7 plead not guilty in NYC mob crackdown

Associated Press
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., center, addresses news conference, in New York, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Nine people, members of the infamous Bonanno crime family, have been indicted on enterprise corruption charges. (AP Photo/Bethan McKernan)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Nine reputed members of the Bonanno crime family were charged in an indictment unsealed Tuesday with what prosecutors called old-school mob activity: gambling, loan sharking, extortion and drugs.

A two-year investigation dismantled one crew of the family, including a captain, two capos, a soldier and several associates, two of whom were members of an International Brotherhood of Teamsters local union, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said.

"The 158-page indictment demonstrates that organized crime is still operating in New York City and has its hooks into the labor movement," Vance said.

Vance said that prosecutors have done such a good job taking down the mob in the past that it may seem like they're no longer a threat. "Many mistakenly believe that the mob has disappeared entirely except if you watch HBO," he said, referring to "The Sopranos." ''But we know in fact this is not the case."

Manhattan prosecutors said the defendants, including the former president of Local 917, were accused of using their union positions to solicit members as clients for their criminal enterprises, including online gambling and drugs. They were also accused of gun possession.

The two union members were also charged with perjury, prosecutors said.

The suspected captain, Nicholas "Nicky Mouth" Santora, was sentenced in December to two years behind bars in a separate mob case in Brooklyn federal court. His lawyer in that case said Tuesday that he wasn't aware of the new charges and had not been contacted by anyone for representation.

Seven of the suspects pleaded not guilty Tuesday, and their lawyers said they were innocent of the charges and would make bail. The eight was expected to appear Wednesday, and prosecutors weren't sure when Santora, who's imprisoned in Pennsylvania, would appear.

The Bonannos are one of New York City's five Italian organized crime families. All have been decimated in the past several years by prosecutions aided by turncoats willing to give up mob secrets in exchange for leniency.

Former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino became the highest-ranking member of the city's five Italian organized crime families to ever take the witness stand for the government, betraying his onetime associate Vincent Basciano who was sentenced to two life terms.

Massino broke his family's sacred vow of silence and began talking with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes as he rose through the ranks of the Bonannos. The bloodshed included the shotgun slayings of three rival captains and the execution of a mobster who vouched for FBI undercover agent Donnie Brasco in the 1980s. Brasco's story became a movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Nicholas Santora was portrayed in the film by Bruno Kirby.