Anthony J. Arillotta stands outside the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel social club in Springfield's South End. The mobster who turned government informant is back in town as a media figure – in stark contrast to the mob's tradition of informants going into perpetual hiding for their safety. (Dave Roback Photo)
Once upon a time, a mobster’s oath of silence was unbreakable. It certainly wasn’t good — in fact, it perpetuated horrible crimes — but it was reliable.
Enter Anthony J. Arillotta, a member of the new breed. Facing a mandatory life sentence on a murder charge, Arillotta turned government witness in 2010, exposing many details of the sinister, tangled web of gangland violence.
He’s a Springfield version of Joseph Valachi, who in 1963 broke the Cosa Nostra’s oath of silence, and brought the full scope of organized crime’s reach into view for an astonished and fascinated public.
After eight years in the federal Witness Security Program while in prison, Arillotta returned to Springfield in 2017 and is now carving out a new life as a celebrity.
Arillotta did help the authorities, and there is value to that. But let’s not forget that his participation was not to make for a better, safer society, but to save his own neck.
He’s among former mobsters on social media platforms, featured in a new podcast and on his own YouTube videos. His brash, public persona speaks to how organized crime has changed, and how some informants not only won’t take silence to their graves, they are creating a cottage industry out of their careers as brutal criminals.
Arillotta’s reality-show demeanor seems absent of any contrition or remorse. In the murder of his brother-in-law, which Arillotta and Emilio Fusco finished by beating him with shovels. That was after the victim had been shot in the head by Fotios Geas. Arillotta explains that he draws the line on burying someone alive.
“That’s just not right,” he said, offering a peek at a killer’s moral code.
Arillotta is right that this region’s place in gangster lore has been underestimated. He’s carving his own niche in that seamy tradition.
Every form of human misbehavior seems to have a market these days. Arillotta intends to get his cut. Maybe it’s a byproduct of movies and TV shows, from “Bonnie and Clyde” to “The Sopranos,” that created folk heroes out of brutal criminals, fictitious or real.
Today’s popular culture harvests entertainment out of the most heinous activities. That makes someone like Arillotta a celebrity, in a twisted sense. Let’s not make the mistake of attaching any honor to his fame.
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