In a sweeping indictment unsealed yesterday, more than 30 alleged members of the Gambino crime family, including top bosses and capos, were charged with a panoply of crimes spanning more than a decade.
The crimes included extorting restaurants, a radio station, nightclubs, labor unions, and construction companies. They were also charged with running illegal gambling operations and selling swag and stolen luxury cars, along with orchestrating numerous acts of violence, such as the recent beating of a Westchester man with a candlestick in the housewares section of an upstate Bloomingdale's store last month.
In total, prosecutors claimed the 32 alleged organized crime members - nearly all of whom were arrested in different states yesterday morning - netted an estimated $30 million in illicit earnings. If all are convicted on the myriad criminal charges, they stand to face a collective 4,188 years in prison.
Yesterday's indictment marks one more blow to the infamous Gambino clan, one of New York's five "La Casa Nostra" families and whose longtime leader, John Gotti, the "Dapper Don," passed away in prison in 2002. His brother, Peter Gotti, was convicted of racketeering last year.
Prosecutor's said yesterday's indictment was not related to the case against Peter Gotti and that the near five-year-long Gambino investigation would not have been possible without the work of an undercover federal agent who penetrated the crime family's inner ranks wearing a wiretap for more than two years. The wise-guy ruse was so believable that the Gambino's aging acting captain, Gregory DePalma, 72, had plans to induct him into the family as an official member, authorities said.
"Had we left him out on the street much longer, the Gambino family ranks would actually have increased by one," said the assistant director of the FBI's New York office, Pasquale D'Amuro.
It is also the first time since the 1970s, Mr. D'Amuro said, that an undercover agent was able to penetrate a crime family so deeply since Joseph Pistone infiltrated the Bonnano family. Mr. Pistone is more popularly known as "Donnie Brasco," portrayed in the 1997 film by actor Al Pacino.
Many of the scenes of the more recent investigation, Mr. D'Amuro suggested, were just as cinematic. The undercover agent regularly joined the crime family members for clandestine business meetings at the United Hebrew Geriatrics Home in New Rochelle, where DePalma's son, Craig DePalma, himself convicted of racketeering charges, is a convalescent patient after attempting to hang himself in prison. Prosecutors said crime-family members conducted business in DePalma's room at the geriatric home, thinking law enforcement would not have the means to monitor the meetings.
According to the lengthy indictment, the alleged acting boss and official underboss of the family, Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., was charged with racketeering, 16 counts of extortion, running an illegal gambling operation, and transporting stolen property. If convicted on all counts, Squitieri, 69, stands to face a total 385 years in prison. An attorney for Squitieri could not be reached yesterday.
The alleged acting underboss, Anthony "Machiavelli" Megale, 51, of Stamford, Conn., was also charged with racketeering, 18 counts of extortion, conspiracy, and other charges. Megale, who is currently in custody on similar criminal charges, stands to face an additional 425 years in prison if convicted.
An attorney for Megale, Stefan Seeger of Stamford, said it was premature to comment on such a lengthy indictment with so many allegations.
The family's alleged acting captain, Gregory DePalma, was charged with the most crimes yesterday, 13 different types of felonies on a total 51 counts, ranging from mail fraud, loan-sharking, and transporting stolen knockoff goods and luxury cars. He stands to face 772 years if convicted. His attorney could not be reached.
A potential sign that organized crime has weakened in New York, the indictment also names alleged members of crime families charged with doing business with the Gambinos. An alleged capo, or captain, in the Lucchese family, John "Johny Hooks" Capra, 64, was charged yesterday with extortion and faces a potential 40-year sentence if convicted. The indictment also names an alleged soldier in the Genovese family, Pasquale "Scop" Deluca, 73, with running an illegal gambling operation in the Bronx. Attorneys for both could not be reached yesterday.