NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The FBI and NYPD made dozens of arrests Thursday morning in a broad-based mob bust. New York federal prosecutors unveiled an indictment charging nearly four dozen suspects with organized crime-related charges, saying they operated a massive East Coast syndicate.
Prosecutors said the defendants committed crimes ranging from extortion to illegal gambling throughout the East Coast. By 10 a.m., some 41 of those charged were in custody.
An indictment in Manhattan U.S. District Court said the crime activities of the organized crime group, known as the East Coast Enterprise, were mostly based in New York, but officials said its tentacles reached into Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
Those arrested are alleged members of the Genovese, Gambino, Luchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia crime families, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported. They allegedly formed an unusual alliance and joined forces or conducted overlapping business, Papa reported.
Among those charged were Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, the reputed boss of a Philadelphia crime family. Also named in the indictment was Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello, identified as a longtime member of the Genovese organized crime family in New York City.
The indictment “reads like an old school Mafia novel, where extortion, illegal gambling, arson and threats to ‘whack’ someone are carried out along with some modern-day crimes,” such as credit card skimming, said Diego Rodriguez, head of the FBI’s New York office.
Crimes allegedly carried out by the 46 suspects included loansharking, casino-style gambling and sports gambling, credit card fraud and health care fraud. A local focus of the investigation was an apparent gambling operation known as the Yonkers Club, where poker and dice tournaments were held, Papa reported.
Other crimes alleged in the indictment included firearms trafficking, arson, extortion and assault.
Members used coded language to arrange meetings at highway rest areas and restaurants, Diamond reported.
No murders were listed in the indictment, but in one case a victim was beaten and stomped outside a rival’s restaurant, Papa reported.
One count accuses the 72-year-old Parrello of ordering a beatdown in 2011 of a panhandler he believed was harassing female customers outside his restaurant in the Bronx, telling a cohort to “break his — knees.” The panhandler was “located and assaulted with glass jars, sharp objects and steel-tipped boots, causing bodily harm,” the court papers say.
Afterward one of his cohorts was recorded saying, “Remember the old days in the neighborhood when we used to play baseball? . . . A ball game like that was done,” the papers say.
Prosecutors also detailed how in 2013, Parello ordered retaliation against a man who stabbed a member of his crew outside a Bronx bar. After an associate agreed to “whack” the attacker, Parrello cautioned him to “keep the pipes handy and pipe him, pipe him, over here (gesturing to the knees), not on his head,” the papers say.
Merlino, 54, was implicated in a health care fraud scheme with Parrello and others that got corrupt doctors to bill insurers for unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for expensive compound creams in exchange for kickbacks.
The 44-month investigation was dubbed Operation Moving Target. During the arrests, agents recovered three handguns, a shotgun, gambling paraphernalia and more than $30,000 in cash.
In Massachusetts, five alleged associates of the New York-based Genovese crime family were arrested on extortion-related charges as part of the sweep.
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