WHAT’S FOR LUNCH ?

The Z Team, Benny Abruzzo, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones were on a role busting drug offenders almost every day.  They enjoyed their jobs and knew that they were making a dent in cleaning up the streets of Newark.  They worked hard and lived on the edge every day.

They rewarded themselves with the days they could just sit, relax and have lunch together with a few laughs.  Lunch was a big deal, you might find them in some of the best local restaurants in town although a slice of good pizza or a hot dog smothered in onions and potatoes were favorites too.

Lunch was Benny’s favorite time of day.  As a young boy, his mother Katherine would send him to school with a pepper and egg sandwich on 1/2 a loaf of Italian bread in a paper bag oozing with olive oil or sausage and pepper sandwich dripping in oil and running down onto to pants.  He didn’t care, he was envied by everyone in school carrying their boring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

To this day, Benny is still in search of his mother’s authentic homestyle cooking and you can find him any day of the week having lunch at his favorites joints like Top of the Park in Boonton where they serve him some favorites like escarole and beans with a side of juicy meatballs or their signature dish,  cod fish oregano.  He’ll travel to Casa DiNapoli in Union City for Scungilli in a spicy tomato sauce or bacalla salad just like his mother made or to Parsippany’s Reservior Tavern for homemade sausage with potatoes with a cold beer. He’ll travel to Lu Cas in Edison, NJ any day of the week to enjoy the best Seafood Fra Diavolo you’ll ever taste.   It’s no wonder why he’s developed the gout in his retirement years.   His car has never left New Jersey but he manages to go over the allotted mileage every year just going to lunch.

I can’t help myself getting sidetracked with food and Benny’s love for food but back to the Z TEAM and their stories.

Sargent Peter Nevargic from the narcotics squad received a tip that drugs were being sold outside the Federal Building in Newark from a hot dog vendor.  The Z Team was informed to set up surveillance on the vendor.  The vendor had a booming business, selling dogs to many of the employees from the Federal Building and passers by.   The tip was that if you had the code word and an extra $10 you could buy a deck of heroin with your loaded dog.  Eddie went in for the buy, it was easy, he walked away with a loaded hot dog and a deck of heroin on the side.  Al and Benny came in for the bust.  The vendor had over 240 decks of heroin ready to go with your order.

Thank God that job was over quick.  They almost missed lunch.

The hot dog vendor wasn’t the only guy in town selling “lunch with a punch.”  Charley’s University Pizzeria and Restaurant located near the Newark College of Engineering was known for selling marijuana to students and many locals.  The owner of the pizzeria was the supplier of the controlled substance and his business was booming.  Order a slice of pizza, with the special side sauce and an extra $5 and everyone was happy.  After a few days of surveillance and a few slices of  terrible pizza without the special sauce the Z Team made their move and arrested Charley for the sale of drugs, intent to sell and possession of a loaded 38 revolver.

So remember if the business is booming and the food is not so good, it might be a front for elicit activity. ImageImageImageImage

 

THE POWER OF CLEAVAGE

Benny, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones worked together in the narcotics squad for several years along with Sgt. John Arnold.  Al was the undercover guy doing most of the drug buys, Eddie was the driver in the busts, did surveillance and recorded the intake of drugs, Benny was the search & seizure guy although they were all capable of any part of the job.

They were proudly called the Z-TEAM because they did the job from A to Z, never leaving a stone unturned.  They would arrest the small time drug dealer and push forwarded until they caught the main supplier.  There are years of stories to be told about the Z-Team, their efforts and achievement in the capture and arrests of many, many opportune drug dealers.  Those stories will be told in future posts so don’t miss them.

Al Spearman was an Academy Award winning undercover cop.  He could play any role needed in the pursuit of narcotic offenders. Dressing the part, looking the part and putting his life on the line every day while posing as a drug addict in pursuit of drug dealers.  He often provoked Benny for being a recognizable cop and said he would never be able to do a buy undercover.  Benny liking a challenge told Al he could disguise himself enough to make a buy.  Benny was known on the streets amongst the criminals as “Kojak” with his bald head, short pants, white socks, physically fit stature and a cigar hanging out of his mouth.  He had that COP look.

His plan was to use his own vehicle which at this time was a 1100CC Honda Motorcycle and take along his very busty girlfriend for the ride.  He loved his women hot and sexy as long as they enjoyed food as much as he did.  So she hops on the back of his bike with her well-endowed breasts showing lots of cleavage.  A definite show stopper and great distraction for any man.  Benny was wearing a full helmet with dark goggles when he drove up to the informed location of a new bunch of street dealers.   The drug dealers would sell to anyone who came buy, they kept the drugs under benches in empty cigarette packs and small paper bags so they wouldn’t be holding if the police stopped by.

Benny pulled up on his impressive motorcycle with his busty babe on the back of the bike and asked the dealer if he had cocaine for sale.  The guy was seduced by the woman’s voluptuous breasts which caused him not to notice that Benny just could be a cop.  He sold Benny a $10 tin of cocaine.  Benny knowing he had this guy, then told him he had guns to sell and wanted to know if he was interested.  Oh course, drug dealers need guns too.  He was interested so they exchanged contact information to make arrangements for another meet.

The next meeting with the dealer and his supplier came a few weeks later because other cases took priority.  Benny showed up on crutches using them as his new distraction. He gave the dealer some cockamamey story about being in a bad motorcycle accident.  He explained this was why he was eager to get on with the gun deal and hoped he could buy more drugs because their cocaine was the best around.  This was just the set up to buy more drugs from not only the dealer but now the supplier.  He bought another supply of cocaine and had enough evidence to arrest them.  They were arrested for the sale of cocaine and conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.

Al and Eddie never challenged Benny again.  They continued to do their jobs with the best of their abilities and antics and would continue to remain everlasting friends.

I don’t think any hot young babes will be be hopping on the back of his bike anymore but just maybe a few old broads will go for a short ride and a cheap thrill.

 

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Photo of Benny and Mary Iadonisi (his mother-in-law)  a few years ago.

Character Drawing of Benny & Kathy…in our hay day…

 

 

HOW MANY PULL-UPS ???

In August 1969 Benny was transferred to the Narcotics squad along with 11 other tough guys who would dedicate their lives and careers to the job of cleaning up the streets of Newark.  After bouncing around with different partners, Benny teamed up with Mitch McGuire as a regular partner.  The two were relentless in their pursuit of criminal activity and did whatever it took to get the job done.  The job called for some creative ideas, fast thinking, sharp awareness and their own personal strength to keep going.  The two knew the game of “good cop – bad cop”, and were able to engage a handful of informants.  With informants, you give them a deal too good to refuse and they give you information on criminal activity.  I can’t tell you what those deals where so use your imagination.

It was getting close to the end of their shift on Jan. 21, 1972 when they made the rounds stopping to talk to their informants.  This particular night, one informant told them there was a drug deal going down around 8PM on Elizabeth Ave.  Working late was never an issue with either cop, they were addicted to the job, so they called the captain in order to set up a surveillance team at the address on Elizabeth Ave.  Benny and Mitch reached the address first and scoped out the place.  They knew the apartment with the drugs was on the second floor, moving around to the back of the building, the second floor was easier access because each window had a brick ledge which could be used to maneuver from one apartment window to another.  Benny shimmied from one window to another until he reached the right apartment, he pulled himself up to the open window and saw in clear view a table loaded with drugs ready to be bagged up.  He then walkie-talkied the surveillance team to go in through the front while he covered the back window.  He kept himself pulled up to watch any activity inside.  The cops rang the front door bell, the suspects opened the door not expecting the police. The drugs where in plain view and it was too late to hide them.  The five suspects were arrested for possession of over $25,000 worth of heroin and narcotics paraphernalia. 

A court case was to be assigned but only after a Suppression Hearing which was held by a liberal Judge and liberal Public Defender who never believed the cops and often sided with the criminals.  The hearing was to see if the evidence was gained legally and the actions of the police were believable. 

The smart-ass public defender did not believe that Benny was able to see the drugs from the window because he just couldn’t see how he could have held himself up in a pull-up position for any length of time. So the public defender tried to pull himself up using the judge’s bench with his legs folded.  He could not budge himself one inch so he then challenged Benny to do the same.  So Benny walked up to the Judge’s bench, asked how many pull-ups he wanted him to do and proceeded to do many pull-ups staring the judge in the eyes with each pull-up.  The judge said “Okay, okay,” Officer Abruzzo, you can stop now as the people in the court room chuckled.

The case was eventually brought to trial and the 5 defendants where found guilty of all charges.

This was a case to be celebrated by all the officers involved, Mitch McGuire, Eddie Bimbo, Louis Martins, Joseph Costa,  Alfred Pepe, Angelo D’Onofrio, Bobby Scott, Jack O’Leary and Benny Abruzzo, not just because they locked up these guys but because justice had been served.

 

end of the law.ImageImageImageThat really is Benny hanging on the window ledge..Check out the white socks and the balding head….

Alvin, Eddie and Benny-Ready for the Premiere of the movie American Gangster at the Apollo Theatre in NYC

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Eddie Jones, Benny and Alvin Spearman dressed in their Sunday suits and ready to attend the premiere of “American Gangster” at the Apollo Theatre in NYC

SUPERHERO – FOOD DEVIL – TROUBLESHOOTER – PAPA

So what ABOUT BENNY..Superhero, Food Devil, Troubleshooter, Grand-Papa  Well if you been lucky or unlucky enough to know Benny, you will have your own story to tell about him and we want you to POST your story right here.

First why this blog about him.  Well, he and I were crazy enough to end up as guests on the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on November 25, 2013 in a segment called “Cut the Creep”, in regards to keeping off the added weight gain during the holidays. I’m a fan of the show and it resonated with me not only because of holiday weight gain but the truth that Benny romances me with food all year and in the 20 years we’ve been together, I’ve gained over 30 pounds.  Anyway, enough about me. Benny was invited on to the show with me because I called him my “Food Devil.”  All he did was sit in the background on the set of the Today Show and eat a piece of pumpkin pie and he quickly had a fan club of many followers.  All he had to do was EAT A PIECE OF PIE…Anyway, I knew he was a STAR to begin with.  He’s been more than a STAR in my life and the lives of many others.  You see, Benny was and is a HERO, rather SUPERHERO Retired cop with lots of stories to tell including the most famous case of the arrest of the Frank Lucas family and gang in the early 1970’s.  You may have seen the movie, American Gangster starring Denzil Washington and Russell Crowe.  That movie was loosely based on the story of Frank Lucas and the Country Boys and their arrests by 3 hero undercover detectives, Benny Abruzzo, Alvin Spearman and Eddie Jones also known as the Z TEAM.

What does this story and Benny eating a piece of pie have to do with one another, well keep coming back for more true stories ABOUT BENNY.