- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — The acting boss of the Columbo crime family pleaded guilty in a mistaken mob hit on a 78-year-old judge whose son, a former prosecutor, was the intended target.

Joel Cacace, 63, faces 20 years for racketeering in the 1987 slaying of George Aronwald, an administrative law judge for the New York City Parking Violations Bureau who was gunned down near his home.

Cacace had ordered Aronwald’s killers, brothers Vincent and Eddie Carini, to kill the judge’s son, William Aronwald, a former state and federal prosecutor. Prosecutors would not comment on a motive.

The Carini brothers were slain later that year, their bodies wrapped in pink sheets and left in the back seats of separate cars parked in Brooklyn. Prosecutors believe Cacace may have ordered the slayings, then blamed mobster Carmine Variale for the brothers’ deaths. Variale also was slain that year.

William Aronwald, 63, who attended the plea hearing Friday, said he believes the killing of his father was related to his testimony months earlier in the federal trial of the late mob don John Gotti, head of the Gambino family.

Prosecutors believe Cacace, then a Columbo family soldier acting on orders from boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico, put the killing in motion by showing the Carini brothers and a third killer the name “Aronwald” on a piece of paper. The Carinis tailed George Aronwald from the office he shared with his son and shot him.

“My father was killed for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that these people who had been given the job made the mistake,” the judge’s son said.

Cacace pleaded guilty to the Aronwald murder, conspiracy in Variale’s slaying and extortion as part of a racketeering count. Sentencing is expected in November.

His trial was supposed to start in September, and he would have faced life in prison if convicted. His lawyers did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Cacace is the latest Mafia boss sent to prison by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn. Bonanno crime family boss Joseph Massino was convicted last month of crimes including murder, racketeering, arson and extortion. He faces life in prison at his November sentencing.

Peter Gotti, whom prosecutors called his brother’s heir as head of the Gambinos, was sentenced in April to a 9-year prison term for crimes related to his mob family’s domination of the Brooklyn waterfront.

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