Federal authorities say they have busted an organized crime racket reminiscent of the Mafia's heyday, involving illegal gambling parlors in New York City and Long Island and a police detective accused of helping to protect the lucrative schemes.
Two indictments unsealed Tuesday charged nine people, including the detective, with crimes such as racketeering, illegal gambling, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Nicknames of the defendants included "Joe Fish," "Sal the Shoemaker," "Little Anthony" and "Joe Box."
The top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn said the racketeers operated from fronts including a coffee bar, a soccer club and a shop called Sal's Shoe Repair.
"Today's arrests of members from two La Cosa Nostra crime families demonstrate that the Mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion and violence while using our financial system in service to their criminal schemes," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said.
He called the detective's alleged conduct "shameful."
The Nassau County Police Department detective, Hector Rosario, is accused of accepting money from the Bonanno crime family in exchange for steering police raids toward competing gambling clubs.
Rosario was among seven of the defendants to appear in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday,. Rosario has been "suspended without pay, pending an administrative hearing," Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told the station.
A lawyer for Rosario did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about Rosario and the charges against him, which include obstructing a grand jury investigation and lying to the FBI.
Prosecutors also identified 63-year-old Carmelo Polito as an acting captain of the Genovese crime family. He is charged with racketeering, money laundering, operating an illegal gambling business and attempted extortion. His bail was set at $1.1 million.
Polito is charged with attempting to extort an individual who lost several thousand dollars in bets he placed through the website, prosecutors said. In an October 2019 call concerning a delinquent debtor whose "face" Polito had previously threatened to "break," Polito allegedly instructed another individual to relay a new message to the debtor: "Tell him I'm going to put him under the f------g bridge."
While the heyday of organized crime is long past in New York - and many types of gambling that were once the exclusive domain of the Mafia are now legal in the state - Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly said the indictments were proof that "organized crime is alive and well in our communities."
She said the Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families were alleged to have operated secret underground gambling parlors since 2012 in local businesses, "generating substantial amounts of money in back rooms while families unknowingly shopped and ate mere feet away."
Michael Driscoll, head of New York's FBI office, said members of the five organized crime families "demonstrate every day they are not averse to working together to further their illicit schemes, using the same tired methods to squeeze money from their victims."
"Our active investigations show the Mafia refuses to learn from history," Driscoll added, "and accept that at some point they will face justice for their crimes."
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