Richard "Dick" Eaton (c.a. 1937 - January 17, 1979) was a New York criminal, a South Ozone Park, Queens saloon owner and general manager of Moo Moo Vedda's dress factory and an associate of the Lucchese crime family. He was involved in labor racketeering, accessory-to-murder after the fact, extortion, loan sharking, racketeering, credit card fraud, counterfeiting, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, money laundering and more importantly a suspect in the 1978 Lufthansa heist. He is the brother of mob associate Carlton Eaton (1937-1964).
Born in Hollis, New York, Richard Eaton lived an average childhood. Richard was a high achiever and successfully graduated from high school. After graduation he accepted an athletic scholarship and moved from Hollis to South Ozone Park in the early 1950s and attended Notre Dame University. Eaton excelled at the university and eventually earned a business degree. He also learned several languages including Spanish and Italian which he spoke fluently. Richard suffered from Antisocial personality disorder as many scam artists are known to. After graduating from Notre Dame University he became involved with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
It was around this time that he first met Bonanno crime family mobster Dominick Cersani. Dominick convinced him to be a front man and Richard became the general manager of several non-union sweat shops including Moo Moo Vedda's non-union dress factory, all located in South Ozone Park on Lefferts Boulevard. Through his mob contacts he also become a close business partner of Lucchese crime family capo Vincent Aloi who ran the "Capo Trucking" (a pun on Vincent Aloi's mob rank at the time as capo or captain in the Bonanno crime family) garment trucking firm out of Ozone Park, Queens in the 1960s and 1970s. He was not only able to supervise the day-to-day operations of a six-day-a-week business with over fifty employees, but could sell garments too. He had long ago known that he was worth every penny Cersani and later Jimmy Burke paid him. He would place the illicit funds into a legitimate financial sector, restaurants, and the dress factories, and allow the funds to earn interest. His contacts and range of acquaintances allowed him to deal easily with bankers, investors and financiers. Richard was always well-barbered and manicured, always careful to give the appearance of an urbane and successful businessman. By 1978 after working for the violent gangster for nearly twenty years he strongly believed he could do better elsewhere, preferably as his own boss at last. At that point in time he was legally written up as being the sole proprietor and manager of Robert's Lounge and as the general manager to several mobbed-up sweat shops in the area. To Burke and Henry Hill he was bright, conscientious, astonishingly detail-oriented, personable, eager to learn, easy to teach, savvy and amazingly aggressive as a salesman. Every week Richard had to pay back a certain amount to Burke, who didn't care whether business was good or bad. Richard is described by Henry Hill as a "hustler on a grand scale" or a confidence man. Richard was nicknamed "Richie" among fellow criminals, his business partner mobsters, Dominick Cersani, Tom Monteleone and Charles Kottler. Richard also was a boyfriend of Theresa Ferrara. He is alleged to have been involved in a $125,000 in 1977 cocaine deal that ripped off Jimmy Burke. Richard was well tanned from frequent shady business venture trips to visit Tom Monteleone in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Richard's legendary skill as a union manipulator came in handy many times. Thomas Lucchese thought up a scheme of hiring non-union, cheap Mexican labor for Jimmy Burke's clothing factories and Eaton was investigated intensively by the ILGWU and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He was also investigated by the New York State Liquor Authority, New York Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the criminal activity at his saloon Robert's Lounge. Richard Eaton had some of his own money invested in Robert's Lounge and essentially had Burke as a silent partner in the saloon and garment factories. He also obtained a liquor license for Burke's business since Burke himself was not allowed to have one because of his criminal past. He opened his saloon early and allowed the Vario Crew to drink on the tab. When it came time to settle the liquor bills he was usually paid in stolen merchandise from hijackings which he would sell at his garment factories to his workers. It is unknown if Richard was present at the murders of Michael "Spider" Gianco, Martin Krugman and Burke's hijacking friend Dominick Cersani, but his saloon was used as the location of at least three murders, Hill later suggested to FBI as many as twelve or more buried in the basement of Richard's saloon. Through a leak in the District Attorney's office Burke was later thought to have dug up the bodies and transplanted them elsewhere for their final and permanent burial ground.
Moo Moo Vedda's was one of the illegal sweatshop garment factories managed by Richard. It was located conveniently next door to Eaton's lounge, Robert's Lounge which was a "front" for Burke's hijacking, extortion, loansharking and bookmaking operations. From outside, the building in South Ozone Park, Queens, looked as if it had been abandoned years ago. A layer of grime coated the windows and a rusting metal grate stretched across the storefront. Several of his sweat shops were under contract to sew and press apparel for PUMA AG Rudolf Dassler Sport (PUMA), a large German-based multinational company that to this day produces high-end athletic shoes and other sportswear. During the investigaton of the 1978 Lufthansa heist a distinct PUMA shoe print that matched the size of suspect Parnell Edwards was found by the NYPD in the abandoned Brinks armored car. Several times over the years Richard was in business Moo Moo Vedda's and the other sweat shops in Corona, Queens and around the working class neighborhoods of Brooklyn had been cited as "fronts" for being illegal sweatshops by the New York District Attorney, which was a misdemeanor offense, but the charges later dropped on grounds of insufficient evidence. A certain mob associate and shop foreman of Moo Moo Vedda's, Charles Tuso was a no-show employee of Richard's. Charles Tuso was later arrested for his alleged involvement in the acid-blinding of columnist Victor Riesel on April 5, 1956 along with several other low echelon Lucchese crime family mob associates. The charges against Charles, and his alleged cohorts were later dropped. Jimmy Burke and Henry Hill also used the garment factories to sell amounts of stolen goods like cigarettes or other hijacked clothes to the workers. Richard later helped Henry set up a silk screening company with his wife Karen and sister-in-law Judith in the garage of their Rockville Center home. Henry used the business as a legitimate front for his federal tax statements to avoid scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service. Henry created t-shirts, baseball caps and sweatshirts for the New York Jets including all their logo jersey shirts. Henry later estimated that he produced about 50% of their sport memorbelia clothing. With the help of Richard he also earned contracts with Perrier water and serviced all the nightclubs in the area.
Three days following the disappearance of Tommy DeSimone, the body of Eaton was discovered in the trailer of an abandoned refrigeration tractor trailer in Gravesend, Brooklyn which had been taken during an unsolved hijacking. His body had been found by children playing inside the abandoned trailers. His hands and legs had been tied with wire in a Hogtie and his neck was broken. Jimmy had attempted to torture and kill Richard by tying Richard's hands behind the back along with the feet, with one end of the rope around the his neck. The tension on the neck-rope could have only been relieved if Richard kept the neck, back and legs in an arched position. Eventually Richard would have become tired and strangled himself. It seems Jimmy grew impatient of waiting for Richard to die and dislocated the vertebrae in his neck before the self inflicted asphyxia succumbed him. There was some delay in identifying the body since it had been frozen so stiff, prolonged by rigor mortis that it took more than two days before the coroner could perform the autopsy. When the body is frozen, the time of death is made impossible to calculate by forensic scientists. When searching the body of personal belongings they found a phone book that had Jimmy Burke's name and personal telephone number of his home in Island Park, New York in Eaton's coat lining. At the time of his death, Richard had just returned back from a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he was suspected to have laundered huge amounts of money. The money the authorities thought was supposedly from the Lufthansa heist. After searching a safety deposit box registered under a false name by Eaton, the FBI were still unable to locate the proceeds that Eaton allegedly laundered.
Two weeks later, Eaton's girlfriend and mob mistress Theresa Ferrara was found dismembered on February 10, 1979. Her murder is alleged to have been connected with Eaton's. Nobody was ever convicted of her murder.
Mobster and silent business partner Jimmy Burke was later charged with the murder of Richard Eaton, based on evidence Henry Hill gave to authorities. At the trial, Hill took the stand and testified against his former friend. Hill testified Eaton had convinced Burke to invest $250,000 in a cocaine deal that promised immense profit. However, depending on the story (either kept the money for his own use, or, this could also be the 1978 drug bust that was faltered with the help of Theresa Ferrara), the drugs were seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration. When word reached Paul Vario of the drug shipment's fate, Paul said Monteleone, the actual exporter of the cocaine would pay for the shipment and the lost earnings as well. Following the incident Henry Hill asked Burke about Eaton's whereabouts, observing that he hadn't been seen around at Robert's Lounge for a while. Hill said Burke replied "Don't worry about him. I whacked the fucking swindler out". With only the evidence of Burke's private Island Park, New York home address and phone number found in Eaton's coat lining when his body was found and Hill's testimony, Burke was convicted, and on February 19, 1985, he was given a life sentence, protesting "the bastard died of hypothermia!". At the same time that Burke was being tried for the murder of Richard there was an attempt by Henry Hill and Eastern District of New York Special Assistant United States Attorney Edward McDonald to convict Burke of accessory to murder for his participation in the previous 1970 murder of Gambino crime family street soldier William Devino, but Henry Hill was the sole living witness after murder accomplice Thomas DeSimone was killed in a gangland execution in 1979, so the District Attorney had the charge dropped due to insufficient evidence. Jimmy Burke was serving his life sentence for the murder of Eaton at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York when he developed lung cancer. He died from this disease on April 13, 1996, aged sixty-four, while being treated at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. Had he survived his prison sentence Jimmy would have been eligible for parole in the year 2004, when he would have been in his mid-70s.