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The Huge Arms of Bodybuilder Michael Guibilo


If they were going to make a movie about Michael Guibilo, it would be part - "Sopranos" and part - "Jersey Boys." A picture of young Guibilo says as much. He's wearing a tight gray sharkskin suit, the kind that The Four Seasons used to wear. But the tailoring reveals a freakishly large, bulging bicep.

See, Guibilo was no diminutive front man. He was a 6-foot-4, 280-pound sledgehammer better suited to the dark corners of the world. In a few short years, he went from lead guitarist of a group called The Vibrations to bouncer at mob joints, to the guy who dismantled a safe with his bare hands during a Lakewood heist that made headlines. After that job, he switched teams. His access to the dark corners made him a valuable - and legendary - operative for lawmen in several states.
 

Music Band The Vibrations launched by Michael Guibilo

* Photo above: Michael Guibilo, standing, third from left, played electric guitar and launched a band called The Vibrations, with friends (from left) Earl Wood, of Belleville, on the organ; Joe DelGuerico, of Belleville, on guitar; Butch DeSiena, of Newark, on saxaphone; and Jerry Capita, of Newark, on drums.


The legend centers on his double life. He foiled death plots against a federal judge, a U.S. attorney and a Paterson cop. He worked his way into the underworld of gun traffickers and jewel thieves. But all along, he was robbing banks to augment his payments for being a snitch. When in jail, authorities would wire his cell - with his knowledge - to build cases against fellow inmates. Then he'd get out and the cycle would start over again. It went on that way for 20 years.
 

The FBI by Ronald Kessler - Includes information on Michael Guibilo

* Photo above: The FBI by Ronald Kessler includes information on Michael Guibilo. A sample of which can be read here. The book can be purchased here.


Guibilo's story begins in Belleville. It ends in the hospital ward of the federal penitentiary in Allenwood, Pa., on March 22, 2015, just three weeks before his 70th birthday. At Allenwood, he was serving a 90-year sentence for bank robberies in West Caldwell and Millburn, committed in 2003 and 2004. It was the 12th time he had been convicted of a felony.
 

Michael Guibilo


A few nights before he died, Guibilo was attacked in his cell while he slept (more info on the attack can be read here). His sternum was cracked and he suffered a massive head injury. During his recovery, he fell and hit his head in the dispensary and died. Guibilo's friends say it was a hit. Could have been the mob. Could have been the feds. Giubilo ratted on the first and knew too much about how the second operated. This is not the opinion of a bunch of wiseguys, or wiseguy wannabes. This is the general consensus of a retired urologist, a prominent attorney, a CEO, an Evangelical Church pastor and a retired cop who worked with Guibilo when he was an operative.
 

Twiggy - Michael Guibilo - Denie Walters

* Photo above: Twiggy - Michael Guibilo - Denie Walters


They gathered Monday night at the Abundant Life Worship Center in Springfield to hold a memorial service for Guibilo and talk about his many conflicting sides. "We wanted to wait until we got his ashes back from Allenwood," said Louis Di Bella, a retired urologist who knew Guibilo from childhood. The ashes arrived before Christmas. One theme of the service was Guibilo's brilliance. "He could do anything he set his mind to," Di Bella said. "He could have been anything." "He was the best there ever was," said Richie "Rocky" Barbato, a retired investigator who worked in the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. "He was fearless." "We wanted to do a job on a gun ring in Florida that would have been the biggest gun job in history. These guys had assault weapons, grenade launchers, you name it. Mike was in with them, but my boss didn't want to do it," Barbato said.

Another theme - believe it or not - was loyalty.

"Mike didn't think of himself as a rat. He called himself an operative," said Joseph Cervasio, chairman of a business consulting firm. "When he switched sides, he gave them everything he had." "He was more interested in saving lives than anything else," said Ramazan Zuberi, a paralegal who was working to get Guibilo released because of declining health. Anthony Pope, one of the state's best-known defense attorneys, was also reviewing the case. "He predicted he would be murdered in prison," Pope said. "He said, 'You gotta get me out of here or they're gonna get me.' "

When Guibilo was sentenced in October 2006 (photo below) in connection with the Essex bank jobs, he was a shell of himself. "He had heart disease, pulmonary disease, arthritis," Di Bella said. He once robbed banks to buy expensive suits and drive Corvettes or Lincolns, but he was, in 2003, using the money to pay medical costs, his friends say. In the end, as it happens many times, Guibilo found peace through faith.
 

Michael Guibilo from 2006


A 2006 story in The Star-Ledger about Guibilo's life as an informant got the attention of Joe Cancelliere, the pastor at Abundant Life. "When I was a kid in Belleville, I used to ride my bike by his house just to get a look at him," Cancelliere said. "I was getting into weightlifting then and I heard about this guy with 22-23 inch biceps."

Cancelliere still has the body of a powerlifter and one of his church logos shows a Jesus, with superhero muscles, bearing the weight of an enormous cross. "God sends us people like us," he said. "So I went to see Mike (after he was sentenced). I said, 'God sent me to see if you need anything.' He lifted his hands up against the glass, and I put mine up there, and we prayed."

That relationship continued three times a week for almost a decade until Guibilo's death. "I never physically touched Mike," Cancelliere said. "We always talked for hours by phone or through the glass. But I could see he was truly repentant. He wanted to get out and come work here with us."

And so the legend continues.

Part of what Cancelliere does is reach out to men in trouble, trying to find a path to redemption. They all know Guibilo's story. Good guy. Bad guy. Depending who you ask. But, in the end, just another guy looking for something else, looking for a way out.

 

By Mark Dilonno

Original Source of article. View here.

Mark may be reached at mdiionno@starledger.com.

Follow The Star-Ledger on Twitter @StarLedger and on Facebook.
 

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