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Cop who took down ‘Iceman’ to receive honors for helping troubled teens

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Dominick Polifrone made his name as a street-smart detective who nailed the infamous “The Iceman,” but he’s now enjoying a second life as a counselor to troubled teens — for which the YMCA of Greater Bergen County is honoring him.

Dominick Polifrone (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo)

Polifrone, who began his law enforcement career in Bergen 40 years ago, will receive the Y’s Service to the Community Award the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, on a night when Bill Madden, sports columnists of the New York Daily News, will be awarded Person of the Year.

The dinner honors outstanding high school, college, amateur and professional athletes, as well as coaches and other adults who have done exceptional work with young people.

Other honorees this year include Kansas City Royals pitcher Vin Mazzaro – who, like Polifrone, is a Hackensack native – and Bergenfield amateur golfer Matt Dubrowski.

The Bergen-area high school athletes being honored:

Kevin Thomas Condal, Hasbrouck Heights
Eric Thomas Flanagan, Bergen Catholic
InSoo Hwang, Ridgewood
William Lewis, NV-Demarest
Mel Lewis, Midland Park
Dane McDermott, St. Joseph Regional
Jill McGovern, River Dell
Kristina Meier, Paramus
Tara Anne Wilk, IHA
Taylor Woegens, Bogota


All proceeds from the event go directly for scholarships or program subsidies for needy youngsters.

Polifrone’s story reads like a crime thriller. The former college linebacker and amateur boxer began with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office in 1971 but soon began working for federal authorities hunting down mobsters. By 1976, he was an agent with the federal Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Although he grew up in Bergen County and attended college in the Midwest, Polifrone passed for a city wiseguy. That won him an undercover role in which he helped take down dozens of “goodfellas” by posing as one of them.

These were just a warmup for his biggest case:

By his own account, “The Iceman” shot, stabbed, strangled, and poisoned nearly 200 victims. One was blown to bits by a grenade; another was stuffed into a barrel of quick-drying cement in a North Bergen garage.

Then there was the corpse Kuklinski kept frozen for two years in a Mister Softee warehouse off Tonnelle Avenue, also in North Bergen, to mask the time of death.

A medical examiner discovered ice crystals after the body was found on a roadside in Rockland — during the spring. It’s how Kuklinski got his nickname.

A former Gambino family enforcer, the 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound Kuklinski killed his targets for their money after threatening extortion and convincing them to bring him huge sums of cash.

Posing as an arms dealer, Dom elbowed his way into the right circle. For months, he hung out in a Paterson storefront, where a few pieces of window-dressing merchandise masked back-room prostitution and joker-poker. And although it took more than a year, the Iceman finally called.

“Can you get the white stuff (cyanide)?” he asked Dom during their first meeting. “I need to take care of a couple of rats.”

Sure, Dom said, over coffee and danish at a Paterson Dunkin’ Donuts.

He was surprised when Kuklinski called the next day.

“That’s when I knew I was over the hump,” Dom said. “I could feel it in my bones. I told the guys, ‘I’m in.'”

“I’ve done it on a busy street where they thought the guy had a heart attack,” Kuklinski says on one recording. “I walked right up to him, made like I was sneezing into my handkerchief to protect myself, and sprayed him in the face.”

Somehow, Dom got The Iceman to talk, on tape, without ever having to produce the poison. Once he produced enough to make a case, investigators devised a robbery-murder sting involving a “rich kid” drug buyer. Kuklinski would give the fictitious victim a cyanide-laced egg sandwich, then take $85,000 in cash he was supposed to be carrying.

Kuklinski bought it.

During a December 1986 meeting at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop on the N.J. Turnpike in Ridgefield, Dom gave Kuklinski the egg sandwich and the “poison” — actually quinine prepared in a New Jersey State Police lab.

Later that day, a squadron of police vehicles converged on Kuklinski’s house as he and his wife pulled from their driveway. In the trunk, they found the sandwich.

The Iceman, as many know, made a cottage industry out of interviews with HBO before he died in March 2006 while serving two life sentences.

For his work, Polifrone was appointed to head the ATF’s office in North Jersey, where he helped get illegal guns off the street. He’s received commendations and awards from U.S. representatives in Washington D.C. as well as from the state of New Jersey.

He’s now living in Norwood and working at Hackensack High School helping troubled youths at its drop-in center. And he couldn’t be happier.

THE YMCA OF GREATER BERGEN COUNTY HONOREES:

YMCA Person of the Year

Bill Madden

Professional Athlete

Vin Mazzaro

Walter E. Goepel Amateur Athlete
Jenn Brunet

College Athlete

Matt Dubrowski

Thomas L. Della Torre Special Achievement
Henry Hobatuck

Richard Poor Service to the Community
Dominick Polifrone
Lee & Annie Tremble

Service to Youth

Frank ‘Butch’ Servideo (Nicholas G. Saingas Award)
Janet Molino (William Corcoran Award )

YMCA Inspirational/Courageous

Corey De Leon – Youth Award
Toni-Marie Hals – Adult Award
Annie Kennelly – Youth Award

Special Achievement
Mike Glynn
Brian Long
Tracy Trobiano

J. Barry Stanford Award

Aiyana Abukusumo-Whitney, NV-Old Tappan
Thomas Barnes, River Dell
Gabriella Cuevas, IHA
John T. Marut, Hackensack
Erin Mary McGovern, IHA
Stephen Mozia, Hackensack
Patrick Rono, Lyndhurst
Kaleb Zuidema, Midland Park

High School Student – Athlete
Kevin Thomas Condal, Hasbrouck Heights
Eric Thomas Flanagan, Bergen Catholic
InSoo Hwang, Ridgewood
William Lewis, NV-Demarest
Mel Lewis, Midland Park
Dane McDermott, St. Joseph Regional
Jill McGovern, River Dell
Kristina Meier, Paramus
Tara Anne Wilk, IHA
Taylor Woegens, Bogota







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