By Jim Kouri
Five members of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra were indicted on Friday charging them with racketeering, extortion, illegal gambling, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
The Bonanno Family is one of New York’s so-called Five Crime Families which includes the Gambino, Colombo, Luchese families.
An associate of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra was also charged with loansharking.
The defendants were arrested on Friday morning in New York City and were arraigned on the same day before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack, at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
The case has been assigned to United States Chief District Court Judge Carol B. Amon, according to a statement released by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
As alleged in the indictment and a detention memorandum filed by the government Friday, defendant Vincent Badalamenti, also known as “Vinny TV,” is a made member of the Bonanno family and a current member of the family’s administration, who until his arrest, was the highest ranking member of the Bonanno family at liberty.
Defendants Anthony Graziano, also known as “TG,” and Nicholas Santora, also known as “Nicky Mouth,” are captains in the Bonanno family and former members of the Bonanno family administration. Defendant Vito Balsamo is an acting captain in the Bonanno family, and defendant Anthony Calabrese is a soldier in the Bonanno family. The indictment is the result of a multi-year joint investigation by the DEA and FBI that utilized a variety of techniques to gather evidence, such as consensual recordings of the defendants discussing their charged crimes, cooperating witnesses who were formerly members and associates of organized crime, and surveillance.
According to members the NYPD (New York Police Department), “[T]he evidence revealed a pattern of violence and intimidation employed by the defendants to further their enterprise’s economic interests, including Badalamenti allegedly directing the hostile takeover of a bar located on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, as a result of its owner’s failure to repay a debt owed to Badalamenti.
The charges in the indictment also demonstrate the recidivist nature of organized crime defendants. For example, as detailed in the government’s detention memorandum, Santora allegedly participated in his charged crimes following his prior conviction and incarceration, and while released on supervised release, and Graziano allegedly committed his charged crimes within weeks of being released to a federal halfway house.
During one consensual recording, a cooperating witness (“CW”) told Graziano that during Graziano’s most recent prison term, the CW was sent to collect money from one of Graziano’s loanshark victims who “was crying hysterical.” The CW and Graziano also discussed how the CW was sent on multiple occasions to collect money from the same victim by a member of the Bonanno family’s ruling panel, to which Graziano responded, “Yeah, well, he was trying to collect my money.” On another occasion, Graziano allegedly directed the CW to meet a second extortion victim and “open him up.”
The charges and arrests announced Friday are the latest in an ongoing investigation that has resulted in the prosecution of more than 175 members and associates of the Bonanno family in the Eastern District of New York. Since March 2002, more than 10 Bonanno family bosses, acting bosses and administration members have been convicted in this district on racketeering and racketeering-related charges, according to U.S. Justice Department officials.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice Fedarcyk stated, “Today’s charges confirm that La Cosa Nostra families continue to engage in the bedrock money-making activities like extortion and loansharking, and are not shy about resorting to violence as a method. As long as mobsters continue their predatory ways, the FBI will continue to target the mob.”
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly added, “This case demonstrates that the FBI, DEA, and NYPD in partnership with federal prosecutors, are relentless and will continue to dismantle organized crime and protect the public from its insidious effects.”