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17 people arrested in raid in New York

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The New York State Attorney General's Office on Wednesday released an indictment against 17 people alleged to be involved in “lucrative” illegal gambling and loan-sharing operations controlled by alleged members of the notorious Gambino family.

Prosecutors accused the individuals of being involved in a sports betting operation that generated more than $22.7 million in illegal wagers, as well as a loan sharking operation that generated about $500,000 in usurious loans. The 17 individuals were charged with multiple crimes, including corporate corruption, first- and second-degree criminal usury and first-degree promotion of gambling, according to the 84-count indictment.

Those arrested and charged on Wednesday include alleged Gambino soldiers John Laforte, 56, Anthony Cinque Jr., 39, John Matera, 53, and alleged Gambino associates Edward LaForte, 58, Frederick Falcone Sr., 66, Giulio Pomponio, 61, and Daniel Bogan, 41. Prosecutors said John LaForte and three others were also charged in a separate indictment on Wednesday with mortgage fraud to buy a $600,000 home in New Jersey.

“Illegal gambling and loan-extortion are among the oldest Mafia schemes,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Wednesday. “While organized crime is still active in New York, today we must put several members of the Gambino crime family out of business. These criminal enterprises have taken tens of millions of dollars from New Yorkers and plunged many into dangerous debt.”

Wednesday's indictment is the latest arrest of alleged members and associates of the Gambino crime family, which the Crime Museum says is one of the most notorious criminal organizations in America. Last November, 10 members and associates were charged with multiple offenses related to the organization's attempt to dominate the transportation and demolition industries in New York City, according to prosecutors.

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“Called by for a slice of pizza”

The investigation included court-approved wiretaps and bugs, covert video surveillance cameras, search warrants for an illegal gambling website abroad and search warrants for some residences, prosecutors said. Most of the usury and bookmaking activities were carried out during meetings at the Eltingville Shopping Center and the Greenridge Shopping Center on Staten Island.

Investigators found that Edward LaForte managed the gambling website where over 70 players placed over $22.7 million in bets between September 2022 and March 2023, the indictment said. Prosecutors said Edward LaForte supervised several of his co-defendants who were “sheetholders,” or people who managed the bets and collections.

“Often, the players who illegally bet through these ticket holders got into debt, and the members of this criminal organization took advantage of this opportunity by making usurious loans and illegally charging and collecting high interest on these loans, thereby profiting at the expense of the players who got into debt,” said a press release from the New York State Attorney General's Office.

Prosecutors also alleged that the gambling operation was run by 44-year-old Amy McLaughlin, who helped set up the gambling ring, kept records of weekly gambling results, and collected and distributed the proceeds.

Others involved in the operation, according to the indictment, included John LaForte, who received proceeds and served in a supervisory role. John LaForte and Anthony Cinque Jr. also financed part of the operation to pay out to the bet winners.

Edward LaForte sometimes left the proceeds from his loan-mongering and gambling operations at Frank and Danny's Pizzeria in the Eltingville Shopping Center, which Bogan owned, according to the indictment. A phone conversation in November 2022 indicated that Edward LaForte had “stopped by for a slice of pizza,” to which Bogan responded, “All right, okay, yeah, yeah, I've got you here.”

Edward LaForte and former NYPD officer Falcone also acted as loan sharks, keeping detailed accounts listing victims' names and their usurious loan amounts, the indictment says. The two met with their victims at shopping malls, another Staten Island restaurant, their homes or the victims' homes.

The indictment further states that in some cases, Falcone and Edward LaForte required approval and financing from John LaForte and Cinque to make the loans. The operation “generated approximately $500,000 in weekly loan payments on usurious loans,” prosecutors said.

Official: Arrest of Mafia-run operation weakens Gambino family's 'grip'

The Gambino family is one of five traditional organized crime families, also known as the “Five Families,” that operate in the New York area and sometimes abroad, the indictment says.

The other four families are the Bonanno family, the Colombo family, the Genovese family and the Lucchese family, the indictment continues. They are part of a criminal network referred to as “the Mafia,” “the Mob” and “La Cosa Nostra.”

The Gambino crime family dates back to the early 1900s and is named after Carlo Gambino, who, according to the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, was “the American Mafia's most powerful and respected don and the face of organized crime in New York City from the late 1950s until his peaceful death of natural causes in 1976.” Although federal criminal prosecutions have brought down Gambino members and associates in recent decades, the family still operates criminal operations in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

“This case is a stark reminder that organized crime continues to thrive in the New York metropolitan area,” New York City Port Authority Commissioner Paul Weinstein said in a statement Wednesday. “The Gambino family has always exerted its influence on the Port of New York. Disrupting their profits from gambling and loan-mongering weakens this family's influence.”