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ONE THUMB DOWN--A TRUE CRIME STORY

A ruthless boss, reputed to have ties to the Mafia, calls an underling into his office and tells him he knows he's had his hand in the till to the tune of nine grand. There's only one way to right this wrong. "I told him that if he intended to keep his employment, I would have to break his thumb," the boss later recalled in a courtroom. "I didn't want to set the standard that somebody could steal from my company."

So here's what happened: On orders from the boss, another member of the firm drove the suspected thief to a New Jersey hospital, parked in front of the emergency entrance, took hold of a hammer, smashed the man's thumb, got him admitted for treatment, and then arranged for a limo to take him home. What's more, the guy got the rest of the day off.

That's the real-life story. The boss, Daniel Provenzano--a nephew of Anthony Provenzano, said to be an associate of the Genovese crime family--pleaded guilty in the State Superior Court of New Jersey on November 6 to charges of extortion, assault and failure to file a state income tax return. He faces sentencing of up to 15 years in prison on February 28.

Now for the reel-life story. Moviegoers will be fascinated to hear that until he learns his fate, the 39-year-old Provenzano is apt to be found in the editing room. That's because he is the writer, director and star of "This Thing of Ours," a thriller about a shady dude who--like Provenzano himself--is the nephew of a prominent underworld figure. Who else is in the movie? James Caan, an actor you may recall from "The Godfather," and Vincent Pastore, a staple of "The Sopranos."

By now, you're undoubtedly panting to see "This Thing of Ours." But you'll have to be patient--it won't hit the cineplexes until January.


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