Colombo Mobster Pleads Guilty To Racketeering After Relaxing At Pool On The Run

"The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well."
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 1: Magazines and news papers about the mafia on June 1, 1991 in New York, New York. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)
Santi Visalli/Getty Images

A powerful Colombo crime family mobster pleaded guilty to racketeering on Thursday, over a year after a photo was snapped of him relaxing in a pool while on the run from the feds.

Ralph DiMatteo, the Colombo family’s third-most powerful member, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to extortion, conspiracy, and money laundering between 2020 and 2021, including a plot to threaten a high-level union official.

In September, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York leveled serious charges at 14 people, including DiMatteo and the “entire administration of the Colombo organized crime family,” the office said.

A day before the charges were announced, DiMatteo flew to Florida, The New York Post reported. After he was supposed to turn himself into the feds, his son posted a photo on Twitter of DiMatteo relaxing in a pool with the water up to his chest, leaning on the side and looking directly at the camera. He wore a large gold crucifix around his neck, and his tatted right arm was visible in the photo.

DiMatteo subsequently turned himself into authorities.

In court on Thursday, DiMatteo, 68, reportedly wore a dark blazer, dark blue shirt, and a dark green tie.

DiMatteo and the 13 other defendants were hit with a slew of charges including labor racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and loansharking involving a “long-running effort” to “infiltrate and take control” of a Queens labor union.

DiMatteo was accused of laundering money from the labor union’s health care benefit program to the Colombo crime family’s leaders. He was also accused of using extortion including “direct threats of bodily harm” to control the union’s management and force it to make decisions directly benefitting the Colombo family.

Prosecutors said DiMatteo was the Colombo family’s consigliere, or a high-ranking member that advises the family’s head and resolves disputes.

The judge said guidelines recommend 41 and 51 months in prison for DiMatteo, who is set to be sentenced in October, according to The New York Post.

Among the other people charged were Andrew “Mush” Russo, the boss of the Colombo crime family, Benjamin “Benji” Castellazzo, the underboss, and a member of the Bonanno crime family.

“Today’s charges describe a long-standing, ruthless pattern by the administration of the Colombo crime family, its captains, members and associates, of conspiring to exert control over the management of a labor union by threatening to inflict bodily harm on one of its senior officials and devising a scheme to divert and launder vendor contract funds from its health care benefit program,” said acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis in a statement when the charges were announced.

Kasulis said the defendants engaged in drug trafficking as well.

In one example of the alleged crimes, prosecutors claimed Vincent Ricciardo, known as “Vinny Unions,” 75, threatened to kill a senior labor union official in a profanity-laced rant.

“I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f***ing house, you laugh all you want pal, I’m not afraid to go to jail, let me tell you something, to prove a point? I would f***ing shoot him right in front of his wife and kids, call the police, f*** it, let me go, how long you think I’m gonna last anyway?” Ricciardo said in a recording, according to prosecutors.

“The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in September, adding that “we’re going to catch them.”

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