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Detectives ‘betray badge’

By Larry McShane The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Two highly decorated former detectives were convicted yesterday of moonlighting as hit men 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 NYPD 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 forewoman to reply “proven” 70 times to the racketeering acts they were accused of. The verdict was reached after two days of deliberations.

The defendants’ $5 million bail was revoked and they were led off to jail to await sentencing May 22. The men’s lawyers said they will 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 defense of the two former officers, claiming the government’s mob witnesses were lying to save their necks.

Prosecutors said the two used their law enforcement positions to help the Mafia at a price of $4,000 per month – more if they personally handled a killing. They earned $65,000 for one of those slayings, prosecutors said.

The two officers also supplied Casso with inside information on law enforcement 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 hit man 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 organized 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, although there were suggestions that 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.” After retiring in 1990, he unsuccessfully tried his hand at Hollywood scriptwriting.

The former detectives, who retired to homes on the same block in Las Vegas, insisted on their innocence from the time of their arrests in March 2005. But neither took the stand at their trial.

The key prosecution witness was Burton Kaplan, a drug dealer who spent four days on the stand linking the pair to an assortment of murders. Kaplan testified that he served as middleman between Casso and the detectives.

Casso, known as one of the most brutal mobsters in the city, is suspected of involvement in 36 murders himself. Both sides considered calling him as a witness but ultimately decided Casso came with too much baggage.

According to testimony, the detectives “arrested” a mobster named Jimmy Hydell in 1986, but instead delivered him to Casso for torture and execution.

That same year, the pair furnished the underboss with information on where to find Nicholas Guido, a mobster involved in a planned hit on Casso. Their inaccurate tip led to an innocent man with the same name, who was killed after Christmas dinner at his mother’s house.

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