I’ve heard a number of first person stories about Russell Bufalino since The Quiet Don was published Oct 1. but perhaps none more interesting than Bufalino’s ties to Whitey Bulger.
Bulger, as many know, was sentenced in Boston to two life sentences for the mayham he caused while leading the Winter Hill Gang from the 1970s through 190s. And that includes multiple murders.
A former law enforcement official filled me in on the details of how Bulger and Bufalino traded profits from a horse-race fixing venture at Bufalino’s Pocono Downs track near Wilkes Barre.
Beginning in 1974 Anthony “Big Tony” Ciulla began fixing races for the Winter Hill Gang. Ciulla, who later became an FBI informant, had paid jockeys, trainers and owners at tracks up and down the east coast, including Pocono Downs near Wilkes Barre. When Bufalino got wind of it he sent two of his men to talk to Ciulla, who eventually told them it was Bulger who was behind the scam. Buflino knew Bulger, and they eventually agreed to split the profits. See the story below from 1981.
Mobster testifies on plot to fix horse races
HARRISBURG (AP) — Alleged organized crime boss Russell Bufalino's
bookmakers took a financial beating in the early stages of a plot to fix
thoroughbred horse races at Pocono Downs, an admitted mobster testified
That situation, said Anthony "Big Tony" Ciulla, a convicted race fixer
from Massachusetts, led to meetings with local people who claimed they had
links to Bufalino. Ciulla , now under a federal witness
protection program, previously testified he participated in a vast scheme to fix
races in several states. The scheme allegedly netted $1.5 million in winnings.
The witness said it was agreed at the meetings that he would continue to fix
races at the track, located near Wilkes Barre, but would share the profits with
the local people.
Some of those local people are among 13 men on trial in federal court on
charges they fixed more than two dozen races at Pocono Downs.
Ciulla said he had come from Massachusetts in June 1974, and had
started fixing races at the track when he was contacted by Nicholas Occhipinti.
Occhipinti, killed in a 1975 Car crash, allegedly was part of the Pocono Downs
scheme. Ciulla said there were later meetings with Angelo Son of Wyoming, Pa.,
Angelo Bufalino of Pittston, Joseph Sciandra of West Pittston, and others to
discuss race-fixing. Sciandra and Angelo Bufalino are defendants; Angelo Son
was on trial until his case was separated due to illness.
"Mr. Occhipinti said they had previously fixed a few races (at Pocono
Downs) ," Ciulla testified. "Mr. Sciandra mentioned some
names. He kept dropping the name of Russell Bufalino," he said.
Russell Bufalino has been identified by federal and state law enforcement officials
in Pennsylvania and New York as the head of an organized crime family in
northeastern Pennsylvania. He is now in a Danbury, Conn., federal prison.
"Mr. Sciandra said there was a problem with Mr. Bufalino . .. Russell
Bufalino . . . .He said some of Mr. Bufalino's bookmakers were getting
hit," Ciulla said.
The term "getting hit" means a winning bet is placed with a bookie.
"He (Sciandra ) didn't feel it was right that they were getting hit in their own
back yard," Ciulla said. *Ciulla said he explained his own:
"connections" in New England, and an; interstate understanding was latete
reached between the two groups.
Ciulla was not permitted to name the New England figures, except for
Howard Winter, who was convicted in a related race-fixing trial last summer in.
Boston. The Bufalino's didn't know him. But then Ciulla told them the real head of the scam was Bulger. They knew who he was.
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