Shakedowns for protection money from thugs. Secret, backroom gambling halls. Hushed meetings between bosses at a restaurant. Hit men waiting in darkened alleys.
It sounds like a 1950s gangster film — but it’s not from movie scripts, federal prosecutors say.
The feds have charged nearly four dozen people with being part of an East Coast crime syndicate, including an old-school mobster in New York and a reputed mob chieftain in Philadelphia who has been pursued by the government for decades.
But can they finally make the charges stick?
The indictment, unsealed Thursday in New York City, accuses the defendants of a litany of classic mafia crimes, including extortion, loansharking, casino-style gambling, sports gambling, credit card fraud and health care fraud. It said the syndicate operated in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey.
Among those charged was Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, the flamboyant alleged head of the Philadelphia mob who has repeatedly beat murder charges in past cases, but served nearly 12 years in prison for racketeering.
Also named in the indictment was Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello, identified as a longtime member of the Genovese organized crime family and the owner of an Italian restaurant in New York City.
Parrello, 72, pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges at his arraignment in federal court in Manhattan.
He was detained without bail after prosecutors argued in court papers that he was a danger because of his “appetite and capacity for vengeance, control, and violence.” His attorney declined comment outside court.
Merlino, also was ordered held without bail at a hearing in West Palm Beach, Florida. His longtime lawyer, Ed Jacobs, declined to comment on the allegations, saying he hadn’t yet studied the indictment.
Prosecutors said 39 of those charged were arrested on Thursday. Alleged members of four New York crime families were among the defendants. During the arrests, agents seized three handguns, a shotgun, gambling paraphernalia and more than $30,000 in cash.
Diego Rodriguez, head of the FBI’s New York office, said the indictment “reads like an old school Mafia novel.”
One count accuses Parrello, 72, of ordering a beatdown in 2011 of a panhandler he believed was harassing female customers outside his restaurant, Pasquale Rigoletto, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
“Break his … knees,” he said, according to prosecutors. Although no one was kneecapped, the panhandler was “assaulted with glass jars, sharp objects and steel-tipped boots, causing bodily harm,” the court papers said.
Afterward one of his cohorts was recorded saying, “Remember the old days in the neighborhood when we used to play baseball? … A ballgame like that was done,” the papers said.
Prosecutors also said that in 2013, Parrello ordered retaliation against a man who stabbed a member of his crew outside a Bronx bar.
After an associate agreed to “whack” the attacker, Parrello cautioned him to “keep the pipes handy and pipe him, pipe him, over here (gesturing to the knees), not on his head,” court papers said.
Merlino, 54, who became a restaurateur in Boca Raton, Florida, following his release from prison, was implicated in a health care fraud scheme with Parrello and others. Investigators said the conspirators got corrupt doctors to bill insurers for unnecessary and excessive prescriptions for expensive compound creams in exchange for kickbacks.
A magistrate judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, ordered Merlino held without bail pending a detention hearing on Tuesday. In papers arguing against his release, prosecutors said he “been captured on recordings supervising a number of individuals, questioning whether certain associates were ‘rats.'”
In Massachusetts, five alleged associates of the New York-based Genovese crime family were arrested on extortion-related charges as part of the sweep. Four men were arrested in New Jersey.
Like Merlino, several other defendants, including Parrello in the case have records of mob-related convictions and prison time. One of the lesser-known defendants, Bradford Wedra, interrupted a hearing Thursday where he pleaded not guilty to complain to the judge that he was broke after completing a 25-year sentence in another case.
“Now, I’m home and I can’t afford nothing,” he said before he was given a court-appointed lawyer.
The Associated Press contributed to this article
Calvin Mishalatube says
Good job. However, the FBI, under the dubious leadership of Commie Comey, missed the biggest crooks of all–Hillary Clinton and her rapist husband. These two must be the envy of the Mafia as they continue to get away with murder, literally and figuratively, and make millions in the process. So…if by some stroke of bad luck she gets elected, don’t let your daughters become interns in the W.H. Nothing good could come of it.
Ruben C. says
Yes Calvin, first thing it came into my mind
IT SEEMS MANY HAD THE SAME EXACT THOUGHTS AS YOU
My thoughts exactly. Few mafioso can have over 50 homicides laid at their feet as the Clintons. They are, beyond doubt, the worst gangsters the world has ever seen, with the possible exception of Hitler & Stalin.
With all my heart I wish J. Edgar Hoover was still alive & director of the FBI. Clintons & Obama would have never been allowed to run for the presidency.
Junior Rutherford says
Proves her Mafia is stronger than there’s are. She walked out laughing and the stupid Democrats are running her for President. What a JOKE.
I came here to write that they missed the Clinton and Bush Crime Families.
As Calvin said.
john G. says
Hillary the “Hun” and her main squeeze Slick Willie should considered to be as big threat to America and the American people as the Mafia, but apparently the FBI doesn’t think so. I guess money laundering is OK if your the government, but anyone it is a felony. Lockup the current O’bozo cabinet including the “Wicked Witch of the East and Slick Willie”.
L. Shamus McQuade says
Put Obama, Hillary, Biden and all the minions in prison and leave these guys alone…..trust me its a better deal. The only difference between the mafia thugs and the Career Politician who is just as bad is the career politician is a LAWYER/POLITICIAN and being such they can dodge weave, payoff and manipulate the system to stay out of jail. But the in the end they are all theives
Randy Jackson says
Would like to see the “Feds” re-direct their efforts.
Don’t get me wrong the arrest of these thugs is a good thing.
The “Feds” just need to adjust their priorities and go after the number one enemy of the State.
That would be Barak Hussein Barry Sotero Obama, followed by all the low lifes in the Obama Administration, Directors of the DOJ, FBI, EPA, BLM, IRS, Treasury, followed by the Clinton team and Congress. That would be a good start!
Especially every racist member in the Congressional Black Caucus, that’s every one of thembe it male and female. They always play their racism card. Get rid of the likes of them all.
While i certainly agree that many of those dept. heads you mentioned need to be investigated, arrested, and prosecuted, might i recommend an excellent read for you?
It’s called “Our Enemy, the State,” by Albert Nock. In it, he makes a GREAT distinction between lawful, limited government and the fictional entity called “The State” that’s eminently worthy of knowing about.
Compare to Hillary those guys are outstanding citizens…..
Nicole Hunter says
Hillary makes the mob look like Mother Teresa.
Christopher S. O'Rourke says
The FBI will go after the Mafia, but they let the damned POS white trash Clinton’s, the illegal alien gangs that are from Iran, the PLO & Syria and the devil worshipping satanic KKK who do far worse get away with it. That right there is what is called Justice. Those that the FBI let get away with it are a trillion times worse than the Mafia, the Bloods, the Crips, Buffalo’s Bailey Boys, Detriot’s Chambers Brothers, Chicago’s Blackstone Rangers, the Lords
of Flatbush, the Young Lords, the Westies, the Chollos all combined.
Remember the big mafia arrests right before the 2008 election?
They think we are stupid Americans. That this matters to us. This is small petty crime compared to what the CLINTONS are up to. I just heard there have already been 3 THREE suspicious deaths among acquaintances of the HILL THIS YEAR!!!! 3!!!!!
Arrest the REAL CRIME FAMILY!!!!!!!
Everyone has the same thought! Why wasn’t the Clinton mob family not on the list? These gangsters have nothing on the Clintons.
They just want to cut the competition to The Clanton Gang.
Christopher S. O'Rourke says
The Clinton crime family are exempt from the law and have far more rights than the majority of the people. The law doesn’t apply to the Clinton’s at all.
I would like to know why the FBI never targets black criminals ?
Bill and Hillary top these guys to the max….and all their murders throughout the years of those who get in their way. They are, I am sure, envied by the mafia- and they have a mafia of their own right there in Washington DC, in the middle of our govt. Why aren’t they taken down? And why was this other mafia allowed to get away with this kind of lifestyle for decades. Their talk and threats alone should be enough to put them in jail, let-a-lone the things they actually have done! Wonder how many have died because they were being “watched” instead of arrested and incarcerated.
Inspector Tom says
I wonder if they will use ‘The Clinton Defense’ to get out from these charges
Gloria Bouillon says
Now start arresting most of GOVERNMENT! Oops they may be your friends. You let the most wanted and dangerous go free! What a joke.
SERIOUSLY? THIS IS WHO THE FBI IS CHASING? HAS ANYONE HEARD OF ISIS?
Amused by the first sentence in this article, “Shakedowns for protection money from thugs. Secret, backroom gambling halls. Hushed meetings between bosses at a restaurant. Hit men waiting in darkened alleys.” In America, we call this the Obama,
Hil-LIAR-y administration. ie: TAX shakedowns, FORCED PURCHASES OF BOGUS HEALTCARE, secret meetings? hitmen in dark alleys? on and on……
Justin W says
I was surprised the Clintons weren’t part of this crowd.
It’s one thing to make the charge, but getting a conviction tends to be difficult in many mafia cases.
Not So Free says
They should have started at the White House; then gone to the DOJ; etc. etc. etc.
Stephen Russell says
Thought Old Organized Mob died in the 90s?? Only Clintons remain of ” gangster” model since the Old Mob was done away by FBI Years ago??
Its NOT Yakuza, right??
Are you sure about this mob takedown? From what I hear, the Clintons, the Obamas, Democraps, DC cronies, the Black Lives Matter, ISIS, etc. are all still out there doing (crooked) business as usual!
Lucia Bartoli says
Mafia ? Did this say Mafia? That’s a discriminatory pejorative implying Italian-Americans! Besides that, the REAL “mob” is named “the Clintons”. Now the FBI is scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to have the public see its organization as “crime fighting”
What a huge joke!!
Great comments one and all. I would only add that I believe Comey, the FBI Director, and the DOJ gal were either threatened or paid off by the Clintons. And I also wonder the sudden and inexplainable demise of Justice Scalia. The Clintons are thugs.
Stump for Trump.