38 Defendants in Historic Colombo Family Case Plead Guilty
Thirty-eight defendants charged in United States v. Andrew Russo, et al., a case brought as part of the Department of Justice’s largest single-day operation against La Cosa Nostra, have pleaded guilty to federal charges. According to court documents, those who have pleaded guilty include the members of the entire administration of the Colombo organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the “Colombo family”), as well as numerous leaders, members, and associates of the Colombo family.
The guilty pleas were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Mary Galligan, Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
At the time the Russo case was unsealed on January 20, 2011, Andrew Russo was the street boss of the Colombo family, Benjamin Castellazzo was the acting underboss of the Colombo family, and Richard Fusco was the consigliere of the Colombo family. All have since pleaded guilty, along with four captains of the Colombo family and seven other official members, or soldiers. According to court testimony and court filings, five of the defendants were arrested less than two years after their secret induction into the Colombo crime family on February 1, 2009.
The final five guilty pleas, those of Andrew Russo, Dennis Delucia, Joseph Savarese, Ilario Sessa, and Angelo Spata, occurred yesterday and earlier today. When sentenced, the majority of the defendants, including those who pleaded guilty yesterday and today, will face a maximum sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment.
In addition, pursuant to the terms of the plea agreements the defendants have entered into with the government, the thirty-eight defendants have agreed to forfeit a total of $5,576,550.39 in criminal proceeds.
At a proceeding yesterday, Andrew Russo admitted his involvement in a racketeering conspiracy involving the Colombo family, including his participation in predicate acts of operating various illegal gambling businesses. In earlier proceedings, Castellazzo pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, including predicate acts involving two separate extortion conspiracies, and Fusco admitted to conspiring to extort money from the Gambino crime family. Joseph Savarese and Larry Sessa admitted to using extortionate means on various occasions to collect debts. Regarding one assault, Savarese admitted to a cooperating witness that he and Sessa “gave . . . a beating” to an individual to collect a $13,000 debt. In another incident, Sessa, armed with a knife, assaulted a debtor.
In an earlier guilty plea proceeding, Anthony Russo, who at the time of his arrest was an acting captain in the Colombo family, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, including the 1993 murder of Colombo family underboss Joseph Scopo during an internecine war among Colombo family members.
“These convictions mark an important event in this Office’s continued efforts to entirely dismantle the Colombo family,” said United States Attorney Lynch. “The historic indictment announced in January 2011 sent the message that our fight against traditional organized crime is strong, and our commitment is unwavering. These ensuing prosecutions have decimated the Colombo family infrastructure, as we have removed both the old guard and the new blood, dramatically reducing their ability to run their illegal enterprise.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Galligan stated, “The dwindling strength of all five La Cosa Nostra families is cause for optimism that their pernicious influence in various industries - and their violence in pursuit of that influence - will become a thing of the past. The FBI will continue to address the threat posed by the Colombos and the other families until it has been eradicated.”
The remaining defendant, Ralph Scopo, Jr., is alleged in court papers to be a member of the Colombo family. He faces charges of extortion related to the Colombo crime family’s alleged long-standing control of Cement and Concrete Workers Union Local 6A.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth A. Geddes, Allon Lifshitz, and Gina M. Parlovecchio.
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