Obituary: Geno Chiarelli / Powerful figure in Pittsburgh Mafia

Aug. 5, 1942 - June 14, 2012

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Geno Chiarelli of Cheswick, one of the few remaining members of the once-powerful Pittsburgh La Cosa Nostra, died last Thursday at his son's home.

He was 69 and had been released from federal prison four years ago after serving the longest term of the nine Mafia defendants convicted in the landmark 1990 mob trial here.

His family did not return a message left at the funeral home in Cheswick, where a service was held Friday.

Chiarelli was raised in New Kensington and lived in that area his entire life. At the time of the 1990 trial, he was living on Spruce Street in Cheswick.

He was born in 1942 in Manatoriccio, Italy, but it's not clear when he came to the U.S. and under what circumstances.

He served in the Marines as a military police officer, with the rank of lance corporal, from 1961 to 1965 and was stationed for part of that time in Okinawa, Japan.

Chiarelli later worked as a general contractor. Federal agents called him the "mob carpenter" because he worked on the homes of other mobsters, including boss Mike Genovese and underboss Charles Porter.

In the 1970s, he also was involved in running the Showboat Club, a troubled, mob-related Downtown night spot that was shut down in 1972.

At the time, he was living in the former Hilton Hotel, Downtown, after his new split-level home in New Kensington burned to the ground in what police said was an arson. The home was valued at $35,000 and insured for $70,000.

While carpentry was his trade, Chiarelli's real job was money-maker for the mob, according to federal agents and the former Pennsylvania Crime Commission, who said he specialized in big-ticket heists, arson, extorting drug dealers and distributing Florida cocaine in Pittsburgh on a massive scale in the 1980s.

He was believed to have committed one of the region's most infamous unsolved crimes with his longtime partner and fellow carpenter, Anthony Durish.

Joe Rosa, a mob witness in the 1990 trial, said Mr. Chiarelli had once confided to him that he was behind the 1982 St. Patrick's Day robbery of an armored truck at the Purolator Armored Inc. terminal in Brentwood, when two men disguised as FBI agents stole $2.5 million.

Police and FBI agents still marvel at the professionalism on display in that carefully planned caper, but no one was ever charged. The $2.5 million would be about $6 million in today's dollars, putting it among the largest armored-car heists in U.S. history.

"It's the kind of stuff you read about in novels or see in the movies, created by writers," retired Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Ron Freeman said earlier this year. "This is a crime we rarely ever see."

The same is true for the heist at First Seneca Bank of Greensburg in 1986. Chiarelli, Durish and two other men disconnected the alarm system, cut through the roof of the bank and drilled a hole in the vault.

Once inside, they stole the Westmoreland County district attorney's cash from forfeitures, as well as $2 million worth of antique wheel-lock pistols and an antique sword inlaid with jewels belonging to a Greensburg collector.

The men were caught in Tampa in 1987 when they tried to sell the guns to the owner's insurance company in a deal monitored by the FBI, leading to an 80-mph chase through city streets. Chiarelli escaped but surrendered two days later in Pittsburgh.

He was eventually sentenced to five years in prison, but it was the wide-ranging racketeering case in 1990 that sent him away for nearly two decades, the longest federal term ever served by a Pittsburgh Mafia member.

Testimony revealed that he and others were responsible for shipping large amounts of cocaine from Florida to Pittsburgh under the direction of two lieutenants, Porter and Louis Raucci, who reported to Genovese.

As part of the indictment, Chiarelli also was charged in another notorious crime -- the disappearance of La Cosa Nostra associate Joseph Bertone, a McKeesport restaurant owner last seen in 1985.

According to the Crime Commission, Chiarelli was in business with Bertone, Mr. Rosa and George Jordan, another of the men charged with stealing the antique guns in Greensburg, in buying cocaine from a Cuban supplier, Ramon Sosa.

Bertone was believed to have been killed over a drug dispute and Chiarelli was accused of supplying the murder weapon. Bertone's body has never been found.

Chiarelli was acquitted on that count, but convicted of racketeering and drug trafficking and sentenced to 22 years in prison (he served less because of time off for good behavior).

He ended up in prison nearly twice as long as Porter, who was sentenced to 28 years but released in 2000 after turning informant for the FBI.

Chiarelli is survived by his partner, Carolyn Lloyd; his ex-wife Charlotte; his son Robert; and his sister, Maria Zilinski.


Torsten Ove: or 412-263-1510. First Published June 21, 2012 12:00 AM


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