Two of New York’s Oldest Mafia Clans Charged with Money Laundering

For nearly a decade, families frequented a small suburban Long Island coffee shop for pastries and gelato. Many were unaware of the lengthy operation that was taking place just a stone’s throw from them: Mafia members ran a secret underground gambling den in the store.

The company was one of several across the island and in Queens, which served as a cover for two of New York’s oldest crime families and their illegal money-making schemes, according to two federal charges disclosed Tuesday. When other gambling clubs threatened their fortunes, a Nassau County detective offered to conduct police raids on the rival clubs in exchange for payments, prosecutors said.

On Tuesday, nine well-known members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno clans — including the Detective — — were indicted in a racketeering case brought by the US law firm in Brooklyn, which focused on the illegal parlors and the money laundering and extortion schemes.

Seven of the men, who appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were expected to be released on several bail packages.

Federal prosecutors said the gambling activities provided “significant income” for the two families for a decade as they hid under the cover of businesses such as a football club and a shoe repair shop. The Long Island coffee shop alone typically earned them more than $10,000 a week, money that was laundered to the leaders of the crime families.

Breon S. Peace, the US attorney for New York’s Eastern District, said in a statement Tuesday that the arrests “demonstrate that the mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion and violence while using our financial system in the service of their own people.” criminal plans.”

He added: “Even more disturbing is the shameful behavior of a detective who betrayed his oath of office.”

Patrick Ryder, the Nassau County Police Commissioner, said in a statement that the detective, Hector Rosario, 49, of Mineola, NY, had been working on a limited assignment and was not interacting with the public while the investigation continued. Mr Rosario has now been suspended without pay until his administrative hearing at the department.

According to his LinkedIn page, he has worked for the Nassau County Police Department for more than 15 years.

“The Nassau County Police Department continues to take a zero-tolerance approach to any member of the department involved in criminal activity,” said Commissioner Ryder.

The power of the city’s five legendary mafia clans began to wane in the 1980s and 1990s, as aggressive persecutions disrupted their leadership and authorities turned their grip on unions. The Bonanno family, in particular, saw a series of damaging convictions and apostasy in the 2000s. Even the family’s longtime boss began cooperating with authorities after being convicted in 2004 of a string of murders.

The families still exist, but with much less widespread control.

In recent years, they have been charged with similar forms of organized crime – extortion, illegal gambling, fraud – in minor cases involving a few defendants and large-scale conspiracy cases. For example, in 2016, 46 members of a crime network that included four of the city’s mafia families — including the Genoveses and Bonannos — were charged with an extortion scheme stretching from Massachusetts to South Florida and involving racketeering, health care fraud and arson.

In the Brooklyn case, the Genovese and Bonanno crime families began running Long Island’s coffee shop — the Gran Caffe in the Lynbrook area — around May 2012, according to the charges.

Members of the two clans agreed on a profit sharing for the gambling facility, and each helped keep the operation going: senior members of both families “relied on their subordinates” to collect the winnings and hand over money in “clandestine gatherings,” prosecutors said. said.

The pattern was similar at the other companies, including Sal’s Shoe Repair in Merrick, NY, and La Nazionale Soccer Club in the Glendale section of Queens. Prosecutors said the evidence in the case includes recordings of wiretapped telephone conversations, accounts of various witnesses and a host of other evidence.

In a memo to the judge, prosecutors argued that the “seriousness of the danger posed by the release of the suspects should not be underestimated” and that the men posed a significant flight risk.

Eight of the indicted men were recently arrested in New York and Florida, while the whereabouts of one remained unknown. U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Cho approved bail packages for the seven appearing in Brooklyn court, including bonds ranging from $150,000 to $2 million, travel restrictions and other oversight.

Mr. Rosario, the Nassau County police detective, was set to be released on $500,000 bail. The indictment did not state how much money he had received for arranging police raids on rival gambling venues. But prosecutors said he lied about his knowledge of the operations in a 2020 interview with FBI special agents.

His attorney, Lou Freeman, and the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, the county’s largest police union, did not immediately request comment.

One of the defendants, Carmelo Polito, 63, of Whitestone in Queens was also charged with operating an illegal online gambling website. Prosecutors said Mr Polito — who is suspected of being a captain of the Genovese family — threatened and extorted money from a man who lost several thousand dollars in bets, saying he would “face the man.” break” in an October 2019 appeal. Mr. Polito later sent a message to the patron, warning that he would “put” him under a bridge, using an expletive.

Prosecutors portrayed Mr Polito as a threatening captain in the family who had been convicted of murder 19 years ago and couldn’t deviate from his violent life after that.

But Gerald McMahon, a lawyer for Mr. Polito, said in court that the image was misleading, stressing that the conviction was later quashed and that Mr. Polito was at work when authorities arrived at his home to arrest him. – and that he returned to custody.

“The story they told you is just bullshit,” Mr. McMahon told the judge. “The case is a gambling business. It’s a gambling business.”

The case was prompted by a multi-year joint investigation by several agencies, including federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, the FBI and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office.

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