Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo (b. 1944) is a former defacto boss of the New Jersey DeCavalcante crime family who eventually became a government witness.
A New Jersey native, Palermo married the niece of Sam Decavalcante, the family boss, in 1965 at age 21. Later that year, Palermo became a made man, or full member, of the DeCavalcante family. The nickname Vinny Ocean came from working in a fish market that was a front for operating a numbers racket. Palermo also owned a strip club in Queens, New York.
In 1989, Palermo murdered Staten Island, New York resident Fred Weiss along with Anthony Capo and James "Jimmy" Gallo on the orders from DeCavalcante boss Giovanni "John the Eagle" Riggi through caporegime Anthony Rotondo. A former journalist for the Staten Island Advance newspaper and real-estate developer, Weiss became associated with mobsters from both the Decavalcante family and the New York Gambino crime family. Weiss and two mob partners had purchased a vacant property in Staten Island and started illegally dumping large amounts of dangerous medical waste there. When local authorities uncovered the scheme and started investigating Weiss, the two mob families became nervous. Gambino boss John Gotti worried that Weiss might become a government witness in exchange for leniency; Gotti requested that the Decavalcante family murder Weiss to protect them. On September 11th, 1989, Palermo, Capo and Gallo drove to the New York condominium of Weiss' girlfriend. As Weiss left the building and climbed into his car, Palermo and Capo shot and killed him.Over time, Palermo was appointed caporegime and give his own crew of soldiers. When Riggi was sent to prison in 1989, he appointed John "Johnny Boy" D'Amato as his acting boss. However, in 1992 D'Amato's disgruntled girlfriend revealed that he was bisexual. D'Amato would take her to so-called "swingers" parties and engage in homosexual activity with other men. To avoid embarrassment to the DeCavalcante family, especially among the New York crime families, Riggi ordered Palermo and other family members to murder D'Amato. It was decided that he was an embarrassment to the family and therefore he had to go to make sure nobody from the New York families found out. In early 1992, D'Amato disappeared and his body was never found; it was rumored that D'Amato was shot and killed in his car. Following D'Amato's disappearance, Giacomo "Jake" Amari became the new acting boss for Riggi. He ran the family until his death from cancer in 1997.With Amari's death, there was no clear candidate to become the new acting boss. To avoid potential fighting for power, boss Riggi, still in prison, restructured the family and created a ruling panel to run it. Riggi appointed long time family members Vincent Palermo and Girolamo "Jimmy" Palermo (no relation to Vincent) to the panel. One individual not chosen for the panel, Charles Majuri, was infuriated. Majuri decided to murder the two Palermos and take effective control of the DeCavalcante family. Majuri asked Jimmy Gallo to murder Vincent, but Gallo instead told Vincent about the plot.To protect himself, Vincent decided to murder Majuri instead. Over the years, Majuri had made many enemies by removing fellow mobsters from a union he controlled and taking their money. Vincent was able to recruit DeCavalcante members Joseph Masella, Anthony Capo, and James Gallo to find Majuri and murder him. However, on the one occasion when they were ready to kill Majuri, they became nervous and decided not to do it. When they reported their failure back to Vincent, he decided that Majuri didn't pose a threat after all and cancelled the murder contract.In 1998, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recruited a mob informant who devastated the DeCavalcante family. This informant was DeCavalcante associate Ralph Guarino, who had been arrested for robbing an armored truck carrying $1.6 million to the New York World Trade Center. To avoid 20 years in prison, Guarino agreed to work undercover for the FBI. Guarino soon started informing on the actions of DeCavalcante members to the FBI. The agency gave him cell phones rigged with surveillance equipment to distribute to other family members. In October 1998, Vincent's trusted lieutenant, Joseph Masella, was shot to death, leaving an opening in the family. Due to secret assistance from the FBI, Guarino's status had been rising in the family. After Masella's murder, Vincent and the rest of the DeCavalcante leadership promoted Guarino to made man.In 1999, the FBI finally moved in on the DeCavalcante family. Vincent had recently proposed to murder mobster Frank D'Amato and Guarino successfully recorded the conversation. On December 2nd, the FBI arrested Vincent and 39 other members of the family. Vincent was charged with the attempted murders of Frank D'Amato and Majuri and many other offenses. Hitman Capo implicated also implicated Palermo in the 1989 Weiss killing.Facing serious charges and possible capital offenses, Vincent decided to become a government witness. He confessed to killing Weiss and mobster Louis LaRasso and to planning the murders of John D'Amato, Joseph Masella, Charles Majuri, Frank D'Amato and Tom Salvata, the manager at his strip club. Palermo also implicated other DeCavalcante family members in various crimes.After testifying for the government, Vincent Palermo and his family entered the federal Witness Protection Program. However, prosecutors later discovered that Vincent allegedly gave his son Michael Palermo $1 million in cash, possibly jeopardizing his status as a protected witness.