Jul 02, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Dan Stenham’s dad was a special agent for the FBI. While all FBI operatives are called “special agents,” Don Stenham was truly special.
“He worked as a fed for 25 years,” Dan recalled, “and for nine of those years he was undercover posing as a member of the Mafia.”
Don Stenham died in 1991 at the youthful age of 51. The lawman — who had worked out of the U.S. Justice Department’s Syracuse office for 20 years — succumbed to complications from a brain tumor.
So this month when his son, Dan, opened a combination pawn shop and wireless telephone store at 612 Oswego St., at the corner of Tulip Street here in Liverpool, he decided to name the business after his late father.
“His undercover alias was Lucky Cataldo,” Dan said.
And so the name of the business is Lucky’s Gold & Wireless.
Gold & Wireless
The gold refers to the shop’s pawnbroking function.
“We buy gold, silver, diamonds, old coins, pretty much anything of value,” Dan said. He pointed to a couple solid-body electric guitars hanging on the wall. “We’re also interested in electronics, computers, watches and musical instruments.”
Well-stocked glass cases display all sorts of cell phones, smart phones and accessories, and Lucky’s pawning capability even spills over into the wireless department.
“People who want to pre-pay for their cell phone service can do it here,” Dan said, “and we’re the only wireless business, as far as I know, that will take payment from its customers in gold or silver or other valuables.”
Dan’s partner at Lucky’s Gold & Wireless is his brother-in-law, Al Alpuerto. Al is married to Dan’s sister, Kristine.
Speaking of family, Dan’s mom, Anne Stenham, recently retired after 25 years as an executive secretary for the town of Clay. Now she spends plenty of time checking in with her son and son-in-law at the shop named after her late husband.
A made man
Don Stenham fully embraced his role as a faux Mafia functionary.
“He really looked the part,” Dan remembered. “He had slicked-back dark hair and wore leather coats and jewelry.” As Lucky Cataldo, the elder Stenham infiltrated the mob in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chicago and New York City.
“He actually got made in Virginia,” Dan said, “but then they found out he was a fed.”
Along the way Stenham worked alongside another FBI agent, Joe Pistone, who would become the most famous federal agent to ever infiltrate the Mafia. Pistone was known by members of the Bonanno Family as “Donnie Brasco.”
After Stenham’s identity as Lucky Cataldo was compromised in Virginia, he returned to more pedestrian FBI endeavors. For instance, he was the man who arrested former Syracuse Mayor Lee Alexander in 1987 on charges of racketeering, tax evasion and conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.
That bust was a big deal for the Stenham family, Dan remembered. “There was a big picture on the front page of the Syracuse newspapers of my dad taking away Lee Alexander in cuffs.”
Whether he was covertly probing gangsters or bringing corrupt politicians to justice, Stenham invariably used the name Lucky.
“It was even on his business card,” Dan recalled. “He was known as Lucky by everyone from people on the streets of Chicago all the way to Quantico.”
Lucky’s Gold & Wireless is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; 565-5700; luckysgw.com.
Last week I reported that Pappas Bakery at 408 Old Liverpool Road has a new owner, Charles F. Quaglia, Jr., but I incorrectly wrote that he also owns Enzo’s Pizza across from the Old Liverpool Road Rite Aid.
He did for awhile, but gave up Enzo’s when he moved to the Pappas location.
The brick building at the corner of Old Liverpool Road and Electronics Parkway will soon revert to a Gino & Joe’s Pizza, just as it had been a couple decades ago.
Meanwhile, line up for fried haddock on Friday at Pappas Bakery. For de