'I got a call from Scorsese, he wants to do a sequel': Mob lawyer jokes outside court as the 'Real Goodfellas' deny involvement in 1978 Lufthansa JFK heist made famous by the movie



•           Vincent Asaro, 78-year-old alleged head of Mob family, denies charges
•           Asaro was one of five suspected mobsters arrested in New York this week
•           Arrests follow FBI discovery of human remains at a New York property
•           Home was once owned by James 'Jimmy the Gent' Burke, who was played by Robert De Niro in Goodfellas
•           This is the first time any accused member of the mafia has ever faced charges in connection with the crime
•           1978 heist was one of the largest cash thefts in American history
By Daily Mail Reporter


As the FBI charged five alleged members of the New York mafia, including a suspect in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK, an attorney joked about the case's Goodfellas connection.
During a brief hearing at a Brooklyn court on Thursday, Vincent Asaro, the alleged leader of the Bonanno organized crime family, pleaded not guilty to robbery charges.
After the hearing, his attorney Gerald McMahon said: 'I got a call from Martin Scorsese. He wants to do a sequel to Goodfellas and it seems that federal prosecutors are providing him with the script.'
Asaro, 78, was charged with the theft of $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry from the Lufthansa Terminal at JFK airport on December 11, 1978.
At the time, it was the biggest cash heist ever in the U.S. The stolen $5 million would be worth $17.9 million in 2013 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Four other men, who prosecutors claimed were members of the New York-based gang, were arrested for other crimes.
 'Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades,' U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
'Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro's ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months.'
The attorney for Asaro, who has been held without bail, said he would fight the charges.
Mr McMahon added that his client had been framed by shady turncoat gangsters, including former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino - the highest-ranking member of the city's five organized crime families to break the mob's vow of silence.
Massino 'is one of the worst witnesses I've ever seen,' Mr McMahon said. He added that Asaro had given him orders that 'there will be no plea and he will walk out the door a free man'.
The gangsters involved in the infamous heist had each been promised a $750,000 payment that most didn't get 'either because they were killed first or it was never given to them,' according to court papers filed in the Brooklyn court on Thursday.
'These "goodfellas" thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted,' George Venizelos, FBI assistant director-in-charge, said.
Asaro resented the non-payment, according to a 2011 recording made by a cooperating witness.
'We never got our right money, what we were supposed to get, we got f***ed all around,'  Asaro allegedly told the witness, according to the papers. 'That f***ng Jimmy [Burke] kept everything.'
Burke, the suspected mastermind of the heist, died in prison in 1996 while serving time for the murder of a drug dealer. Actor Robert De Niro played a character based on Burke in the film.
'A lot of the main characters, like Burke, either died, disappeared or were murdered,' said Anthony DeStefano, a veteran New York crime reporter and author of the 2013 book Vinny Gorgeous: The Ugly Rise and Fall of a New York Mobster.
A break in the case came after an FBI investigation of a New York property tied to Burke last summer turned up human remains.
The Thursday indictment charges Asaro with the murder of Paul Katz in 1969, as well as robbery, conspiracy and other crimes tied to the 1978 heist.
Asaro and Burke allegedly strangled Katz with a dog chain because they thought he was cooperating with investigators, prosecutors said.
His body was first buried in the basement of a vacant house in the New York borough of Queens and later moved to the location where it was found last summer, they said.
The papers also charge the men were involved in a 1981 arson at a building where a businessman had intended to open a nightclub catering to black people in the then mostly white neighborhood in Queens, where the accused gangsters socialized.
The papers also mention a discussion between Asaro and the other indicted men about more recent crimes, including extortion, loan sharking and violence, as recently as 2013.
Asaro was charged with four criminal counts, including robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, in connection with the Lufthansa heist.
He is also charged racketeering and extortion for other alleged criminal activity.
Vincent Asaro and his son, Jerome Asaro, 55, are charged with stealing $1.25 million in gold salts from a Federal Express employee in February 1984. They are also accused of robbery conspiracy in the theft of $1 million from an armored car in the mid-1980s.
Three others defendants, Jack Bonventre, 45; Thomas 'Tommy D' Di Fiore, 70; and John 'Bazoo' Ragano, 52, are charged with multiple crimes, including racketeering and extortion, unrelated to the Lufthansa heist, officials said.
Jerome Asaro and Ragano, wearing baggy sweatsuits and sneakers, pleaded not guilty to all charges in Brooklyn on Thursday. Bonventre did not enter a plea as his lawyer was not yet present. Di Fiore was not present in court.
Much of the money from the 1978 heist has not been recovered, DeStefano, who writes for Newsday, said.
'Some of it went up the chain in tribute to the Luccheses, some of it went to Burke and his businesses and some of it is still unaccounted for,' he claimed.
The exact connection between the search of Burke's home in Queens and the Lufthansa heist has not been made clear by the FBI as of Thursday.
Before today the only person ever convicted in connection with the robbery was airport insider, Louis Werner - who tipped off the men who stole the money.
The theft occurred in the middle of the night on December 11, 1978 and netted the robbers more than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels.
At the time, it was the largest heist ever in America and led to a decades-long search for the perpetrators.
Six masked gunman took 64 minutes to steal the packets of cash, toss them into a van and escape.
The FBI has always agreed with the plot of the movie Goodfellas about all loose connections to the robbery being killed off by paranoid mob bosses.



‘Joey the Clown’ Lombardo claims ‘elder abuse’ in N.C. prison



BY ART GOLAB Staff Reporter January 20, 2014 9:00PM

Wisecracking Chicago Outfit killer Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo is being subjected to “elder abuse” as a result of being placed in solitary confinement last year in a North Carolina federal prison, according to a court papers filed in Chicago by his attorneys.
Lombardo, 84, was sentenced to life in prison for murder and racketeering in 2009. He has since been confined to a wheelchair and has been a “model prisoner,” according to the filing.
Nevertheless, in April of last year, the attorney general placed Lombardo under “special administrative measures” that restrict his access to mail, telephone and visitors, citing “Lombardo’s proclivity for violence.”
Lombardo’s petition claimed that no specific action on his part was given to justify the measures.
“The imposition of these draconian conditions against an 84-year-old, chronically ill, wheelchair-user can only be an attempt to appear ‘tough on crime’ by engaging in ‘elder abuse’ against a man who once had a reputation (deserved or not) as a major player in the Chicago ‘Mob,’ ” his attorneys wrote in a motion filed on Dec. 23.
“Whatever he once was, Joseph Lombardo, Sr. is now a sick, 84 year-old man and the SAMs dictated policy of virtually complete isolation constitutes extra-judicial punishment and administrative overreach,” the motion said.
Lombardo is being held in the federal prison medical facility at Butner, N.C.
A government reply, filed Jan. 17, requested dismissal of Lombardo’s motion on technical grounds, saying it should have been filed in North Carolina, where Lombardo is confined, not Illinois.
In addition, the government said that Lombardo is not eligible to go to court on this issue until he has exhausted all his “administrative remedies,” such as filing a challenge at the institution where he is incarcerated.
Email: agolab@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ArtGolab

Report: Apartment used for French President's affair linked to the mob



French media is reporting that the apartment used by President Francois Hollande for his alleged affair with an actress is linked to the mafia.
It has been reported that actor Julie Gayet has been borrowing the apartment from a friend who was involved with two Corsican mobsters.
Mr Hollande's partner Valerie Trierweiler remains in hospital today for treatment after being admitted for being shaken by reports of the affair.
The President has threatened to sue tabloid magazine 'Closer' over the allegation





Oh, brother! Reputed Staten Island wiseguy agrees to pay sibling $105K to settle lawsuit


By Frank Donnelly/Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- He's facing a federal extortion trial in a week, but a reputed mobster from Todt Hill has settled one account in the interim:
Scott Fappiano has agreed to fork over $105,000 to resolve a civil lawsuit his brother filed against him earlier this year.
Mark Fappiano of West Brighton alleged his sibling welched on repaying a $138,000 debt even though he had some cash: Scott Fappiano received a $1.8 million settlement from the state several years ago for false imprisonment, court papers say.
Scott Fappiano was incarcerated for 21 years for the 1983 rape of a police officer's wife in Brooklyn, which he didn't commit. DNA evidence exonerated him more than seven years ago.
More recently, in January of last year, the reputed Gambino crime family associate was among 32 people charged in connection with an alleged mob plot to control the garbage-hauling industry in New York and New Jersey through extortion and other crimes.
Scott Fappiano was accused of racketeering conspiracy and extortion conspiracy and has denied the allegations. The trial is slated to start Jan. 21 in Manhattan federal court, and he's currently free on $150,000 bond, online records show.
The civil suit, filed in April of last year in state Supreme Court, St. George, had sought $138,800.
According to court papers, Scott Fappiano, 52, first touched his brother for cash in October 2006 -- the same month he was released from prison. Mark Fappiano, 53, loaned his sibling $19,000 for the lease and insurance on his Lexus auto.
Scott Fappiano promised to pay back the loan with cash from his false-imprisonment settlement -- which he received from the state three years later, said court papers.
Scott Fappiano, however, didn't make good on his pledge and instead went to the well again in January 2011, court documents allege. He asked his brother to pay his criminal lawyers $75,000 on a case in which he was among nearly 125 suspects arrested in a mob takedown.
Scott Fappiano later pleaded guilty to extortion and was sentenced in January 2012 to time served, three years' supervised release, a $40,000 fine, $2,000 in forfeitures and 180 hours of community service, according to court papers and online Brooklyn federal court records.
In March 2011, Scott Fappiano tapped his brother again -- this time for a $6,000 loan, while promising to pay an additional $20,000 in interest within two years, said court documents.
Once again, he allegedly used his settlement as collateral, but didn't repay his debt, allege court papers.
Besides the $120,000 in loans and interest, Mark Fappiano wanted his brother to shell out a final $18,800. That figure represented half the cost of their mother's home-health aide and establishing a trust for her, said court filings.
According to settlement papers, two judgments will be entered against Scott Fappiano's Copper Leaf Terrace home. One, for $100,000, is in favor of his brother, while the other, for $5,000, is in favor of Mark Fappiano's lawyer, Ronald J. Mazzucco.
Both judgments are payable by October 2015, along with interest, said court documents.
Mazzucco's secretary said he'd have no comment on the settlement, as did an associate of Scott Fappiano's lawyer, Steven E. Ginsberg of Brooklyn.






Reputed mobster Salvatore Larca sent to the joint over massive marijuana bust



Reputed Genovese crime family foot soldier Salvatore Larca, 45, was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison — despite his lawyer’s argument that the drug is ‘mainstream.’

BY DANIEL BEEKMAN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

His clemency argument went up in smoke.
Reputed Genovese crime family foot soldier Salvatore Larca asked a judge to let him off easy Wednesday for running a massive marijuana distribution enterprise in the Bronx because weed is becoming mainstream.
Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Sullivan sentenced Larca, 45, to nine-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the drug operation, which also allegedly involved former "Mama's Boys of the Bronx" reality TV star Anthony Zoccolillo and three sons of notorious mafia boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basicanio.
In a pre-sentence letter, his lawyer wrote that 84 months would be appropriate because "society's views, and corresponding laws for the drug involved, marijuana, has been drastically changed over the last five years — quite possibly even to the point of being legalized in the United States within the next ten years or so, if not sooner."
"Marijuana, I think our society is having second thoughts and a new conversation about … but this case is not really about marijuana. It's about trafficking," the judge said.
Larca is an ex-convict who had $30,000 of cash in his home and 40,000 pounds of marijuana in his warehouse when he was busted last year. He imported the weed from California to distribute in the Bronx.
The 114-month sentence was slightly below the guideline range for the crime. The feds had asked for 126 to 159 months.
"Mr. Larca was appreciative of the court's consideration and one-year reduction and is fully prepared to serve his sentence," defense lawyer Vincent Martinelli said.







Ex-Mafia Boss in Reddit AMA: 'I'm Not Proud of My Past'


By Fran Berkman

Michael Franzese has defrauded governments out of hundreds of millions of dollars and spent years in prison. On Wednesday, the once-notorious mafia boss made the Internet an offer it couldn't refuse when he typed these three words on Reddit: "Ask me anything." Franzese, 62, then spent a couple of hours fielding questions posed by Reddit users about his nearly two decades with the mafia.
After pleading guilty to racketeering and tax fraud, Franzese was in and out of prison between 1986 and 1994. During that time, he renounced his ties to the mafia and became a born-again Christian. The former "made boss" for New York's Colombo crime family then did the unthinkable, when he voluntarily walked away from his life of crime in the early 1990s.
"I can't go back to Brooklyn to live, or in [New York] in general. [I] wouldn't last," Franzese wrote in response to a Redditor who asked if he has any lingering safety concerns. "Remember,
I am the only made man, a caporegime, that I know of who has walked away from the life, publicly, not entered a witness protection program, and lived.
I am the only made man, a caporegime, that I know of who has walked away from the life, publicly, not entered a witness protection program, and lived."
In his day, Franzese was famous for gas tax fraud, through which he scammed the state governments of New York, New Jersey, and Florida out of hundreds of millions.
"[The] gas tax scheme was one in a million. So much money. Better then drugs and a lot less ugly," Franzese wrote. "At its height, we sold 500 million gallons of gas a month and kept 20 to 30 cents a gallon of the tax money. Do the math. Lots of money."
For his efforts, Fortune magazine named Franzese no. 17 on its list of the 50 biggest mafia bosses in a 1986 cover story.
Franzese's father, John "Sonny" Franzese, was an underboss for the Colombo family and one of the most-feared mafia bosses New York has ever seen. He was an "enforcer known to be cold blooded and extremely deadly," the younger Franzese wrote in the introduction to his Reddit session.
Franzese ultimately decided to walk away when he fell in love with a religious woman, who convinced him to do so. He credits religion for keeping him alive, even after his father disowned him and the mafia put out a hit on him.
"I am not proud of my past. My wife will tell you that I do have rough nights sleeping at times," Franzese wrote. "Regrets? I would have preferred not to have gone through it, but I just move on and try to use my experiences to benefit others.
Franzese, who is now a motivational speaker and author of several books, will be the subject of a movie scheduled to be released this fall. On the subject of films, Franzese called Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco the most accurate onscreen portrayals of the mafia. (There also happens to be a side character in Goodfellas named "Mikey Franzese.")
The one question Franzese would not address directly: "How many lives have you personally ended and how many have you been responsible for ending?" Franzese simply hinted at his involvement in response: "Know this. You are part of the life, you are part of the violence."
When the same Redditor asked Franzese for a $100,000 loan from any "mobster dollars" he had tucked away, Franzese replied, "You would not want a loan at my former rates! LOL!"
Another user, "cowmanjones," then captured the surreal nature of the question-and-answer session: "A former mob boss said 'LOL!' I've seen everything on Reddit."






Defense lawyers say lead defendants in financial crime case aren't really in mob



By GEOFF MULVIHILL  Associated Press

CAMDEN, New Jersey — Lawyers for the lead defendants in a racketeering and financial fraud trial told jurors Wednesday that their clients are not mobsters but legitimate up-by-the-bootstraps businessmen being targeted wrongfully by prosecutors who want to spice up a case with Mafia connections.
The attorneys started laying out their defense after a government lawyer explained the charges against Nicodemo S. Scarfo, the son of imprisoned Philadelphia-south Jersey mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo; Salvatore Pelullo; and five other men accused of using threats to take over a publicly traded mortgage company and looting it for $12 million over 10 months.
"The government's case is that where there's Mafia smoke, there must be Mafia fire," said Troy Archie, lawyer for Pelullo. "Now they have to masquerade that Mafia smoke as Mafia fire."
Mike Riley, a lawyer for Scarfo, said the mob allegations are a way to get interest in a financial case.
"That's a distraction," Riley said. "It's unfair. It's an attempt to cloud you view of what happened here."
Riley described his client as someone who made money in the concrete business and a travel business he formed with Pelullo — and that he was so insistent that he wanted to be known as his own man that he went by the name "Nick Promo" rather than his given name.
Archie said Pelullo is a high-school dropout with a mind for business, a quick temper and a proclivity for profanity. Despite a cocaine problem 30 years ago and a couple stints in prison on financial fraud convictions, he managed to launch a cleaning business and other enterprises. Even before he got involved with Irving, Texas-based FirstPlus Financial Group in 2007, he owned a house in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, a penthouse in Miami Beach, Florida, and two Ferraris.
"The government got confused and went from the Mafia to Salvatore Pellulo because he talked like a maniac and he had money and had all these fancy things," Archie said.
During his opening statement, Archie tried to show that the corporate takeover was part of a business strategy to build a dormant company, not a crime.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Wiener had a different take.
"This is a case about lying, cheating and stealing, and about the concealment of that lying, cheating and stealing," he told jurors.
Wiener laid out the allegations almost gleefully, projecting excerpts from wiretaps to illustrate his points about the fleecing of FirstPlus, which has since gone out of business.
He said Scarfo and Pelullo spent more than $800,000 on a yacht. "They bought it with money they took from FirstPlus," Wiener said, smiling. "And they named it Priceless."
The government says the men conspired in 2007 to get its money from FirstPlus two ways — first by hiring shell companies owned by Pelullo and Scarfo as consultants, then by buying other shell companies they formed. Defense lawyers said the companies were legitimate.
Within a year, Wiener said, FirstPlus Financial's main business account had less than $2,000 in it.
Other defendants include two men who were executives at FirstPlus, along with lawyers and accountants.
Six others have pleaded guilty, including one man scheduled to testify during the trial.
Before opening statements, Pelullo lawyer Michael Farrell asked that journalist George Anastasia — who has covered organized crime for decades, mostly for The Philadelphia Inquirer — be barred from the room. Farrell said that Anastasia could be called as a witness, though he did not specify why.
Judge Robert Kugler said Anastasia, who is covering the trial for a blog sponsored by a Philadelphia law firm, could stay for opening statements. There could be a motion to have him kept out once witnesses are called.
Scarfo's father led the Philadelphia Mafia during a bloody 1980s mob war. His reign ended in 1988 when he was convicted of racketeering and sent to prison for decades.
In 1989, the younger Scarfo was the victim of what authorities have described as an attempted mob hit in a South Philadelphia Italian restaurant. He was shot a half-dozen times.





Unusual white-collar mob case set for trial in Camden



GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press

CAMDEN — In many ways, it’s your run-of-the-mill white-collar case. But this one has a mob twist.
The son of a reputed Philadelphia-area Mafia boss and six others are scheduled to be tried starting this week on charges including the usual stuff — racketeering. But the government says Nicodemo S. Scarfo and his co-defendants, used threats of harm to take over the board of FirstPlus Financial Group, an Irving, Texas-based publicly traded mortgage company, and then had the company buy shell companies they owned so they could take out the assets. The company is now defunct.
In court filings, the government said the conspirators plundered $12 million in less than a year, buying homes, weapons, ammunition, a plane, luxury cars, jewelry and an $850,000 yacht they named “Priceless.”
Michael Riley, the lawyer for Scarfo, who is the son of imprisoned Philadelphia and southern New Jersey crime family boss Nicodemo D. “Little Nicky” Scarfo, said part of his argument is that it’s not a mob case at all.
“What spices it up is the organized crime allegations,” Riley said. “We can’t defend the case and say Nick Scarfo is not and has never been associated with the mob.”
But he said his client had scant involvement with the business deals at the heart of the case.
Government lawyers declined to give interviews. But in the indictment, they do draw a connection with the mob. They say money raised in the crooked business deal was intended to pay Scarfo’s dues as a made member of the Lucchese crime family, with whom his father — who was listed as an unindicted coconspirator — allegedly formed an alliance decades ago.
Riley says he’ll try to poke holes in the theory that the money was going to the New York-based Lucchese operation. “Not a single dollar is unaccounted for,” he said.
Thirteen people were indicted in October 2011. Six, including Scarfo’s wife, who admitted a role in mortgage fraud, have since pleaded guilty.
One who pleaded guilty, Cory Leshner, is expected to testify during the trial, set to begin Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Camden and last three months or so. The jury was selected last year.
The defendants who remain besides Scarfo include Salvatore Pelullo, a reputed mob associate who has a previous conviction for bank fraud and whom authorities said ran the business takeover.
Others are brothers John and William Maxwell, who were executives in FirstPlus, and two lawyers accused of helping the alleged scheme. All have pleaded not guilty.
Michael Huff, who is representing William Maxwell, said he did not do anything wrong as special counsel for the board of directors that took over the firm.
“He was doing his job,” Huff said. “He was hired by the corporation to help with any legal matters that might come up with the transition from one board of directors to another board of directors.”
A lawyer for Pelullo did not return a call. The lawyer for John Maxwell, who served as FirstPlus CEO and President, declined to comment.
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Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill



Stricter laws force yakuza to go low-key in New Year's fun




THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

FUKUOKA--Stricter legal measures are forcing yakuza organizations to devise evasive new methods just to hold their traditional New Year's ceremonies and even curtail their usual partying.
One such traditional event is called "kotohajime," which is held to observe the new year. However, unlike the general public, yakuza groups hold their New Year's events in December.
On Dec. 12, at a traditional Japanese inn in northwestern Fukuoka Prefecture, a group of men dressed in black gathered for such an event. After two hours, the men departed in vans and buses.
According to investigative sources, attending the gathering were about 130 members of the Dojinkai yakuza group that is based in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The event was rather staid compared to those in the past where major parties were held with professional singers and hostesses providing companionship and entertainment.
At the gathering, there were no hostesses, and participants paid 6,000 yen ($58) each.
Tomohiko Suzuki, a journalist who has written extensively about yakuza groups, said, "From the standpoint of the yakuza groups, holding the kotohajime provides the police with an opportunity to crack down on the group. Some groups now feel the event is no longer necessary, so there is the possibility that the practice itself could disappear in the future."
According to the Kojien Japanese dictionary, kotohajime is defined as "beginning preparations for the new year on Dec. 8 (or Dec. 13 in the Kansai region)."
In Kyoto's Gion district, the "maiko," or apprentice geisha, have a tradition whereby they visit their dance teachers on Dec. 13 to thank them for the past year's instruction and to extend greetings for the coming year.
The origins of the kotohajime event in western Japan for yakuza groups apparently draws from the maiko’s year-end tradition.
Dojinkai held its event a day earlier than tradition calls for. In the past, the event was held at the group's headquarters. However, that changed after the group was designated a "boryokudan" (a term used by the police to describe yakuza groups) that were likely to be combative.
Any group with that designation that uses an office or has five or more members gathered in one place within a specified area faces immediate arrest.
There are also local ordinances that ban citizens and companies from providing assistance to yakuza groups. As a result, no businesses were willing to reserve rooms for Dojinkai to hold its event on Dec. 13. Investigative sources said the group was forced to change venues. The actual inn used was reserved about a month beforehand under a name that made no reference to the fact they were yakuza.
Another group designated as a combative boryokudan by the police, and which has had a long history of bloody confrontation with Dojinkai, is Namikawa Mutsumi Kai (formerly known as Kyushuseidokai), which is based in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture. That group did not hold a kotohajime event last year.
Elsewhere, another major yakuza group, Kudokai, based in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, held its year-end ceremony at its group headquarters. About 400 members attended the event, which included hostesses.

One high-ranking official in the group said, "After the ordinance to rid yakuza groups was implemented, we have taken careful steps so that outside companies that do business with us, such as 'bento' (box lunch) outlets, are not identified to avoid having police issue warnings or instructions to such companies."

Yakuza-linked Mizuho Bank ordered to suspend loan business


 TOKYO: Japan’s financial watchdog on Thursday ordered Mizuho, one of the country’s biggest banks, to suspend part of its loan business as additional punishment for its links to organised crime.
The bank’s parent company, Mizuho Financial Group, said its chairman Takashi Tsukamoto would step down from his post on March 31 to take responsibility for the scandal.
The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said it issued the order to stop Mizuho Bank from extending new loans through its affiliated credit company for one month from January 20.
The agency also ordered Mizuho Financial Group to improve its management of the bank.
The group has been under fire since September, when its credit affiliate was found to have processed about 230 loans worth about $2 million for the country’s notorious crime syndicates. The Yakuza syndicates are involved in activities ranging from prostitution and drugs to extortion and white-collar crime.
In a statement, the group offered ‘sincere apologies’ for causing trouble to its customers and other people concerned and vowed to take the punitive action ‘with utmost seriousness’.
Mizuho Bank said its president Yasuhiro Sato was to take a self-imposed salary cut for one year.
“The group wishes to make uninterrupted efforts by mobilising all resources to sever ties with anti-social forces,” Sato told a news conference. “We want to establish a forward-looking, advanced management structure and help Mizuho grow through its contributions to our customers, the economy and society.”
In late September the FSA ordered Mizuho Bank to improve operations after it was found to have taken ‘no substantial steps’ to sever the Yakuza links two years after they were discovered.
The FSA decided to take additional punitive action against the group after the bank submitted a false report on the issue to the financial agency.




Yakuza sign up vagrants to work on radiation clean-up in Fukushima





Gangs send out recruiters to prey on homeless in murky labour market that has been created in the fallout from nuclear disaster at Fukushima
Seiji Sasa arrives at the train station in Sendai, northern Japan, before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men.
He isn't a social worker. He's a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential labourers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan's nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of US$100 a head.
"This is how labour recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa said, as he walked past men sleeping on cardboard.
I don’t ask any questions … I just find people and send them to work … That’s it
SEIJI SASA, RECRUITER
It's also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the least desirable jobs in the industrialised world - working on the US$35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.
Almost three years ago, the massive earthquake and tsunami levelled villages across Japan's northeast coast and set off multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Today, the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted is being dogged by both a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers. In January, October and November last year, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating construction giant Obayashi Corp's network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.
In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai's train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima for less than the minimum wage.
The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan's second-largest construction company.
 Obayashi, which is one of more than 20 major contractors involved in government-funded radiation removal projects, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the spate of arrests has shown that members of Japan's three largest criminal syndicates - Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai - had set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi.
"We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another," said Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi.
He said the company had tightened its scrutiny of its lower-tier subcontractors to shut out gangsters, known as the yakuza.
Japan has always had a grey market of day labour centred in Tokyo and Osaka. But over the past year, Sendai, the biggest city in the disaster zone, has emerged as a hiring hub for homeless men.
Many work clearing rubble left behind by the tsunami and cleaning up radioactive hotspots by removing topsoil, cutting grass and scrubbing down houses around the destroyed nuclear plant.
Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at Sendai train station.
The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a US$1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say.
 "I don't ask any questions. That's not my job," Sasa said. "I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That's it."
Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi's top contractor made it to the workers Sasa found. The rest was taken by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about US$6, just below the minimum wage, equal to US$6.50 per hour in Fukushima.
Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted.
Sasa was arrested in November and released without being charged. His client, Mitsunori Nishimura, a local Inagawa-kai gangster, was arrested and paid a US$2,500 fine. Nishimura placed his workers with Shinei Clean. "Everyone is involved in sending workers," said Tatsuya Shoji, a Shinei manager. "We just happened to get caught this time."
His uncle, Shinei president Toshiaki Osada, was fined about US$5,000. Shinei Clean was also fined about US$5,000.
Part of the problem in monitoring taxpayer money in Fukushima is the sheer number of companies involved in decontamination, extending from the major contractors at the top to tiny subcontractors many layers below them.
The total number has not been announced. But in the 10 most contaminated towns and on a highway that runs north past the gates of the wrecked plant in Fukushima, 733 companies were found to be performing work for the Ministry of Environment.
As a practical matter, many of the construction companies involved in the clean-up say it is impossible to monitor what is happening on the ground because of the multiple layers of contracts .
"If you started looking at every single person, the project wouldn't move forward. You wouldn't get a 10th of the people you need," said Yukio Suganuma, president of Aisogo Service, a construction company that was hired last year to clean up radioactive fallout from streets in the town of Tamura.




Vito Rizzuto funeral could mark end of Mob dynasty


Rizzuto died of natural causes at age 67, a year after leaving prison

Family, friends, onlookers and police descended on a church in Little Italy this afternoon for the funeral for the reputed head of the Montreal Mafia. 
Vito Rizzuto died on Dec. 23 at Montreal's Sacré-Coeur Hospital, a day after he was hospitalized for pulmonary problems. He was 67. 
More than a dozen black limousines, some heavy with elaborate floral arrangements, arrived earlier Monday afternoon as a steady stream of mourners filed into Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense church. 
Eight pallbearers carried the casket up the church steps before the start of the hour-long service. Media were not permitted inside the church. 
Rizzuto's body was then transported to the Saint-François d'Assise cemetery in St-Leonard, a predominantly Italian neighbourhood in Montreal’s east end.
Several Montreal police cars were seen parked outside the church and patrolled the area during the service. 

End of a dynasty
Rizzuto, who was released from prison in the fall of 2012, was for years described by law enforcement as the godfather of the Montreal Mafia. His death, the latest blow for the clan that has already suffered significant losses, has left many questioning what's next. 
"You’re not only burying an individual, you’re burying a Mafia leader, but also, in many ways, you’re putting to bed a dynasty," said Julian Sher, senior producer of CBC's the fifth estate.
"The Rizzuto dynasty had dominated not just the Mafia, but organized crime for something like three decades.
"The big question everyone inside the Mafia, the public and the police are asking themselves is, 'Who comes next and will there even be someone of that power and stature in the future?' We don’t have the answer to that yet."
His death comes only a few years after his son and his father, who were seen by many as the past and future of the clan's operations, were assassinated in separate shootings in Montreal. 
"Within the past few years, the family, the group has been really affected," said Michel Martin, a retired inspector with the Sûreté du Québec.
"This will mark a period of adaptation."

Deep roots in organized crime
Born in the Cattolica Eraclea area of Sicily in 1946, Rizzuto moved to Canada with his family when he was eight years old.
The Rizzutos are said to have risen to power after Paolo Violi, head of the Calabrian Mafia in Canada, was shot and killed while eating at a Montreal restaurant in 1978.
Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. — the patriarch of the Rizzuto crime family — was assassinated at his Montreal home in November 2010 at age 86. His death came after a string of legal battles.
Vito Rizzuto had three children. His son Nick Jr. was assassinated in broad daylight in 2009. He is survived by his son Leonardo and daughter Bettina, both of whom are lawyers in Quebec.

Served time in U.S. prison
Once nicknamed Montreal's Teflon Don — a nod to the original Teflon Don, New York's John Gotti — Rizzuto walked free for much of his life despite numerous accusations launched against him over the years.
Vito Rizzuto's son Nick Jr. and father, Nicolo Sr., were assassinated while he was incarcerated. All three of the men's funerals were held at the same church. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
However, a 2007 guilty plea on racketeering charges related to the 1981 murders of three alleged New York gang leaders landed him in prison in the U.S. for eight years.
"My job was to say, 'It's a holdup!' so everybody would stand still," Rizzuto said at the time of his plea.
He denied being the trigger man. 
Arrested in 2003 and extradited to the U.S. in 2006, he served the last six years of his sentence in a Colorado prison.
He returned to the Montreal area in late 2012, settling in the Laval suburb of Ste-Dorothée.
Organized crime experts say they expect to see a struggle over leadership of the Montreal Mafia now that the era of the Rizzutos appears to have ended. 
A surge of violence is possible as members of organized crime outfits in Montreal, Toronto and New York vie for Rizzuto’s territory, Humphreys said.

Rizzuto funeral a chance to ID associates
A visitation Sunday at the Loreto funeral complex in St-Leonard drew hundreds of people. Loreto is owned by the Rizzuto family.
Martin said wakes and funerals of people known to be members of the Mafia are often good opportunities to identify possible associates.
"They’ll be updating their photo album because these people, most of them, they’re very quiet, discreet, in their daily life. But, this event makes a very interesting opportunity for police," he said. 
"The most interesting of them, the ones that are under investigation or have [warrants for their arrest] will not attend this. They’ll have someone else representing them, but still some important actors will be at this funeral."