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FBI nabs 40 mobsters in 4-state sweep


Murder, racketeering charged

In this story:

Authorities want to 'disrupt and weaken' mob family

Sale of counterfeit merchandise among charges

'We do need to maintain vigilance'


December 3, 1999
Web posted at: 7:06 a.m. EST (1206 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- FBI agents and other law officers have arrested nearly 40 members of five different Mafia families in sweeping raids and charged them with murder, extortion and racketeering for offenses over a 10-year span.

Caught up in the dragnet were members of five mob families -- the New York-based Gambino, Bonanno, Colombo and Luchese families as well as the New Jersey-based Dacavalcante family, which had been expanding into New York.

Thirty-three suspects were nabbed in early morning busts on Thursday; another six were picked up later in the day. The arrests were made in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

New York's notorious "Five families" have been in disarray in recent years with their most powerful chieftains behind bars.

These include John Gotti, the former "Dapper Don" of the Gambinos, who has been recently treated for throat cancer, and Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, the Genovese family godfather known for his bathrobe strolls in Greenwich Village.

The indictments mark the first major prosecution of the New York faction of the Decavalcante family and the culmination of a two-year investigation into an alleged criminal enterprise spanning a decade.

Authorities want to 'disrupt and weaken' mob family

U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White filed indictments on Thursday in Manhattan federal court, charging the 39 defendants with wide-ranging racketeering offenses including murder, attempted murder, loan sharking, extortion, receipt of stolen property and bookmaking.

"The impact should be to significantly disrupt and weaken the hierarchy of the Decavalcante family itself and to effectively decimate the presence of this New Jersey-based crime family in New York City," she said.

In the largest of the three indictments, containing a total of 42 counts, three reputed top members of the Decavalcante hierarchy -- an acting boss and two captains -- were charged along with a dozen reputed family members and associates.

Prosecutors identified Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo as acting boss of New York operations and Joseph Giacobbe and Anthony Rotondo as the two street captains.

Alleged Decavalcante associate, Anthony Greco, was charged with the murder of another Decavalcante associate, Joseph "Joey O" Masella, on October 10, 1998.

Sale of counterfeit merchandise among charges

Other defendants were charged with the attempted robbery of a payroll office at a Times Square building, and the attempted sale of counterfeit Tommy Hilfiger and Jordache merchandise.

Prosecutors say the Decavalcantes, who have historically worked with the Gambinos, formed alliances with the Lucheses, Bonannos and Colombos to to set up their own New York operations.

The alleged criminal enterprise, said White, reflects "the traditional and changing face of organized crime which more and more involves joint venture arrangements between different crime families."

The second indictment charges members and associates of the Gambino and Colombo families with running an illegal bookmaking network in conjunction with the Decavalcante family.

The third charges various defendants of operating a stolen property ring and trying to sell (among other things) 2,250 cases of stolen Due Torri Pino Grigio wine, 29,000 packages of Centrum vitamins and 56 Minolta digital copiers.

'We do need to maintain vigilance'

New York FBI chief Louis Schiliro said the crackdown hurt the expanding Decavalcante Family, in particular, but added: "That is not to suggest that the Cosa Nostra families are dead. There's a lot of work we need to do. We need to maintain our vigilance. And certainly the case represented here shows they are not out of New York City."

The defendants appeared before a Judge Wednesday. Prosecutor David Kelley said some were released, others detained. Some of the charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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