Friday, February 8, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — American and Italian authorities arrested dozens of people yesterday in a takedown of the remnants of New York’s Gambino crime family also meant to cripple a trans-Atlantic drug trafficking operation run by the Mafia.

As part of one of law enforcement’s biggest moves against the mob in recent memory, a federal grand jury in New York accused 62 persons of ties to the Gambinos and murders, drug trafficking, robberies, extortion, and other crimes dating back to the 1970s.

“Today we are able to bring closure to crimes from the past,” U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said. “Today we seek justice for those men and their families and we make clear that those crimes and those victims are not forgotten.”

The international law enforcement operation, code-named Old Bridge, was centered around New York and the Sicilian capital of Palermo, targeting Mafia figures who were strengthening contacts between mob groups in Italy and the United States.

The sprawling U.S. indictment covers gangland killings from the days when the Gambino family was run by Paul Castellano, who was killed in 1985. Some of the charges claim more recent crimes, including credit fraud conspiracies and theft of union benefits.

In the 170-page indictment, authorities said associates of the crime family extorted people in the construction industry, embezzled from labor unions and engaged in loan-sharking and bookmaking. The massive investigation also includes charges brought in state court.

The federal indictment’s targets include a list of well-known mobsters and people thought to be top leaders in the Gambino clan, some of whom have already served prison time. Among those sought was the reputed acting boss of the Gambino family, John “Jackie the Nose” D’Amico, who is accused of playing a lead role in a broad racketeering conspiracy.

The investigation and arrests ensnared whatever members of the Gambino crime hierarchy were still at liberty, Mr. Campbell said. Many of the charges relate to the activities of a Staten Island cement business, whose owner was identified in the indictment only as “John Doe No. 4.” Prosecutors said mob figures extorted the owner for money and jobs, and interfered with several of his business ventures.

The indictment charges reputed Gambino soldier Charles Carneglia with five killings over three decades, including that of Albert Gelb, a state court officer fatally shot on March 11, 1976.

Prosecutors have long claimed that Mr. Gelb was killed in retaliation for making an off-duty arrest of Mr. Carneglia after he spotted him in a restaurant wearing a gun. Previous attempts to prosecute Gambino associates for the killing, including Mr. Carneglia’s brother, ended in failure.

As of yesterday morning, the FBI had arrested 54 persons in New York City and its northern suburbs, New Jersey and Long Island. Among the 29 persons sought in Italy were members of clans linked to Salvatore Lo Piccolo, the Sicilian Mafia boss arrested in November, Italian officials said.

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