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

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reputed 79 yr old Gambino mobster goes on trial for federal extortion charges

Nicola "Nick" Melia following a break-in at his 20 Brushwood Road home in North Stamford in March 2010. Melia has been indicted on fedeal extortion and ammunition charges following his arrest on March 23, 2010. Photo: ST, File Photo / Stamford Advocate File Photo
Nicola "Nick" Melia following a break-in at his 20 Brushwood Road home in North Stamford in March 2010. Melia has been indicted on fedeal extortion and ammunition charges following his arrest on March 23, 2010

Convicted Stamford loan-shark and reputed Gambino crime family associate Nicola Melia, who is accused of extorting a Fairfield County landscaper out of $300,000 during the past decade, is taking his case to trial this week at the federal courthouse in New Haven.
Melia, a 79-year-old Stamford resident with an extensive record of racketeering and loan-sharking convictions, was arrested on federal extortion charges last March and indicted the next month by a grand jury. In his most recent criminal case, federal prosecutors accuse Melia of using violent threats to collect on high-interest loans on five different occasions last winter.
The trial begins Monday morning at U.S. District Court in New Haven, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said. Judge Janet Bond Arterton is presiding over the trial.
Victor Sherman, a defense attorney from Santa Monica, Calif., declined to comment on the allegations against Melia. Christopher Morano, an attorney in Essex, is also defending Melia.
"We are going to present our defense in court," Sherman said.
The defense sought to exclude several incriminating pieces of evidence from the upcoming trial, including Melia's 2006 conviction on racketeering charges, his son's alleged assault on the cooperating witness in the case and the witness's accounts of Melia's past violent conduct. The defense tried to suppress a notebook the witness used to track his interest payments to Melia.
The state's case centers upon a cooperating witness who allegedly received several high-interest loans from Melia between 2000 and 2011. The witness recorded a series of conversations between him and Melia during the past year, according to Arterton's ruling on the defense motions.
Melia allegedly tried to collect on loans and interest through threats of violence involving members of the Bonanno crime family from New York City, his son, Philip, and an accomplice known as "Big Anthony."
The witness began paying Melia nearly 11 years ago when an associate of his skipped town after failing to repay a $10,000 loan to Melia. The witness took on the debt of his associate and over the course of the next 10 years paid Melia more than $300,000 in interest payments, federal prosecutors said in their response to the defense's pretrial motions.
In 2009, the witness received several large cash loans from Melia in order to pay for business costs, trips to casinos and his illegal drug habit, prosecutors said in court filings. In the spring of 2009 the witness received nearly $144,000 in loans. Because of business problems, gambling and drug use, the witness began missing his interest payments.
The next year the witness helped plan a robbery and home invasion of Melia's home. In March 2010, two men posed as delivery van drivers and tied up Melia as they broke into his North Stamford house, stealing jewelry and cash. The cooperating witness directed a third party to rent a white van that the two men could use to rob Melia. The witness said he did not receive any money from the heist, prosecutors wrote in court filings.
The next month, Melia's son, Philip, is alleged to have brutally attacked the cooperating witness with a metal wrench after the witness admitted to Melia he helped plan the robbery. The attack hospitalized the witness.
By October 2010, the witness began working with the FBI as his debt mounted and he feared for his personal safety, court filings said. He started to record his conversations with Melia.
In January 2011, Melia allegedly forced the witness to sign a promissory note for $375,000, telling him if he did not sign it, Bonanno crime family associates would kill him.
"As long as I'm alive, nobody gonna touch you," Melia allegedly told the witness, according to prosecutors.
In her Sept. 2 ruling, Arterton denied the defense's motions to exclude evidence from Melia's 2006 racketeering conviction, the witness's alleged assault by Philip Melia and the witness's notebook listing interest payments. Arterton ruled that prosecutors can elicit testimony from the cooperating witness regarding six specific past instances of violent behavior.
Arterton said the witness can testify about Melia telling him that he tried to place a bomb under someone's car in the 1980s and that he declined offers by the Gambino crime family to become a "made" man.
In 2006, Melia was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison on racketeering charges and accused of being a member of the Gambino crime family.
He was arrested in 2004 after an organized crime probe by the FBI and Stamford and Norwalk police agencies that netted several suspects in an extensive loan-sharking operation. Also convicted in that investigation was Anthony "The Genius" Megale, a Stamford resident then described as a top official in the Gambino crime family. Authorities said during the trial that Melia collected debts for Megale.



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