Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter
"The story of systematic murder"
During the 1970’s and 80’s, the infamous DeMeo Crew of the Gambino crime family were responsible for countless murders and disappearances in New York City. Headed by the violent and volatile Roy DeMeo, the criminal group consisted of car thieves, killers and psychopaths, however, two mobsters stood out as particularly ruthless. These were Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter, childhood friends known as ‘The Gemini Twins’ because they were always together, and who became an integral part of the DeMeo mafia group because of their willingness to commit crimes, especially murder, on behalf of their criminal bosses.
The crew developed an efficient ways of making sure their victims were never seen again. This method of disposing of the bodies became known as the Gemini Method, after the crew’s hangout at the Gemini Lounge. It was this process of disposal that proved an effective means of eliminating rivals and disappearing their remains. DeMeo himself would eventually fall foul of the Gambinos, and was eliminated, it is believed, by Senter and Testa. The Gemini Twins then drifted into the another mafia crime family, where they committed further crimes on behalf of the Lucchese leadership.
On January 10, 1983, Roy DeMeo, head of a New York crew of Mafiosi, travelled to Patrick Testa Motors Inc., a bodyshop in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where he was attending a meeting with his men. Unbeknown to DeMeo, he had fallen out of favour with the Gambino crime family, and was under an FBI investigation because the enormous number of missing and murdered persons linked to his crew. Eight days later, the body of DeMeo was found in the trunk of his abandoned car. He had been shot twice in the back of the head, one bullet behind each ear, in what was a signature execution committed by the Gemini Twins.
Testa and Senter
Born the same year, in 1955, Anthony Michael Senter and Joseph Carmine Testa grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and soon became close friends. Anthony was born to a first generation emigrant, Michael Senter from Rovereto, Italy, while Testa was one of nine children born to his truck driver father and housewife mother. Mutual friends of the two boys liked Anthony more than Joseph, but would always run to Joey whenever problems arose. Senter was raised in a turbulent household, and as a result he harbored a contemptuous view of the legitimate ways of the outside world, something he fostered when growing up.
When the boys were fifteen, a thirteen year old neighbour were mugged by a knife wielding Puerto-Rican from East New York. The assaulted victim complained to Joseph, who rounded up Anthony, and a group led by Joseph borrowed someone’s car and spent the day searching for the assailant. From a young age, they were influenced by organized crime and the allure of the American Cosa Nostra. Senter was a nephew of Gambino associate Robert Senter, who owned the Canarsie Recycling Company located at 8029 Foster Avenue in Canarsie. He would often work at his father’s small debris removal business, as well as his uncle’s sanitation company.
Although both youngsters were developing reputations for violence, Testa was considered more dangerous by reputation than Senter on the streets among the small-time criminal associates. Sentrer’s parents divorced when he was eight, then remarried one another when he was fourteen. By then he was involved various criminal activities. By 1970, Senter already had been convicted of auto theft three times when he was twelve years old. Both Testa and Senter were successful in having all of their cases dismissed because they were juveniles at the time. As they entered into adulthood, the young men were becoming indistinguishable from one another, with Senter standing at 5’11”, a mere two inches taller than Joey.
They spent so much time together that they were referred to as the “Gemini Twins”. It was said by associates who knew the friends well that Joseph would start a sentence and Anthony would finish it. In May 1972, Emmanuel Gambino, the 29-year-old nephew of Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino and nephew of Paul Castellano was kidnapped and murdered. By December, his murderers had been arrested and charged.
One of those arrested was Senter’s uncle Robert, who was indebted to Emmanuel Gambino, the nephew of mob family patriarch Carlo Gambino for $21,000. It was reported in the New York Times that by the time of Gambino’s death, Senter owed him $80,000. Robert Sener and an associate, an Irish-American named John Kilcullen gained notoriety as the individuals who actually orchestrated the kidnapping of Emanuel Gambino. After his arrest, Senter revealed the identities of his two accomplices, Richard Chaisson and Warren Schurman. On June 1, 1973, Robert Senter pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
The DeMeo Crew
By the early 1970’s, Senter and Testa began working for Chris Rosenberg, a 16-year-old associate of Gambino family member Roy DeMeo. Rosenberg hired the Gemini Twins to wax his Corvette and Porsche, as well as steal cars for him. Sometime in late-1972, Rosenberg introduced Senter and Testa to DeMeo, who asked them to join his newly formed crew. Among the other members were, Testa’s brother Patrick, DeMeo’s cousin Joseph “Dracula” Guglielmo, Richard and Frederick DiNome, Henry Borelli, and later, Vito Arena and Carlo Profeta. DeMeo was known as a psychopathic killer, his crew would earn a fearsome reputation.
The group, who operated out of the Gemini Lounge, were involved in numerous different criminal enterprises including, extortion, loansharking, auto theft, money laundering and murder. Senter was an accomplished car thief who was a large earner for the Gemini Lounge crew, but was highly disliked by Albert DeMeo, the son of Roy DeMeo. Albert’s personal judgement of Senter was that, “there was something slick and phony about him”. In 1973, Joey Testa was involved in a bar fight with a Puerto Rican opponent, and was nearly killed when the assailant’s knife punctured his lung. Senter hunted down the Puerto Rican and nearly beat him to death with his fists.
Anthony Senter was himself involved in a near fatal knife fight, from which he suffered a collapsed lung. Coupled with his chain-smoking habit, Senter was always to be seen pressing his hand against his chest and complaining that he couldn’t breathe. On June 13, 1975, Senter and Testa committed their first murders on behalf of Roy DeMeo. Andrei Katz, was a young auto repair shop owner who was partners with DeMeo in a stolen car ring, however by late 1974, a conflict that had erupted between Katz and the DeMeo crew. Katz was lured to a Manhattan apartment complex and there abducted by the group.
He was taken to the meat department of a supermarket in Rockaway Beach, Queens, and there stabbed multiple times in the heart and then the back by a butcher knife. His body was then dismembered by DeMeo and Henry Borelli, along with Senter and Testa. Of the murders committed by the DeMeo Crew, of which there are estimates that range between 75-200, this was considered one of the first, and one of at least eight that the Gemini Twins were directly involved with. In June 1977, 23-year old Jerome Hofaker was shot and killed by Senter and Testa for getting into a fight with Joey’s brother Dennis. By this time, their boss DeMeo had become a made man in the Gambino family.
On July 24, 1977, Anthony Senter married an Italian-American woman at a catering hall in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The wedding was attending by many criminals including Roy DeMeo. By this time, the DeMeo Crew had perfected their method of executing rival mobsters, Government informants, and anyone who had crossed DeMeo or his superiors. It became known as the “Gemini Method,” named after the lounge the group used as their headquarters. The victim would typically be lured on the pretence of a meeting, and there a member, usually DeMeo himself, would used a silenced pistol to shoot them in the head, then wrap a towel around the wound to stem the flow of blood, while another member, most often Chris Rosenberg, would stab the victim in the heart to prevent more blood being pumped out of the gunshot wound.
By then, the victim would be dead, and they were them dragged into the bathroom so the remaining blood could drain out, before plastic sheets were laid out and the process of dismemberment began, with the arms, legs and head cut off. The body parts were then placed into bags and then sent to the dump at Fountain Avenue in Brooklyn. On May 16, 1979, Michael DiCarlo, a Lucchese associate was murdered in this fashion. His his death was ordered by a Lucchese capo for raping a young boy. DiCarlo was shot, stabbed, beaten and sodomized by DeMeo, Joseph Guglielmo, Danny Grillo and Henry Borelli, along with Senter Testa, and his body dismembered.
On November 14, 1978, 44-year old DeMeo crew member Edward Danny Grillo suffered this exact same fate. He was lured to the Gemini Lounge and there was shot and dismembered by Roy DeMeo, Chris Rosenberg, Anthony Senter and Joseph Testa as punishment for racking up gambling debts and acquiring drug addiction. The Gemini Method was used to disappear their victims, and the remains were never found. But not all the DeMeo Crew victims were murdered in this way, some, such as police informants, were killed and their bodies left on the streets of New York to serve as a message and warning to others. By May 1979, they were forced to kill another of their own.
Chris Rosenberg had previously set-up a drug deal with a Cuban man living in Florida, and then proceeded to murder him and his associates when they traveled to New York to complete the sale. The Cubans had connections with a Cuban drug cartel, and there was potential for an all-out war between the Cubans and the Gambino family. The Cuban demanded that Rosenberg be dealt with. DeMeo stalled for months, but was ordered again by his superior, Nino Gaggi, who wanted an example made of Rosenberg. On May 11, 1979, Rosenberg arrived at the Gemini clubhouse for the crew’s usual Friday night meeting.
There the unsuspecting Rosenberg was shot in the head with a single bullet by DeMeo. The usually stone-cold DeMeo hesitated, because he thought of Chris Rosenberg like he would his own son, and when the still-breathing Rosenberg attempted to rise from the floor, Senter approached and finished him off with four shots to the head. Unlike the other victims, Rosenberg’s body was not dismembered, but instead was placed in his car and left on the side of Cross Bay Boulevard, near the Gateway to the National Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel, Queens, where it would be found, as demanded by the Cubans.
Because of the growing number of missing person cases, and their continued criminal activities, the DeMeo Crew came under increasing police pressure and investigation. Senter and Testa were being given more responsibility, and were soon trusted by Gaggi, DeMeo’s superior in the crime family. On April 29, 1981, 65-year old Lucchese associate James Bennett was set to testify against DeMeo crew member Richard Mastrangelo. He never made it to court. Bennett was ambushed and shot twice in the head by the Gemini Twins.
By 1982, the FBI had begun investigating DeMeo and his business dealings, as well as the large number of people that went missing who were linked to him or the Gemini Lounge. At some point it was learned through FBI wire surveillance that Paul Castellano had put out a contract on DeMeo, but was having difficulty finding someone willing to perform the hit. The contract was given to Frank DeCicco, but he and his crew could not get close to DeMeo. Eventually, DeCicco handed the job to DeMeo’s own men.
In his final days, Roy DeMeo was paranoid and according to his son Albert, he knew that he would soon be killed. On January 18, 1983, DeMeo’s partially frozen body was found in the trunk of his Cadillac, with a chandelier on top of it. He had been shot multiple times in the head, with a bullet wound to his hand, indicating that he had raised his arm in defence when his killers opened fire. Two of the bullet wounds to the back of his head were consist with a method used by Senter and Testa, who both put a bullet behind each of his ears. Nino Gaggi was suspected of being the one who personally killed DeMeo, but was never charged with the crime.
The Lucchese Crime Family
After the murder of DeMeo and the break-up of his crew, Senter and Testa drifted into the Lucchese crime family, which was at that time, under the leadership of Vittorio “Vic” Amuso and his underboss, Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso. It was during their tenure of bosses, that the Lucchese family would witness an unprecedented act of bloodletting, in which they suspected everyone of being informants, and later in 1988, the entire New Jersey faction would go into hiding to escape their infamous order to “whack Jersey”. It was into this atmosphere of paranoia that Senter and Testa became associates of the Luccheses.
In mid-1986, Casso was approached by Marat Balagula, a Ukrainian immigrant who ruled the Russian Mafia in Brighton Beach. Balagula had been in charge of masterminding a multimillion-dollar gasoline bootlegging operation, and had been paying tribute to the Five Families of New York, who regarded him as their biggest moneymaker after the lucrative illegal drug market. Balagula told Casso that he had been approached by Valdimir Reznikov, a Russian-American gangster who had threatened Balagula’s life and that of his family. Balagula requested help from the Lucchese family.
Shortly afterwards, Reznikov entered Balagula’s Odessa nightclub headquarters, and pulled out a 9mm Beretta pistol and pushed it against Balagula’s head. He demanded $600,000 that Balagula owed him, and who promised him the debt would be paid. Reznikov then snarled, “Fuck with me and you’re dead… you and your whole fucking family, I swear, you understand?” When Reznikov left, Balagula suffered a massive head attack. When Casso visited him at his home, he said “Send word to Vladimir that you have his money, that he should come to the club tomorrow. We’ll take care of the rest.”
Casso requested a photograph of Reznikov and a description of his car. The hit was then given to one of the Gemini Twins. The following day, on June 13, 1986, as Reznikov arrived at Balagula’s nightclub to meet with him, he was instead attacked by Joseph Testa from behind, who shot him numerous times on the orders of Casso. Later, Casso said, “After that, Marat didn’t have any problems with other Russians.” The Gemini Twins remained with the Lucchese family, however their days of running from justice were almost over.
Arrest and Trial
In January 1988, Senter and Testa were put on trial, having previously been arrested as part of a larger five year investigation into mob related murders committed by the Gambino crime family, and specifically, the DeMeo Crew. Originally the case began with a 78-count indictment filed by former United States Attorney Rudolf W. Giuliani in 1984, however because there were so many charges, the original Judge assigned to the case, Kevin Thomas Duffy, divided it into two separate cases. In the original trial which began in October 1985, six of the eight defendants were convicted after being accused of stealing hundreds of cars as part of a car-theft ring in New York.
The second trial lasted 17 months, and was part of a racketeering investigation into the DeMeo Crew and five murders committed by members of that group. Among the nine defendants of the second trial were Ronald Ustica, Carlo Profeta, Ronald “Bulldog” Turekian, Salvatore Mangalino, Douglas Rega, Wayne “Sol” Hellman and Anthony Senter and Joseph Testa. Another defendant, Anthony “Nino” Gaggi, died during the course of the trial on April 17, 1988. The main charges against the defendants were the murders committed by the Gambino crime family, who operated out of a Brooklyn apartment.
Over the many months of the trial, prosecutor Walter Mack displayed for the jury often gruesome evidence that the DeMeo crew had murdered scores of people, often dismembering them. In all, the case included evidence of 25 murders having been committed. Prosecutors believed that the crew’s murders numbered in the dozens, many of which were never found. The court heard testimony from 207 witnesses, one which, Vito Arena, a long-time car thief, armed robber and former member of the DeMeo Crew. Jurors were shocked by the stories Arena told on the witness stand when questioned by prosecutor Mack.
It was the aim of the prosecution to prove that five people were murdered during the course of the auto-theft ring’s operations. The group allegedly stole thousands of cars from the streets of New York City in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, shipping them to destinations as far away as Puerto Rico and Kuwait, or chopping them into parts and fetching higher prices when sold separately. Arena, who was serving an 18-year sentence for the murder of Joseph Scorney, testified at the trial in order to win lenient treatment on state charges that were still outstanding against him.
In matter-of-fact testimony, Arena recalled how Khaled Daoud and Ronald Falcaro were lured to an auto-body shop owned by Freddie Di Nome in October 1979. Defendant Ronald Ustica had become suspicious that both men were cooperating with police, and Arena said Ustica “wanted them killed, and he was willing to pay for it.” Also involved in the killings, said Arena, were defendants Joey Testa and Anthony Senter, along with Henry Borelli, Di Nome and Roy DeMeo, the one time leader of the crew who had previously been murdered.
Arena said that on the night of the murders, he waited outside while the victims entered the building. After hearing screams, then silenced gunshots and moans, he opened the door, turned on a light and saw the bodies. DeMeo and Borelli were holding guns, and blood was smeared across the walls and floor. “They told me the Arab (Daoud) went right down, but Ronnie (Falcaro) tried to run out the door,” he said. Then he added, “Roy (DeMeo) said, ‘We’ve got to cut them up.'” Arena said Testa and Senter took out boning knives and began cutting the bodies.
At that point, “Roy instructed Henry (Borelli) and I, believe it or not, to go and buy some pizza.” The remark cased laughter in the courtroom. “It wasn’t very funny,” Arena added. “With that, they went to work on them – Roy, Joey, Anthony and Freddie. We (Borelli and Senter) were told to bag.” The bodies were cut into pieces, stuffed into bags, and the bags placed into boxes, Arena said. After thirteen days of deliberation, the verdicts were given. Seven of the defendants were found guilty, and 34-year-olds Anthony Senter and Joey Testa were sentenced to life imprisonment, with the other five defendants were facing terms of more than twenty years.
Judge Vincent Broderick said that prosecutors had established that the defendants were responsible for so much violence that they could not be permitted to remain free. “The story of systematic murder that has come before the jury in this case is something I assume was beyond the ken of any member of the jury, and it certainly was beyond my previous ken,” said Judge Broderick, a former New York City Police Commissioner. Senter was sent to serve his sentence at the United States Penitentiary at Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and Testa was imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institute in Terminal Island.