- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Two former police detectives were convicted yesterday of moonlighting as hitmen for the mob in what a prosecutor described as the “most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen.”

A federal jury deliberated for two days before announcing the verdicts against Louis Eppolito, 57, and Steven Caracappa, 64.

The two former detectives, who spent a combined 44 years on the force and once worked as partners, were convicted of racketeering conspiracy, which included eight murders, witness tampering, witness retaliation and obstruction of justice. They also were convicted of money laundering and drug charges and face up to life in prison.

Both men rubbed their faces and stared at the jury as the verdicts were read.

“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.

Eppolito and Caracappa were highly decorated detectives in the New York City Police Department, but prosecutors said the two were leading a double life moonlighting as hired killers for Luchese crime family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Wenner described their crimes and mob association as “the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen.”

Eppolito and Caracappa used their positions as crime fighters to aid the crime family for a mob salary of $4,000 a month, prosecutors said. That increased when the two personally handled the killing, authorities said; they were paid $65,000 for the slaying of a mobster during a phony traffic stop.

Casso also referred to the pair as his “crystal ball” that provided inside information on law-enforcement interest in the mob world, authorities said.

Caracappa, who retired in 1992, had helped establish the 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 came after tips provided by mobsters. He detailed that contrast in his autobiography, “Mafia Cop,” played a bit part in the classic mob movie “GoodFellas,” and once tried his hand at screenwriting.

After retiring, they moved into houses on the same block in Las Vegas.

Since their arrests in March 2005, both Caracappa and Eppolito have insisted that they are innocent. Neither testified at trial.

The key prosecution witness against them was Burton Kaplan, an acknowledged drug dealer who is in prison, who spent four days on the stand linking the pair to an assortment of murders between 1986 and 1990. Kaplan testified that he served as middleman between Casso and the detectives.

Casso, known as one of the most brutal mobsters in the city, reportedly was involved in 36 murders himself. Both sides considered calling him as a witness, but ultimately decided that Casso came with too much baggage — even after he wrote a letter from prison insisting that Eppolito and Caracappa were innocent of several crimes.

U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein revoked their $5 million bail pending their May 22 sentencing.

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