The Sicilian Mafia continues to operate in New York to dominate business sectors through threats and extortion

In an operation that exploded this Wednesday, the United States filed a 16-count indictment in federal court in Brooklyn that accuses ten people of racketeering conspiracy, retaliation against witnesses, and union-related crimes in an attempt to dominate New York’s transportation and demolition industries. The ten defendants appeared before Federal Judge Ramón E. Reyes, Jr. In connection with the arrests, federal authorities executed search warrants, one of which resulted in the seizure of multiple firearms from an associate of the Gambino crime family.

In a coordinated operation, Italian authorities arrested six members and associates of organized crime in Sicily on charges of, among other crimes, mafia association and related criminal offences. One individual remains at large, all of them related to the New York plot.

The accused are Joseph Lanni, also known as “Joe Brooklyn” and “Mommino”, alleged captain of the organized crime family Gambino; Diego “Danny” Tantillo, Angelo Gradilone, also known as “Fifi”, and James LaForte, alleged members of the Gambinos; Vito Rappa, alleged member of the US-based Sicilian mafia and Gambino associate; Francesco Vicari, also known as “Uncle Ciccio”, alleged US-based Sicilian mafia associate and Gambino associate; Salvatore DiLorenzo, Robert Brooke, Kyle Johnson, aka “Twin,” and Vincent Minsquero, aka “Vinny Slick,” all alleged Gambino associates.

“As alleged, for years, the accused committed violent extortion, assault, arson, retaliation against witnesses and other crimes in an attempt to dominate New York’s transportation and demolition industries,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. “Today’s arrests reflect the commitment of this Office and our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to keeping our communities safe by thoroughly dismantling organized crime.”

Mr. Peace expressed his gratitude to the New York Coast Commission, the Office’s law enforcement partners in Italy, including the Palermo Prosecutor, the Polizia di Stato, the Servizio Centrale Operativo and the Squadra Mobile from Palermo.

“These defendants learned the hard way that the FBI is united with our law enforcement agencies locally and internationally in our efforts to eradicate the insidious threat of organized crime. Those arrested are alleged to have participated in an extortion conspiracy in an attempt to control the city’s transportation and demolition industries. “The FBI will continue to lead the fight against organized crime and ensure that people who wish to cross the line face punishment in the criminal justice system,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Smith.

“Today’s arrests should serve as a warning to others who believe they can operate in plain sight with apparent impunity; The NYPD and our law enforcement partners exist to destroy that notion,” said NYPD Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “AND “We will continue to take down members of traditional organized crime wherever they operate.”

The registers / Police

As alleged in government court documents and summarized below, members and associates of the Gambino crime family used violent extortion, fraud, theft, and embezzlement to infiltrate the transportation and demolition industries to enrich themselves and the Gambino crime family, including by laundering criminal proceeds. For example, amid a financial dispute between Tantillo and the owners of Demolition Company 1, Tantillo and Johnson coordinated a violent hammer assault against the Demolition Company 1 dispatcherwhich left the dispatcher bleeding and seriously injured.

Extortions related to the transportation and demolition industries

Tantillo, Rappa, Vicari and Johnson participated in a violent extortion conspiracy related to the demand and receipt of money from John Doe 1, who operated a cart transportation business in the New York City area. The extortion scheme involved threatening John Doe 1 with a bat, setting fire to the steps of John Doe 1’s residence, attempting to damage John Doe 1’s transport trucks, and violently assaulting an associate of John Doe 1. Additionally, Tantillo and Vicari were discovered through judicially authorized wiretaps on Threats made to John Doe 1 and his father-in-law. In one call, Rappa stated that Vicari “acted like the ‘Last Samurai’,” describing how Vicari took a knife and ordered John Doe 1’s father-in-law to threaten to cut John Doe 1 in half to force him to make exorbitant payments. After John Doe 1 finally made a $4,000 payment Vicari, Vicari and Rappa got together and sent Tantillo a photo of Vicari raising a small bottle of champagne, as if in a toast.

Additionally, Tantillo, Brooke, and Johnson participated in two separate violent extortion schemes against Demolition Company 1 and its owners for alleged debts owed to Tantillo and a company operated by Tantillo and Brooke. Brooke violently attacked one of the owners on a corner in midtown Manhattan. In another case, as mentioned, Tantillo and Johnson coordinated a violent hammer assault on a dispatcher at Demolition Company 1, which left the dispatcher bleeding and seriously injured. Then photographs of the victim’s dispatcher were distributed to several people in the transportation and demolition industries.

Union Fraud and Crime in the Transportation and Demolition Industries

The defendants also committed a series of crimes involving theft and embezzlement of union and employee benefit plans and rigged bids in the demolition and hauling industries. As part of one of those plans, DiLorenzo provided Rappa with a “no-show” job at DiLorenzo’s demolition company so Rappa could receive paychecks and benefits union health benefits, among other benefits. Similarly, Tantillo arranged for Gradilone to receive a “no-show” job at a construction company with which Tantillo was associated, allowing Gradilone receiving union paychecks and health benefits to which he was not entitled. Tantillo and Johnson also conspired to secure an “absentee” job for Johnson so that Johnson could similarly receive union health benefits.

Tantillo too misappropriated employee benefit plans by using workers from a non-union company, Gane Services, Inc., to perform work for union companies operated by Tantillo, and by failing to make contributions for such work as required by collective bargaining agreements.

Additionally, Tantillo, DiLorenzo and their co-conspirators conspired to manipulate bids for lucrative demolition contracts in New York City. Among other things, Tantillo and DiLorenzo arranged for their companies to exchange bidding information to secure a project on Fifth Avenue.

Additional Charged Schemes

The defendants also perpetrated a series of other crimes in the New York and New Jersey areas from 2017 to 2023. Their pattern of extortion activity included additional extortions, retaliation against a federal witness, and money laundering, among other crimes, such as is detailed in court documents. For example, in September 2023, Lanni and Minsquero coordinated an attack on the owners of a restaurant in New Jersey, including physically assaulting a woman at knifepoint. Additionally, LaForte, who had previously been convicted of a felony, illegally possessed a firearm on or about May 2023.

The charges are accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Defendants face maximum sentences of between 20 and 180 years in prison.

In parallel, on the island of Sicily (Italy), the Polizia di Stato, delegated by the District Anti-Mafia Directorate of the Public Ministry of Palermo, executed the arrest warrant issued against seven suspects considered responsible for mafia association and other related crimes related to the New York plot, in an operation with the presence of FBI agents.

The joint investigations, which began in April 2021, were supported by a constant exchange of information and research and a series of observation services in the border areas of the Palermo-Rome-New York axis.

The activity demonstrated the current activity of the mafia district of Partinico (Palermo), linked to capo Vito Vitale, whose rise to the top in the 1990s was supported by Totò Riina’s Corleonesi.

The researchers thus confirmed the existence of solid relations in the United States-Italy axis, with a transposition to New York of the extortion method adopted by the Palermo mafia and suggested to American “colleagues” by an elderly Partinico chief.

The suspects also demonstrated a great ability to control the territory, in which they had developed a lucrative drug trade, accompanied by numerous predatory crimes authorized by the local chief.

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