Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Staten Island marijuana, cocaine bust lands 3 mob heavy-hitters in cuffs

Three Mafia heavy-hitters have been arrested on federal charges they ran three marijuana grow houses and a cocaine distribution ring on Staten Island.
The arrests read like a Gambino crime family who’s who list — Joseph Sclafani, 46, who in 1989 harbored a fugitive mobster who killed a DEA agent in the borough's Charleston section; Neil Lombardo, 55, who shot and wounded an informant’s brother; and Afrim Kupa, 38, a professional heist man with ties to Albanian organized crime and the Gambinos.
Last night, DEA agents raided a grow house at 264 New Dorp Ln., seizing 150 marijuana plants, according to federal law enforcement sources. And when they arrested Kupa in his swank Kensico Street home in Richmond, they found a kilo of cocaine and the suspect wearing an ankle bracelet from a past arrest, sources said.
The marijuana operation lasted more than three years, federal authorities allege.

DEA agents first raided one of their grow houses this past April — a sophisticated, hydroponic lab run out of an auto repair garage at 3075 Veterans Rd. West — and arrested two men, Keith Levine, 33, of Eltingville, and Michael Arroyo, 37, of Sunnyside, according to prosecutors.
The bust made front-page headlines, and it spurred one of the suspects’ accomplices — identified only as a confidential source in court papers — to shut down a second grow house on Seguine Avenue.
Sclafani repeatedly requested the informant re-open the Seguine Avenue operation, to recoup the losses from the Charleston bust, court papers allege.
Sclafani had also started another grow house in a garage at the aforementioned New Dorp Lane address in 2008 and, with the informant’s help, ran two growing cycles that yielded about 100 plants.
The garage is tucked behind a commercial strip along New Dorp Lane, at the end of an alley next to a deli. Just across the street sits the New Dorp office of Rep. Michael Grimm.
Sclafani, who lives on Wheeling Avenue in Prince’s Bay, started distributing cocaine around the same time, getting his supply from Lombardo, who lives in Las Vegas, court papers allege.
Lombardo would give Sclafani the cocaine in advance, on the expectation that he’d get paid $32,000 a kilogram from proceeds from the drug sales, court papers allege. Sclafani said in one conversation caught on tape that he was trying to sell eight kilograms of cocaine a month.
In recorded conversations, Sclafani told Lombardo that he would "re-rock" the drug, meaning he’d break it down and mix it with other substances, court documents show.

And Lombardo scolded Sclafani for driving to Boston to make a $10,000 deal: "You can’t keep driving to Boston... You can’t do it. You can’t do business if you’re driving product," he said, adding, "You’re gonna get stopped sooner or later."
"They’re not going to need much," Lombardo continued, court papers allege. "Our names are flashing like a bastard on the computer."
Kupa, meanwhile, was part of Sclafani’s "re-rocking" operation, who performed the process at a house he had in Brooklyn, court papers allege.
The trio are slated to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn this afternoon. If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York.

All three have lengthy criminal backgrounds, and DEA officials are particularly happy to get Sclafani back behind bars.
Back in 1989, Sclafani helped hide out Costabile (Gus) Farace, a Bonanno associate originally from Prince’s Bay who was being hunted by both the feds and the mob since killing an undercover drug enforcement agent, Everett Hatcher, in Charleston that February 1989.
"This arrest really hits home for the DEA," said John P. Gilbride, special agent in charge of the DEA's New York office, who had worked with and befriended Hatcher.Farace was gunned down in a gangland-style attack in Brooklyn, and Sclafani, who was in the car with him, was wounded.
He got 33 months in federal for harboring Farace, and his criminal career continued after his release, with charges in 1999 and 2000 for bank fraud, drug trafficking and racketeering that netted him several more years behind bars.
Most recently, he was stopped by Kansas State Police in 2009, and found with 15 cell phones and more than $100,000 cash in a false compartment in the rear bumper of his car, according to federal authorities. That landed him another years in prison for a probation violation.
"Mr. Sclafani apparently has not learned anything from his previous crimes," Gilbride said. "It’s unfortunate that these three individuals continue to get involved in drug trafficking and violence. That’s not a surprise to me, because drug trafficking and violence go hand in hand."
Investigators believe some of Sclafani and the drug operation’s money came from Kupa, who made a living pulling off high-end bank and retail heists, said one veteran law enforcement source.
Kupa was on 24-hour house arrest when the DEA came knocking in this recent case. He’s slated to start a 46 prison-sentence on Sept. 30, after pleading guilty in connection with a multi-million dollar bank heist in Brooklyn.
Kupa and a crew of burglars used a blowtorch to cut through the roof of the Astoria Federal Savings Bank at 4302 18th Ave. in February 2009 and made off with 64 safe deposit boxes, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.
He at one point worked with Miami "club king" and Mafia turncoat Chris Paciello, the source said, and his criminal record dates back to at least 1992, when he was busted on arson and reckless endangerment charges.
His other arrests include a 1995 home invasion robbery where, police said at the time, he held a knife to the throat of the homeowner’s wife, and a 1999 federal indictment accusing he and his brother of staging a string of bank heists across the Midwest and funneling the proceeds into a stolen car parts trafficking scheme.

Lombardo’s criminal history dates back to 1973, when he was arrested on cocaine distribution conspiracy charges.
He was busted again in 1980 and 1983, and in 1998, authorities arrested him in San Diego on charges he was distributing quaaludes.
At one point during the San Diego case, he shot and wounded the brother of a man believed to be cooperating with the law. That netted him a 10-year prison sentence.



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