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Old 09-09-2018, 04:00 PM
vapros vapros is offline
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: baton rouge, la
Posts: 3,268
Default Nick the Crow

I have become a fan of a writer named George Anastasia, who has been writing about the mob – la cosa nostra – for the Philadelphia Enquirer, for thirty-five years. They give him free rein. He names names, reports indictments and prison sentences, cites murders and murderers, all in south Philly and New Jersey. On YouTube you can see his work on Mob Talk and Mob Scene. It’s amazing. George attends court and accesses the transcripts of conversations picked up on bugs, phone taps and informers wearing wires for the law. Lots of them talk to him, several embrace publicity; such as Skinny Joey Merlino, the local version of John Gotti. Joey seems to be the heir apparent to Little Nicky Scarfo’s place at the top. He is recently out of prison and likely to go back soon. I will write about this again tomorrow, hoping you will find it as fascinating as I do. Or not.

Day before yesterday I borrowed a couple of George’s books – non-fiction, true crime – from the library. The first one is largely from his association with one Nick ‘Crow’ Caramandi. Nick has been a scammer, con man and thief his whole life and does not mind saying so. It’s what he do. He assured George that sports betting and bookmaking and loan sharking are the primary sources of cash for the wise guys, and he explained the continuing relationship between bookies and loan sharking. If you are a regular bettor, said Nick, you can gamble on credit and settle up when called upon. When you find yourself in debt to a mob bookmaker, you have to pay him. Period. Or your credit is cut off. At the very least.

If you cannot pay, he will refer you to his loan shark, who will loan you the money to pay your bookie. Terms are three ‘points’ for a period of ten weeks. If you borrow ten thousand, you must pay back thirteen thousand after ten weeks. Can’t quite do it? Well, just pay the three thousand and he will extend you for another ten weeks. In truth, in the space of a year you might pay him $15,600 and still owe the ten grand. And the money is put back out on the street for other borrowers. He does not really care if you ever pay the original ten grand, but don’t fail to pay the three points when due. This is how gambling and loan sharking make the nut for the mob.

The first job I had when I got out of the military in 1955 was adjuster (collector) for a finance company here in Baton Rouge. I started in the small-loan department, and at that time there was no law telling how much interest could be charged on any loan of less than three hundred dollars. We were the loan sharks of the time. If I could keep getting the interest my employers were happy, and I saw some terrible amounts in the old cases. Paying the monthly interest was a permanent fact of life for some of the customers, even long after the used car was dead and gone. And yes, one could buy a reasonably functional used car for two or three hundred bucks in 1955.

Reading about the mob life is entertainment – living it vicariously, I suppose. Many of the characters in George’s book have nicknames. Nick the Crow, Harry the Hunchback, Nick the Blade, Chicken Man, Tony Bananas, Frankie Flowers, Pat the Cat, Nicky the Whip and a lot more. Virtually none of them ever get to retire. Somebody kills you or you go to the penitentiary, with few exceptions. To keep this post from being much too long, I will put up another tomorrow, offering George Anastasia’s observations on the current state, and prospects, of la cosa nostra.

Once in court Nick the Crow was asked by the prosecutor how he had been able to rob such an endless number of people in his career by lying and misleading them. The Crow explained that it was tough to rob an honest man, and he seldom tried. He targeted the crooked people, by making them believe they were stealing. What a pool hustler he would have made!
If it ain't funny, it ain't much.
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