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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Saddle River Nj, It was the early 80’s and local NJ con man Thomas Giacomaro was pulling in $300,000 a week selling cocaine. 

If a customer was late paying a drug debt, Giacomaro and his crew had creative ways of making him pay.

“First we were nice and charged weekly interest,” says Giacomaro, who penned his memoir

The King of Con: How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale in 2018.

After a few weeks if the guy still didn’t pay what he owed, they got slapped around by gorillas with names like Billy No Neck, Ralphy Balls, and Tony Scratch.

“We sent them to their house at 3 am to drag them out of bed, beat them up, and throw them in the trunk. That’s usually when people start to beg,” says Giacomaro, “when they go in the trunk. Sooner or later, everybody begs. They beg for more time; they beg you to believe them; they beg you for their lives.”

After the begging, the customer would produce Rolex watches or keys to a new car to pay off their debt.

But if they didn’t, the dumpster method was next.

“We always gave them a choice,” says Giacomaro. “Do you wanna go in the dumpster or do you want us to throw you off a fucking bridge?”


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They always picked the dumpster. Their hands and feet were duct-taped, their mouths were stuffed with lettuce, and they were thrown in a restaurant dumpster with the rotting food until a busboy found them in the morning.

“None ever died from being dumpstered,” says Giacomaro, “as far as I know.”

If all the above methods failed and Giacomaro still didn’t get the money he was owed, there was the fish tank method—his personal favorite.

He had a 5-foot-long saltwater fish tank in his office filled with a dozen triggerfish and a moray eel. “The triggerfish were like piranhas, with strong jaws and sharp, pointy teeth for crushing seashells,” he recalls. “The moray eel had two sets of jaws like a raptor, to capture and restrain large prey and swallow them whole.”

A delinquent client would be shown the fish tank as Giacomaro poured a scoop of goldfish in and they watched the triggerfish and eel rip them apart.

“Then my crew would grab the guy and stick his arm into the tank, up to the elbow,” says Giacomaro. They were told: Produce the money the next day or their hand would be chopped off and fed to the fishes for dinner.

The fish tank method could get bloody, but it was 99 percent effective.

So, what happened to that stubborn one percent?

“The guy would mysteriously disappear.”

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