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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

FBI roundup exposes modern day Mafia

Mafia crime family structure treeImage via Wikipedia

Crimes include murder, extortion, gambling, drug dealing, and the corruption of labor unions

The names have changed, but the games are the same.
That's the assessment in law enforcement and underworld circles nearly two weeks after a massive FBI mob roundup in which 127 alleged organized crime members and associates were arrested.
Murder, extortion, gambling, drug dealing, and the corruption of labor unions were detailed in more than a dozen indictments returned in northern New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.
The Jan. 20 arrests - and the unrelated apprehension of reputed Philadelphia mob underboss Martin Angelina three days earlier for allegedly beating his girlfriend - say a lot about the state of the American Mafia, a once-secret "honorable society," according to law enforcement sources.
Today the mob is not so secret and not very honorable.
Hundreds of hours of conversations from phone taps and body wires worn by cooperating witnesses, some of them mob members, are at the heart of the federal indictments. The evidence-gathering techniques rely on the modern mobster's rejection of omerta, the once-sacrosanct code of silence.
Angelina's arrest, after an early-morning altercation that had his South Philly neighbors calling police, is a more personal issue. But, investigators say, it casts Angelina as more punk-like than principled.
While none of those charged in the New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island cases was a household name - the celebrity-gangster days of John Gotti and Joey Merlino also appear to be history - the racketeering charges were all too familiar.
The case out of Newark, for example, focuses on the Genovese crime family's control of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the loading of cargo ships at New Jersey piers.
In an account that reads like an update of the 1954 film classic On the Waterfront, federal prosecutors alleged that the Genovese organization has been involved in "the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers" from three ILA locals.
Stephen "Beach" Depiro, 55, a reputed Genovese soldier, was the mob's point man, authorities say. Among other things, the indictment contends that ILA members had to kick back part of their Christmas bonuses to the mob in order to work.
Union leaders also were charged in the 53-count indictment. Authorities allege that they maintained their positions by looking out for the crime family's interests rather than those of their members.
The indictment listed the salaries of seven of those ILA leaders. They ranged from $230,512 to $532,719.
Authorities said Depiro, who is being held without bail, succeeded late mob boss Tino Fiumara and jailed Genovese capo Michael Coppola in controlling the waterfront.
In comments that underscored how little things have changed since Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy went up against a corrupt union boss in On the Waterfront, Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said, "Workers should be free to pursue an honest living without being worried that their own union representatives will shake them down."
Shakedowns and extortions were spread across the indictments. The charges included allegations that the Colombo crime family controlled a New York cement- and concrete-workers' union and that the mob used threats of violence to collect payoffs from strip clubs and go-go bars.
There were also five killings, one linked to an internecine power struggle in the Colombo crime family and two stemming from a dispute over a spilled drink in a bar in Queens, N.Y.
U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, the nation's top law enforcement agent, attended a news conference in Brooklyn where the arrests were announced. His presence was seen as a signal that the Justice Department, which has shifted its priorities to terrorism and street gangs, recognizes the Mafia is still a threat.
While some pointed to the arrests as another nail in the Mafia's coffin, others say the cases show how the mob regenerated itself while the feds were focused elsewhere.
"The Mafia is wounded, but not fatally," Selwyn Raab wrote in an op-ed article published in the New York Times on Jan. 23. Raab, a former reporter, is the author of Five Families, a definitive history of the Mafia in New York City.
The indictments, Raab argued, "demonstrated how effectively" the crime families regrouped after a series of investigations in the 1990s that brought down now-deceased kingpins such as Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who headed the Genovese organization, and Gotti.
On the same day Raab's piece appeared, the New York Post offered a withering critique of the mob's fading fashion sense. Gone are the tailored suits and cashmere overcoats favored by Gotti who, not for nothing, was known as the Dapper Don.
Quoting from an editor at GQ magazine, the story and photos detailed the shabby dress of the defendants picked up in the roundup. There were sweat suits and hoodies, camouflage jackets and tight-fitting windbreakers worn by goodfellas with nicknames like Junior Lollipop, Tony Bagels, and Jello. Dapper Dons these were not.
But while the dress code had relaxed, the racketeering gambits hadn't changed.
In the late 1980s, Gotti's Gambino organization was involved in extorting a famous New York gentleman's club known as Scores.
Court testimony from the club's former owner indicated that different mob crews ran the club's valet parking and coat-check room and took kickbacks from dancers and bartenders. Scores generated several million dollars in cash each week during its heyday, the former owner said.
In the current case, 83-year-old Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, retired head of New England's Patriarca crime family, is charged with extorting similar establishments around Providence, R.I., for the last 18 years.
Two clubs, the Cadillac Lounge and Satin Doll, and one monthly payoff of $2,900 are listed in the indictment. But other clubs and substantially more cash are believed to be part of the scheme.
The arrests, which included sports-betting charges, came just three weeks before one of the biggest betting days of the year, Super Bowl Sunday. Law enforcement and gambling experts estimate that from $2 billion to $3 billion is wagered illegally on the game, most of it with mob-connected bookmakers,
The arrests also came just days after Angelina, Philadelphia's reputed mob underboss, was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, and reckless endangerment. Angelina was taken in after neighbors on the 1800 block of Johnston Street called police about a screaming woman who was being beaten.
A mug shot of Angelina shows the shirtless mobster hours after his early-morning arrest. His hair is disheveled and there are scratch marks and what appears to be a quarter-sized bite mark on his bruised face.
Once described by a federal prosecutor as "a bully running with a gang of misfits," Angelina, 49, is considered the number-two man in the crime family headed by alleged mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi.
Low-key and circumspect, Ligambi, 71, has quietly run the operation for a decade. He is, authorities say, the principal target of a federal racketeering investigation of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob that could include three slayings. Indictments in the investigation are expected within two months, according to law enforcement sources.
The high-profile Angelina, on the other hand, has been arrested for drunken driving, domestic violence, and spitting on a police officer, all in the last three years.
To many in law enforcement, his recent mug shot, with its scratches and bruises, is the face of the 21st century mob: a less-than-noble society.
"He's just a mess," said a police detective familiar with Angelina's antics. 



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