Lou Eppolito knew of his family’s mafia ties when he lied on an application to enroll in the NYPD’s police academy in 1969. Eppolito’s father, “Fats the Gangster,” had been a bookie for the Gambino crime family. Eppolito’s uncle and cousin also had ties to the Gambino family, working as ruthless enforcers for the crew. Lou was different though. He saw all the havoc organized crime had wreaked on communities and wanted to break away from his family’s unscrupulous legacy.
He quickly rose within the ranks of the NYPD. By the time the 1980s rolled around Eppolito had a number of honors under his belt and was working as a lead detective with the force. Only Eppolito’s partner, Stephen Caracappa, knew that it was all a farce.
In 1984, the NYPD had received word that Eppolito had been passing insider information on to the Gambino family. Eppolito was given two options: resign quietly or fight the charges in court. Eppolito took the case to trial and won. His job was reinstated and it was back to business as usual.
In the early 1990s, the NYPD had taken down most of the city’s notable crime families. Those who weren’t in prison or under secret indictment had agreed to work with the police. There were already whispers within the force that some of their own had been working as wise guys on the side. Pulling off mob hits in unmarked cars, selling drugs and participating in illegal gambling operations were just a few of the accusations against Eppolito and Caracappa.
It was around this time that Eppolito and Caracappa decided to retire and move to Vegas. Caracappa led a fairly low-key life, taking up work as a private investigator and later working with the department of corrections. Eppolito, on the other hand, wanted to be in the spotlight.
When Hollywood came calling, Eppolito couldn’t pass on the opportunity, and landed a few small roles including “Fat Andy” in Scorsese’s Goodfellas. He also wrote a book fittingly titled Mafia Cop, where Lou details the charges brought against him in the 1980s and the “persecution and betrayal by his own department.”
There’s an old expression that became popular during WWII, “loose lips sink ships,” and Lou was the captain of his own shipwreck. In fact, he probably would have gotten away with most of the accusations against him and Caracappa, had the mother of one of his victims not seen him on the Sally Jesse Rapheal Show.
Betty Hydell remembered a man coming to the door and asking for her son Johnny on the night he disappeared. She didn’t catch the man’s name, but never forgot his face. When she saw Eppolito promoting his book on daytime television a flash bulb went off. She called police and, after years of investigation, Eppolito and Caracappa were taken into custody.
On March 6, 2009 Eppolito was found guilty of participating in at least eight mob hits, as well as charges related to drugs, racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling enterprises. He received life in prison plus 100 years. Caracappa, Eppolito’s former partner who had been working with the NYPD’s homicide division prior to his retirement, was also found guilty of similar charges. He was sentenced to serve life in prison plus 80 years.