Wise Guys and Connected Guys

Wise Guys and Connected Guys
Wise Guys and Connected Guys

In a large crime family in which there are 250 or so "made" men, or "wise guys"—official Mafia members—there would be at least 10 times as many "connected guys"—men associated with wise guys and taking orders from them. Most of these connected guys hope to become wiseguys, provided they meet the ethnic qualifications.

The made man or wise guy is a "soldier", the lowest rank among Mafia members, but this hardly indicates he is not a man of substantial means. Most soldiers in both the Gambino and Genovese families are believed to be millionaires in their own right. Actually, many connected guys are also as rich, or in some cases richer, than the wise guys.

The average connected guy must adhere to the same rules as the made guys. They take orders from their soldier sponsor, or if they are excellent producers, more likely they take them from the captain, or "capo," over that soldier. The connected guys must report on everything they do.

They give "respect" to their superior, and they share the profits with him. (Despite all the talk in the mob about "respect," it is always measured more by the profits brought in than by anything else.) But the connected guy must behave with a certain decorum. The connected guy is not to argue or talk back to a wise guy or to raise a hand to one.

"When you are not a wiseguy," mobster Lefty Ruggiero told Joe Pistone, an FBI undercover agent who penetrated the mob as the fabled "Donnie Brasco," "the wiseguy is always right and you're always wrong. It don't matter what. Don't forget that, Donnie. Because no other wiseguy is gonna side with you against another wiseguy."

Some wise guys delude themselves about the reliability of this so-called rule. There is an exception— and it is spelled m-o-n-e-y. As related by Henry Hill in Wiseguy, when Tommy DeSimone, connected to the Vario crew inside the Lucchese crime family, murdered Billy Bates in a private dispute, it was an imprudent act.

Helping Tommy in the act was Jimmy Burke, the infamous Irish gangster and mastermind of the Lufthansa robbery, and Hill. Burke restrained Bates while DeSimone killed him. The three of them disposed of the victim's body. The catch was that Bates was a made guy with the Gambinos, but none of the trio was made.

Hill later stated, "If the Gambino people ever found out that Tommy had killed Billy, we were all dead."

In due course the Gambinos did find out. They went to Paul Vario, the head of the crew, and demanded the appropriate punishment. It was arranged with ingenious mob cunning. DeSimone was given the good news that he was to be made. Tommy was overjoyed and went off happily with two Vario boys to what was not an initiation, however, but an execution.

Although Hill did not address the matter, undoubtedly Tommy was tortured to reveal the events of the murder, and he most certainly revealed the roles of Burke and Hill. Yet nothing ever happened to the pair. The reason was obvious.

Hill and especially Burke were huge money makers for the mob, and that was enough to save them. The avenging of the late, made Billy Bates had to be limited to DeSimone. The surviving pair had the best of all possible connections—that old reliable, m-o-n-e-y.