Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 7 News List

FBI arrests 127 in huge mob raid

BACK IN THE GAME:After shifting its focus to fighting terrorism over the past decade, the FBI is again fighting organized crime with help from high-profile ‘super-grasses’

The Guardian, NEW YORK

The charge sheets read like a script from the heyday of Hollywood’s love affair with the mob, replete with made men, consiglieres and vows of undying loyalty to the boss. In a move that made it seem time had stood still since The Godfather first astonished the US in 1972, the FBI on Thursday renewed its decades-long battle against the US mafia.

In a devastating blow to the organized crime families of the north-eastern US, more than 800 FBI and police officers made the largest roundup of Cosa Nostra bosses and soldiers in US history. A total of 127 alleged mafia members and their accomplices were charged.

The arrests in New York, Newark, New Jersey, and Rhode Island were both an indication of the mafia’s enduring power in the US and the determination of the FBI to regain the initiative in its struggle with the organization.

Announcing the arrests, US Attorney General Eric Holder said they “send a clear message that we are committed — and determined — to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all and to bring their members to justice.”

The sweep struck seven families: five with headquarters in New York — the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese — as well as the largely New -Jersey-based DeCavalcante family and the New England branch centered in Providence, Rhode Island, and in Boston. Among those in custody are top figureheads, including the former boss of the New England branch, Luigi Manocchio, 83.

The scale of the assault on the mafia is underlined by the fate of the Colombo family, which has had its entire leadership other than those already in jail taken down: Its street boss, acting underboss and consigliere, as well as four captains and eight of its soldiers.

The charge sheet includes alleged murders dating back to the 1980s. Holder said they included not only “classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals,” but also senseless murders such as the killing of two victims in a public bar in a dispute over a spilled drink. Other charges run from narcotics trafficking to extortion, illegal gambling, arson, loan sharking and trade union racketeering.

Defendants are listed with their mob aliases and nicknames: Fed Alesi, aka Whiney; Anthony Cavezza, aka Tony Bagels; Giovanni Vella, aka Mousey; Bartolomeo -Vernace, aka Pepe or Bobby Glasses.

The indictments lay out the hierarchy of families that have changed remarkably little. Cosa Nostra is ruled by a panel drawn from all its families called the “Commission.” Each crime family is headed by a boss, assisted by an underboss and adviser, known as a consigliere. They manage “crews” headed by a captain or capodecina and consisting of soldiers and associates.

To become a member of the family, or in the vocabulary a “goodfella” or “wiseguy,” individuals go through an initiation ceremony in which they commit themselves to a life of crime.

Such a dramatic move against the mob is not just good publicity for the FBI and the justice department, it also signals a change of gear within law enforcement with regard to the mafia. In recent years, there has been a perception that the authorities took their eye off the ball, allowing organized crime to regroup.

“After 9/11 the emphasis of law enforcement shifted, with resources going to fight terrorism,” said Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former police captain in Newark, New Jersey. “Investigations died down, allowing the mafia to make a resurgence.”

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