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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Colombo mobster busted for scamming immigrant businesses

Looks like Big Mike is settling for a smaller piece of the action.

A Brooklyn mobster who once ran a million-dollar wire fraud scheme is now scamming immigrant-run businesses in Long Island out of $20 by posing as a fire extinguisher inspector, law enforcement sources said.

Michael "Big Mike" Castellano, 51, ran his alleged low-rent swindle on at least 30 businesses across Suffolk County, ultimately scoring a little more than $1,000 total, prosecutors said.

That's a far cry from the MoneyGram scam Castellano ran for the Colombo crime family in the late 2000s — a scheme which cost him $1.4 million in restitution and landed him in federal prison for more than three years.

After his conviction in the MoneyGram case, Castellano said in a handwritten letter to his sentencing judge that he wanted to devote himself to caring for his autistic son, and declared, “The life I lived is behind me forever!”

But that epiphany didn’t take, authorities said.

This time around, Castellano paid unannounced visits to small businesses whose owners spoke English as a second language.

Michael "Big Mike" Castellano, 51, scammed immigrant-run businesses in Long Island out of $20 by posing as a fire extinguisher inspector.

Claiming to inspect fire extinguishers for Liberty Fire Extinguisher Sales Co., he charged businesses $20 a fire extinguisher, replacing each can's inspection tags without doing any work on the equipment, prosecutors allege.

He collected at least $1,050 since August and prosecutors are looking for additional victims to come forward.

“This is not just a matter of bringing a scam artist to justice; it is a matter of ensuring that our small businesses are safe and in compliance with fire safety laws," said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini.

When investigators confronted him he admitted to running the con, according to a criminal complaint.

"I know what this is about, the fire extinguishers and fake tags. I'm not hurting no one. Other guys do it. I don't charge much, $20, $40," he said, according to the complaint.

"I'm doing them a favor in a way. The real companies are the crooks. Liberty is not a real company I know. If it was legit, I wouldn't be here."

Castellano charged businesses $20 per fire extinguisher.

Castellano’s last two scams landed him two separate federal prison stints.

In the 1990s, he and other Colombo mobsters placed ads in newspapers, falsely promising to loan money to people with bad credit in exchange for an up-front payment. They took the payments, but never loaned out any cash.

Then, in 2011, Castellano was scooped up in a 39-suspect mob sweep, accused of being the “mastermind” of a sophisticated years-long scheme to impersonate MoneyGram employees and wire money to locations across the Eastern seaboard.

Castellano told the court in 2012 he was addicted to marijuana, prescription pills and gambling, and that led to his life of crime.

He was sentenced to 37 months behind bars and three years of supervised release.

Castellano now faces charges of falsifying business records, scheme to defraud and petty larceny.

He was ordered held on $20,000 bond.



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