Friday, May 09, 2008

Reputed High-Ranking Gambino Figure Among 23 Named in Racketeering Indictment

A man the feds call one of the highest-ranking members of the Gambino crime family in New Jersey was among 23 people named Thursday in a racketeering indictment.

Andrew Merola, 41, of East Hanover was arrested and charged in an 82-page indictment with more than 20 counts that include running an illegal gambling ring, racketeering and extortion, among other charges.

Of the 23 people named in the indictment, 10 were arrested Thursday; the other 13 were issued summonses to appear in court.

Weysan Dun, the special agent in charge of the FBI in New Jersey, said all 23 people named in the indictment are reputed members and associates of Mafia factions. Also picked up in the sweep were Charles Muccigrosso, 68, of Newark, whom the FBI also described as a high-ranking Gambino crime family member, and Martin Taccetta, 56, of East Hanover, a reputed Lucchese crime family member who was granted a retrial in state court over a brutal 1980s murder.

Dun said the arrests were the result of a nearly two-year investigation. He said the bust would deal a significant blow to the Gambino crime family, coming on the heels of a large bust in New York that netted dozens of Gambino figures in February.

"Those out there in the 'wiseguy' community that think that crime pays: Forget about it," Dun said.

Some of the alleged schemes outlined in the indictment include manipulating union contract bidding; defrauding the chain store Lowe's by manufacturing fake bar codes to buy expensive power tools for pennies on the dollar, and rigging union jobs and construction contracts to force coffee cart vendors to pay kickbacks for being allowed to park their lunch trucks at construction sites.

Dun said that although the charges didn't involve physical violence, they were serious crimes that hurt honest working people.

"The message I hope organized crime families take from this is if they think law enforcement's focus on organized crime has diminished, you can be assured that we'll come after you," he said.

Thanks to Samantha Henry

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