A slew of witnesses and tapes secretly made during high-level mob meetings led to the arrests of w iseguys with names like “JoJo,” “Roc,” “Jack the Whack,” “Johnny Bandana,” “Vinny Carwash” and “the Claw” today, in the largest Mafia roundup in the history of the New York/New Jersey area.
Federal prosecutors said they dismantled organizations that had run wild for decades — stealing everything from electronics to cigarettes, carrying out hits and extorting honest businessmen who paid up so they wouldn‘t have their kneecaps broken or businesses destroyed.
In one case, the government said, two men were killed in a bar after an argument over a spilled drink.
Nearly 130 members and associates of seven Mafia organizations — including the New Jersey-based Decavalcante Crime Family — are charged with murder, extortion, theft and a host of other federal crimes stretching back nearly 30 years.
In New Jersey, 15 mobsters and associates are charged with taking over several unions and extorting its members — including taking the annual Christmas bonuses that longshoremen at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth receive from shipping companies at Christmas.
“We have 17 arrests, including one surrender, in towns across Northern and Western New Jersey, including Kenilworth, Basking Ridge, Union, Roselle Park, Flemington, Kearny, West Orange, East Hanover, North Plainfield, Boonton, West Orange, Edison, and Glen Gardner,” a New Jersey FBI agent told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this morning.
Genovese made-man Stephen Depiro ran the Christmas rip-off, and conspired with associate Nunzio LaGrasso, vice-president of ILA Local 1478 in Newark, to extort the union’s members, one indictment says.
Crime-family members also shook down a concrete contractor working on Liberty View Harbor in Jersey City, threatening to seriously hurt him and his business if he didn‘t pay up, the government says. The same was done to other businessmen in Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey, the indictments allege.
“According to the charges unsealed today, organized crime still has a grip on the New Jersey waterfront,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. “Workers should be free to pursue an honest living without being worried that their own union representatives will shake them down.
“Our ports and those who work there play vital roles in our region’s economy and security. Paying tribute to the mob is not an acceptable cost of doing business in New Jersey.”
Federal prosecutors have gathered a roster of victims willing to tell their stories. They also say they have hundreds of hours of recorded conversations, some taped by wired participants of crime family meetings.
“Some believe organized crime is a thing of the past; unfortunately, there are still people who extort, intimidate, and victimize innocent Americans,” said said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. “The costs legitimate businesses are forced to pay are ultimately borne by American consumers nationwide.”
One indictment charges 39 defendants, including the entire leadership of the Colombo family not currently in prison as well as four of the crime family’s official captains and eight of its soldiers.
The indictments unsealed today read like primers on the businesses of the Colombos, as well as the Bonanno, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese crime families, among others, explaining members’ roles in each enterprise and the workings of the La Costra Nostra “Commission,” a ruling class of the leaders of each family.
Taken together, the indictments lay out what for many has seemed TV or film myth but, in fact, is reality:
The head of each family — the “boss” — is assisted by an “underboss” and a counselor, or “consigliore,” most of the indictments begin. With their help, the boss sets policies, resolves disputes, protected and disciplined the “soldiers” and “associates” and collected boatloads of cash. Whenever any of the administrators was sick or locked up, an “acting” administrator would take care of business — much like the government.
Below them are “crews,” also known as “regimes” and “decinas,” each headed by a “captain,” also known as a “skipper,” “caporegime,” or “capodecina.”
“The captain was responsible for supervising the criminal activities of his crew and providing the crew with support and protection,” most of the indictments state. “In return, the captain often received a share of the crew’s earnings.”
True to reputed form, underlings are referred to as “goldfields” or “wiseguys,” or as people who’d been “straightened out” or who’d gotten their “button,” the government says.
There are also “associates,” who aren’t made members of a family but received protection in order to commit crimes.
Numbers of made members are limited. To make your bones, you have to be nominated by a current family member. Your name is then circulated among the other families for their approval or rejection — much the way New Jersey’s Senate chooses judges.
If no one objects, a secret induction ceremony is held. The applicant takes a blood oath of “allegiance for life to the crime family above all else, even the associate’s own family; swore, on penalty of death, never to reveal the crime family’s existence, criminal activities and other secrets, and swore to follow all orders issued by the crime boss, including swearing to commit murder if the boss directed it,” the indictments say.
The “principal purpose” of each enterprise the government say, is to make lots of money, by whatever means necessary — be it murder, loansharking, extortion, breaking into stores and stealing electronics in Delaware to be sold in the New York area, setting up and operating bacarat and other gambling operations, or distributing anything from pot to coke to Ecstasy.
Federal prosecutors said more than 110 of the 127 charged were arrested by, among others, New Jersey State Police and U.S. Marshals. All have court dates in various districts, from Rhode Island to Delaware, and in Newark.
“Today’s arrests and charges mark an important step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra’s illegal activities,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “This largest single-day operation against La Cosa Nostra sends the message that our fight against traditional organized crime is strong, and our commitment is unwavering.
“As we’ve seen for decades, Mafia operations can negatively impact our economy — not only through a wide array of fraud schemes but also through the illegal imposition of mob ‘taxes‘ at our ports, in our construction industries, and on our small businesses,” he added.
“The violence outlined in these indictments, and perpetrated across decades, shows the lengths to which these individuals are willing to go to control their criminal enterprises and intimidate others,” Holder said.
A 53-count superseding indictment filed in Newark federal court charges Depiro and three Genovese associates – LaGrasso, Richard Dehmer, and Albert Cernadas, former President of International Longshoremen’s Association (“ILA”) Local 1235 and former ILA Executive Vice-President – with racketeering conspiracy, extortion, bookmaking, loansharking and illegal gambling, among other counts.
Seven other defendants, including Thomas Leonardis, the President of ILA Local 1235 and ILA Representative; Robert Ruiz, the Delegate of ILA Local 1235 and ILA Representative; and Vincent Aulisi, former President of ILA Local 1235, are charged with extorting ILA members. The indictment also includes bookmaking and gambling charges against four additional defendants.
The cases were variously investigated by the FBI’s New York and Newark Field Offices, and the Boston Division’s Providence Resident Agency; the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; the New York City Police Department; the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Secret Service; the Suffolk County Police Department; the Rhode Island State Police; and the Providence Police Department.
Federal prosecutors said they also received help from the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Marshals Service in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York; the Monmouth CountyProsecutor’s Office; the New York State Police; the New Jersey State Police; the New Jersey Department of Corrections; the U.S. Army-Ft. Hamilton; and the Italian National Police.
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