Mob Bust: 127 Charged after Massive FBI Sweep

Federal agents hold a suspect arrested in a massive takedown following an investigation of New York's organized crime families, Jan. 20, 2011, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Updated 8:58 p.m. ET

NEW YORK - Federal agents dealt another major blow to New York's five Mafia crime families by arresting more than 120 suspected mobsters throughout the Northeast on charges including murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking.

As of late Thursday, 125 had been arrested, including four who were already behind bars.

The FBI said most of the arrests were made in pre-dawn raids Thursday. Many were in Brooklyn, but they occurred throughout New York City, in New Jersey and New England. Charges include murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking.

Law enforcement officials tell CBS News that this is considered "the largest one-day mob roundup in U.S. history."

A total of 127 suspected mobsters are charged, including members of all of the five New York crime families that make up La Cosa Nostra, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference detailing the arrests Thursday.

Details on La Cosa Nostra, Alleged Crimes
Jusitce Dept. Archive of LCN Indictments

More than 800 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials were involved in the arrests, and the FBI collaborated with the Italian national police to arrest and charge one suspect in Italy.

"We have charged mob associates and mob bosses alike," Holder said. "Time and again they have shown a willingness to kill to make money, to eliminate rivals, and to silence witnesses."

Holder called Thursday's arrests an "important and encouraging step forward" but said called the battle against organized crime "far from over," noting that in September he issued a directive merging the Justice Department sections dealing with traditional organized crime - such as the New York mobs - drug cartels, and street gangs.

Among those charged are Andrew Russo, street boss of the Colombo family; Benjamin Castellazzo, acting underboss of the Colombo family; Richard Fusco, consigliere of the Colombo family; Joseph Corozzo, consigliere of the Gambino family; and Bartolomeo Vernace, a member of the Gambino family administration, the Justice Department said in a press release. In total, more than 30 members of La Cosa Nostra - or "made men" - were charged in the 16 indictments unsealed Thursday.

The indictments listed colorful nicknames Bobby Glasses, Vinny Carwash, Jack the Whack, Johnny Cash, Junior Lollipops and catalogued murders, extortion, arson and other crimes dating back 30 years.

Mafia Nickname Tradition Carries On

One of the indictments charges a reputed Gambino boss, Bartolomeo Vernace, in a double murder in the Shamrock Bar in Queens in a dispute over a spilled drink. Another charges an alleged Colombo captain, Anthony Russo, in the 1993 hit on an underboss during the family's bloody civil war.

In addition to the senior members of the five La Cosa Nostra families, the charges touch the de Cavalzante crime family in New Jersey and members of New England crime families.

Luigi Manocchio, the reputed head of New England's Patriarca crime family, was arrested Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the U.S. attorney's office in Providence said. A newly unsealed indictment accused him of collecting protection payments from strip club-owners. Also arrested was Thomas Iafrate, who worked as a bookkeeper for strip clubs and set aside money for Manocchio, prosecutors said.

The charges include four murders and labor racketeering involving the International Longshoremen.

The takedown was the result of multiple investigations. Federal probes aided by mob turncoats have decimated the families' ranks in recent years and have resulted in lengthy prison terms for several leaders.

Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Division called the arrest the "cumulative result of years of investigative work." She said that cooperating witnesses played a key role in the investigations and called their participation "a trend that has been tilting in law enforcement's favor."

The defendants are being held in the brig at Fort Hamilton - a historic Army post in southwest Brooklyn - until their court appearances, the New York Daily News reports.

On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced John "Sonny" Franzese, 93, to eight years in prison for extorting Manhattan strip clubs and a pizzeria on Long Island.

Federal prosecutors had sought at least 12 years behind bars for the underboss of the Colombo crime family - in effect, a life term. To bolster their argument, they had an FBI agent testify that Franzese bragged about killing 60 people over the years and once contemplated putting out a hit on his own son for becoming a government cooperator.

In October, Mafia turncoat Salvatore Vitale was sentenced to time served after federal prosecutors praised his total betrayal of his own crime syndicate - and after he apologized to the families of his victims. Authorities said he had a hand in at least 11 murders, including that of a fellow gangster in the fallout from the infamous Donnie Brasco case.

The evidence provided after his arrest in 2003 helped decimate the once-fearsome Bonanno organized crime family, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres said.

"The Mafia today is weaker because of his cooperation," Andres said. "Mr. Vitale provided lead after lead. ... The results speak for themselves."

While Thursday's takedown will certainly grab headlines, it will also provide an unwanted service: allowing others to fill the void, and move up the ranks of organized crime, reports CBS News correspondent Armen Keteyian.