Mafia Boss of Metroland Domenico Rancadore: 'I Love England'

By Umberto Bacchi

A Mafia boss who was arrested in London after almost two decades on the run said he came to Britain as a free man to start over a new life away from police and Cosa Nostra, a court heard.
Domenico Rancadore, who is fighting extradition to Italy where he was sentenced to 7-years in jail for being a member of the Sicilian Mafia, said he moved to the UK from Palermo in early 1994.
"I've a love with this country. This is the country where I want to stay," Rancadore, 64, told Westminster Magistrates Court in London, after swearing on a Bible at the start of his interview.
The former PE teacher was first tried for mafia related crimes as part of the infamous maxi trial in 1987, which saw more than 450 Mafiosi indicted. Rancadore was acquitted.
His father Giuseppe, also an alleged mob leader, was found guilty in appeal instead. He died a few years ago while serving a life-term.
Led by Italy's most famous anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the maxi trial lasted almost two years and Rancadore spend many months under house arrest, a period he described as "a big stress".
"Police came to check up on him in the house day and night, waking us up at night" Rancadore's wife Anne, whose mother is British, told the court.
"My son got stopped by police quite often," she said. "They interrogated him, where is he going, saying 'Oh! You are the grandson of Rancadore'."
"It was traumatic for all of us," she said. "The only good thing was that my husband was at home and we could be together."
Wearing a blue shirt under a grey jumper, the man described by Italian authorities "leading figure" of Sicilian Cosa Nostra told the court how he waited until reaching retirement age as a teacher before to reach his in-laws, who were living in Ealing, to start "a different life in this country."
His wife and two children - Giuseppe, now 36, and Daniela, now 33 - joined him a few months later.
In June that year they all went to a priest to have their surname changed to Skinner, Rancadore's mother-in-law's maiden name.
"I wanted to cut every tie with my past," Rancadore said. "I've never called my dad; I've never called my mom."
Persecuting Hannah Hinton said that, while his wife and children got a new passport under the new name, Rancadore did not and there is no official record he changed his name to Mark Skinner, either.
Hinton suggested he was trying to remain off the radar of authorities. Rancadore denies that.
Although he admitted he came to Britain partially because he was "a little bit worried" they would arrest him again and he would end up in prison.
By December 1994 Italian police issued another arrest warrant for Rancadore over Mafia related crimes.
Rancadore claimed he was not immediately aware of it. He was eventually sentenced in absentia to 9 years in jail in 1998.
His hands shacking while holding paper documents, the alleged mobster claimed he didn't signed a letter giving mandate to his Italian lawyers to appeal the sentence, although both he and his wife admitted the signature looks like his. In appeal his sentence was reduced to 7 years.
Rancadore was arrested at his home in Uxbridge, west London, under a European arrest warrant in August last year. He lived in the semi-detached home in the prosperous suburb, at the end of the Metropolitan underground line, registered under his wife name.
No identity documents for him were found at the premises and he also had no national insurance number, Hinton said.
Italian authorities allege that he was one of the heads of Cosa Nostra, an armed criminal organisation that "spreads terror in Sicily by systematically murdering anybody who did not comply with the will of the members of the organisation," the court heard at a previous hearing.
Palermo prosecutors alleged Rancadore was a leading 'Man of Honour' of the Palermo Mafia 'family', with a senior managerial role in the Caccamo chapter and, in particular, he was the head of Cosa Nostra in the district of Trabia.
Two of his henchmen were arrested in 1995 for delivering a lamb's head and 10 bullets to a prison chaplain, whose charitable activities conflicted with the mob's business, Italian media reported.
Hinton suggested that during his 20 years in the UK he didn't commit any crime in order to avoid police attention.
"[It's] my nature not doing any crime," Rancadore told Judge Howard Riddle.
The trial continues.

Havana's Capri hotel, once a playground for mobsters and movie stars, reborn after restoration

The hotel Capri is illuminated at dawn in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Havana's hedonistic mob-and-movie-star days came to an end with Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, and the hotel drifted into a long, slow decline. But now the Capri is back in business after being closed more than a decade ago. Its rebirth is part of Cuba's latest bid to trade on its colorful pre-Communist past and attract tourist dollars to fund its socialist present. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

HAVANA (AP) — In its heyday, Havana's Capri hotel and casino was the playground of men known as The Blade and The Fat Butcher.
It was also a pleasure garden for headline stars who portrayed Mafiosi on the silver screen: George Raft, known for hoodlum roles such as Guino Rinaldo in 1932's "Scarface," was the casino's celebrity "greeter" and made his home in the 19th-floor penthouse.
Havana's hedonistic mob-and-movie-star days came to an end with Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, and the hotel drifted into a long, slow decline. But now the Capri is back in business after being closed more than a decade ago. Its rebirth is part of Cuba's latest bid to trade on its colorful pre-Communist past and attract tourist dollars to fund its socialist present.
"It's a feeling of that era (at the Capri). I think in Cuba you feel that in general," said Roberto Escalante, a 62-year-old Mexican university professor who was staying in the hotel this month during an academic conference. "It's very comfortable. It's missing some services still, but yes, you feel like you're back in those times — which were good!"
Indeed, details such as the Capri's polished, art-deco granite floors with their flowery bronze inlays fit right into a city that still teems with finned Chevrolet and Cadillac classics. So do the graceful copper-colored lobby chandeliers, which like the floors are restored originals.
The newly refurbished Capri reopened around New Year's as a partnership between state-run tourism company Grupo Caribe, which owns the hotel, and Spanish hotel chain NH Hoteles SA, which is responsible for administration.
Built in late 1957, the Capri enjoyed a brief but madcap run as one of the flashiest mob joints of the time. Charles Tourine (The Blade,) managed the nightclub, while Nicholas di Costanzo (The Fat Butcher) ran the casino. The two were lesser-known henchmen associated with more notorious bosses like Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante.
Gangsters rubbed elbows with some of Hollywood's leading lights here. Swashbuckling actor and renowned playboy Errol Flynn frequented the Salon Rojo club where scantily clad cabaret dancers shimmied for tourists.
The handsome public face of it all was Raft, who grew up around gangsters and maintained personal ties to a number of capos.
T.J. English's "Havana Nocturne," a history of the mob in Havana, recounts Raft's memories of the night when Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista fled the country ahead of the inexorable advance of Castro's bearded rebels. New Year's Eve merrymaking was coming to an end and Raft had just retired to the penthouse, where a young woman recently crowned Miss Cuba was waiting.
"There she was, asleep in my bed, but I noticed how she opened one eye when I came in the room. Now she's half awake and amorous. 'Feliz ano nuevo,' I said as I got between my silk sheets, alongside this fantastic girl," Raft later said, according to "Havana Nocturne." ''In the middle of this beautiful scene — suddenly — machine-gun fire!"
Hurrying downstairs, Raft pleaded for calm with revolutionary-minded Cubans who were ransacking the hotel, English writes. Finally a young woman recognized the movie star and persuaded the others to listen. They ended up doing a little "lightweight looting," then left.
"So while the shooting and all that continued in the streets, the Capri was saved, at least for the moment," said Raft, who died in 1980.
It wasn't long before the mob's hotels all passed into the hands of the revolutionary government. Castro himself set up shop for a time in the nearby Havana Hilton, later redubbed the Habana Libre.
Most of the mafia bosses fled Cuba — out millions of dollars in lost revenue and investments. The Capri operated as a state-run hotel for decades and at times hosted a different sort of celebrity guest, people such as Cuban crooner Omara Portuondo and left-wing Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti. In 1997, militant anti-Castro exiles set off a bomb in the lobby that caused severe damage but no fatalities. The Capri survived, but like many buildings it became run-down from lack of maintenance, and closed in the early 2000s.
After apparently sitting idle for years, restoration began about four years ago according to hotel officials. Workers are still refurbishing some rooms and laying carpeting on some floors. During a recent visit, finishing touches were being put on the rooftop pool, which boasts stunning views of the Florida Straits.
Much has been kept faithful to history, down to the Capri's swooping deco logo. Low-slung, 1950s-modern sofas grace the lobby, and old Havana cityscape photos hang in the rooms. Hotel operators are talking about putting historic pictures in the lobby like the nearby Nacional, another hotel where the mob once ran a lucrative casino.
Nods to modernity include building-wide Wi-Fi, though it's not included in the price of a room. What once was Raft's penthouse is now a high-end restaurant with white tablecloths and plush, lavender-paisley chairs. The Salon Rojo is a popular disco with a $10 cover — no gambling allowed.
"It's just friendly, modern. We like being here," said Elke Feusi, a 49-year-old banker from Winterthur, Switzerland.
Ciro Bianchi Ross, a Cuban journalist who has researched and written about the Capri, disagreed with the notion the hotel represents a lost, glamorous past. He noted that the cabaret parties and casino riches were for the elite, while many Cubans struggled with poverty, disease and illiteracy — a social equation that the 1959 revolution was specifically intended to upend.
Still, he called the Capri one of the three most architecturally important hotels of its era in Havana and said there's nothing wrong with using Cuba's mafia past to create income and jobs for the country.
"It's benefiting from history, and I think that's valid. We can't renounce a heritage like this or the Hotel Nacional," Bianchi said. "Buildings are not to blame for their history."

Mafia Is Down—but Not Out

Crime Families Adapt to Survive, Lowering Profile and Using Need-to-Know Tactics

Sean Gardiner and Pervaiz Shallwani
For more than two decades, New York City's five organized-crime families were plagued by convictions brought on by strengthened federal laws and the increasing habit of higher-ranking members cooperating with the government.
Those years of high-profile decline created a perception that the city's mafia is on the verge of extinction. But law-enforcement officials and mob experts say the five families, while not the force they once were, are far from sleeping with the fishes. They have survived, the experts said, because of their persistence and ability to adapt.
"I don't know that I'd say La Cosa Nostra was what it was in its heyday but I wouldn't say by any means it's gone away," said Richard Frankel, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office.
Mr. Frankel, who supervises the FBI's organized crime squads in New York, said he believes the city's Cosa Nostra has quietly staged a comeback and is now more powerful than it has been in years.
Despite the waves of prosecutions, each of the five mafia "borgatas"—the Genovese, Gambino, Luchese, Bonanno and Colombo—"still exists and each still has its hierarchy," said John Buretta, a former federal prosecutor who headed the organized-crime unit for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn.
One recent indictment that attests to organized crime's staying power, authorities said, is the Jan. 23 arrest of 78-year-old Vincent "Vinnie" Asaro, in connection with the 1978 Lufthansa heist of $6 million in cash and jewels at John F. Kennedy Airport.
The reputed Bonanno captain and four other reputed Bonanno members were charged with running a loan-sharking, extortion, gambling and murder enterprise from 1969—nine years before the Lufthansa robbery—to the present day. The defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The five families are no longer the federal government's top criminal concern in New York City. Counterterrorism and other criminal networks—such as Russian, Balkan, Asian and African organized syndicates that generally coexist peacefully and sometimes collaborate with the five families—have attracted investigators away from La Cosa Nostra, Mr. Frankel said.
Years ago, the FBI had a squad dedicated to each family. Now there are two: C-5, which handles the Genoveses, Bonannos and Colombos, and C-16, assigned to the Gambinos and Lucheses. A 2010 audit by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found that after Sept. 11, 2001, organized crime is the FBI's sixth priority behind terrorism, espionage, cybercrime, public corruption and protecting civil rights.
At the NYPD, amid budget squeezes, the current 5,000-detective headcount is about 2,000 below the 2002 level. There has been an "across the board" reduction of detectives in precincts and specialty squads including organized crime, said Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD's detectives' union. The number of detectives investigating organized crime has remained stable in the past three years, though. The NYPD didn't return a request for comment.
As the ranks of organized-crime investigators decreased, the mafia adapted to law enforcement's investigative techniques. Unlike the in-your-face approach that media mob star John Gotti adopted in the 1980s, today's mafia has reverted to its roots and tried to become as invisible as possible, officials and experts say.
For instance, the Genovese family, which has traditionally been the largest, most powerful and most secretive, now likely uses a rotating panel of leaders to run day-to-day affairs to avoid any one boss from being targeted by prosecutors, Mr. Buretta said. Other crime families use a "street boss" model where lesser-known mobsters carry out the orders of imprisoned leaders, he said.
Today's crime families are also less territorial and more open to collaboration than the mobsters of past decades, said Inspector John Denesopolis, the commanding officer of the New York Police Department's Organized Crime unit. "As long as they are earning, they are less concerned," he said.
Another emerging trend in the past several years, Mr. Denesopolis said, is mafia families emulating the need-to-know tactics seen in terrorist cells—one group in the family isn't made aware of what crimes another group in the same family is involved in.
What hasn't changed much since the 1930s are the five families' bread and butter crimes: loan-sharking, extortion, gambling, narcotics and infiltrating organized labor, Mr. Frankel said. They aren't as involved in sophisticated financial frauds—such as stock pump-and-dump scams—as they were in the early 1990s, Mr. Frankel said. But they are resourceful when it comes to new opportunities, he added, citing recent prosecutions of offshore Internet gambling websites and trafficking in Viagra.
Hundreds of inducted members in the five families are still behind these enterprises. The Genovese lead with close to 200 such "made" men, while the Colombos and Lucheses are the smallest, with about 100 each, said Jerry Capeci, a longtime crime reporter who operates the website Gang Land News. The numbers are less than years ago but not substantially so, he said. There are also several thousand additional criminal associates, Mr. Denesopolis said.
Leadership ranks are also being replenished as many "sophisticated, capable" mafia veterans who are currently incarcerated will soon complete their sentences, said Mark Feldman, chief assistant Brooklyn District Attorney and a former chief of the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's organized-crime unit.
Law-enforcement officials say one trend has worked in their favor lately: the growing frequency of soldiers and leaders breaking oath of Omerta—the pledge allegiance to the family and agreeing to a code of honor that includes a vow of silence if arrested.
In 2004, Bonanno leader Joseph Massino shocked the underworld by becoming a government witness—the first head of one of the five families to do so. He has testified or provided information against other accused mobsters in several cases, including in the latest Lufthansa heist charges. He testified against reputed Bonanno leader Vincent Basciano, who was convicted in 2011 on racketeering and murder charges.
"Joe's cooperation had to shake the confidence in the code of honor in as dramatic a way as any cooperator ever had," Mr. Buretta said.
A recently retired NYPD detective who worked organized crime for more than 20 years, said old-timers followed the rules "to the letter" and would never talk to him or his partners after an arrest. "With these young kids, the rules are just suggestions," he said.
"They're younger, a lot of them have young kids and they don't want to look at 25 to life," he said. We sit them down and tell them, 'Listen, the next the time you pick up your baby daughter she's going to be 27 years old.' "

Huge Drug Pipeline Run by Three Mafia Gangs Disrupted, Feds Say

(NEW YORK) -- Two dozen suspected drug traffickers linked to the Gambino and Bonanno crime families and the Italian crime syndicate known as ‘Ndrangheta were arrested Tuesday in New York and Italy during a coordinated American-Italian operation that authorities said disrupted a multi-continent drug pipeline.

The raids targeted a network of drug smuggling that stretched from Guyana to Italy to Malaysia to the United States.  There were seven arrests in New York and 17 arrests near the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro, a notorious hub of organized crime.

An undercover agent recorded alleged Gambino associate Franco Lupoi and others plotting to transport 500 kilograms of cocaine hidden in shipments of frozen fish or pineapples, according to court documents.  Prosecutors found $7 million worth of cocaine hidden in crates of pineapples and coconut milk.

“American and Italian law enforcement determined that the ‘Ndrangheta aimed to move deadly narcotics across international boundaries, attempting to build a bridge of criminality and corruption to stretch from South America to Italy and back to New York,” said Marshall Miller, a prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York.

Lupoi has close criminal ties to both the Gambino organized crime family and the ‘Ndrangheta, an Italian criminal organization akin to the Mafia in Sicily and the Camorra in Naples, prosecutors said.  The ‘Ndrangheta clan is little known outside of Italy, but is headquartered in the southern region of Calabria and has grown to be the most powerful organized crime group in Italy and some believe the most powerful in the world.

In New York, Lupoi is allegedly associated with Pietro “Tall Pete” Inzerillo, reputed to be a soldier in the Gambino crime family, and Frank Cali, allegedly the underboss of the Gambino crime family.  In Italy, Lupoi is allegedly connected to the  ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization through his father-in-law, Italian defendant Nicola Antonio Simonetta, and his cousin, Italian defendant Francesco Ursino.

“Lupoi exploited these underworld connections to link his criminal associates in New York with those in Calabria, forming conspiracies to traffic heroin and cocaine,” court records said.

In September 2012, Lupoi was recorded explaining to an undercover agent that he had contacts in Guyana who could arrange the shipment of cocaine to his contacts in Italy, court records state.  Lupoi said he had “a great connect” who could “pack it [cocaine] into the fish,” and then “freeze it in a block,” according to court records. 
Lupoi told the undercover agent that the supplier was a “Mexican with the cartels” who would ship it from Guyana to Italy, and possibly on to Canada where Lupoi had “buyers to buy it up in Canada,” the documents state.

Prosecutors identified those arrested in New York as ‘Ndrangheta member Raffaele Valente, also known as “Lello,” Gambino associate Franco Lupoi, Bonanno associate Charles Centaro, also known as “Charlie Pepsi,” Dominic Ali, Alexander Chan, Christos Fasarakis, and Jose Alfredo Garcia, also known as “Freddy.”  They are due in federal court in Brooklyn to face charges related to narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.

“As alleged, ‘Ndrangheta’s clan members conspired with members of the Gambino organized crime family in New York in an attempt to infiltrate our area with their illegal activities,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos.

New Rules for mafia 'made men' - only true blood italians need apply

By Donal MacIntyre

The recent hits taken by the Italian mafia in the U.S. courts has forced a change in the way that mobsters are ‘made’ and incorporated into the family firms that still run the mob, from Little Italy in New York to the old mafia heartland of Los Vegas.
As every avid mafia movie watcher knows being a ‘made man’ is the ultimate demonstration of trust and loyalty but as some of these men have turned whistleblower to the F.B.I. the families have changed the rules to protect themselves.
The acceptance of new ‘family’ members is now strictly limited by the mob.
While there is no list of mob members within families, it is now an accepted edict that a new member can only be inducted to replace a dead one.
In addition, each mafia family is allowed to appoint two new ‘made men’ at Yuletide, as a festive gift.
In a change to the old rules, all new inductees have to Italian parenthood on both sides where as previously, an Italian father was sufficient for acceptance.
All prospective members must be presented to the other key mafia families who are allowed a fortnight to object to the name. Any informants cannot be replaced as ‘made men’ until they are killed or die naturally.
According to the former Bonanno underboss Salvatore Vitale sometimes the families would claim they had lost members they never had to induct replacements.
“I would make up names of dead guys so we could induct more members than the rules allow,” adding that on at least one occasion, he got names “out of the phone book”, New York mafia commentator, Jerry Capeci, writes in the New York magazine.
The major families are the Bonanno family with up to 145 members, the Colombo family with 85 active servicemen, the Genovese Family with 225 loyal henchmen, the Luchese Family
with 120 members and the De Cavalcante Family with 50 soldiers to the name. 
While the names are old, there is still force in the old families yet and these new rules will protect them and their earnings for some time to come.  Capeci calculated the numbers from Court records and testimonies arising out of recent mafia court cases. 

Mobster Says Publisher Copped His Book

By MATT REYNOLDS      LOS ANGELES (CN) - A mobster turned snitch claims in court that Simon & Schuster stole rights to his 2009 autobiography by registering the copyright under his co-author's and former publisher's name.
     Kenny "Kenji" Gallo, who claims to be a former member of the Colombo Crime Family, says Simon & Schuster in 2010 registered the copyright to "Breakshot: A Life in the 21st Century American Mafia," by Gallo and Matthew Randazzo.
     Randazzo wrote the book with Gallo after reading the reformed mobster's blog Hollywoodmafia, written while Gallo was in the witness protection program.
     The Japanese-Italian-American says he already had a first draft of the book and 1,000 blog posts to draw upon by the time Randazzo entered the picture.
     Gallo sued the book's first publisher, Phoenix Books, claiming it released the book without paying him and then sold reprint rights to Simon & Schuster for $10,000. They settled that one, according to the new complaint.
     Randazzo assigned his copyright in the work to Gallo in November 2010, but Simon & Schuster's paperback credits Randazzo and Phoenix as copyright holders, according to the lawsuit.
     He accuses the publisher of trading on his "celebrity status and notoriety as a former high-ranking mobster."
     A blurb on the back cover calls the book "The explosive true story of one of the most controversial, violent and unlikely gangsters in American history ... and how he flipped to help the FBI bring the mob down."
     Gallo estimates that Simon & Schuster has sold thousands of copies of the paperback through its division Pocket Star. He claims the publisher blew off his complaints that he owns rights to the book.
     "To date, Gallo has absolutely no control over the paperback book sales of his autobiography (which took him four years to write) or any way to earn money from said sales - or even any way to profit from the paperback edition's rights - because Simon & Schuster refuses to communicate with him," the lawsuit states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Gallo claims that Hollywood won't touch a screenplay he wrote based on his life story because of uncertainty over who owns the copyright.
     "Because of this 'limbo' status, Gallo is also unable to seek republication of the paperback with other publishers, much less for a sequel based on the book, despite expressed interest to that end. Nor is he willing to risk self-publishing the book through or though his own popular blog website until those matters are formally resolved," the lawsuit states.
     He seeks an injunction and damages for copyright infringement.
     Gallo is represented by Abraham Labbad of Pasadena.


Gambino, Bonanno family mobsters arrested in connection to Italian Mafia: FBI As the alleged New York gangsters were arrested, Italian authorities said they pinched 17 members of 'Ndrangheta overseas.


The cocaine would sleep with the fishes.
The feds have broken up the marriage of a dreaded Italian crime syndicate and the U.S. Gambino crime family that schemed to smuggle cocaine stashed inside frozen fish across the Atlantic Ocean.
Eight reputed mobsters with ties to the Gambino and Bonanno crime families were arrested early Tuesday in New York by the FBI, while in a coordinated raid in Italy police rounded up 17 members of the Calabria-based ’Ndrangheta crime organization.
“We feel we have put an end to ’Ndrangheta’s attempt to gain a foothold in the New York area,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Officials described Gambino associate Franco Lupoi, 44, as the linchpin of the unholy alliance with ’Ndrangheta through his father-in-law, Nicola Antonio Simonetta, and a cousin, Francesco Ursino. Both are members of the group that in recent years has eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia and Neapolitan Camorra in influence and wealth.
Simonetta and Ursino were among those busted in Italy.
Lupoi, a co-owner of the Royal Crown Bakery in Bensonhurst, hatched a global drug-trafficking scheme with Alexander Chan, 46, and Jose Alfredo (Freddy) Garcia, 47, that originated in Brooklyn and stretched its tentacles to South America and the boot of Italy, according to court papers

During a two-year joint investigation by the FBI and Italian police, Lupoi proposed to an undercover agent that he had assembled an ethnically diverse crew — “a Chinese guy, a Greek guy and a Mexican with the cartels” — put together to ship cocaine hidden inside frozen fish from Guyana to Calabria.
The ’Ndrangheta crew had taken control of a fish wholesaler in the Italian port city of Gioia Tauro to receive the illicit seafood and also had a corrupt customs official in its pocket to guarantee passage.
“It takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to thaw out,” Lupoi said of the fishy business.
The undercover agent recorded the three discussing their connections to Mexican drug cartels and their plot to move 500 kilograms of cocaine in frozen fish.
They abandoned the fish plan in late 2012 and then plotted to stash the coke inside pineapples, but that idea fell by the wayside, too. The undercover purchased smaller quantities of cocaine and heroin from Lupoi in Brooklyn and in Italy.
Co-defendant Raffaele (Lello) Valente, 42, a reputed ’Ndrangheta member, is charged with selling a gun with a silencer to the undercover for $5,000 in Lupoi’s bakery.

Christos Fasarakis, 42, a manager at a Brooklyn bank; Dominic Ali, 55; Anthony Drossos, 40; and reputed Bonanno associate Charles (Charlie Pepsi) Centaro, 50, were charged with money laundering. Federal prosecutors said Lupoi is “associated” with Gambino underboss Frank Cali and capo Pietro (Tall Pete) Inzerillo, but they were not charged.
FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said that mob associates do not usually carry out rogue operations of this magnitude and that the Gambino hierarchy “probably knew, but that’s part of the ongoing investigation.” All defendants pleaded not guilty to the 15-count indictment in Brooklyn Federal Court.
If convicted, Lupoi, Chan and Garcia — charged with narcotics trafficking — face sentences of life in prison. Ali, Centaro, Drossos and Gasarakis could be sentenced to up to more than 20 years in prison, and Valente faces 10 years.
The Gambino and Bonanno families have long-established ties to the Sicilian Maia, but organized crime experts have said that the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate in recent years has eclipsed the Sicilians and Neapolitan Camorra in power and wealth.
Much of the crime group’s illicit money is derived from drug trafficking.
The term ’Ndrangheta is derived from the Italian term for “little cells” and swears allegiance to patron saint St. Michael the Archangel.
The five New York Mafia families claim to abide by a rule prohibiting rackets involving illegal narcotics, but the rule has been violated time and again.
Pope Francis himself addressed the syndicate's brutality just two weeks ago,when he urged the men behind a brutal execution-style hit that left three dead - including a 3-year-old boy - to come forward and repent.
The 'Ndrangehta is widely suspected to be behind that particular instance of brutality.
With Stephen Rex Brown

Mob Soldier Caught with 65 Pounds of Pot in Montville, Police Say

Carlo Taccetta, suspected soldier in the Lucchese crime family, faces drug possession and distribution charges.
The son of a high-ranking member of the Lucchese crime family was arrested Saturday in Montville with 65 pounds of marijuana, State Police said.
Carlo Taccetta, 41, of Whippany, was charged with possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute following a motor vehicle stop on West Bloomfield Avenue at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Sgt. Brian Polite said in a statement released Sunday.
Taccetta is a soldier in the Lucchese crime family and his father, Michael, is a capo, Polite said. Michael "Mad Dog" Taccetta, 66, is incarcerated in South Woods State Prison on racketeering, extortion and conspiracy charges.
The stop of Carlo Taccetta's Dodge Ram pickup truck was the result of "an ongoing investigation," Polite said. Taccetta granted troopers permission to search his vehicle where they discovered the 65 pounds of marijuana, Polite said.
Taccetta was remanded to the Morris County Correctional Facility on $75,000 bail with no 10 percent option. The Division of Criminal Justice will prosecute the case, Polite said.

Vincent Asaro of Bonanno crime family brought down by snitching cousin

One of the informants who helped the FBI bust Vincent Asaro for the $6 million crime portrayed in Scorsese's 'Goodfellas' was he own cousin.


Asaro and his accuser shared a relationship dating back decades. Court papers indicated the duo were conspirators in the 1978 Lufthansa robbery that netted $6 million.
The end of Vincent Asaro’s long, lucrative and lethal time with the Bonanno crime family began in a Queens basement.
An FBI dig there last June 17 came on directions from Asaro’s cousin — once a fellow gangster, now an informer looking to land in federal witness protection.
By the time the remains of Paul Katz were unearthed, 44 years after his death, the Bonanno capo was well on his way to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday.
The informant wore a wire for years to collect evidence on his well-connected cousin Asaro, bringing down the 78-year-old gangster and four associates.
Asaro and his accuser shared a relationship dating back decades. Court papers indicated the duo were conspirators in the 1978 Lufthansa robbery that netted $6 million.
The informant, identified only as CW-1, recorded several conversations with Asaro dating back as early as Feb. 17, 2011.

Police seize Rome pizzerias, cafes linked to mafia

ROME (AP) — Italian police on Wednesday seized 27 pizzerias, cafes and other eateries in the heart of Rome as well as other businesses elsewhere in a probe highlighting the seemingly legitimate business fronting for organized crime in places beyond the Neapolitan mobsters' base.
The national anti-Mafia prosecutor's office said other confiscated properties included gas stations and parking lots near Naples train stations, allegedly used to launder Camorra syndicate revenue from drug trafficking, extortion and loan-sharking.
The office of Franco Roberti, Italy's national prosecutor in the fight against organized crime, described the operation as the most important investigation ever into the complex criminal activity of the Camorra's Contini crime family. It estimated at 250 million euros ($340 million) the total value of all the confiscated businesses, as well as homes, cars, land, bank accounts and other property which authorities suspect were obtained through illicit activity.
Ninety arrest warrants issued, some of them for mobsters already in jail.
Roberti's office said Edoardo Contini, who has been jailed since 2007 after years as a fugitive, was a mastermind of the business network for money laundering. His wife was arrested on suspicion of loan-sharking and extortion against a family of clothing merchants in the Naples area, Roberti's office said.
While shaking down Naples businesses in the Camorra's backyard is a generations-old activity, the suspect pizzerias and coffee bars in the historic heart of Rome underscored how the organized crime clans have increasingly penetrated the economic fabric of the capital.
On Wednesday, Carabinieri military police combed through eateries in the heart of Rome, in search of evidence. Pizzerias and ice cream parlors involved are near monuments and squares heavily frequented by tourists and Romans alike, some of them in the vicinity of the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.
Carabinieri Cmdr. Salvatore Luongo said the Contini family had extended its roots to the Rome area in the 1990s. The clan was "laundering its money through these pizzerias that were using a double accounting system," Luongo said.
Authorities said one of 90 suspects named in warrants jumped to his death from his fourth-floor Rome apartment when police came to arrest him. Roberti's office said the man was suspected of loan-sharking and extortion.
The probe also uncovered evidence that the Camorra clan had a network of clothing businesses whose products were manufactured in Prato, an area in Tuscany where past probes had found the Camorra dumped toxic refuse in its illicit waste-dumping business. Other places in Tuscany coming under scrutiny were near Pisa, Lucca and a posh stretch of coastal resorts.
Crucial to the vast extent of the money-laundering through legitimate businesses was the use of people without criminal records who allowed the mobsters to use their names on property documentation to avoid the immediate scrutiny of authorities, the prosecutors said.

Mobster begs but still gets slapped with jail time

The son-in-law of jailed Colombo crime-family boss Carmine Persico was slapped Tuesday with a 15-month prison term for racketeering and gambling raps, despite his pleas for probation.
Mob associate Angelo Spata, 39, faced up to 31 months behind bars after pleading guilty to extorting vendors at the Santa Rosalia festival in Brooklyn and taking part in illegal gambling.
Spata — who used his potent family connections to ascend the Colombo ranks — lobbied Brooklyn federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto for a no-jail deal, and pointed to his charitable works and family responsibilities as grounds for leniency.
“Hopefully, Your Honor will give me the opportunity to take care of my three young children,” Spata told the court as his tearful brood looked on nervously from the gallery.
Spata aggravated prosecutors while out on bail when he allegedly lifted $164 in lighting accessories from a Brooklyn Home Depot. That case is still pending in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Federal prosecutor Gina Parlovecchio pushed for incarceration Tuesday and argued that Spata had more juice in the crime crew than he was letting on.
“He is a more powerful member for the Colombo crime family than he has sought to portray in these proceedings,” she said. “These are serious crimes that warrant serious punishment.”
Matsumoto opted for the lower end of federal sentencing guidelines but made sure Spata tasted prison in handing down the 15-month sentence as well as a $7,500 fine.

The Mob Is Secretly Dumping Nuclear Waste Across Italy and Africa

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Gawker Media

Organized crime is famously good at exploiting time-sensitive industries like construction, fishing, and-of course-garbage removal. But revelations about millions of tons of toxic waste buried haphazardly and illegally by the mob are causing an uproar in southern Italy, where cancer rates are nearly 50 percent higher than the average in certain areas.
It all began in the 1980s, when the Camorra mafia-one of Italy's oldest and largest groups-took control of garbage removal in the southern Italian state of Campania. Further south, in Calabria, another mob organization-the 'Ndrangheta-was getting into the same business. You see, trash is the perfect racket for the mob: It's easy to infiltrate, it's a desperate necessity for every citizen, and it's not terribly hard to do. As Michelle Tsai explained in a post called "Why the Mafia Loves Garbage," this holds true for criminal organizations all over the world, from Taiwan to New Jersey to Italy.
In Italy, where as many as one in five businesses is controlled by mafia, the long-term effects of the garbage racket weren't immediately clear, although it caused periodic crises that filled the Naples streets with trash. But over time, further north, the rural Casal di Principe region has become known for the massive amount of garbage strewn across its once-beautiful landscape.
Campania is now known as "the Land of Fires," for the garbage fires that regularly ignite. In his 2006 book about Naples' organized crime, Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System, Roberto Saviano describes the region as a place where "any space with an owner can become a dump site."
In this world, the land is so unstable from dumping that concrete scaffolds must be built to hold up houses and buildings, and empty space is thought of us "a giant carpet" to sweep things-specifically, industrial chemicals and radioactive waste-under:
Desperate landowners sell off their fields, and the clans acquire new landfill sites at low-very low-costs. Meanwhile, people are constantly dying of tumors. A slow and silent massacre, difficult to monitor since those who want to live as long as possible flee to the hospitals in the north.
The lungs fester, the trachea starts to redden, a trip to the hospital for a CAT scan where the black spots betray the presence of a tumor. Ask the ill of Campania where they're from and they'll often reveal the entire path of toxic waste.
The rates of cancer in some parishes are 47 percent higher than the national average-and that's how the region acquired its second nickname, after "the Land of Fires": The Triangle of Death. According to The New York Times' new report on the dumping, some 10 million tons of toxic and nuclear waste have been buried here, from as far away as Germany.
The details of the illegal toxic dumping schemes are still emerging. In one story, the Times tells of mob employees clad in police uniforms to supervise illegal night dumps. And in 2008, the US Navy published an internal study proving that much of the water in the region was too contaminated to drink. Here's how one police commander recalled a wiretapped conversation between two mob members:
"We're polluting our own house and our own land," the mobster said. "What are we going to drink?"
"You idiot," the boss replied. "We'll drink mineral water."
Indeed, in Gomorrah, Saviano explains how humans-even criminal ones-could willfully do so much damage to their own land. "The life of a boss is short," he writes. "To flood an area with toxic waste and circle one's city with poisonous mountain ranges is a problem only for someone with a sense of social responsibility and a long-term concept of power."
Italian politicians are now attempting to crack down on the dumping, digging up waste and sending in the Army to gain control of the situation earlier this month. They describe the mob as "the environmental mafia," or eco-mafia, a term that's been used to describe the crisis for nearly a decade. In fact, many of the waste disposal companies involved in the dumping have "green" names, like Ecoverde. Italy is now even using specialty drones to spy on illegal dumping sites.
It gets worse. These companies often dumped all over the region-including the coastlines of Somalia. Reports of a guns-for-dumping scheme circulated. A tsunami in 2005 turned up hundreds of barrels along the shore, and the next year, the UN confirmed that the waste included "uranium radioactive waste, lead, cadmium, mercury, industrial, hospital, chemical, leather treatment and other toxic waste."
But a 2010 Greenpeace published a report called The Toxic Ship alleged something far more widespread and systematic-a global toxic waste trade that pushed radioactive waste from developed countries to developing countries:
Waste containers were shipped away following a path of least resistance and weakest governance, ending up in remote areas of countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Lebanon, Somalia and the Congo. Toxic waste was dumped on Nigerian and Haitian beaches.
Along with similar reports from the UN and other watch groups, a picture of this invisible network is starting to emerge: A hidden, ad-hoc economic system that is ubiquitous yet rarely observed or reported.
You might feel very far away from this particular crisis, but it turns out that we all might be accessories. Last month, Interpol published a warning about millions of tons of toxic e-waste arriving in Africa and Asia from developed countries, too. "Much is falsely classified as 'used goods' although in reality it is non-functional," said an Interpol spokesperson to The Guardian. "It is often diverted to the black market and disguised as used goods to avoid the costs associated with legitimate recycling."
So not only has refuse from Europe's nuclear power plant found a home off the coast of Africa or Italy-the minerals and metals from your last computer, your fridge, or your phone might have, too.

Weapons cache seized by Japanese police, most likely yakuza arsenal

Jan 28, 2014 John Hofilena National

On Monday, Kanagawa Prefectural Police announced that it had seized pistols, a rifle and ammunition that is most likely a part of an arsenal of weapons owned by the Japanese mob – more popularly known as the yakuza.
The seizure of the weapons cache actually took place in December of 2013, and the prefectural police revealed that they had taken into their custody 18 hand guns which included Smith & Wesson revolvers and Colt automatic pistols, a military rifle and 670 rounds of ammunition – all found inside a home in an unidentified location in the prefecture. The police were able to locate the stash with the help of an anonymous tip, who informed them that the local yakuza were stockpiling weapons in the said house.

Responding to the information on the tip, a search operation was then conducted, with a view to confiscating the weapons for violations of the Swords and Firearms Control Law. As of the moment, there have been no arrests announced connected to this operation. The location of the home was also not revealed, as the investigation is still ongoing, and the information may have potential impact on the investigation, the prefectural police said. This stash was similar in nature to the one discovered in June of 2007 at a home in Yokohama, where prefectural police seized 31 pistols and 500 rounds of ammunition.

A Japanese Mafia In Crisis Banks On Abenomics

Yakuza, Japan's notorious crime syndicate, is trying to emerge from two decades of economic stagnation, and is betting on the much-discussed stimulus from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Christoph Neidhart

TOKYO — Like Japan itself, the country’s mafia — known as the yakuza — is still facing a long-term economic crisis. Its income has dwindled over the past two decades, and now the world of organized crime, just like the legal economy, is setting its hopes on Abenomics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s strategy to stimulate the economy by printing money without addressing the real problems.
Until recently, the yakuza and the Japanese economy followed almost parallel curves. When the economy was booming, organized crime flourished alongside it. But now the yakuza is facing a threat to its very existence, as recent years have seen successive prefectures introduce laws forbidding companies from doing business with yakuza members, most notably in the banking sector.
Before, yakuza members were often given preferential treatment, but the new law is forcing many companies to cut their longstanding ties with the organization. So far no sentence or fine has been imposed for violations, so companies are not motivated by fear of punishment. Instead, they want to protect their reputations, which would be severely damaged if their dealings with the yakuza were made public. Clients would flee as they did from the Mizuho bank, one of Japan’s three largest, when its ties to the yakuza were revealed.
This indirect fight against organized crime is so important because in Japan it’s not actually illegal to be in the yakuza. Many of the 63,000 yakuza members are known by name, and their leader is well connected in politics, even in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. That’s why any law criminalizing yakuza membership wouldn’t stand a chance in parliament.
But Tokyo is taking action against “asocial groups” such as the yakuza, mainly because of pressure from abroad. President Barack Obama has characterized the yakuza a “transnational criminal organization,” giving American authorities the right to confiscate yakuza property. Many bank accounts have already been frozen.
Protection money, drug smuggling and trafficking
The yakuza used to consist of market traders and illegal gambling organizations. Their main sources of income were extorting protection money, drug dealing, smuggling, pimping, trafficking and loan sharking. They are also suspected of money laundering and having sold fake money, fake branded cigarettes and drugs to North Korea. But yakuza members are also subject to a strict honor code: They are not allowed to steal or cause harm to ordinary citizens.
Since the first anti-yakuza law was introduced in 1991, all regional branches of the organization have increasingly expanded into legal industries. They own property and run temp agencies. They are involved in waste recycling and even in the clean-up project at Fukushima. They control large swathes of the entertainment industry and speculate on the stock exchange, where it is said they manipulate share prices. This is all public knowledge, and people in Japan turn a blind eye as long as no one names names.
But that all changed last September when one of the subsidiaries of Mizuho Bank was accused of granting yakuza members consumer credit to buy cars. At first the bank claimed the scandal was caused by carelessness on the part of low-level employees, but it was soon forced to admit that its president was aware of the company’s dealings with mafia members.
The Financial Services Agency instructed the bank to cut all ties with its yakuza clients and is now conducting an investigation into Mizuho, along with Japan’s other two major banks. But a former banker, who did not wish to be named, claims this is the wrong approach, as the yakuza prefer small banks.
That was certainly true in the case of the Mizuho subsidiary. The yakuza members only became clients of the large Mizuho Bank when it acquired the small Orient Bank three years ago. The banker claims it is likely that all small banks that give out consumer credit have ties to the yakuza. A spokesperson for Mizuho announced that the bank sees no alternative but to close all suspicious bank accounts and credit lines. It has been reported that other financial institutions have also told their gangster clients to withdraw their assets in cash.
When Shinsei Bank recently revealed that it had found “dozens of yakuza clients” on its books, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso praised the bank for its “openness.” Economic newspaper Nikkei asked why the foreign press was writing about a yakuza scandal. It argued that it’s difficult for a bank to determine who is a yakuza member and that banks were afraid their employees would be threatened if they refused credit to yakuza members.

As is often the case in Japan, when private enterprise is threatened, the state is quick to jump to its defense.