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Eleven Members and Associates of the Gambino and Luchese Families, and Two Associates of the Sicilian Mafia, Charged with Racketeering, Bribery, Extortion, Money Laundering, Loansharking, and Bank Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2007

Undercover Operation Reveals Plot to Pay Bribes to Secure the Release from Federal Detention of an Associate of the Sicilian Mafia

Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Mark J. Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, announced that an indictment and complaint were unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York charging eleven members and associates of the Gambino and Luchese organized crime family and two associates of the Sicilian mafia with multiple charges, including racketeering, loansharking, extortion, bribery of a federal official, money laundering, attempted bank fraud, check forgery, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and smuggling conspiracy. The two cases represent the culmination of an eleven-month investigation that generated hundreds of hours of recorded conversations with Gambino family captain GEORGE DECICCO, soldiers and associates of DECICCO’s Gambino family crew, and other organized crime members and associates as they planned and engaged in criminal activity, including a plot to bribe a federal immigration officer to release a member of the Sicilian mafia from federal detention.1

The defendants arrested this morning are: GEORGE DECICCO, JOSEPH ORLANDO, STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, ROBERT DECICCO, RICHARD JULIANO, RICHARD J. JULIANO, JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO, KURT RICCI, MICHAEL FICHERA, VITO RAPPA, FRANCESCO NANIA, JAMES AVALONE and JERRY DEGEROLAMO. The defendants are scheduled to appear this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York. The indicted case has been assigned to United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

As alleged in the indictment and a detention letter filed by the government, in 2006, Gambino family soldier Joseph ORLANDO believed that a Gambino family associate had connections to corrupt immigration and other government officials. ORLANDO approached the individual and sought his assistance in obtaining legal residence status for his girlfriend through those corrupt contacts. Although the individual did not in fact have any such contacts, he accepted $9,000 from ORLANDO as potential bribe money. When the individual was unable to procure the resident status sought by ORLANDO for his girlfriend, ORLANDO threatened to kill him. Fearing for his life, the individual contacted the FBI and agreed to cooperate in an undercover investigation. Subsequently, the FBI arranged for ORLANDO to meet an undercover agent, posing as a corrupt immigration official. These and later meetings would be recorded by the FBI.

ORLANDO told other members and associates of the Gambino family of the cooperating witness’s purported contact with corrupt government officials; this in turn led other defendants to contact the cooperating witness in attempts to further other criminal schemes.

For example, the indictment alleges that ORLANDO, Gambino family associates JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO and STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, and Sicilian mafia associates FRANCESCO NANIA and his brother-in-law VITO RAPPA offered bribes to the cooperating witness’s purported corrupt contact at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to arrange for the release of NANIA from federal detention, where he was being detained in connection with his immigration status.2 NANIA and RAPPA paid approximately $70,000 to ORLANDO and the cooperating witness in order to secure NANIA’s release. According to the government’s detention letter, NANIA was previously convicted in Italy for mafia-related aggravated attempted extortion, and Italian law enforcement authorities are seeking his extradition to Italy.

In another scheme alleged in the indictment, ORLANDO, FAMIGLIETTA, and Luchese family associate JERRY DEGEROLAMO are charged with illegally conspiring to smuggle gold bars worth millions of dollars from the Philippines into the United States. The defendants planned to use the cooperating witness to bribe his purported corrupt ICE contact to ensure the success of the scheme.

The criminal complaint filed today also charges that ORLANDO and Gambino family associate JAMES AVALONE plotted to bribe the purported corrupt ICE contact to protect from investigation by immigration officials a New Jersey spa owned by AVALONE, and paid ORLANDO more than $100,000 in an effort to gain access to the supposed ICE contact in order to obtain legal immigration status for the women who worked in the spa.

As set forth in the documents filed in connection with today’s arrests, during the course of the investigation, several defendants discussed their willingness to commit violent acts in furtherance of their criminal activity. In one recorded conversation concerning the cooperating witness’s outstanding loansharking debt to Gambino family captain GEORGE DECICCO, DECICCO stated, “I’ll burn your eyes, did you ever screw me? Do you want me to burn your eyes out?” In another conversation, Gambino family soldier ORLANDO admits committing eight murders: “I got eight under my belt already, so I don’t give a f--- who nine’s gonna be. . . . ” In a conversation recorded during a trip to Las Vegas to collect a $250,000 debt, ORLANDO stated that he was “going to shoot him [the debtor] in his f------ knee for starters.”

“We are committed to eradicating the violence and corrupting influence of organized crime in our communities,” stated United States Attorney Mauskopf. “The investigation and prosecution of organized crime continues to be a priority of this office.” Ms. Mauskopf thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for their outstanding cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mershon stated, “George DeCicco has operated continuously for so long that his arrest today is like the end of Cal Ripken’s consecutive-game streak. The difference is that Ripken’s streak ended when he voluntarily took himself out of the lineup. Today’s arrests also show that New York-based mobsters and the Sicilian mafia are willing to work together, which is why the FBI and Italian law enforcement authorities have solidified an already-strong partnership. We will continue to maintain vigilance against the threat posed by organized crime.”

If convicted of racketeering or racketeering conspiracy, defendants GEORGE DECICCO, JOSEPH ORLANDO, JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO, STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, ROBERT DECICCO, RICHARD JULIANO, and RICHARD J. JULIANO face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. If convicted of attempted bank fraud, defendants KURT RICCI and MICHAEL FICHERA face a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment. If convicted of bribery, VITO RAPPA and FRANCESCO NANIA face a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, and if convicted of conspiracy, defendants JAMES AVALONE and JERRY DEGEROLAMO face a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Paige Petersen.


The Defendants:

Name: JAMES AVALONE
DOB:  8/3/43

Name: GEORGE DECICCO
DOB:  3/20/29

Name: ROBERT DECICCO
DOB:  7/27/50

Name: JERRY DEGEROLAMO
DOB:  4/1/71

Name: STEVEN FAMIGLIETTA, also known as “Steve Rigatoni”
DOB:  2/14/62

Name: MICHAEL FICHERA
DOB:  9/14/62

Name: RICHARD JULIANO
DOB:  3/26/40

Name: RICHARD J. JULIANO
DOB:  1/15/75

Name: FRANCESCO NANIA
DOB:  1/19/67

Name: JOSEPH ORLANDO, also known as “Joey Boy”
DOB:  3/19/49

Name: VITO RAPPA
DOB:  10/15/67

Name: KURT RICCI
DOB:  9/15/65

Name: JOSEPH ZUCCARELLO, also known as “Joey Zack”
DOB:  4/24/54

 

 

_____________________________

1 The charges contained in the indictment and complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

2 NANIA has since been charged in a criminal complaint filed in the District of New Jersey with making false statements in immigration applications.


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