Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
Michael Michael and the Catastrophic Cascade
Is Serbia the new nexus of organized crime?
Guest Post by Nia Molinari
I had been working at the club for less than a week. Weary, I picked my head up from the worn, dirty vanity and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was almost five in the morning. So close. I was exhausted. More than that, I was exhausted and sick. Physically ill. It wasn’t contagious. Unbeknownst to me, I was fighting off a case of toxic shock syndrome, and it was winning. Only a few more minutes, and I could leave. I can’t say in retrospect that I could go home, because at that moment I didn’t have one—I was sleeping in my car. I had hoped to make enough money that night for at least a hotel room, a hot bath, and a meal. Well, it didn’t happen.
One of the regular dancers approached me in the locker room where I was sitting alone staring at the clock. “Jimmy doesn’t think you’re tipping out honestly,” she said bluntly, shuffling away without waiting for a response.
That pissed me off. I may be a lot of things, but being dishonest is not one of them. Emboldened by adrenaline from this insult, I picked myself up and briskly strode out of the locker room, down the corridor, and directly into the club’s office, where Jimmy sat stoically like Tony Soprano behind a massive desk, counting a pile of cash. We locked eyes. I didn’t break. I slammed a five dollar bill, a roll of nickels, and two quarters down on the desk so hard it made a loud CRACK.
“The last time I checked, fifteen percent of fifty dollars is seven dollars and fifty cents, am I right?”
We held hard in a locked gaze. His eyes narrowed as he looked down. When his gaze returned to mine, his eyes were a baffled amalgam of amused twinkle with a hint of exasperation. “Someone gave you a roll of nickels?”
I nodded. He sighed, rolled his eyes, grabbed it, and then resumed organizing and counting the pile of cash stacked in front of him.
After a moment, I asked, “So, we’re good?”
In a softer tone, without looking back up at me, he responded; “Yeah. See you tomorrow.”
He never questioned my word ever again.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
I would love to be able to say that, but it was more like. . .an unspoken understanding? Let’s call it a mutually affectionate rapport, one that lasted a little over ten years.
I liked the boys. They liked me. I kept my distance, but we understood each other. Sometimes men would be hanging out with me at the bar buying me drinks. I would then see them talking to Jimmy, and then see them not so subtly point at me. Jimmy would slowly shake his head “No.” One of Jimmy’s best friends had a thing for me. He tried to date me for years, probably would’ve married me. In all honesty, I adored him, but my weird personal ethos of not dating people I worked with allowed me to keep all of it at arm’s length. Considering the club was eventually raided by the feds, investigated for racketeering, and shut down permanently, this is probably a good thing.
One night I sat down at the bar, bored. Jimmy’s friend, the one who had a thing for me, was working behind the bar. “Hey, kid,” he said affectionately, handing me my standard Bailey’s and coffee [I stayed sober at work then; it didn’t last, but that’s another chapter]. I don’t remember the exact conversation in its entirety now. However, I do remember him changing the subject. “So. I hear you wanna be a writer.” He said. “Yeah.” I responded. He leaned forward onto the bar, and tipped his head in a flirtatious way as he looked me directly in the eyes. “Maybe someday you can write my story.” He smiled. “I just gotta wait for a few people to die first.” Whatever the look was that I had on my face caused him to burst out in laughter. He touched my hand and squeezed it fondly. “You should read The Godfather. It’s a good book.”
So, I did.
I was never a big “earner”—I was a pretty shitty earner to be honest—but they liked me being around. I became a stellar stage dancer, I minded my own business, and I didn’t ask too many questions. I would hear my name bellowed from the office as I passed by. I would stop. “Take this to Joey at the bar.” Jimmy would hand me an obscene stack of cash. I would roll my eyes and then proceed to take it to Joey, and Joey wouldn’t even blink twice at the fact that I was the one handing it to him. Other times, a regular in the bar would peel a $100 bill off a gangster roll and ask me to go talk to some other guy and distract him for some reason without telling me why. Oh, too many stories. So many memories, too many to tell here. Such a strange time in my life, but life is a strange fucking thing in general, is it not? Things that just became, you know, normal. There was never anything overtly criminal in what I witnessed, and I wasn’t going to ask questions. [Oh good Lord, I sound like Lorraine Bracco’s voiceover in Goodfellas…] In hindsight, I sometimes wonder if some of these things were “character tests”, or maybe they just trusted me? Perhaps both? I will never know the full answer.
Oblivious to me at the time, I have another skill that was evidently invaluable, perhaps even more valuable than being “a good earner:” I notice random shit that other people don’t. I can be in a situation of absolute and complete utter chaos, and I’m the one watching the quiet dude in the corner tying his shoe the wrong way. I don’t exactly know how or when they figured that out about me, but they did. Jimmy specifically did. He figured that out about me before I did. Without realizing it, I sort of became his watch crow on the fencepost, a bikini-clad canary in the coalmine, as it were. If I was watching something for longer than a fleeting moment, he would always magically appear somehow right out of thin air standing next to me, and he would watch whatever it was that I was watching. We did a lot of sitting and watching, not a lot of talking. Then again, Jimmy wasn’t exactly what you would call verbose. He was always a man of very few words, literally. You had to learn to speak Jimmy, and I did, for over a decade.
My bikini days are over, but I’m still a coalmine canary. I still notice random shit. And I still speak Jimmy. This is what I have my eye on now. . .
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has now officially snapped. The man has gone full Marvel Universe / The Red Skull / Heil Hydra meets Howard Hughes on crack / batshit drooling insane. The threat of global nuclear war is now real once again in my lifetime because of this pathological plutocratic tumor, this creepy ex-Soviet KGB puny dickdrip with Stalin envy. The whole world is watching, continuously doomscrolling for updates on their devices in real time, wondering what this neo-Hitler’s next psychotic move will be. It’s heartbreaking, maddening, and absolutely terrifying.
As the world focuses on Bucha and Mariupol, a 62-year-old man sits in a jail cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, awaiting sentencing. He was arrested on February 23, 2021, when federal agents rummaging through his Ridgewood, Queens apartment during a court-authorized search found a semi-automatic handgun in his nightstand. He did not deny it was his, and due to his 20-month stint in prison 40 years ago for wire fraud, he’s not allowed to possess a handgun.
He’s an upstanding citizen, minds his own business. His community loves him. Hell, he’s even philanthropic—the largest donor to his local church. Even so, he’s been denied bail, multiple times. He took a plea deal in December on the gun possession charge, and is expected to be sentenced next month. Despite the seemingly mundane offense, he will not be released from prison.
His name is Mileta Miljanić—aka Michael Michael. And he has quite the backstory.
There was this guy named Boško Radonjić, who in the 1970s emigrated to the United States from then Yugoslavia—hence his nickname, “The Yugo.” He really hated Communists, and ended up doing time in prison here for plotting to bomb the Yugoslav consulate in Chicago. (That’s pretty damn ballsy, one has to admit.) Once out of jail, he jaunted back to New York, where in 1982 he cozied up in Hell’s Kitchen with Jimmy Coonan of the Westies, who was already nuzzled up with the Gambino family under Paul Castellano. Shortly after that, our buddy Michael Michael moved to New York and started working for Boško. He was subsequently busted for credit card fraud—which is why he can’t have a gun.
Oh, but wait. There’s more. Michael Michael just happens to be the head of Group America, one of the most dangerous and violent international organized crime organizations in the world right now—one that no one seems to be paying any attention to here in the United States. Why is an outfit based in Serbia called “Group America?” Because it has connections to New York. According to in-depth research done by OCCRP and KRIK, it is also rumored to have deep intelligence agency ties, and may even be directly connected to the CIA.
I stumbled upon Michael Michael’s name about a year ago, while casually perusing Jerry Capeci’s weekly mobster news drop on his Gangland News website. It caught my eye because it seemed to be related to a recent slew of Gambino family indictments.
The first wave of these Gambino indictments were dropped by the EDNY on December 5, 2019, and involved construction rackets. Another wave of indictments, seemingly unrelated, were dropped by the SDNY on October 1, 2020, also involving construction rackets, and including a labor union leader named James Cahill. It is this second indictment by SDNY where our boy Michael Michael is mentioned:
“John [Gotti, former boss of the Gambino Crime Family] was like this [crossing his fingers] with my brother and brother-in-law and this guy, Bosko. That was his crew. That was his Irish crew.” Here, Cahill appears to be referring to his brother Mickey Cahill, his brother-in-law Buddy Leahy, and former head of the Westies Bosko Radonjic. Cahill then continued, in sum and substance, “Well, Bosko’s understudy is Michael Michael. He’s my guy. . . . So now, Mickey’s gone, Buddy’s gone, and he’s, he’s, now Michael is around and Louis is in play now. And Louis was very tight with my brother Mickey who was tight with Michael.” — Filed by Ilan Graff, SDNY; page 5
Michael Michael’s charge is being overseen by EDNY, but the website never mentioned it in their news feed (or if they did, they removed it). It definitely is in EDNY. Mike’s sentencing is scheduled for May 25, 2022. Cahill’s case has been pushed back— as you can see in the filing here, which mentions the defendant must respond by May 26, 2022. Coincidence?
The initial indictment sweep of arrests on February 5, 1985 for what would become known as the Commission Trials involved nine men: four “bosses,” and five other members of various families. Three of these men would not make it to trial.
The Bonanno family is one of the two “Five Families” that Rudy Giuliani did not behead during the Commission Trials in 1986. While Philip Rastelli, the boss of the Bonannos, was among the initial arrests, the family was already decimated from the Donnie Brasco sting, which caused them to be kicked out of the Commission. So Rastelli was removed from this case and subsequently put on trial for separate charges. Meanwhile, the supposedly-retired Joe Bonanno was doing time after pleading the Fifth, refusing to cooperate and talk about the families or the Commission.
The other family that managed to slip out of the Commission trials? The Gambinos.
The boss of the Gambinos, Paul Castellano, was arrested in the initial sweep, as was his underboss Aniello “Neil” Dellacroce. This was the second RICO bust for Paul Castellano; in March of 1984, he was picked up in a slew of arrests regarding the bloody Roy DeMeo crew.
There was also internal strife in the Gambino family at the time, thanks to a tenacious and power-hungry capo by the name of John Gotti. In early December of 1985, Dellacroce passed away from cancer; two weeks later Paul Castellano and newly appointed underboss Thomas Bilotti were brutally slaughtered in the street while entering Spark’s Steak House in Midtown Manhattan. Gotti became the new boss of the Gambino family as a result of these murders, which he orchestrated. At this time, the Gambino family was considered the most powerful mafia crime family in the United States. Because of the hit on Castellano and Bilotti, the Gambinos managed to evade Rudy Giuliani’s Commission Trials. As Selwyn Raab writes in Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires:
Paul Castellano and Neil Dellacroce’s deaths substantially reshaped the prosecution strategy and the topography of the Commission trial. At the time of the indictments, Giuliani and the FBI had branded Big Paul as the nation’s most powerful and important Cosa Nostra figure and had cast him as the star defendant. With Castellano gone, several of the bugged conversations in his Staten Island home had to be excluded as evidence because they were relevant only to him. Although the Castellano tapes would have lent support to the overall charges, the prosecution team doubted that the lost evidence endangered the substance of their case against the remaining bosses. Therefore, the trial would proceed without any direct Gambino family involvement in the case.
Within the Rudy ranks, not everyone was convinced taking down the Commission in this fashion was in the best interest of justice. Walter Mack, a longtime prosecutor who was the assistant in charge of organized crime prosecutions when Giuliani took over, believed that piecemealing all of the ongoing investigations from the various departments and jurisdictions to incorporate them into the Commission RICO case could weaken and possibly even jeopardize the final outcome. Mack is also quoted by Raab as saying: “The Commission case seemed intended more for publicity than for impact on the Mafia.”
Needless to say, Rudy didn’t get along very well with Walter Mack, and Rudy demoted Mack from his job in charge of prosecuting these cases right after the first RICO indictments of Paul Castellano and his crew were filed in March 1984.
John Gotti, however, wasn’t entirely off the hook. Completely unrelated to the other cases, Gotti had a compulsive, violent altercation with a man named Romual Piecyk in September 1984, over Gotti double-parking and blocking Piecyk’s delivery truck. He was swiftly charged with assault and robbery. About six months later, in March of 1985—after the Commission sweep of indictments but before the deaths of Dellacroce and Castellano—Gotti had been picked up yet again with a swath of his “Bergin Crew,” and indicted on entirely separate RICO charges. By the time the first trial came around in March of 1986, however, Piecyk refused to identify his attackers due to threats and intimidation, and the case was thrown out. The Daily News headline that day read: “I FORGOTTI.” The following month, Frank DeCicco, Gotti’s new underboss, was killed in a car explosion that was meant for Gotti. This created a media frenzy that prosecutors felt might taint the jury pool in the RICO trial, so the trial was postponed for four months. Gotti was remanded to jail in May prior to the trial to shut him the hell up.
Gotti’s first RICO trial ran from August 1986 through March of 1987. The Commission trial commenced in September 1986, with Michael Chertoff at the helm as lead prosecutor. The highly dramatic trial lasted ten weeks. In December, all of the defendants were found guilty as charged, and sentenced in January 1987. In Gotti’s trial? On Friday the 13th in March 1987, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty. The Teflon Don was officially born.
How did Gotti do it? As it turns out, a member of the jury named George Pape just so happened to be buddies with a guy named—wait for it—Boško: Boško “The Yugo” Radonjić, our friend from Hell’s Kitchen. Boško reached out to Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Gotti’s underboss, and Gravano scraped up $60,000 to pay off George Pape to throw the trial. Street rumors also had it that Boško and his “friends” were behind the threats and intimidation of Romual Piecyk, who conveniently “Forgotti.”
(None of this was discovered until 1990, when Sammy Gravano famously flipped on John Gotti. Rudy was no longer in charge of SDNY, but he was not yet mayor of New York City. Maybe we could ask James Comey? He was still there. He became Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division U.S. Attorney for SDNY under Rudy Giuliani in 1987, and he was in this position until 1993.)
With this new information and a potential arrest looming, Boško and his henchmen, including acolyte Mileta “Michael Michael” Miljanić, decided it was time to return to Serbia. By then, the Iron Curtain had fallen, and Yugoslavia was in the middle of a civil war.
Boško set himself up nicely, settling down in both the capital city of Belgrade and the resort town of Zlatibor, and establishing comfy money laundering businesses in real estate, strip clubs, and casinos during the Slobodan Milošević era. (During this timeframe, Boško claimed to be working with the CIA.)
On New Year’s Day, 2000, Boško was busted at Miami International Airport for his part in the jury rigging of John Gotti’s long ago trial, and held without bail. Fortuitously for the Serb, Sammy Gravano was arrested not long after this for drug dealing in Scottsdale, Arizona. This resulted in the release of Boško from jail because Gravano was now considered an unreliable witness, and the whole matter was dropped. Boško lived out the rest of his life in Serbia, dying in 2011 of natural causes.
Michael Michael succeeded Boško as head of the organization. In 2014, he suddenly vanished from Italy after being released on parole 13 months early from his seven year prison sentence for drug trafficking. He turned up in New York, and lived there freely until his arrest in February 2021. One wonders if Michael Michael not only took over Boško’s business, but also his connections to our intelligence agencies. One also wonders if we really need a Serbian Drug Lord Whitey Bulger.
Serbia is not a member of the EU or NATO, and has historically been allied with Russia. Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić—aka Slobodan 2.0—had his hopes set on a second Trump term. Tucker Carlson’s buddy Viktor Orbán, the president of Hungary, was hoping for the same. While Carlson was boosting Orbán in 2021, another Trump loyalist, Richard Grenell—the Trump’s ambassador to Germany and the former acting director of National Intelligence—was in Serbia, “cozying up” to Vučić. A month later, Vučić and Orbán bonded.
The decimation of the Italian Mafia families in the New York metropolitan area led to the rise of the Russian Mafia in Brighton Beach, which then led to the rise of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who now holds the reins of the Russian mob once led by Semion Mogilevich—the same Semion Mogilevich who last week reappeared on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, seven years after after his inexplicable removal.
Did Rudy Giuliani know this would happen? Did he help the Russian mobsters on purpose, or was this just an organic Darwinian evolution, like a criminal trophic cascade? What does Michael Chertoff think? The lifelong Republican—the lead prosecutor in The Commission trial, who later became the head of Homeland Security under Dubya—voted for Hillary. I would like to know why.
Both Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia, and Viktor Orbán of Hungary, Putin buddies, were recently reelected to new terms in their respective countries (the word “elected” used very loosely here.) This May, right before Michael Michael’s scheduled sentencing in Brooklyn, CPAC will hold one of its hate conventions in none other than Budapest, Hungary. Orbán is the keynote speaker. (I’m sure Tucker Carlson is drooling with sexual arousal. I wonder if M&M’s in high heels will be involved.)
Is all of this a coincidence? Or are the world’s mobsters, freaked out by the sanctions on Russia, now setting up back channels to launder money through the Balkans? Zlatibor, Boško’s old stomping grounds, does not seem to be on anyone’s radar—could it be the Ozark of Serbia? Why the hell was Tiffany Trump and her fiance vacationing in Belgrade in March 2019? For that matter, why was Rudy Giuliani lobbying in Serbia in 2012?
I’m just a canary in the coalmine who speaks Jimmy, so I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I suspect that the man who does is sitting in a Brooklyn jail cell, awaiting sentencing.
Photo credit: Made from the only available picture of Mileta “Michael Michael” Miljanić, from KRIK.