Mobster held for killing couple who dared rob the Mafia

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There was little surprise at the time that the brazen couple had met so bloody a demise. Indeed, who could have imagined a more ill-advised, foolhardy and mortally rash means of raising extra money? If you crash a Mafia party and take their money you can expect to attract a little heat.

But 13 years later, this crime caper that really could have happened only in New York (or perhaps Las Vegas) has delivered an unexpected sequel. Yesterday, prosecutors in Manhattan were celebrating the arrest of one of two men they say murdered the Uvas.

In custody and awaiting trial on charges of racketeering and murder is a certain Dominick Pizzonia, known in underworld mobster circles as "Skinny Dom". Mr Pizzonia, prosecutors say, was a captain of the Gambino clan at the time of the murders and a close friend of the one-time head of the family, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, who was imprisoned the same year and died in 2002.

Actually, two Mafia families competed with each other to claim credit for killing the Uvas. The Bonannos insisted to whoever would listen (except the police) that the hit had been theirs. The reason is simple: the Uvas had become a source of severe grief and embarrassment to everyone in the New York Cosa Nostra. All the families wanted them punished.

Over several months in 1992, it seems the husband-and-wife team identified at least four places they knew were favoured by Mafia chiefs as discreet spots to eat, sip wine and hatch schemes of murder, coercion and blackmail. The couple, with little care for the consequences, would stroll in with their guns and strip everyone's pockets. They robbed the Mafia in cafés and social clubs in Little Italy, Brooklyn and Queens.

The Cosa Nostra was shattered. As one turncoat mobster admitted at a racketeering trial years later: "It's embarrassing if wise guys get held up."

The filing of charges against Mr Pizzonia could spell new legal trouble for the son of the late Dapper Don. Only last week, 41-year-old John Gotti Jr escaped prison when complex racketeering charges against him collapsed because of a deadlocked jury. Court papers in the Pizzonia case suggest Mr Gotti may have been involved in ordering the Uva killings.

"These are old allegations," Mr Gotti's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, said. "There's absolutely no evidence against John." He suggested prosecutors were trying to get back at his client out of pique because of the defeat they suffered. Mr Pizzonia has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer is highlighting the credit for the slaying that the Bonanno family was trying to claim. Skinny Dom was never a Bonanno captain.

None of these new developments are any help to Mr and Mrs Uva, shot at point-blank range by two men who jumped their car on a street in Queens. Investigators suggest the second man in the killings may have been another Gambino figure called Ronald Trucchio, who had a withered arm; hence his Mafia nickname, Ronnie One Arm.