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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Feds bust massive Genovese family money laundering ring

Authorities have charged 11 members and associates of the notorious Genovese crime family with running a number of illegal financial schemes, including elaborate loansharking and sports gambling operations that raked in millions of dollars in recent years.

At a press conference in Newark this morning, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the takedown of the wide-ranging ring, saying their schemes were evidence that the Mafia had “evolved and learned to exploit sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes.”

Seven defendants were arrested this morning, including a Genovese “capo”, 80-year-old Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo and 55-year-old Vito Alberti, a “made” soldier – both of whom report directly to the crime family’s hierarchy in New York, authorities said. Another three were charged by summons, and one, Vincent Coppola, remains at large.

Check-cashing schemes

According to Hoffman, the man at the helm of the family’s alleged check-cashing scheme is Domenick Puccillo, a 56-year-old Florham Park man who oversaw operations at Tri-State Check Cashing Inc., located on Avenue A in Newark’s Ironbound District, and other licensed check cashing locations.

There, he allegedly extended lines of both cash and credit to customers, and charged annual interest rates ranging between one to three “points”, or between 52 and 156 percent.

The victims, who Hoffman said were typically indigent with poor credit, were required to pay interest weekly, or face threats of violence from Puccillo and an associate, Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola.

They typically made payments by check, so that it appeared they were simply cashing them as part of the Tri-State’s regular course of business, but the two were in fact keeping the proceeds for themselves and kicking profits up the line to Tuzzo and Alberti.

The ring also ran an unlicensed check-cashing operation out of the Portucale Restaurant & Bar, also in Newark’s Ironbound District, which was allegedly used to launder money and evade taxes.

According to Hoffman, customers looking to avoid government scrutiny when cashing checks over $10,000 would visit the restaurant, where owner Abel Rodrigues would hand over cash provided by Tri-State in exchange for a fee. Customers typically cashed the checks in order to finance “under the table” payrolls at their own businesses, Hoffman said.

Rodrigues, meanwhile, would flout federal law by failing to file required transactions reports on the checks, and Tri-State would be reimbursed by another company, Viriato Corp., for six-figure sums they had directed to the illegal operation.

Over a four-year period, Rodrigues and an associate, Manuel Rodriguez, are accused of cashing more than $400 million in checks and collecting over $9 million in fees.

Two employees at Tri-State and Portucale, Flor Miranda of Newark and Jennifer Mann of Bayonne, are each accused of helping to keep records and file false reports related to the schemes.

Sports Gambling

Authorities claim the ring ran a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling business, headed by 37-year-old Coppola, the son of jailed Genovese capo Michael Coppola.

According to Hoffman, Coppola used an offshore “wire room” located in Costa Rica to process bets, and supervised underlings John Trainor and Jerry Albanese, who vetted new clients and dictated how much specific groups of bettors could gamble per week or per game.

During 2011, Coppola allegedly handled more than $1.7 million in bets, bringing in more than $400,000 in profits to the Genovese family.

Trainor allegedly became tied up with the ring after becoming indebted to the crime family. The ring then took over his car business, GTS Auto Carriers, and siphoned money from it - which Hoffman likened to a memorable episode of “The Sopranos” during which mobsters force a gambling addict to hand over profits from his sporting goods store until it hits bankruptcy.

“That’s the analogy that works for me. This guy Trainor got involved with the mafia, the mafia got involved in his business, and they really bled the business dry and took advantage of him,” he said.

Under a lucrative deal with Nissan, GTS transported cars from Port Newark to area dealerships. Alberti is accused of creating a company called AMJ Transport, which collected more than $300,000 a year to to lease trucks to GTS, and placed himself and another Genovese associate on the payroll, despite never performing any legitimate work.

Drug Money, Tax Charges

Authorities say another check-cashing company acquired by Pucillo, Florida-based I&T Financial Services, was used to launder and transfer money from drug traffickers.

Money would initially be delivered to Miranda at Tri-State, then wired under a fictitious name to I&T to an account managed by the client, who authorities were unable to identify, Hoffman said.

I&T allegedly took in about $666,000 in laundered money from the scheme, and collected about $22,500 in fees. Hoffman declined to be specific about the type or amount of drugs the ring may have helped conceal, citing an ongoing investigation.

Tuzzo, Alberti, Pucillo, Spagnola, Rodriguez, Coppola, Rodrigues and Trainor are all facing charges including first-degree racketeering and money laundering, each of which could land them in jail for up to 20 years.

Alberti, Trainor, Rodrigues and Rodriguez are also facing tax-related charges for their illegal activity related to the check-cashing businesses and other endeavors.

Hoffman said the cases will be tried out of State Superior Court in Morris County.

A full list of the defendants and charges:

∙ Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo, 80, Bayside, N.Y. – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury and promoting gambling

∙ Vito Alberti, 55, New Providence – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, promoting gambling and filing a fraudulent tax return

∙ Domenick Pucillo, 56, Florham Park – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility

∙ Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola, 67, Morganville – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records

∙ Manuel Rodriguez, 49, Chatham – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility, filing a fraudulent tax return, failure to file a tax return

∙ Vincent P. Coppola, 37, Union – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, promoting gambling

∙ Abel J. Rodrigues, 52, Bridgewater – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility, filing a fraudulent tax return

∙ John W. Trainor, 42, Brick – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, promoting gambling, forgery, failure to file a tax return

∙ Jerry J. Albanese, 47, Scotch Plains – first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, promoting gambling

∙ Flor Miranda, 40, Newark – first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records

∙ Jennifer Mann, 30, Bayonne – first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility, issuing a false financial statement, forgery

Mob turncoat has 12 year sentence overturned

A prolific mob informant — who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for taking part in an arson with gangsters he informed on — has had his conviction tossed out on appeal, federal court records show.

Volkan “The Turk” Mergen had been praised by prosecutors for helping sink a slew of Bonanno and Gambino hoods by making more than 275 secret recordings between 2001 and 2006, court documents say.

“Mergen’s service was fruitful: He sometimes submitted so many recordings to the FBI that the agency could not keep pace,” the papers say.

But the feds abruptly ended his dazzling tenure as a mob canary after he took part in a 2006 Staten Island home arson with a crew of mobsters he was supposed to be informing on, court papers state.

Mergen had told FBI agents about the arson plan in advance and was instructed not to involve himself, prosecutors said.

But the former Gambino crime-family associate claimed he didn’t have time to back out without revealing himself as a rat, court papers state.

Citing his work as an informant, the feds offered Mergen a plea deal on a lesser charge. He chose a trial and was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012.

But an appeals court ruled that Mergen’s trial was defective, finding he should have been allowed to play in court a secret recording he made of his FBI handler.

The recording captures the agent saying Mergen didn’t do anything wrong in relation to the blaze.

The panel also dumped other counts against Mergen — including theft — because the statute of limitations had run out.

Mergen’s attorney, Andy Frisch, declined to comment on his successful appeal.

The feds will now decide whether to retry the Turkey native, now free on $200,000 bond pending the outcome of his case.

Before his arrest, Mergen was credited with sending several hoods to prison and helping to crack the 2005 murder of Bonanno associate Robert McKelvey at the old Kreischer Mansion in Staten Island.

McKelvey was stabbed and drowned in a pond on the grounds before his body was chopped into pieces and discarded. Joseph Young, 29, was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to life on 24 racketeering counts, including the murder.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Former union official is sentenced to 20 months in prison for extortion scheme

A former delegate of a longshoremen's union was sentenced Wednesday to 20 months in prison for extortion of Christmastime tribute payments, according to a statement from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
Robert Ruiz, 55, of Watchung, a delegate of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1235 from 2007 through 2010, pleaded guilty in May on one count of conspiracy to extort Christmas tributes from ILA Local 1235 members, the statement said.
Judge Claire C. Cecchi imposed the sentence in Newark federal court, additionally sentencing Ruiz to two years of supervised release, the statement said.
Ruiz and two other former ILA officers — Vincent Aulisi, 82, of West Orange, president of Local 1235 from 2006 through 2007, and Thomas Leonardis, 57, of Glen Gardner, president of the union from 2008 through 2011 — admitted their conspiracy to force tribute payments from ILA union members with actual and threatened force, violence and fear, the statement said.
The extortions typically happened at the same time members received "Container Royalty Fund" checks as a year-end compensation, the statement said.
Ruiz and Leonardis were suspended from their union positions after their January 2011 arrests, but Aulisi had already retired from the New Jersey piers by the time of his arrest, the statement said.
Aulisi was sentenced to 18 months in prison on October, 2014, while Leonardis still awaits sentencing, the statement said.
Three additional defendants named in the indictment have charges still pending, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 59 of Kenilworth, a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra, the statement said.
Depiro since at least 2005 has managed the Genovese family's control over the New Jersey waterfront, including nearly 30 years of extortion of port workers in multiple union locals, the statement said.
Depiro and other members of the Genovese family are charged with conspiring to collect tribute payments from New Jersey port workers each Christmas through corrupt influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235, the statement said.
Albert Cernadas, 79, of Union, president of ILA Local 1235 from 1981 to 2006 and former ILA executive vice president, and Nunzio LaGrasso, 63, of Florham Park, former vice president of ILA Local 1478 and former ILA representative, both associates of the Genovese family, are also charged in the case, the statement said.
U.S. Attorneys Fishman and Lynch credited the FBI in New Jersey, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, and in New York, under the direction of Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Garcia of the New York Regional Office, with the investigation, the statement said.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Mahajan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey, and Jacquelyn M. Kasulis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, the statement said.
Defense counsel was Marc Agnifilo of New York, the statement said.

Low level Chicago Outfit associate is charged in thefts

A reputed, lower-level mobster is in jail as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged organized crime activity targeting retailers in Naperville and nearby communities.

Naperville police on Thursday would not comment on their involvement in the case, in which thousands of dollars worth of merchandise was allegedly stolen last year from at least nine area retail shops.

One of the suspects, convicted syndicated gambling operator Anthony Giannone, remained Thursday in DuPage County Jail on $250,000 bail. He was arrested Monday in northwest suburban Rosemont.

Giannone, 51, lives on the 2500 block of Sagamore Circle in Aurora. He faces trial on a felony charge of theft of stolen property worth more than $500 but less than $10,000, according to records on file in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton.

A $250,000 warrant has been issued for the arrest of Giannone’s alleged accomplice, convicted burglar Vincent T. Forliano, 44, who reportedly last lived in Bloomingdale. Court records indicated he is to be tried on the same charge.

An assistant DuPage County state’s attorney on Monday filed a motion in the case. It read in part that charges were brought against Giannone and Forliano “as a result of a Naperville Police Department investigation into the activities of organized crime operating in the city of Naperville and other Chicago suburbs.”

Judge Robert G. Kleeman “reviewed and signed search warrants, for the search of the defendants’ (homes) and vehicles,” the motion continued. Evidence that Forliano and Giannone “are engaged in an ongoing, criminal enterprise was seized” during those searches, the motion declared.

Authorities contend the men “derive a substantial portion, if not all, of their income from the sale of stolen merchandise and other illegal activities,” according to the motion. “Despite the defendants’ claims to have legitimate employment, neither was observed working during the 10-month Naperville police investigation.”

A formal complaint filed by a Naperville police detective said Giannone and Forliano on Dec. 3 “knowingly obtained control over certain stolen property of numerous retail establishments.”

The allegedly victimized businesses included Ann Taylor, Bath & Body Works, Eddie Bauer, J. Jill, L.L. Bean, Men’s Wearhouse, Pottery Barn, Toys R Us and Williams-Sonoma. Court records revealed their losses totaled $3,297.78.

Several of those corporations have locations in or near downtown Naperville, although the detective’s narrative did not provide the addresses of the allegedly victimized stores.

Sgt. Bill Davis, the Naperville police public information officer, declined to comment on the matter.

“This case is an ongoing, active investigation, and no information can be released on it at this time,” Davis wrote Thursday in an email.

Giannone has been described in court documents as being an alleged, mob-connected bookmaker. Undercover FBI agents in 2001 placed wagers as part of their probe into an illegal gambling enterprise they believed Giannone was running.

Surreptitious tape-recordings made earlier that year by the FBI had Giannone plotting to kill a government informer. The witness “has got to go, because (he is) causing a really, really big problem now,” Giannone said on tape, according to federal files.

Giannone also threatened a client who had run up a gambling debt of more than $50,000. He implied he would beat the man badly, saying, “When I find you, every day it rains, you’re going to remember me.”

DuPage County court records showed Giannone in February 2003 was sentenced to two years in prison on a felony charge of syndicated gambling. He also was sentenced to six months in DuPage County Jail, for illegally having a pistol and a box of ammunition in his vehicle during a February 2000 traffic stop in Hanover Park, records indicated.

Forliano in early 1989 was charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools in DuPage County, according to records. He ultimately violated the terms of the probation he received in that case, and was sentenced in March 2004 to three years in prison.

Giannone reportedly is able to post his $25,000 bond, but prosecutors suspect he earned the money through criminal activity. A prosecution-requested “source of funds hearing” is set for Wednesday, after which Giannone might or might not be freed on bond prior to his trial.

Scarfo Jr and Pelullo seek new trial after conviction

They want a do over.

And if they're granted a new trial, they don't want any mention of the mob.

That's the essence of a 72-page motion filed by lawyers for Salvatore Pelullo and joined by lawyers for Nicodemo Scarfo and brothers John and William Maxwell asking Judge Robert Kugler to overturn their convictions and order a retrial in the FirstPlus financial fraud case.

A hearing on the motion and the government's response is set for Monday. Sentencings, which were originally scheduled for Oct. 21, 22 and 23, have been moved to January for all four defendants.

The defense motion is built around the argument that organized crime involvement was improperly and inaccurately introduced into the fraud case and created undue prejudice for the defendants. Lawyers for the Maxwell brothers have also filed separate motions raising issues specific to their clients. John Maxwell, for example, argued again that he was only following the advice of professionals hired by the company and had no direct knowledge of the scam.

Kugler rejected similar arguments that were filed by the defense both before and during the lengthy six-month trial.

While it's unlikely the judge would reverse himself, the filings set the stage for a continued appeal on what was major defense argument: the government created undue prejudice by introducing the spectre of organized crime in a case that had no proven mob connections.

The evidence in the case failed to conform to the picture painted for both the judge in pre-trial arguments and for the jury during the trial, Pelullo's court-appointed lawyers Troy Archie and Michael Farrell argued in their motion.

The "unsubstantiated allegations made the defendants criminals in the jurors' minds before the trial even started," the lawyers wrote. They argued that the prosecution relied on "gossip, hearsay, stereotypes, innuendo, appearance and image" rather than evidence in its attempt to present a case in which it was alleged that the defendants "had pilfered a public company in order to aggrandize the mob's wealth."

Scarfo, 48, and Pelullo, 46, were convicted of orchestrating the behind-the-scenes takeover of FirstPlus Financial Group in May 2007. The troubled Texas-based mortgage company was then looted, the government alleged, through bogus consulting contracts and straw business purchases that resulted in $12 million being siphoned out of the company.

Among other things, the prosecution alleged that the money was used to support the lavish lifestyles of Scarfo, the son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and of Pelullo.

Those life styles included fancy cars -- Pelullo bought a $217,000 Bentley Continental -- expensive homes and a yacht (valued at $850,000) that was christened "Priceless."

The scam began to unravel in April 2008 when the FBI conducted a series of raids in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Texas. the raids targeted the FirstPlus offices in Irving, Texas, and the offices of businesses set up by Scarfo and Pelullo in Philadelphia and in the Atlantic City area. Pelullo's home in Elkins Park and Scarfo's $715,000 home in Atlantic County were also hit.

The government alleged among other things that Scarfo fraudulently obtained a mortgage for that home through the FirstPlus scam. Scarfo's wife, Lisa Murray-Scarfo, pleaded guilty to a mortgage fraud charge and is awaiting sentencing. Several other co-defendants also pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial.

Scarfo and Pelullo were each found guilty of more than 20 counts, ranging from racketeering conspiracy and fraud to money-laundering and obstruction of justice. John Maxwell, the CEO of FirstPlus, and his brother, William, a lawyer hired by the company, were also convicted of racketeering conspiracy and related offenses. Three other defendants, including Scarfo's longtime criminal defense attorney Donald Manno, were found not guilty.

The trial opened in January and the verdicts were delivered on July 3.

The indictment handed up in the case also listed the elder Scarfo and Luchese crime family boss Vittorio "Vic" Amuso as unindicted co-conspirators. Both are serving lengthy federal prison terms and were inmates together in Atlanta at the time the scam was hatched.

But in the motion for a new trial, lawyers argued that there was no evidence -- other than Scarfo's familial tie to the his father -- to back up the government's claim that the mob was involved in the FirstPlus takeover.

"The Government has been allowed to visit the sins of the father upon the son," the motion reads in part, adding that the spectre of organized crime "infected the trial" and created an undue prejudice.

The defense said that the investigation began as an organized crime probe, but said when the evidence instead demonstrated that it was really a "garden variety white collar fraud," the government continued to promote it as a mob case, using organized crime references and allegations in wiretap affidavits, pre-trial motions and in arguments to the jury. The defense argued that those references and unsubstantiated claims created the unfair prejudice that tainted the case and that should result in the convictions being thrown out and a new trial ordered.

"The problem is that the Government refused to let go of the LCN/Scarfo fixation," the lawyers argued. "Instead of simply altering its theory to focus on the alleged FPFG fraud, the Prosecutors shoehorned their theory into an LCN mold that simply didn't fit."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Feds argue case is classic extortion in Chicago

Federal prosecutors say the meeting in the Fuddruckers restaurant in Wisconsin was old-school extortion, carried out by two foul-mouthed tough guys sent to collect a debt.

But lawyers for two men charged with arranging the October 2010 encounter and several other alleged extortion attempts on behalf of a suburban businessman say there is no crime in asking someone to pay up money that is owed — even if the person making the request uses some salty language and happens to be physically intimidating.

"Being 300 pounds is not a crime," attorney Nishay Sanan told a federal jury in his closing argument Tuesday at a colorful extortion conspiracy trial. "Having a big head is not a crime. … A fat guy walks into a restaurant, sits down and says, 'F--- you, you owe me some money' … It's offensive, but it's not a crime."

Frank Orlando and Robert McManus are on trial on charges of conspiring to extort money on behalf of Mark Dziuban, who at the time was the vice president of sales for American Litho, a printing company in Carol Stream. Prosecutors have alleged the two enlisted the help of Outfit-connected pizzeria owner Paul Carparelli, who in turn hired beefy former union bodyguard George Brown and plumbing contractor Vito Iozzo to get the job done.

Brown, 51, and Iozzo, 43, each pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, admitting their roles in several collection attempts that had them jetting off to Wisconsin and New Jersey to find debtors and included one in which a victim was beaten. Dziuban and Carparelli have denied wrongdoing and are awaiting trial.

In one alleged extortion, Brown and Iozzo marched into the owner's office at a Chicago granite company looking to collect on a $500,000 debt, according to Brown's plea agreement with prosecutors. On Brown's signal, a third man, Patrick White, whacked the victim on the head, knocking him to the floor, authorities alleged.

"I told the granite guy, 'Hey motherf-----, this isn't going to go away,'" Brown admitted in a written statement filed in federal court last month. "I hit the granite guy in the head and then White kicked him. I told the granite guy that we had his phone number and that we would be calling him."

In the alleged Wisconsin extortion, Dziuban flew Brown and Iozzo on a private plane to Appleton to confront a business owner about a $100,000 debt his company allegedly owed to American Litho, prosecutors said.

The victim testified last week that he and Dziuban met alone in the back room of a Fuddruckers and he offered to hand over a special edition Ford Mustang as partial payment. Suddenly, Brown and Iozzo walked in, pulled up chairs alongside him and started demanding payment, saying they won't forget what he owes, the victim said.

When Iozzo asked him for an address where the car could be picked up, the victim was "shaking and stuttering" so badly that Iozzo instead grabbed the victim's driver's license and wrote the information down himself, according to Brown's written statement.

The victim testified that after the meeting, he filed a complaint in writing with police about the threats. When the victim had trouble reading the complaint in court, he told jurors he was still shaking when he filled it out and his handwriting was almost illegible.

Sanan, who represents Orlando, told jurors in his argument that the victim had no reason to fear Brown — who testified for prosecutors — and that no direct threats were ever made.

"All you have is a 300-pound guy sitting next to somebody, not on top of them," Sanan said. "And when he left he shook his hand."

New Jersey Senate panel votes to dissolve Waterfront Commission

The Waterfront Commission was created in 1953 ...
The Waterfront Commission was created in 1953 to prevent racketeering. 
A bill to dissolve a bi-state commission created to guard against unfair hiring practices and organized crime infiltration in the shipping industry was approved by the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

However, the commission's executive director and general council questioned the legal authority of one state's lawmakers to unilaterally dissolve an agency created by acts of the New York and New Jersey legislatures and Congress.

The measure, S-2277, would direct the governor of New Jersey to withdraw from the bi-state compact that created the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and to dissolve the commission, which was created in 1953 in the wake of real-life revelations of mob control of the docks depicted in the Marlon Brando film, "On the Waterfront."

The bill would transfer the commission's oversight responsibilities to the New Jersey State Police.

The measure is co-sponsored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), and Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), whose districts include shipping terminals in Elizabeth and Newark. Lesniak introduced a similar measure in 2010 that failed to gain traction.

Lesniak, a member of the committee, said during today's hearing that, like government or or even the Catholic Church, the waterfront was by no means immune to criminal activity, but that did not mean it needed its own regulatory body with police powers.

“There is no reason whey we need this extra layer of bureaucracy," Lesniak said. "And if we are going to have any bureaucratic oversight of businesses in New Jersey, I want it done by New Jersey, not have it shared by this agency.”

Lesniak said the commission had overstepped its regulatory authority by interfering with the hiring of longshoremen, thereby contributing to a labor shortage that threatened the financial health of the port, an economic engine for the region.

His arguments echoed assertions in a lawsuit against the waterfront commission filed jointly by the International Longshoremen's Association union and the New York Shipping Association, the port's main employers' group. However, a federal judge dismissed the suit, a decision the union and the shipping association have appealed.

The commission's executive director, Walter Arsenault, and its general counsel, Phoebe Sorial, told committee members it was the union and the shipping association that had failed to recruit a racially diverse class of applicants for hundreds of open longshore jobs under requirements of their own collective bargaining agreement, and had dragged their feet regarding sponsoring letters for applicants the commission had already screened for employment.

The committee vote on the bill to dissolve the organized crime-fighting commission came one day after Wedneday's sentencing of a former official of the union following his and others' admission they conspired to extort Christmastime tribute payments from the dockworkers then funneling the money to the Genovese Crime family. Vincent Aulisi, 82, of West Orange, a former president of ILA Local 1235, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his part in the shakedown scheme.

One of Aulisi's co-defendants was Thomas Leonardis, 57, of Glen Gardner, another former president of Local 1235, who also pleaded guilty and now awaits sentencing.

Leonardis had testified during a 2010 hearing on behalf of Lesniak's last measure to dissolve the commission, insisting that the union had purged itself of organized crime influence. Brandishing an old grappling hook used by longshoremen to unload pallets before the advent of containerization, Leonardis testified that the commission's anti-mob mission was as antiquated as that hook.

Arsenault recalled the disgraced union leader's testimony during today's hearing, posing the rhetorical question, "Where is Tom Leonardis now?"

Former Longshoremen union boss gets 18 months for extortion plot scheme linked to the Genovese crime family
The once-powerful boss of the union representing workers at New Jersey’s docks was sentenced to 18 months in prison today for a scheme to extort Christmastime kickbacks from members.
Vincent Aulisi, 82, hobbled into U.S. District Court Judge Claire Cecchi’s courtroom on a cane and listened as his attorney urged the judge to show mercy for a man who spent his off-hours coaching high school football players.
Aulisi apologized for his crime and to members of Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association in Newark, the local he served as president from 2006 to 2008.
“I apologize to the court and to my membership,” Aulisi told Cecchi. “That’s the part I’m feeling bad about. That I let them down.”
New Jersey federal prosecutors say Aulisi conspired to get members of the local to kick up cash payments -- known as "Christmases" -- that were funneled to members of the Genovese crime family.
Aulisi’s attorney, Joseph Fusella, noted that his client never profited from the scheme but passed the money along. He said Aulisi inherited a practice that had been around for nearly three decades when he took over as president of the local.
Aulisi, who lives in West Orange, is a former high school football standout who went on to play for Kansas State, Cecchi noted. "He's given back a lot to the community," Fusella told the judge.
He worked as a high school football coach for many years and is a member of the Seton Hall Prep Hall of Fame, his attorney said.
Aulisi was arrested in January 2011 along with several other ranking members of the local as well as members of the Genovese crime family.
In February 2013, Aulisi's son, Edward, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the extortion scheme.

Grand juries charge men linked to the New England mafia for concealing interest in waterfront land

Federal and state grand juries have indicted three owners of the waterfront land that Wynn Resorts plans to develop into a $1.6 billion resort casino.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston alleges Charles Lightbody, Dustin DeNunzio and Anthony Gattineri defrauded the Las Vegas casino giant by concealing Lightbody’s role in the deal.
The 54-year-old Revere resident is a convicted felon and reputed New England mafia associate.
The three are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aiding and abetting. Prosecutors said a state grand jury also charged the three with impeding a gaming investigation, conspiracy and tampering with evidence.
Lightbody’s attorney Tim Flaherty said the indictment is based on “speculation and conjecture” and Lightbody “steadfastly professes his innocence.”
It’s not clear who represents the others.
Wynn Resorts won the lucrative Boston-area casino license in September.“From the start of this process, I have been up front about my serious concerns related to the Everett parcel. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission and their investigatory body clearly failed the people of Boston and of the Commonwealth by allowing — even remotely — the taint of corruption to be associated with this land transaction,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement Thursday.
The Gaming Commission issued a statement as well, saying the “indictments send a loud message that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will take every measure necessary to preserve the integrity of the gaming industry while also remaining focused on maximizing the benefits of job creation and increased revenue to the Commonwealth.”
The commission said the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau “conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the suitability of Wynn MA LLC.”
Federal prosecutors said the men held a financial interest in FBT Everett Realty LLC, which held title to the proposed casino land, but claimed that Lightbody transferred his interest to Gattineri for a $1.7 million promissory note. Prosecutors alleged they created fraudulent documents to support their story, and sent Wynn Resorts an email falsely saying that DeNunzio, Gattineri and a third person were the only ones with a financial interest. Prosecutors said that DeNunzio, Gattineri and Lightbody also misled investigators for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission about Lightbody’s interest.
The state indictment includes similar allegations and also charges Lightbody with assaulting a man during a casino election rally in Revere in October 2013. The three will be arraigned on the state charges at a later date.

Bonanno captain pleads guilty to digging up and moving dead body!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/lufthansa.jpg
The mobbed up son of alleged Lufthansa heist mastermind Vincent Asaro pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court Friday to digging up a body that had been buried years earlier by his father.
Bonanno captain Jerome Asaro, 56, will likely face up to 8 years in prison for his role in a variety of mob mayhem including arson and the grisly exhumation of mafia victim Paul Katz during the early 1980s.
The scion’s decrepit father, Vincent Asaro, 80, is still slated for trial on a slew of serious crimes – including the spectacular JFK heist depicted in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” – that could land him in jail for the rest of his life if convicted.
Prosecutors charge that the elder Asaro pulled off the $6 million robbery of the Lufthansa terminal along with Lucchese mobster Jimmy “The Gent” Burke who was played by Robert DeNiro in the film.
Vincent Asaro allegedly had Katz killed in 1969 as a favor to Burke because the Lucchese hood suspected him of tipping off authorities about the location of a stash house.
Asaro’s lawyer, Lawrence Fisher, asked the court to allow Asaro to mingle with his ailing father behind bars at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Longtime Gambino captain and John Gotti ally dead at 85*qEDLS*nikeQEUoWqqFCSnYqV9KWqs*yUEQMrA-y9adQ3V*iO5/George_DeCicco.jpg
A GANGSTER who was a member of the late Gambino boss John Gotti’s inner circle has gone to that big social club in the sky.
Longtime capo George "Big George" DeCicco died late last week of natural causes. He was 85.
DeCicco was one of the Dapper Don’s most trusted lieutenants, according to law enforcement sources, and was the leader of the Gambino crime family’s murderous Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, crew for many years.
DeCicco was a fearsome presence on Bath Ave. for decades, but he may have been best known as the uncle of Gambino underboss Frank DeCicco, who was blown up by a car bomb in 1986 in retaliation for participating in the infamous murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano outside Sparks steakhouse in Midtown.
The assassination launched Gotti as a mob star.
Gambino Boss John Gotti was close to DeCicco, whose nephew Frank was killed in payback for the rubout of Paul Castellano, which led to Gotti taking over the crime family. 
Gambino Boss John Gotti was close to DeCicco, whose nephew Frank was killed in payback for the rubout of Paul Castellano, which led to Gotti taking over the crime family.
Defense lawyer Joseph Benfante remembered his client as a gentleman. “All the detectives and FBI agents used to tell me he greeted them cordially when they came into contact with him,” Benfante told the Daily News.
After DeCicco’s last arrest in 2007 on extortion charges, a federal prosecutor offered a darker portrait of the gangster.
“An individual who was hired to do a simple phone repair is so fearful that he’s convinced Mr. DeCicco is going to kill him when he does a shoddy job on the repair,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Taryn Merkyl stated at a bail hearing. “Mr. DeCicco then requires the individual to conduct the repair free of charge and pay him back the money that was originally paid for the repair.”
The repairman was terrified to return to Bath Ave., Merkyl said.

Judge rules families of Mafia Cops victims can sue New York City
A federal judge has green-lighted the multimillion-dollar wrongful-death lawsuits filed against the city by the families of seven men slain in mob hits executed or aided by former two detectives Louis Eppolito and ex-Great Kills resident Stephen Caracappa.
In allowing the cases to proceed, District Judge Raymond J. Dearie said there was evidence to suggest the rubouts would not have occurred had Eppolito been kicked off the force or disciplined after he was "caught red-handed" passing confidential police records to a mobster in 1984.
The slayings took place between 1986 and 1991.
Dearie said evidence also indicated there was a "systemic failure" to address corruption under then-Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward.
"The failure to discipline a detective who colludes with organized crime plainly courts the risk that that detective will do so again," wrote Dearie. "And it is likewise obvious that collusion between a police detective and organized crime might well lead, as it did in these cases, to unconstitutional harm to members of the public."
The judge further ruled the plaintiffs' families, who filed the suits in 2006 and 2007, had done so within statutory time limits.
Caracappa, 72, and Eppolito, 66, the so-called "Mafia Cops," are serving life sentences for their roles in the slayings, carried out at the behest of Lucchese crime family underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who later cooperated with authorities.
The two detectives were paid $4,000 a month to provide Casso with law-enforcement information. They received extra cash for murder contracts, including $70,000 for a hit on Eddie Lino, a Gambino crime family capo suspected of being involved in a failed assassination attempt on Casso, the ruling said.
Eppolito, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family, retired from the NYPD in 1990. He played a bit part in Martin Scorsese's 1990 mob drama "GoodFellas" and launched an unsuccessful career as a screenwriter.
Caracappa retired in 1992 after establishing the Police Department's unit for mob murder investigations. In 2005, while awaiting trial to start and after posting bail, Caracappa had stayed with his mother in South Beach.
Eppolito, then working in the 62nd Precinct in Brooklyn's Bath Beach neighborhood, came under scrutiny in 1984. FBI agents found confidential NYPD Intelligence Reports in the home of mobster Rosario Gambino, who was under indictment for heroin trafficking, said the judge's ruling.
A probe determined the reports had been photocopied at the 62nd Precinct and Eppolito's fingerprints were on the photocopies, the judge said.
Eppolito subsequently underwent a departmental trial which cleared him, despite "compelling" evidence against him, said the judge.
The trial was prosecuted by a junior NYPD lawyer and was based on stipulations between the parties, not live testimony, which was unusual, Dearie said.
Commissioner Ward declined to overturn the findings, although a follow-up Internal Affairs probe after the hearing again concluded that Eppolito had leaked the reports, said the judge.
Dearie said a report by the Mollen Commission provides "powerful evidence" that the Police Department at that time "tolerat(ed) corruption to avoid bad publicity."
He said the NYPD's "inexplicable failure" to discipline Eppolito may have emboldened Caracappa.
Eppolito started his relationship with the Luccheses after being cleared of the charges, the ruling started.
His cohort Caracappa, who worked for the NYPD's Major Case Squad, was specifically assigned to the Lucchese unit. He often worked on joint NYPD and federal task forces and had access to confidential information about ongoing investigations, said the judge.
Besides whacking Lino, the pair slayed an innocent victim, Israel Greenwald, a Diamond District jeweler, according to the ruling and Advance filings.
They also provided information which factored into the slayings of five others, including another innocent victim, Nicholas Guido of Brooklyn, said the judge.
And they were convicted of kidnapping Jimmy Hydell in 1986 and delivering him to Casso to be executed in retaliation for a botched attempted on Casso's life, said Advance reports. Hydell's mother, Betty Hydell, testified she saw the two detectives casing her Grasmere home in an unmarked police car the day her son vanished.
The city maintained the cases should be tossed because the plaintiffs did not file them until decades after their loved ones' deaths.
The plaintiffs contended they were not required to commence the lawsuits until they had some reason to link police to the killings. Eppolito and Caracappa were indicted in 2005.
Dearie sided with the plaintiffs and declined to throw out the suits.
A spokesman said the city Law Department is reviewing the decision.

Skinny Joey Merlino back in Philadelphia for hearing on parole violation

Joey Merlino arrives at federal court this morning to answer government allegations that he violated his probation. ( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )
JOEY MERLINO is crossing Market Street wearing a pair of oversized aviator sunglasses on an overcast day. Dark suit, dark tan.
A copious amount of gel keeps his slicked-back hair locked in place, but the orange-and-blue floral tie keeps you guessing.
You don't know whether he's going to shake your hand, punch you in the mouth or buy your family a Thanksgiving turkey.
The 30-something gangster they used to call "Skinny Joey" on Passyunk Avenue in the 1990s is now a muscular 52-year-old who actually looks like the ruthless mob boss that prosecutors have described in past indictments.
It's a remarkable transformation - the product of 12 years in prison followed by three years of Florida sun - but the timing is less than ideal.
Merlino, who has been living in Boca Raton, Fla., since he was released from prison in 2011, was back in Philadelphia yesterday to address allegations that he violated the terms of his probation in June by associating with a mobster and two convicted felons.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer told reporters that he still considers Merlino to be an active member of La Cosa Nostra - not a reformed mobster looking to get into the restaurant industry.
"I don't think Mr. Merlino has actually worked a job in a very long time, if ever," Troyer said. "I don't know him to be a maitre d' in a restaurant."
To which Merlino replied: "The guy's mental."
In court, Merlino's attorney, Edwin Jacobs Jr., presented a crafty - although outwardly ridiculous - legal argument, claiming that the feds failed to issue an official summons to Merlino prior to Sept. 6, when his probation was to have ended.
"There is no summons," Jacobs said.
One problem: It was Jacobs who caused the delay, by asking a court clerk to postpone the scheduling of a hearing date, the clerk testified. The process had been set in motion on Sept. 2.
"All right counsel, I think I understand," said U.S. District Judge Barclay Surrick, cutting Jacobs off mid-sentence when he'd finally had enough.
"It's the height of chutzpah to make this request," Troyer shot back, calling it "preposterous" that Jacobs would try to use the court's "professional courtesy" to his advantage.
Merlino's supporters, including his mother, wife and a priest, packed the courtroom. Some grumbled about what they consider decades of harassment by the federal government.
"This is your taxpayer money at work," a woman whispered.
If Surrick rules against Merlino, he'll have to return to court to address the underlying allegations - that he was caught hanging out with two felons and Philly mobster John "Johnny Chang" Ciancaglini at the Havana Nights Cigar Bar & Lounge in Boca Raton.
Ciancaglini, who was convicted of racketeering in 2001 alongside Merlino, was spotted yesterday on a bench directly outside the courthouse, reading the Daily News during Merlino's hearing. He was gone by the time Merlino's entourage exited the building.
Merlino, who some law enforcement officials believe still oversees mob activity here, could be thrown back in prison if he loses his latest court battle. And the feds would love nothing more than to indict him on new charges. They even wired up an informant and sent him to Florida to try to get Merlino saying something incriminating on tape.
But Merlino didn't seem particularly worried yesterday as a media scrum followed him out of the courthouse and across the street.
"I miss the Mummers parade," he quipped.
People at the bus stop recognized him. A guy at the newsstand flashed him a peace sign.
"That's Joey Merlino," said a woman outside the Dunkin' Donuts.
And then someone else said the same thing and word started to spread, and it briefly felt like 1995 all over again.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Feds bust acting boss and a longtime soldier of the New England crime family

They are in their 70s, seemed to have trouble hearing, and appeared to prefer the comfort of casual clothes. One of them wore socks with a pair of sandals.
But there they were in federal court in handcuffs Thursday, two alleged members of the New England Mafia, including alleged acting don Antonio L. “Spucky” Spagnolo, charged with threatening to affect business through extortion, a charge that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
Spagnolo, 72, also known as Crazy Eyes, and reputed “made man” Pryce “Stretch” Quintina, 74, allegedly extorted thousands of dollars in protection payments from a video poker machine company and a social club, authorities said.
Both men reputedly represent the old guard of the Patriarca crime family, their service dating back to the Mafia’s glory days, when the late boss Gennaro Angiulo controlled the Boston underworld from the 1960s to the early 1980s.
Anthony “Spucky” Spagnolo as he left the Moakley Federal Courthouse Thursday.
Anthony “Spucky” Spagnolo as he left the Moakley Federal Courthouse Thursday.

“They go back in history,” said State Police Detective Lieutenant Stephen P. Johnson, who used to run the unit that investigates organized crime.
He said Spagnolo was deeply involved in drug dealing, a capo in the family.
Quintina was a Mafia soldier, but his uncle Charles “Q-Ball” Quintina, was also a capo.
Spagnolo and Quintina have shown their loyalties before, maintaining in court hearings in the early 1990s that they were not “made” members of any crime family, even as they pleaded guilty to Mafia-related activities.
Both men were allegedly at the infamous October 1989 Mafia induction meeting in Medford that was secretly recorded by the FBI.
Now, authorities say that Spagnolo has been serving as acting boss of the fragmented crime family, a skeleton of what the organization once was. Former boss Anthony L. DiNunzio was sentenced in Rhode Island in 2012 to 78 months in prison for racketeering. He is the brother of Carmen “The Big Cheese” DiNunzio, who was sentenced to prison in Massachusetts for bribery.
Luigi Manocchio, Anthony DiNunzio’s 86-year-old predecessor, was sentenced to 5½ years in prison for extorting protection payments from strip clubs.
And Mark Rossetti, one of the most feared captains in the New England mob, is in prison in Massachusetts for extortion and bookmaking.
Spagnolo and Quintina have served prison terms themselves. Spagnolo pleaded guilty to numerous racketeering and drug dealing charges in 1991 and was sentenced to nine years. Quintina was sentenced in 1995 to 7½ years. He was charged with setting up Angelo Patrizzi for murder in 1981, though he pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in an agreement with prosecutors.
In the most recent case, Spagnolo allegedly ordered Quintina to collect monthly protection payments from the owners of a video poker machine company, Constitution Vending Co., totaling more than $50,000 between 2004 and 2012.
For years, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday, Constitution installed video poker machines in bars and social clubs for use in illegal gambling and split the proceeds with the bar owners. One of Constitution’s machines was installed at the Revere Moose Lodge, the indictment alleges.
The Mafia allegedly protected Constitution’s business by driving out potential competitors, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.
But, according to the indictment, the Moose Lodge negotiated a deal with a new company, to receive larger profits. Spagnolo allegedly met with those involved and threatened that he would not permit them to remove Constitution’s machines from the Revere Moose Lodge.
“As a result of defendant Anthony Spagnolo’s meeting with and threats, [the victims] did not install [new] video poker machines at the Revere Moose Lodge,” the indictment alleges.
Spagnolo and Quintina were released to their homes Thursday and must wear electronic monitoring bracelets.
“There are some risk factors, giving the nature of the charges and the defendant’s criminal history,” Assistant US Attorney Seth B. Kosto said in court, referring to Spagnolo.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bonanno family mobsters negotiate plea deals

Four of the five Bonanno crime family bigs are negotiating plea deals
They may have watched the legendary Lufthansa heist in “Goodfellas” — but these Bonanno hoods want no part of it in real life.

Four of the five reputed Bonanno crime-family bigs swept up in a January bust that netted the famous heist’s alleged mastermind are negotiating plea deals to settle their cases, according to a Brooklyn federal court filing.

That would leave the accused Lufthansa point man — capo Vincent Asaro — all alone to face trial for a slew of raps including murder and racketeering that could put him behind bars for life.

Lawyers for three of Asaro’s co-defendants — acting capo Jack Bonventre, soldier John Ragano and acting street bos/underboss Thomas Di Fiore — argued that publicity surrounding the 1978 JFK robbery was too prejudicial and that their clients were involved in more mundane crimes with no connection to the famous heist.

They successfully had their cases severed from Asaro’s and are now hammering out deals, according to a filing by DiFiore’s ­attorney, Steve Zissou.

Asaro’s son, Jerome, is also part of the “global settlement” currently being negotiated, according to the filing.

Vincent Asaro was depicted in Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy” — on which the movie “Goodfellas” was based — as the gangster who took the hapless “Spider” character to get patched up after he was shot in the foot by Tommy DeSimone (portrayed by Joe Pesci in the film).