Mafia takes hit in big takedown; 127 people face charges in northeastern US

More than 120 organized crime associates face charges including murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking in one of the largest Mafia crackdowns in FBI history, prosecutors announced Thursday.

NEW YORK — More than 120 organized crime associates face charges including murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking in one of the largest Mafia crackdowns in FBI history, prosecutors announced Thursday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference Thursday in New York City that the 127 defendants include high-ranking members of the Gambino and Colombo crime families and the reputed former boss of organized crime in New England. All five of New York’s five major crime families were targeted.

The charges cover decades worth of offences, he said, including “classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals,” a killing during a botched robbery and a double shooting in a barroom dispute over a spilled drink.

More than 100 of the defendants were arrested Thursday as some 800 federal agents and police officers made busts in several states. One person was arrested in Italy.

Other charges include alleged corruption among dockworkers who were forced to kick back a portion of their holiday bonuses to the crime families.

Holder called the arrests “an important step forward in our nation’s fight against organized crime.”

The crimes include two murders dating back 30 years, and another as recently as 2002. One of the defendants, among the scores arrested, is a former New York City police officer.

Authorities say the investigation was aided by informants who recorded thousands of conversations by suspected mobsters.

Luigi Manocchio, the reputed former head of New England’s Patriarca crime family, was arrested Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the U.S. attorney’s office in Providence said. An 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 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.

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.

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.

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