Joseph Ruback, the athletic director at Biondi School in Yonkers and former Spring Valley High School football coach, was arrested Thursday morning as part of an investigation into organized crime gambling rings and those who use violence to collect debts, authorities said.
Joseph Ruback, 46, a New City resident who has received acclaim as the "License Plate Guy" Giants fan, and Luigi Sessa, 63, of Suffern, face felony charges. Ruback, who has a previous conviction for stealing, faces fourth-degree grand larceny, while Sessa is charged with second-degree criminal usury and has a history of gambling-related charges.
Ruback, the athletic director at the Biondi School in Yonkers, is charged with running his own loan-sharking operation, lending money and collecting at illegal interest rates, using violence and threats at times, authorities said.
Sessa has been connected to a large-scale gambling enterprise in Rockland and Westchester counties, New York City, Long Island, Pennsylvania and Florida, authorities said. His arrest was part of a 16-month undercover investigation into illegal loansharking and gambling linked to organized crime.
Eight other alleged players were arrested in June by the Rockland District Attorney's Office Organized Crime Unit through "Operation Rock Bottom," which focused on an Internet off-shore gambling website. Investigators seized illegal gambling records, computers and more than $750,000. The unit comprises district attorney's detectives, Clarkstown police, state police, and the FBI.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Thursday that Ruback and Sessa separately "used threats, intimidation and even physical force to collect debts and charged usurious interest rates on outstanding debts." Ruback was being arraigned in Clarkstown Town Court. Sessa was scheduled to surrender Thursday, Zugibe said.
The June arrests and those made Thursday came on the heels of similar operations late last year that led to 21 people charged in connection with multimillion-dollar operations. In March, a Rockland investigation led to federal charges against a mob captain, Daniel Pagano of Ramapo, and Michael Palazzolo of Suffern. Pagano, the son of late mob kingpin Joseph Pagano, has pleaded guilty in the case and has been sentenced to federal prison.
Ruback has gained local notoriety as a New York Giants super fan, called the “License Plate Guy” for wearing Giants-themed placards to Big Blue games. Ruback, who claims to have not missed a game in 14 years, recently took part in a friendly wager on the Giants-Patriots game with the Rockland Jewish Community Center executive to provide Thanksgiving turkeys to People to People.
Ruback has experienced both sides of the law.
On Dec. 9, 1998, he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny, a felony, and was sentenced Feb. 3 to five years probation and 6 months of community service. Ruback and a former Spring Valley High School quarterback, then 19, were charged with the theft of about $14,000 from the J.C. Penney at the Palisades Center mall.
In 1999, Ruback, while on probation, helped chase some suspects involved in an afternoon robbery at Marty's Sporting Center in Clarkstown. On March 27, 1997, he spotted someone breaking into his truck and gave chase. He tackled and held the suspect for police.
Ruback was hired as the Spring Valley High varsity football coach in May 1996, after coaching the school's junior varsity team for five years. He was then a physical education teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School. He led the Spring Valley team to a 10-1 record in 1997 and the state semifinals.
He had resigned two months before his 1998 arrest, stating he was about to get married and wanted to return to school to further his education.
Thanks to Steve Lieberman.
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