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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Feds take down entire Colombo family administration in sweeping indictment

A sweeping federal indictment has charged the entire leadership structure of the Colombo crime family in a scheme involving labor union shakedowns, extortion, loansharking, drug trafficking and money laundering.   

Reputed Colombo street boss Andrew "Mush" Russo, 87, and his underboss, Benjamin Castellazzo, 83, were scooped up by federal agents and New York police, along with seven other members of the Colombo crime family, a U.S. attorney spokesperson said on Tuesday. 

Russo's consigliere, Ralph DiMatteo, 66, was also charged in the indictment but remains on the run, prosecutors said. 

Among those charged was 75-year-old capo Vincent "Vinny Unions" Ricciardo, who was recorded during a phone call in June threatening to kill a labor union official if he didn't play ball, according to the 19-count indictment. 

'I'll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f***ing house,' Ricciardo says in the disturbing recording described in the indictment.

'I'm not afraid to go to jail, let me tell you something, to prove a point? I would f***ing shoot him right in front of his wife and kids, call the police, f*** it, let me go, how long you think I'm gonna last anyway?' 

The other captains, or capos, arrested include Theodore Persico Jr., 58, - the nephew of the late Colombo boss Carmine Persico - and Richard Ferrara, 59. 

Colombo soldier Michael Uvino, 56, and associates Thomas Costa, 52, and Domenick Ricciardo, 56 - Vincent's cousin - were also booked.

The indictment against the crime family members lays out multiple schemes in a long-running campaign to infiltrate and take control of a Queens-based labor union and its affiliated health care benefit program, and to a conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with workplace safety certifications. 

Russo, Castellazzo, DiMatteo, Ferrara, Persico, Uvino, and Vincent and Domenick Ricciardo colluded with fellow defendants Erin Thompkins, 53, and Joseph Bellantoni, 39, among others, to devise a scheme to launder money from union healthcare contracts and payments through various channels linked to Bellantoni, and eventually to the Colombo crime family's leaders, according to the indictment.

'Today's charges describe a long-standing, ruthless pattern by the administration of the Colombo crime family, its captains, members and associates, of conspiring to exert control over the management of a labor union by threatening to inflict bodily harm on one of its senior officials and devising a scheme to divert and launder vendor contract funds from its health care benefit program,' Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said of the high-profile arrests.

'In addition, for their own enrichment, the defendants conspired to engage in extortionate loansharking, money laundering and fraud, as well as drug trafficking.'

'This Office and its law enforcement partners are committed to dismantling organized crime families, eliminating their corrupt influence in our communities and protecting the independence of labor unions.' 

The feds also arrested a soldier for the Bonanno family, 59-year-old John "Maniac" Ragano, who is charged with loansharking, fraud and drug-trafficking offenses. 

Ragano is accused of leading a scheme to issue fraudulent workplace safety training certifications to construction workers, according to the indictment.

Rather than provide candidates the proper training, Ragano and fellow defendant and business partner, John Glover, 62, allegedly falsified federal paperwork, indicating hundreds of workers completed mandatory safety courses that they did not actually complete - or even attend.

Instead, various defendants used Ragano's pseudo-schools to conduct meetings involving Sicilian mafia members and to store stashes of illegal drugs.

Meanwhile they generated cash using the schools in Franklin Square and Ozone Park as 'certificate mills', charging $500 a pop for construction safety training certificates without providing any training or testing, according to the indictment. 

The final defendant, Vincent Martino, 43, was charged along with Vincent Ricciardo, Ragano, Costa, and Glover with conspiracy to distribute marijuana by transporting large shipments of the drug across state lines in vehicles from New York to Florida. 

'Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,' FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll said concerning the indictment. 'The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.' 

'These soldiers, consiglieres, underbosses, and bosses are obviously not students of history, and don't seem to comprehend that we're going to catch them. Regardless of how many times they fill the void we create in their ranks, our FBI Organized Crime Task Force, and our law enforcement partners, are positioned to take them out again, and again.' 

According to the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators committed and are charged with a wide array of crimes – including extortion, loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking – on behalf of the Colombo organized crime family.

The document asserts that Russo, Castellazzo, and DiMatteo, as well captains Persico, Ferrara and Vincent Ricciardo, initiated direct threats of bodily harm, to control the management of the labor union that they were targeting, and influenced decisions that benefitted the family. 

According to the U.S. attorney's office, Colombo captain Ricciardo and his cousin, associate Domenick Ricciardo, collected a portion of the salary of a senior union official for roughly 20 years, threatening the high-ranking official and his family with violence - and even murder - if he did not comply with the family's demands.

In 2019, the family sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from the union's healthcare system directly to the administration of the Colombo crime family. 

The suspects were taken to federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday afternoon and will appear before a judge via videoconference to face the slew of charges against them.   

Unlike the others, Vincent Ricciardo was arrested in North Carolina and will be arraigned in Charlotte, also Tuesday afternoon. 

Russo, known as 'Mush,' is a cousin of Carmine Persico, and first rose to prominence in the family when he was promoted to acting underboss in 1973. Carmine Persico, nicknamed the Snake, died in 2019.

Russo was sentenced to 14 years in state prison in November 1986, until his release in July 1994, under special parole conditions. 

He first ruled as street boss from 1996 to 1999, bringing the then-warring Colombos back from the brink after a devastating civil war, but was arrested again in 1996 by the FBI, who slapped him with racketeering charges, claiming he illegally controlled and oversaw Long Island's garbage hauling industry. 

In August 1999, Russo was convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 57 months in prison, compounded by 123 months for both parole violation and his involvement in the racketeering case. 

After his release in 2010 at 76 years old, Russo again took over the family as street boss after his parole expired, succeeding the incarcerated Ralph DeLeo, while Persico's son, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, served as acting boss. 

In 2011, he was arrested again on racketeering charges, garnering a 33 month sentence. He resumed his role as street boss on his release in 2013. 

The Colombo family is one of five major mafia organizations in the northeastern United States. The others are the Genovese, Lucchese, Gambino and Bonanno families.

The latest indictments leave it unclear who remains to take control of the Colombo syndicate on the street. 

The entire administration of the Colombo crime family, including Russo and Castellazzo, already pleaded guilty to a variety of mobster activities in 2012. 

The New York mafia has been weakened by several blows in recent years, including arrests, fratricidal struggles and competition from other criminal organizations, but they are still considered active.

The reputed boss of the Gambino clan, Frank Cali, was shot and killed outside his home in the New York borough of Staten Island in March 2019.



  1. Wouldnt be surprised if one of the mob wives sons gets caught up in this mess too. He was just arrested for unemployment fraud in AUG 2021.

  2. It's so stupid on Andrew Russo's part to still be active and get caught up in this. You'd figure at 87, having survived the Colombo indictments, the Persico-Orena War, all the rats and everything else the Colombo Family went through that he'd be smart enough to realize he's one of the luckiest guys out there and retire. It's not like he'd be out on bad terms or couldn't ask for a favor or anything either with Teddy Persico Jr still having power and Andrew being his Uncle. Now he's 87 and likely going to die in Prison rather than beside his wife (if alive), kids and grandkids. Racketeering in 2021 isn't the same as 1980 where they gave a year or two. They'll take everything and give him 20. Really stupid on his part.

  3. They will continue. Maybe not thrive like the old days but they will get by pretty good.