John Mazzolla

John Mazzolla

John P. (Paul) Mazzolla a.k.a. "Johnny"" (March 28, 1925 – October 1990) was an Sicilian-American mob associate of the Lucchese crime family from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Before becoming a mob associate, Mazzolla was a quarter horse and later a thoroughbred horse racing jockey

Horse Jockey Career

Mazzolla was born in East New York, Brooklyn and named after Saint John the Baptist. He started in the horse racing business at a young age performing riding work for jockeys. He eventually entered horse racing as an apprentice jockey. As a jockey, Mazzolla soon became acquainted with mobsters Jimmy Burke, Richard M. Perry, Ralph Atlas and Paul Vario. Mazzolla eventually retired from racing, probably due to concussions and fractures suffered on the track. The extreme pressure to maintain a light body weight had also driven Mazzolla into a heroin dependency. He spent some time in a substance abuse clinic, but was unable to become clean. After retiring, Mazzolla moved from Ozone Park, Queens to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Mob career

Mazzolla, his wife, and his son Riccardo moved into an apartment across the street from a taxi stand used by Vario as his crew headquarters. Along with taking a job as a taxi cab driver, Mazzolla became a Lucchese family associate working for Vario. Vario got Mazzolla involved in dealing counterfeit money. Mazzolla became a close friend of mobster J.R. Russo, a fellowtaxi driver who worked for Theodoro Vario. Mazzolla also became a role model and surrogate father figure for future mob associate Henry Hill, who was an adolescent in 1957 when the two first met. Mazzolla would drive Hill around to the different stores in the neighborhood to cash the counterfeitt currency on the days leading to Christmas or Easter. Mazzolla taught Hill counterfeiting tricks, including running new counterfeit bills through a dryer to give them a worn look. Many members of the Vario felt contempt for Mazzolla due to his heroin addiction. However, due to Mazzolla's strong relationship with Vario, the crew members kept their misgivings quiet and sent Mazzolla on odd errands.

The Riccardo Mazzolla Situation

In the early 1960s Mazzolla's son Riccardo began getting in trouble with the police and skipping school. Riccardo soon followed his father into organized crime, becoming a close friend of fellow mobster child Frank James Burke, Gregg Hill, Rosario Stabile, the son of Anthony Stabile, and Michael "Spider" Gianco. Riccardo became involved in theft, armed robbery and grand theft auto. Riccardo soon became estranged from his father and started robbing Lucchese sports book operations being operated out of Robert's Lounge, a Lucchese hangout, and Presto Pizzeria. These illicit rackets were being run by Lawrence "Larry" Bilello, Theodoro Vario and Steven DePasquale. The Vario crew warned Riccardo to stop the robberies, but he ignored their warnings. Because John Mazzolla was close to Vario, the Lucchese family postponed any retribution. However, it was made clear to Mazzolla that if he didn't control Riccardo, the family would.

When Riccardo continued his robberies, Vario finally capitulated to pressure, from both inside and outside his crew, to kill him. Hill suggests that Vario may have sent Burke or Peter "The Killer" Abbandante to kill Riccardo. His body, discovered on the street by a pedestrian, had three bullets in the chest. The manner and location of Riccardo's murder were allegedly planned to guarantee him a quick death and provide the family with a presentable body for an open-casket funeral. Hill showed up for Riccardo's wake, but Vario and the rest of the crew stayed away. After Riccardo's murder, Vario and his crew severed all ties with Mazzolla. No one was ever implicated in Riccardo's murder. Hill later expressed sadness and remorse for his former friend Mazzolla in his book "Wiseguy: My Life In A Mafia Family".

In October 1990, John Mazzolla died in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn at age sixty-five.

Influence and Inspiration in The Sopranos

In The Sopranos a similar situation between Tony Soprano and his cousin Tony Blundetto arise. Phil Leotardo and his brother Billy Leotardo kill Angelo to avenge Joey, driving Tony Blundetto into a rage. Tony tracks down the Leotardo brothers and shoots at both of them, killing Billy. Blundetto's out-of-control behavior sparked the fire of Johnny Sack's crew and threats of revenge; in particular Phil Leotardo demands a bloody and extremely painful vengeance for what had happened to his brother. Initially unwilling to hand Blundetto over for 'justice' at the hands of Phil and Johnny Sack (and still affected by his own guilt), Tony Soprano eventually capitulated to pressure both inside and outside his crew to give up Blundetto, as well as the strong possibility of Phil carrying out a revenge attack on Tony's nephew Christopher Moltisanti. To appease relations with Johnny and to give his cousin a quick death, Tony Soprano kills Blundetto personally with a shotgun blast to the head, having traced his cousin to an old family home where he was hiding out. Unlike the execution of Riccardo Mazzolla, Tony later dispatches to dispose of his cousin's body. It is suggested that the American screenwriter, director, and producer of the show The Sopranos built upon the Riccardo Mazzolla crisis mentioned in Nicholas Pileggi's book "Wiseguy: My Life In A Mafia Family". It is presumed that David has read Pileggi's book after stating in an interview that the Martin Scorsese gangster film Goodfellas (on which the book is based upon) was a source of inspiration for him, calling the 1990 movie his "Koran."


*Pileggi, Nicholas, "Wiseguy: Life In A Mafia Family", Corgi (1987) ISBN 055213094X
* US Social Security Death Index

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