BY BILL CLEARY
(cnbnews.net)Bill Tourtual, Butch Shaffer, Gary Marcucci and myself were talkingrecently about some of the characters we remembered growing up in Gloucester City, NJ back in the 40's, 50's, and 60's. Somehow the name of Albert "Monk" Schaffer, (no relation to Howard "Butch" Shaffer), came up in our conversation.
Monk was a local hood who grew up in the 300 block of Morris Street. As a teenager he hung out at Augie's pool room (28 N. Burlington Street), Tuckers Corner (Cumberland and Atlantic Street) and the Pine House (200 block of N. Broadway). When he got older he could be found at the Sand Bar, 5th and Powell Streets, The Twin Bar, Broadway and Market Street, and The Crown Point Inn, Westville, to mention a few.
"He was all mouth, a wise guy," said Marcucci. “He loved to start fights. I remember he walked with a limp. I think he had polio when he was a kid.”
My father-in-law, Tom Sarlo and I, bumped into Monk in the Batsto Pine Barrens during a 1970's December deer hunt. We were heading home. His cadillac was stuck in the mud blocking the road. We tried to pull him out of the mud with our truck, but no luck. Wet snow was falling. He was with two teenagers, his nephews. They were dressed all in black. Not the right attire for hunting deer. As we drove away they were setting the woods on fire trying to get warm. We alerted the rangers about their situation.
When he got older Monk was arrested for some petty crimes. He got involved with some real tough ‘shady characters’. We all remembered how he died: his body was found in the trunk of a cadillac parked in Collingswood. According to news reports he had been talking with authorities about his associates who were being investigated for some robberies and murders. He was killed by a shotgun blast to his face. Because police were not sure it was Monk they called a friend of his to identify the body. He was 37-years-old when he was murdered.
After doing some research I stumbled upon a Philadelphia Inquirer article that mentioned Schaffer along with his gang members.The article, "Confessions of a Master Thief", was written by Inquirer reporter Joel Bewley and was published October 17, 2004. Below is an excerpt of that story. ~Bill Cleary
Booby-trapped Car Kills Witness
The Pomeroy's job proved an even bigger blunder than Allison had feared. It would lead to bloody times and, eventually, murder charges for Cliff and Allison (Williams).
Pressured by police, Warren gave up the Williams brothers. They turned to one of their criminal buddies, Albert "Monk" Schaffer for help.
According to Allison and detectives, Monk and Cliff rigged a shotgun in the trunk of Warren's Plymouth Fury a few days before he was set to testify in March 1972.
The 12-gauge contraption, built with weights and counterweights, was designed to go off when the car stopped or turned.
Warren, 29, was blasted as he drove home from the Moorestown Mall, where he managed a tie shop. The pellets tore through the backseat and the front seat and into his gut, but Warren survived.
As Cliff and Allison searched for a hospital worker to help finish the job, a new problem arose.
Charles "Charlie the Greek" Koskinas, 45, another Pomeroy's conspirator, panicked when he heard that Warren was still alive.
"He started talking kind of funny," Allison recalled.
By the time Warren succumbed to his wounds nine days later, the Greek was in the ground.
Allison admits helping dig his grave off Route 9 near Ocean City. It has never been found. State police reports indicate that Cliff might have shot the Greek. Allison said it was Monk.
Without witnesses, the Pomeroy's charges were dropped, and the brothers returned to the society pages looking for ideas.
They read of an art theft from the F.W. Woolworth estate on Lake Cobbosseecontee in Monmouth, Maine. That summer they again headed north, and came back with a half-dozen paintings.
"I knew if they were hanging in there, they were worth something," Allison said. "Woolworth was no dummy."
Monk was supposed to fence the art, which the FBI tracked for years but never found.
Facing arson-conspiracy and extortion charges two years later, Monk, 37, threatened to squeal on Cliff and Allison to catch a break.
"Monk Schaffer, he was a pretty bad guy, and smart - oh, boy, smart as a whip," Allison recalled fondly. "But he was planning to rat everybody out."
Parsells, the Fisherman, lured him to a bogus burglary in Maple Shade and nearly decapitated him with a shotgun blast to the face.
Two months later, the gang was back to burglary.
With inside help, they hit the Matthey-Bishop refinery in Winslow, Camden County, making off with $680,000 in platinum and other precious metals.
The Williams brothers began to feel invincible. But in a few years, Big Tony would prove that they weren't.
Cliff and Allison, awaiting sentencing for burglary in 1976, swapped underworld stories with Anthony "Big Tony" Ciulla - the nation's most prolific horse-race fixer - in the Atlantic County jail. They had mutual wiseguy friends, including Philadelphia mobsters Angelo Bruno and Little Nicky Scarfo.
In 1984, Ciulla would betray them. Cliff and Allison were charged in the killings of Warren, the Greek and Monk.
Out on bail, they were busted for running a $1 million-a-week methamphetamine lab in Havertown - a federal case that delayed their murder trial.
Prosecutors chose to try only the Warren case. They did not have the Greek's body, and Parsells admitted to having killed Monk.
Allison - who stood trial alone after his brother died in 1990 of a heart attack - was sentenced to life in prison in 1991.
He calls the now-dead Big Tony a big liar. "The man was dreary. I talked to him about some of the burglaries. But not about murder."
Below are some of the others who played a role:
The Williams brothers
Clifford, and Allison Williams, who teamed up for a number of crimes.
Called "the Shore's No. 1 burglar" by Atlantic City police in the 1960s and a top arsonist by federal investigators, Parsells studied safe designs at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington. The night of the second Yamron Jewelry Store robbery, he sent a telegram to Atlantic City police at their annual dinner: "Sorry I can't be with you fellows tonight, but I have other plans." He confessed to the killing of Albert "Monk" Schaffer and was convicted of stealing $1 million in 1977 from the Atlantic City post office. He died a free man in 1997.
"Charlie the Greek"
Good with a gun, Koskinas in 1970 was one of eight men charged with 70 separate armed robberies, burglaries, arsons and extortions over the previous five years. He would hide from police in a hidden room above the ceiling in his Upper Darby apartment with a TV, a bed and beer. Killed in 1972 following the Williams brothers' heist of Pomeroy's department store, his body was never found. He was 45.
Schaffer, described by police as a violent thug, died in 1974 at 37 when Jimmy "The Fisherman" Parsells shot him in the face. Under indictment for theft, extortion, and conspiracy to commit arson, he was threatening to rat out Parsells and Cliff and Allison Williams. Police suspected that he helped rig the contraption that killed Charles "Chuck" Warren in his car.
Convicted of rigging horse races, Ciulla was known to federal prosecutors as the best in his business. Ciulla gave racing tips to guards at the Atlantic County jail, who brought him booze and home-cooked Italian meals. He entered the federal Witness Protection Program in the late 1970s when the mob put a hit out on him for testifying. He died of a heart attack last year at 60.
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