- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2011

Luigi “Baby Shanks” Manocchio, 83-year-old boss of the La Cosa Nostra crime family in New England, and Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo, 76, street boss of the Colombo crime syndicate in New York, were among more than 120 suspects charged in what Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called Thursday the “largest single-day operation” against the Mafia in U.S. history.

Also nabbed were Benjamin “the Claw” Castellazzo, 73, acting underboss of the Colombo family; Richard “Richie” Fusco, 74, consigliere of the Colombo family; Joseph “JoJo” Corozzo, 69, consigliere of the Gambino family; and Bartolomeo “Bobby Glasses” Vernace, 61, member of the Gambino family administration.

Mr. Holder said that more than 30 official members of La Cosa Nostra, or “made men,” were named in the indictments on charges that included classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals and senseless murders — one in which a victim was fatally shot during a botched robbery attempt and two others who were shot in a public bar over a dispute involving a spilled drink.

“Today’s arrests and charges mark an important step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra’s illegal activities,” Mr. Holder said in announcing the indictments. “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.

“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,” he said. “The Department of Justice and our partners are determined to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all, and to bring their members to justice.”

More than 110 of the 127 charged defendants have been arrested and scheduled for court appearances. The charges include a wide range of illegal activity, including murder, murder conspiracy, loansharking, arson, narcotics trafficking, extortion, robbery, illegal gambling and labor racketeering, in some cases occurring over decades.

The indictments charge mob bosses as well as midlevel managers, numerous soldiers and associates, and union officials accused of corruption.

“Some believe organized crime is a thing of the past; unfortunately, there are still people who extort, intimidate and victimize innocent Americans,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who attended the announcement. “The costs legitimate businesses are forced to pay are ultimately borne by American consumers nationwide.”

Some 500 FBI agents, along with 200 local, state, and other federal law enforcement officers, began the arrests before dawn, in what the FBI called the largest nationally coordinated organized crime takedown in the bureau’s history.

Other La Cosa Nostra associates named in 16 separate indictments handed up in federal court were Anthony “Nooch” Calabro, Michael “Big Mike” Castellano, Dennis “Fat Dennis” DeLucia, Giuseppe “Pooch” Destefano, Anthony “Baby Fat” Durso, Vincent “Jimmy Gooch” Febbraro, Theodore “The Kid” Persico Jr., Frank “Frankie Steel” Pontillo, Jack “Jack the Whack” Rizzocascio, Frank “Buzz” Senatore and Louis “Louie Ices” Venturelli.

According to the indictments, La Cosa Nostra operates in numerous cities around the U.S. and routinely engages in violence and threatens violence to extort money from victims, eliminate rivals, settle vendettas and obstruct justice. In New York City, the five crime organizations are the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese families.

The Decavalcante family operates principally in New Jersey, while the New England syndicate is controlled out of Boston and Providence, R.I. Each La Cosa Nostra family has a hierarchical structure, with an administration made up of a boss, underboss and consigliere at the top overseeing crews of criminals led by captains, who in turn supervise organized crime soldiers and associates.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., 12 indictments identified 85 defendants from all five New York families, as well as others from the Decavalcante family. One indictment targeted 39 defendants, including the entire leadership of the Colombo family not currently in prison — Russo, Castellazzo and Fusco — as well as four of the family’s captains and eight of its soldiers. They were named in charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy over a 20-year period.

Along with charges of extortion and fraud, Russo also was named in the 1993 murder of Colombo family underboss Joseph Scopo, 47, who was shot in a car outside of his residence in Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y.

Two of the indictments returned in Brooklyn charge 13 members and associates of the Gambino family, including Vernace, who was named in the 1981 double murder of Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese inside the Shamrock Bar in Queens.

The two men were killed after a drink had been spilled on the suit of a Vernace friend; one from a gunshot to the face and the other from a point-blank gunshot to the chest.

In nine of the indictments charged in Brooklyn, members and associates of the Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Decavalcante families are named on charges of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, receipt of stolen property and possession of contraband cigarettes.

Another indictment charges 15 defendants in New York and New Jersey with racketeering-related crimes, including extortion of members of the International Longshoremen’s Association, as well as illegal gambling through the management of a sports-betting operation and a poker club, and extortionate collection from gambling debts.

According to court documents, the Gambino and Genovese families have engaged in a multidecade conspiracy to influence and control the unions and businesses that work on the New York-area piers.

In Manhattan, 26 defendants, primarily from the Gambino family, were named in two indictments on charges of racketeering conspiracy, murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion, assault, arson, loansharking, illegal gambling, mail and wire fraud, and stolen-property crimes. Among the defendants are Corrozo; Vernace; Gambino family captains Alphonse Trucchio, 34, and Louis Mastrangelo, 66; and Gambino soldiers Michael Roccaforte, 34; Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, 40; and Vincenzo Frogiero, 43.

In Manhattan, Gambino associate Todd LaBarca, 39, is charged with conspiracy and murder in the death of Gambino family associate Marty Bosshart, who was killed in January 2002 with a single gunshot to the back of his head. According to court documents, a cooperating witness consensually recorded more than 100 conversations with other members and associates of the Gambino family, including conversations with LaBarca about the murder.

An indictment unsealed in Providence accused Manocchio and La Cosa Nostra associate Thomas Iafrate, 61, with extortion and extortion conspiracy that spanned almost two decades of illegal activity and involved the extortion of local pornographic bookstores and nightclubs. They are accused of shaking down the owners of several adult-entertainment businesses in Providence, including the Cadillac Lounge and Satin Doll strip clubs.

The 127 defendants face a variety of penalties, including up to life in prison

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