ANOTHER CLIFFVIEW PILOT SCOOP: A former Passaic cop turned mob enforcer — who once boasted of opening a victim’s head “like a cantaloupe” – threatened a man who owed another $30,000, saying he’ll “take the money and still hurt ya,” according to FBI agents who arrested him this morning.
“You say you know I’m gonna get paid. I don’t believe nothing,” 68-year-old Stefano Mazzola is heard saying on a secretly recorded conversation.
“I know what I’m gonna do, ’cause it doesn’t matter to me,” Mazzola says on the recording, transcribed in an FBI complaint on file in federal court in Newark. “It don’t matter whether it’s now or ten years from now….
You just don’t know me. I don’t give a f**k if an agent is listening…. If I want to do something to ya, I don’t give a f**k if you give me a million dollars. If I’m looking to hurt ya, I’ll take the money and still hurt ya.”
An afternoon court appearance was scheduled for Mazzola, who faces a charge of attempting to collect a debt by extortion.
A former bodybuilder, Mazzola has spent nearly two decades of his life in state and federal prisons.
One stretch followed the 1998 stabbing and beating of a debtor in a store owned by a onetime Passaic police union president.
In the case, a federal judge told Mazzola that he presented a “paradox”: On the one hand, the Genovese crime family associate had served time for armed robbery and extortion. But he’d also been U.S. Navy officer and policeman.
Secret FBI recordings caught Mazzola taunting the debtor, while an associate threatened to beat him with a baseball bat and remove one of his eyes, for missing payments on an $80,000 loan.
Mazzola, of Rockaway, later admitted stabbing the man after telling him: “Don’t wear anything good — it’s gonna get messed up…. I’m gonna look for you, and I’ll kill you. And if I can’t find you, then I’ll go after your family until I find you.”
Mazzola also was convicted of skimming money from managed-care programs, in one of the first instances in the U.S. of mob infiltration into the health-care industry.
In today’s case, the FBI says another man loaned the victim $30,000 last year and then “transferred” the collection to Mazzola.
And although the victim was making payments, Mazzola began threatening him a few months ago, the complaint says.
The FBI was listening in as they spoke over the phone on Jan. 17.
Mazzola told the victim another man “gave me that debt. I’ve paid out 20-something-thousand, if not more, for him.”
Later in the conversation, the complaint says, Mazzola threatened the victim:
“Let me explain something to ya, and I really mean this, and I don’t care who is listening to my phone or not, if I want to do something to ya, I don’t give a f**k if you give me a million dollars. If I’m looking to hurt ya, I’ll take the money and still hurt ya. It has nothing to do with it.”
Another call followed on Jan. 23, with Mazzola again threatening the man debtor on the recording.
Mazzola was a Passaic police officer for six years before retiring on disability in 1976. He’s done time for several convictions, including armed robbery in the 1980s and loansharking in the 1990s.
He also became the mob’s in with the health care industry while chief executive officer of a Hasbrouck Heights company called Tri-Con Associates.
Tri-Con, which supervised the operation of HMOs with more than a million customers in five states, inflated fees in order to provide kickbacks to Mazzola and associates who had a direct line to notorious crime boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante, the late head of the Genoveses.
Those who knew him then said an event in 1976 changed Mazzola’s life.
He was chasing a house burglar into Clifton, Mazzola said, when the man turned and pointed a gun at him.
“Stevie fired first — dropped him right there,” a law enforcement colleague told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
The lone witness was his former partner, who had retired by then and was operating a funeral home.
He said he heard the shot, looked out the window and saw the suspect on the ground. In his hand, the witness said, “I think it was a gun. I’m not sure.”
Mazzola later applied for a psychiatric disability and city officials ordered an examination. During the visit, he busted up the doctor’s office.
He later took a job managing the Coo-Coo’s Nest tavern in Passaic, where sources said Mazzola devised arson-for-profit and robbery schemes with Louis “Streaky” Gatto, the Bergen County boss of the Genovese clan, and Gatto’s son-in-law — and second-in-command — Allan “Little Al” Grecco.
Before long, Mazzola was Grecco’s driver, bodyguard, and enforcer.
He was also suspected in two unsolved Passaic murders.
Mazzola was convicted of orchestrating a $12,000 supermarket stickup after a fellow officer testified that he used a radio smuggled out of police headquarters to lead the crime from a car parked nearby.
He tried to pull a Gigante move by sitting hunched over in the courtroom and not responding when anyone talked to him. A psychiatrist and two Bergen County judges deemed him fit to stand trial, however.
Mazzola was out after serving three years, then headed straight back to prison for extortion and loansharking.
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