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.
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