EDISON, NJ – John Riggi, a former mob boss of the DeCavalcante crime family, died August 3 at his home in Edison after his prison release in November 2012. He reportedly served as the model for the fictional Tony Soprano in the HBO’s The Sopranos.
He was 90 years old, and cause of death was not announced.
Riggi was reportedly a member of the DeCavalcante crime family since the late 1940s. He was the leader of the "Elizabeth crew" in the family when he was a Caporegime. He was the acting boss during the 1970s and became the official boss sometime during the 1980’s. Riggi was later incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, on extortion and labor racketeering convictions. Another ten years was added to his sentence when he was caught in tape ordering the murder of a Staten Island man. He was released from prison in 2012.
Riggi was a well-known figure in the Peterstown section of Elizabeth, which was for generations an Italian neighborhood. He was beloved by some who credited him with keeping the neighborhood safe and free of drug dealers. Others reviled him for his criminal activities. Either way, he never forgot “The Burg,” another name for Peterstown. Whenever a resident died, the family would get a collect call at the funeral parlor from Riggi in prison to give his condolences.
Giovanni “John” Riggi was born in Elizabeth, NJ and graduated from Linden High School in 1942 as class president and was a three-letter athlete. Riggi enlisted in the United States Army in 1943, where he was a staff sergeant in the Army Air Corps as an airplane and engine mechanic.
Following WWII, Riggi served as the business agent of the International Laborers Local 394 of Elizabeth for 25 years until 1988. He was also one of the founders of Linden's Police Athletic League - Pop Warner football.
Rigi’s funeral will be at the Corsentino Home for Funerals, 620 Second Ave., corner of John Street, Elizabeth, N.J., on Friday, August 7, at 9:15 a.m. Then to St. Anthony's R.C. Church in Elizabeth, at 10:30 a.m. for a Funeral Mass. Visitation will be held at the funeral home on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. John Riggi will be entombment is at Rosedale Cemetery in Linden, N.J.