NEW YORK -- Federal agents were building a case against a reputed high-ranking mobster before he was slain gangland style and sources said Tuesday the union leader may have been killed by associates who feared he would inform on them.
Vincent 'Jimmy' Rotondo, a reputed capo in the DeCavalcante crime family of New Jersey, was killed Monday in a hail of bullets that tore into his head and neck as he sat in his late-model Lincoln parked in the street in front his home in the affluent Bergen Beach section of Brooklyn.
Rotondo, 58, an organizer for the International Longshoreman's Association for 24 years, was found slumped over the wheel, shot six times by at least one gunman, police said.
'He was under investigation,' said a federal law enforcement source familiar with Rotondo. 'The fact that he was vulnerable and everybody knew it could have been enough' to frighten his associates into killing him.
'It could be that somebody was playing it safe, or maybe it was another beef,' said the source, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
Another federal law enforcement official familiar with Rotondo confirmed that federal agents had been building a case against the dead man, but was unsure why he was killed.
'Rotondo happens to be a figure who moves with different families,' the source said. 'He always had deals with the Bonnanos and had associations with the Colombo family, so he had a lot of things going. There could be a variety of reasons why he was killed.'
When Rotondo was found, he had a bag of squid on his lap, leading to speculation it was left there by his killers. Fish is a traditional sign that an individual has crossed the mob and is destined to 'sleep with the fish.'
But police said the victim purchased the squid himself.
Police refused to speculate on whether the killing was mob-related, but the shooting closely resembled a rash of other recent slayings in nearby Bensonhurst linked by authorities to organized crime.
The DeCavalcante crime family, one of seven familes that are active in New Jersey, is based in the New Jersey communities of Elizabeth and Linden and is headed by John Riggi, the sources said.
Rotundo was acquitted in 1985 on federal conspiracy charges involving a loan-sharking operation called the Cooper Fund based in Lake Success, N.Y., said Edward McDonald, head of the federal Organized Crime Task Force in Brooklyn.
Prosecutors also implicated Rotundo in the 1986 labor racketeering case of reputed Bonanno crime family boss Phillip 'Rusty' Rastelli, McDonald said.
'Rotundo was not a defendant but because of a number of agreements between the family, part of the corrupt take was shared with Rotundo,' McDonald said.
In another trial in January 1986, evidence 'revealed that Rotundo had attended a meeting involving the leadership of the Colombo and De Cavalcante families,' McDonald said.
A 1983 Senate Judiciary Committee report described Rotondo as a capo who 'oversees the family's New York operations and reports directly to John Riggi, underboss of the family.'
'... Rotondo is in an excellent position to pursue labor racketeering activities on behalf of the DeCavalcante family,' the report said. 'Rotondo is also involved in the distribution of pornographic materials.'
More than a dozen men have been slain in gangland-style killings in Brooklyn in 1987. Rotundo's slaying marked the first report of mob violence since the start of the new year.
FBI Director William Sessions said Tuesday that killings like Rotundo's were a means of mob internal discipline and difficult for the agency to stop.
Asked on the NBC 'Today' program about Rotondo's slaying, Sessions said, 'I would think that where they (the mob) are dealing with discipline internally, that would be a very difficult thing to stop.'