Mafia Hit Man Finds Redemption in Art

For years, Montiglio struggled with cocaine addiction and alcohol and in 1983, trying to collect an old loan in a drug deal, Montiglio was arrested for extortion.

Gambinos Order Contract Killing

After two weeks in federal prison, he discovered a contract was out on his life and agreed to testify against Gaggi and the DeMeos, resulting in 24 arrests. His uncle died before finishing his sentence.

Montiglio was spared prison time for probation and given witness protection for 20 years.

His new identity as an artist emerged accidentally in the 1990s while converting his sister's Long Island garage into an apartment. With gallons of leftover paint, he created a 17- by 11-foot mural on one of the walls.

A friend who owned a gallery saw the mural and made an offer Montiglio couldn't refuse: "If you can make me a painting, I'll put it in my next show."

Later, Montiglio's art took off, catching the eye of Red Bull marketing guru and art collector Hans Kastner.

Today, with chronic lung disease and post traumatic stress disorder, Montiglio survives on veteran's benefits and his job as a security guard. The irony does not escape him: "I know all the tricks."

He lives in a state he won't reveal.

"I like to stay ahead of the beast," he said wryly. "The present family always has some young cowboys who like to make their name. It's much better to stay on your toes."

A recurrent nightmare still wakes Montiglio in a pool of sweat: He walks out of Uncle Nino's house and from underneath his Cadillac, emerges Joey and Anthony from the DeMeo crew.

"Hey Dominick, come to hell with us," they chant.

"I am still in hell," said Montiglio. "There are so many things I could have done. I had a football scholarship and Army medals."

He has been "clean" for decades and has already sold one piece of art for $7,200. Montiglio knows that either the Olof Gallery exposure or a documentary in the wings could set him up for life.

"It's hard to be proud of yourself when you ran a twisted life," said the former hit man. "But you just grab at the moment -- whatever it is."

The Outsider Art Fair is being held Feb. 5-7 at 7 West 34th Street off Fifth Avenue in New York City. With donations from many Haitian artists, 5 percent of the sales will go to Doctors Without Borders for earthquake relief.

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