New York Times
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
Oct. 20, 2000
With arrests in three states early yesterday, federal authorities and the police announced a racketeering indictment that they said would devastate the DeCavalcante crime family and break its grip on businesses and labor unions in New York and New Jersey.
The New Jersey-based DeCavalcante mob, while smaller than the five New York crime families, helped introduce some of the mob's earliest stock schemes. And despite its reputation as a second-class crime family, some members seem to have high opinions of themselves. Last year, several were overheard on F.B.I. wiretaps in a related case speculating that they were the models for the mobsters depicted on the television series "The Sopranos."
Federal authorities yesterday called the DeCavalcante family one of the mob's most ruthless and paranoid crime groups, citing "extreme and hair-trigger violence."
The indictment listed murder, loan sharking, securities fraud and labor racketeering, charging a dozen men as crime figures, including the family's reputed boss, Giovanni Riggi. Mr. Riggi, whose 22-year reign makes him recent history's longest serving mob chieftain, already is in prison.
Two men whom prosecutors identified as acting bosses on a three-man ruling panel — men who they said helped Mr. Riggi, 75, run the family's operations from his prison cell — were among those charged, as were the family's consigliere — or counselor — along with two captains and three soldiers.
The family's founder, Sam DeCavalcante, known as Sam the Plumber, long active in a wide range of legitimate businesses including the record industry, was an early and active leader in sophisticated labor racketeering schemes, the authorities say. In recent years the family forged closer ties with New York City's mob clans, particularly the Gambino family, which led some to see the DeCavalcante family as something of a subsidiary of the Gambinos.
But there is no question among law enforcement officials that the family has been a leader in the mob's incursion onto Wall Street. One of the reputed captains charged in the indictment unsealed yesterday — which focuses on both the family's New Jersey and New York operations — was Philip Abramo, 55, who runs a New York crew and was called "one of the mob's best scholars in securities fraud" by a Federal Bureau of Investigation official.
Mary Jo White, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that the indictment, along with a case last year that charged a third acting boss and two captains, left the entire leadership of the family facing lengthy prison terms if convicted.
"The expectation is that this prosecution will effectively dismantle the DeCavalcante crime family and essentially eliminate its criminal grip on business and labor unions in both New Jersey and New York," she said at a news conference where she was joined by Barry W. Mawn, who heads the F.B.I.'s New York office, and the first deputy police commissioner, Joseph P. Dunne.
Mr. Dunne added, "This investigation effectively wipes out the C.E.O. and board of directors of the DeCavalcante crime family."
Mr. Mawn said that the F.B.I. agents and police detectives who worked on the investigation had been able to penetrate "to the highest levels of the DeCavalcante family," noting that the case had been helped by the aide of several cooperating witnesses.
He suggested that some of the information developed would lead to charges against members of other mob families who did business with the DeCavalcantes.
"The fallout will not be limited to this one family," he said.
Among the five murders in the indictment was the 1989 killing of Frederick Weiss, a recycling executive and former city editor of the Staten Island Advance. Prosecutors said the killing had been committed at the request of John Gotti, the Gambino family boss, who feared that Mr. Weiss was cooperating with the F.B.I. in a case focusing on a Gambino-tied waste company. Mr. Riggi, Mr. Abramo and Frank Scarabino, 44, of Staten Island, an associate in the family who prosecutors said goes by the name Franky the Beast, were charged in the slaying.
Mr. Riggi, Mr. Abramo and two other men, the reputed consigliere, Stephano Vitabile, 64, and Louis Consalvo, 43, a reputed soldier, also were charged in the 1991 slaying of Mr. Riggi's daughter-in-law's father. Mr. Vitabile, who was born in Sicily in the town of Ribera, to which many in the DeCavalcante family trace their roots, was charged in the 1992 killing of John D'Amato, a man whom Mr. Gotti had sought to install as the DeCavalcante boss after Mr. Riggi was sentenced to prison in 1990.
The indictment also charged Mr. Abramo with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, saying he and Mr. Consalvo sold 8,000 shares of stock in a company called SC&T International.
"The DeCavalcante family plotted — and committed — killings on the streets of New York," Mr. Mawn said, "while at the same time attempting to make a killing on Wall Street."
Late yesterday, seven of the defendants were arraigned in United States District Court in Manhattan before Magistrate Judge Frank S. Maas, who held six of the men pending bail hearings next week, according to John M. Hillebrecht, an assistant United States attorney in the case. In addition to Mr. Consalvo, Mr. Vitabile and Mr. Scarabino, those defendants were Girolamo Palermo, 62, a reputed acting boss; Frank D'Amato, 54, identified as an associate; and Gregory Rago, 41, a reputed soldier.
The seventh, Charles Majuri, 59, also a reputed acting boss, was held in $1 million bail and under house arrest with an electronic monitoring bracelet after Mr. Hillebrecht argued that he posed a risk to the cooperating witnesses and their families.
The eighth defendant, Bernard NiCastro, 66, a reputed associate, was arrested in Florida and was held there pending a hearing next week. Mr. Riggi is serving a federal prison term and is scheduled to be released in 2002; Mr. Abramo is being held without bail in connection with a 1999 federal securities fraud indictment in Florida. Another defendant, Francesco Polizzi, 65, a reputed captain, was too ill to be arraigned, and Anthony Mannarino, 55, a reputed soldier known as Anthony Marshmallow, is still at large.
Mr. Hillebrecht also said at the hearing that one of the eight murder conspiracies charged in the indictment had been planned in an effort to kill a reputed mobster. Crime family members had concluded, based on information that they had obtained from a leak in law enforcement, that the intended victim was cooperating with the authorities. Mr. Hillebrecht provided no further details.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of approximately $20 million, which it says represents the proceeds of the racketeering crimes, including the homes of the defendants as substitute assets.