By GRAHAM RAYMAN
December 13, 2000
When reputed Lucchese crime family member Joseph Tangorra and associate Lester Ellis showed up outside Henry Motta's apartment in 1992, allegedly to punish him for not repaying a loansharking debt, they had the hit all planned out.
But they made one tactical error, according to an account supplied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by a confidential informant. Tangorra stationed himself on one side of Motta, and Ellis, on the other, the informant related to investigators. When they opened fire, Ellis ended up shooting Tangorra by mistake, said the informant.
The tale of Motta's 1992 shooting, which left him confined to a wheelchair, emerged during a two-day bail hearing last week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. Tangorra, Ellis and five other reputed Lucchese members and associates are charged in a drug-trafficking, racketeering, extortion and murder indictment. They have pleaded not guilty.
Tangorra, known as "Joey Flowers" because he ran a flower shop, is also facing a second federal indictment in Brooklyn for loan sharking and has also been charged with labor racketeering in Manhattan.
Motta initially told police who shot him, but a few days later, he received a visit in the hospital from a shadowy figure named "Beansie" and recanted, forcing police to drop the charges against Tangorra and Ellis, according to FBI Special Agent Kevin Hallinan's testimony at the hearing.
Years later, Motta told investigators that "Beansie" had told him that if he didn't drop the case he and his family would be killed, Hallinan testified.
Lawyers for Tangorra had asked Gold to release the 51-year-old man because his poor health requires daily medical care. One of Tangorra's three lawyers, VINCENT ROMANO, told Gold last week that the damaging disclosures came from tainted informants who themselves had committed crimes in the past. And he argued that judges in the two other indictments had allowed Tangorra to be released on bail.
In the end, Gold denied the request, basing his ruling in part on assertions by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gurin that Tangorra had been involved in several attempts to intimidate witnesses.