He was a cold-blooded killer convicted of carrying out four murders for the Gambino crime family, but former Howard Beach resident Charles Carneglia also had a soft spot for his mother, according to a new book written by a New York Newsday court reporter who covered Carneglia’s racketeering trial for the daily paper.
“Mob Killer: The Bloody Rampage of Charlie Carneglia, Mafia Hit Man,” published by Kensington Publishing, details Carneglia’s connections to the mob underworld, including John Gotti Sr., the late Gambino don.
“They saw him as the last of an era — the old Ozone Park crew that Gotti had and he was the last loyalist,” said author Anthony M. DeStefano, pointing out Carneglia did not turn on any of his fellow mobsters even as they betrayed him, leading to his arrest during a mob sweep in February 2008 that picked up 138 reputed mafioso.
DeStefano said Carneglia “was something of a tragic figure” who tried to fit in with the Gambinos but did not have the political moxie to make it in that world, never rising above soldier in the family.
DeStefano said Carneglia showed signs of instability in the Mafia world that prevented him from being trusted.
“Charlie was kind of an eccentric, loner type of guy who had a lot of aggression issues,” DeStefano said, noting Carneglia was into drugs and when he was not getting high, he turned to alcohol.
Carneglia’s mother “was the focus of his life,” DeStefano said. He lived with her in his Ozone Park home and she was in her early 90s when FBI agents stormed their house in 2008.
DeStefano will be holding a book signing and discussion Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Borders at the Shops at Atlas Park, at 80-00 Cooper Ave. in Glendale.
Carneglia was indicted in five killings, found guilty of four and exonerated in one — the murder of court officer Albert Gelb.
Gelb, who lived in the Lindenwood area of Queens, got into a confrontation with Carneglia at the Esquire Diner in Howard Beach in the 1970s after he saw Carneglia display a gun and then checked if he had a license to carry the weapon.
Carneglia was arrested on a gun charge and Gelb was murdered while driving his car on his way home from court, shot dead on a Queens street.
Carneglia was acquitted of the murder because there were holes in the case, including a witness who described someone who did not look like Charles as the trigger man, DeStefano said.
In Carneglia’s heyday in the 1970s, there were plenty of killings, stabbings and beatings taking place in the neighborhood, DeStefano said.
“It was a time in Howard Beach when it was really wild,” said DeStefano, who interviewed more than two dozen people for the book, including FBI agents who raided the Carneglia home in 2008, friends of the Carneglia family and former girlfriends of mobsters who did not want to be named.
DeStefano said Carneglia’s biggest asset was his “reputation.”
“He was kind of like a muscle presence,” he said. “He didn’t control a lot of lucrative rackets. He was the last sort of loyal guy. He wouldn’t turn no matter what [the FBI] did for him. He was the old guard.”
The FBI had hoped to turn Carneglia, allowing him to hug his mother before he was handcuffed in the raid on his home and politely asking if there was anything in the attic of his 85th Street home they should know about.
“They were respectful to him in that raid,” DeStefano said.
Carneglia was not well-liked by some in Mafia circles because he was seen as unreliable and intemperate and was drunk while planning a hijacking, DeStefano said.
The Mafia hitman also seemed to be unmotivated by money, DeStefano said, shaking down neighborhood businesses for as little as $200 or $300 a week in the 1990s.
Carneglia met Gotti through his brother, John Carneglia, in the 1970s, when he ran a junkyard in East New York, Brooklyn.
“Gotti was nominally aligned with the Gambino crowd around that time,” DeStefano said. “As John did well, Charlie and John Carneglia rode part of his coattails.”
Carneglia was also “super paranoid” about being watched, DeStefano said.
“The story is that he used to put red pepper around his vehicles to deter any sniffing dogs,” he said.
While Carneglia was a regular at Gotti’s Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, he rarely went to Gotti’s Ravenite Club in Manhattan.
“In his prime, he’d go to the Bergin, go to the junkyard, do his thing,” DeStefano said. “In the later years, he’d go to the restaurants on Cross Bay Boulevard and just schmooze with people, talk about the old days.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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