This might not be the end of the Gambino crime family, but it’s certainly a good facsimile. On February 7 of this year, FBI agents fanned out throughout the New York City area, arresting around 60 people for crimes dating back to the Seventies. Those offenses included racketeering, murder, extortion, theft, mail fraud, loan sharking and money laundering. The raids, coordinated with raids that produced arrests of some two dozen organized crime figures in Palermo, Sicily, were the culmination of an investigation called Operation Old Bridge. After the arrests, dominoes toppled quickly. By the end of September, fully 60 of the 62 Gambino members and associates named in the 170-page indictment unsealed in Brooklyn federal court had pleaded guilty, with three dozen already sentenced. Two locals affiliated with the Laborers International Union of North America figure heavily in this.
The belated conviction of Gambino boss John Gotti Sr. (in photo, center) in 1992 didn’t stop the family from imposing its brutal will upon the competition. Initially under son John Jr. and then under (Gotti Sr.’s) older brother Peter, the Gambino organization continued to be an underworld force, and remained as such even after those two successors went to prison. The family exerted special influence over the construction industry, giving “permission” to contractors and unions to operate freely in return for payments. The February raids nabbed Gambino street boss John “Jackie the Nose” D’Amico, underboss Domenico Cefalu, consigliere Joseph Corozzo, three capos, three acting capos, 16 soldiers, four trucking executives and various allied members of the Genovese and Bonanno crime families.
Much of the probe centered on LIUNA Locals 325 and 731. Louis Mosca, business manager for Local 325, pleaded guilty on May 5 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of a scheme to buy a book containing the names of union members on behalf of the brother of Gambino captain Lenny Dimaria. Michael King, former contractor project supervisor and shop steward for Local 731, pleaded guilty on August 1 to extortion for having threatened trucking contractors with the loss of contracts. “This investigation exposed the alleged grip that the Gambino organized crime family has had over one of the largest construction markets in the United States, from small private projects to large-scale public works contracts,” said U.S. Labor Department Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell. “This involved the trucks that move construction material and debris throughout the entire New York City region – the cement that is poured to build house foundations out in Staten Island, the general contractors who are responsible for building condominiums over in New Jersey and even a proposed NASCAR raceway.”
It was Joseph Vallaro, a Staten Island-based trucking contractor and Gambino associate, who proved the key to breaking the case. Vollaro had made payments to family soldier Nicholas Corozzo and his brother, Joseph Corozzo, who in turn granted him “protection” from union competition. As long as Vollaro funneled 15 percent of his income to the Gambinos, he was home-free. Unfortunately, Vallaro also was involved in drug trafficking, and was arrested in 2004 for possession of two kilograms of cocaine. He turned FBI witness and wore a wire, recording hundreds of hours of mob conversations. The case morphed into a full-scale racketeering probe.
United States of America v. Joseph Agate et al., as the action is known, has involved the New York State Organized Crime Strike Force, the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the New York City Department of Investigation, the New York City Business Integrity Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, not to mention Italian government authorities. That’s a lot of players involved for a takedown. But the Gambino family prides itself on having a lot of players on their side, too. (New York Times, 2/8/08; Staten Island Advance, 2/9/08; U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Semiannual Report to Congress, April 1, 2008-September 30, 2008).