In what is being billed as the biggest crime bust in history, the FBI have arrested 119 Mafia suspects and have charged nearly 130 people connected to different crimes ranging from murder and drug trafficking to extortion, gambling, loan-sharking and prostitution.
Last Thursday, more than 800 federal and local law enforcement officials arrested dozens of organized crime suspects early morning raids around the New York area and in New Jersey and Rhode Island. One suspect was arrested in Italy with the cooperation of the Italian National Police. The operation targeted New York's five Mafia families - the Gambinos, Genoveses, Bonnanos, Lucheses and Colombos. The federal authorities also arrested members of the DeCavalcantes in Newark, N.J., and the New England mafia family in Providence, R.I.
The raids were conducted by the FBI agents who used all sorts of tools, including wiretaps and cooperating witnesses who made consensual recordings.
According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, overall 127 suspects were indicted for various crimes that went back 30 years.
Among those charged in New York were leaders of the Colombo and Gambino families including the Colombo street boss Andrew Russo, 76, acting underboss Benjamin Castellazzo, 73, and consigliere Richard Fusco, 74.
Two of the Gambinos charged included consigliere Joseph Corozzo, 69, and ruling panel member Bartolomeo Vernace, 61.
New England boss Luigi Manocchio, 83, was also arrested.
The arrests and charges mark an important step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra's illegal activities, Holder said in a statement. He has described the operation as the largest single day crackdown of the mob.
The members of La Cosa Nostra are among the most dangerous criminals in our country. It is an ongoing threat, a major threat to the economic well-being of this country, the attorney general said.
Though some of the suspects were known by colorful nicknames such as Tony Bagels, Vinny Carwash and Junior Lollipops, Holder said the suspects were among the most dangerous criminals in our country and engaged themselves in classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals.
Others involve senseless murders. In one instance, a victim allegedly was shot and killed during a botched robbery attempt. And two other murder victims allegedly were shot dead in a public bar because of a dispute over a spilled drink, Holder said.
As we've seen for decades, mafia operations can negatively impact our economy - not only through a wide array of fraud schemes but also through the illegal imposition of mob taxes at our ports, in our construction industries, and on our small businesses. The violence outlined in these indictments, and perpetrated across decades, shows the lengths to which these individuals are willing to go to control their criminal enterprises and intimidate others. The Department of Justice and our partners are determined to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all, and to bring their members to justice, he added.
According to Robert S. Mueller III, director of the FBI, it is a myth that organized crime is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, there are still people who extort, intimidate and victimize innocent Americans, Mueller said.
Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Division, said Mafia families are no less dangerous or violent today than they were in the past.
Arresting and convicting the hierarchies of the five families several times over has not eradicated the problem, Fedarcyk said.
However, criminal law experts claim arresting La Cosa Nostra suspects will do little to curb crimes as Albanian and Russian crime organizations now rule the streets.
Moreover, the crackdown will only help in allowing up-and-coming criminals who have been toiling in the trenches to move up the ranks.
The crackdown is part of FBI's ongoing effort to cripple the Italian-American Mafia, also known as La Cosa Nostra. La Cosa Nostra has its roots in Sicily and was popularized by cult movies like The Godfather.