Forty-six alleged mob figures with nicknames like “Muscles,” “Nicky the Wig,” “Tugboat” and “Mustache Pat” were named in a sprawling new racketeering indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday.
The 30-page indictment says the men are part of a multistate East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise that engaged in and coordinated crimes ranging from extortion, arson and grisly assaults to credit card fraud, untaxed cigarette sales and firearms trafficking.
Officials said the case, based on “thousands of hours” of secret recordings of top wiseguys by an informant and an undercover FBI agent, was the largest organized crime roundup in several years and showed that the mob may be down, but it’s far from out.
“The mob remains a scourge to this city and around the country,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. “Today’s mafia is fully diversified in its boundless search for illegal profits.”
Diego Rodriguez, head of the New York FBI office, said “The indictment reads like an old school mafia novel, where extortion, illegal gambling, arson and threats to ‘whack’ someone are carried out along with modern-day crimes of credit-card skimming.”
The government said the defendants included bosses, capos, soldiers and associates from several different mob families — Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Genovese — as well as a Philadelphia organized crime family.
From New York and Massachusetts to Pennsylvania and Florida, the indictment said, the gangsters engaged in “ongoing coordination, communication and efforts to work together” and “functioned as a continuing unit.”
Different factions allegedly “often worked with each other to facilitate gambling and coordinated the settling of debts through sit-downs and conspiracies to commit extortion.”
The government said some of its recordings were made by an informant who worked under defendant Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello, 72, an alleged Genovese captain whose crew operated out of his Arthur Avenue restaurant in the Bronx, Pasquale’s Rigoletto.
The same informant later wore a wire working for another lead defendant, alleged Philadelphia crime boss Joseph Merlino, 54, prosecutors said, while separately an FBI undercover agent secretly taped defendant Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio, 74, who allegedly ran Genovese crews on Mulberry Street in New York City, and in Springfield, Mass.
The indictment described racketeering activities ranging from operation of a casino that offered illegal gambling activities in Yonkers to assaults and traditional strong-arm and leg-breaking activities to protect mob enterprises and health care fraud scams.
In one recorded conversation, Bronx gangster Parrello allegedly directed members of his crew to try and collect a debt, stating: “You get Buddy and let Buddy go there and choke him . . . and tell him, ‘Listen to me . . . next time I’m not gonna stop choking . . . I’m gonna kill you.’”
In another incident, Parrello allegedly ordered two underlings — one nicknamed “The Beast” — to assault a panhandler who had been accused of bothering women in his Arthur Avenue neighborhood, and “break” his knees.
Afterward, according to the charges, one of the legbreakers reminisced on a wiretap about other times he had used a baseball bat to inflict a beating: “Remember the old days in the neighborhood when we used to play baseball? A ballgame like that was done.”
Altogether, 39 defendants were arrested Thursday in New York, Florida and Massachusetts, while others were already in custody or had agreed to surrender, officials said.
The government asked for the detention of 10, including Parrella, who was described as a leader of the racketeering conspiracy and a lifelong gangster who was a “merciless” criminal with “demonstrated appetite and capacity for vengeance, control, and violence.”
Merlino, prosecutors said, had completed his sentence on another case in 2014, and needed to be detained because he had been working since then to rebuild the Philadelphia crime family, and O’Nofrio was described as a widely feared leader who threatened to order a hammer attack on tape.
Bail and detention hearings were still underway Thursday night.