Mob Turncoat Eager to Talk About Construction Rackets" NYtimes September 8, 2000)

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