It was a fluke that brought two ex-East Coast mobsters together on Spokane’s South Hill a couple years ago, but it didn’t take Nicholas P. Mitola Jr. and Al Anglisano long to figure out they had a lot in common.
They knew a lot of the same “crew” members from the Lucchese, Bonanno and Colombo organized crime families. They both had heavy New York accents, a penchant for profanity and a profound frustration with the quality of Spokane’s Italian restaurants.
But the greatest common denominator between the two aging criminals was the ticket that brought them to Spokane: the highly secret federal Witness Protection Program. Despite the aim of the program to keep participants apart, Mitola and Anglisano not only met in Spokane, they became friends and gambling buddies.
It was a good match until it all went wrong.
Starting over in Spokane
Mitola’s name was changed to Mike Milano when he was moved to Spokane in 1987 as secret witness No. 4986. He later went back to using his birth name.
Anglisano, secret witness No. 5663, was relocated to Spokane in 1990 and given the name Perry Adrienne, a name he still uses.
In April 2004, Anglisano stopped by a friend’s north Spokane appraisal office.
“I see this name ‘Nick Mitola’ on a slip of paper, and see that he wants an appraisal for a remodeling job, so I call him up,” said Anglisano, who had dabbled in real estate when he moved to Spokane.
The two men agreed to meet on the street outside a home on East North Altamont, on the city’s South Hill. Anglisano knew Mitola had been in the Witness Protection Program from reading newspaper accounts about his bookmaking ring and manslaughter conviction.
“I told him I was in the federal witness program too, and we kind of hit it off right away,” Anglisano said, adding his favorite line: “You know what I mean?”
They exchanged phone numbers and got together several times over the next few months, once for pizza, another time at Manito Park. They compared notes and soon discovered their mutual love of gambling.
“We started gambling together, very slowly,” said Anglisano, who played blackjack and “let-it-ride” card games. Mitola was a fan of Texas hold ‘em.
As the two became close friends, Anglisano would drive Mitola to his remodeling jobs for a restoration company. But most of their time was spent playing cards.
Mitola wasn’t even supposed to be inside a casino because he was on federal parole after being convicted in 2002 of running an illegal bookmaking operation.
“But that didn’t stop him,” Anglisano said. “We’d go to the casinos at 6 or 7 in the evening and stay there until 6 or 7 in the morning.”
One more deal
Mitola was itching to start another bookmaking operation, and wanted his new friend as a partner. All he needed, Mitola explained, was $25,000 to buy the necessary computers and phone equipment, and rent a house in an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac in north Spokane.
Mitola had also started stealing and cashing checks from his employer.
“When I finally realized the checks were stolen, I felt I could become involved in a conspiracy,” Anglisano said. “I also didn’t like that he was trying to take over my life and had moved into my apartment temporarily without even asking.”
“From what I saw, Mitola was a one-person crime wave,” Anglisano said, explaining why he eventually went to authorities. “He was going to pollute Spokane with crime, and that was his intention. That’s why I turned him in. If I hadn’t done that, you might be writing about two former federal witnesses going to prison.”
Besides stealing and forging checks, Mitola talked about insurance fraud and prostituting a 16-year-old girl. He also was involved in possible food stamp fraud, Anglisano said.
“He had a number of homeless men he’d hook up with and have them use their food stamps to buy him the best steaks and meat, whatever he wanted,” according to Anglisano. “They’d buy Mitola say $420 worth of steak, prime cuts of meat, and he’d give them $200 cash for beer money and cigarettes. That’s all they wanted.”
Mitola would then use the steaks to host barbecues for a half-dozen friends who also were involved in illegal gambling. “He wanted everybody to think he was a big shot,” Anglisano said
Mitola was so intent on getting the $25,000 to start another bookmaking operation by the start of football season that “I figured the final solution for him probably was going to get somebody else killed,” Anglisano said.
“With the illegal gambling and stuff, there’s extortion, burglaries, drugs, prostitution, alcohol, there’s all kinds of problems that would come about,” Anglisano said, recalling his days as a mob associate named “The Penguin” in New York.
So in July of 2004, Anglisano decided to do the same thing he’d done in early 1989: He called the FBI.
“After seeing the stuff Mitola was doing, he wasn’t the kind of guy I wanted to be associated with, and I decided to go talk to the FBI. But I am still sad about it, in a way, to see such a smart person, really, ruin his life with crime.”
Initially, agents weren’t interested, so Anglisano called the U.S. Probation Office. A parole officer had been tracking reports that Mitola was deeply involved in criminal activity in Spokane. Soon, Anglisano was talking again to the FBI.
“In my whole life, I never filled out an application to go to work for an honest company, so when the opportunity came for me to work for the FBI, I felt as though I might finally be doing the right thing,” Anglisano said. “I wasn’t sure, though.”
Back wearing a familiar FBI tape recorder, Anglisano continued spending time with Mitola, mostly gambling. When Mitola again raised the prospect of opening a bookmaking operation together, Anglisano talked the tough-guy talk he’d learned on the streets of the Bronx.
“I told him I could get the 25 grand by doing a hit on somebody in Cleveland,” Anglisano said during testimony in Mitola’s U.S. District Court trial. “I told him I need an untraceable gun.”
Because Anglisano wasn’t a convicted felon, he could possess a firearm, but Mitola couldn’t. Mitola said he could find a handgun “as clean as a baby’s ass” if Anglisano could come up with $500.
Anglisano got the money from the FBI agent who was recording their conversations.
On July 23, 2004, Anglisano followed Mitola’s directions and parked down the street from a house on North Bowdish in Spokane Valley.
Mitola got out of the car and went into the house.
“A little bit later, he waddled back across the street and got back in the car,” Anglisano said. “He had the gun wrapped in a towel, shoved down his pants. I told him to put the gun under a case of Snapple I had in the back seat.”
Mitola’s version of events was essentially the same when he testified in his own defense.
The two drove back to Anglisano’s South Hill apartment. When Mitola fell asleep on the couch, Anglisano called the FBI and arranged a meeting with an agent at a Starbucks. He told the agent to look for the .38-caliber handgun under the case of Snapple.
Anglisano then disappeared for a week, leaving Mitola to believe he’d gone to Cleveland for the hit they’d talked about. But he really was in a Tri-Cities hotel, courtesy of his employer, the FBI.
‘If I don’t come out’
Anglisano and Mitola didn’t talk again until Sept. 17.
On that day, Mitola was summoned to the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Spokane by his federal probation officer. On the way, he phoned his friend, whom he called Perry.
“So I called Perry up,” Mitola later testified. “I said, ‘Look, my probation officer wants to see me. I says, ‘I got a funny feeling I ain’t going to walk out of there.’ “
Anglisano agreed to meet Mitola at a coffee shop near the courthouse on West Riverside. He wanted to give Anglisano his cell phone and the keys to a 2003 Chevy Blazer he’d just bought.
“I talked to Perry and I said, ‘Perry, if I don’t come out, you are going to put me away for 15 years for being a felon in possession, because the only thing I did, I got you a gun,’ ” Mitola said.
His instincts were right.
As soon as Mitola walked through the courthouse metal detector, he was arrested by an FBI agent and two deputy U.S. marshals.
Mitola, who’d been read his rights before, quickly agreed to talk and pitched a deal. He claimed he was working with a state gambling investigator and could help the FBI, too. “Just give me a cigarette,” he pleaded.
“What do you want from me?” Mitola asked the FBI agent. “What do you want me to do? How do I get out of this?”
Hoping to cut yet another “get-out-of-jail-deal” in exchange for insider information about crime in Spokane, he boasted: “I’m going to bury this town – the dope dealers and gamblers.”
This time, though, the FBI wasn’t dealing.
The showdown came last November.
Al “The Penguin” Anglisano, aka Perry Adrienne, who learned to be a baker courtesy of the federal government, and Nicholas “Nick” Mitola, who could never quite give up the thrill of gambling, came face to face in U.S. District Court in downtown Spokane.
Mitola was convicted by a jury of illegally possessing a firearm. He is expected to be sentenced this morning at 8:30.
He’ll probably have something to say.
Anglisano, who has never been convicted of a crime, spent last week delivering Valentine’s Day flowers in Spokane.
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