Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Ohio Candidate Tom Ganley Tells of Role in Taking Down the Mob

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
Reporters who cover political campaigns get to meet all sorts of interesting candidates. Some are celebrities, or former football stars, or even fighter pilots. But Tom Ganley, the Republican nominee for Congress in Ohio's 13th District, has a story that even the most hard-to-impress reporter might find interesting. He helped take down the Mafia in Cleveland.

Aside from running for Congress (he's challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton), Ganley is the largest car dealer in Ohio, and owns insurance agencies, real estate companies and the largest independently owned finance company in the state.

Ganley, who started out as a car salesman, became extremely wealthy, which made him a prime target of the mob.

Frankly, Ganley's amazing story has all the ingredients of a Hollywood movie (starring, perhaps, Matt Damon?).

And this is how he tells it:

In the early 1980s, Carl LaCava -- who worked for a group that helped ex-servicemen find jobs -- met with Ganley in his Ohio office. He was hoping to persuade Ganley, who then owned one car dealership, to hire one of his clients. During the meeting, LaCava casually mentioned he had just met with the owner of A.D. Pelunis Oldsmobile in Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb, and that the dealership was for sale. He suggested that Ganley try to buy it. Ganley took his idea seriously, and six months later, he made the purchase. That's when things got weird. One day Ganley received an invoice from LaCava for a $500,000 "finder's fee."

Ganley thought it was a joke, but LaCava told him over the phone, "I expect to pick up a check today for $500,000, or you're going to have the biggest problem you ever had." Ganley laughed it off.

But a couple of weeks later, Ganley received a surprise visit (no knock on his office door) from a different man, holding a piece of paper with the name "Carl LaCava" on it. He said: "I'm just a messenger to tell you you're going to be killed within 24 hours. Have a good day."

The messenger was John J. Felice, Jr. (nicknamed "Skippy") -- a name Ganley had heard before. "He was rather notorious," Ganley told me. "He's been in the newspapers many times for activities that were clearly mob originated."

Shocked, Ganley immediately phoned the FBI. Ganley believed the death threat, but he said the FBI "reassured me and said that the Mafia is very greedy, [that] they would get nothing out of murdering me. [I was] not to worry about being murdered in the short term, that this was going to be about money."

"That's when I told them that they'd better be right, because it's called 'You bet your life,' " he recalled. The feds immediately installed cameras in Ganley's office and tapped his phones. The mob wanted $25,000 as a first payment, but Ganley negotiated that down to just $5,000.

That's not to say it was easy. The FBI provided Ganley with the money to pay off the thugs, but the FBI also required him to ask incriminating questions such as "What happens if I don't pay?" To cover his bases, Ganley sometimes had to refer to notes -- but the mob never noticed.

Interestingly, Ganley paid the bad guys real money "because if you use marked money," he informed me, law requires that you "arrest immediately." Ganley may have preferred that option, but the FBI "wanted to take down more than one guy."

After paying the first $5,000, Ganley naively thought the incident was over. The FBI, on the other hand, believed that Ganley was now marked as a patsy -- and they told him the mob would be back. "If you can't pay," Ganley told me, "they start taking part of your business."

Sure enough, a month or so later, Ganley received a second visit. They let him know that they knew where his daughter took music lessons, and they (eight of them) promised to rape her -- and cut off her arms and legs -- if Ganley didn't keep paying.

Later, another thug visited Ganley's youngest son at a playground, and even played kickball with him. They then called and told Ganley, "We want you to know that he has brown corduroy pants on and sort of a plaid shirt . . ."

"It was very horrible," Ganley said. "These characters had followed them, knew when they went to school -- these were stone-cold killers."

Two years after it started, federal officials indicted the crime family. "That's when they got very panicky, so they thought their only escape would be to have my entire family killed," Ganley said.

Once it became known that Ganley was cooperating with the police, the mob put out a $1 million contract on him and his family. FBI agents moved into Ganley's house "with very, very heavy military fire power," staying about a year. Agents took his wife to the supermarket , and Ganley traveled to work in a bulletproof, bomb-resistant car.

He became fast friends with the agents protecting his family, including Don Penny, now a Ganley supporter. Another of the agents was Joseph Pistone, the subject of the 1997 Johnny Depp-Al Pacino film, "Donnie Brasco." Pistone recently held a fundraising event for Ganley.

Ganley's adventure led to more than 20 Mafia members going to prison. Not all of them were involved in this particular case, but information from it ultimately led to wiping out La Cosa Nostra in Cleveland. "There is no longer an organized crime mob in greater Cleveland, " said former federal agent Bob Freedman. Ganley's efforts "resulted in the dismantling of an entire organized crime family."

"It started out with one person extorting Tom [and turned] into a whole entire organized crime family being involved," said Freedman, who recently appeared on Fox News' "Huckabee" along with Ganley to tell the story.

For his work, Ganley was given the highest reward a civilian can get from the FBI, the Lewis E. Peters Award.

Ganley was originally running in the U.S. Senate primary in Ohio against Republican favorite Rob Portman, but changed races to run for the House seat in northeastern Ohio. Ganley, who supports Arizona's controversial immigration law and believes government needs more business leaders who understand the economy, is a serious challenger -- he has more money than his opponent, Sutton -- and was recently named to the National Republican Campaign Committee's "Young Guns" program. (In fact, I first interviewed him at a meet-and-greet the group sponsored.)

Compared to what Ganley has been through, campaigning for public office is hardly a challenge. As he told me, once you've gone up against organized crime, standing up to the special interests and lobbyists in Washington will be a piece of cake.

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.


Filter by:

I worked for Tom Ganley and will honestly testify that he has more larceny in his blood than the criminals he hires to work for him. He took pride in his staff "stuffing" car buyers into high interest loans, unnecessary insurances, over priced (his own company) extended warranties and charges for work never performed on the vehicles. Ganley single handedly destroyed more people's credit than any one person in this state. When the banks cut him off from financing until he put new "F & I" finance people in his dealerships, he kept the crooks and had someone else sign the papers to defraud the banks. His staff would have customers sign blank bank and sales papers to deliver cars. His criminal staff would then "load" the sale and the loan with many extras that the customer did not agree to. Then they would wait 30 days to mail the papers to the customers so that they could not cancel the extras without penalties. This would assure a commission for the crook. Ganley would take his Budget Rent-a-Car (he owned that at the time also) vehicles out of service and put them on the front line without any inspections, but would sell them as inspected vehicles. I eventually quit because it was difficult to work with someone that condoned such criminal activity. Ganley supported these crooks. I can also find a few women that were taken to Victoria Secrets by Ganley and flown in his private jet to his condo in Florida. This is not the honest family man that he portrays. A close confidant of Ganley once told me the "real" story about his Mafia adventures. Ganley leaves out important details. He is not a hero for turning on the Mafia. He called the FBI when his life was threatened - just like anyone else would have. He made his own bed with the Mafia...

September 20 2010 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

He is not a hero!!! Just a man protecting his family. How can you feel threatened in bullet proof car and being surrounded by FBI agenst 24/7? This "sting" did not stop Tom Ganley from hiring the biggest cut throat finance people to work in his dealerships. His crew is probably personally responsible for ruining thousands of people's credit scores. They convinced people to sign BLANK papers on the purchase of their car. Then they "stuffed' the loan papers with the highest interest rates available, over priced service contracts, credit life and accident and health insurance, and anything else they could load into the loan before they mailed the papers to the customers 30 days later! Ganley even condoned this activity by protecting the biggest thieves he personally employed. When the banks cut Ganley's dealerships off from further financing until he cleaned up his crew, he merely had someone else sign the bank papers to deceive the banks. I watched it happen. It happened every day and Ganley referred to them as "strong" finance people when in fact they were lying thieves. I quit because it was such unscrupulous business activity that it ruined me personally. My honest approach to informing people of their purchase was considered "weak" by Tom Ganley. He complimented me when we sold a $3,500 car to an unsuspecting customer and they made me "stuff" his loan with a $3,500 vehicle service contract! I have never worked for someone that had so much larceny his blood. Additionally, he was always taking female employees to Victoria's Secret and flying them to his condo in Florida in his personal jet. Family Man? Ha! It is an insult to all Americans that this man can run for office, and if he wins, we will be paying him $174,000 a year for the rest of his life. Do not vote for Tom Ganley.

August 03 2010 at 2:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Cuyahoga County has suffered from corruption and criminal activity for quite some time. Tom Ganley has shown beyond a doubt that he has the courage to take on the bad guys in the past. I believe him to be a brave, honest man who truly wants to serve the Country, being a wildly successful businessman makes him smart enough to help this flailing economy as well.
Pretty good reasons to vote for a man where I come from.

August 01 2010 at 6:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>