Arrests of 127 mobsters one of biggest raids in FBI history
It was more Goodfellas than The Godfather as federal authorities arrested more than 120 mob figures in one of the biggest Mafia roundups in FBI history.
It was more Goodfellas than The Godfather on Thursday as federal authorities detailed charges that led to the arrests of more than 120 mob figures in one of the biggest Mafia roundups in FBI history.
Senseless slayings, violent extortions, arson, labor racketeering, and drug dealing were outlined in a series of indictments that were unsealed as law enforcement agents fanned out across four states.
The charges painted a picture of the Cosa Nostra that had little of the nobility and honor captured in Mario Puzo's classic novel, but lots of the vindictive thuggery seen in Martin Scorsese's film.
Leaders and members of seven crime families operating in New York, New England, and North Jersey were among the 127 defendants arrested as more than 800 law enforcement agents took part in raids in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
One mobster was arrested in Florida, and another was being sought in Italy.
Most of the charges came out of federal court in Brooklyn, where more than 80 of the defendants were to be arraigned. Other indictments were unsealed in Manhattan; Newark, N.J.; and Providence, R.I.
"This is one of the largest single-day operations against the Mafia in the FBI's history, both in terms of the number of defendants arrested and charged and the scope of the criminal activity that is alleged," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder traveled to the federal courthouse in Brooklyn to attend a news conference where the arrests were announced. The presence of the country's top law enforcement official underscored the importance federal authorities attached to the action.
The arrests come as federal officials in Philadelphia continue to gather evidence in an investigation of reputed local mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his top associates. And the charges were filed just a week after legendary New York mob leader John "Sonny" Franzese was sentenced to eight years in prison in a separate racketeering case.
Franzese, 93, is the reputed underboss of the Colombo crime family in New York. Several other alleged leaders of that organization were charged in the indictments unsealed Thursday.
Authorities said leaders and associates of New York's Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, and Bonanno crime families, as well as the former boss of New England's Patriarca crime family, and two alleged members of New Jersey's DeCavalcante crime family, also were charged.
"Today's arrests mark an important and encouraging step forward in disrupting operations, but the reality is that our battle against organized-crime enterprises is far from over," Holder said. "It must and will remain a top priority for all of us in law enforcement."
The charges, Holder said, cover offenses dating back more than 20 years and include "classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals," a killing during a botched robbery, and a double shooting in a barroom dispute over a spilled drink.
Holder called the barroom shootings "truly senseless murders."
Corruption of labor unions, narcotics trafficking, gambling, and the extortion and shakedown of strip clubs also were detailed.
The cases were built around extensive FBI investigations that included cooperating witnesses, surveillance, and recorded conversations from phone taps and body wires.
The charges that targeted the Colombo organization included the murder of a former crime-family underboss and the corruption of a New York-based cement and concrete workers' union.
The Newark indictment charged several reputed Genovese crime-family members and associates with control and corruption of International Longshoremen's Association Local 1235. Mob control of the docks in New York and New Jersey has been a historic problem that was highlighted more than 50 years ago in the Academy Award-winning movie On the Waterfront.
Over the years, various agencies have worked to clean up the rackets there, but Thursday's indictment, which expanded on similar charges filed nearly two years ago, indicates that the mob continues to influence and control the loading and unloading of cargo ships.
Among other things, the indictment alleged that union leaders were corrupted by organized crime and that dockworkers were forced to kick back a portion of their holiday bonuses to the crime family.
"Paying tribute to the mob is not an acceptable cost of doing business in New Jersey," said Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, in announcing the indictment.
Authorities have alleged that the Genovese crime family controls the docks in the Garden State, while the Gambino organization exercises control of the docks in Brooklyn.
The late Tino Fiumara, who headed the Genovese organization in New Jersey, was a principal player in the corruption of the ILA, authorities alleged.
Fiumara, who died in September of natural causes, was considered one of the most violent mob leaders in America. At the time of his death, he was under investigation for the murder of mobster Lawrence Ricci in 2005. Ricci's bullet-riddled body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car parked behind a diner in North Jersey.
Ricci was killed while on trial with two ILA officials on corruption charges.