Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 20, 2011
91 Leaders, Members and Associates of La Cosa Nostra Families in Four Districts Charged with Racketeering and Related Crimes, Including Murder and Extortion

          WASHINGTON – Ninety-one members and associates of seven organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), including the New England LCN family, all five New York-based families and the New Jersey-based Decavalcante family have been charged with federal crimes in 16indictments returned in four judicial districts, announced Attorney General Eric Holder. Another 36defendants also have been charged for their roles in alleged associated criminal activity.

          Joining in the announcement were Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Division; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch; U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara; U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman; U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island Peter F. Neronha; Acting Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor Daniel R. Petrole; and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

          More than 110 of the 127 charged defendants have been arrested, and will appear in federal court in the districts in which they are charged. The charges relate to a wide range of alleged illegal activity, including murder, murder conspiracy, loansharking, arson, narcotics trafficking, extortion, robbery, illegal gambling and labor racketeering, in some cases occurring over decades. The indictments charge leaders of these criminal enterprises, as well as mid-level managers, numerous soldiers and associates, and others alleged to be corrupt union officials.

          "Today’s arrests and charges mark an important step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra’s illegal activities," said Attorney General Holder. "This largest single day operation against La Cosa Nostra sends the message that our fight against traditional organized crime is strong, and our commitment is unwavering. As we’ve seen for decades, mafia operations can negatively impact our economy – not only through a wide array of fraud schemes but also through the illegal imposition of mob "taxes" at our ports, in our construction industries, and on our small businesses. The violence outlined in these indictments, and perpetrated across decades, shows the lengths to which these individuals are willing to go to control their criminal enterprises and intimidate others. The Department of Justice and our partners are determined to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all, and to bring their members to justice."

          "Some believe organized crime is a thing of the past; unfortunately, there are still people who extort, intimidate, and victimize innocent Americans. The costs legitimate businesses are forced to pay are ultimately borne by American consumers nationwide," said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III.

          "Today’s indictments represent a major milestone in the Office of Inspector General’s statutory responsibility to investigate labor racketeering and organized crime influence and control of unions, employee benefit plans and their workers," said Daniel R. Petrole, Acting Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Labor. "Through the alleged domination of these unions, these investigations revealed that union officials and associates and members of La Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Families conspired to steal from and extort hard working union members. My office remains committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners to combat these types of crimes."

          Among those charged are Luigi Manocchio, 83, the former boss of the New England LCN; Andrew Russo, 76, street boss of the Colombo family; Benjamin Castellazzo, 73, acting underboss of the Colombo family; Richard Fusco, 74, consigliere of the Colombo family; Joseph Corozzo, 69, consigliere of the Gambino family; and Bartolomeo Vernace, 61, a member of the Gambino family administration. In total, more than 30 official members of the LCN, or "made men," were charged in the indictments unsealed today.

          According to the indictments, the LCN operates in numerous cities around the United States and routinely engages in violence and threatens violence to extort money from victims, eliminate rivals, settle vendettas and obstruct justice. In the New York City-area, five LCN families principally operate: the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese families. The Decavalcante family operates principally in New Jersey, while the New England LCN family operates in areas including Providence and Boston. Each LCN family has a hierarchical structure, with an administration comprised of a boss, underboss and consigliere at the top overseeing crews of criminals led by captains, who in turn supervise organized crime soldiers and associates.

          In Brooklyn, 12 indictments were unsealed today charging 85 defendants from all five New York-based families as well as defendants from the Decavalcante family. One indictment (United States v. Russo) charges 39 defendants, including the entire leadership of the Colombo family not currently in prison – street boss Andrew Russo, acting underboss Benjamin Castellazzo and consigliere Richard Fusco – as well as four of the crime family’s official captains and eight of its soldiers, with crimes including racketeering and racketeering conspiracy committed during an approximately 20-year period. Among other acts of violence, Colombo family acting captain Anthony Russo is charged with the 1993 murder of Colombo family underboss Joseph Scopo during an internecine war among family members. According to court documents, Scopo was shot in the passenger seat of a car outside of his residence in Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y. The Russo indictment also charges numerous crimes of extortion and fraud, including charges related to the Colombo crime family’s alleged long-standing control of Cement and Concrete Workers Union Local 6A, and its alleged defrauding of the City of New York in regard to an annually held feast, the Figli di Santa Rosalia. The indictment is based in part on hundreds of hours of recorded conversations of members and associates of the Colombo family, including meetings of the Colombo family administration.

          Two of the indictments returned in Brooklyn (United States v. Vernace and United States v. Dragonetti) charge 13 members and associates of the Gambino family, including Bartolomeo Vernace, a member of the current Gambino family administration. The Vernace indictment includes, among others, charges against Vernace in regard to the 1981 double murder of Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese inside the Shamrock Bar in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens. D’Agnese died from a single gunshot to the face and Godkin died from a point-blank gunshot to his chest. The Dragonetti indictment charges numerous acts of extortion, including a conspiracy by the Gambino family to extort a New York City cement manufacturer, as well as various construction companies and sites outlined on the crime family’s so-called "Construction List."

          In nine of the indictments charged in Brooklyn (United States v. Alesi, United States v. Balzano, United States v. Caramanica, United States v. Cicalese, United States v. Colandra, United States v. Gallo, United States v. Gioia, United States v. Messina and United States v. Samperi), members and associates of the Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Decavalcante families are charged variously with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, receipt of stolen property and possession of contraband cigarettes. For example, in United States v. Messina, Bonanno family associate Neil Messina is charged with the murder of Joseph Pistone during a home invasion robbery in 1992. The Alesi indictment charges, among other things, a former member of the Suffolk County, N.Y., Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit with obstructing a state investigation of illegal gambling businesses by tipping off the business to upcoming law enforcement raids. The Cicalese indictment charges three members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) with committing perjury during testimony before a federal grand jury investigating organized crime’s infiltration of the waterfront and the ILA.

          Another indictment (United States v. Depiro), being prosecuted jointly by the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York, charges 15 defendants with various racketeering related crimes, including extortion of members of ILA Local Union 1235 and other New Jersey ILA locals, as well as for acts of illegal gambling through the management of a sports betting operation and a poker club, and extortionate collection of credit related to gambling debts. Certain defendants, who include numerous current and former officials in local ILA unions based in New Jersey, are alleged to be affiliated with the Genovese family.  According to court documents, the Gambino and Genovese families have engaged in a multi-decade conspiracy to influence and control the unions and businesses that work on the New York-area piers.  According to court documents, Stephen Depiro managed the Genovese family’s illegal activities on the New Jersey piers, including the Genovese family’s long-standing conspiracy to extort ILA members each year during the Christmas period, when the longshoremen annually receive a portion of royalty payments paid by shipping companies using the ports of New York and New Jersey.  Depiro and others allegedly conspired with his cousin, Nunzio LaGrasso, an associate of the Genovese family and the vice-president of ILA Local 1478 in Newark, to extort ILA members each year.

          In Manhattan, 26 defendants, primarily from the Gambino family, have been charged in two indictments that include charges related to racketeering conspiracy, murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion, assault, arson, loansharking, illegal gambling, mail and wire fraud, and stolen property crimes. Among the defendants charged are Joseph Corrozo, 69, who has served at times as the Gambino family consigliere; Bartolomeo Vernace, 61, a member of the Gambino family administration, who is also charged in Brooklyn; Gambino family captains Alphonse Trucchio, 34, and Louis Mastrangelo, 66; and Gambino soldiers Michael Roccaforte, 34, Anthony Moscatiello, 40, and Vincenzo Frogiero, 43.

          According to court documents filed in the Manhattan cases, the criminal conduct allegedly occurred for more than two decades, from the late 1980s to approximately 2010. Gambino associate Todd LaBarca, 39, is charged with the 2001 conspiracy to murder and murder of Gambino family associate Marty Bosshart. According to the indictment, Bosshart was murdered on Jan. 2, 2002, with a single gunshot to the back of his head, and his body was left on the side of the road in Queens. According to court documents, a cooperating witness consensually recorded more than 100 conversations with other members and associates of the Gambino family, including conversations with LaBarca about the murder. In addition, according to court documents, the cocaine and marijuana trafficking involved multiple thousands of kilograms of the illegal drugs.

          Finally, an indictment unsealed in Providence charges two defendants - longtime boss of the New England LCN Luigi Manocchio, 83, and LCN associate Thomas Iafrate, 61, - with extortion and extortion conspiracy. The extortion conspiracy allegedly spans almost two decades of illegal activity and involves the extortion of local pornographic bookstores and nightclubs, including the Satin Doll and the Cadillac Lounge, both in Providence.

          The charges carry a variety of maximum penalties, up to life in prison on certain charges.

          The charges announced today are merely allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

          The defendants charged in each district will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys from each of the respective districts in which the cases were charged, including the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, the District of Rhode Island and the District of New Jersey. The case charged in Providence is also being prosecuted by trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.

          The cases were variously investigated by the FBI’s New York and Newark Field Offices, and the Boston Division’s Providence Resident Agency; the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; the New York City Police Department; the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Secret Service; the Suffolk County Police Department; the Rhode Island State Police; and the Providence Police Department. The Drug Enforcement Administration; the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Marshals Service in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York; the Monmouth County, N.J., Prosecutor’s Office; the New York State Police; the New Jersey State Police; the New Jersey Department of Corrections; the U.S. Army-Ft. Hamilton; and the Italian National Police also provided assistance.

          Copies of the indictments can be found at www.justice.gov/opa/lacosanostra.htm.

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