BY TOM HESTER SR.
At least 14 alleged New Jersey mobsters, including an alleged member and associates of the Genovese organized crime family, have been indicted in what federal authorities Thursday called the largest mob roundup in FBI history.
They are among the 127 people who authorities said also include key Mafia figures from New York and New England crime families, who have been indicted on charges ranging from murder and racketeering to gambling, extortion and loan-sharking.
Nearly 800 FBI and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers from the U.S. Labor Department and state and local law enforcement arrested more than 110 people by late Thursday morning as part of 16 indictments filed in different jurisdictions.
The indictments were aimed at the New Jersey Decavalcante family, all five New York crime families — the Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno and Luchese families — and the New England Patriarca family.
"Today's arrests mark an important and encouraging step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra operations," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said at a press conference in Brooklyn. "But the reality is that our battle against organized-crime enterprises is far from over."
The New Jerseyans arrested and indicted are: Stephen Depiro, 55, of Kenilworth; Nunzio LaGrasso, 60, of Florham Park; Richard Dehmer, 75, of Springfield; Edward Aulisi, 51, of Flemington; Vincent Aulisi, 78, of West Orange; Thomas Leonardis 53, of Glen Gardner; Robert Ruiz, 52, of Watchung; Michael Trueba, 75, of Kearny; Ramiro Quintans, 52, of Basking Ridge; Salvatore LaGrasso, 60, of Edison; Anthony Alfano, 76, of Union; Tonino Colantonio, 32, of Kenilworth; John Hartmann, 41, of Kenilworth, and Guiseppe Pugliese, 32, of Kenilworth.
They face a long list of charges that included racketeering, conspiracy, illegal gambling and loansharking. If convicted on all counts, each man faces a long prison term and a fine of $250,000.
Authorities said the indictments resulted from years of investigations, including the use of wiretaps and cooperating witnesses.
In a 53-count indictment filed in Newark federal court charges Depiro, described as a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra and three Genovese family associates — Albert Cernadas, former president of International Longshoremen's Association Local 1235 and former ILA vice president; Nunzio LaGrasso, who is vice president of ILA Local 1478 and ILA Representative; Richard Dehmer, with racketeering conspiracy, including predicate acts of conspiring to extort ILA members on the Newark and Elizabeth piers, bookmaking, extortionate collection of credit, and illegal gambling.
Depiro and Dehmer are also charged with racketeering conspiracy involving the collection of unlawful debt and charges relating to bookmaking and gambling.
Seven other men, including Thomas Leonardis, the president of ILA Local 1235 and and ILA representative; Robert Ruiz, the delegate of ILA Local 1235 and an ILA representative, and Vincent Aulisi, former president of ILA Local 1235, are charged with extorting ILA members. The indictment also includes bookmaking and gambling charges against four additional defendants.
A separate indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court, charging that Patrick Cicalese, Robert Moreno, and Manuel Salgado — ILA members on the New Jersey piers — impeded a proceeding before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York by committing perjury.
Fourteen of the men charged in the Newark indictment were arrested Thursday morning. Cernadas was previously charged and arrested. The men charged in the Brooklyn indictment were also arrested Thursday.
The men arrested on charges in the Newark indictment were arraigned Thursday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court. Cernadas will be arraigned at a later date. The men arrested on charges in the Brooklyn indictment were also arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn federal court.
According to the indictment filed in Newark federal court, Depiro is associated with a Genovese family crew, formerly headed by powerful Genovese family member Tino Fiumara, and, since at least 2005, has managed the Genovese family's control over the New Jersey waterfront — including the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers in ILA Local 1, ILA Local 1235, and ILA Local 1478.
Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with including the last three presidents of ILA Local 1235. The timing of the extortions typically coincided with the receipt by certain ILA members of "Container Royalty Fund" checks, a form of year-end compensation.
Depiro also controlled a sports betting package that was managed by several others, including Dehmer, through the use of an overseas sports betting operation. In connection with the illegal gambling operations involving bookmaking, Dehmer threatened physical violence against individuals to collect outstanding debts for Depiro. Dehmer also allegedly operated an illegal poker club in Kenilworth.
The government's cases are being prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney's Offices for New Jersey, and the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn. The charges arise from a long-term investigation initiated in the Eastern District of New York, which was later joined by the New Jersey U.S. attorney's office.
These related cases are part of a larger Northeast roundup announced Thursday morning by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The higher-profile mob figures indicted included Luigi Manocchio, 83, the former boss of New England's Patriarca crime family; Andrew Russo, street boss of the Colombo family; Benjamin Castellazzo, 73, acting underboss of the Colombo family; Richard Fusco, 74, consigliere of the Colombo family; Joseph Corozzo, 69, the consigliere of the Gambino family; and Bartolomeo Vernace, 61, a member of the Gambino family administration.
In all, 91 members and associates of seven organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra have been charged with federal crimes in 16 indictments returned in four judicial districts. Another 36 defendants also have been charged for their roles in alleged associated criminal activity.
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said, "According to the charges unsealed today, organized crime still has a grip on the New Jersey waterfront. Workers should be free to pursue an honest living without being worried that their own union representatives will shake them down. Our ports and those who work there play vital roles in our region's economy and security. Paying tribute to the mob is not an acceptable cost of doing business in New Jersey."
"Today's arrests are an example of this office's commitment to eradicating La Cosa Nostra's corrupting influence in our communities," Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said. "The charges announced today are but an example of some of the myriad crimes allegedly engaged in by members and associates of La Cosa Nostra, including entrenched labor racketeering, extortion, and gambling."
Michael B. Ward, special agent in charge of the Newark-based FBI, said, "It's become almost cliché to link organized crime to New Jersey, with oft-repeated comments about the ‘Soprano State' and bodies allegedly being buried in the Meadowlands. Today's arrests will serve as a stark reminder that organized crime continues to operate in New Jersey through corruption, extortion, racketeering, and violence. Organized crime is not to be romanticized, but rather is now being targeted anew by the FBI in New Jersey by agents whose attention is focused on these groups 24/7."