Dispatches From a Mob Trial
Anatomy of a Mafia mole.
While the once burly, now fat Eppolito remained a precinct detective, the thin, mustachioed Caracappa was assigned to a joint NYPD-FBI task force, where he was privy to much better information. Informants within the mob like John "Otto" Heidel were unmasked and rubbed out. Others, like Anthony Dilapi, who'd evaded Casso's dictates, were found and murdered as well.
It all went fairly smoothly until the feds came looking for Casso and Amuso in 1990. Kaplan got advance word, tipped them off about their impending arrests, and they both ran. Casso was on the lam for two and a half years. In 1993, the FBI found Casso living in New Jersey. That was inevitable. But the shocker came a year later, when Kaplan got a call that Casso had fired his lawyer and "gone bad."
"How did that make you feel?" asked Robert Henoch, the assistant U.S. attorney. "Sick," Kaplan testified. "If anyone in the world was a stand-up guy I thought it would be him." He also testified: "I knew how many bodies that he had," and he felt that the government wouldn't "take a guy like Casso who had so much baggage unless he could give them something spectacular back," meaning the crooked detectives.
Kaplan hid out in Vegas for a few years, but by 1996 he felt safe enough to return to Brooklyn. He was, however, arrested soon after and convicted for marijuana smuggling. Throughout all his arrests and his whole life, Kaplan testified that he had refused many offers to turn. And when in 1998 he was sentenced to 27 years, it was the same deal.
But in 2004, with the investigation of the detectives heating up again, he changed his mind. Kaplan wanted to get out of jail and spend some time with his grandson, since Judge Kaplan had adopted a baby in Russia. But the big reason he finally flipped, he insists, was something else: "I felt that once nine years had passed, plus three that I was on the lam and I seen a lot of things happening in New York with guys rolling," he testified. "I felt that Steve and Louie were going to be indicted [on state charges] and if they were indicted in the state I felt that one or both of them would make a deal and I would be the defendant."
With one card left to play—and most of his old friends dead, missing, or in jail—Kaplan finally took his fate into his own hands and became a witness instead. "It was a very hard decision," he said.
Dan Ackman is a lawyer and journalist based in Jersey City, N.J.
Photograph of Louis Eppolito on Slate's home page by Bryan Smith/ZUMA Press.