Emmy Award-winner Terence Winter will develop a limited series based on the book “Friends of the Family: The Inside Story of the Mafia Cops Case” with independent company Asterlight producing, according to an October announcement.
“The story of Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, the ‘mob cops,’ is an epic tale of greed and corruption that occurred during a dark time in New York’s history,” said Joe Poletto, founder of Asterlight. “I’m glad people will come to learn more about this story and the hero law enforcement, investigators, and prosecutors who ultimately made these cops pay for their heinous crimes.”
According to a statement by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, the killer cops were convicted in 2006 of committing eight murders, racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, and several other crimes. They were sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
“Caracappa and Eppolito disgraced their badges like no one else in NYPD history,” said Winter.
Mob material is familiar territory for Winter, the Marine Park, Brooklyn, native who created HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and wrote some of the most critically acclaimed episodes of “The Sopranos.” This new series, however, will look at organized crime with the added perspective of law enforcement.
Retired NYPD Detective Tommy Dades, who co-wrote “Friends of the Family” with retired Brooklyn prosecutor Mike Vecchione and David Fisher, will contribute first-hand knowledge of the investigation. Dades will be joined by several other members of the original investigative team, including former Chief Investigator for the Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Ponzi, retired NYPD Detective Frank Pergola, and Frank Drew, a former DEA agent. Infamous mob turncoat Sammy “The Bull” Gravano is also involved, according to Asterlight.
“I’ve known Tommy Dades, Joe Ponzi, and Mike Vecchione for several years, and having their input and expertise will be invaluable,” Winter said. “I always strive for authenticity and accuracy in my work, and having them closely involved will ensure I meet that goal.”
For Dades, the investigation, like the new series, was kismet.
“All the pieces to the puzzle, it’s almost like you had to hit the lotto,” he said.
Rumors of Caracappa and Eppolito’s involvement with organized crime had circulated for years before their convictions. In 1984, Eppolito faced accusations of providing police information to the Gambino crime family, to which several of his own family members belonged. He was tried internally by the NYPD and was cleared, according to a New York Times report.
Eppolito wrote about the scandal in his book, “Mafia Cop: The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob.” According to the dust jacket, the book “vividly describes the brutal destruction of one good cop by his own bosses.” Included in the photo spread is an image of Eppolito and Caracappa with the sly caption, “The two Godfathers of the NYPD.”
Their reckoning came in 2003 when the mother of two murdered sons, Betty Hydell, called Tommy Dades and implicated Eppolito in the 1986 disappearance of her son, Jimmy. Hydell remembered Eppolito’s face when he knocked on her door looking for Jimmy the day he disappeared, according to Dades. She saw him again in the early 1990s on an episode of the Sally Jessy Raphael talk show promoting “Mafia Cop.” Hydell’s persistence, Dades said, convinced him to pursue the new lead.
“She’s the real hero of the case,” he said.
Eppolito and Caracappa did find Jimmy Hydell that day – then kidnapped him, stuffed him in the backseat of their car, and handed him over to several Lucchese family gangsters, including underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, in the parking lot of the Flatbush Avenue Toys “R” Us, not far from Winter’s old Marine Park neighborhood. The Lucchese crew stuffed Hydell into the trunk of their car and later killed him.
Though they committed their crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s, Eppolito and Caracappa worked together as NYPD detectives only briefly in the 1970s in the Brooklyn North Robbery Squad, said investigator Joe Ponzi, whose father, Sgt. Emidio “Larry” Ponzi supervised them.
“They were night and day,” Ponzi said of the duo. He described the gaunt, bespectacled Caraccappa as “dark and mysterious” and the rotund Eppolito as an “ostentatious clown.”
Dades and Ponzi confessed they still cannot explain how, when, or why Caracappa and Eppolito began their dark partnership.
After nearly two decades since the investigation began, Dades speaks highly of the local and federal law enforcement who helped put Eppolito and Caracappa away. He has just as high praise for Winter.
“We’re just excited to see the story finally be told the right way. I mean, Terry’s brilliant,” Dades said.
“The guy is just straight, no-Hollywood-bullshit.”