He's sick, he's powerless, but Tony Felloni is free again to walk the streets he blighted from youth, writes Crime Correspondent Ali Bracken
Veteran Dublin drugs baron Tony Felloni leaves Mountjoy prison yesterday
Felloni photographed at the Central Criminal Court in 1998
IN a strange coincidence, there is a heroin drought in Dublin city at the same time as Ireland's most notorious drug dealer is getting out of prison. Tony Felloni, better known as King Scum, has been off the streets for 15 years. His re-emergence into society yesterday is unlikely to make any difference to the drugs trade. But when it comes to someone of Felloni's ilk, sources stress, no assumptions can be made. He is a man who deliberately got his own children addicted to heroin. A man who beat his ex-wife Anne continuously and savagely, even throughout her pregnancies. A man who forced young women into prostitution and who is responsible for flooding the capital with heroin in the 1980s, creating Dublin's first hardcore generation of junkies. Unlike some other criminals, he has truly earned his nickname.
But after his release from jail, the Irish organised crime scene will be totally unrecognisable to Felloni, now 68, despite the fact he is one of its founding fathers.
"He is coming out to a totally different city, he's an old man now," says a garda source, who helped put Felloni behind bars in 1996 following a major garda operation, codenamed Pizza.
"But at the same time, this is Tony Felloni we are talking about, so you could never write him off. There's a heroin drought in Dublin city at the moment; the price has shot right up. I would wonder if he'd take a look at the situation and start getting in touch with his old contacts. It's unlikely, but nothing about that man would shock me. Although Felloni certainly doesn't have the status he once had in the underworld."
There are some stark differences between Felloni and modern-day Irish gangland criminals. He was never involved with firearms or ordered anyone's murder. His name was enough to strike fear into people's hearts; he didn't need to kill anyone. Nowadays, the most serious drugs gangs in Ireland would not be able to operate effectively without a ready supply of firearms and a proven ability to carry out killings when necessary. But Felloni's path of destruction took an entirely different direction – a route many modern-day criminals would find abhorrent. He was a father hell-bent on passing on his trade to his offspring. He enlisted his children to help him sell heroin when they were just teenagers and encouraged them to experiment with the drug so that he could control them.
Anne, his second-eldest child, became a heroin addict while she was still in school and contracted Aids. Her eldest brother Mario Angelo started in the family trade when he was just a teenager. At the age of 16, his father gave him his first taste of heroin as a birthday present. Of his seven children with his wife, all except one have spent long spells in jail and become heroin addicts. On several occasions, he beat his wife so severely she had to be hospitalised. He became a hate figure in the 1980s, attracting the wrath of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs movement, which organised demonstrations outside his house and applauded in court when he was jailed for 20 years.
"I hope no community suffers again because of Tony Felloni," says independent councillor Christy Burke, a founder member of Concerned Parents Against Drugs, who knew Felloni from youth. "I hope he has been rehabilitated after this length of time. It would be a sad reflection of our prison system if he has not been. I hope he has had time to reflect on the damage he has done. I hope he has reflected wisely and well."
Lack of morals
While Felloni's development as a criminal took a predictable route from petty into major crime, his lack of morals were apparent from a young age.
At just 15, Tony's first scam was both ruthless and cunning, traits he would later become synonymous with. In the 1950s, on Mountjoy Square in the north inner city, stood a house where young women rented rooms when they moved up to Dublin from the country. A teenage Tony, full of charm and confidence, used to hang around outside and get talking to the women.
"He'd take them out. He was a good-looking and charming young man. He'd get them to take their clothes off for him and he'd take photos," says a man who knew Felloni as a youngster but who asked not to be named.
"Then he'd blackmail them. Threaten to send the photos back to their parents. They'd always hand over the money."
Within a few years, young Felloni had refined his method of taking advantage of women and gone several steps further. He had already figured that his personal charm could be put to illicit purposes, but he combined this with a violent side. He began to operate brothels around Dublin's inner city but had an unorthodox way of attracting women to work as prostitutes for him. He forced them. Felloni did what he did best – he preyed on the weak.
Many of the women he targeted had moved to Dublin from the countryside. Selling himself as a friendly landlord in the big city, he offered women cheap accommodation and then forced them to become prostitutes to pay for their keep. He met many women who later sold their bodies on his behalf outside the GPO on O'Connell Street, his trial would later be told. Women liked him, until they got better acquainted with his personality.
His prostitution racket began to grow, as did his reputation as a violent man. He used to viciously beat women who tried to escape his brothels. Soon, the gardaí began to take an interest. And in 1964, he was convicted of procuring young girls for immoral purposes and sentenced to three years' imprisonment.
Like so many others before him, prison did not provide the sharp shock necessary to scare Felloni straight. As the '60s turned into the '70s in Dublin, he began to realise where the real money was. In drugs, not vice.
The Dunne family were the first drug dealers to import heroin on a large scale into Ireland. Larry Dunne was the leader of the clan. They were the predominant heroin dealers of the '70s and '80s in the capital. In those days, there was no heroin market outside Dublin. The Dunnes were always happy to flash their cash, so were soon on the radar of gardaí. Felloni began associating with the Dunnes and, pretty soon, he became a major dealer in his own right. Like the Dunnes, he kept his business in the family and was also always showing off his new-found wealth. "Tony Felloni was wearing blue mohair suits before anyone knew what they were," says the man who knew Felloni as a youth.
"He didn't come from a bad family. His younger brother Justin was a decent man. He's dead now, he killed himself with the drink. If all Justin had in the world was a bag of chips, he'd share them with you."
In the 1980s, Larry Dunne was jailed for distributing heroin, marking the end of his family's dominance in the heroin trade. Upon his imprisonment he warned gardaí that if they thought he was bad, they should see what was coming up behind him. His prediction was right. Tony Felloni was waiting in the wings.
While the Dunne crime dynasty is responsible for first introducing heroin to Ireland, Tony Felloni can claim credit for flooding the capital with it and ensuring that whole inner city communities were destroyed by addiction. And again following in the Dunnes' footsteps, Felloni would later experiment with heroin himself, but never developed the severe addiction his children suffered.
A criminal courtship
Felloni met his future wife Anne Flynn in 1966, shortly after he emerged from prison for serving his sentence for the prostitution racket. She was also involved in criminality, and has served several prison sentences for assault and shoplifting. While other young courting couples went for dinner or drinks, Anne and Tony went shoplifting together. Almost from the beginning of their relationship, he beat her.
The couple had seven children. The eldest, Mario Angelo, who has Aids, has spent significant spells behind bars for armed robbery and other offences in the UK. He developed a chronic heroin addiction from a young age after entering the family business. Their second child Anne also got involved in the drugs business while she was still at school and, predictably, heroin addiction and Aids soon followed. Other siblings, Luigi, Regina and Renaldo, accepted the needle their father offered and their lives became a downward spiral of addiction and crime.
Only Felloni's youngest child, Elivita, was able to escape her father's destructive influence. She was only a toddler when he was locked up for 20 years. Felloni had another child as a result of an affair but, luckily for the child, he had little contact.
As the '70s ended and the '80s began, Felloni's heroin empire began to prosper. He was using the same methods as he did when he blackmailed women back in the '50s.
By getting his children as well as his street dealers addicted to heroin, he had complete control over them.
"What kind of a man deliberately gets their children hooked on heroin? It's incomprehensible," says the man from the city centre who knew Felloni growing up.
"He used people. There was a 14-year-old girl he got addicted to heroin and then he used to send her all over Europe collecting heroin packages. She'd be back and forth to Amsterdam for him on her own. She was never suspected, she was only a child. She died from drugs at 35."
In the '80s, Anne Felloni also became addicted to heroin. Life with her husband had become unbearable and several of her teenage children were already hooked on smack. She bears many scars from her husband's brutality. He took a hatchet to her skull, smashed a bottle over her face and tried once to bite her ear off. During her five years as a heroin addict, she gave birth to a son, Benito, who died three days later as result of her addiction. Her husband's imprisonment enabled Anne to truly break free from him, though they were already separated at that time. They have since divorced and Felloni will not be welcomed back by his ex-wife should he turn up on her doorstep.
'He doesn't give a sh**e'
Not long after he was imprisoned, Anne Felloni gave an interview to the late journalist Veronica Guerin, telling her prison was too good for her husband. "He's f***ed up every one of his own kids so he doesn't give a s***e about anyone," she said at the time.
In the early '90s, Felloni himself began smoking heroin, something gardaí always found hard to understand. "We thought at first it could be a story he was telling the judge. He was certainly never an addict like his children," says the officer who helped put Felloni behind bars as part of Operation Pizza.
"It's hard to imagine him walking the streets of Dublin again this weekend."
In the 15 years that Felloni was locked up, his wife and children have tried to rebuild their lives. Many of his children have kicked their heroin addiction but still live with Aids. Some still speak to their father, others do not. The family is scattered throughout Dublin and the UK. Felloni is broke, and also has serious medical problems.
Last year, the Criminal Assets Bureau seized €500,000 in assets from Felloni and two of his children, Luigi and Regina. Sources have indicated that gardaí are satisfied the heroin crime boss does not have any other money hidden away.
"He's old, he's broke and he's sick," adds the garda source. "I don't expect we'll have any more trouble from Tony Felloni."
January 30, 2011