U.S., Italian Police Arrest 80 in Gambino Crackdown (Update4)
By Patricia Hurtado and Steve Scherer
Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. and Italian police arrested about 80 people in the biggest mafia crackdown in 20 years as part of an effort to cut renewed ties between New York's Gambino crime ``family,'' once run by the late John Gotti, and Sicilian mobsters.
The FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies made 59 arrests, the agency said, while Italian police made about 20 arrests in an operation called ``Old Bridge,'' Italy's top mafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso said today. The last joint mob roundup of a similar scale was in 1988, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Palermo authorities broke up a heroin trafficking ring known as ``Iron Tower.''
``Whenever the relationship between the American and Sicilian mafias is interrupted, it's always resuscitated,'' said Palermo prosecutor Domenico Gozzo, who was part of the probe. ``Many of these mobsters have family on both sides of the Atlantic.''
U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, announced charges today against 62 individuals, many of them sworn members of the Gambino group, which federal officials say is one of the largest and most powerful mafia organizations in the U.S. Only three of those charged have yet to be arrested, FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said.
Charged in New York
Those charged in New York were accused of crimes including racketeering, murder, extortion, gambling and labor violations. In Italy, defendants were accused of murder, money laundering and participating in organized crime. Italian authorities issued 30 warrants.
The founder of the Gambinos, Carlo Gambino, was born in Sicily. The family, one of five crime organizations that have existed for decades in the New York metropolitan area, was formerly headed by Gotti, nicknamed the ``Teflon Don'' for his initial acquittals on mob-related charges.
He was convicted of federal racketeering charges in 1990 and died in prison.
Those charged today by U.S. authorities included the three highest-ranking Gambino crime family members not already in prison, said Benton Campbell, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. All were charged with racketeering conspiracy and multiple crimes of violence, Campbell said, crimes which carry terms of up to twenty years' imprisonment on each count.
The defendants include John D'Amico, 73, an alleged Gambino acting boss, Joseph Corozzo,66, allegedly the family's consigliere, or adviser, and his brother, Nicholas Corozzo, 67, who officials claimed served on a committee that ran the family after Gotti was imprisoned. Of the three, only the elder Corozzo remains at large and is a fugitive, Margolin said.
Domenico Cefalu, 61, the alleged Gambino underboss, surrendered today, he said.
``The indictment reflects the Gambino crime family's corrosive influence,'' Campbell said today at a news conference. ``We have eliminated all of their administration that's currently at liberty,'' he said, adding ``This case creates a significant vacuum.''
Campbell's office was responsible for obtaining a federal racketeering conviction of Gotti in 1990, after he was acquitted of similar charges in 1986.
The Gambino family ``is generally recognized as one of the two most powerful crime families in the United States,'' said David Shafer, an assistant special agent of the FBI.
Two of John Gotti's relatives were named as defendants today, both charged with racketeering.
His younger brother, Vincent Gotti, 55, an alleged soldier in the group, was charged with murder conspiracy, loan sharking and cocaine-trafficking conspiracy. His nephew, Richard Gotti, 40, also allegedly a soldier, was charged with murder-conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Gotti's son, John A. Gotti, known as ``Junior,'' was accused by federal prosecutors in Manhattan of helping run the Gambino family after his father's imprisonment. The son pleaded guilty in 1999 to federal racketeering charges and served a 6 1/2 year prison term.
He was indicted later in 2004 on charges he ordered the 1992 kidnapping of New York City talk-radio host Curtis Sliwa. After three mistrials, prosecutors decided in October 2006 not to pursue a fourth.
Gotti isn't named in today's 80-count federal indictment.
The FBI in New York said that during a lengthy investigation they were able to obtain thousands of hours of wiretaps and secretly recorded conversations. They were aided by an unidentified informant who'd infiltrated the crime family and obtained information that helped them solve cases involving killings that occurred more than 30 years ago, the agency said.
They include the March 1976 murder of Albert Gelb, a Brooklyn court officer, Campbell said. The indictment charges that alleged Gambino soldier Charles Carneglia, 61, murdered Gelb four days before he was expected to testify at his trial.
Carneglia was also charged with the December 1990 murder of Jose Delgado Rivera, an armored truck guard, who was killed during a robbery at the American Airlines Inc. building at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Alleged Gambino members were also accused of extorting payments from construction projects in the New York City area, including construction of a NASCAR race track in Staten Island and the Liberty View Harbor site located in Jersey City, New Jersey, said Mark Mershon, head of the FBI's New York office.
The relationship between organized crime members of the Gambino family in the U.S. and Italy was evidenced by the arrest here of Francesco Cali, 42, owner of the Circus Fruits Supermarket in Brooklyn, according to an Italian arrest warrant. He was allegedly a street boss for the Gambinos and was photographed at a 2003 meeting with two Sicilian mobsters in New York.
``It's not a coincidence,'' Raffael Grazi, chief of the organized crime division of the Italian National Police, said. ``If today they arrested Cali, it's because of the links to our cases in Italy,'' he said. ``There are a lot of important links between members in both countries.''
The relationship between the U.S. and Sicilian mafias had broken down in the early 1980s due to a mob war in Sicily. Now the two factions are focused on laundering money and cocaine trafficking, according to Italian investigators and court papers.
Bernardo Provenzano, the alleged head of the Sicilian mafia, or the ``boss of bosses,'' was captured in 2006 after 43 years on the run. He had authorized the new contacts, according to letters that police seized, Grasso said.
In 1983, Sicilian boss Salvatore ``Toto'' Riina banished to the U.S. mobsters tied to murdered bosses Salvatore Inzerillo and Stefano Bontate after a two-year mob war left about 1,000 people dead. He spared some tied to Inzerillo and Bontate provided they never returned to Sicily to seek revenge, according to today's Italian arrest warrants.
Riina's accord held until about 2000, when Sicilian and U.S. organized crime figures sought to resume business contacts. In 2003 and 2004, Palermo police tapped phones used by suspected mobsters visiting from New York, and followed them in their meetings in Palermo. They also tracked Sicilian mobsters to New York, where the FBI conducted surveillance, court documents show.
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