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Angelo F. Tona, longtime jurist, special prosecutor; June 24, 1933 -- April 13, 2012

Angelo F. Tona, a longtime jurist and special prosecutor who served in both Western New York and New York City, died Friday in his Hamburg home after a short illness. He was 78.

Mr. Tona served as a judicial hearing officer for Supreme Court, County Court and city courts in Erie County after a distinguished career as a judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York and two decades as a prosecutor of organized crime and racketeering.

His public service also included a seven-year stint as a special assistant state attorney general investigating Medicaid fraud and prosecuting nursing homes for abuse of the elderly.

As chief of the Rackets and Narcotics Bureau of the Queens County District Attorney's Office, he indicted John Gotti, the notorious head of all organized crime families in New York City, as well as other high ranking members of Gotti's crime family.

Born in Buffalo, he was a 1951 graduate of Bishop Fallon High School in Buffalo. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he received a bachelor's degree in economics and banking from Canisius College in 1957, then earned his juris doctor degree from Fordham University Law School.

He began practice in 1964 with the firm of O'Rourke, Tona and McGrath in New York City. From 1969 to 1975, he served as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and was assigned to the Rackets Bureau, where he was chief of the Organized Crime Unit.

While serving most of his career as a prosecutor in New York City, in 1975 he was assigned to be the special nursing home prosecutor in Buffalo, his home city, where he was based until 1978.

From 1982 to 1986, he was chief of the Rackets/Narcotics Bureau of the Queens District Attorney's Office. While there, Mr. Tona oversaw anti-drug smuggling operations and organized crime activities at both LaGuardia and Kennedy airports.

He was appointed to the New York City Criminal Court Bench in 1986 by then-Mayor Edward Koch. He served for 12 years, retiring in 1998.

From 1999 to 2002, he served as a judicial hearing officer in Kings County, Brooklyn, and Suffolk County.

He returned to Western New York in 2002 and continued to serve as a judicial hearing officer, handling arbitrations and domestic violence compliance matters.

His legal credentials were extensive. He was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and both the Eastern and Southern District Federal Courts.

Mr. Tona was a member of the Erie County Bar Association, and past member of the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Queens County Bar Association and the Criminal Court Judges Association.

His honors and awards included the New York State Police Award, the Port Authority Police Department Award, the Long Island Railroad Police Department Award, the U.S. Department of Justice Special Achievement Award, the Westchester County Distinguished Service Award, the Distinguished Service Award of the Counsel General of Italy, the Fordham University School of Law Service Award and the New York State Commission of Investigations as a lecturer on organized crime.

Surviving are four sisters, Filippina "Fil" Feola, Carrie Burgio, Sister Mary Francis "Florence" and Lucy Barone; and a longtime companion, Patricia K. Clayback.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. John Vianney Church, 2950 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park.