Members and Associates of Gambino and Bonanno Organized Crime Families Arrested in Coordinated U.S.-Canadian Takedown
Defendants Charged in Brooklyn Federal Court with Drug Trafficking, Loansharking and Firearms Offenses
Earlier today, three indictments were unsealed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging four defendants with narcotics trafficking, loansharking and firearms offenses. The defendants—Damiano Zummo, an acting captain in the Bonanno crime family; Salvatore Russo, an associate of the Bonanno crime family; Paul Semplice, a member of the Gambino crime family; and Paul Ragusa, an associate of the Bonanno and Gambino crime families—were arrested yesterday and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. In a coordinated operation, Canadian law enforcement authorities today arrested nine organized crime members and associates in Canada, including members of the Todaro organized crime family, who are charged with, among other crimes, narcotics trafficking.
Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.
“Today’s arrests send a powerful message that this Office and our law enforcement partners here and abroad are committed to dismantling organized crime groups wherever they are located — whether local or international in scope,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “The recording of a secret induction ceremony is an extraordinary achievement for law enforcement and deals a significant blow to La Cosa Nostra.” Ms. Rohde praised the exceptional investigative efforts of the FBI, and extended special thanks to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Ms. Rohde also expressed her thanks to the Office’s law enforcement partners in Canada, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the GTA Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Ontario Regional Office.
“Criminal enterprises, both national and international, contribute to the breakdown of a lawful society,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “And yet, the allure of this gangland culture is often embraced and glamorized in movies and on television, where the threats posed to our economic and national security are seldom displayed. Dismantling and disrupting major international and national organized criminal enterprises is a longstanding area of FBI expertise, which is significantly enhanced through collaboration with our law enforcement partners and our Canadian partners. While we have more work to do, this operation is a giant step in the right direction.”
The coordinated investigation lasted more than two years and revealed criminal activity spanning the United States and Canada. As detailed in court filings, in 2015, one of the defendants sponsored a confidential informant to become a full-fledged member of the Bonanno crime family and as part of the investigation, law enforcement secretly video- and audio-recorded the induction ceremony, which occurred in Canada.
As detailed in the indictment and other court filings, Zummo, an acting captain in the Bonanno crime family, engaged in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy with Bonanno associate Salvatore Russo and others introduced by the confidential informant. In one transaction, on September 14, 2017, Zummo and Russo sold over a kilogram of cocaine inside a Manhattan gelato store. Zummo is also charged with laundering over $250,000 in cash by providing business checks issued to a fictitious consulting company that purported to bill the company for consulting services. Zummo took a fee of approximately 10 percent for each money laundering transaction.
As also detailed in the indictments and other court filings, Semplice, a member of the Gambino crime family, is charged with conducting a loansharking scheme in which he and others extended extortionate loans with interest rates of up to 54% per year. The alleged scheme generated thousands of dollars per week for Semplice and others. Paul Ragusa, a long-standing associate of the Bonanno and Gambino organized crime families, is charged with being a felon in possession of nine firearms, including three automatic assault rifles and one silencer. As alleged, Ragusa transported the firearms in exchange for $2,000 in cash.
If convicted, Zummo and Russo each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; Semplice faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each of three loansharking charges; and Ragusa faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act.
The charges in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys M. Kristin Mace, Tanya Hajjar and Drew Rolle are in charge of the prosecution.
Residence: Roslyn Heights, New York
Residence: Bellmore, New York
Residence: Brooklyn, New York
Residence: Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 17-CR-601 (ENV); 17-CR-612 (PKC); and 17-CR-613 (PKC)