The Mobster Who Brought Down the Mob
Credit: Photograph by Levi Brown
When Tommy McLaughlin takes the witness stand, as he'll likely do in a Brooklyn federal court this month, the first thing he'll need to do is tell the jury the worst things he's done in his life. Primary among them is the 1991 murder he was an accomplice in, the one that flipped him in the first place. In telling the story, he'll finally be publicly professing his guilt, but he'll also be sealing the fate of his cousin Tommy Gioeli, the former acting boss who sanctioned the hit.

Though he has pleaded innocent to all charges, Gioeli will face trial for five other murders, including the 1997 shooting of an off-duty police officer, gunned down outside his home because he'd married a Colombo consigliere's ex-wife. Gioeli's trial will probably include testimony from a wide array of Colombo turncoats, some of whom, including Russo, were ensnared in the January raid. (Thirty-three of the 48 have already cut plea deals and collectively have forfeited $4.5 million in illegal proceeds.) The trial will serve as a dramatic and grisly curtain raiser to a series of trials of the Colombos and other crime families in the months to come.

McLaughlin himself will be looking for a deal off the backs of the friends and family members he's betrayed.

It's unlikely he'll be out on the streets – even ones far from Brooklyn. McLaughlin pleaded guilty to the 1991 murder under what's called a John Doe arraignment and will probably be sentenced after prosecutors have squeezed him for every bit of testimony they can – not just on the Colombos but on the Gambinos, Bonannos, Luccheses, and any other Mafia organizations. He'll probably get time in a special secure federal prison for informers. It's not going to be an easy and carefree life.

Near the end of summer 2010, a few months before the big mob takedown, Linda Schiro was driving through Staten Island when she spotted a guy she recognized. He was standing at an ice cream truck. It was McLaughlin, whom she hadn't seen in 10 years. "He looked the same, but his hair had gone gray," she says. She pulled up alongside him and called out. He froze, turned around "and looked like he'd seen a ghost," she says. "He was real nervous talking to me."

Schiro says she thinks she understands why McLaughlin chose to flip for the feds. "He pretty much said, 'I'm never going back there again,'" says Schiro. "He should have done it the first year they got him. Could have saved himself 14 years."