The Vario Crew

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The Vario Crew
Founded by Lucchese crime family
Founding location United States New York City
Years active 1950s-present
Territory Various neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island
Ethnicity Italian, Italian-American made men and Irish and other ethnicities as "associates"
Membership (est.) Unknown
Criminal activities Racketeering, bookmaking, loan-sharking, extortion, gambling, burglary, cargo theft, conspiracy, counterfeit consumer goods, murder, smuggling, fencing, hotel robbery, hijacking and jewelry heist
Allies Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno and Colombo crime families
Rivals Various gangs.

The Vario Crew is a group operating within the Lucchese crime family. It was controlled by capo Paul Vario from the early 1950s into the early 1980s, when Vario, Jimmy Burke and a number of other associates were imprisoned, primarily due to the testimony of another long-term associate, Henry Hill.

Hill's life in the Vario crew was the subject of the 1990 Martin Scorsese crime film Goodfellas, with Ray Liotta portraying Hill.

Today the crew is still active, but less influential than before and is currently led by Domenico Cutaia.[citation needed]


Paul Vario's power

Paul Vario received money from members of his crew and local criminals; Vario's crew was involved in hijacking cargo shipments from JFK Airport. His crew also ran several loansharking and bookmaking operations in Brooklyn.

James Burke was a close ally to Paul Vario. Burke ran a crew of hijackers that would pay off truck drivers and then unload the goods at a warehouse controlled by Paul Vario. Another ally to Vario was John Dioguardi, a Lucchese family capo who controlled unions in New York City. In the 1970s, when Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke were imprisoned, a majority of Vario's bookmaking operation were taken over by his Russian Jewish associate Martin Krugman.

Henry Hill's drug organization

Two of Vario's crew members, Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke, began dealing in heroin, cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines. Hill ran his criminal enterprise with his wife Karen, William Arico, Anthony Perla, Rocco Perla, Robin Cooperman and Judith Wicks. In early 1979, Burke and Hill began selling heroin.

After Robert "Bobby" Germaine Jr., the son of Henry Hill's drug partner, became an informant, Hill was monitored. In 1980, Hill was arrested for drug dealing and looking at several life-sentences. Instead he became an informant. Henry Hill's testimony led to 50 convictions. In 1980, on orders from James Burke, Angelo Sepe shot and killed Bobby Germaine Jr. in Kew Gardens, Queens. Jimmy Burke was given 20 years for fixing sporting events and a life sentence when the authorities convicted him for murdering scam-artist Richard Eaton. Paul Vario was given a 12½-year sentence during the KENRAC trial.

Robert's Lounge Crew

The Robert's Lounge Crew was a semi-independent group of criminals working under the Vario Crew led by Jimmy Burke based in his bar, Robert's Lounge. They were active from 1957 to 1979. The Robert's Lounge crew consisted of a number of members, some described as inept, and whose specialties included hijacking, armed robbery and murder. Although an independent outfit, they were closely associated with the Lucchese Family through which Burke had a longtime friendship and working relationship with Paul Vario.[1]

Historical leadership


  • 1950s–1988 – Paul Vario — in 1984 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and died on May 3, 1988
    • Acting 1970–1988 – Vito "Tuddy" Vario — younger brother to Paul Vario
  • 1988–1991 – Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco — served as Street Boss from May 1990 to January 1991, then became the Acting Boss. He became a government witness on September 21, 1991.[2]
  • 1991–present – Domenico "Danny" Cutaia — released from prison on October 5, 2013[3]

Past members and associates of the crew

These are past members and associates who are retired, deceased or have been murdered.

  • Frank Manzo (member)
  • Vito "Tuddy" Vario (member)
  • Jimmy Burke (associate, died on April 13, 1996)[4]
  • Thomas DeSimone (associate, murdered on January 14, 1979)[4]
  • Henry Hill (associate, became a witness in 1980, died on June 12, 2012)[5]
  • Martin Krugman (associate, disappeared on January 6, 1979)[4]
  • Frank James Burke (associate, murdered on May 18, 1987)[4]
  • Louis Werner (associate, convicted on May 16, 1979)[4]
  • Clyde Brooks (associate, died in 1994)
  • Louis Cafora (associate disappeared in March 1979)[4]
  • Robert McMahon (associate, murdered on May 16, 1979)[4]
  • Angelo Sepe (associate, murdered on July 18, 1984)[4]
  • Joe Manri (associate, murdered on May 16, 1979)[4]
  • Richard Eaton (associate, murdered on July 18, 1979)[4]

Former headquarters and hangouts

The crew operates throughout the New York City metropolitan area; these are some of the former headquarters and hangouts.

Government informants and witnesses

  • Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco – became a witness on September 21, 1991
  • Henry Hillassociate, became a witness in 1980, died on June 12, 2012[5]
  • Richard Bilello – associate, murdered on October 28, 1974
  • Peter Gruenwald – associate, became a witness in 1978,[4] died in 1979
  • Theresa Ferrara – became a government informant and disappeared on February 10, 1979[4]

In popular culture

  • The 1990 film Goodfellas is based on the Vario Crew and the life story of crew associate Henry Hill.



  1. ^ "Robert's Lounge Crew". TruTV. 
  2. ^ "Declaration of Alphonse D'Arco in Mason Tenders RICO Suit. October 5, 1994
  3. ^ Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator: Domenico Cutaia
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Allan May. The Lufthansa Heist Revisited: Cast of Characters. (pg. 20)
  5. ^ a b "Henry Hill, Inspiration For "Goodfellas", Dead At 69". MTV. June 13, 2012. 
  6. ^ Henry Hill and Bryon Schreckengost. A Goodfella's Guide to New York: Your Personal Tour Through the Mob's Notorious Haunts. (pg. 90 and 135)
  7. ^ Nicholas Pileggi. Wiseguy: life in a Mafia family. (pg.104, 145)
  8. ^ Henry Hill and Bryon Schreckengost. A Goodfella's Guide to New York: Your Personal Tour Through the Mob's Notorious Haunts. (pg. 77)
  9. ^ Nicholas Pileggi. Wiseguy: life in a Mafia family. (pg.102-103)
  10. ^ a b c Louis M Postiglione. Did I Win Or Did I Lose?: 77 Years of Wisdom. (pg.68)
  11. ^ Nicholas Pileggi. Wiseguy: life in a Mafia family. (pg.120, 122)


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