Thursday, February 23, 2006

Grandy Jury Indicts 32 New York Mobsters

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Liborio Bellomo, Ralph Coppola, Michael "Chunk" Londonio, John "Buster" Ardito, Ralph "The Undertaker" Balsamo, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello, Gambino Crime Family, Junior Gotti

The acting boss of the city's most powerful crime family and 31 others are charged in a new indictment with racketeering crimes, including murder, extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering, authorities announced Thursday.

The indictment "delivers an absolute body blow" to the Genovese family's structure, said FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon. He said 30 people had been arrested. The 42-count indictment unsealed Thursday accuses the defendants of engaging in criminal activity for more than a decade.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia also released details about a corrupt lawyer whom he said had enabled the family's acting boss to order a murder from prison and direct other crimes. The lawyer, Peter J. Peluso, pleaded guilty last summer, admitted his role in the murder and agreed to cooperate against his client, Liborio S. Bellomo. Bellomo was charged with authorizing the 1998 murder of Ralph Coppola, a former Genovese soldier and acting capo, as part of a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy involving violent extortion, drug dealing, firearms trafficking and murder.

The arrests follow a three-year investigation into the family's activities in the Bronx, Harlem and the Westchester County suburbs north of the city.

Garcia said Peluso pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, admitting participation in numerous crimes, including extortion and obstruction of justice, as he shuttled important messages between family members, some of whom were in prison. He said he carried one message from Bellomo sanctioning Coppola's murder, Garcia said.

The prosecutor said the brazen nature of the crime family was demonstrated in December, when authorities went to arrest Michael "Chunk" Londonio. He fired shots at New York State troopers, wounding two of them, before being killed in the return fire. "I would look at the Londonio shooting as the best example we have of the public safety threat organizations like this pose," Garcia said. "It adds to an overall impression of violence, viciousness reaching the streets of our community."

The indictment and court papers related to Peluso's guilty plea were unsealed in the same Manhattan courthouse where John Gotti Jr., whose father headed the Gambino crime family, was on trial for allegedly arranged the kidnapping of Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. A similar indictment last year charged members of the Gambino family with racketeering.

Others indicted by the grand jury include longtime Genovese captain John "Buster" Ardito and Ralph "The Undertaker" Balsamo, who oversaw a large cocaine distribution network in New York, according to the indictment.

Ardito, Balsamo and others also are charged with attempting to tamper with several witnesses, including one who had his ear partially bitten off in a fight with a Genovese soldier.

The Justice Department has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty for Bellomo. There have only been three federal executions since 1977 versus more than 940 by the states in that time, Justice Department data show.

Federal agents say Bellomo is one of a string of chiefs to run the Genovese mafia family since the 1992 arrest of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who dominated the mafia for most of the 1980s and 1990s before dying in prison last year.

Last July, 20 Genovese members were indicted in New York on racketeering charges in a separate case including another reputed acting boss, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianiello. A month later, 14 accused Genovese family members were indicted in New Jersey.

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