The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that ten reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family of La Cosa Nostra, including its top leaders, have been charged for multiple crimes related to shaking down a New York-based labor union.
The Colombo family is one of the “five families” of the Italian-American Mafia that historically controlled organized crime in New York City.
Authorities said a 19-count indictment was unsealed in a Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday, charging a total of 14 defendants with various offenses, including labor racketeering and extortion. Thirteen of the defendants had been arrested at the time the charges were announced.
According to the New York Daily News, “The Colombo hierarchy took a major hit,” reporting, “Family head Andrew (Mush) Russo, 87, underboss Benjamin Castellazzo and consigliere Ralph DiMatteo were among those arrested.” They were all charged with racketeering, along with alleged Colombo captains Theodore Persico, Jr. (nephew of former longtime Colombo boss Carmine Persico), Richard Ferrara, Vincent Ricciardo (a.k.a. “Vinny Unions”), along with soldier Michael Uvino and associates Thomas Costa and Domenick Ricciardo.
The New York Times reported, “The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the 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 Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The Daily News provides more details:
In addition to racketeering, the charges included loansharking, money laundering, drug trafficking and a construction safety scam, officials charged. According to the indictment, alleged family captain Vincent Ricciardo callously threatened to murder a construction union boss who was forced to surrender a portion of his annual income to the mob.
“(The union head) knows I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f—ing house,” Ricciardo was quoted as saying in court papers. “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.” …
The Colombos first started the shakedown in 2001 of the union representing construction workers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The family’s top echelon became involved two years ago, the 46-page indictment charges, with an eye on turning the union into a mob-run operation.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said, “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”
“These soldiers, consiglieres, under bosses, and bosses are obviously not students of history, and don’t seem to comprehend that we’re going to catch them,” he said in a statement. “Regardless of how many times they fill the void we create in their ranks, our FBI Organized Crime Task Force, and our law enforcement partners, are positioned to take them out again, and again.”