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Feds charge alleged Mafia capo



Federal grand jury indicts Merokean for extortion and loan-sharking

A federal grand jury last week charged Luca DiMatteo, 70, of Merrick, with extortion, loan-sharking and racketeering conspiracy. The indictment accuses DiMatteo of serving as an acting captain in the Colombo crime family, one of New York’s five Mafia families.
DiMatteo was charged alongside his nephew, Luca “Lukey” DiMatteo, 46, of Brooklyn, and another man, John Shields, also known as Scott Greco, 46, of Atlantic Beach. The DiMatteos extorted a business owner for more than 10 years, squeezing him for $100 to $200 every other week until he closed the business in June, said Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The indictment covers January 2009 to June 2015. Uncle and nephew also engaged in loan-sharking and racketeering conspiracy, Currie said.
Lukey and Shields were also charged with running an illegal gambling club in Brooklyn, Currie said.
Luca and Shields were arraigned on July 16 at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, where Lukey was also scheduled to be arraigned on July 17.
A news release from Currie’s office described the elder DiMatteo as a long-time Colombo soldier who “for several years” has been acting captain of a crew of Colombo associates.
In a letter to the court, federal prosecutors said that a cooperating witness recorded 2011 conversations with Luca and Colombo members Joseph Carna and Vincent Manzo that indicate Luca’s status as an acting captain.
“We are committed to defeating organized crime,” Currie said in the release. “We will not tolerate the use of violence or threats of violence to extort local businesspeople, and we will shut down illegal gambling businesses in our neighborhoods.”
Diego Rodriguez, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, echoed Currie. “As alleged, Luca DiMatteo and Lukey DiMatteo picked up a check every couple of weeks from a local business for more than 10 years, but it wasn’t a paycheck — rather, they picked up a shakedown check,” Rodriguez said in the release.
Flora Edwards, Luca DiMatteo’s attorney, did not return a call for comment.

What Happens When Foster Kids ‘Age Out’ of the System

Judge says reputed mob member can return to work in Cleveland




A Cuyahoga County judge says a reputed member of New York’s Gambino crime family and former son-in-law of John Gotti can resume working at the scrap yards he operates in southeastern Cleveland.
Cleveland police arrested Carmine “The Bull” Agnello, 55, of Bentleyville, on July 15 for what authorities say was a $3 million scam involving stolen cars and scrap metal. A common pleas judge freed Agnello on bond but ordered him to stay away from his scrap yards. A different judge on Thursday said Agnello can return to work.
Agnello hasn’t been formally charged. Prosecutors said they’ll seek charges at a grand jury. Agnello was married for 17 years to reality TV star Victoria Gotti, the daughter of the late crime boss. They divorced in 2002.

 — From wire reports

Mobster Agnello sues City of Cleveland for illegally seizing property



Kim Wendel 
6:32 p.m. EDT July 23, 2015

Agnello 55, of Bentleyville, has ties to the Gambino crime family in New York City and is the ex-son-in-law of the late mobster John Gotti.
CLEVELAND -- Attorneys Roger Synenberg and Ian Friedman, representing Carmine "The Bull" Agnello, filed a civil suit against the City of Cleveland to get returned the equipment that was confiscated in a raid Friday from Eagle 1.
Although first filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, the civil right suit was moved to U.S. District Court Wednesday (July 22) at the city's request.
The suit claims that police illegally seized property during the raid, according to court records.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office sent the following statement: "Agnello's claim that America's Civil Rights Act was written to protect Mafia enterprises is ridiculous and self-serving, coming from a violent ex-con who is a made member of the New York Gambino crime family. Next, bank robbers will claim the Civil Rights Act allows them to keep their guns pending trial."

The suit wants the city to immediately return the following property:
•           Three (3) front loaders
•           Three (3) fork lifts
•           One (1) automobile crusher
•           One (1) 2008 Cadillac Escalade vehicle
•           All computers, monitors, DVR systems and servers seized
•           The briefcase, wallet and papers of Mr. Agnello
•           $20,000 in U.S. currency seized from the property of Eagle I
•           $5,038 in U.S. currency seized from the person of Mr. Agnello
•           $21,310 in U.S. currency seized from the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Agnello
•           $3,675 in U.S. currency seized from Anthony Giangrande, an employee of Eagle I.
Agnello 55, of Bentleyville, has ties to the Gambino crime family in New York City and is the ex-son-in-law of the late mobster John Gotti.
Agnello was arrested last week at the auto towing business on E. 116th Street and Harvard Avenue in Cleveland following an 18-month investigation dubbed "Operation Goodfella."
He was released on a $100,000 personal bond and is required to wear a GPS monitor and cannot visit Eagle 1.
Charity Towing/Eagle Auto Parts is registered in the name of his wife Danielle. Danielle is the daughter of mobster Mourad "Moose" Topalia.
Agnello was arrested for theft, money laundering, conspiracy, and corrupting sports.
Officers uncovered multiple weapons during a search of Agnello's Bentleyville home, as well as evidence of illegal dumping at Agnello's East 116th Street scrap metal operation.
Agnello, who has a prior record of federal convictions, is precluded by law from owning or possessing firearms.
These crimes were uncovered during an extensive covert investigation conducted by the Cleveland Division of Police Intelligence Unit, with assistance from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office Public Corruption Unit.
Cleveland police also said that, within the last three years, they observed a spike in auto thefts with no recovery of the stolen vehicles. As a result, an investigation was initiated and multiple scrapyards were identified as likely participants in illegal activity.
The investigation focused on Agnello due to the scale of Agnello's scrap metal operation and the amount of cars processed at Agnello's scrap yards.
The investigation revealed that, between 2014 and the present; Agnello systemically defrauded a regional scrap metal processing facility for more than $3 million.


Former Gambino family boss dies in Stamford


Former Gambino family boss dies in Stamford

By John Nickerson

STAMFORD — City resident Anthony “The Genius” Megale, who rose to be the underboss of the Gambino crime family during the reign of John Gotti, died at Stamford Hospital Tuesday night.
An employee at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Farmington said Wednesday that Megale’s body had not yet been examined, and therefore a cause of death was not known.
A local law enforcement source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Megale died of a heart attack at 9:30 p.m. on his 62nd birthday. Megale was released from a Pennsylvania federal prison in December after being indicted on 38 extortion charges in 2004.
Megale’s Stamford attorney, Stephan Seeger, confirmed the cause of death was an apparent heart attack.
Megale was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison in September 2006 for his part in a tri-state racketeering enterprise centered in New York State.
Seeger said that in the 15 years he had known and represented Megale, he was always a gentleman.
“This whole mafia folklore is what the public wants to believe, but it detracts from some of his more noteworthy qualities,” Seeger said. “He was a kind man who took care of his wife and kids and he contributed greatly to Stamford and surrounding area communities.”
Seeger said he had spoken to Megale’s family and they they were taking the news hard. He requested privacy to allow them to grieve.
“There has always been a lot more to Tony than any alleged mafia folklore,” he insisted.
Although Megale denied membership in the Gambinos, he was accused by federal prosecutors and police of becoming the second-in-command of the crime family in the early 2000s. The Gambinos, one of the five alleged New York mafia families, has traditionally made Fairfield County, especially Bridgeport, its Connecticut turf. In 1989, Megale admitted to being Gotti’s top man in Connecticut, a confession Seeger said he never meant to make.
Megale was handed a 135-month sentence for extorting thousands of dollars from the owner of a Greenwich restaurant named Valbella, a New Jersey trucking company and a Westchester County, N.Y.-based construction company.
He was among 32 members and associates of the Gambino crime family who were arrested by the FBI in 2005 during a New York crime sweep that involved a decade-long racketeering scheme of violent assault, extortion, loansharking, union embezzlement, illegal gambling, trafficking in stolen property and mail fraud.
Authorities said the crimes were exposed during a three-year investigation, in which an undercover FBI agent infiltrated the Gambinos and made hundreds of secret tape recordings of high-ranking members at sites throughout the Bronx, N.Y., and Westchester County, including the United Hebrew Geriatrics Home in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Former Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate reporter Frank Fedeli, who wrote dozens of articles about Megale while covering the organized crime beat, said Megale was given his mob moniker in a back-handed way.
Fedeli said Megale was dubbed “The Genius” on a federal wiretap by an upset and angry Gotti, who apparently thought Megale was anything but a genius.
Fedeli, now Stamford’s customer service supervisor, said in the late 70s and early 80s Megale ran Tony’s Italian Restaurant on the corner of State and Atlantic streets. While it wasn’t known for its ambiance, the place had a well-respected fra diavolo sauce and was a favorite place for the Gambinos to catch up with their New York brothers. Federal officials and Stamford police knew about the arrangement and kept close tabs on the eatery.
Fedeli said Megale had great help rising through the mafia’s ranks through his uncle, Cosmos Sandalo, who was a very well-liked and low-profile gentleman mobster. Megale, who was a street soldier and known to be a good mob earner, was also helped by a pitched mob war from 1978 to 1981 that rubbed out many of the older established mafia bosses.
“The vacuum was created and he walked into it,” Fedeli said.
Megale’s health declined in the months surrounding his sentencing on federal charges in Connecticut in early 2006. He suffered two heart attacks and underwent two heart surgeries in the spring of that year.

jnickerson@scni.com; stamfordadvocate.com/policereports

Italian police seize Mafia assets worth $2.95b in gambling sting



Italian police say they have seized assets worth $2.95 billion belonging to a powerful organised crime syndicate in the latest sting against the Mafia.
The assets snatched from the 'Ndrangheta Mafia, which controls much of Europe's cocaine trade, included more than 1,500 betting shops, 82 online gambling sites and almost 60 companies, as well as numerous properties, the police said.
Prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 28 people suspected of running the gambling empire and placed 23 others either under house arrest or ordered them to check in with the police.
The crew is believed to have been headed by mobster Mario Gennaro, who made his way up through the mob in the southern region of Calabria from local to regional chief because of the gambling ring's success.
The 'Ndrangheta is considered the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy, having surpassed Sicily's Cosa Nostra and the Naples-based Camorra, thanks to the wealth it has amassed as the principal importer and wholesaler of cocaine produced in Latin America and smuggled into Europe via north Africa and southern Italy.
Profits from the trade, which is worth billions, were laundered through the gambling empire.
The gang "recycled an enormous amount of 'dirty' money through the use of gaming accounts assigned to willing or unwitting people," police said in a statement.
"They bypassed the laws governing this sector, accumulating significant profits that were then reinvested in the acquisition of new companies and licences to further expand their activities."
Eleven of the companies seized were based abroad, in Austria, Malta, Romania and Spain.
Interior minister Angelino Alfano described the sting in Reggio Calabria as "a serious blow to the 'Ndrangheta".
The name 'Ndrangheta comes from the Greek for courage or loyalty and the organisation's tight clan-based structure has made it hard to penetrate.
In a triumph for anti-Mafia hunters, dozens of alleged mobsters linked to the group were detained at the end of last year in and around Milan, Italy's business capital, on charges of criminal association and extortion.
Police released secretly filmed footage of men undergoing initiation into "Santa" [holy] membership, whereby promoted mobsters swore allegiance to their new "wise brothers" and took an "oath of poison" under which they vow to kill themselves should they ever betray fellow clan members.
A separate sting in January led to the seizure of a notebook written in a hieroglyphic-style code which detailed the initiation rites and the 'Ndrangheta's hierarchical structure from "piciotto" [foot soldier] up to Godfather.
It also detailed the clan's own mystical account of how its structure and "code of honour" came into being as a result of three knights landing on an island off Sicily after being banished from Spain for avenging the honour of their raped sister.
The gambling operation came just two weeks after authorities seized goods worth $2.36 billion from a Sicilian mafia family, which included 33 companies, hundreds of houses, villas and buildings, 80 bank accounts, 40 insurance policies and over 40 vehicles.


Chicago-style gangster comes to Deerfield


By Robert Nolin Sun Sentinel

Longtime gangster lived like retiree in Deerfield Beach until his murder
In the early '80s, James Tortoriello lived like a retired grandfather on a quiet Deerfield Beach street. But cops said he was really the South Florida muscle for the Chicago crime family headed by Sam Giancana. After all, his nickname was "Mugsy."
In 1982, two carloads of gunmen sprayed his house with bullets. A week later, the feds raided the same house, seizing guns and ammo from the convicted felon whose criminal record spanned 52 years. They found a pistol on a shelf under Mugsy's trademark derby.
Two years later, Mugsy, age 73, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in a warehouse near the Fort Lauderdale-Holywood International Airport. The murder was never solved.
Two of Mugsy's sons apparently followed in their father's profession. The youngest, Mark Tortoriello, was shot and killed outside a Tamarac home at age 29 during a drug deal. Another, James Tortoriello, also said to be connected to the Chicago mob, was sentenced to three years in federal prison in the early 1980s for theft of paintings that were later found to be forgeries.
Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report

rnolin@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4525

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National police looking to help former yakuza who want to go straight


July 15, 2015
By MORIO CHOH/ Staff Writer

When gangsters want to quit their life of crime and find a regular job, they can just call the cops.
The National Police Agency is launching a nationwide effort to find employment for fed-up former yakuza after the success of such an effort by police in Fukuoka Prefecture.
“Enhancing cooperation with agencies in other prefectures will lead to more opportunities for former yakuza to find jobs,” said a senior Fukuoka prefectural police official. “That will result in an increasing number of 'come-outers' and weaken the organizational strength of yakuza groups.”
Many former yakuza, called "yamebo," prefer to work outside Fukuoka Prefecture for fear of reprisals from the crime groups that they formerly belonged to. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult for support organizations to find them jobs. The nationwide push should help alleviate this problem.
Gangster organizations in Japan had a total of 53,500 members as of the end of last year, including those who do not belong to such groups but have close ties with them, according to the NPA.
Police and other parties across the country helped 2,930 yakuza to withdraw from their gangs between 2010 and 2014.
Recently, an increasing number of gangsters have been leaving the Kudo-kai crime syndicate in particular.
Kudo-kai, a notorious yakuza organization based in Fukuoka Prefecture, had 790 members as of the end of 2014 but 16 members pulled out last year, according to Fukuoka prefectural police. Twenty-four members also left the syndicate between January and June this year.
Since September, the prefectural police has increased its crackdown on Kudo-kai. It arrested the 68-year-old boss, Satoru Nomura, on murder and other charges, as well as nabbing other senior members.
The number of yamebo has increased for Kudo-kai because it has become unable to exert such a strong influence on its members since the crackdown, according to prefectural police officials.
In one case, a member of Kudo-kai was forced to pay 50,000 yen ($404) to the group each month. He was on a tight budget himself so he paid the contribution from welfare benefits his common-law wife received.
The gangster then asked the prefectural police for support to quit Kudo-kai. The cops put the man in touch with a support organization to assist ex-convicts and others who want to find regular jobs, and he eventually joined a construction firm that has an office outside Fukuoka Prefecture and left the prefecture with his family to work there.
This support organization started helping former and active yakuza quit their syndicates and seek jobs in fiscal 2012, and has since succeeded in finding work for 10 people.
The group has 480 partner companies in the prefecture but only 5 percent of them have offices or other facilities outside the region. That's when the NPA stepped in to help out by forming the nationwide task force linking prefectural police departments to such support groups.
The task force, intended to increase the number of companies that accept yamebo as employees and to introduce a system to share related information on a nationwide basis, is to hold its first meeting in Fukuoka on July 16.

By MORIO CHOH/ Staff Writer

Japanese police to rehabilitate ex-Yakuza members


JAPAN YAKUZA | 16 de Julio de 2015
Ampliar
Japanese policemen on the beat in Tokyo, Japan. EFE/File
Tokyo, Jul 16 (EFE).- Japan's National Police Agency, or NPA, has decided to implement programs to rehabilitate former members of the Yakuza, or organized crime syndicate, following the success of a plan in the southern part of the country.
The NPA seeks to replicate on a national level, a model successfully employed in Fukuoka prefecture, a hotspot for Yakuza groups such as Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest one in the country, Asahi newspaper reported Thursday on its website.
The model includes relocation of "yamebo," or those who leave the gangs to other regions of the country, to protect them from reprisals from their former bosses in the syndicate.
"Enhancing cooperation with agencies in other prefectures will lead to more opportunities for former yakuza to find jobs. That will result in an increasing number of 'come-outers' and weaken the organizational strength of yakuza groups," a senior Fukuoka prefectural police official told Asahi.
The police program has been a remarkable success as the Yakuza's numbers in Fukuoka in 2014 reached 1,560 (a fall of 170), its lowest since 1992, when the national law against organized crime came into effect.
The police attributes a part of the success to the weakening of the Kudo-kai, a small but violent group, upon which they have cracked down since September.
Another important factor for rehabilitation has been a facility by which the gangsters can leave their criminal life behind by simply making a call to the police, according to the spokesperson.
The rehabilitation program in Fukuoka includes collaboration between the police and a non-profit, which contacts companies outside the prefecture to help "yamebos" find jobs.
The idea is to imitate the model throughout the country and create a network to have more number of companies willing to employ these former criminals in different parts of the country.


Illinois Gaming Board gave video gambling licenses to felon, illegal operator


By Matthew Walberg
Chicago Tribune

State regulators grant video gambling license to convicted felon, 2 others connected to illegal gambling
Tribune findings question state's vetting process for video gambling
When Illinois lawmakers voted to legalize video gambling six years ago, supporters hailed it as a way to boost state revenues and end decades of illegal video gambling that had long been a lucrative enterprise for organized crime.
Proponents argued that state officials would have the authority to weed out shady characters through video gambling regulation, but the Tribune found the state has issued licenses to people with ties to crime and illegal gambling anyway.
The findings raise questions about the state's vetting process for license applicants and whether many of the same people who illegally operated video gambling machines for years are still part of the process now that the machines are legal.
 Lindenhurst doubles down on video gambling
In one case, the Illinois Gaming Board approved licenses for a man who admitted in federal court he installed illegal terminals in west suburban taverns and then falsified tax documents so he and the bar owners could hide the illicit income.
The board also licensed a man previously charged with felony syndicated gambling for allegedly working with his father to install illegal video gambling machines in McHenry County bars. Those charges were later dropped as part of a plea deal. That man now serves as president of a trade organization that has lobbied for video gambling.
And the board said it didn't know a Rockford restaurant owner it licensed was a convicted felon who once stole $146,000 from a South Carolina hotel.
Nonetheless, Gaming Board officials said they were satisfied they made the right decision in granting licenses to the first two individuals and while national criminal databases did not reveal the third man's criminal past, "database errors like this are rare."After the Tribune found the conviction in a routine records search, the board said it may take action on the license at its Wednesday meeting.
Applicants for video gambling licenses must fill out a disclosure statement, submit to background checks, and pay fees ranging from $50 for terminal handler licenses to $5,000 for terminal operator licenses. Owners of establishments where operators place the machines do not have to pay an application fee but must also submit to a background check. Licensed terminal operators and establishments each pocket 35 percent of the profits from the terminals.
The Gaming Board has broad powers to deny licenses to individuals or businesses based on criminal history, past personal or business activities and associations, or involvement in illegal gambling. To date, the Illinois Gaming Board has issued nearly 7,000 licenses, the bulk of which have gone to about 5,000 establishments where a combined 20,000 machines have been installed. Fewer than 400 applicants have been denied a license.
"It certainly raises very serious questions," said Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, who last year unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation that would have strengthened the Gaming Board's ability to deny licenses.
"At a minimum, the General Assembly should be looking into how the Gaming Board is carrying out its duties and conducting its investigations and making determinations about licenses. Ultimately, this is an issue of public trust."
Vince Dublino didn't want to say anything when he was approached by a reporter last month in one of three bars he owns along a two-block stretch of Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.
"I really don't want to talk about it," he said, as lights from video gambling terminals flickered and flashed behind a low wall at the back of Vinny's Cafe.
He was more talkative at the 2010 trial of Mike "The Large Guy" Sarno and other Chicago Outfit members, where he told a federal jury that he had for years installed illegal video poker machines at local watering holes.
Testifying under a grant of immunity, Dublino said he would visit each bar every week or so to count up the money and split the proceeds with the bar owners after paying off the winners under the table. He told the jury he then underreported the income on the machines on his taxes and on the tax forms he filled out for the taverns he serviced. On top of that, he told jurors he was still operating the so-called gray games at the time of his testimony, when video gambling in Illinois was still illegal.
Dublino testified that in summer 2002, an irate Sarno accosted him outside a Berwyn bar after learning the witness planned to install illegal video gambling machines in a Lyons diner that was on the mobster's turf.
 Woodridge overturns ban on video gambling — on trial basis
"(Sarno) said, 'Hey you (expletive) punk, I wanna talk to you,' " Dublino told jurors. "I said, 'Who you calling a (expletive) punk?' ... He said, 'Stay the (expletive) away from the 47th Street Grill stop.' "
A short time later, two men delivered a cryptic message that "the clocks would run backward" if he didn't back away from his plan. After the visit came a series of threatening, anonymous phone calls. Then, at around 1 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2003, a pipe bomb blast destroyed Dublino's business on 16th Street in Berwyn.
Sarno was convicted of the bombing and is serving a 25-year sentence.
Dublino's admissions of illegal gambling and tax fraud weren't sufficient to bar him from receiving a handler's license from the Gaming Board in 2013. The following year, the board granted him his first establishment license at his bar in Berwyn, Nonna D's, which allows him to pocket 35 percent of the profits from each of the five machines he installed. This year, the board granted establishment licenses allowing him to install five machines each in Vinny's Cafe and another bar he owns.
"The board's investigation revealed no evidence that Dublino is a member of organized crime but did indicate that he cooperated with law enforcement by testifying against organized crime at the trial of Mike Sarno," Gaming Board spokesman Paul Prezioso said in an email response to Tribune questions about Dublino's licenses. "Mr. Dublino's known record does not disqualify him from licensure."
'Mob associates'
The Gaming Board also knew about the 2001 arrest of Philip A. Webb Jr. after a McHenry County Sheriff's Department undercover investigation into illegal video gambling.
Both Webb and his father, Philip R. Webb Sr., owned ASAP Vending & Games Inc., which supplied video gambling machines to local bars and split the proceeds with them, according to police reports.
At the time, the elder Webb told investigators "he used to have to pay 10 percent of all gambling proceeds to his mob associates but that for the past several years he has been able to pocket all the proceeds because most of his mob associates have either been killed or been sent to prison."
Both Webbs were subsequently charged with felony syndicated gambling and felony obstruction of justice, but Philip A. Webb Jr. did not have to stand trial because his father agreed to plead guilty if prosecutors dropped the charges against his son, Webb Sr.'s defense attorney Tom Loizzo said.
According to state business filings, Webb Jr. continued to operate the company. In 2012, the Gaming Board issued him a handler's license and granted his company, now called R.A.W. Vending & Games Inc., an operator's license.
Webb, who did not respond to a request for comment, now serves as president of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, a trade organization that represents companies that make, sell and operate amusement devices, vending machines and video gambling terminals.
The organization lobbied for legalizing video gambling in Illinois and has poured money in the campaign coffers of legislators who championed the Video Gaming Act.
Prezioso noted Webb was never convicted and that the board has "no evidence that would disqualify him from licensure."
Former Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said that while he doesn't recall what investigators presented to the board regarding Dublino and Webb Jr., he would not have approved licenses for either man based on the Tribune's findings.
"Is it possible to drop the ball? Absolutely," said Jaffe, who left the board in November. "I don't know who did the examination; I don't know if they looked at the court records or what they told the board on this particular case. But most of the staff is made up of state troopers, and they do know how to do an investigation."
Licensed felon
While the Gaming Board knew of Dublino and Webb's backgrounds, it said it knew nothing of John J. Conforti's criminal past.
In 1997, a grand jury in Horry County, S.C., charged Conforti with felony breach of trust with fraudulent intent for stealing $146,000 from a Days Inn Hotel he managed, according to court records. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 5 years probation and a $75,000 fine.
A few years later, he moved to Rockford, where he opened Mr. C's Family Restaurant. When Conforti applied in 2013 for a license to have five machines in his business, he answered "none" to the question about whether he has ever been convicted of a crime.
He said to the Tribune that his attorney in South Carolina told him the conviction had been expunged and that if he was ever asked if he had a conviction, he should say no. Horry County officials said a conviction for that crime cannot be expunged.
But Conforti didn't have to talk about that case when Gaming Board investigators interviewed him as part of his background check. He said they asked him questions about his restaurant and brought up a minor arrest for marijuana possession in 1975 when he was a teenager, but they never mentioned his South Carolina case.
Gaming Board records show Conforti's machines have grossed a little more than $200,000 since he obtained his license in December 2013.
Prezioso said the board missed the conviction because South Carolina authorities did not report the case to national law enforcement databases. The Tribune found evidence of it using a popular public records aggregator and quickly confirmed it in readily available public records.
Jaffe had no recollection of Conforti's case but said board staff conducts thousands of investigations and "some states are more helpful than other states." He said the board has been short about 100 staff needed to handle the influx of work that came with legalized video gambling.
"I do think it's important that we were never fully funded to have all the people that we were supposed to have," he said. "And I imagine that with cutbacks now, it's going to be even worse."


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Italy arrests 51 in Ostia anti-mafia raids



Police operation in coastal suburb near capital is described as one of the biggest ever anti-mafia sweeps in Rome area
 Police lead away a suspect arrested in Ostia.

Lizzy Davies in Rome

As temperatures soar to around 40C this weekend, thousands of Romans will flock to nearby beaches to roast in the sun, play on the slot machines and dance in sticky seaside nightclubs. They will not be the only ones feeling the heat.
On Friday in an operation that prosecutors said revealed the extent of organised crime in the coastal suburb of Ostia near the Italian capital, 51 people were arrested on suspicion of mafia-related activity.
The crackdown, which involved about 500 police officers as well as dog support units, patrol boats and a helicopter, was described as one of the biggest anti-mafia sweeps ever carried out in the Rome area.
Its aim was to hit at the heart of gangs that prosecutors say have been carving up the coastal territory and sharing its considerable spoils for the past 20 years.
Located about 15 miles south-west of the capital near Leonardo da Vinci airport, Ostia's sandy beaches prove a popular weekend destination for city-dwellers seeking to escape Rome's stifling heat.
Particularly targeted in the operation on Friday were members of three clans – the Fasciani, Triassi, and D'Agati – whom investigators suspect of carrying out criminal activities including drug trafficking and extortion.
The Triassi are believed to have close ties to the Sicilian mafia. The website of Il Fatto Quotidiano, a daily newspaper, headlined the raids: "Welcome to Cosa Nostra beach".
The alleged infiltration by criminal networks in Ostia's political administration emerged this month when police raided the town hall's permit office and placed an employee and local contractors under investigation on suspicion of rigging bids for beach contracts in favour of another mafia clan, the Spada.
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The move prompted Rome's new mayor, Ignazio Marino, to announce that permits to manage Ostia's coastline would henceforth be handled directly from the capital. He said his administration would fight to curb "the underworld infiltration" of Ostia.
"In recent years, the Roman coastline has become fertile ground for criminal activities, the scene of bloody clashes between clans and criminal gangs who seek to control significant parts of the city's economy," he said.
One of the most startling incidents in the increasingly bloody turfwar in Ostia came in November 2011 when two criminals, Giovanni Galleoni and Francesco Antonini, were shot dead in the town centre in broad daylight.
In a separate but equally dramatic anti-mafia operation on Friday morning, police in the southern region of Calabria made dozens of arrests in the city of Lamezia Terme, about 40 miles south of Cosenza, some of which concerned a suspected car-crash scam in which payouts were allegedly used to provide criminals with drugs and arms.
Police said the raids had targeted a panoply of local people suspected of involvement in the scheme, ranging from insurers and lawyers to car repairers. There were also arrests of suspected hitmen on suspicion of several killings between 2005 and 2011, police said.
A Calabria senator in the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Freedom People (PdL) party was being investigated for suspected vote-buying but had not been arrested, they added.
Guido Marino, police chief in nearby Catanzaro, said the raids revealed a flourishing criminal system in the city that had drawn in not only fully paid-up members of criminal gangs but "professionals above suspicion".
"This was a mafia system which not only bloodied Lamezia Terme with murders but which also bled dry a part of [the city's] already fragile economy," he was quoted as telling the Ansa news agency.

Calabria, one of Italy's poorest regions, is the home to the 'Ndrangheta, now Italy's most formidable organised crime syndicate, which has grown far beyond its southern origins into a hugely powerful force thought to control much of the cocaine trade in Europe.

Confiscated mafia loot worth billions gives Italy an unexpected problem


Properties including a sprawling beach resort in Sicily are among the huge number of assets seized from gangsters which need to be managed and sold off
An anti-mafia squad officer at the premises of a company seized by the authorities in Sicily on 8 July.


Agence France-Presse

Italy’s battle against the mafia has provoked an unusual problem for the government – the headache of managing a staggering portfolio of assets and cash seized from mobsters.
Officials control about 3,000 companies, 12,000 properties and €2bn in bank deposits and other assets from organised crime outfits, according to some estimates, leaving the government with hundreds of extra employees and properties not seen very favourably by banks.
“In Italy it is more difficult to manage the property seized from the mafia than it is to confiscate it,” Michelangelo Patane, a prosecutor in Sicily, said.
Authorities announced a new seizure Wednesday of €1.6bn ($1.75bn) in alleged mafia property, that included dozens of businesses as well as some 700 houses, villas and buildings.
Seized mafia assets are such an issue in Italy the government created in 2010 a national agency, the ANSBC, to manage the mountain of property.
“We have real estate holdings, companies and other seized mafia assets that have grown more than expected,” ANSBC head Umberto Postiglione told AFP.
One of the properties it manages is a sprawling and spectacular beach resort in the Sicilian town of Catania. Its gardens are local historic landmarks and the resort holds some 300 beach huts for tourists, but banks are left nervous by its past as a mafia-owned property.
“The banks slow us down, they don’t trust confiscated businesses and if we ask for a loan they refuse to give us one,” said Salvatore Piggioli, who works for the company that runs the site.
It is no surprise the government is drowning in mafia assets because it possesses considerable powers to seize them.
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Italian law allows authorities to carry out preventative seizures when mafia involvement is suspected, said accountant Giuseppe Giuffrida, an expert in managing seized mafia assets.
He said an official fund for seized assets like bank deposits and stocks currently holds some two billion euros.
Determination of whether the assets are ill-gotten gains can come swiftly. Authorities simply look to see if the values of the property matches up with the owner’s publicly declared income.
The assets can also be held while their owner is on trial and are returned in the case of a not guilty verdict.
“I have managed assets temporarily (under government control) as well as those that have been seized,” said Giuffrida. “I have never had any problems with the heads of mafia businesses because they know its useless. I have been named by a court and I do my best for the company in question.”
The seizure figures are impressive. Over the past six years authorities have seized 1,286 hectares (3,178 acres) of land, which is about a tenth of the size of Catania, prosecutors said.
Over the same period the number of employees in the seized companies has hit 684, making the collection of properties the fourth largest private employer in Sicily.
But taking away assets from the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples and the ’Ndrangheta in Calabria is not without risks.
Two workers from ANSBC who went to seize a house owned by a local mafioso in Naples got a nasty surprise when they tried to open the home’s door.
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“When they inserted the key handed over by the former owner they were thrown into a wall by a shock of 380 volts,” agency head Postiglione said.
“Luckily they weren’t trying to kill us,” he added.
Once seized, properties can be sold or leased at no cost to towns and associations for new, more honourable uses. One example is the villa that once belonged to Naples crime boss Egidio Coppola and was turned into a museum.
It is also not unusual to spot a flashy Porsche bearing the Red Cross logo at events like the marathon in Rome which also has a label saying “Vehicle confiscated from the Mob”.
ANSBC has in its time sold off 33 supermarkets and a shopping centre, while handing over to firefighters 33 trucks that have come under its control.

When it comes to business, “they are liquidated if they are insolvent if they are (financially) healthy we try to run them normally with the final goal being to sell them off,” Giuffrida said.