Retired NYPD detective Tommy Dades was so effective in dismantling one major organized crime family, the exploits of he and his former partner, retired detective Mike Galletta, were chronicled in the book “Mob Over Miami” by New York Daily News reporter Michele McPhee. However, after 20 years of police work, which Dades says he was passionate about, he yearned for another type of satisfaction. After leaving the department as a first grade detective in July 2004, he went to work briefly as a civilian investigator for Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
“I had to put the finishing touches on what would be the most rewarding case of my career,” said the 43-year-old Dades. “Once that was done, I threw myself into my other passion—boxing.”
Having had a lifelong affinity for the sweet science, Dades, who participated in about 35 amateur bouts, many of which were for the NYPD’s Fighting Finest team, was hired by the Police Athletic League (PAL) to operate the newly created Park Hill Boxing Club, which is located in the Park Hill housing projects in Staten Island, New York.
The gym, which opened amid much fanfare in July 2004, is dedicated to undercover NYPD detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin, both of whom were murdered by gun traffickers in March 2003. The gym quickly became home to hundreds of amateurs, as well as local professional prospects Tim O’Neill, a light heavyweight, and undefeated featherweight prospect Gary Stark Jr.
“Police work was my life, now boxing is my life,” Dades said. “For me, it’s a labor of love. When I was growing up, I always wished there was something like this for me. I’m not getting rich, but I’ve never been happier. “I’m like a pig in a pile of – .”
Dades, whose speech pattern is inflected with the “deses” and “dems” of his native Brooklyn, saw most of his friends become either civil servants or gangsters. One of his closest pals was, and still is, Johnny Turner, a popular Golden Gloves champion who fought Wilfred Benitez as a professional, appeared as French boxer Laurent Dauthuille in the 1980 film classic “Raging Bull,” and later became a city sanitation worker.
Dades says he always had a soft spot for fighters and working folks, as well as a sore spot for criminals, especially mobsters, who are always looking to get rich at the expense of others. One group of people he disdains even more than gangsters are crooked cops, so he was particularly thrilled to have played such an integral role in the March 2005 arrest of two retired NYPD detectives, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who quite possibly could be the worst cops in the storied, and sometimes sordid, history of the NYPD.
It is alleged that both were mob hit men throughout the blood-soaked gang wars of the eighties and early nineties. The duo have already been charged with participating in 11 murders and attempted murders by either passing along information to mob associates, kidnapping the victims and delivering them to their killers, or being the actual triggermen.
For years there were nagging suspicions that the duo was involved in shady dealings, but internal investigators were unable to bring about any charges that would stick. After beating departmental charges, the overly flamboyant Eppolito, whose real life demeanor enabled him to get a slew of movie roles playing hoodlums in such films as “Goodfellas” and “State of Grace,” co-authored the autobiographical 1992 book “Mafia Cop,” which, according to the book’s cover, chronicled “The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob.”
If only a small iota of the charges brought about by Dades’ relentless investigation are true, Eppolito might just also be the greatest liar in the department’s history. Dades immersed himself in the case in September 2003, when he came upon a piece of vital information. That tidbit resulted in him, and several others, putting together a war room where dozens of boxes of evidence, some of which was more than two decades old, were sifted through on a daily basis. Little by little, the case started to take shape. It is so strong, said Dades, that the two former detectives have virtually no chance of ever experiencing another day of freedom.
“Unless they know where Osama bin Laden is, they’re not striking a deal,” said Dades, who will be interviewed on “60 Minutes” this Sunday, April 3. “It’s hard to live down the legacy that bad cops create. They make an already difficult job even more difficult. I never had tolerance for corruption on any level, but this type of corruption and betrayal goes beyond anything I ever could have imagined.”
With so much national hoopla surrounding the case, Dades can’t wait to get back to doing what he loves most, and what brings him the most internal peace. For him, spending time at the gym training youngsters gives him more satisfaction than bringing down a 100 mobsters. The satisfaction of seeing Eppolito and Caracappa in handcuffs pales in comparison to the joy he experiences when one of his young fighters wins his first bout, or even the everlasting excitement he experienced after bringing numerous youngsters to a private screening of actor/writer/director Rick Schroder’s recently released boxing film “Black Cloud.”
“It was like Christmas morning for me and the kids” said Dades. “Seeing such an inspirational movie and getting to meet Rick Schroder was amazing for all of us. Boxing has brought me so much happiness over the years. Every night at closing time a fighter thanks me for working with them, but I always think it should be me thanking them for the privilege.”