Monday, June 30, 2008

"Hotdogs" Given 57 Months in Prison for Extortion

The former president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty last January to extorting tens of thousands of dollars from the owners of three bus companies having contracts with the New York City Department of Education, prosecutors say.

Salvatore "Hotdogs" Battaglia, identified in court papers as an associate of the Genovese organized crime family, served as president of Local 1181 from 2002 to 2006. The union represents almost 15,000 school bus drivers working for companies doing business with the city, prosecutors say.

In addition to his prison term, Battaglia was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said.

According to court documents, the Genovese organized crime family has controlled Local 1181 since the 1980's by appointing crime family members and associates to influential positions within the union. In 2000, Battaglia was proposed for membership in the Genovese crime family.

Fearing the union would hurt them and their businesses, the bus company owners made extortion payments to Battaglia who used his union status and association with organized crime to force compliance, court papers say.

According to prosecutors, the case against Battaglia was part of a long term investigation in which 20 others, all identified in court papers as members or associates of various organized crime families, have been charged with extortion, labor racketeering, loansharking, gambling and obstruction of justice.

Battaglia is the third official of Local 1181 to be convicted of crimes while holding office. In 2006, Julius Bernstein, then Secretary/Treasurer pleaded guilty to labor racketeering, gambling, extortion, and robbery over his 30 year career. Also, in 2006, Anne Chiarovano, Director of the Employees' Pension and Welfare Fund, pleaded guilty to obstructing the FBI's investigation into the union's mob connections.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mob Prosecutor Honored in Special Ceremony

Judges and attorneys held a special ceremony on June 26th in US District Court in Chicago for prosecutor Mitchell Mars, who died just months after leading the government's landmark Operation Family Secrets case against the mob.

At the tribute, Mars was honored as a man dedicated to waging war on organized crime.

Mars died in February at age 55 after a battle against lung cancer.

A federal court jury in September returned guilty verdicts against Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and other top mobsters in the Family Secrets case involving 18 long unsolved organized crime murders.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Son of The Godfather Creator Sues Over Royalties

The son of The Godfather creator Mario Puzo sued Paramount Pictures on Wednesday, claiming the studio failed to pay royalties from a 2006 video game based on the book and movie characters.

Anthony Puzo of New York claims in a court filing that he represents his father's estate and is seeking more than $1 million in damages for breach of contract.

The suit seeks damages for a game created by Electronic Arts, which was not named in the lawsuit that prominently features elements of the film.

A Paramount spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Mario Puzo died in 1999. Seven years earlier he entered into an agreement with Paramount to receive a "significant share" of the revenues from any audio or visual products that included elements of The Godfather films, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The agreement was made, the suit claims, because Puzo was a "young, relatively unknown author, struggling to support his family" when Paramount approached him about licensing the The Godfather and bought the rights for "an extremely low price."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Three Associates of the Gambino Crime Family Charged with Murder

MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and MARK J. MERSHON, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that three associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family, EDMUND BOYLE, LETTERIO DECARLO, and THOMAS DONO, have been charged for the April 28, 1998 murder of FRANK HYDELL. DONO was arrested earlier this morning and is expected to be presented later today in Manhattan federal court.

BOYLE and DECARLO are in custody on other charges and will be brought to Manhattan in connection with the criminal charges in this case. According to an Indictment unsealed earlier today in Manhattan federal Court:

BOYLE, DECARLO, and DONO were all associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family and as such committed various crimes, including murder, assault, robbery, burglary, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. One of the goals of the Gambino Organized Crime Family was to protect its members and associates from detection and prosecution by law enforcement, by intimidating and seeking reprisal against other individuals who provided testimony or other information to law enforcement.

BOYLE, DECARLO, and DONO murdered HYDELL on April 28, 1998, in order to maintain and increase their standing as associates of the Gambino Organized Crime Family. Specifically, BOYLE, DECARLO, and DONO sought to prevent HYDELL from providing information to law enforcement about ongoing criminal activities of the defendants and other Gambino Organized Crime Family members and associates, including the January 1997 beating and murder of FRANK PARASOLE.

BOYLE, 43, DECARLO, 47, and DONO, 34, each are charged with one count of murder in aid of racketeering and one count of murder to prevent the communication of information to law enforcement. If convicted, each defendant faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, and each defendant faces a maximum potential penalty of death.

The case was assigned to United States District Judge COLLEEN McMAHON. Mr. GARCIA praised the efforts of the FBI. Mr. GARCIA said that the investigation is continuing. Assistant United States Attorneys ELIE HONIG and KATHERINE R. GOLDSTEIN are in charge of the prosecution.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Historic Photos of Chicago Crime: The Capone Era

Moviemakers shooting "Public Enemies" here, starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, dug deep into the files of the Chicago History Museum to research the film. And for good reason: Those files contain a treasure trove of photos from the 1920s and '30s gangland era of Chicago.

Some of those pictures -- many snapped by photographers of the old Chicago Daily News -- now have been compiled by museum curator John Russick in a book, Historic Photos of Chicago Crime: The Capone Era (Turner Publishing, $39.95).

Russick's goal was to capture not just the criminals, but the times. So among the 200 photos in the book are shots of biplane barnstormers, jazz cats, suffragists and flappers in fur coats.

At its center, though, are photos of Al Capone and his ilk, including crime scenes depicting bloody soldiers snuffed in the vice-driven street wars. One, however, shows Capone relaxing at a White Sox game in the front row of old Comiskey Park.

Russick said Capone was a different kind of crime boss when it came to publicity.

While Capone's mentor, John Torrio, shied from the public eye, Capone welcomed attention and posed for photos. His fearlessness was founded partly on a safety ensured by corrupt police, but also in the support he had from a thirsty portion of the general public who resented Prohibition, said Russick.

"Alcohol was such a fundamental part of the culture of America and of the immigrant communities,'' said Russick. "For Germans, going to a beer hall with your family and friends was a way of bringing solidarity to the community. [Prohibition] wasn't just an attack on alcohol but an attack on culture."

Capone, who inherited Torrio's mob in 1925, was eventually imprisoned on tax evasion charges in 1931.

It was an angle the feds had to take "largely because federal agents weren't certain a [Chicago] jury would convict him on bootlegging,'' said Russick. "Prosecution of the man would be pro-Prohibition."

Museum spokeswoman Lauren Dolan said a handful of museum experts worked with the film's researchers on "everything from the style of dress of the time to what the streets and street lights looked like -- including the storefronts.''

"They used many of our photographs that feature key people involved to make sure the actors looked like the real-life characters," she said.

Thanks to Andrew Herrman

Mob Turncoat Allowing State to Bring More Drug Charges

He's the rat who keeps on giving. The state is about to make a raft of new drug arrests courtesy of Mafia turncoat Joseph Vollaro, who has already helped hobble the Gambino crime family, the Daily News has learned.

Picking up where the feds left off, the state attorney general's office will soon start collaring about a dozen suspects on narcotics charges, sources said.

"It's going to be big," said a source with knowledge of the case.

Vollaro was a drug dealer before he began making money hand-over-fist in construction rackets with the Gambinos. When state investigators nailed him with a kilo of cocaine, the mob wanna-be eagerly flipped and began secretly recording mobsters and drug customers.

Several suspects have been approached recently by investigators and warned they face felony charges and long jail sentences. Unlike Joey the Rat, they have refused to cooperate and hired defense attorneys.

Those facing arrest are not tied to organized crime although Vollaro tried to entice Gambino associates into drug deals without success, sources said.

"I'm gonna do what I gotta do," Vollaro is heard saying as a preamble on taped recordings he made for law enforcement as he was about to embark on a drug deal.

Vollaro was en route to a drug sale three years ago when state investigators pulled over his car near Amboy Road on Staten Island. His customers watched from a distance as he was handcuffed and hauled away.

"Then he's back on the street a few hours later and he's trying to explain himself," said another source. "He said he had the drugs hidden in a trap (in his car) and they didn't find it. They (Vollaro's criminal associates) were suspicious but they didn't follow up to see if he was a rat because he was making money for them. It came down to greed."

If Vollaro ever makes his singing debut in a courtroom, there's a lot more dirt known about the shady businessman's activities now - including illegal dumping, money laundering and a previous marriage - than last February when prosecutors dropped a 62-defendant indictment on the Gambinos.

Vollaro's pregnant wife, Trish, hasn't entered the witness protection program with her hubby and their dogs, prompting speculation by the couple's acquaintances about her loyalties and trouble in their marriage.

"Lots of times they make it seem like (the wife) is angry at him and then she eventually goes into the program too," said another source.

Trish Vollaro is to be deposed in a civil case next month relating to the beating of 19-year-old Christopher Costantino outside her Docks Restaurant in Staten Island in 2004 that left him brain-damaged and in a wheelchair.

Several witnesses have claimed Joseph Vollaro was involved although it's unclear if he struck the victim, said Costantino's lawyer Evan Goldberg.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Did Federal Prosecutor Make Eyes at Mobster in Court?

Reputed mob hitman Frank "The German" Schweihs -- once among the most feared men in the Chicago Outfit -- wasted little time Tuesday showing that the cancer that ravaged his body has not softened his attitude.

"You making eyes at me?" Schweihs said from his wheelchair to a federal prosecutor during a status hearing in his criminal case."Yeah you, you making eyes at me? Do I look like a fag to you?" Schweihs asked.

Prosecutors ignored Schweihs' remarks and continued to take care of the routine business of his upcoming trial, scheduled to begin in October. Schweihs, 78, was originally to be tried along with five other defendants in the historic Family Secrets federal prosecution against the Chicago mob. But a battle with cancer made him too sick to go to trial with the other men, including Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr. and James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, who were convicted.

Schweihs, looking pale and gaunt, first asked his attorneys if they were in a foreign country after apparently noticing that one of the prosecutors wears a turban. Schweihs has a history of making racially insensitive remarks and has shown over the years a disdain for a wide variety of people. Schweihs later referred to another federal prosecutor in court as "another a--hole."

U.S. District Judge James Zagel did not reprimand Schweihs but ended the hearing quickly after his last remark.

One of Schweihs' attorneys, Ellen Domph, said outside court that Schweihs is usually "very polite."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gotti's Daughter Sued by Book Publisher

A book publisher has sued the daughter of the late Mafia don John Gotti for the return of a $70,000 advance she was paid to write a memoir she never delivered.

HarperCollins Publishers LLC says in court papers filed Thursday in Manhattan that the book was due Nov. 1, 2005.

Last September, Victoria Gotti notified HarperCollins she was terminating the contract.

The publisher's lawsuit filed in Manhattan says did not return the $70,000 advance.

Gotti's literary agent Frank Weiman says he'll get another deal for his client, and then she'll give back the money to the publisher.

85% of Retailers Have Been Hit by Organized Crime in the Past Year

With growing numbers of retailers falling prey to organized crime rings, the businesses are fighting back by increasing detection and dismantling these groups, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

On Wednesday, the NRF released its 2008 Organized Retail Crime report, finding that 68 percent of retailers nationwide reported having identified or recovered stolen merchandise and/or gift cards from a fence location. That's up from 61 percent in 2007.

Movement of stolen merchandise is increasingly occurring online, being sold through third-party auction sites, according to the NRF report, making it easier for crime rings to maintain anonymity. It also found that 85 percent of retailers said they had been victimized by organized crime over the past year, which is up from 79 percent in 2007.

"Law enforcement and retailers alike are fed up with organized retail crime rings and are stepping up efforts to stop them in their tracks," Joseph LaRocca, NRF vice president of loss prevention, said in a statement. "The brazen and unethical behavior of organized retail crime suspects results in possible health risks for consumers, adds unnecessary fees to consumers' purchases and funds criminal enterprises, including the mob and terrorist organizations around the world."

LaRocca said organized retail crime continues to proliferate as retailers that have not been traditional targets are increasingly being victimized.

"Retailers who have been affected by organized retail crime for several years may not be seeing increases, but the problem continues to grow as more retailers are being impacted," he said.

The NRF survey also found that the average retailer is now spending $230,000 a year on labor costs to combat organized retail crime, although some spend far higher amounts. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, organized retail crime accounts for as much as $30 billion in retail losses every year in the United States.

The NRF, based in Washington, D.C., is the world's largest trade association, representing 1.6 million U.S. retail businesses.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cruelest Felonies in New York City Committed by Albanian Mafia

The Albanian organized crime groups, operating largely in New York City, are carrying out serious criminal offenses, Manhattan Attorney Michael Garcia said.

"Albanian extremist crime groups have emerged in the city and became more active. So far, we cannot say whether these groups dominate, but they commit the cruelest felonies," Garcia said.

Albanian organized crime penetrated in the European Union countries as well as in the United States since the start of the war in Kosovo, when Albanians were granted a status of ethnic refugees, Russian Ria Novosti news agency said.

A number of experts estimate that Albanian narco-mafia was directly linked with Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), seen by many US experts as terrorist group.

Experts say the Balkan route provides 25-40% of the entire heroine market in the United States.

FBI says in its report that Albanian mafia have emerged as a serious organized crime problem, threatening to displace La Cosa Nostra families as kingpins of U.S. crime.

Official statistical data show that in New York only, there are around 150.000 Albanians - migrants from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania.

Thanks to Maxfax

Victory for Organized Crime and Drug Traffickers at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal prosecutors have gone too far in their use of money laundering charges to combat drug traffickers and organized crime.

In two decisions — one a 5-4 split, the other unanimous — the justices found that money laundering charges apply only to profits of an illegal gambling ring and cannot be used when the only evidence of a possible crime is when someone hides large amounts of cash in his car when heading for the border.

The government brings money laundering cases against more than 1,300 people annually and the justices appeared to agree with defense lawyers who said government prosecutors have been stretching the bounds of the law. The Justice Department drew little sympathy from Justice Antonin Scalia.

"The government exaggerates the difficulties" of enforcing a narrowed interpretation of money laundering, Scalia wrote in the gambling case involving an illegal lottery. Scalia drew the support of three other justices. The deciding fifth vote came in a separate opinion from a member of the liberal wing of the court, Justice John Paul Stevens. Stevens declined to go as far as Scalia did in rejecting the government's position.

While deciding in the defendants' favor in both cases, justices took pains to say that they were engaging in carefully calibrated adjustments, not radical change. Defense lawyers had a different perspective.

"The rulings significantly raise the bar for prosecutors to prove money laundering," said Jeffrey Green, who represents the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Green said the decisions also will significantly affect the white-collar world, where money laundering charges are frequently tacked onto alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the law designed to prosecute American companies that bribe foreign officials.

The White House referred questions on the rulings to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Congress enacted the anti-money-laundering law in 1986 after the President's Commission on Organized Crime highlighted the growing problem of "washing" criminal proceeds through overseas bank accounts and legitimate businesses.

The law carries 20-year maximum prison terms and heavy fines on conviction.

In the 5-4 ruling siding with defendants Efrain Santos and Benedicto Diaz, a federal judge and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said that paying off gambling winners and compensating employees who collect the bets don't qualify as money laundering. Those are expenses, and prosecutors must show that profits were used to promote the illegal activity, the appeals court ruled in a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court.

At oral arguments before the court last October, the Justice Department spelled out the problem of separating profit from gross receipts in a criminal enterprise. "Criminals often don't keep accounting records," the Justice Department solicitor general's office argued.

In the case decided unanimously, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that a money laundering case against a man headed to Mexico with $81,000 in cash cannot be proven merely by showing that the funds were concealed in a secret compartment of a car.

Instead, the court said that prosecutors must show that the purpose of transporting funds in a money laundering case was to conceal their ownership, source or control.

In passing the money laundering law, Congress intended to fill a gap in law enforcement by preventing the concealment and reinvestment of money derived from criminal activity.

Between $8 billion and $25 billion a year from Mexican and Colombian drugs is moved across the border and laundered, says the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center.

The cases are U.S. v. Santos, 06-1005, and Cuellar v. U.S., 06-1456.

Thanks to Pete Yost

Chicago Crime Commission Officials Spotlight Lax Casino Laws

As the legislative session winds down, Illinois officials are again raising the award of the 10th casino license and an expansion of gambling as the fix to the state's financial deficit. This is being considered despite our state's licensing fiascoes, the high costs associated with defending more than a dozen lawsuits and alleged organized crime infiltration of casino ownership.

We've seen this from the inside. We worked at the Illinois Gaming Board. And we believe the casino regulatory system in Illinois is ineffective—by design. Instead of adopting New Jersey's strong model, Illinois has minimal controls. It has exposed gambling oversight to influence from a corrupt political system. Transparency and accountability—the hallmarks of casino regulation—are not a key part of the picture in Illinois.

What propels casino expansion? The lure of quick money? The pressure from well-financed and highly generous national and local gambling interests? Political insiders who will profit from lucrative economic development side deals as well as casino ownership?

Here are just some of the problems Illinois has had:

•A newly incorporated, inexperienced company owned by an alleged associate of the Chicago Outfit receives a contract to install a casino air-purification system

•A consultant who "works" on a questionable potential business deal for a $1.5 million finder's fee has no tangible work product to support his generous fee

•A casino employee draws a winning raffle ticket that, coincidentally, belongs to an alleged associate of organized crime with whom the employee has a prior relationship.

Last week, Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe expressed frustration that the board could not hire its own financial adviser. Instead, the Illinois Department of Revenue selected troubled Bear Stearns on behalf of the allegedly independent board. Agency independence is required to instill confidence in the regulatory process.

What happens to the independent regulatory process if a new board member is appointed immediately after a casino sale process starts or key staff is replaced just as a vote is taken? What could a political appointee with marching orders to select a specific casino do to "encourage" staff to reach that outcome? If a professional board does not control its personnel, advisers and budget, who does? And why?

A businessman testified in the federal Family Secrets trial last year about the "street tax" he paid to the Chicago Outfit to keep his business open. One can speculate that the pizza owner did not pay it from his own pocket, passing it on to us a slice at a time. We all pay a street tax when corruption, insider deals and politics infiltrate regulatory bodies, whether we gamble or not.

A top priority for the Illinois legislature should be the legislation introduced by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago). It is designed to strengthen the casino regulatory system so that situations like those cited above do not occur. The speaker proposed making the Illinois Gaming Board an independent regulatory body, in complete control of its own staff and budget. His reforms would: (1) prohibit regulatory decision-makers from working for a casino for five years; (2) require that board members meet strict qualifications and have no conflicts; (3) require full background investigations of all casino suppliers; (4) impose a fee on casinos to fund the Gaming Board so it will have full staffing and access to investigatory resources without being subject to legislative or executive branch interference; and (5) most important, prevent the issuance of the 10th license or any new casino licenses until the reforms are implemented.

Ensuring that regulators remain independent of the casino industry and the political will while casino companies have the freedom to operate competitively without political pressure are excellent first steps that must be in place before the 10th license is issued or gambling expands.

And even with these reforms, regulators still require more insulation from politics than simply one strong law.

There is a price to pay for saying "no" to political pressure, to uncontrolled gambling expansion, to potential organized crime infiltration. We know. It's very difficult. But, Illinois is worth it.

Thanks to Jeannette P. Tamayo, general counsel of the Chicago Crime Commission and a former interim administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board and James W. Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission and former head of investigations for the Illinois Gaming Board.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Surrender of "Little Nicky" Corozzo Featured on AMW

Nick Corozzo: “Little Nicky” Corozzo was arguably the Gambino crime family's most powerful chieftain -- and perhaps its craftiest. When he disappeared from double murder charges in Feb. 2008, AMW Surrender of 'Little Nicky' Corozzo Featured on AMWwent on the hunt. Only a week and a half after Corozzo aired nationwide, the mobster folded under the pressure and turned himself in.

Ernest Avery: The Importance Of "Fleeing Ernest": Cops say local thug Ernest Avery was one of three bank robbers whose dreams of great fortune ended in misfortune and blunder during a January 2003 bank heist. Avery's two suspected accomplices were captured, but police say Avery -- the botched bank job's ringleader -- fled, and is still roaming free.

Fred Wert: Joann Antone thought she had found true love in an unlikely place: working at a traveling carnival. But, she says, the romance soon turned into abuse. Police say Joann's boyfriend, Fred Wert, took his anger to a whole new level, leaving a man dead and a child without a father.

Fethi Jelassi: For eight years, the FBI Field Office in Cleveland has searched desperately for fugitive Fethi Jelassi. With all his global contacts, they wonder if he is even in the United States .

Paulo Lopez: On the street they call him "El Diablo," or the devil, and police say his list of offenses supports the nickname. Armed robbery and carjackings are just some of the crimes he's accused of -- and police say they don't know what he'll do next.

Juan Rodriguez: Police say a peaceful night of drinking on the bay October, 2005 in Sarasota , Fla. turned deadly when a man viciously stabbed his friend. Police have a suspect, but without an address, a phone number or even a known relative, cops are finding it extremely difficult to track down this killer.

Greg Adrian: Cops in the City Of Angels are on the lookout for a father accused of physically and sexually abusing his own 12-year-old daughter. Police tell AMW that on November 8, 2007, Greg Anthony Adrian went on the run after his daughter blew the whistle on his latest string of abuse. Now, Los Angeles detectives are on the lookout for Adrian and hope that AMW viewers can help put this bad dad behind bars.

Jorge Villamizar-Alyala: A 25-year-old mom's skull is bashed in with a two-pound sledgehammer in Florida , and the man she loved may be responsible; she didn't know that he had been convicted of killing his first wife in South America , and he may have killed several other women as well.

N’Gai Goode: In yet another case of greed getting ugly, authorities in Detroit , Mich. are now searching for a man who they say is a stone-cold killer. Cops tell us N'Gai El-Hajj Goode got into an argument with another man and threatened to shoot him over $50: a few minutes later, they say he did just that. Now, they need your help to bring this accused killer to justice.

William Balser: To the outside world, William Balser looked to be a respectable, intelligent, family man who lived with his long-time girlfriend, Robin Lee Robinson, and her two daughters. However, cops say Balser's public image couldn't have been any more of a facade. In 1998, Robinson's two daughters blew the whistle on Balser and their mother, telling authorities about years of sexual abuse at the hands of the supposed father figure. To make matters worse, the two sisters allege that their own mother turned a blind eye to the harrowing incidents which included drug and alcohol fueled parties. Now, cops in Manteca , Calif. are looking for Balser and Robinson and hope that AMW viewers can help bring the decade long search for the pair to an end.

Leanna Warner: Cops in Chisholm , Minn. are not giving up on the search for 5-year-old Leanna Warner. The little girl went missing on June 13, 2003 when she stepped out of her house to go visit a neighbor. Now, cops are looking into people who attended a Chisholm event around the time when Leanna went missing, hoping to find new clues that will help them learn what happened to the little girl.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nine Mobster Accused and Arrested for Mafia Crimes Nationwide

A reputed acting mob boss and eight other suspected gangsters were arrested Wednesday on federal charges accusing them of coast-to-coast Mafia crimes, ranging from gangland hits in New York to a home invasion by police impersonators in Los Angeles, authorities said.

Among those named in a racketeering indictment were Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, who authorities said was the acting boss of the Colombo organized crime family.

Three other defendants already behind bars also were charged, including 89-year-old John "Sonny" Franzese, identified as the family's underboss.

Gioeli, wearing a hoodie and basketball shorts after an early morning arrest at his Long Island home, pleaded not guilty to robbery, murder and extortion charges. He was ordered held without bail. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

"He's denied all the allegations," said his attorney, Adam Perlmutter, outside court. The other defendants were also due in court Wednesday.

The takedown -- following a three-month investigation using turncoat mobsters and electronic surveillance -- was part of a "relentless campaign to prosecute and convict the highest echelons of the Colombo family and La Cosa Nostra as a whole," said U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell.

He noted that former Colombo acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico and another family member were convicted last year of orchestrating a 1999 murder.

Gioeli was charged in three of four slayings detailed in the indictment, including the 1992 slayings of two men amid a bloody civil war for control of the family. A Colombo captain was accused of participating in the shooting and killing of an armored truck guard, also in 1992, while the victim was delivering money to a cash-checking store in Brooklyn.

The indictment also alleges Gioeli participated in the holdup of a fur shop in February 1991 in which he posed as a customer shopping for a Valentine's Day gift. He and other bandits handcuffed the owner before they "filled garbage bags with fur coats" and fled, court papers said.

In 2006, two other defendants flew to Los Angeles to try to rob a home where they believed there was $1 million in drug money, court papers said. Donning hats and T-shirts emblazoned with "DEA" and carrying a fake search warrant, the men burst into the home and pistol-whipped a woman there, but never found the cash, the papers said.

It was the second high-profile mob case to be made in recent months: In February, prosecutors charged 62 reputed members and associates of the once-powerful Gambino crime family with murders, drug trafficking, robberies, extortion, and other crimes dating back to the 1970s.

Last Thursday, the lone fugitive in the Gambino case, Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo, strolled up to the FBI's office and surrendered on charges he ordered a decades-old gangland hit that took an innocent bystander's life. He was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to racketeering, extortion and murder charges

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