Anthony Spero was the consigliere and two time acting boss of the Bonanno crime family of New York. He was born in 1929 and became involved with organized crime on the streets of Brooklyn in his early twenties. Early on his closest confidant was Bonanno underboss Carmine Galante who showed Spero the ways of the wiseguy. Spero “belonged” to Galante as a Bonanno street soldier which meant no other mobster could tell Spero what to do. He only took orders from Galante. For Spero, this provided him the fast track to wealth in the 1950’s and 60’s.
A low profile man like Galante, Spero had a hobby of breeding racing pigeons on the roof of an apartment building in Bensonhurst. According to people close to Spero he spent considerable amount of time on the roof tending to his pigeons and holding meetings with other Mafioso out of the prying eyes of the FBI. Although he spent most of his time in Brooklyn, Spero owned a home in Staten Island and was married with two daughters, Jill and Diana.
In 1958 Galante was facing significant jail time for conspiracy and drug related charges that forced him into hiding. Natale Evola took over the Bonanno’s as acting boss while he was away and Spero, being as close to Galante as he was assumed more of a role in day to day activities within the family, however there was no real promotion. On July 10, 1962 Galante was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison.
In 1968 Spero saw a real promotion to Bonanno Consigliere after Bill and Joe Bonanno were forced to retire after a botched attempt to take over the commission. Evola was still acting boss of the family but was in failing health. In 1973 Evola died of cancer and Phillip Rastelli was promoted by the commission to new acting boss with Spero still in the consigliere spot.
In 1974 Galante was released on parole after serving 12 of a 20 year sentence. He immediately took back control of the family from Rastelli who was serving time himself. Galante had close ties to the Sicilian mafia and promoted one of that crew to the consigliere position sending Spero to lead his own crew as caporegime. Spero was not insulted by the demotion as he was not yet ‘straightened out’ or an official member of the mafia, he was technically still a soldier of the family but due to his loyalty to Galante, and the Bonanno’s he was allowed more freedom. It didn’t hurt that Spero was widely known as an intelligent man capable of running the family either.
Spero wouldn’t have to wait long to become official. When the commission opened the books for new members Galante nominated Spero to the commission and they readily accepted. On June 14, 1977, Spero officially became a ‘made man’ of the Bonanno crime family. The ceremony was held in a Queens, New York bar. In attendance was Carmine Galante who gave the oath to Spero and other new inductees, Joseph Massino, Joseph Chilli Jr. and several other men.
July 12, 1979 Carmine Galante, one of his body guards Leonard Coppola, and restaurant owner/cousin Giuseppe Turano, were murdered while having lunch at Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn. With the top spot open, Rastelli took over once again as boss of the Bonanno family and promoted Spero to consigliere in 1984. In 1987 with Rastelli in prison and his protégé Massino also in prison, Spero was promoted for the first time to acting boss of the Bonanno family. As boss of the Bonanno’s and a wise business man Spero was also very ruthless. In 1990 he ordered the murder of Louis Tuzzio, a Gambino associate who had botched a hit for the Bonanno family.
In 1991 Rastelli died of cancer at Booth Memorial Hospital in Queens. Spero was again placed as the acting boss of the Bonanno family until Massino was released from prison. He wasted no time cleaning up. In 1991, he ordered the murder of Vincent Bickelman, a burglar from Brooklyn who had broken into the home of Spero’s daughter Jill. Bickelman made off with jewelry and a fur coat that was later found in his apartment. Bickelman was found on September 15, 1991 with six bullet wounds to his body. He was allegedly murdered by Gambino associate Paul Gulino, a young mobster who ran the Bath Street Crew. Two years later Gulino broke a cardinal rule of the American Mafia; never touch a Caporegime. A couple weeks later Gulino’s parents found him shot to death in their kitchen. The hit was ordered by Anthony Spero, who was now going by the nickname “Old Man”.
On January 24, 1994, Spero was indicted on federal racketeering charges of extortion and murder. The indictment stated that Spero controlled a business that used extortion to place “Joker Poker” gambling machines in bars, social clubs, and other establishments around the city. Among the gambling charges Spero was also charged with the 1991 murder of Marc Goldberg, a rival in the illegal gambling business. In April 1995, Spero was acquitted of the Goldberg murder, but convicted of extortion. He was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1997, Spero was released from prison.
On May 30, 1999, Spero was indicted on federal racketeering charges that included loansharking and the Tuzzio, Bickelman and Gulino murders from the 1990s. He plead not guilty on all counts and was released on bail until trial. On April 5, 2001 Spero was convicted of the three murders and other racketeering charges. One year later he was sentenced to life in prison. By this time Spero was 73 years old and in poor health. His attorney requested Spero be remanded to a minimum security prison to serve out his time but the request was denied. He spent the next 6 years at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina where he died on September 29, 2008 at the age of 79.