Authorities carried out one of the largest Mafia takedowns in recent memory Thursday when they charged dozens of reputed members of the Gambino crime family with gangland crimes spanning three decades, - including an extortion plot at the failed NASCAR speedway track proposed for the Bloomfield section of Staten Island.
A federal indictment in Brooklyn named 62 defendants, including the three highest-ranking members of the Gambino family along with the brother and nephew of the late Gotti. Authorities said a separate state investigation had resulted in charges against 26 others.
The most recent alleged crimes date back only a few years, and include charges related to drug dealing, credit fraud conspiracies and theft of union benefits. The indictment also alleges that Gambino associates extorted people in the construction industry, embezzled from labor unions and engaged in illegal loansharking and bookmaking.
Many of the charges relate to the activities of a Staten Island cement business, whose owner was identified in the indictment only as "John Doe No. 4." Prosecutors allege that mob figures extorted the owner for money and jobs, and interfered with several of his business ventures, including the proposed NASCAR track on Staten Island.
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In 2006, the cement business was forced to pay extortion to reputed mobsters to prepare the race track site for construction, court papers said. The project abandoned before the track could be built.
As part of the scheme, mobsters allegedly forced John Doe No. 4 to give $9,000 to two workers affiliated with International Speedway Corp., builder of the race track. A company spokesman said today that the men have since quit their jobs, and that the indictment "is not directed at ISC, any of its subsidiaries, or any of its current employees."
The New York case coincided with a series of raids in Italy targeting alleged members of Mafia families who control drug trafficking between the two sides of the Atlantic. Authorities said the investigations, though technically unconnected, signaled an international attempt to disrupt Gambino ties to Sicilian counterparts.
Most of the suspects were in custody following a series of raids this morning. Among those still being sought was the reputed acting boss of the Gambino family, John "Jackie the Nose" D'Amico, who is accused of playing a lead role in a broad racketeering conspiracy.
Most of the charges were outlined in a sprawling federal indictment encompassing gangland killings from the era when the Gambino crime family was run by Staten Islander Paul Castellano, who was assassinated in 1985. A separate state indictment accuses the Gambinos of operating a gambling ring in Queens that took nearly $10 million in bets on professional and college sports.
Three of the seven murders alleged in the indictment involved victims who weren't criminals. It accused reputed Gambino soldier Charles Carneglia with involvement in five killings over three decades, including that of Albert Gelb, a state court officer who was gunned down in 1976.
Prosecutors have long claimed that Gelb was assassinated in retaliation for making an off-duty arrest of Carneglia after he spotted him in a restaurant wearing a gun. Previous attempts to prosecute Gambino associates for the killing, including Carneglia's brother, ended in failure.
At the time, Gelb worked for then-judge Richard Brown, currently the Queens district attorney. At the news conference, Brown recalled how of the officer had walked him to his car one night and "that was the last time I saw him. ... So I have a strong interest in this particular case."
Defense attorney Joseph Corozzo Jr., represented his father, alleged Gambino consigliere Joseph Corozzo, at an arraignment. The elder Corozzo pleaded not guilty to multiple racketeering counts including cocaine trafficking.
"He's never been involved in drugs," the son said outside court.