YOUNGSTOWN Mob hit man talks to crime task force
The former hit man is providing information about unsolved murders.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A 67-year-old man who pleaded guilty to being a mob hit man in a 1980 murder is talking, and state organized-crime task force officials are listening.
Robert E. Dorler Sr., convicted of killing Dominic Senzarino Jr. outside his home 23 years ago, is providing excellent information about other mob hits, said Scott A. Longo, an assistant Ohio attorney general who prosecutes organized-crime cases.
"He's been talking quite a bit about organized-crime activity in the Mahoning Valley in the early '80s," Longo said of Dorler. "He's provided us with a wealth of information. I'm absolutely surprised at the information he knows. We anticipate indictments on unsolved homicides."
Among the unsolved mob hits that Dorler knows about, Longo said, are the August 1991 murder of former local Mafia boss Joseph N. Naples Jr., and the February 1981 murder of Joseph DeRose Sr., the father of former local organized-crime figure Joseph DeRose Jr.
"His memory is amazing," Longo said. "A lot of information he has is direct knowledge, and others he's given us leads on. We've asked about a lot of old unsolved crimes."
The Senzarino murder was unsolved until the state Organized Crime Task Force began looking into a Mahoning County burglary ring in the late 1990s. Information led to Dorler's indictment, as well as the indictment of Samuel Fossesca, charged last year in the 1981 killing of DeRose Jr. Fossesca's trial is scheduled for September.
Dorler was already serving life in a Pennsylvania prison for a 1982 murder in Erie County when it was discovered last year through physical evidence that he killed Senzarino, Longo said.
Dorler agreed to plead guilty to the aggravated murder of Senzarino -- which he did last week -- and provide information to law enforcement officials on other mob hits in the Valley. In exchange, he will be moved to a prison in northeast Ohio so he could be closer to his family, Longo said. Dorler is from the Medina area. His prison assignment has not been determined, and he is being housed temporarily in the Lorain Correctional Institution.
Dorler is eligible to be released by Ohio in 20 years, and if that happens, he would be sent back to Pennsylvania to continuing serving his life stint there, so he will die in prison in either Ohio or Pennsylvania, Longo said.
Dorler came to the Valley in 1979 or 1980 looking for work after getting out of prison, but found little opportunity for legitimate employment, Longo said.
"He was asked to take care of a problem," Longo said.
That problem was Senzarino, who is believed to have been running a gambling game against the wishes of certain local mob bosses, Longo said.
Dorler, who never met Senzarino before killing him, waited as the Poland man got out of his car to go into his Saginaw Drive house Oct. 2, 1980, and shot him at least three times with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing him. Although he had served time in prison, Dorler didn't have a violent past up to the shooting, Longo said.
During the time he was in the Valley, Dorler would drive around with other people involved with organized crime, who did a lot of bragging about past crimes, Longo said.
"A lot of the information isn't firsthand, but it's credible information we can use to gain firsthand knowledge. Other information he knows about firsthand."
Some of the people Dorler talked about are dead while others are in prison on different charges, and "some are walking upright" and not in prison, Longo said.
"We're talking about his contemporaries, people in their 60s and 70s," Longo said. "But we're interested in unsolved murders. Just having an answer for those deaths from 20 years ago; even if we can't prosecute people, we want closure on these cases. But the biggest part is to hold people responsible for taking someone's life."
Although members of organized crime supposedly take a code of silence, known as omerta, Dorler and others are cooperating with organized-crime task force officials, Longo said. He declined to name others who are cooperating, but says they are primarily people like Dorler who are in prison and are looking for small favors, such as being moved to a prison closer to their families, in exchange for information.
"The code of not ratting out people doesn't really apply anymore," Longo said.
Naples was killed outside the Beaver Township home he was having built on Lynn Road by someone hiding in a cornfield across the road from his property.
DeRose Sr. was killed outside his Boardman home in what Longo and other law enforcement officials believe was a case of mistaken identity.
DeRose's son was a hit man for a rival family to Naples' and was killed shortly after his father's death. When FBI agents were investigating the younger DeRose's disappearance, they say they found a tape, secretly made by DeRose, in the breadbox of his girlfriend's kitchen of a conversation James A. Traficant Jr., then a Mahoning County sheriff candidate, had with local organized-crime figures. The conversation was about how Traficant, if elected, was going to protect their illegal interests for money.
Traficant was federally indicted for racketeering based on that tape, but won acquittal representing himself in 1983.