Update 1:09PM Pacific Time, 20 January 2011 –Janice Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director in Charge, issued a further statement a few minutes ago on today’s Mob-related arrests.
Though La Cosa Nostra — the Sicilian-American Mafia — has been waning steadily in influence decade-to-decade since the late ’70s, individual years have seen huge upticks in certain families. What’s more, the very nature of criminal enterprise means that even a beleaguered family can stumble on a hugely lucrative enterprises, which puts ’em right back on top and, before you know it, on the road to expansion. Crime is the ultimate gambler’s paradise.
Another oft-cited issue in the literature on organized crime is that the FBI’s attention has primarily been focused on New York’s Five Families — Bonnano, Colombo, Gambino, Lucchese, and Genovese. These remain the most visible and documented organized crime groups in the world.
But at least a few journalists have observed that the FBI’s focus on NYC families means that other groups have had a chance to get a foothold where they never would have had a chance. Montreal’s Rizzuto Family, claims one book, have made inroads into the vacuum left by the collapse of the New York Mafia structure, and Selwyn Raab’s 2006 book Five Familes claims that reports of the NYC groups’ deaths were greatly exaggerated.
Well, the FBI’s killing blow this morning against at least seven East Coast families proves one thing — that the Five Families and their nearby brethren must be resurgent. There were indictments against 127 people, of whom 110 were taken into custody. Fifteen years ago, it seemed like the feds couldn’t even have found 110 members and associates of those families to charge. Perhaps of equal importance, during the Bush years it didn’t even seem to be a priority.
The 127 people charged included more than 30 “made” members. Members and associates were from the five New York families as well as New Jersey’s DeCavalcante Family (the loose basis for the NJ family in The Sopranos) and “the New England” family.
The FBI press release goes a little something like this:
Early this morning FBI agents and partner law enforcement officers began arresting nearly 130 members of the Mafia in New York City and other East Coast cities charged in the largest nationally coordinated organized crime takedown in the Bureau’s history.
Members of New York’s infamous Five Families—the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Luchese crime organizations — were rounded up along with members of the New Jersery-based DeCavalcante family and New England Mafia to face charges including murder, drug trafficking, arson, loan sharking, illegal gambling, witness tampering, labor racketeering, and extortion. In one case involving the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) at the Ports of New York and New Jersey, the alleged extortion has been going on for years….
…”The notion that today’s mob families are more genteel and less violent than in the past is put to lie by the charges contained in the indictments unsealed today,” said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of our New York Field Office. “Even more of a myth is the notion that the mob is a thing of the past; that La Cosa Nostra is a shadow of its former self.”
The Mafia—also known as La Cosa Nostra (LCN)—may have taken on a diminished criminal role in some areas of the country, but in New York, the Five Families are still “extremely strong and viable,” said Dave Shafer, an assistant special agent in charge who supervises FBI organized crime investigations in New York.
Today’s operation began before dawn. Some 500 FBI personnel—along with about 200 local, state, and other federal law enforcement officers — took part, including key agencies such as the New York Police Department and the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. By 11 a.m., more than 110 of the 127 subjects charged had been taken into custody.
The idea for a nationally coordinated LCN takedown originated at the Department of Justice last summer, said Shafer, a veteran organized crime investigator. “We have done big LCN takedowns before, but never one this big.”
Among those charged:
* Luigi Manocchio, 83, the former boss of the New England LCN;
* Andrew Russo, 76, street boss of the Colombo family;
* Benjamin Castellazzo, 73, acting underboss of the Colombo family;
* Richard Fusco, 74, consigliere of the Colombo family;
* Joseph Corozzo, 69, consigliere of the Gambino family; and
* Bartolomeo Vernace, 61, a member of the Gambino family administration.
The LCN operates in many U.S. cities and routinely engages in threats and violence to extort victims, eliminate rivals, and obstruct justice. In the union case involving the ILA, court documents allege that the Genovese family has engaged in a multi-decade conspiracy to influence and control the unions and businesses on the New York-area piers.
“If there’s money to be made,” said Diego Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New York criminal division, “LCN will do it.” He noted that today’s Mafia has adapted to the times. “They are still involved in gambling and loan sharking, for example, but in the old days the local shoemaker took the betting slips. Now it’s offshore online gambling and money laundering. If you investigate LCN in New York,” Rodriguez added, “it’s a target-rich environment.”
I can only presume the New England family they’re talking about must be the old Patriarca family that exercises control over both Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island — but Raymond Patriarca died in 1984, and his son retired in 1989 upon his incarceration, so apparently the FBI now calls it the “New England” family.
Incidentally, it was the Boston branch of this family that was under fire by corrupt FBI agent John Connolly working with South Boston Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who provided the FBI with information against La Cosa Nostra in an attempt to consolidate his own power. Bulger has been a federal fugitive since 1999 (and is still on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.