News Union protects Hoffa on Mob links

Thomas Cacciopoli (“Tommy Sneakers”), John Pisano (“Johnny Red Rose”) and Michael Urciuoli (“Mike the Electrician”)—the names sound like characters from “The Sopranos”, the acclaimed televised Mafia drama. But the Mafia in America is no fiction, as the 169-page indictment from which these names are drawn shows. “It is alive and real, and there is nothing romantic or glamorous about it”, says John Pistole, the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The litany of crimes in the indictment unsealed on February 7th goes back three decades and includes extortion, embezzlement, mail fraud, money laundering, illegal gambling and at least seven murders.

The crackdown is the largest against the American Mafia since the early 1990s. Local, state and federal authorities were all involved. So was the Italian government, which rounded up suspects in Sicily in an operation dubbed “Old Bridge” (Sicily has long been a recruiting ground for New York's families and the authorities may have seen an opportunity to break links between the two). But the main targets were three of the “five families” based in New York who control organised crime in America: the Genovese, Bonanno and, best known, the Gambino family.

John D'Amico (“Jackie the Nose”), the acting Gambino boss, was among the “good fellas” arrested. So were the reputed underboss, Domenico Cefalu (“Italian Dom” or “the Greaseball”) and consigliere Joseph (“Miserable”) Corozzo. With so many capos in jail, there are said to be few veterans left. Joseph King, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says the mass arrests will disrupt the chain of command—and the Mafia's earnings.

Making money, mostly illegally, is the raison d'être for the American branch of the Mafia, says Mark Feldman, a former federal prosecutor and now a director of BDO Consulting, a professional-services firm. The indictment outlines the families' varied revenue streams. It says that the Mafia was involved in several high-profile city projects, including the expansion of the subway and even the rebuilding of Ground Zero (one of the men arrested “worked” for a company sub-contracted to haul debris from the site). The indictment charges some of those arrested with embezzling money from the coffers of the Teamsters and other unions' health and pension funds by underreporting the hours union members worked.

The prosecution's case is based in large part on an informant, now under federal protection, who wore a wire for three years and recorded hundreds of hours of conversations. A single trial of all 62 arrested mobsters is doubtful. Mr King reckons a series of smaller trials more probable—which will take a while. Even if successful, they are unlikely to eradicate the Mafia. As Ray Kelly, New York's police commissioner, noted, “they're resilient.”


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