Colombo Crime Family Boss Dead at 85

Carmine 'The Snake' Persico died in North Carolina at age 85 while serving 139-year sentence
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2019 6:30 AM CST
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In this Nov. 7, 1980, file photo, Colombo crime family boss Carmine Persico is led into court in handcuffs in New York.   (New York Post via AP)

(Newser) – He was the last surviving member of New York City's Commission, the governing body of the US Mafia. Now, Carmine "The Snake" Persico has joined his former crime buddies in eternal rest. Persico attorney Benson Weintraub says the 85-year-old head of the Colombo crime family died Thursday in a North Carolina medical center near the Butner federal prison where he was serving out his 139-year sentence for racketeering and murder, per CNN. Weintraub tells WABC that his client's health status deteriorated during the partial government shutdown, when the antibiotics he needed weren't arriving regularly. The New York Post notes his death "marks the end of an era," a time when "organized crime controlled New York City," according to a Pace University law professor.

Per the New York Times, Persico managed to keep running the Colombo crime syndicate even after he'd been incarcerated, with officials suspecting he was partly behind the killings of mob bosses Albert Anastasia and Joey Gallo. His 1986 conviction was said to be then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani's biggest legal victories against the mob. He's said to have earned the nickname "The Snake," which he apparently didn't love, because he would backstab his allies in organized crime; there was even an alleged attempt to kill a fellow hit man. MarketWatch notes another interesting tie to Persico: Bernie Madoff, whom Persico met and protected in prison. The host of an audio series on Madoff says the two became "good buddies," and that Madoff described Persico as a "very sweet man." (Read more obituary stories.)

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