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U.S. indictments target organized crime

Prosecutors accuse 14 of being Gambino family members

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Fourteen alleged members of the Gambino crime family were arrested and indicted Thursday on charges that include racketeering, extortion, witness tampering, and conspiracy to commit murder, federal prosecutors said.

It is the second major crackdown this month on organized crime in New York City.

James Comey, U.S. attorney for New York's southern district, said that Louis "Big Louie" Vallario and Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, both Gambino captains, were arrested Thursday and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

U.S. attorney announces indictments of alleged Gambino members 

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The indictments alleged that the Gambino members exerted illegal influence on construction companies, businesses in the Garment District, and wholesale produce distributors in Manhattan and the outer boroughs over more than 10 years.

Thursday's announcement came on the heels of another significant mob bust earlier this month that will force 17 other Gambino members, including Peter Gotti, acting family boss and brother of recently deceased boss John "Teflon Don" Gotti, to face trial.

Comey said the charges "represent a further dismantling of the Gambino family's leadership" and will "prevent them from re-establishing their violent, extortionate grip" over New York City businesses.

The indictment against Vallario and DiLeonardo also charged them with involvement in the 1989 murder of Frederick Weiss, which prosecutors alleged was "a favor" to John Gotti, who feared that Weiss might be cooperating with the government in its investigation of high-ranking Gambino family members.

The combination of the two recent busts, in addition to Gotti's death this month, has seriously altered the face and weakened the grip of a crime family whose power and influence in the 1980s was unrivaled, prosecutors said.

"They're getting attacked on all sides and I think they're in a state of disarray, which is the way we'd like to leave them right now," said Kevin Donovan, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office.

"Today's arrests are further evidence of the FBI's strategy," Donovan said. "We are targeting the leadership of the families, severing their ties to sources of income, and neutralizing their efforts to infiltrate legitimate businesses, markets, and unions."

But government officials were quick to point out that the Gambino family and other mob organizations still pose a threat to the industries they have traditionally corrupted with their criminal activities.

"Folks who think that organized crime is a thing of the past in New York are kidding themselves," Comey said.

The arrest of DiLeonardo was of particular significance to government officials because they believed he was positioned to assume Gotti's position as head of the family.

Two prominent members of the family indicted Thursday were already serving time in prison on other federal charges. Frank "Frankie Fap" Fappiano and Edward "Eddie the Chink" Garafola, both soldiers, along with captains Vallario and DiLeonardo, face the most serious racketeering and conspiracy charges, punishable by life in prison.

The Gambino family reached the peak of its power in the 1980s under Gotti's leadership. In June 1992, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for racketeering, conspiracy to racketeer, defraud and obstruct justice, murder in the aid of racketeering, operating an illegal gambling business and witness tampering.

His victims included "Big Paul" Castellano, head of the Gambino family, who was shot dead in 1985 as he sat in his limousine outside a steak house in midtown Manhattan, allowing Gotti to assume leadership.

Gotti died this month after a long battle with throat cancer, and was buried in his home community of Howard Beach, in Queens.




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