Former cops sentenced to life for mob hits

March 6, 2009 3:58:15 PM PST
Two former detectives convicted of moonlighting as contract killers for the mob were sentenced on Friday to life in prison after defiantly telling a judge they were railroaded in perhaps the most notorious police corruption case in New York history. "I was a hard-working cop," Louis Eppolito said in federal court in Brooklyn. "I never hurt anybody. I never kidnapped anybody. ... I never did any of this."

Stephen Caracappa, unshaven and looking gaunt, told U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, "You'll never take away my will to prove how innocent I am."

The judge gave Eppolito a life term for his conspiracy conviction plus 100 years for various other offenses including money laundering, and fined him $4.7 million. Caracappa received life plus 80 years, and a $4.2 million fine.

The case had been marked by several legal twists: After a dramatic trial in 2006, Weinstein threw out the conviction, finding that the statute of limitations had expired on the slayings. But an appeals court reversed the decision last year, clearing the way for the sentencing.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said he hoped the sentences in the so-called "Mafia cops" case would "bring some closure for the families of the victims of these defendants' unspeakable crimes and for the citizens of the city whose trust they betrayed."

Eppolito, 61, and Caracappa, 67, who had worked as partners and logged a combined 44 years on the job, were found guilty of secretly being on the payroll of Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso starting in the mid 1980s.

Jurors heard that in two slayings, the pair used their police credentials to make traffic stops that ended with the driver killed. In another instance, they kidnapped a man suspected in an attempted mob hit against Casso and turned him over to the underboss, a remorseless mobster responsible for 36 slayings.

The most shocking murder involved bad information provided by the detectives about another suspect in the Casso case. The tip led to the mistaken-identity murder of an innocent man killed as his mother washed the dishes following a Christmas Day family dinner.

Caracappa left the New York Police Department in 1992 after establishing a special unit for mob murder investigations.

Eppolito, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family, was a decorated officer who went on to play a bit part in "GoodFellas" and launch an unsuccessful career as a screenwriter.

The pair were arrested a 2005 drug sting in Las Vegas, where they had retired.

The sentencing came after families of the victims angrily spoke out against the defendants.

Yael Pearlman, daughter of victim Israel Greenwald, read a letter she wrote to her dead father describing his family's unending anguish over his death when she was small child.

"Daddy, when they killed you, part of your baby girl died too," she said.

Family member Vincent Lino - son of victim Edward Lino - said his farewell to the defendants in a thick Brooklyn accident: "May youse have a long life in prison."