Sun. Apr 2nd, 2023

In the new book "When the Bullet Hits the Bone," Colombo gangster Anthony Raimondi claims he was present in 1978 when fellow conspirators killed Pope John Paul I with cyanide because the pontiff threatened to expose a stock fraud by Vatican bank insiders.

Colombo gangster Anthony Raimondi (left) claims he was present in 1978 when fellow conspirators killed Pope John Paul I (above) with cyanide — because the pontiff threatened to expose a stock fraud by Vatican bank insiders — in the new book “When the Bullet Hits the Bone.”
Colombo gangster Anthony Raimondi

Longtime Colombo gangster Anthony Raimondi has made the startling allegation that he was part of the team that murdered Pope John Paul I in Italy in 1978. The latest book by Raimondi, "When the Bullet Hits the Bone," published by Page Publishing, says that they poisoned him with cyanide only 33 days after the pope took power.

Raimondi, the nephew of infamous godfather Lucky Luciano, alleges that his cardinal relative Paul Marcinkus, who oversaw the Vatican bank, recruited him to commit the murder when he was 28 years old. Raimondi was hired to watch as Marcinkus knocked the unconscious Pope John Paul II out by poisoning his evening cup of tea with Valium.

"I stood in the hallway outside the pope’s quarters when the tea was served," he writes, adding that the drug did its job so well that their victim wouldn’t have stirred "even if there had been an earthquake," he recollects. "I’d done a lot of things in my time, but I didn’t want to be there in the room when they killed the pope." "I knew that would buy me a one-way ticket to hell."

His relative, he alleges, prepared a dosage of cyanide as he watched from the outside. "He measured it in the dropper, put the dropper in the pope’s mouth and squeezed," Raimondi writes. After completing his task, he exited the room and locked the door.

After the snoozing pontiff was force-fed the poison, a papal assistant checked on him and then cried out that "the pope was dying"—after which Marcinkus and two other cardinals in on the plot "rushed into the bedroom like it was a big surprise," Raimondi writes. According to his account, a Vatican physician was called in and determined that John Paul I had died of a heart attack.

Raimondi claims that they poisoned the pope with a combination of Valium and a lethal toxin in order to ensure his quick and painless death and gain favour in the afterlife. Marcinkus and his accomplices, including his cousins Pietro Palazzini and Antonio Ribeiro, required Raimondi to testify before God that John Paul I didn't suffer, he alleges. Raimondi, now 69, told The Post, "They said when we die, I would be their witness."

Pope John Paul I ( Getty Images)

In the book, it is said that the Pope was killed because he was going to tell the truth about a huge stock scam that Vatican officials were running.

A forgery specialist working for the Vatican forged the church's investments in large U.S. corporations, including IBM, Sunoco, and Coca-Cola, netting the con artists a cool billion. The suspects then reportedly sold the counterfeit stock certificates to gullible investors.

Marcinkus and "half the cardinals and bishops in the Vatican," according to Raimondi's statement to The Post, were among those John Paul I had pledged to defrock. "They would have been thrown out and subject to the laws of the US and Italy," he said. "They would have gone to jail."

He could have had a lengthy reign if John Paul I had only "kept his mouth shut," as Raimondi puts it.

John Paul II, who seemed ready to take action against the fraudsters as well, was targeted shortly after his death, Raimondi adds. So the mobster with all the connections was called back to the Vatican and warned to be ready for another killing.

"This guy’s gotta go, too," they said. "No way," I said. "What are you going to do? Just keep killing popes?’ "

John Paul II, according to Raimondi's account in The Post, ultimately opted against taking any action since he knew he, too, would die. John Paul II would go on to become the second-longest-serving pope in modern history, dying in 2005 at the age of 84.

According to Raimondi, unscrupulous cardinals and gangster types in Vatican City celebrated his about-face with a round of drinks.

"We stayed and partied for a week with cardinals wearing civilian clothes, and lots of girls," he writes. "If I had to live the rest of my life in Vatican City, it would have been OK with me. It was some setup. My cousins all drove Cadillacs. "I am in the wrong business," I thought. "I should have become a cardinal."

To those who would discredit him or point out the similarities between his account and "The Godfather, Part III," Raimondi just shrugs and continues to assert his version of events. "It was a terrible movie. To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember it. What I said in the book I stand by till the day I die. If they take [the pope’s body] and do any type of testing, they will still find traces of the poison in his system."

Mob Boss Lucky Luciano (Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to the Lufthansa theft, which is one of the most famous robberies in mafia history, Raimondi's book is full of other shocking facts.

James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke (Robert De Niro) and Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), the brains behind the heists in "Goodfellas" and "Wiseguy," respectively, are portrayed as the masterminds in this version; in the film adaptation and the novel from which it was adapted, this is not the case.

To hear Raimondi tell it, Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky, leader of the Kosher Nostra and a mentor of Raimondi's, was the true genius behind Lufthansa. His first introduction to the scheme occurred on a visit to his Florida apartment, he says.

Another of Raimondi's relatives knew mobster Burke, who had information about a large sum of money arriving at JFK Airport.

Raimondi writes that Lansky was encouraged to travel to New York to oversee the smash-and-grab operation because the Lucchese family was unable to "figure out how to put this deal together" once the news spread.

"Everything was so well planned," he notes. Meyer had set the time for everything to happen. "He had it mapped out so everybody had a precise job they had to do."

According to Raimondi's book, the group really made off with $45 million, which included $35 million in bearer bonds that Lansky thought had been stolen before being transferred to New York.

Once Raimondi hid the bonds in his father's home, Meyer fenced them for "85 cents on the dollar," he recounts, and the proceeds were split among the five organised crime families at a social club on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn.

According to Raimondi's account, "we were there for hours, counting the money, and giving everybody their end." "The bosses came down from all the families personally... "They were getting millions."

The group urged everyone to maintain a modest profile and refrain from any flashy purchases. Yet a few didn't, and they were all but erased, as detailed by Raimondi in his book.

A former senior prosecutor in the Brooklyn DA's office who pursued Colombo mobsters and who has published three books on the subject, Michael Vecchione, is sceptical. He remarked, "I do remember the name Raimondi coming up, but I never heard anything about Meyer Lansky being involved in the Lufthansa heist." "But there’s no way to verify what this guy is saying."

The author says he was able to stay out of jail for so long because he and his gang made millions off of loansharking and clubs and gave it to Mayor Ed Koch, with Koch staffer Bess Myerson serving as the bag woman.

"We had illegal casinos and shylock money, and Koch got a piece of everything, and we never had a problem with the law," he writes. "I’d take the package for Bess and bring it to [a friend’s] house, where she would come and collect it. "I'd put it in a regular canvas bag, and she would just put it in her briefcase."

Raimondi, a big, passionate Colombo member known as "Pluto," had a lot of interactions with well-known mobsters like Carmine Galante, Allie Boy Persico, and Joe Colombo. This makes his life interesting.

He says he was able to avoid a life sentence in federal prison for a murder he committed as a kid in Brooklyn because the Army recruited him to become a sniper during the Vietnam War.

Pope John Paul II at Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 1995. David Ake/AFP/Getty Images

Supposedly, Raimondi's task was to get behind enemy lines in Cambodia and kill North Vietnamese soldiers.

He allegedly returned to the US with a clean record and threw himself into mob business, benefitting from the help of Lansky, who, Raimondi writes, "taught me so many different ways of shaking down a guy." He also taught me so many ways to kill a guy, because Meyer was deadly. Don’t let nobody fool you: Meyer killed a lot of men in his time."

Raimondi, who is now fighting cancer and living in Brooklyn, said he decided to quit the life and tell his story because "I don’t need this s— any more."

"All the old guys either went to prison or died or went into witness protection," he told The Post.

"The new guys didn’t do things the old way." I said, "You know what? It's time to leave."


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