Craig Anthony Fiato (born August 31, 1949) also known as "Tony", "Tony Rome" and "The Animal", is a former Los Angeles mobster who as an FBI informant helped convict nearly 70 underworld figures. Fiato's violent life of crime is graphically depicted in the best selling book The Animal In Hollywood : Anthony Fiato's Life in the Mafia, by John L. Smith.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Fiato grew up on the Hanover Street in the North End neighborhood. Fiato's father operated a bar that was a hangout for Cosa Nostra mobsters. As a teenager, Fiato started running errands for the leaders of the Patriarca crime family in Boston. When Fiato was seventeen, his family moved to Hollywood, California, where his father opened a second bar. Fiato soon became involved with the Los Angeles crime family, with mobster Mike Rizzitello as his mentor. Fiato eventually became an enforcer and then a street boss for the crime family, involved in extortion, assault, loansharking, and collecting delinquent debts. Fiato worked with mobsters Anthony Spilotro, Johnny Roselli, Joey Gallo, Peter Milano, Joseph "JR" Russo and Jimmy "the weasel" Fratianno. Fiato soon gained a reputation as a feared and dangerous mobster prone to violent outbursts over minor irritations. It is unclear how many murders or contract hits Fiato may have ordered or performed.
Gambino crime family associate Guido Penosi cut "the Animal" in on a big piece of his "sky's the limit" poker game that was located in a ritzy Sunset Strip high-rise. As L.A. mob boss Peter Milano was counting his end from the poker game an FBI bug picked up Milano praising Fiato to capo Louie Gelfuso saying, "finally someone knows how to get things done the right way in this Family... Anthony is worth ten men".
Fiato soon became friends with celebrities. He attended professional boxing matches with actor Robert Mitchum. Fiato later claimed that he helped singer Dean Martin recover money that was swindled from Martin's former wife, Betty. Additionally, Fiato claimed that he helped actor James Caan's brother escape from drug dealers holding him captive. Fiato claims that, in return, Caan testified before a grand jury on Fiato's behalf.
The FBI once intercepted a phone conversation between Fiato and Caan concerning actor Joe Pesci before he rose to prominence. Caan asked Fiato to grab and "take care" of Pesci after learning about an $8,000 bill that wasn't paid after Pesci stayed with Princess Diana's late lover Dodi Fayed at a pal's Miami, Florida, hotel in 1982. Pesci was never found by "the animal", nor harmed.
Government Witness Edit
After his indictment in 1984, Fiato turned FBI informant. He and his brother Larry entered the federal Witness Protection Program. Fiato provided evidence that resulted in the arrests of some of his best friends and confidants in the Los Angeles and Boston crime families. Fiato was involved in the investigation of the 1982 murder of Frank Christi, a film and television actor who was shot to death in his carport. Fiato claimed that Norman Freeberg had offered him the murder contract, but Fiato said he refused it.
Fiato was a companion and possible short-term boyfriend of Denise Brown, the sister of O.J. Simpson's murdered wife Nicole Brown. In the Simpson murder trial, Fiato and brother Larry testified that they heard Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective Philip Vannatter say that he suspected that Simpson had murdered Nicole Brown, revealing that perhaps Vannatter was not impartial. When the Fiato brothers testified, Judge Lance Ito ordered the press to turn off the television camera and microphones to protect them from exposure.