NJ Attorney General's Office
NEWARK — Authorities have charged 11 members and associates of the notorious Genovese crime family with running a number of illegal financial schemes, including elaborate loansharking and sports gambling operations that raked in millions of dollars in recent years.
At a press conference in Newark this morning, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the takedown of the wide-ranging ring, saying their schemes were evidence that the Mafia had “evolved and learned to exploit sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes.”
Seven defendants were arrested this morning, including a Genovese “capo”, 80-year-old Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo and 55-year-old Vito Alberti, a “made” soldier – both of whom report directly to the crime family’s hierarchy in New York, authorities said. Another three were charged by summons, and one, Vincent Coppola, remains at large.
According to Hoffman, the man at the helm of the family’s alleged check-cashing scheme is Domenick Puccillo, a 56-year-old Florham Park man who oversaw operations at Tri-State Check Cashing Inc., located on Avenue A in Newark’s Ironbound District, and other licensed check cashing locations.
There, he 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.
The victims, who Hoffman said were typically indigent with poor credit, were required to pay interest weekly, or face threats of violence from Puccillo and an associate, Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola.
They typically made payments by check, so that it appeared they were simply cashing them as part of the Tri-State’s regular course of business, but the two were in fact keeping the proceeds for themselves and kicking profits up the line to Tuzzo and Alberti.
The ring also ran an unlicensed check-cashing operation out of the Portucale Restaurant & Bar, also in Newark’s Ironbound District, which was allegedly used to launder money and evade taxes.
According to Hoffman, customers looking to avoid government scrutiny when cashing checks over $10,000 would visit the restaurant, where owner Abel Rodrigues would hand over cash provided by Tri-State in exchange for a fee. Customers typically cashed the checks in order to finance “under the table” payrolls at their own businesses, Hoffman said.
Rodrigues, meanwhile, would flout federal law by failing to file required transactions reports on the checks, and Tri-State would be reimbursed by another company, Viriato Corp., for six-figure sums they had directed to the illegal operation.
Over a four-year period, Rodrigues and an associate, Manuel Rodriguez, are accused of cashing more than $400 million in checks and collecting over $9 million in fees.
Two employees at Tri-State and Portucale, Flor Miranda of Newark and Jennifer Mann of Bayonne, are each accused of helping to keep records and file false reports related to the schemes.
Authorities claim the ring ran a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling business, headed by 37-year-old Coppola, the son of jailed Genovese capo Michael Coppola.
According to Hoffman, Coppola used an offshore “wire room” located in Costa Rica to process bets, and supervised underlings John Trainor and Jerry Albanese, who vetted new clients and dictated how much specific groups of bettors could gamble per week or per game.
During 2011, Coppola allegedly handled more than $1.7 million in bets, bringing in more than $400,000 in profits to the Genovese family.
Trainor allegedly became tied up with the ring after becoming indebted to the crime family. The ring then took over his car business, GTS Auto Carriers, and siphoned money from it - which Hoffman likened to a memorable episode of “The Sopranos” during which mobsters force a gambling addict to hand over profits from his sporting goods store until it hits bankruptcy.
“That’s the analogy that works for me. This guy Trainor got involved with the mafia, the mafia got involved in his business, and they really bled the business dry and took advantage of him,” he said.
Under a lucrative deal with Nissan, GTS transported cars from Port Newark to area dealerships. Alberti is accused of creating a company called AMJ Transport, which collected more than $300,000 a year to to lease trucks to GTS, and placed himself and another Genovese associate on the payroll, despite never performing any legitimate work.
Drug Money, Tax Charges
Authorities say another check-cashing company acquired by Pucillo, Florida-based I&T Financial Services, was used to launder and transfer money from drug traffickers.
Money would initially be delivered to Miranda at Tri-State, then wired under a fictitious name to I&T to an account managed by the client, who authorities were unable to identify, Hoffman said.
I&T allegedly took in about $666,000 in laundered money from the scheme, and collected about $22,500 in fees. Hoffman declined to be specific about the type or amount of drugs the ring may have helped conceal, citing an ongoing investigation.
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.
Hoffman said the cases will be tried out of State Superior Court in Morris County.
A full list of the defendants and charges:
∙ Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo, 80, Bayside, N.Y. – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury and promoting gambling Vito Alberti
∙ Vito Alberti, 55, New Providence – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, promoting gambling and filing a fraudulent tax return
∙ Domenick Pucillo, 56, Florham Park – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility
∙ Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola, 67, Morganville – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records
∙ Manuel Rodriguez, 49, Chatham – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility, filing a fraudulent tax return, failure to file a tax return
∙ Vincent P. Coppola, 37, Union – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, promoting gambling
∙ Abel J. Rodrigues, 52, Bridgewater – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility, filing a fraudulent tax return
∙ John W. Trainor, 42, Brick – first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, promoting gambling, forgery, failure to file a tax return
∙ Jerry J. Albanese, 47, Scotch Plains – first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, promoting gambling
∙ Flor Miranda, 40, Newark – first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records
∙ Jennifer Mann, 30, Bayonne – first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility, issuing a false financial statement, forgery