Secret Tape Captures A Mob Initiation Rite A Bombshell Lands On 'Tony Buck' Piccolo.

Posted: November 08, 1994

His trigger finger was pricked with a pin and the blood was soaked up with a piece of tissue paper.

Next, the paper was placed in the cupped palm of his hands and set on fire.

Then, George Fresolone said, he let the paper burn to ashes, rubbed the ashes together and repeated the words that a Mafioso lives - and dies - by: ''May I burn in hell if I betray my friends in the family."

By that point, July 29, 1990, Fresolone had been betraying his mob associates for more than a year, taping hundreds of conversations and meetings in a sweeping New Jersey State Police investigation dubbed Operation Broadsword.

Wearing a body wire and a transmitter to his own mob initiation ceremony was the final blow in Fresolone's devastating double life as a mob informant. The tape was one of nearly a dozen played for a Superior Court jury here yesterday in the racketeering trial of mob leader Anthony "Tony Buck" Piccolo.

Piccolo, 72, was the acting boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob in 1990 and presided over the ceremony in which Fresolone and four others were formally initiated into the crime family, according to authorities.

The tape of the secret initiation, or "making" ceremony, which took place in the home of another mob associate in the Bronx, had never before been played for a jury. It is, according to law enforcement officials, one of only two such initiation rites captured on tape. Federal authorities in the Boston area videotaped a mob making ceremony there in the late 1980s.

Fresolone told the jury the making was set up at the request of Pasquale ''Patty Specs" Martirano, his mentor and the crime family underboss. Martirano, who was suffering from cancer and would die within the month, sponsored Fresolone's membership and is heard on the tape carrying out the ceremonial pricking of his trigger finger with a pin.

In fact, Fresolone said, Martirano was in such a weakened condition from his cancer treatments that he had to prick the finger four times before he

drew any blood.

The making ceremony, the last of some 38 tapes played by prosecutor Charles Buckley over a three-day period during the trial, appeared to bolster one of the key charges against Piccolo. Piccolo is charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering and with being a leader of organized crime.

In prior testimony and in some of the tapes played earlier in the trial,

Fresolone and others referred to Piccolo as the "acting boss" of the crime family then headed by imprisoned mobster Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo.

Piccolo's voice, however, had been picked up in only a handful of the conversations played for the jury before yesterday's court session. But the silver-haired reputed mob figure was clearly at the center of the 18-minute making ceremony tape.

"This is a thing of honor," he said to the five proposed members who had gathered in the Bronx on that Sunday morning in July. "This is not a thing of business. A lot of people misunderstand that. This is honor."

"The family is supposed to come first," Martirano said at another point. ''It's as simple as that."

"And before everybody else," Piccolo said.

"Before everybody," Martirano continued. "Your own family. Your

own . . . it's not nice to say but your own mother, father, sister,

brother . . ."

"Oh yeah," said Piccolo. "This is it. This is, this is the way it is. And, you know, you say sometimes, well, you know, you're pretty severe and all that. . . . It's the right thing. That's all it is. It's a person doing the right thing."

Fresolone said he and the four other proposed members were seated in folding chairs set up in a semi-circle in front of a couch where Piccolo and Martirano were sitting. After Martirano pricked his finger, Fresolone said he dabbed it with tissue paper and then Martirano set it on fire and told him to rub the ashes together and repeat the secret oath.

Four others - Nicholas Oliveri, Vincent Centorino, Nicholas Cifelli and John Praino (in whose home the ceremony took place) - were sworn into the family in similar fashion as Fresolone's tape and transmitter continued to pick it all up for the state police.

Those four, along with Piccolo, Scarfo's son, Nicky Scarfo Jr., and 32 others were indicted in the Broadsword case. Most, including Scarfo Jr., Praino, Oliveri, Centorino and Cifelli, pleaded guilty and are currently serving jail terms.

Piccolo is the only Broadsword defendant to stand trial. During a break in yesterday's session, he called the allegations against him a setup and said

Fresolone and the state police had arranged the meetings in which he was recorded.

Piccolo faces a potential 20-year prison sentence if convicted. He is also awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges that carry a potential life sentence.

Fresolone, 40, has been relocated with his wife and three children and given a new identity. He is expected to return to the witness stand for cross- examination when the trial resumes tomorrow.

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