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

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Judge approves $1.6M release of ailing 84 year old Colombo Underboss

A federal judge in New York has approved the release of an ailing 84-year-old New Jersey mob underboss accused of leading the Colombo crime family’s attempted takeover of a Queens-based labor union on a $1.6 million bond.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Cho granted Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo’s release on bond and home detention with electronic monitoring and restrictions on travel and contact with victims and witnesses in the case following a closed hearing in Brooklyn Federal Court. The judge also barred him from appearing at the labor union office at the center of the indictment.

Afterward, Jennifer R. Louis-Jeune, Castellazzo’s attorney, confirmed her client was set to be released Wednesday.

“Mr. Castellazzo has been released on bond,” she said, “and will now hopefully get the healthcare he needs and prepare his defense.”

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

Castellazzo, of Manahawkin, had been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since September when federal authorities indicted him and 13 others in an alleged scheme to infiltrate and take over the labor union and its health care benefits programs. Prosecutors charged Castellazzo with racketeering, extortion, and money laundering conspiracies.

Last week, Louis-Jeune filed a motion for his release, citing his chronic health and conditions during confinement that she described as “nothing short of inhumane.” She also wrote that Castellazo wasn’t receiving proper medical care and had been subjected to 23-hour lockdowns.

Prosecutors previously opposed Castellazzo’s release, citing his lengthy criminal history and role in the crime family. But in a letter to Cho last week, prosecutors did not contest his release after learning of Castellazzo’s deteriorating health.

Last week, Louis-Jeune told NJ Advance Media that prosecutors had offered Castellazzo a plea deal, but it is unclear if he would accept it. The attorney said the evidence she was reviewed so far against her client “is not just weak, it is non-existent.”

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 a court filing last week that the government “does not have a single recording of Mr. Castellazzo’s voice.”

Castellazzo now joins a list of other Colombo crime family leaders and associates who have been released as the criminal case proceeds. Since October, Andrew Russo, the 87-year-old head of the Colombo crime family, has been free on a $10 million bond.



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