Love is a Risk True Crime Short Story by E.W. Count
Love is a Risk
by E.W. Count
Page 4 of 5
Early on, Ron Cadieux had called Jack Ferguson at his Waterfront
office. Over coffee, the PI talked about his new case, and about the
suspect, Lifrieri, working for Blue Chip. Ferguson took a few notes.
He would call Cadieux if anything popped up. The PI knew that to solve
this puzzle, he must stay in touch with all the investigators, get
them all cooperating. "You can never have too much cooperation," he
believes. Lone-wolf heroes are for PI novels.
Periodically, the mystery of Rosemary and her mom was brought to
the attention of the Brooklyn DA, and a prosecutor was assigned. About
two years after the women disappeared, Brooklyn South Homicide put a
mob detective, Bill Tomasulo, on the case with Bath Beach detective,
Frank LaBarbera. To get the DA to indict Lifrieri, Tomasulo and
LaBarbera needed those bodies -- the bosses took the partners "off the
chart" so they could work this case exclusively.
Tomasulo was another guy Cadieux had worked murders with, on the
job. Tomasulo also was one of the NYPD mob mavens who helped me sort
out the Mafia names and styles. His grasp of the Columbo family, for
instance, is respected, especially by the Columbos, who would much
rather have someone less knowledgeable on their case.
Brooklyn to the core, "Billy Jack" Tomasulo has a thick accent to
prove it (never mind that he actually lives in Staten Island). Average
height, with a ready chuckle, he's dedicated to the street and knows
where it can lead. If ever his kids show signs of getting too fond of
the street, he takes them on a cautionary trip to the morgue.
Tomasulo may hold the record in New York for "digging up bodies
that were not given proper burials." In the mid-eighties, two bodies
exhumed from beneath a cement floor on South Brooklyn mob turf. In the
late eighties, five dismembered corpses, "Samsonited" -- packed in
suitcases -- disinterred from a Staten Island secret "Mafia graveyard"
near a bird sanctuary. Billy led the white-jumpsuit brigade of
detectives and technicians who dug for weeks in that site -- to the
immense delight of Staten Island Advance photographers, who got a lot
of mileage out of the operation.
Billy Jack knew about the Federal/State investigation of Viola's
Blue Chip Coffee, so he reached out for Waterfront and hooked up with
Ferguson. All the good guys were in this together.
By the time the Daily News story came out, the feds and the
Waterfront cops had a "wire" (phone tap) up on Viola. Cadieux hoped
someone would soon be overheard complaining about detectives snooping
around about murders. It didn't happen, but Jack Ferguson says the
murders were solved because of what Cadieux told him over coffee about
the case he was investigating.
By July, Ferguson and the feds had enough on Viola's drug
wholesaling and smuggling crimes, and they were ready to pick him up.
Billy Jack Tomasulo and LaBarbara were in on the bust. On a rainy
Monday afternoon, the umarked detective car waited with Ferguson's,
out of sight of the Blue Chip warehouse but close by. Viola's new
Mercedes could outrun the cops, Ferguson knew, so they would have to
grab him fast.
From an observation point in a building with a good view, a
surveillance team would radio when Viola came out. With luck, he would
come out alone, and be in custody before his workers found out. Viola
left with two other guys, one of whom got into an old Chevy with
As Ferguson moved on Viola's Mercedes, he radioed Billy Jack,
"Take the guy in the Chevy over to the Waterfront Commission, give him
a summons and hold the car." Ferguson recognized the guy, a heroin
junkie who hung around Viola's place.
At the Waterfront office, the guy in the Chevy told the detectives
his name: Robert Paolucci. He did odd jobs around Viola's warehouse, and
he had worked for a funeral parlor. And, like a lot of junkies, he was
an informant anytime he could be. Junkies-- street people-- know
what goes on, and they know that detectives can pay small amounts for
useful information. They know whatever they need to know to get money
from "the system."
Almost before Tomasulo and LaBarbara could ask, Paolucci excitedly
spoke up. "I'll help you," he said. "I know two bodies . . ."
The detectives tried hard to keep their cool as Paolucci explained
that he had not killed the two women -- only disposed of their bodies
after the murders. Lifrieri had choked the victims to death, and then
paid Paolucci to wrapped them up in plastic and put them in the trunk
of Lifrieri's Caddy. The junkie then parked the car within sight of
Jack Ferguson was in Manhattan with the prisoner, Anthony Viola,
and the feds, when their phone rang. Det. Tomasulo and his partner
were elated. The junkie "gave it up," yelled Tomasulo -- cop talk for
"confessed," or "provided key information". Cadieux's office phone rang
and Ferguson relayed the amazing news.