N.J. Supreme Court tightens rules for representation by public defenders




TRENTON — In a groundbreaking decision seeking “balance” between conflicting interests, the state Supreme Court ruled today that the assignment judge for the Morris County area should decide whether a reputed organized crime associate financially qualifies for representation by a public defender.
The decision sets new rules for future cases, in that the current directive “improperly prevents” the state from prosecuting defendants who “submit false financial information to secure the legal services of the public defender.”
In the Morris case, the state Attorney General’s Office had sought subpoenas to obtain financial records submitted by Alfonso Cataldo, 71, of Florham Park, arguing that he may have “fraudulently represented his assets to obtain public defender representation,” the court wrote.
Cataldo is accused, along with 33 co-defendants, of taking part in an international, $2.2 billion gambling and money laundering operation allegedly operated by the Lucchese crime family in 2007. A 2010 indictment accuses him of charges including racketeering, gambling and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Cataldo was determined to be indigent and was given the services of a public defender after staff members in the criminal division at the Superior Court in Morristown reviewed financial forms he submitted.
The Attorney General’s Office was denied a subpoena for Cataldo’s “intake form” by a Superior Court judge and an appeals court panel, who both ruled that release of the records would violate attorney-client privilege.
Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades had submitted affidavits listing Cataldo’s assets when he was charged in 2010, including a $659,600 house in Florham Park co-owned with his wife, Lorraine, for which he was paying off a $160,000 mortgage and a $100,000 home equity line; a $750,000 mortgage on a property in Readington and another home in Florham Park owned by his wife that was assessed at $484,300, the court said.
The prosecution also presented a car lease agreement in which Cataldo said he worked as a contractor for Cataldo Construction and his monthly income was $10,500, the court wrote.
In its decision, the Supreme Court said it “recognizes that the financial information sought is integral to the state’s responsibility to investigate an alleged misappropriation of publicly funded legal services.”
“Nonetheless,” the court said, Cataldo supplied his financial information after being advised in writing that it would be used “for the sole purpose of determining indigence, with the understanding that his disclosures would remain confidential.”
Thus, the court concluded, as a matter of “balance,” it would refer the question of determining Cataldo’s indigence to the assignment judge, in this case Thomas Weisenbeck of the Morris-Sussex vicinage, for review.
The court also ordered the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts to modify current procedures. The directive for public defender representation should be changed so that prosecutors may obtain defendant’s financial forms in “appropriate” cases, the court said.
The intake form must be revised to “warn” defendants that at the direction of the assignment judge, the defendant’s statements about financial status “can be disclosed to the grand jury and a prosecutor,” the court wrote.
“Our decision today facilitates the state’s ability to prosecute false swearing and fraud,” the court wrote. “It also ensures that a defendant’s non-financial personal information will remain confidential.”
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa's office "welcomes" the decision, spokesman Leland Moore said.
The ruling "recognizes that the current process for determining indigence hinders the state in prosecuting individuals who submit false financial information to obtain public defender services, and puts modifications in place to address that concern," Moore said.
He hailed the court's order for a "remand" hearing by the assignment judge to determine whether Cataldo qualifies for a public defender. "That was our chief concern -- protecting the public assets from fraud," Moore said.
Cataldo and his attorney, public defender John McMahon, were unavailable for comment.
Thanks to the success of HBO in the creation of the ever-so-famous television drama, The Sopranos, the Garden State always has interest in anything having to do with the mafia and crime families.
Well all you fans out there, pay attention because Alfonso “Tic” Cataldo is one of 35 people facing multiple charges in connection with an illegal multi-billion dollar international gambling scheme allegedly operated by the Lucchese crime family. But the real reason Cataldo is in the news now is due to prosecutors trying to prove that this particular mobster is in fact cheating taxpayers by using a court-appointed attorney to fight criminal charges – thus the Supreme Court is denying them access to his financial information according to the reports by The Record.
Cataldo, of Florham Park, ran his illegal operation from locations in Bergen County all the way to Latin America and brought in more than $2 billion in wages over a 15 month period, according to prosecutors. They (prosecutors) also discovered that the gambling ring allegedly received and processed bets using password-protected websites and tallied and recorded wagers using a wire room in Costa Rica.
Although Cataldo is on the hook for a few other crimes to go with this billion dollar gambling ring, everything has been on hold since he was indicted in 2010. Since 2010, prosecutors have been investigating whether Cataldo lied about his finances on a form in order to obtain legal representation from a public defender. In the past mobsters always resort to claiming poverty when facing criminal charges – but in Cataldo’s case public records are showing that poverty has not struck Cataldo.
A search of public records published by The Inquirer back in November of 2011 indicated Cataldo and his wife, Lorraine, is the furthest thing away from poor. Their equity includes:
3 properties in Morris County with a combined equity of more than $1.4 million, according to the affidavit.
Records also show they make $3,300 in monthly mortgage payments on the home they live in on Edgewood Drive in Florham Park and that the house has an assessed value of $659,600.
Monthly payments of between $3,200 and $4,700 on a property in Readington Township valued at $1.2 million, according to the affidavit submitted by Detective Noelle Holl of the Attorney General's Office's Division of Criminal Justice.
The third house, also in Florham Park, is mortgage-free and is assessed at $484,300.
The state has alleged that, even with the mortgages, the Cataldo's have more than $1.4 million in equity, as documented on Philly.com.


Gangland Killing In Sicily




The incinerated bodies of Juan Ramon Paz Fernandez and Fernando Pimentel – two Canadian gangsters -- were found near a trash dump in the countryside outside Palermo last week, in response to an anonymous tip-off.
Their bodies had been hit by at least 30 bullets.
Palermo police characterized the killings as an “old-fashioned” Mafia-style execution and believe the murders were ordered by Fernandez’s enemies in Canada.
“We believe the order to kill him came from Canada. We are sure of it,” an Italian officer said, according to Canada’s National Post newspaper.
Fernandez, 57, was the Spanish-born, Canada-reared enforcer for Vito Rizzuto, the head of the Montreal mafia crime family and one of the most powerful criminals in the world.
Fernandez, known as “Joe Bravo,” was deported from Canada last year after serving 10 years in prison for conspiracy to murder another mobster.
According to the Guardian newspaper, last summer Fernandez moved from Toronto to Sicily, where he was suspected of establishing a massive drug trafficking pipeline between Palermo and Canada with help from the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
Pimentel came to Palermo only a few weeks prior, reportedly to help Fernandez (who was fronting as a martial arts instructor in order to disguise his mob activities).
“[Fernandez] was taking over in the Cosa Nostra family of Bagheria [a town outside Palermo] due to his tight links with the [local] boss, Sergio Flamia,” an Italian prosecutor told the National Post.
The National Post noted that although as a Spaniard (and not Italian), Fernandez could never be a made member of the mob; he was indispensable to Rizzuto and served as his “right-hand man.”
The two men arrested in connection with the double murder, brothers Pietro and Salvatore Scaduto, are also closely tied to the Canadian branch of the Mafia.
The Scadutos moved to Canada in 1989 after their own father was killed in a mafia war in Sicily. Pietro Scaduto apparently worked for the Rizzutos before returning to Sicily.
The Post reported that Fernandez and Pimentel were lured to their deaths by the Scaduto brothers who offered to discuss a drug deal on the outskirts of Palermo. Apparently, Fernandez knew and trusted the Scadutos, having made their acquaintance in Canada. The ruse worked, leading to an ambush, a hail of bullets and death.
It is unclear what relation, if any, the Scadutos have with the Rizzuto clan now, or if they represent a breakaway faction of the family.
Agence France Presse reported that the murders may have been related to efforts by a French-Canadian gangster named Raynald Desjardin to wrest control of the Montreal family away from Rizzuto.
On a broader scale, Italian authorities now believe that Canadian-based Mafiosi are expanding their drug pipelines to Sicily after other Italian organized crime entities, i.e., the Camorra of Naples and the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria, had supplanted the Cosa Nostra as the principal drug traffickers between Europe and North America.
“There’s four guys at an important Mafia murder in Sicily and three of them lived in Canada. That says a lot about the Mafia here [in Canada], their mobility, their relationships internationally,” an Ontario organized crime investigator told the Post in connection with the latest killings.
At the center of this sordid and epic tale lies Vito Rizzuto, a name largely unknown to the U.S. public but very familiar to Canadians.
Rizzuto, who ruled (and perhaps still rules) the Montreal family, became a global player in the 1980s by entering into an alliance with the Bonanno crime family, one of the fabled Five Families of New York City, to import drugs from Sicily to North America.
Vito Rizzuto, son of crime boss Nicolo Rizzuto, was released from prison in the Unites States in October 2012, after serving only five years of a 10-year sentence in connection with one of the most spectacular U.S. mafia killings in history.
In 1981, Rizzuto was reportedly recruited by Joey Massino, a senior member of the New York-based Bonanno crime family, to help in the planned assassination of three capos, Philip Giaccone, Dominick Trinchera and Alphonse Indelicato, who were suspected of conspiring to seize control of the family from then-boss Phillip Rastelli.
Massino, who eventually became a government informant to avoid the death sentences, fingered Rizzuto as one of four gunmen who shot the three Bonanno captains to death. But this did not happen until 2003, more than two decades after the triple murders. Rizzuto was able to evade and delay justice until he was finally extradited to the U.S. in August 2006.
Now, with Vito Rizzuto returning to his native Montreal home, the killings have again resumed.
The Montreal Gazette reported that between October 2012 and February 2013, at least seven murders and two attempted murders took place in Montreal – some directly related to Rizzuto’s return.
One of the most prominent victims was Joseph Di Maulo, a 70-year-old Mafioso who allegedly wanted to take control of the Montreal family away from Rizzuto.
“While he [Rizzuto] was in jail, he still had an army, a large army that stayed loyal,” a police source told the Gazette.
However, it is unclear if Rizzuto is actually orchestrating these killings or if he is an innocent bystander.
Pierre De Champlain, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police analyst and an author of Mafia books, told the paper: “Since [Rizzuto’s] return, we appear to be seeing a return to force of the Sicilians and you have to ask if it isn’t playing in the favor of Vito Rizzuto. But this remains to be seen. I don’t think Vito Rizzuto is in control of the situation as it stands now. But it seems that things are turning in his favor. No one could have foreseen this about a year ago. I think that Rizzuto has the support of people who were underestimated. It really is an unexpected reversal.”

Police beef up career support for former yakuza


The National Police Agency is stepping up its efforts to rehabilitate former yakuza members by encouraging more private companies to hire them under government incentive programs.
According to the NPA, between 400 and 800 gangsters have left organized crime groups every year since statistics first began to be kept in 1994.
However, the number of private companies hiring them has been decreasing since its peak of 5,570 in 1995. Last year, only 2,224 companies employed former yakuza. In addition, only five former yakuza members managed to obtain a job through support groups last year.
Of the 1,254 yakuza members who left their groups while in prison from 2009 to 2011, 222 ended up returning to them, primarily because they could not find work after being released, police sources said.
The NPA plans to ask companies to participate in a government program that offers them incentive payments during the trial employment period for former yakuza members as well as compensation in the event that they cause any damage at work.
In their crackdown on organized crime, police are working both to separate yakuza members from their groups and to support their rehabilitation into society, as set forth by the ordinance for the anti-organized crime law.
But efforts by police and "boryokudan tsuiho" centers (centers against gangsters) to combat recidivism through career support are facing public criticism. Many people ask why it is necessary to help former yakuza members who once lived outside the law, according to a top police official.
In addition to changing the public’s negative attitude toward former yakuza members, improvements are also needed in correctional educational programs given to former gangsters while in prison.
Prisons offer lectures aimed at separating yakuza members from their groups and reintroducing them into society, but they are not always effective.
"We just pretend to listen to the lectures because it makes it easier to be released on parole," one former yakuza member who recently completed a prison term said. "Prison is a place to find an accomplice to commit a crime with after your sentence is up."
Another former yakuza said he has illegally sold drugs with a yakuza member he met in prison after they were released.
In 2012, 213 yakuza groups were dissolved or forcibly broken up by the police. Among those groups' combined 1,336 members, about 600 people left the organized crime world that year, making the need for measures to cope with their rehabilitation increasingly urgent

Yakuza gang wars spiraling out of control


Facing a shrinking pot of spoils, five Japanese mafia syndicates are wreaking havoc on the coastal city of Fukuoka
KITAKYUSHU, — Visibly nervous, the chairman of a local construction company asks that we lower our voices at the lunch table, and that his name be withheld from publication.
A few shady characters nearby are eavesdropping, he says. This neighborhood is the territory of one particularly violent faction of “yakuza,” the powerful criminal underworld of Japan.
Every month, bargaining with the mid-level mobsters and shakedowns have become draining tasks.
“The yakuza have a hand in all sorts of industries, and working with them is just a part of doing business in this city,” admits the executive, who himself was a mafia-connected negotiator for a construction company for almost 40 years.
But times are changing.
“We used to have a sort of harmony with these bosses,” he laments. “They were enforcers, protectors who asked for our money to smooth out permits and deals, but who kept the battles to themselves. Now they’re out of control.”
Facing a shrinking pot of spoils, five mafia syndicates are waging an unusually vicious gang war in the coastal prefecture of Fukuoka. It’s a rustbelt region on the southernmost island of Japan proper — known as Kyushu — which has the largest number of organized crime groups in the country, according to the government.
The fighting is sucking in police and, at times, innocents. Thugs have occasionally tossed hand grenades — known in yakuza parlance as “pineapples” — into their archenemies’ headquarters, and into the homes of corporate executives who 

Japan's yakuza gang wars heating up





KITAKYUSHU, Japan — Visibly nervous, the chairman of a local construction company asks that we lower our voices at the lunch table, and that his name be withheld from publication.
A few shady characters nearby are eavesdropping, he says. This neighborhood is the territory of one particularly violent faction of "yakuza," the powerful criminal underworld of Japan.
Every month, bargaining with the mid-level mobsters and shakedowns have become draining tasks.
"The yakuza have a hand in all sorts of industries, and working with them is just a part of doing business in this city,' admits the executive, who himself was a mafia-connected negotiator for a construction company for almost 40 years.
But times are changing.
"We used to have a sort of harmony with these bosses,' he laments. "They were enforcers, protectors who asked for our money to smooth out permits and deals, but who kept the battles to themselves. Now they're out of control.'
Facing a shrinking pot of spoils, five mafia syndicates are waging an unusually vicious gang war in the coastal prefecture of Fukuoka. It's a rustbelt region on the southernmost island of Japan proper — known as Kyushu — which has the largest number of organized crime groups in the country, according to the government.
The fighting is sucking in police and, at times, innocents. Thugs have occasionally tossed hand grenades — known in yakuza parlance as "pineapples' — into their archenemies' headquarters, and into the homes of corporate executives who have declined extortionist requests from organized crime. 
Last year, the Fukuoka Prefecture Police even became the first in Japan to offer bounties of $1,200 to citizens who reported suspects in possession of the explosives.
The yakuza, who number about 5,000 in the prefecture, have also shown they're willing to go after the officials who no longer tolerate their presence. The mayor of Kitakyushu and his family have received death threats, a motorbike gunman shot and wounded a retired detective, and gangsters gunned down the head of a construction company in front of his wife.
The attacks became more intense three years ago, when the local government declared war on the yakuza and passed a number of restrictions on them. The moves came alongside a growing body of national laws.
In late 2011, Japan passed the first laws completely outlawing payments to the yakuza. In Fukuoka, police have taken special measures to prevent members of certain gangs from gathering in groups of five or more in public; starting in June, they'll be banned from entering some business districts.
In December, public safety commissions in Kyushu took the additional step of identifying the Kudo-kai as the only syndicate among five that is "particularly dangerous,' drawing on evidence that it is behind many of the grenade incidents. Two other organizations, the Dojin-kai and Kyushu-Seido-kai, were given a less restrictive ranking as "combative' that will be lifted in June.
It is a legal marker that gives law enforcement wider search and seizure powers. "This organized crime group, the Kudo-kai, is especially bad,' explains Tetsuya Nishida, a police commander in the organized crime division. "They don't mind hurting civilians, and they go into construction companies and restaurants to get what they want.'
The Kudo-kai did not respond to a request for an interview sent by snail mail to their headquarters.
The Fukuoka gang war has erupted at a time when, in other areas of Japan, yakuza belligerence has subsided. For several years, the country's three largest underworld organizations — including the massive Yamaguchi-gumi consisting of 55,000 members — have consolidated power and haven't engaged in much open fighting, said Jake Adelstein, the author of "Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan."
In Kyushu, on the other hand, no single victor has emerged among the fractious foes. "Fierce competition makes for fierce fighting,' Adelstein said, drawing a comparison with the capital. "Tokyo gangsters don't lob hand grenades at each other.'
Yet the mob maintains a potent and quiet reach in the Japanese business world, and experts are in disagreement over whether lawmakers will ever stamp out the yakuza completely. One in five companies admits to paying them off, reveals a November study by the National Police Agency, the organization that sets law enforcement policy.
Mob bosses also carry the backing of a titanic fan base. For years the yakuza were, and continue to be, revered by some as benevolent scofflaws who enforced a code of honor. They were seen as keeping the battles to themselves and avoiding civilians.
In the same way American pop culture finds romance in the stories of cowboys and pirates, the yakuza are glorified in fan magazines, comic books, and action films all over Japan.
But unlike the American underworld, the yakuza at times operate in the open without much thought to the eyes of police. The address of the Kudo-kai headquarters, a walled compound in Kitakyushu, is widely available on the internet, and the group sometimes offers interviews to journalists.
The National Police Agency acknowledges that it'll have a hard time thanks to an amendment in the Japanese constitution that guarantees freedom of assembly. The restraint has become apparent in Fukuoka, where the Kudo-kai sued the prefectural police in January over the "dangerous' label. The group's lawyer claims it infringes on their constitutional right to free expression.
Legal issues like these make Fukuoka residents doubt the effectiveness of striking the yakuza too hard.
"The police simply aren't powerful enough,' says the construction executive. He thinks the mob presence will never go away, even if it is seeing a nationwide decline.

CROOKED CLEANUP: Yakuza taking slice of lucrative decontamination work




Criminal organizations are engaging in fraudulent practices amid a labor shortage and lax background checks by employers to pocket some of the trillions of yen from publicly funded cleanup work in nuclear disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture.
On March 5, the Yamagata District Court handed down a suspended eight-month prison term to a 40-year-old former senior member of a yakuza gang.
The man, a Yamagata Prefecture resident, was charged with dispatching seven day laborers to decontamination operations in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, between November last year and January without a staffing agency license.
“The Yamagata case is just the 'tip of the iceberg,' ” said a Yamagata prefectural police official, asserting that the involvement of yakuza gangs in the decontamination work is widespread.
In the Yamagata case, although the court acknowledged that the convicted man's actions are a “malicious crime,” it gave him a suspended sentence on the grounds that he quit his criminal organization after the case surfaced.
When the accused was asked in court if he is aware that the decontamination work is funded by taxpayers’ money, he said, “Yes, vaguely.”
According to prefectural police, the accused hit on the idea of cashing in on the extensive cleanup operations under way in Fukushima Prefecture in last November.
The central government expects to spend trillions of yen over several years to decontaminate communities that were polluted with radioactive materials after the crisis unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
The accused told police that he hired the men to work for a company based in Yamagata Prefecture that, as a third subcontractor, was contracted for a project commissioned by the Date city government.
“I expected that background checks would be lax because decontamination operations require large amounts of manpower,” he said. “I attempted to expand my business (by profiting from the work).”
The man approached an acquaintance in the construction industry to line up unemployed workers eager for work.
He offered to pay 12,000 yen ($120) a day for a “simple job,” and at least seven workers came forward.
The man received wages for the seven from the subcontractor, and paid them after siphoning off between 100,000 yen and 200,000 yen.
Prosecutors said in court that he gave a cut to the criminal gang he belonged to at the time. The yakuza group is the largest in Yamagata Prefecture, with about 40 members.
At least one of the seven workers suspected that the man had a connection with the yakuza, according to police investigators.
The president of the third subcontractor, who became acquainted with the accused more than 10 years ago, told police that he did not question the gangster about his occupation although he suspected he was a gangster.
The accused was charged with violating the worker dispatch law, which carries a maximum one-year prison term or a 1 million yen fine.
But there are many cases such as his where the convicted person receives a suspended sentence.
“The law was set without anticipating the involvement of gangsters, so sentences tend to be light,” said a senior official with the Yamagata prefectural police.
The convicted man has refused to speak to The Asahi Shimbun despite repeated requests for an interview.
INVOLVEMENT OF CRIMINAL ORGANIZATIONS WIDESPREAD
Some workers in the cleanup operations admitted that they suspected yakuza members' involvement when The Asahi Shimbun interviewed them about allegations of slipshod cleanup work and intermediary exploitation.
But they have remained silent because of fears of retribution.
In the cleanup effort in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, an individual working for a third subcontractor heard a senior official with a second subcontractor speaking of his background.
“I am in that line of business,” the man quoted him as saying, suggesting he had ties to the yakuza. “I go and make contributions (to the gang) every week.”
The gangster proudly spoke of his arrest record like it was a badge of honor, according to the individual.
A subcontractor in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, said that an official with another company pressured him to provide jobs by pointing out his affiliation with an underground criminal organization.
In Date, a man who worked in a separate cleanup operation said that his supervisor, who identified himself as a former gangster, threatened him and told him to follow instructions.
An official with another subcontractor said it is so short-handed that it will not be able to come up with enough workers if it must check prospective workers’ backgrounds.
There are tens of thousands of subcontractors involved in cleanup programs awarded to general contractors as primary contracts by the Environment Ministry and local governments.
Day laborers are obtained for their efforts through conventional hiring practices in the construction industry, where small subcontractors across the nation do the recruiting.
However, if subcontractors send their laborers to the work site in the same fashion that temporary workers are dispatched by staffing agencies, that is illegal.
Subcontractors are required to provide their own equipment and oversee the safety of their workers, in contrast to a temporary work force that comes under the supervision of a client company, like their regular employees.
Layers of subcontractors often make it more difficult for law enforcement authorities to uncover nefarious activities.
The general contractor that was awarded the primary contract in the Yamagata case refused to discuss the former gang official who dispatched the seven day laborers, saying it has nothing to do with individual contracts.
Local governments are ill-equipped to deal with the issue.
“We had no knowledge of the second and third subcontractors,” said an official with the Date city government. “The name of the third subcontractor is not familiar.”
An official wrestling with the matter at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare admitted the difficulty of weeding out involvement by criminal organizations.
“What we can do to confirm the background of prospective workers is limited,” the official said. “Police should do the job.”
The official also acknowledged the lack of enthusiasm in recent months to preventing a recurrence of such illicit activities.
Tomohiko Suzuki, a freelance journalist who investigated the connection between workers at nuclear facilities and criminal organizations, said the direct hiring of workers is the key to keeping out criminal organizations.
“Even if it is getting harder for second and third subcontractors to recruit people, they must make sure all their workers are employed directly,” he said. “Otherwise, it will be impossible to keep out gang members.”
(This article was written by Sachi Matsumoto, Momoko Jingu and Tamiyuki Kihara.)

Myron and Phil: A mob legend served saints and sinners





There was an incredible intersection of events Wednesday at one of Chicago's most legendary restaurants.
There was a fire at Myron & Phil Steakhouse in north suburban Lincolnwood and the death of restaurant's patriarch in a nearby nursing home.
In fire and tragedy, the legend of Myron and Phil deepens, even though there is no evidence that the death and the fire are anything more than a coincidence involving a storied eatery and a restaurateur with a penchant for dramatic storylines.
The I-Team doesn't normally report on restaurant fires or the death of a restaurant owner, but this story falls onto our plate because of the restaurant's rich history, heaping with connections to the Chicago outfit.
It served saints and sinners. Myron and Phil was made infamous because of its connections to the mob that surfaced in the early 1990's.
At 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, well after closing, a fire was reported in a back storage area of the iconic steakhouse.
Several suburban fire departments responded to the four-alarm fire and so did the current owner, Mark Freedman.
While Freedman was there, his phone rang with even worse news: his father, Myron Freedman had died a half hour earlier.
Myron Freedman was 95-years-old and one half of the restaurant's namesake.
Not only was this a popular dining haunt for some hoodlums of Chicago notoriety, but it became a popular shakedown target of organized crime.
During the 1992 federal extortion trial of gangland boss Gus Alex, it was revealed that the restaurant's owners were the threatened and cajoled by mobsters into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in street taxes over two decades.
Among them was North Side crew boss Lennie Patrick, who admitted ordering Myron Freedman to cough up a $100,000 payment to stay in business, then maintenance payments of $1,500 per month to the mob for more than a decade.
Both made the restaurant a Chicago legend and it's late founder Myron Freedman legendary. Even though he is gone, his son says the restaurant will rebuild from the fire and be back soon.
Myron and Phil both testified under grants of immunity in the 1992 trial of Gus Alex, who was convicted of shaking down several popular restaurants, a car dealer and other businesses.
From modern day mob victims back to pre-Depression days when the Freedman family started in the restaurant business, they have seen it all.

Violent death of Canada mobster in Sicily ambush a sign Montreal’s mob war has spread





Juan Ramon Fernandez, described by police in Canada as “a perfect gangster,” died the perfect Hollywood gangster death — ambushed by mob rivals, dying in a hail of bullets and his body burned in a field in the picturesque countryside outside Palermo, the historic capital city of Sicily.
Mr. Fernandez was slain alongside another mob-linked man from Canada and, in a persuasive sign that Montreal’s mob war has spread to Sicily, the very birthplace of the Mafia, one of two men charged with their murders was also previously deported from Canada.
“We believe the order to kill him came from Canada. We are sure of it,” said an Italian officer working on the large investigation.
The gold Rolex watch Mr. Fernandez held precious as the only jewellery he could bring with him from Canada, was found in the possession of one of those charged with his murder, said investigators.
Postmedia News filesVito Rizzuto, the Mafia boss from Montreal for whom Juan Ramon Fernandez worked while in Canada.
“There’s four guys at an important Mafia murder in Sicily and three of them lived in Canada. That says a lot about the Mafia here, their mobility, their relationships internationally,” said an Ontario organized crime investigator.
Mr. Fernandez, 56, was born in Spain but grew up in Canada and became an important mob figure in Quebec and Ontario. His charred body was found in Sicily as police closed their probe, codenamed Operation Argo, that saw 21 mobsters arrested on Wednesday.
Mr. Fernandez’s last day alive was April 9 when he and Fernando Pimentel, 36, an associate from Mississauga, Ont., who was visiting him in Sicily, left for a meeting to close a marijuana deal, authorities say.
He was meeting Pietro and Salvatore Scaduto, two brothers, in an isolated field outside Bagheria, near Palermo, where Mr. Fernandez was told a large marijuana crop was being harvested, authorities alleged. Mr. Fernandez knew the brothers and trusted them; he was heard many times on police wiretaps extolling their friendship.
The deal, however, was a planned ambush, the type needed to kill someone as feared as Mr. Fernandez.
When they got out of the car, they were met with a fusillade of bullets, killing them both, authorities said. Their bodies were stripped of their valuables, pushed into the bush at the side of the dirt road and burned.
Police wondered why Mr. Fernandez was suddenly no longer heard on the wiretaps. The surveillance teams that usually watched him stroll about town had no one to follow.
“He went silent,” said the officer. “We thought he may have started a journey for Canada.”
But days later, one of the Scaduto brothers was caught trying to sell Mr. Fernandez’s Rolex watch for 3,000 euros, authorities said.

Police handoutPolice in Sicily investigate the scene where the bodies of Juan Ramon Fernandez and Fernando Pimentel were found.
The watch was not something Mr. Fernandez would let go willingly.
“He loved that watch. Every day he wore this watch. Every day,” said the officer in Italy, who requested his name not be published. Italian police had heard him say it was the only piece not confiscated by police in Canada.
Investigators in Canada believe the watch was given to him by Vito Rizzuto, the Mafia boss from Montreal for whom Mr. Fernandez worked while in Canada.
Pietro Scaduto, 49, and Salvatore Scaduto, 51, were charged with murder. Pietro is a former Toronto resident.
Two months after Mr. Fernandez was released from prison in Canada in April 2004 and deported to Spain he arrived in Bagheria.
‘We believe the order to kill him came from Canada. We are sure of it’
Again showing the links between the underworld of Canada and Italy, he chose the city because as many as 10 mafiosi there have ties to Canada, primarily with the Rizzuto crime family, the officer said.
Several are former residents of Canada, including Michele Modica, Andrea Carbone and Pietro Scaduto — all of whom were involved in the notorious California Sandwiches shooting in Toronto in 2004, a botched mob hit that left Louise Russo, an innocent mother, paralyzed.
After that shooting, all were deported back to Bagheria.
Although Mr. Fernandez had been deported three times from Canada because of criminal convictions, he always considered Canada home.
“Fernandez lived in Sicily, but his heart and his mind were in Toronto. He thought every day of the business of Toronto. His business was still there, everyday he was in contact with his men in Toronto,” said an officer who has been immersed in the investigation.
“And Canadian men came to Italy to meet with him and talk to him about his business in Toronto and in Montreal.”
But as the mobsters erase borders, police herald their own international co-operation: Italian authorities were alerted to Mr. Fernandez by Canadian police.
“We were notified that a very important wiseguy had arrived in Sicily and we started to investigate this guy,” said the officer.
In Sicily, Mr. Fernandez was sending oxycodone pills from Sicily to Canada, using Sicilian Mafiosi as couriers, and arranging cocaine shipments from Ecuador and Colombia to Italy and Canada, police said.
“He was in a very good situation, from the criminal point of view,” said the officer.
Until the very end.

New York gangster John Bologna was FBI informant for nearly two decades in midst of the Al Bruno murder plot




SPRINGFIELD — Both castigating and in defense of New York gangster John Bologna, an admitted co-conspirator in the 2003 mob murder of Adolfo Bruno, federal prosecutors have offered a conflicted presentencing memo in advance of his sentencing.
The 34-page summary -- filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where the case ultimately landed -- offers a fascinating picture of a mobster whom investigators have previously gone to great lengths to protect.
Bologna is a Westchester, N.Y.-based wiseguy and onetime "right hand" of former Genovese mob boss Arthur "Artie" Nigro, according to court records. He is among eight gangsters in Western Massachusetts and New York convicted in connection with conspiring to kill Bruno, longtime boss of the crime family here.
Two trials in New York City in 2011 and 2012 featured a handful of "made men" from Greater Springfield who provided a rare, public and detailed glimpse of the inner workings of the Mafia.
Bologna is set to be sentenced on May 7 in federal court in Manhattan on charges of murder, extortion and racketeering conspiracies to which he pleaded guilty in late 2009. These include the Bruno murder plot.
According to testimony, Bruno was targeted as a weak link in a power struggle here as he fell out of favor with New York mob bosses. Bruno was gunned down by a paid hitman in the parking lot of an Italian social club in Springfield's South End on Nov. 23, 2003. Investigators struggled to piece together a solid case for years, and now say Bologna was a reluctant, but critical, witness who helped put it all together.
Bologna, 71, never made it to the witness stand because by the government's admission - they discovered he was at once an FBI informant, a liar, a bully, an instigator and murderer.
Court records submitted in advance of his sentencing document Bologna was an informant for 17 years while ascending through the ranks of first the Gambino, then the Genovese crime families. He ultimately landed in the latter's inner circle. Bologna helped plot murders, orchestrated shakedowns and manipulated the entire crime landscape in Greater Springfield from 2001 to 2003, prosecutors say.
In short, he was not the most believable courtroom witness and a potential embarrassment for the FBI.
"Bologna would not present as a credible individual to a jury, given his history of duplicity and repeated withholding of information. Bologna would be easily led, through cross-examination, to say things that were inaccurate; and Bologna still may not be telling the whole truth as to things about which the Government does not know," a prosecutor wrote in the sentencing memorandum.
Federal prosecutors routinely file so-called 5K1.1 motions in support of government witnesses who offer testimony against their former cohorts. Those motions generally persuade judges to mete out far lower sentences than those called for by federal guidelines.
Cases in point in the Bruno case: Frankie Roche, the shooter whose sentencing stakes plummeted from a possible death penalty to 14 years in prison after he testified at both New York trials; Felix Tranghese, who was sentenced to four years in prison as opposed to a life sentence for his testimony; and Anthony J. Arillotta, Bruno's successor who spear-headed Bruno's murder and a series of unsuccessful vendettas against other rivals. Aside from Bologna, Arillotta is the only informant left to be sentenced in the case but may get a single-digit sentence for a string of murder plots.
Because Bologna lied to investigators even after he signed a formal cooperation agreement in 2007, he will face his sentencing before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel with a somewhat tortured sentencing memo by the government. The memo notes that Bologna began loosely cooperating with the FBI in the 1990s and was classified as an informant, but became a "cooperating witness," a separate classification, in 2007 when he was implicated in a sports-betting operation in New York.
According to the government's memo, Bologna began his association with the Gambino family four decades ago.
"John Bologna was a long-time associate of the Gambino Organized Crime Family, who from the 1970s to the 1990s ran large-scale bookmaking operations and assisted in the Gambino Family's corrupt control of the garbage industry throughout the 1990s," the memo reads.
Bologna switched teams to align with Nigro and the Genovese family in 1999 but no further details about the defection are provided in the memo. Bologna was never "made" but became Nigro's "right-hand-man" in overseeing rackets in New York and beyond until Nigro was jailed on extortion charges in 2006.
Nigro was "acting boss" of the powerful crime family and is now serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2011 in connection with the Bruno murder and other crimes. Also convicted in the same trial were brothers Fotios "Freddy" and Ty Geas, of West Springfield, and mob enforcers. Emilio Fusco, a made man from Longmeadow, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy in a separate trial in 2012. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison though he was acquitted of the murders of Bruno and low-level associate Gary Westerman.
In 2001, Bologna began shuttling back and forth between New York and Springfield to step up extortion efforts at Nigro's behest. He became close with Arillotta, while the two swaggered around strip clubs and other businesses they identified as marks, the memo states. The move to edge out Bruno was born.
In previous interviews, Massachusetts state police said they approached the FBI in New York when Bologna was noted in surveillance efforts at the time. Bologna mysteriously and abruptly stopped coming to Springfield. State police said they suspected a leak, but Bologna's status as an informant was not confirmed until years later. The U.S. attorney's memo does not address that aspect of the case.
Arillotta, an ambitious gangster, assembled a crew that began asserting themselves through shake-downs, a takeover of an illegal slot machine business, and beat downs and murder plots against anyone who crossed their paths. Most of it took place at Nigro's urging, with Bologna managing nearly every maneuver, according to court records.
"Although Bologna did not have a direct role in the planning of the (Bruno) murder or in giving the order itself, he knew full well that the order had been given. Indeed, on multiple occasions when Arillotta and Tranghese were slow to carry out Nigro's order, Bologna told them to 'do what they had been told to do' in carrying out the murder," the memo states.
After formally signing on with the FBI in 2007, Bologna recorded 100 conversations with his associates, according to court records. These included one with Arillotta in 2008. Arillotta was intensely under investigation for the Bruno murder after he was released from state prison on a loan-sharking conviction. Bologna was dispatched to draw incriminating statements from Arillotta about the murder. The effort fell flat. Arillotta did not take the bait, according to the court memorandum.
"In general, however, Bologna continually and dependably recorded conversations during this period," prosecutors said, while adding that he sometimes resisted his FBI handlers' instructions to meet with certain individuals.
When Bologna entered a nine-count guilty plea on charges brought in connection with the Bruno murder, he was allowed release with no bail, as he continued to cooperate. His deal only began to unravel in earnest when Arillotta was arrested in early 2010. Arillotta was convinced Bologna's cooperation was enough to seal any number of life sentences against him even though the evidence, in truth, was spotty by trial standards.
Arillotta, on the other hand, was a dream witness for investigators. He shared every detail of his criminal history while Bologna was evasive and left out critical details of his own involvement in several schemes.
"In essence, Arillotta described Bologna as the instigator for a good deal of the tension that arose in Springfield prior to Bruno's murder. As Arillotta described it, when Bologna started coming up to Springfield, it was as though dollar signs flashed before Bologna's eyes and saw a city ripe for the taking. In addition, Arillotta explained that Bologna was always pitting mobsters against each other, and creating strife where none had previously existed," the memo states.
Arillotta stunned investigators when he confessed involvement in the attempted murder of New York union boss Frank Dadabo in 2003. They had no idea it had been Arillotta and the Geas brothers who had shot Dadabo several times at Nigro's behest, prosecutors wrote. Even Arillotta was confused during his early debriefings with federal investigators, because he assumed Bologna had already clued them in.
"I have no idea why I'm not already charged with this," Arillotta said during one meeting, according to the memo.
But, Bologna had hedged and withheld information in many instances. He also neglected to tell investigators he supplied Arillotta with AK-47 weapons. He was warned multiple times by the government to "come clean," the memo says. The government finally bailed out of its agreement with him in 2010.
"Bologna's withholding of information was repeated, and it was significant. More to the point, given the seriousness of Bologna's underlying conduct and the importance of his information in charging others with serious crimes, it was inexcusable," the memo states.
The government did some hedging of its own, concluding that Bologna was both a villain and a savior for the case and expanding the investigation far beyond the early suspects.
Prosecutors calculate Bologna's sentencing guidelines call for around 30 years in prison, although they concede they would support a sentence "somewhere below" given the "value of his cooperation."
"For approximately ten years, beginning in 1996, Bologna led a double life, as a mobster committing crimes with the Genovese Family on the one hand and providing the FBI confidential source information about certain Gambino Family members and associates on the other," the report says.
Prosecutors concluded that Bologna was a lost cause when he was considered a potential defense witness in the New York trials. They asked why he was unconcerned about Arillotta blowing the whistle on the Dadabo shooting and Bologna responded that he "thought more of the kid" and believed he would lie to save others in the Mafia.
"Even though Bologna had been through the cooperation process, he still somehow did not accept that he and others were truly obligated to tell the whole truth," the memo concludes.
His lawyer, Andrew G. Patel, concedes Bologna never had the "come-to-Jesus" moment prosecutors require from a totally compliant cooperator. He also states in his own memo that his client is deaf in one ear, walks with a cane, as had been "passed from prosecutor to prosecutor" over his years of cooperation and never had the chance to develop a trusting relationship with any single investigator.

Feds dig up bags o' cash intended as Christmas payoff to Genovese family from longshoreman



Federal agents fighting to tear control of the waterfront from the mob intercepted $51,900 - a cash Christmas present from a union local to the crime family - that was buried in a longshoreman's backyard.
Robert Ruiz, a delegate for Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen's Association, was busted Wednesday and charged with extorting union members, according to court papers unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The accused bagman for the mob was released on $500,000 bond.
"He's a hardworking, well-regarded union official," defense lawyer Marc Agnifilo told the Daily News yesterday.
"In terms of using force to get money from someone, it just didn't happen," Agnifilo added.
Two longshoremen informed the feds that Ruiz collected "envelopes" from union members stuffed with money for the Genovese crime family, which controls the New Jersey waterfront.
The Gambino crime family controls the piers in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
"[The informant's] understanding was that he could lose his job ... or could be killed if he did not make a payment every year at approximately Christmastime," Department of Labor special agent Jonathan Mellone stated in an affidavit.
Ruiz, 51, a union member since 1979, made a big boo-boo that must have him crying boo-hoo.
He gave the whole pot of money to the informant to hold.
The informant put the cash in an ice cooler, buried it in a black garbage bag and notified the FBI.
That's exactly where agents dug up the money that belongs to the hardworking longshoremen.
Most likely, the Genovese wiseguys' hearts shriveled three sizes when they heard they weren't getting their present this year.
Before the feds even seized the money, the gangland thugs knew the heat was on months ago.
Reputed Genovese soldier Stephen DePiro was overheard in a Long Island steakhouse lamenting to late capo Tino Fiumara that "Christmas is long gone."
He was referring to the future of extortion payments, according to court papers.
And he was right.

Alleged mob associate from Staten Island admits to his role in billion-dollar drug-trafficking ring



STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The "Big Man" could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Alleged Bonanno crime family associate and Grasmere resident John Venizelos pleaded guilty Monday to drug-trafficking charges stemming from his role in a billion-dollar international drug-trafficking ring, said Brooklyn federal prosecutors.
Venizelos, 33, who goes by the monikers "John V," "John from Staten Island" and "Big Man" was a "major" Staten Island-based distributor for the enterprise, prosecutors said.
Between January 2002 and February 2012, alleged ringleader Jimmy Cournoyer and his associates distributed drugs valued at more than $1 billion, said court papers. The Montreal-based empire smuggled tens of thousands of pounds of hydroponic pot into the United States through Native American reservations straddling the U.S.-Canadian border, allege authorities.
The marijuana proceeds were used to buy cocaine in Mexico. That contraband was then distributed in Canada, court documents said.
The ring has ties to the Bonanno and Rizutto organized crime families and Hell's Angels, said authorities.
During the course of the investigation, federal agents seized more than 80 kilograms -- about 176 pounds -- of cocaine and about $10 million in suspected drug proceeds, said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, whose office is prosecuting the case.
Venizelos managed a crew of marijuana distributors for years and sold thousands of pounds of pot, said court papers. Ledgers seized from a Cournoyer enterprise stash house in Brooklyn showed nearly $4 million in marijuana transfers to Venizelos in an eight-month period alone, court filings said.
A raid late last year of Venizelos' home turned up $150,000 in drug proceeds, narcotics and multiple encrypted BlackBerry devices, said prosecutors.
Federal agents also seized a loaded Glock 23 semiautomatic handgun, a shotgun, multiple ammo boxes and drug-packaging material, prosecutors said.
A trace revealed the Glock was stolen from a South Carolina law enforcement special agent, said court documents.
Agents also uncovered several handwritten letters addressed to Venizelos from a jailed organized crime family associate. The writer discussed violent crimes committed with, or on behalf of, Venizelos, including a "broad daylight kidnapping" and "torture" of someone Venizelos suspected of stealing his drugs.
Authorities allege Venizelos threatened witnesses both before and after his initial bust on Nov. 27 on charges of conspiracy to import marijuana, use of firearms and money-laundering conspiracy.
In one instance, Venizelos warned a co-conspirator that Cournoyer had set aside $2 million to "deal with" "rats," said court papers.
Venizelos also managed and co-owns Jaguars 3, a mob-owned strip club/restaurant in Brooklyn, allege court filings.
"Venizelos used violence and intimidation to protect his position as a major narcotics distributor," Ms. Lynch said in a statement. "Those who challenged him were threatened, tortured and beaten."
Venizelos faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of life behind bars, said Ms. Lynch's spokesman. He could also be on the hook for up to $10 million in fines and must forfeit $148,480 and two guns seized from his home.
"Mr. Venizelos took responsibility for his actions," said his lawyer, John C. Meringolo of Manhattan. "He's going to do his time and move on with his life. He hopes to get 10 years in prison."

Vinny Gorgeous tossed out of court after shouting match with judge; says it's a 'kangaroo court'



Former Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano was ejected from the courtroom Monday after a shouting match with a federal judge.
The mobster wigged out after Judge Nicholas Garaufis suggested he was paranoid for refusing to use a special room set aside in the court for him and his lawyers to review jury questionnaires.
Basciano, whose facing capital murder charges, believes U.S. marshals will be eavesdropping on their conversations because the isolation room has a microphone link to the marshal's operations center in case someone in the room needed help.
"My paranoia is legitimate!" he bellowed, defying the judge's order to speak through his lawyer.
That's when Garaufis ordered him forcibly removed from the courtroom.
"This has been a kangaroo court all along with you in it!" yelled Basciano.
Before he was hustled out, Basciano shouted out to his son sitting in the front row.
"Take care Steven," he said, adding: "Behave yourself."
The judge warned defense lawyer George Golzer that if there is an outburst by Basciano during the trial "he'll watch it from a television set in a cell."
Several hundred prospective jurors will report to the courthouse Tuesday to fill out questionnaires.
Basciano, who has already been convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole, is facing the death penalty for ordering the murder of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo.
The outburst Monday is the latest crack in his meticulously groomed armor; he's appeared to come unhinged as Tuesday's jury selection for his death penalty trial in Brooklyn Federal Court approached.
Federal prosecutors intend to call a cavalcade of cooperating witnesses, including former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, the highest ranking Mafioso from a crime family in New York to turn rat.

Alleged Staten Island mob associate sentenced in Connecticut gambling case




STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- There truly is no honor among thieves.
A Great Kills man with purported mob ties threatened to call in the cavalry -- his gangster pals -- when two alleged associates from another crime family tried to stonewall his attempts to collect a $28,000 gambling payout for his clients, Connecticut federal prosecutors said.
"They're crying to me all the [expletive] time. Why's this being done to [expletive] me," court papers quote Anthony (Skinny) Santoro as saying. "I fight with my family over this. [He] is friends with these guys. He's going to go cry to our [expletive], my other 'friend.' I'm going to have another [expletive] headache on my hands."
Santoro, 49, who prosecutors said is a longtime Bonanno crime family associate, worked as a bookmaker for a multimillion-dollar sports-betting ring in Connecticut, headed by Dean Depreta and Richard Uva, both alleged Gambino associates. The duo hedged on paying Santoro's clients' winnings, because they assumed he was fixing bets and profiting at their expense, said court documents.
They ultimately agreed to pay part of the debt, and Santoro later wound up getting something extra: Eight months behind bars, three years' supervised release and forfeiture of $25,000, said authorities.
Santoro, 49, was sentenced Friday in Hartford federal court after previously pleading guilty to operating an illegal gambling business.
In June of last year, Santoro was among 20 suspects busted and charged in the scheme, according to Connecticut federal prosecutors.
One suspect was Salvatore Ferraioli, 32, then the junior varsity football coach at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School. Ferraioli, a city firefighter, subsequently resigned from his coaching post.
The Westerleigh resident has denied the criminal allegations; his trial is pending.
Connecticut federal prosecutors allege the enterprise generated almost $1.7 million between October 2010 and June 2011. It included alleged associates of the Gambino crime family, who ran a large-scale illegal sports bookmaking operation and illegal card gambling clubs in Stamford and Hamden, Conn., said prosecutors.
Ferraioli is not specifically named in the indictment as an alleged mob associate.
Court documents said gamblers placed bets with offshore Internet sports gambling websites, particularly www.44wager.com, based in Costa Rica. The suspects collected and disbursed funds to and from bettors locally, and transferred a portion of the proceeds to two ringleaders, Depreta and Uva, said authorities.
Santoro is no stranger to judicial system.
He was convicted in 1995 on drug and firearms charges, said Connecticut federal prosecutors.
The conviction stemmed from an October 1994 gunfight with authorities in Rhode Island. Santoro and five co-conspirators intended to steal cocaine from a drug warehouse. South Beach resident James Favaloro, 58, was fatally wounded, while Santoro and the other men were captured, according to prosecutors and Advance reports.
Santoro, who was unarmed, according to his present attorney, was sentenced to just over 10 years in prison for those crimes.
Lawyer Timothy C. Parlatore, also said his client "never made any money at all" in the sports-gambling conspiracy.
"He was involved for a very short period of time, only a couple of weeks," said Parlatore, a principal of the Manhattan firm Cutler & Parlatore.

Three sentenced in mob bookmaking case



One is a longtime mob associate, another is a custodian for the Stamford school system -- the third is a Stamford restaurateur.
All three men were recently sentenced for their bookmaking roles in a multi-million dollar gambling operation run by members of the Gambino Crime Family in Fairfield County.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant sentenced Anthony "Skinny" Santoro, 49, of Staten Island, N.Y., who federal authorities say is a longtime associate of the Bonnano Crime Family to eight months in prison and ordered him to forfeit $25,000 to the government.
She sent Michael "Peewee" Vitti, 33, of Stamford, a custodial engineer for the Stamford Board of Education, to prison for 10 months and ordered him to forfeit $100,000.
Finally, Bryant sentenced Daniel "Dannyboy" DeGruttola, 33, also of Stamford, who owns the Brickhouse Bar & Grill, Bedford Street, to three months of home confinement and forfeiture of $100,000.
All three previously pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business which carries a maximum five-year federal prison term.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Chen charged that the trio worked for a gambling operation that took in $1.69 million from October 2010 to June 2011. The prosecutor said the operation is headed by Dean DePreta, 45, of Stamford, a reputed Gambino associate and his longtime friend, Richard Uva, 44, of Trumbull.
Their operation included street bookies, an internet gambling website in Costa Rica, and three gambling houses in Stamford and Hamden, according to court documents. Both DePreta and Uva have pleaded innocent to charges and are awaiting trial.
Chen said Santoro is a longtime associate of Vito Badamo, a made member of the Bonnano Crime Family. The two were arrested, convicted and incarcerated following a 1995 attempted New York warehouse break-in with the intention of stealing several pounds of cocaine. The break-in was interrupted by police and a shoot out occurred in which one of the pair's accomplices was killed, court documents show.
In this case, Chen charged that DePreta and Uva refused to pay off $28,000 in winnings to Santoro's gamblers because they believed he was manipulating wagers. Chen said they turned over money only after Santoro "enlisted the assistance of his superiors in the Bonnano Family."
The prosecutor said Vitti's gamblers lost about $310,000, and DeGruttola's lost $220,000 to DePreta's operation from the fall of 2010 to the spring of 2011.
In a Jan. 29, 2011, telephone call recorded by the FBI, DeGruttola complained to Uva of some gamblers who couldn't pay.
Uva told him to get their names "because they might be guys you can control¦You know what I'm saying?"
He continued: "You gotta make sure they know they can't do that."

Bonanno crime family associate to plead guilty to role in Canadian-NYC drug ring




A Bonanno crime family associate charged with joining a Canadian drug lord to become one of New York City's largest marijuana suppliers is scheduled to plea guilty to narcotics trafficking charges.
John "Big Man" Venizelos, 33, is believed to have secured a plea deal from Brooklyn federal prosecutors that will significantly reduce his time in prison - averting the life sentence he faced if convicted at trial, sources said.
But because Venizelos honored the mob's omerta code of silence and refused to hand over information to the feds, sources said, he's expected to face approximately 10-14 years in prison when sentenced eventually by Brooklyn federal Judge Raymond Dearie.
Bonanno crime family member John Venizelos is seen outside Brooklyn Federal Court as he prepares for a hearing on his role in a multi-million dollar pot ring.
Venizelos - who sports horn-rimmed glasses and wears Ralph Lauren Polo ensembles - held a "straight job" before his arrest managing "Jaguars 3", a Brooklyn nightspot run by Vincent "Vinny Green" Faraci, a Bonanno crime family soldier.
The nightclub, located in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, attracts patrons that have included several cast members of "The Sopranos” — including Tony Sirico, who portrayed the fictional mob family's “Paulie Walnuts”.
It was his sideline as an alleged drug trafficker, however, that attracted attention to Venizelos.
He was arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents earlier this year and charged with being one of the biggest New York customers of French Canadian drug kingpin Jimmy “Cosmo” Cournoyer.
Cournoyer - who is awaiting trial in Brooklyn federal court - allegedly lies at the center of $1 billion narcotics ring and operated through alliances he created between the Hells Angels, the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, the Bonanno crime family, and the Montreal Mafia, The Post first reported.
Only weeks after Venizelos' arrest, federal prosecutors accused him of trying to intimidate witnesses who might testify against him.
Prosecutors say Venizelos sent encrypted BlackBerry messages to a colleague explaining that Cournoyer had bankrolled a special "murder fund" to underwrite hits against informants in the high-profile international narcotics case.
Prosecutors also say they seized letters written by an unnamed colleague of Venizelos that discussed the Bonanno associate’s ties to organized crime - including references to sit-downs with captains in various New York La Cosa Nostra families The DEA also utilized informants to secretly record tapes of Venizelos discussing drug deals, officials said, and then seized a number of unlicensed handguns when they searched Venizelos' residence.
John Meringolo, a New York Law School professor who represents Venizelos, initially insisted that the $100,000-plus seized by feds at Venizelos' residence wasn't drug money - it was simply cash for tipping exotic dancers at the "Jaguars 3" club.
Meringolo told the judge today that he had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and the judge adjorned the hearing until Wednesday on procdural grounds.
Cournoyer's attorney, Gerald McMahon, says he plans to vigorously fight the case against the French Canadian at an upcoming trial this summer.