Nine alleged members of the New York-based Bonnano organised crime family have been charged with what US prosecutors have described as “old-school mob activity”.
The two-year investigation resulted in a 158-page indictment that includes charges of extortion, gambling and loan-sharking. It also accuses a Bonanno soldier and an associate of assisting in the 2010 election of another crime family associate as the president of a 1,900-member Teamsters union local on Long Island.
The investigation dismantles a so-called mob crew including a captain, two capos, a soldier and several associates. Two of the accused were members of an International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Among those charged was Nicholas Santora (71) an enduring Bonanno crime family figure known as Nicky Mouth. Santora was a central figure in the 1982 federal trial that grew out of an FBI operation in which an undercover agent named Joseph Pistone penetrated the crime family by posing as a thief named Donnie Brasco, whose work was the subject of the movie of the same name.
Santora was identified in the indictment as the head of the Bonanno crime family crew whose activities are at the centre of the charges. He pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge in Brooklyn last year and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. He is serving his sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pa.
Like all of the defendants in the case, Santora was charged with enterprise corruption, the state version of the federal crime of racketeering. If convicted of enterprise corruption, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in state prison. Santora and several other defendants were also charged with second-degree grand larceny and usury. Other accusations in the 158-page indictment include the sale of drugs and weapons.
The indictment says that the associate who was elected to the union post, Nicholas Bernhard, a defendant in the case, ran the union, Local 917 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, for his own benefit and the benefit of the Bonanno family crew.
Bernhard (51) resigned from his position with the union, which represents truck drivers and parking lot and gas station workers, in the summer of 2012 after the investigation exposed his alleged involvement with the crime family and he was questioned under oath by a court-appointed monitor that oversees the Teamsters union.
The charges in the case come just two weeks after the New York FBI office reduced the number of its agents working mob cases. That reduction, combined with two previous cutbacks over the last five years, left the bureau with roughly three dozen investigators working mob cases in the city, 60 per cent fewer than in 2008.
The indictment charges a total of nine men – eight of whom are in custody. All but one were arrested early yesterday morning, officials said. The ninth man is still being sought.
The case was brought by the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R Vance Jr. Officials at Local 917 could not be reached for comment. The indictment charges that two defendants, Vito Badamo (50) and Anthony Santoro (49) identified, respectively, as an acting captain and soldier, “explicitly promoted” Bernhard’s election, and that Bernhard then “deployed” another defendant, Scott O’Neill, the union’s assistant shop steward, in the crew’s loan-sharking and gambling activities.
“Members of Local 917 borrowed money and placed bets in a crew of the Bonanno Organized Crime Family’s loan-sharking and gambling operations,” the indictment said. The indictment did not detail how Badamo and Santoro promoted Bernhard’s election, but an official briefed on the case said they made telephone calls “to each other and others about getting people they know in the union to vote for Bernhard.”