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

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Colombo Underboss again seeks release from federal detention with $3.1M bond


The 84-year-old New Jersey mob underboss, who authorities allege led the Colombo crime family’s attempted takeover of a Queens-based labor union, is again seeking release from a federal detention center.

On Thursday, Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo’s attorney filed a motion in the Eastern District of New York seeking his release from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. She described Castellazzo’s time there as “nothing short of inhumane” and proposed that authorities release him on a $3.1 million bond and other conditions, including home confinement.

In September, federal prosecutors in New York arrested and charged Castellazzo with racketeering, extortion, and money laundering conspiracies for the Colombo crime family’s alleged role in infiltrating and trying to control the labor union and its health care benefits programs. He was among 14 people - 10 Colombo family members or associates - implicated in the alleged scheme in a 19-count indictment unsealed in September.

A judge denied a bail request the following month, citing Castellazzo’s lengthy criminal history and alleged continued association with those tied to the Colombo crime family.

In Thursday’s court filing, Jennifer R. Louis-Jeune, his attorney, wrote that Castellazzo, of Manahawkin, has developed chronic health conditions, isn’t receiving proper medical care, and has been subjected to 23-hour lockdowns since his arrest.

“He should not be forced to manage his chronic health conditions in a facility that cannot effectively communicate with him, treat him, or transport him to health professionals qualified and equipped to care for him,” she wrote.

In addition, Louis-Jeune said prosecutors had denied Castellazzo access to evidence in his case.

She said the evidence she reviewed “is not just weak, it is non-existent.” She also told NJ Advance Media that prosecutors had offered her client a plea deal, though it is unclear whether Castellazzo would accept it.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York declined comment.

In the charging documents, prosecutors said recorded conversations described Castellazzo as the man in charge of the Colombo crime family’s takeover of the union and its health fund. According to the indictment, they contend authorities spotted him with associates on two occasions in Brooklyn, where he discussed the takeover.

But Louis-Jeune wrote in her filing Thursday that the government “does not have a single recording of Mr. Castellazzo’s voice.”

“(Their) entire case against our client rests on Mr. Castellazzo’s alleged position in the family, presence at two “meetings” in November 2020, and vague references to someone the government believes to be Mr. Castellazzo made by others on recorded lines,” she wrote.

As conditions for release, Louis-Jeune said Castellazzo would agree to the $3.1 million personal recognizance bond, secured by various properties and executed by six people; home detention with electronic monitoring; no contact with others charged in the case; and no visitors at his home.

She noted that others charged in the case, including Andrew Russo, the 87-year-old head of the Colombo crime family, are free on bail.

Prosecutors previously opposed Castellazzo’s release, arguing phone calls he made after his arrest showed that he continues to associate with Colombo crime family members. They contended that he still had the means to orchestrate mob business.

Louis-Jeune described the government’s position as “wildly speculative” and said there is “no basis to suggest Mr. Castellazzo was directing criminal activity.”

Authorities have scheduled a bond hearing for March 9. 



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