|Barbara receiving earrings a.k.a. Hush Gifts|
Joe goes from selling cigarettes to gambling and dives into the mob. His gambling changes his family’s destiny. Joe is addicted to gambling. When he rolls the dice, the neighborhood joins in. Barbara says she would wait outside clubs until 4 or 5 in the morning for Joe to come out. He told her when he was gambling he couldn’t think of anything else.
Joe decides to open a gambling parlor and becomes a protected associate of the Gambinos. He prospers. But, everything changes one night in 1982. He gets a call in the middle of the night. A high stakesplayer is about to break the bank. It’s an emergency. They lost one million dollars. Joe now owes the mob big money and they make him an offer he can’t refuse, a deal with the devil. Joe is desperate and agrees to take a huge risk. He goes into the drug business to pay off his debt to the mob.
Joe is still a compulsive gambler. Although he is not a made guy, he distributes heroine and becomes a huge earner for the mob. He pays off his debt in a year, but likes the income. For every load of heroine moved he gets hundreds of thousands of dollars. He decides to keep working for the mob and the family is living it up on all the money coming in. When Barbara tells him she is afraid, he would throw 5 to 10 thousand dollars at her, and tell her to go shopping.
Joe outgrows the gambling in Little Italy and moves on to Atlantic City. He gambles so much in AC and the more drugs he sells the more he gambles. One day Barbara wants to have a party in their hotel room and talks to the casino owner. He tells her he will take care of it. He arranges for them to have a huge room and they have 150 guests. That’s when Barbara realized how important Joe is to the casino.
Barbara worries that Joe’s luck will run out. The casino tells her not to let him gamble this much and to hide the money. She decided to spend it on decorating her house. Meanwhile, under her nose, her daughter, Toni, starts using cocaine and she is selling it to support her habit. Toni claims she never knew where Joe’s money was coming from, but Joe kept all the drugs and money in his house locked in a trunk. He put the whole family at risk. He didn’t know you weren’t supposed to keep the drugs and money together and never in your own house. He never learned the basics of drug trafficking 101.
Barbara’s long time feeling of impending doom finally comes to a head. Joe had worked for the mob for 17 years. Her 24 year old daughter is selling cocaine. Barbara tells Joe she doesn’t want the drugs in their house any more. Joe was about to relocate them to another place, but it’s too late. The DEA has been targeting Toni for selling cocaine.
Sixteen agents from the DEA break into their home, knocking doors down, looking for Toni. They put guns to the heads of Barbara and Toni in their own house. Joe is not home at the time. The Feds were there for Toni, but as the search the home they find Joe’s stash. Fourteen pounds of heroine and 3 to 4 million in cash. The FBI agents are screaming and whooping it up. They struck gold! Barbara and Toni are handcuffed and taken away. They are arrested and put in a cell together. It gets worse. Joe is arrested, the whole family is arrested. The Feds really wanted Joe’s connections in the mob and wanted to make a deal using Barbara and Toni. Joe protects his mob connections so the Feds throw the book at Barbara and Toni.
Toni is convicted of dealing drugs and gets 8 years prison. Barbara is convicted of several crimes including distribution of narcotics, acting as an accomplice to her husband, and conspiracy for keeping drugs and money in the house. She gets 34 years…more time than Joe!
Toni says Joe aged overnight. His wife and daughter were in jail. However, Barbara and Toni were both sent to the same prison in West Virginia, which made the time more tolerable. They were two cells away from each other and Barbara says she could hear Toni breathing at night and that was a comfort to her.
In 1989 Toni is released from prison after serving 5 ½ years. She is happy to get out, but afraid to leave her mother behind. She goes to visit her father in prison and sees the worry on his face. In 1992 Joe dies from a heart attack in prison at the age of 57, after serving 8 years. Barbara never saw him, she was released one month after his death. All in all the family served 20 years collectively for their crimes.
All good things come to an end. It makes me wonder what their lives would have been like had they taken care of Joe’s gambling problem and lived a modest lifestyle instead of getting involved with the mob.