When discussing any sort of organized crime in New Jersey, most people’s point of reference is the fictional TV series, “The Sopranos.” However, it’s believed that the hit HBO show and its cast of Italian-American gangsters reportedly took inspiration from an actual NJ mob family, the DeCavalcantes. Today, they’re known as “the real Sopranos.” The DeCavalcantes, based out of Elizabeth, were eventually taken down in 2015 at the hands of one former New Jersey police officer, Giovanni Rocco.
Rocco, who at that time was undercover as “Giovanni Gatto,” was responsible for the arrest and conviction of 10 NJ mobsters, including the DeCavalcantes’ mafia boss. The Hudson County native first began working on a federal task force focused on pinning the family’s alleged captain, Charlie “The Hat” Stango. Under his alias, it took Rocco almost three years to work his way up the ranks and collect enough evidence to ultimately convict nearly a dozen members.
“[The DeCavalcantes] are serious in a way that not a lot of people understand,” Rocco told me. “They’re not one of the five major families, but they’ve been around the longest. They’re the longest-standing Italian-American organized crime family–and a lot of people don’t give them credit for that. Probably the most vicious, too.”
Although the criminal prosecutions were considered a success, Rocco took an untimely and unplanned retirement out of fear of retaliation. The government, fortunately, helped Rocco and his family relocate. Today, he continues to share his experience with military and intelligence branches, in addition to law enforcement agencies.
In a recent episode of the “Armchair MBA” podcast, I was able to speak with Rocco about growing up in New Jersey, infiltrating the DeCavalcante crime family, what it means to be Italian-American, and the release of his new book, “Giovanni’s Ring: My Life Inside The Real Sopranos.”
You can watch my full interview with Giovanni Rocco below:
Main image via Amazon