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New York cops convicted over hits for mafia

AP | April 8 2006

NEW YORK: Two highly decorated former detectives have been convicted of moonlighting as hitmen for the mob, in one of the most sensational cases of police corruption in New York history.

Louis Eppolito, 57, and Steven Caracappa, 64, could get life in prison for their roles in eight murders committed between 1986 and 1990 while they were simultaneously on the payroll of both the New York Police Department and Luchese crime family underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Federal prosecutor Daniel Wenner described the case as "the bloodiest, most violent betrayal of the badge this city has ever seen".

Prosecutors said the two men carried out two hits themselves - after pulling the victims over in traffic stops - and delivered up some of the other victims to the mafia to be killed.

Neither defendant showed any emotion during the 10 minutes it took the jury's forewoman to reply "proven" 70 times to the racketeering acts they were accused of. The verdicts were reached after two days.

The defendants' $US5million ($6.86million) bail was revoked and they were jailed, to await sentencing on May 22. Their lawyers said they would appeal.

"It's an appearance of justice, but it's not justice," said Bruce Cutler, who once represented John Gotti and put on a thundering defence for Eppolito, claiming the Government's mob witnesses were lying to save their necks.

Prosecutors said the two used their positions as police to help the mafia at a price of $US4000 a month -- more if they handled a killing personally. They earned $US65,000 for one of those slayings, prosecutors said.

The two officers also supplied Casso with inside information on police interest in the mob, prosecutors said. Casso was said to have referred to the two men as his "crystal ball". They were convicted of charges that included racketeering conspiracy, witness tampering, witness retaliation and obstruction of justice.

"There has never been, in the history of the NYPD, an officer convicted of being a hitman for the mob," said Tom Reppetto, co-author of American Mafia and NYPD, a department history. "There's cases of police misconduct, but going to work for organised crime? Wow."

Caracappa, who retired in 1992, helped establish the city police department's unit for mafia murder investigations. Eppolito, the son of a Gambino crime family member, was a much-praised street cop, though there were suggestions some of his arrests resulted from tips from mobsters.

In his autobiography, Mafia Cop, he portrayed himself as an honest cop from a crooked family.

Eppolito also played a bit part in the mob movie GoodFellas. He retired in 1990.

The two have insisted on their innocence since their arrests in March last year. But neither took the stand during the trial.

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