U.S. authorities arrested dozens of suspected Mafia members on Thursday, charging them with extortion, loan sharking, smuggling, arson, gun trafficking and other crimes.
A federal indictment unsealed in New York tied 46 suspects to four of the city's five major Mafiaoutfits - the Genovese, Gambino, Luchese and Bonanno families. Other suspects were part of the main Philadelphia family, the indictment said.
Most of the suspects were arrested in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida early on Thursday. Three remain at large, according to U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan. All the defendants arraigned in Manhattan federal court pleaded not guilty.
After a hearing, the accused mobsters walked out of federal court. Most refused to talk to the media except for Bradford Wedra, who has a 1981 murder conviction for killing a man who disrespected him in front of his girlfriend at a bar called Fudgie’s. Wedra was arrested on racketeering charges. “They pulled me out of my cousin’s funeral last night, and I couldn’t go to the burial this morning,” he told Newsweek. “Why I’m getting punished is my past.”
Prosecutors attributed an array of schemes, including gambling rings, untaxed cigarettes sales and fake credit cards, to the suspects.
Those arrested ranged in age from 24 to 80, had nicknames such as "Tony the Cripple" and "Mustache Pat," and used violence to intimidate their victims, according to authorities.
The federal case is one of the largest mob-related busts in recent years, as the pace of such prosecutions has slowed since the mafia's heyday decades ago. Although the mafia is not as powerful as it once was, prosecutors said the investigation shows it is still a potent force.