Friday, October 24, 2014

Reuputed Genovese Crime Family Associates Have Bail Reduction by Superior Court Judge

Bail was reduced for several of the alleged Genovese crime family associates accused of running illegal financial schemes and sports gambling operations, but a Superior Court judge maintained $400,000 bail for alleged "capo" Charles "Chuckie" Tuzzo Thursday. ReuThe 80-year-old Tuzzo, however, posted $40,000 with a bail bondsman and was expected to be released later in the evening.

Tuesday, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the arrest of 11 alleged Genovese crime family members and associates, saying their schemes were evidence the Mafia had "evolved and learned to exploit sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes.”

Tuzzo, of Bayside, N.Y. — a Genovese "capo" — and Vito Alberti, 55, of New Providence — a "made" soldier — allegedly report directly to the crime family's hierarchy in New York, Hoffman said. Tuzzo and Alberti allegedly received tribute from Genovese family members and associates for illegal financial operations in New Jersey such as check-cashing operations and multimillion-dollar sports gambling operation.

According to Hoffman, Domenick Puccillo, 56, of Florham Park oversaw the operations of Tri-State Check Cashing Inc., located on Avenue A in Newark’s Ironbound District, and other licensed check cashing locations. Puccillo is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records and operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility.

Puccillo allegedly extended lines of both cash and credit to customers, and charged annual interest rates ranging between one to three “points”, or between 52 and 156 percent. Individuals who used the business were typically indigent with poor credit, and were required to pay interest weekly, or face threats of violence from Puccillo and an associate, Robert "Bobby Spags" Spagnola, Hoffman said.

Spagnola, 67, of Morganville is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury and possession of usurious loan records.

Meanwhile, Vincent P. Coppola, 37, of Union allegedly headed a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling business. Coppola, who is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy and promoting gambling, is the son of jailed Genovese capo Michael Coppola.

Bail was set at $400,000 with no 10-percent option for each of the individuals arrested earlier this week, but Judge James DeMarzo in Morristown reduced bail to $300,000 Thursday for following: Spagnola; Abel J. Rodrigues, 52, Bridgewater; Manuel Rodriguez, 49, Chatham; and John W. Trainor, 42, Brick.

Alberti's bail was held at $400,000. "It could have been higher," the judge told the court. "It could have been much higher. Multiples of what it was set at." But, DeMarzo later said, it was his inclination to reduce it. "Bail is not there to punish," he said. "It's there to make sure someone shows up at court."

Rodrigues, the owner of Portucale Restaurant & Bar, allegedly participated in the check-cashing operation by using his business to launder money and evade taxes. He and his associate, Rodriguez, are accused of cashing more than $400 million in checks and collecting over $9 million in fees over a four-year period during the course of the scheme.

Trainor and Jerry Albanese, 47, of Scotch Plains served under Vincent Coppola as part the illegal gambling operations, Hoffman said. Trainor allegedly became tied up with the ring after becoming indebted to the crime family — which later took over his car business, GTS Auto Carriers, and siphoned money from it. Trainor, who wasn't represented by counsel but had an application for a public defender, told the court he was "completely broke" and likely couldn't pay bail even if it was reduced significantly. "I went bankrupt," he said. "I'm completely broke. I have five small kids at home." Trainor said his wife's a registered nurse and works full time, so he stays home with the children. His 17-year-old daughter, Trainor said, was still recovering from a liver transplant she received in April.

Tuzzo, Alberti, Spagnola, Rodriguez and Trainor each made appearances in court via a closed circuit feed from Morris County Correctional Facility. Rodrigues and Pucillo posted bail earlier in the week.

Coppola, who wasn’t arrested on Tuesday, was picked up by police Wednesday, according to the Attorney General’s Office. His bail wasn't reviewed Thursday.

Despite several successful bail reductions by other alleged associates, Tuzzo's attorney, Gerald McMahon, didn't seek bail modification. McMahon said it was because the terms had already been set with the Attorney General's Office and "having my guy and his picture at the top of (the AG's) chart is not conducive to getting bail reduction." But, he said, he may later seek modification and recoupment of the bail paid in excess. "I look forward to trashing this case when we get to court," McMahon told NJ Advance outside of DeMarzo's courtroom.

McMahon, who is licensed to practice law in New York — where Tuzzo lives — but not New Jersey, was vouched for by his son, a licensed New Jersey attorney, in the court proceedings Thursday. Regarding the case, he said, "Don't you get immunity after 80 for a glorified gambling arrest?"

Tuzzo, Alberti, Pucillo, Spagnola, Rodriguez, Coppola, Rodrigues and Trainor are all facing charges including first-degree racketeering and money laundering, each of which could land them in jail for up to 20 years.

Alberti, Trainor, Rodrigues and Rodriguez are also facing tax-related charges for their illegal activity related to the check-cashing businesses and other endeavors.

Flor Miranda of Newark and Jennifer Mann of Bayonne who were charged in connection with the alleged illegal financial operations didn't have their bail reviewed Thursday. Albanese's bail also wasn't reviewed Thursday. Miranda and Mann are each accused of helping to keep records and file false reports related to the schemes.

The Attorney General's Office was represented by Deputy Attorney Generals Jacqueline Weyand and Ray Mateo.

The matter is next scheduled to go before Superior Court Judge Robert Gilson on Nov. 19.

Thanks to Justin Zaremba.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Corrections Officer & Chicago Police Dispatcher Among 7 Charged in Alleged Plot to Smuggle Contraband into Cook County Jail

Nearly three ounces of marijuana was confiscated after it was found hidden inside two sandwiches that a Cook County corrections officer allegedly tried to smuggle into the Cook County Jail last year in exchange for a $200 bribe. As a result of that seizure and an allegedly broader conspiracy, the corrections officer, three inmates, two civilians, and a Chicago police dispatcher are facing federal charges in connection with alleged smuggling of marijuana and other contraband into the jail, sheriff’s department and federal law enforcement officials announced.

In June 2013, three jail inmates allegedly conspired with two civilian women to bribe JASON MAREK, a corrections officer for the Cook County Department of Corrections since May 2011, to bring marijuana, cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, food and other contraband into the jail for inmates’ consumption and for further distribution within the jail, according to a three count criminal complaint.

According to the charges, an ounce of marijuana, which sells for approximately $200 outside the jail, could be sold for five times as much, or $1,000, inside the jail.

Marek, also known as “Murder” and “Murda,” 29, formerly of Orland Park, was assigned to the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at CCJ, Division 9, Tier 2H, when the alleged marijuana smuggling was thwarted on June 21, 2013. He was arrested and was released on his own recognizance after appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert in Federal Court.

Between June 15 and 24, 2013, three jail inmates—THADIEUS GOODS, PRINCE JOHNSON, and LAVANGELIST POWELL—who were housed in the same tier where Marek was assigned, allegedly conspired with two women to bribe Marek to smuggle the marijuana and other contraband into the jail. During a recorded telephone call from the jail on June 15, 2013, Goods told his wife, PEARLISA STEVENSON, that, with her help, he had the opportunity to make some money by selling marijuana inside the jail as long as he also had a corrections officer willing to help him.

“Rooting out corruption in the Cook County Jail is a top priority of mine,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “I’m thankful to our federal partners at the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for working closely with my staff to conduct such a thorough investigation and to charge this far-reaching case.”

The arrests and charges were announced by Sheriff Dart, together with Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation was a joint effort between the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Responsibility, with Sheriff Dart’s full support, to improve the security and integrity within the Cook County Jail.

Goods, also known as “Big Weasy,” “Weasy,” and “Wang,” 36, of Calumet Park; Johnson, aka “Primo,” 32; and Powell, aka “JuJu” and “Juicy,” 22, both of Chicago, remain in state custody and will be transferred to face the federal charges on a date yet to be determined.

Stevenson, aka “Wang Wang,” 29, and NATOSHA McCOLLUM, aka “Tasha,” 21, who is Powell’s girlfriend, both of Chicago, were arrested and were released on their own recognizance after appearing before Magistrate Gilbert.

Those six defendants ― Marek, Goods, Johnson, Powell, Stevenson, and McCollum ― were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

The seventh defendant, STEPHANIE LEWIS, 40, of Chicago, a “supervisor police operations” in the police dispatch group in the city of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and who is Johnson’s girlfriend, was arrested last night. She was charged with one count of illegally accessing a law enforcement computer to assist the alleged extortion and drug distribution conspiracy. Lewis and three others ― Powell, Johnson, and McCollum ― were also charged with conspiracy to access a law enforcement computer to further extortion and a drug conspiracy.

Lewis was also released on her own recognizance. Marek, Stevenson, McCollum, and Lewis were each ordered to return to court at 9:30 a.m. Friday for a status hearing before Magistrate Gilbert.

According to a 48-page complaint affidavit, Goods and Powell pre-sold marijuana to inmates within the CCJ. In June 2013, inmates transferred funds to Stevenson and McCollum via the jail’s Inmate Trust Account system, allegedly to purchase marijuana and other contraband, which Goods, Powell, and Johnson expected to be brought into the jail. After collecting the money from other inmates, McCollum and Stevenson discussed with Goods and Powell their efforts to purchase marijuana from drug dealers outside the jail. Johnson and Lewis allegedly coordinated the delivery of contraband to Stevenson for delivery into the jail, and on June 21, 2013, Stevenson delivered the marijuana and other banned goods to Marek. At the same time, McCollum and Stevenson paid Marek a $200 bribe to smuggle the contraband into the jail. Marek attempted to deliver the marijuana to Goods but was intercepted by the FBI and the Sheriff’s Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility as he entered the jail.

After Marek failed to deliver the marijuana and contraband, Goods, Powell, and Johnson allegedly worked with McCollum and Lewis to obtain Marek’s home address and information about his family to threaten Marek and convince him to bring additional contraband into the jail. Johnson allegedly contacted Lewis and, after informing her that Marek had accepted a bribe but failed to deliver the goods, asked Lewis to provide Marek’s personal information, including his home address and names of family members because Johnson and Goods planned to send their associates to Marek’s house. After receiving Marek’s license plate number from McCollum, Lewis allegedly conducted an inquiry of Marek’s license plate on an OEMC computer linked to an Illinois State Police database, which queried the National Crime Information Center database, and Lewis then provided Marek’s home address to Johnson, the complaint alleges.

In June 2013, Good, Powell, and Johnson were housed in the jail’s Division 9, Tier 2H, where Marek was assigned for a 90-day rotation. Tier 2H is located on the second floor of the south tower of Division 9, which is located at 2834 West 31st St., Chicago, and is comprised of two interconnected three-story buildings that house general population male inmates with a maximum security classification.

Each count of the complaint carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

Church Director Edward J. MacKenzie Served as Enforcer for Whitey Bulger, Defrauded Church of Considerable Financial Assets

Edward J. MacKenzie, Jr., a self-professed “enforcer” for James “Whitey” Bulger, pleaded guilty to charges relating to his decade-long scheme to siphon off the considerable financial assets of the Boston Society of the New Jerusalem Church.

MacKenzie, 56, of Weymouth, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 13 counts, including Rico conspiracy, racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.

In September 2002, MacKenzie became a member of the Church, which was one of the first Swedenborgian churches in Massachusetts, and in 2003, he became the “Director of Operations,” a position that had not previously existed and paid him a starting salary of over $100,000 per year. With the purpose of draining the church of its assets, he began voting himself and his associates into positions of authority within the Church, and consolidating and fortifying his control by, among other things, changing the Church’s by-laws for his own benefit. MacKenzie was able to gain control over substantial church assets, including an 18 story apartment building in downtown Boston, because the Church had a small number of voting members, many of whom were elderly.

After obtaining control, MacKenzie began to steal Church funds through a combination of fraud, deceit, theft, and bribery. Moreover, MacKenzie intimidated and threatened individuals who were employed by and did work at the Church by, among other things, providing them with signed copies of his 2003 autobiography, Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob. In the autobiography, MacKenzie admitted to a lengthy criminal history, including burglary, robbery, armed assault, and narcotics trafficking.

As MacKenzie admitted in Court, a goal of the conspiracy was to obtain power and influence within the Church so that he and his co-conspirators could defraud the Church of its considerable financial holdings and profit from transactions involving the Church. MacKenzie’s fraud cost the Church millions of dollars.

“The defendant preyed on the elderly and unsuspecting congregation of a well-established Boston church for more than a decade,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “Posing as a director with the best interests of the church as a guise, he was in fact just the opposite: a criminal bent on personal gain who siphoned the considerable income of the charitable institution that he had an obligation to protect.”

The charging statutes provide a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of twice the gross proceeds from the racketeering offense. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Tonight, Rena Kopystenski, Author of "An Unbelievable Life", Appears on Crime Beat Radio

Rena Kopystenski, author of "An Unbelievable Life: Agent Orange and One Woman's Fight Against It" appears tonight on Crime Beat Radio.

An Unbelievable Life is a post-Vietnam War memoir that offers a unique perspective on the history and realities of the war and the long term impact of Agent OrangeAn Unbelievable Life: Agent Orange and One Woman's Fight Against It. This book is a tribute to the author's late husband, who was incredibly special and important although very few people know who he was or what he accomplished. It is also a testament to those brave men, women and children who, with nothing other than anger and personal dedication, taught America to honor the Vietnam Combat Veterans and create new laws and treatment for those whose lives and progeny were destroyed by Agent Orange. Perhaps the greatest purpose served by the book is to teach those who want to evoke change but fall short due to their own self- doubt or feelings of powerlessness.

Crime Beat is a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. Crime Beat presents fascinating topics that bring listeners closer to the dynamic underbelly of the world of crime. Guests have included ex-mobsters, undercover law enforcement agents, sports officials, informants, prisoners, drug dealers and investigative journalists, who have provided insights and fresh information about the world’s most fascinating subject: crime.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Massive Details on #OperationFistful, 11 Alleged Members and Associates of Genovese Crime Family Charged With Reaping Millions in Criminal Profits

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that seven alleged members and associates of the New York-based Genovese organized crime family were arrested and one more is being sought on an arrest warrant on first-degree racketeering charges for allegedly reaping millions of dollars in criminal profits in New Jersey through loansharking, unlicensed check cashing, gambling and money laundering, including laundering of proceeds from narcotics trafficking. Three other alleged associates were charged by summons, bringing the total number charged to 11.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman made the announcement in Newark with Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey Commissioner Michael Murphy and Executive Director Walter Arsenault of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, and representatives of the other law enforcement agencies that assisted in the operation.

Much of the illicit revenue allegedly was collected and laundered through licensed and unlicensed check-cashing businesses in Newark run by alleged Genovese associate Domenick Pucillo, 56, of Florham Park. Pucillo and the other associates charged allegedly are part of a New Jersey crew operating under the supervision and control of two alleged “made” members of the Genovese crime family – Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo, 80, of Bayside, N.Y., a Genovese “capo,” and Vito Alberti, 55, of New Providence, N.J., a Genovese “soldier” – who answer to the Genovese hierarchy in New York. Tuzzo, Alberti and Pucillo were among the seven men who were arrested early this morning.

The charges stem from “Operation Fistful,” an ongoing joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, conducted with assistance from the New York and Queens County District Attorneys’ Offices and other law enforcement agencies. The eight men targeted for arrest face racketeering and money laundering charges that carry consecutive sentences of 10 to 20 years in prison for each charge, including lengthy periods of parole ineligibility.

The 11 defendants are charged, in varying combinations, with running the following criminal schemes, as more fully outlined below, which generated “tribute” payments up the Genovese chain of command:

  1. a massive loansharking operation that yielded about $1.3 million in illegal interest per year;
  2. an illicit multi-million dollar offshore sports gambling enterprise;
  3. an unlicensed check-cashing business that made $9 million in fees in four years, while enabling customers to launder funds and evade taxes by skirting federal reporting requirements;
  4. laundering of $666,000 in drug money via check-cashing businesses owned by Pucillo in Newark and Florida;
  5. illegal control and use of a trucking firm with a contract to transport cars from Port Newark;
  6. tax fraud and evasion.

“We charge that this crew of the Genovese crime family was up to many of the Mafia’s old tricks in New Jersey, including loansharking and illegal gambling, to the tune of millions of dollars,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “History teaches us that as long as demand exists for illegal loans, illicit gambling, drugs, and other black-market goods and services, organized crime is going to turn a profit by preying on society. Our message to the Mafia is that as long as they do, we’re going to be here to send them to prison.”

“This case illustrates that the Mafia has evolved and learned to exploit sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes such as loansharking and illegal gambling,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through it all, as always, the Mafia makes its money largely through the ever-present threat of violence. This case demonstrates that, as much as the Mafia may change its criminal tactics, we will work tirelessly to remain one step ahead and root out their corrosive influence.”

“This case presents yet another instance of the Waterfront Commission’s concerted efforts with its law enforcement partners to disrupt the influence of organized crime in the metropolitan area,” said New Jersey Commissioner Michael Murphy of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. “The Genovese Crime Family has historically exerted its influence on the Port of New Jersey. Disruption of its profits from gambling, loansharking and money laundering weaken that family’s grip.”


Pucillo allegedly used his check-cashing businesses for a massive loansharking operation. He runs several businesses, but the main one is Tri-State Check Cashing, Inc., with headquarters at 17 Avenue A in Newark. He allegedly used cash and credit lines extended to his business to loan money “on the street” at usurious rates. He made loans at one to three “points.” A point equals 1% interest, due weekly, so one point equates to 52% annual interest, two points to 104% annual interest, and three points to 156% annual interest. New Jersey law defines criminal usury as loaning money to an individual at an annual interest rate exceeding 30%, and makes it a second-degree crime if the rate exceeds 50% per year.

Over a two-year period, Pucillo had approximately $3 million in usurious loans on the street and collected approximately $1.3 million in interest per year. It is alleged that Genovese associate Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola, 67, of Morganville, N.J., partnered with Pucillo in the loansharking business and received a commission of one point on each loan he secured for Pucillo. In addition, Pucillo allegedly shared the loansharking proceeds up the Genovese chain of command to Alberti and Tuzzo.

Victims were required to pay interest on a weekly basis. The scheme was designed so that, when the victims made loan payments by check, it appeared that they were cashing checks in the ordinary course of Pucillo’s check-cashing business. When they took out loans, victims were required to sign partially completed checks, which Pucillo and his co-defendants could complete and cash through the check-cashing business to collect weekly interest or payments of principal. Victims also could pay in cash.

Defendant Flor Miranda, 40, of Newark, worked as office manager for Pucillo’s check-cashing operation. She allegedly collected loansharking payments and helped Pucillo keep extensive records of the loansharking and money laundering operations run out of his check-cashing businesses.


Vincent P. Coppola, 37, of Union, N.J., son of imprisoned Genovese capo Michael Coppola, allegedly was part of a network of Genovese associates who ran a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling enterprise in New Jersey that utilized an off-shore “wire room” in Costa Rica to process bets. Coppola allegedly was an “agent” who managed sub-agents or package holders, each of whom had a “package” of bettors under him. He allegedly supervised sub-agents John W. Trainor, 42, of Brick, N.J., and Jerry J. Albanese, 47, of Scotch Plains. Agents decide which bettors can open accounts and gamble using the enterprise’s website and toll-free phone number. They also dictate how much a bettor can gamble per game and per week, and monitor the action and balances of the packages they oversee. Eventually, Coppola allegedly gave Trainor and Albanese more complete control of the bettors in their packages. Coppola allegedly had four packages under him, including those of Trainor and Albanese. In a single year, in 2011, Coppola’s packages allegedly handled more than $1.7 million in bets, and Coppola, Trainor, Albanese and the Genovese crime family – through Alberti and Tuzzo – allegedly made more than $400,000 in profits.


In addition to Tri-State Check Cashing and his other licensed check-cashing businesses, Pucillo allegedly financed an unlicensed, illegal check-cashing operation with partners and Genovese associates Abel J. Rodrigues, 52, of Bridgewater, N.J., and Manuel Rodriguez, 49, of Chatham, N.J. This scheme operated out of Portucale Restaurant & Bar at 129 Elm Street in Newark, also known as Viriato Corp. – which is owned by Abel Rodrigues – under the guise that Rodrigues was legally allowed to cash checks as Pucillo’s agent. In reality, this arrangement is illegal, and the defendants allegedly used it to enable clients to launder money and evade taxes. It is alleged that over a four-year period they illegally cashed over $400 million in checks through Portucale Restaurant and collected over $9 million in fees.

Many customers cashed checks at Portucale Restaurant to launder money, hide income or obtain cash for “under-the-table” payrolls because Abel Rodrigues allegedly did not ask for any identification and would not file proper “currency transaction reports,” or CTRs, for any check or combination of checks exceeding $10,000, as required by federal law. Tri-State Check Cashing provided the cash disbursed at Portucale Restaurant, but instead of processing and reporting the individual checks that were cashed, Tri-State would receive checks from Viriato Corp. for sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which bundled together the amounts of the checks cashed at Portucale Restaurant. Tri-State would then file CTRs only for the checks from Viriato Corp. Jennifer Mann, 30, of Bayonne, was employed by Pucillo as the compliance officer for Tri-State. At Pucillo’s direction, she allegedly issued hundreds of false CTRs to conceal tax evasion and money laundering at Portucale Restaurant.

In return for cashing checks for over $10,000 without scrutiny, customers paid fees of up to 3% percent per check, which exceeds the limit of 2.21% permitted under New Jersey law. Abel Rodrigues allegedly received 1% on each check, and the remainder went to Pucillo. It is alleged that Pucillo in turn provided one-quarter of his fees to Manuel Rodriguez, who shared a portion of his fees up the chain to Alberti, Tuzzo and the Genovese crime family.


In January 2012, Pucillo acquired a check-cashing business in Hialeah, Florida, called I&T Financial Services. It is alleged that he subsequently entered into an agreement to launder and transfer drug money from New York and New Jersey to Florida. The drug traffickers allegedly would deliver cash to Flor Miranda at Tri-State Check Cashing in Newark. The money then was wired under the fictitious company name “Gold Shiny” to Florida, where it was laundered through I&T Financial’s business accounts and was received by the client, whose identity remained concealed. Pucillo allegedly laundered and transferred $666,000 in this manner, collecting $22,500 in fees on the transactions.


It is alleged that the Genovese crime family, through members and associates including Tuzzo, Alberti, Pucillo and Trainor, illicitly took control of a company called GTS Auto Carriers, siphoned money from it, and used it to commit other crimes including check forgery and tax evasion. Trainor owned and operated GTS, which transports cars from Port Newark to dealerships throughout New Jersey under a lucrative contract with Nissan. After Trainor obtained the contract, Alberti required GTS to lease trucks to transport the cars from Alberti for over $300,000 per year. Alberti created a company called AMJ Transport solely to lease trucks to GTS.

Alberti also allegedly required GTS to carry Coppola and another Genovese crime family associate on the GTS payroll even though neither actually worked for GTS. In addition, Trainor allegedly had checks issued from a GTS business account to fictitious persons to conceal the fact that he was siphoning money from GTS for his personal use and to pay Alberti and other Genovese crime family members and associates. In five months, Trainor allegedly cashed GTS checks totaling over $100,000 at Pucillo’s check-cashing business, including several on which Trainor forged the signature of the person authorized to sign checks for the GTS account.


It is alleged that, in conducting their criminal schemes, Alberti, Trainor, Rodriguez and Rodrigues – through Pucillo’s check-cashing businesses and other means – concealed their income and either failed to file tax returns or filed fraudulent tax returns which did not account for their criminal earnings.

The detectives who conducted Operation Fistful for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau are Lt. Brian Bruton, Detective Mario Estrada, Detective Patrick Sole and Detective Matthew Tully, under the supervision of Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue. The attorneys who conducted the investigation are Deputy Attorney General Lauren Scarpa Yfantis, who is Chief of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Deputy Attorney General Annmarie Taggart, who is Deputy Bureau Chief, and Deputy Attorneys General Jacqueline Weyand, Ray Mateo and Vincent Militello. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked Director Honig, Deputy Division Director Christopher Romanyshyn and Chief of Detectives Paul Morris for their leadership in the operation.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for partnering with the Attorney General’s Office in the investigation. The following individuals conducted the investigation for the Waterfront Commission: Capt. Margaret Baldinger, Sgt. George Falvo, Sgt. Kristen Brylinski, Sgt. Michelle Turner, Detective Joseph Longo, Detective Salvatore Arrigo, Detective Andrew Varga, Detective Matthew Moroney, Detective Frank Albanese, Detective Marc Valentin, Detective Wojciech Stobinski, Detective Vincent King, Detective Fauna Mitchell-Foster, Detective Shanti Kurschner and Detective Michael Petrillo.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked the following agencies for their valuable assistance:

New York County District Attorney's Office
Queens County District Attorney's Office
United States Department of Homeland Security
Florida Department of Financial Services
New York City Police Department
United States Internal Revenue Service
New Jersey Department of Taxation
New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance
New Jersey State Police
El Dorado Task Force.

These eight defendants were arrested or are being sought on arrest warrants charging the following crimes. Those arrested were lodged in jail with bail set at $400,000 for each. (* indicates the defendant remains a fugitive)

  • Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree).
  • Vito Alberti. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree), Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree).
  • Domenick Pucillo. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Possession of Usurious Loan Records (3rd degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree).
  • Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Possession of Usurious Loan Records (3rd degree).
  • Manuel Rodriguez. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree), Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree), Failure to File a Tax Return (3rd degree).
  • *Vincent P. Coppola. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree).
  • Abel J. Rodrigues. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree), Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree).
  • John W. Trainor. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree), Forgery (3rd degree), Failure to File a Tax Return (3rd degree).

These three defendants were charged by summons with the following crimes:

  • Jerry J. Albanese. Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree).
  • Flor Miranda. Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Possession of Usurious Loan Records (3rd degree).
  • Jennifer Mann. Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree), Issuing a False Financial Statement (3rd degree), Forgery (3rd degree).

First-degree racketeering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison – 85 percent of which must be served without parole under the No Early Release Act – and a fine of up to $200,000. First-degree money laundering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison – including a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed – with the sentence to run consecutive to the sentences for other charges. First-degree money laundering carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, or an enhanced fine of up to $35,000 for the crime of promoting gambling.

Gulf Cartel Leader Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez Arrested

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the arrest of current Gulf Cartel leader Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, 23, of Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on Oct. 9, 2014 while shopping in Edinburg, Texas. Saenz-Tamez made an initial appearance in the Eastern District of Texas on drug trafficking charges.

“Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez became the head of the Gulf Cartel following the 2013 arrest of former leader Mario Ramirez-Trevino,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “He moved steadily up the cartel ranks, working as a lookout, record keeper, plaza boss, and finally its leader. Thanks to the quick actions of DEA and our local partners, we were able to identify and safely arrest Saenz-Tamez while he was in the United States. He oversaw much of the violence and bloodshed that has plagued Mexico and DEA is pleased he will face justice in the United States.”

A federal investigation into the large-scale trafficking of illegal drugs from Mexico into the Eastern District of Texas led to the identity of Saenz-Tamez. The investigation revealed thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana were shipped into the Eastern District of Texas and then to locations across the nation, including Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland and Georgia.

Saenz-Tamez was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sep. 5, 2013 and charged with conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy with intent to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to money launder. Saenz-Tamez was transported from McAllen, Texas to Beaumont where he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn for a detention hearing and initial appearance.

If convicted, Saenz-Tamez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for the drug charges and up to 20 years in federal prison for the money laundering charge.

"The news that Juan Saenz-Tamez has been arrested is further proof that justice is prevailing in Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney John M. Bales. “I am encouraged that the efforts of so many law enforcement officers are now paying off. Congratulations to them and I look forward to seeing Saenz-Tamez answer for his crimes in a Beaumont courtroom."

“The arrest of Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, will put a stop to his role in the distribution of illegal drugs and the laundering of drug proceeds,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz. “Laundering their profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the distribution of their illegal drugs. IRS CI is proud to provide assistance as we work alongside our law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Detention Facility Scheme to Smuggle Pot and Cell Phones into Jail Results in Guilty Pleas

Two Newark men admitted their involvement in a scheme to smuggle contraband, including marijuana and cell phones, into the Essex County Jail, a federal pretrial detention facility, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Darsell Davis, 29, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper to an information charging him with one count of conspiring with others to commit extortion under color of official right. Dwayne Harper, 30, pleaded guilty before Judge Cooper to an information charging him with one count of conspiring to smuggle contraband into the Essex County Jail. Davis has been released on bail and Harper remains in custody. According to the documents filed in this case and other cases and statements made in court:

On multiple occasions between September 2013 and May 2014, Stephon Solomon, 26, a corrections officer at the Essex County Jail, smuggled contraband—including cell phones, tobacco, and marijuana—to Quasim Nichols, 29, a federal pretrial detainee at the Essex County Jail, in exchange for cash bribes. Davis and Harper aided the smuggling scheme by collecting the contraband to be smuggled into the jail. After receiving contraband and cash bribes from Davis, Solomon smuggled the contraband to Nichols, who ultimately sold some of the marijuana and cell phones to other inmates. The inmates purchased the contraband by having friends and family send Western Union money transfers to Nichols, who then enlisted Davis and others to retrieve those payments for him. Davis obtained at least $4,300 in Western Union payments over the course of the conspiracy.

Charges against Nichols are still pending. The charges and allegations against Nichols are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Solomon pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2014, to one count of conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right and awaits sentencing on Jan. 21, 2015. He has been released on bail.

The charge of conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right, to which Davis pleaded guilty, carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Davis also will forfeit $4,300, consisting of his proceeds from the conspiracy. The charge of conspiring to provide contraband, including marijuana, to inmates at the Essex County Jail, to which Harper pleaded guilty, carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Davis and Harper are set to be sentenced before Judge Cooper on Feb. 11, 2015, and Feb. 4, 2015, respectively.