Target Of Libelous 'Mafia Enforcer' Attack Ads Works Hard, Lives Clean
By Frank Parlato
According to the Niagara Examiner, a one page, front and back newsletter, who's only known edition was devoted to criticizing Niagara Falls Councilman Sam Fruscione, it tells of one dark and sinister tale.
In one of the articles in the newsletter, delivered to Democratic voters the day before the primary, The Niagara Examiner writes:
"If you look through Councilman Fruscione's nominating petitions, you find that dozens of names were collected by a man named Louis Turchiarelli.
"Hopefully that name doesn't sound familiar to you. Mr. Turchiarelli recently completed his prison sentence for extortion, after being convicted of using threats of violence to exact an $18,000 gambling debt from a man in Rochester, NY.
"Councilman Fruscione, known for his love of all things Mafioso, found it wise to send this gentleman door-to-door in Niagara Falls, collecting signatures. That means the homes of our parents, grandparents, and children."
Did Fruscione, who lost the Democratic Primary, really have a Mafia enforcer collecting signatures?
Louis Donald Turchiarelli, age 45, was the top petitioner for Fruscione collecting 150 signatures in two days in late June.
And Turchiarelli was in prison for two years. He was released on July 25, 2008.
Turchiarelli was also a High School All American basketball player, and a professional heavyweight boxer, managed for a time by Steve Lott and Bill Cayton, who managed Mike Tyson, Tommy Morrison, Jeremy Williams, Michael Grant, and Vinny Pazienza.
Turchiarelli had 35 pro fights and tough enough to get in the ring with heavyweight champions, Carl "the Truth" Williams and Michael Grant.
In fact, he was a fight away from Mike Tyson and a million dollar payday. But the set up fight was canceled when the other boxer chickened out.
"They paid me $10,000 to not take a punch." Turchiarelli said, "But I didn't get the chance to fight Tyson."
At 6'2'' and 220 lbs, Turchiarelli started out as a prospect, but poor management choices, and, as Turchiarelli himself admits, a fondness for women and gambling, kept him from realizing his potential.
WBC Heavyweight Champion "Baby Joe" Mesi told the Niagara Falls Reporter that Turchiarelli was a leader in Buffalo's boxing scene.
"'Turch' was one of the hardest hitters who ever fought. I learned a lot from him coming up. He was like a mentor to me, both in the ring and out. He was tough, one of the toughest," Mesi said. "Later he took some fights for money. He came along too fast, just the opposite of what some said of me, that I came along too slow."
The turning point for Turchiarelli came when he broke training camp in the Catskills, under the management of Lott and Cayton.
"At that point my life, my social life was very important to me, chasing
woman was more important," he said. "My boxing career was like a roller coaster. Sometimes I was in shape, sometimes I wasn't. I was training one day, then out whore mongering the next. I wasn't serious about boxing until I was 30."
Although he didn't always train, Turchiarelli would rarely turn down a payday. He stepped into the ring with 6'7'' inch, future WBF and IBC heavyweight champion, Michael Grant, in 1995, in Atlantic City.
The fight didn't go well for Turchiarelli, going toe to toe with a giant with a 86 inch reach.
"I was getting hammered with a lot a bombs," Turchiarelli said. "The referee stopped the fight in the first round, but I wasn't hurt. I would have continued."
He became a journeyman, a part time boxer. He went home to Buffalo and worked at a factory and took fights for the money. Managers would call him on short notice because they knew he would take the fight without time to train. Whatever he earned he gambled it away.
His father Donald remembered those times.
"I would go with Louis and grab his purse money and hold it for him, otherwise he would gamble it away. He would complain. I would tell him, 'look you're going home with $10,000. If I didn't take it, you would go home with nothing.'"
One day Lennox Lewis' manager called him and offered him $2,500 a week to come to Toronto but not to fight. He was being hired to be a sparring partner to help train Lewis in his upcoming fight with Tyson.
"I knew Mike Tyson style of fighting," he said.
But he didn't take the offer. He could make more sparring for contenders then as a fighter.
Turchiarelli fought his first fight in 1989 and his last in 2000.
Former middleweight World Kickboxing Association champion, A.J. Verel said Turchiarelli was tough, one of the hardest punchers in boxing.
"He was a good journeyman fighter. He had some notable fights, very hard hitting. He was definitely an old school badass," Verel said. Though retired from boxing, Turchiarelli still gambled and he embarked upon a curious double life. He made deals with bookmakers that allowed him to gamble: All bookies have customers who don't pay and nobody was as tough as Louie. He would collect for them and they'd split 50-50.
Turchiarelli didn't have to use his muscle very often.
"I would go alone. I would try to make a deal with a guy and most gamblers want to pay so they can gamble again. I would take payments, $100 a week, $50, whatever."
What happened when somebody got tough?
"I'd knock them on the floor, then I'd pick them up off the floor, and ask them nicely again."
While he was collecting for gamblers, he was also Democratic Zone Chairman for the Buffalo West Side district he lived in.
The stories about him on the west side are legend.
Like the time he found two bikers who pushed a man on a wheelchair over on his side in an Elmwood tavern.
Turchiarelli picked him up and then went outside. When the bikers laughed about what they had done as a prank, Turchiarelli, in front of a dozen witnesses, dropped the two men to the ground and then knocked their motorcycles over.
He was a Padrone, a protector of the people. Even his collections were from gamblers, men in debt.
"Look if you're a man of your word, you pay. If you're a screwball, you don't pay," he said of his philosophy of collecting gambling debts.
He also became a landlord, buying several homes on the west side.
Patricia Bradshaw was one of his tenants on California St. She remembered how he took care of his properties and the street.
"He would never allow drug dealers on his street," she said. "I remember this one drug dealer moved in. Louie went up to him. All the neighbors were watching. The guy said, 'Hey man I got to make my money.' Louie said, 'I hate drugs. Look what they do to our children. What kind of a man are you that you would make your money hurting people like that. Not on this street you're not selling any drugs.' 'What you going to do about it, white boy?' Louie pistol whipped him then peed on his face. The guy moved out the next day. Once Louie went away, the neighborhood went down. We had to move away."
The 'going away' Bradshaw referred to was when Turchiarelli's collection business got him arrested. It was October, 2006. He went to collect an $18,000 debt from a Rochester man, who, in turn, tipped off federal agents.
"I came to collect and there's a helicopter above and 13 FBI agents with guns pointed at my head," he said.
They called him 'Louie, the bat,' because agents found a baseball bat in his car. He was charged with "extortion to collect an extension of credit" and sentenced to two years in prison and a $1,500 fine.
"The biggest mistake I made in my life was that I let my mother and father down," he said. "But the best thing that happened to me at the time was that I went to prison. It changed my life. I went to church four times a week.
"I read the Bible, and worked out. I went into prison at 260 lbs and I came out at 212."
Since he got out- that was more than five years ago - Turchiarelli said he has led a clean life.
"I got out and became a productive citizen by working hard. I learned to abide the law and live life by the book, walking a straight path, and working, and taking care of my little daughter. I haven't gambled once since before I went to prison," he said.
His conduct was good and he earned his Certificate of Relief of Disabilities from New York State allowing him to vote this year.
He became a member not only of the Roman Catholic Church which he attends every Saturday, but also the Edison Street Community Church where Reverend Ted Howard preaches. He goes there on Sunday.
"I just love this church. I bring my little daughter there. We have a great time. I am one of the only Caucasians in the church, but they make me feel right at home. In fact, today I was the only white boy there. They hug me. They are beautiful people."
Turchiarelli works hard too, as a union laborer. Dick Palladino, Business Manager of Laborers Local #91, told the Reporter, "Louie is one of our best. He is one of the first to arrive and the last to leave. Employers ask for him. They say 'can we have Louie on this job'."
Attorney Peter Reese knows Turchiarelli and he backed up Palladino's assessment.
"Nobody works harder than Lou," Reese said and then he described how Turchiarelli's presence at an upcoming and potentially contentious event, "his mere presence will ensure a peaceful evening," Reese said.
Finally, the Reporter asked Councilman Fruscione why he would allow a felon to get petitions for him.
"Because it is America," Fruscione said. "That's pretty much the reason I let him participate. He had a legal right. He is allowed to carry petitions."
Turchiarelli said he helped Fruscione, "because he stands up for the people of Niagara Falls."
Of his life, and his goals, Turchiarelli said, "If I could help one kid get out of trouble, from not making the mistakes I did, then I am doing society a good deed. I have accepted God in my life and I live life right by the rule book and walking a nice straight path."
And now, for the record, it was Louis Donald Turchiarelli who was seen coming to the doors of the homes of the people of Niagara Falls and asked them to vote for Sam Fruscione. He came to them, not as an enforcer, but as a man who has seen a little of life, and, I submit, with kindly joy, and a smile, asked to be one of us, one of the people.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
OCT 01, 2013