Check out Monique Griego's full story on the Cantarella family's transition from a life of crime to life in the Sonoran Desert TONIGHT on 12 News at 10.
It's a lifestyle most of us only know about from the movies: The Mafia life.
“It was a great life -- there wasn't anything we couldn't have,” said Richard Cantarella.
As a former mobster with the Bonanno crime family, Cantarella and his son Paul grew up in the Mafia. But in 2002, their world came crashing down when the FBI came knocking.
“I got arrested in 2002 and I wound up cooperating with the government," Cantarella told 12 News.
Cantarella faced life in prison for his alleged ties to a string of Mafia hits and Paul was looking at 20 years for racketeering.
Both decided to cooperate with Paul heading into witness protection as his father waited in prison.
“I chose to be loyal to my family rather than my boss,”
Back then, he never imagined he and his wife Lauretta would end up out west, far away from New York.
“My son picked the state. He flew here, found a home and loved it,” Cantarella said.
In 2004, Paul left witness protection for sunny Scottsdale.
“It was like paradise to me,” said Paul, “The palm trees and your pool was open all year.”
Cantarella later followed, leaving the big house for the Phoenix suburbs.
“You know what I notice out here? There's a lot of money out here,” Cantarella said. "I’ve never seen so many Bentleys, Maseratis ... This would actually be a haven for the Mafia."
Once in Arizona, the Cantarellas traded a life of crime for a legit family business.
Their Valley car washes are also now serving as the backdrop for the family’s latest endeavor: Unprotected, a reality show on the Oxygen network.
“I'm not a camera person so it was tough for me but they had a ball,” said Kim Cantarella, Paul’s wife.
The show, which just wrapped up its first season, mixes the family's tight bond with some of their East Coast attitude.
When 12 News sat down with the Cantarellas at their home, we asked them a question many people are probably wondering about: After spending more than a decade distancing themselves from their past, are they concerned the reality show could out them to people they know?
“By the time I came out of prison it was all said and done,” Cantarella said. “My boss cooperated, my underboss cooperated, so there was really nothing to me to be concerned about. I'm not saying there aren't people capable."
His wife Lauretta was more nervous about mean soccer moms than Mafia men.
“I just thought they would that they wouldn't like us as much and I wanted them to see another side of us,” she said.
If they expected animosity, what they ended up getting was a lot more curiosity.
“People are mesmerized by the mob," said Cantarella.
“When we were younger, it was different because we weren't really supposed to say anything or talk about it,” said Toni Ann Cantarella, Paul’s 17-year-old daughter.
Paul’s 18-year-old son Richie echoed that same thing, saying sometimes the topic of his family would take over the class discussion when he was in high school.
Now with everything out in the open, the Valley of the Sun is helping them create a new legacy to go along with that famous last name.
"We like it here -- we have no reason to leave,” said Cantarella.
The family is waiting to find out if Unprotected is picked up for a second season.
Until then, you can binge-watch clips and episodes online.
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