A pair of highly decorated ex-NYPD detectives were convicted Thursday of murder while on the payroll of a mob underboss in one of the most astounding police corruption cases in city history.
The federal court jury in Brooklyn deliberated for two days in the case against Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa, who spent a combined 44 years on the force and once worked as partners. The pair face up to life in prison on the charges.
Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were accused of leading a double life for years: respected city detectives who moonlighted as hired killers for Luchese crime family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Wenner described the case against the so-called “Mafia cops” as “the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen.”
Both men rubbed their faces and stared at the jury as the verdicts.
“They should go find the real killers,” Eppolito’s 28-year-old daughter, Andrea, said outside court. She accused the prosecutors of hiding evidence from the jury.
Defense attorneys said they would appeal.
The ex-detectives were accused in eight murders, with prosecutors charging that the two used their positions as crime fighters to aid the crime family — at a price of $4,000 a month. Their salary increased when the detectives personally handled the killing, authorities said; they earned $65,000 for the slaying of a mobster during a phony traffic stop.
'Crystal ball' for mobster
Casso also referred to the pair as his “crystal ball,” providing inside information on law enforcement interest in the mob world, authorities said. Caracappa, who retired in 1992, helped establish the city police department’s office for Mafia murder probes.
Eppolito, the son of a Gambino crime family member, was a much-praised street cop — although there were suggestions that some of his arrests followed tips provided by mobsters. The contrast between his police work and his “family” life was detailed in his autobiography, “Mafia Cop.”
Eppolito also played a bit part in the classic mob movie “GoodFellas.” After retiring in 1990, he unsuccessfully tried his hand at Hollywood scriptwriting.
The former detectives, who retired to homes on the same block in Las Vegas, insisted on their innocence from the time of their arrests in March 2005. But neither took the stand to refute the charges during the trial that began March 13.
The key prosecution witness was Burton Kaplan, an acknowledged drug dealer who spent four days on the stand linking the pair to an assortment of murders between 1986-90. Kaplan testified that he served as middleman between Casso and the detectives.
Casso, known as one of the most brutal mobsters in the city, was reportedly involved in 36 murders himself. Both sides considered calling him as a witness, but ultimately decided Casso came with too much baggage — even after he wrote a letter from prison insisting the detectives were innocent of several crimes.
The details of the alleged killing spree were chilling. The detectives allegedly “arrested” a mobster named Jimmy Hydell in 1986, but instead delivered him to Casso for torture and execution.
That same year, the pair allegedly furnished the underboss with information to locate Nicholas Guido, a mobster involved in a planned hit on Casso. Their inaccurate tip led to an innocent man with the same name, who was killed after Christmas dinner at his mother’s house.
The detectives also were charged with killing Gambino family member Eddie Lino during what began as a routine traffic stop, and finished with Caracappa allegedly shooting the mobster.