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Italian, U.S. Law Enforcement Arrest 16 Alleged Crime Family Members

Italian and U.S. law enforcement joined forces to coordinate a campaign to investigate and arrest 16 alleged leaders and associates of the Gambino crime family on charges that include racketeering, extortion, witness retaliation, conspiracy, and fraud. Of the alleged crime family members, 10 were arrested in the New York City area and six were arrested by Italian authorities in Palermo, Sicily. One suspect was still at large as of 9 November.

A 16-count indictment, unsealed on 8 November in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charged the 10 U.S.-based defendants with crimes allegedly committed “in an attempt to dominate the New York carting and demolition industries,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) news release. The six people arrested in Italy were charged with mafia association and connected criminal offenses, such as extortion, arson, and auction rigging.

The Gambino crime family is an Italian-American mafia crime group and one of the “five families” that run organized crime activities in New York City. The family was led by boss John Gotti until his death in 2002.

Within the current spate of arrests, U.S. defendants include Joseph Lanni, also known as “Joe Brooklyn” and “Mommino,” an alleged captain in the Gambino organized crime family; Diego “Danny” Tantillo, Angelo Gradilone, also known as “Fifi,” and James LaForte, alleged Gambino soldiers; Vito Rappa, alleged U.S.-based Sicilian Mafia member and Gambino associate; Francesco Vicari, also known as “Uncle Ciccio,” alleged U.S.-based Sicilian Mafia associate and Gambino associate; and Salvatore DiLorenzo, Robert Brooke, Kyle Johnson, also known as “Twin,” and Vincent Minsquero, also known as “Vinny Slick,” alleged Gambino associates, the DOJ listed.

In the indictment, prosecutors outlined a pattern of intimidation and violent assaults linked to attempts to embezzle funds and defraud unions and employee benefit plans, the BBC reported. The group threatened businesspeople and demanded protection payments, especially in the demolition and carting (or waste management) industries, between 2017 and 2021. The racketeering indictment accuses the defendants of crimes such as assaulting a demolition company employee with a hammer and setting fire to the steps of a trash carting business owner’s house when he stopped paying monthly extortion payments, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. defendants face maximum prison sentences of between 20 and 180 years in prison.

Prosecutors in Palermo said the investigation shed light on “the solidarity of the existing relationship” between New York and Sicilian mobsters and the “American interest in the organizational affairs of the Sicilian Casa Nostra,” The Guardian reported.  

“Prosecutors have discovered evidence suggesting that American mafiosi were receiving training and guidance from their Sicilian ‘cousins’ in employing a softer, less violent approach,” according to The Guardian. “This approach involves demanding smaller amounts from extortion victims so that the victims are less likely to seek assistance from the authorities. According to investigators, Sicilian mafia families have also aided the Americans in targeting the relatives of New York restaurateurs residing in Sicily, coercing them into paying the pizzo, or mafia protection money.”

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