Six members of the New York-based Lucchese crime family, including a ruling boss in New York and a top captain in New Jersey, have pleaded guilty to running a multi-billion-dollar gambling enterprise built upon extortion and violence, state authorities said Thursday.
The men were indicted in 2010 after an investigation uncovered the gambling ring, which, according to records, transacted an estimated $2.2 billion in wagers, primarily on sporting events, during a 15-month period. The operation allegedly received and processed the wagers using password-protected websites and a Costa Rican "wire room."
Authorities said the investigation, led by the state Division of Criminal Justice, also revealed a scheme in which a former New Jersey corrections officer and a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang entered into an alliance with the Lucchese family to smuggle drugs and pre-paid cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.
The alleged gangster, Edwin Spears, who was an inmate, formed the alliance in concert with the former officer, Michael Bruinton, authorities said. Charges are pending against them.
Among those who pleaded guilty Wednesday were Ralph V. Perna, 69, of East Hanover, who oversaw the crime family's operations in New Jersey, as well as his two of his sons: Joseph Perna, 45, of Wyckoff, and John Perna, 38, of West Caldwell, authorities said.
Under the plea deal, prosecutors will recommend eight years in prison for Ralph Perna and 10 years in prison for his two sons. Charges against a third son, Ralph M. Perna, 43, of West Caldwell, are pending, authorities said.
Also pleading guilty were Martin Taccetta, 64, formerly of East Hanover and a former New Jersey underboss, who is already serving a life sentence as a result of a state prosecution in the 1990s; John Mangrella, 72, of Clifton, a senior member of the family; and Matthew Madonna, 80, of Seldon, N.Y., a member of the three-man ruling panel of the family.
Charges are pending against a second alleged ruling member, Joseph DiNapoli, 79, of Scarsdale, N.Y., authorities said. Under the plea deal, prosecutors will recommend five years in prison for Madonna, and eight years for Mangrella and Taccetta.
Thanks to Christopher Baxter.
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