[If the American people ever realize that the reeking stench coming from Wall St. is not their own scent then there will be real hell to pay, starting with the biggest mafia dons sitting on their bank thrones in New York. Our economy, like all capitalist economies runs on graft and pay-offs, not only at the highest levels, but at every level of the economy, all the way down to the local dog catcher or construction workers’ hall. Whenever everything depends not only on who you know, but on how much you are willing to invest in bribery to get ahead, then the entire system is totally corrupt and must be taken down. If somehow, the govt. and banksters do figure-out some way out of the ongoing collapse, then the world will surely be worse off for having missed it.]
Roundup of suspected Cosa Nostra members in raids by 800 officers hark back to heyday of battle with the mob
- Ed Pilkington
The charge sheets read like a script from the heyday of Hollywood’s love affair with the mob, replete with made men, consiglieres and vows of undying loyalty to the boss. In a move that made it seem time had stood still since The Godfather first astonished America in 1972, the FBI today renewed its decades-long battle against the US mafia.
In a devastating blow to the organised crime families of the north-eastern US, more than 800 FBI and police officers made the largest roundup of Cosa Nostra bosses and soldiers in US history. Some 127 mafia members and their accomplices were charged.
The arrests in New York, Newark in New Jersey and Rhode Island were both an indication of the mafia’s enduring power in the US and of the determination of the FBI to regain the initiative in its struggle with the organisation.
Announcing the arrests, Eric Holder, the US attorney general, said they “send a clear message that we are committed – and determined – to eradicate these criminal enterprises once and for all and to bring their members to justice”.
The sweep struck seven families: all five with headquarters in New York – the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luchese – as well as the largely New Jersey-based DeCavalcante family and the New England branch centred on Providence in Rhode Island and Boston. Among those in custody are top figureheads, including the former boss of the New England branch, Luigi Manocchio, 83.
The scale of the assault on the mafia is underlined by the fate of the Colombo family, which has had its entire leadership other than those already in jail taken down: its street boss, acting underboss and consigliere, as well as four captains and eight of its soldiers.
The charge sheet includes alleged murders dating back to the 1980s. Holder said they included not only “classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals” but also senseless murders such as the killing of two victims in a public bar in a dispute over a spilled drink. Other charges run from narcotics trafficking to extortion, illegal gambling, arson, loan sharking and trade union racketeering.
Defendants are listed with their mob aliases and nicknames: Fed Alesi aka Whiney; Anthony Cavezza aka Tony Bagels; Giovanni Vella aka Mousey; Bartolomeo Vernace aka Pepe or Bobby Glasses.
The indictments lay out the hierarchy of families that have changed remarkably little. Cosa Nostra is ruled by a panel drawn from all its families called the “Commission”. Each crime family is headed by a boss, assisted by an underboss and adviser, known as a consigliere. They manage “crews” headed by a captain or “capodecina” and consisting of soldiers and associates.
To become a member of the family, or in the vocabulary a “goodfella” or “wiseguy”, individuals go through an initiation ceremony in which they commit themselves to a life of crime.
Such a dramatic move against the mob is not just good publicity for the FBI and the justice department, it also signals a change of gear within law enforcement with regard to the mafia. In recent years there has been a perception that the authorities took their eye off the ball, allowing organised crime to regroup.
“After 9/11 the emphasis of law enforcement shifted, with resources going to fight terrorism,” said Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former police captain in Newark. “Investigations died down, allowing the mafia to make a resurgence.”
Shane said the law enforcement agencies were now having to make a sustained effort to regain the initiative. “There’s always a time lag getting back into the game: players change, operations change.”
Last September Holder redirected additional firepower to the fight. As a further boost, yesterday he announced the merger of the organised crime division and the gang unit of the department of justice, to create an elite group of prosecutors devoted to running down the mafia.
The focus of the arrests suggest the crime families have once again tightened their grip on certain areas of the economy, notably illegal gambling, drug trafficking and construction. Holder says their influence amounts to a tax on various sectors.
They also maintain a stranglehold on some unions. Several arrests were made of officials belonging to the Longshoremen’s Association working on the New Jersey waterfront, as well as a cement and concrete union prevalent on New York building sites.
The FBI has gained the upper hand by securing the co-operation of a number of high-profile “super grasses”, who have been prepared to drop the sacred “omerta” – the eternal vow of silence – in exchange for a plea bargain.