Meet the mobster who claims he helped whack Pope John Paul I over stock fraud

By Brad Hamilton October 19, 2019

Colombo gangster Anthony Raimondi (left) claims he was present in 1978 when fellow conspirators killed Pope John Paul I (above) with cyanide — because the pontiff threatened to expose a stock fraud by Vatican bank insiders — in the new book “When the Bullet Hits the Bone.”Stephen Yang

He helped kill the pope — so his pals could stay out of hell.

That’s the shocking claim from longtime Colombo gangster Anthony Raimondi, who says that, in 1978, he went to Italy with a team of hit men who whacked John Paul I. They allegedly poisoned him with cyanide just 33 days into the pontiff’s reign, according to Raimondi’s new book, “When the Bullet Hits the Bone,” out now from Page Publishing.

Raimondi, the nephew of legendary godfather Lucky Luciano, claims he was recruited for the murder at the age of 28 by his cardinal cousin, Paul Marcinkus, who ran the Vatican bank. Raimondi’s job was to learn the pope’s habits and be on hand to observe as Marcinkus knocked out John Paul by spiking his nightly cup of tea with Valium.

“I stood in the hallway outside the pope’s quarters when the tea was served,” he writes, adding that the drug did its job so well that their victim wouldn’t have stirred “even if there had been an earthquake,” he recounts. “I’d done a lot of things in my time, but I didn’t want to be there in the room when they killed the pope. I knew that would buy me a one-way ticket to hell.”

Instead, he stood outside the room as his cousin readied a dose of cyanide, he claims. “He measured it in the dropper, put the dropper in the pope’s mouth and squeezed,” Raimondi writes. “When it was done, he closed the door behind him and walked away.”

After the snoozing pontiff was force-fed the poison, a papal assistant checked on him, then cried out that “the pope was dying” — after which Marcinkus and two other cardinals in on the plot “rushed into the bedroom like it was a big surprise,” Raimondi writes. A Vatican doctor was summoned, who ruled that John Paul I had suffered a fatal heart attack, he writes.

They used Valium and the deadly toxin so as to kill the pope painlessly — and to curry favor in the afterlife, Raimondi claims. To prove John Paul I didn’t suffer, Marcinkus and cohorts Pietro Palazzini and Antonio Ribeiro, also his cousins, needed Raimondi to testify on their behalf before God, he claims. “They said when we die I would be their witness,” Raimondi, now 69, told The Post.

They targeted the pope because he had threatened to expose a massive stock fraud run by Vatican insiders, according to the book.

The billion-dollar scam involved a forgery expert at the Vatican who faked the church’s holdings in blue-chip American companies such as IBM, Sunoco and Coca-Cola. Mobsters then allegedly sold the phony stock certificates to unsuspecting buyers.

John Paul I had vowed to defrock the perpetrators, which included Marcinkus and about “half the cardinals and bishops in the Vatican,” Raimondi told The Post. “They would have been thrown out and subject to the laws of the US and Italy,” he said. “They would have gone to jail.”
Had John Paul I “kept his mouth shut,” Raimondi writes, “he could have had a nice long reign.”

The body was barely cold when a new plan was conceived to kill his successor, John Paul II, who appeared poised to take action against the scammers as well, Raimondi writes. So the made mob man was summoned back to the Vatican and told to prepare for a second murder.
“ ‘This guy’s gotta go, too,’ they said. ‘No way,’ I said. ‘What are you going to do? Just keep killing popes?’ ”

Ultimately, John Paul II decided not to act because he knew he too would die, Raimondi told The Post, then went on to become the second-longest-serving pontiff in modern history, until his death at 84 in 2005.

His change of heart also prompted a booze-fueled celebration among crooked cardinals and mobsters in Vatican City, according to Raimondi.

“We stayed and partied for a week with cardinals wearing civilian clothes, and lots of girls,” he writes. “If I had to live the rest of my life in Vatican City, it would have been OK with me. It was some setup. My cousins all drove Cadillacs. I am in the wrong business, I thought. I should have become a cardinal.”

Those who dismiss his claims, or point to the fact his story resembles the plot from “The Godfather III,” Raimondi shrugs. “It was a terrible movie. To tell you the truth I don’t really remember it. What I said in the book I stand by till the day I die. If they take [the pope’s body] and do any type of testing, they will still find traces of the poison in his system.”

Anthony Raimondi is the nephew of legendary godfather Lucky Luciano.Popperfoto via Getty Images
Raimondi’s book is loaded with other over-the-top revelations, including intimate details on the Lufthansa heist, one of the most notable rip-offs in mob lore.

But his take differs from the movie “Goodfellas,” and the book “Wiseguy” on which it was based, as both featured James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, played by Robert De Niro, and Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill as the brains behind the epic theft.
Raimondi — a fixer and earner for the Colombos — claims Lufthansa’s real mastermind was Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, head of the Kosher Nostra and a mentor of Raimondi’s, he claims. “I first brought him in on the plan during a trip to his home in Miami,” he writes.
Another one of Raimondi’s cousins was friends with gangster Burke, who allegedly got a tip about big money coming through JFK Airport.

But when the information circulated among the Lucchese hierarchy, the family couldn’t “figure out how to put this deal together,” Raimondi writes, so he convinced Lansky to come to New York and orchestrate the smash-and-grab job.
“Everything was so well planned,” he writes. “Meyer had set the time for everything to happen. He had it mapped out so everybody had a precise job they had to do.”

In the end, Raimondi claims, the gang got away with far more money than previously believed: about $45 million, including cash, jewelry and $35 million in bearer bonds that Lansky believed had been stolen before being shipped to New York, says the book.

Raimondi hid the bonds at his father’s house, after which Meyer fenced them at “85 cents on the dollar,” he writes, and the loot got spread around all five organized-crime families at a social club in Brooklyn on Cortelyou Road.

“We were there for hours, counting the money and giving everybody their end,” Raimondi writes. “The bosses came down from all the families personally . . . They were getting millions.”

Everyone was warned to keep low profiles and not make extravagant purchases. But several didn’t — and were systematically rubbed out, Raimondi writes.

Michael Vecchione, a former top prosecutor at the Brooklyn DA’s office who went after Colombo mobsters and has written three books on crime-fighting, is dubious. “I do remember the name Raimondi coming up, but I never heard anything about Meyer Lansky being involved in the Lufthansa heist,” he said. “But there’s no way to verify what this guy is saying.”

As for the author, he claims he managed to avoid prosecution for years, because he and his crew paid millions of dollars from his own loansharking and clubs to Mayor Ed Koch, with Koch aide Bess Myerson acting as bag lady.

“We had illegal casinos, shylock money, and Koch got a piece of everything and we never had a problem with the law,” he writes. “I’d take the package for Bess and bring it to [a friend’s] house, where she would come and collect it. I’d put it in a regular canvas bag, and she would just put it in her briefcase.”

Raimondi, a hulking and fiercely loyal Colombo member nicknamed Pluto, has a fascinating personal story as well, as he had regular contact with notable gangland figures such as Carmine Galante, Allie Boy Persico and Joe Colombo.

He alleges he dodged life in federal prison for a murder he committed as a teen in Brooklyn after the Army recruited him to become a sniper during the Vietnam War.

Pope John Paul IISygma via Getty Images
His job, Raimondi claims, was to drop in behind enemy lines in Cambodia and assassinate North Vietnamese fighters, which he says he did ruthlessly.

He allegedly returned to the US with a clean record and threw himself into mob business, benefitting from the help of Lansky, who, Raimondi writes, “taught me so many different ways of shaking down a guy. He also taught me so many ways to kill a guy, because Meyer was deadly. Don’t let nobody fool you: Meyer killed a lot of men in his time.”

Raimondi, who is now fighting cancer and living in Brooklyn, said he decided to quit the life and tell his story because “I don’t need this s–t any more.”

“All the old guys either went to prison or they died or went into witness protection,” he told The Post.
“The new guys didn’t do things the old way. I said, you know what, time to leave.”


I have always believed that John Paul 1 met a criminal end 😥

He was the mysterious pope we never got to know.

If he had survived we might have been spared the gangster John Pole 11.

The Vatican is a place of unequalled evil.

I discovered that when I was detained there in March.

I will NEVER enter that place again.

It is Satan’s playground.


This shows one thing clearly: that Catholicism screws you up. Only Catholics could dream up such a bizarre plan, whether true or false. The idea of having a witness to plead for them before God… Seriously? It’s bonkers.
And also clearly untrue, because if it were true this guy would be dead himself.


Tank God you’ll never go to the Vatican again. You cause trouble diberately. Pat, stay in your own backyard in Larne. You have an arrogant disdain for the Pope. It’s a hatred. Keep that hatred to yourself. I too niece that Pope John Paul 1st was poisoned for the reasons outlined. Doesn’t the Vatican throw up intrigue? What would we do about it….?


Oh Pat, Really? You know the old saying “Paper never refused ink” This looks like a has been villain building up his pension fund. Marcinkus was never a Cardinal – you’d imagine his cousin would get that right. All sounds like fantasy to me.


+ Pat: I posted yesterday about the Oscott priest in drag, and why the photo has suddenly disappeared, but you aren’t publishing my comments. Why ? You introduced the subject, then took it away. Surely we are entitled to some explanation, and I’m sure it would be a reasonable explanation. But, just pulling the photo/subject and going quiet just stokes up interest and speculation. So, I think you owe us an explanation, please ! If you can’t discuss it for legal reasons, just say, then we would understand. I sense, though, that 1. you are being got at / threatened, or 2. you got it wrong. Transparency is always the best policy, + Pat. Thanks.


I removed the photo when I was informed that the photo and associated matters are part of a legal dispute on the UK mainland totally unassotated with me or the blog.


Thank you. There is a case in the UK court involving an ex seminarian and a diocese that I was not aware of until recently.


Interesting blog yesterday Pat before you removed it about Liverpool. Like wonersh there is much going on in Liverpool. Your investigation might look at one Joe Williams and why he was asked to leave oscott while on leave during the summer. Maybe the valloliad Spain experience might shed some light.


We heard down here he’d left. He might have walked because of the boys he used to hang around with, one lad is as camp as Christmas from Salford – nice lad and good to people, but I heard they call him Vera and he loves erasure!! Not to mention joe Williams other friends (the old Gavin following) Not good pat.


Nice guy? Good to people?! Stop sticking up for the bald queen! He prances round in coloured socks and hats – maybe he’ll be a bishop one day…. who knows!?


Yet again, labelling men in a bad light. Both men mentioned are good guys and I mean that. Men of real faith unlike the people that sit and read this blog all day.


Pat what shocks me is that web that connects ongoings between seminaries and seminarians. How wonersh and oscott are linked by scandal. How maynooth and wonersh are connected /then the recent wonersh scandal. If you wanted Pat this would be a good investigation and one that leads back to the king pins of summer 2016. I have much to say on this Pat.


Time to make a movie on the going’s on in seminaries in Ireland and the UK. It would be a blockbuster. Gorgeous should be the leading man!!!!


Interesting to hear of Gavin mention, perhaps it’s time to mention once more the Dublin trip from oscott to the pro cathedral presbytery:
Oscott link – Gavin
Maynooth – Michael Byrne

What we have is a very evident web


Ultimately the faith will be better served by more exposure and more kicking people out and everyone knows that but it’s such a tangled web of who knows who’s scandals that it can’t happen a priest would have to be worldly wise and a saint of great personal discipline and mortification to reform an English seminary so it’s not likely , camp, fat , agnostic with favourites ? No shortage of those vocations


The seminary talk / gossip / scandals are all very interesting in themselves. But the deeper and more significant issue in all this is how seminarians are formed, where, how, by whom, and in what fashion ? I think it is self evident that the present seminary system simply is not fit for purpose. If it producing so much titillation because of the antics of the staff and seminarians in a whole range of seminaries, then it is evident that this kind of system is not fit for purpose. We really need a debate about what system will produce the right priests we need for our Church for the future. Let’s have it, please !



First, men who are required to work for a living, grounding them in the real world of their parishoners rather than their expecting others to support them financially. This could deter at least some unsuitable candidates, whose motives for entering seminary are less than pious.

Working for a living would be a great leveller, doing much to eradicate or reduce clericalism; it would, too, encourage humility AND, through cooperation with others in the workplace, a greater communal spirit in parish ministry.

Priests’ working for a living would reduce their dependency on bishops, and the ability of these men to penalise priests who publicly challenge episcopal malfeasance.

Self-financing priests could buy or rent their own homes, like everyone else.

These suggestions aren’t exhaustive, but they are, I believe, necessary practical steps (and practicality is to the fore in this debate).


That all very well and good, but it would not stop… well, let’s just say, their primeval urges for men. You yourself will know that only too well.


Meanwhile IICSA are far from finished with the Benedictine schools


IICSA is a total waste of time. Vin had an uncomfortable time but seems to have survived it well. They are all liars. It has finished now so let’s hear the cover up.


I don’t think it’s true that IICSA is a total waste of time. In reality an enquiry would not do more to Vinnie and the English Benedictines than what they have – publicly make them known for the failures they are.
What it changes is the attitude of the world outside. And when people moan on here that people hate Catholics they never think that a major contributory factor is the behaviour of people like Vinnie.
Personally I think that failing to report child abuse should be a criminal offence: when it is, enquiries will be able to put those who fail in prison.
The effects of the changes in society’s view are to be seen in the English Benedictines, because they are basically dead on their feet (they also have other problems such as a difficulty with work and identity because the educational world has changed), because they are not getting the recruits any more.
Vinnie might think he has ridden this well, but he’s compounding this problem of public perception by not resigning – out here in the real world he would have been out of the door for that performance and by not going he is showing the institution hasn’t changed and hastening the day when – who knows? – if the church will not police itself then government will and anything could happen.



Bp Pat, I hope you’ll get back to the things that matter to most readers; the communal showers and peepholes at St John’s John, for example, or Amy Turtle’s former MC or Elsie’s… well, let’s just say, alleged little incontinence problem.


Pat, why don’t you pursue the really hot story of DM and the Gigolo in Rome with Taylor blackmailing him ever since. Why is Taylor now PP in Rathgar one of Dublin’s prize parishes when he fled the Diocese to Australia after sexual dalliances in Harrington Street with his coloured lover.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s