FBI Arrests More Than 100 In Major Mafia Crackdown

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More than 100 alleged mobsters have been arrested across New York, New Jersey and New England. Officials say the sweep includes high-ranking members of the Gambino and Colombo crime families.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

It was not a good day for organized crime. Federal authorities say they've pulled off one of the largest mob roundups ever. 127 people were indicted, more than a hundred of them taken out of their homes early this morning by police and marshals.

NPR's Robert Smith reports that the arrests including members from all of the major East Coast crime families.

ROBERT SMITH: It's hard to understand the scale of today's mob bust. The indictments alone run hundreds of pages. Here, let me get them right here.

(Soundbite of thump)

SMITH: When stacked up, they are four inches thick. The handy color-coded chart of the seven crime families has more players than the NCAA tournament. There's no time to read the 127 names of the indicted, but I can read some of their nicknames to give you the flavor. They got Whiny, Tony Bagels, they got Jack the Whack, Little John. The FBI picked up Uncle Danny, Marbles, Skinny, Johnny Pizza.

If you had a meeting scheduled today with Junior Lollipops, Jimmy Gooch, or Baby Fat Larry, hate to break it to you, but they're probably speaking with their lawyers. The ever-understated attorney general, Eric Holder, allowed himself a little bit of hyperbole.

Mr. ERIC HOLDER (Attorney General): This is one of the largest single-day operations against the Mafia in the FBI's history, both in terms of the number of defendants arrested and charged and the scope of the criminal activity that is alleged.

SMITH: If you've seen it in a movie, then it's probably in one of these many indictments. Here, I'm just going to open up just a few documents here. We have the account of a gentleman named Bakalat(ph), allegedly running an illegal card game in Ronkonkoma. Here's another. The feds taped John Cavallo complaining that he didn't get his kickback and allegedly saying, I'll go there and I'll kill him. You don't know my name, right?

One more. Anthony Russo is charged with participating in the murder of an underboss, Joseph Scopo, as he got out of a car in Queens. The feds allegedly have Russo on tape laughing about it. There are hundreds more of these documents. Some of these crimes go back 30 years. So, why round up all these guys now? The FBI agent in charge of the New York office, Janice Fedarcyk, says they've been working all these cases and finally felt they had enough evidence. Part of it came from informants, whom she says are more common than you might think.

Ms. JANICE FEDARCYK (FBI Agent): The vow of silence that is part of the oath of�Omerta�is more myth than reality today.

SMITH: And with all these guys singing like canaries, the FBI was helped out by a little technology.

Ms. FEDARCYK: Dozens of court-authorized wiretaps allowed us to listen in on phone calls, and thousands of conversations were recorded by cooperators.

SMITH: All the profanity-laden threats and boasts that fill these pages will mean plenty of interesting reading tonight for buffs of organized crime. Today's indictments are a reminder, Holder says, that the mob is still around, still dangerous, still sucking money from businesses.

Mr. HOLDER: I think the mob certainly has been weakened. It is different from what it was once before, but the reality is it is an ongoing threat, a major threat to the economic well-being of this country, in addition to being the violent organization that it is and therefore deserving of our attention.

SMITH: That attention now turns to the court system.�Federal judges in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island will have their hands full sorting out decades of threats, extortions and the kind of drama only the mob can provide.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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