New York arrests launch major Mafia sweep. Law officials hope to encourage more witnesses against organized crime
On a subway in Brooklyn Wednesday, a passenger was reading the New York Post, whose front-page headline read ``Mob Stalks Squealers.'' Nearby an older man was engrossed in ``A Man of Honor,'' the autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, former boss of the Bonanno ``family.'' US Attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani says the ``silly, romantic picture'' of the Mafia that persists has frequently impaired authorities as they have sought to dismantle the ``mob.''
The glamorization of mob activities -- murder, loan-sharking, gambling, drug trafficking, extortion, and labor racketeering -- has often made witnesses reluctant to speak out against the mob, usually out of excessive fear, he says.
Be that as it may, Mr. Giuliani says the arrests earlier this week of nine men who allegedly make up a ``commission'' governing the five organized-crime families in New York City are a ``prologue to the future.''
He and other law-enforcement officials say they hope the arrests will bring forward more cooperative witnesses and deal a major blow to the Mafia.
Giuliani predicts that there will be many more cases based on the investigation -- which includes hours of tape recordings from buggings and telephone taps. There have already been 300 arrests in New York since law-enforcement agencies redoubled their efforts to battle the Mafia in the fall of 1983.
Alhough there ``are always people to take the places'' of the upper eschelon, Giuliani said Tuesday, the attack on the mob will continue at ``top, middle, and lower levels.''
``We are going after the people who might take over,'' he says.
The arrests of the men, who were arraigned in the US courthouse in Manhattan yesterday, came after 18 months of combined work by federal, state, and local officials. Some 175 federal agents and 25 New York City Police Department detectives worked on the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director William H. Webster said the 15-count indictment means that the ``major muscle'' of organized crime ``has now been brought to the bar of justice.''
``This is a bad day, probably the worst ever, for the Mafia,'' Giuliani said Tuesday.
By utilizing a federal statute dubbed RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act of 1970), the alleged crime bosses were charged with racketeering. RICO allows broader grounds for bringing conspiracy charges, and prohibits an ``enterprise'' from operating through a pattern of racketeering.
The indictment outlined the existence of a commission, in which the five reputed ``bosses'' and four alleged members or associates of the five families allegedly regulated the activities between and among the families. This included a scheme allegedly used to extort more than a million dollars from the concrete industry.
Indicted were Anthony Salerno, reputed boss of the Genovese family; Paul Castellano, alleged leader of the Gambino family; Anthony Corallo, reputed boss of the Lucchese family; Philip Rastelli, reputed head of the Bonanno family; and Gennaro Langella, alleged acting boss of the Colombo family.
Others included Aniello Dellacroce, alleged underboss of the Gambino family; Salvatore Santoro, alleged underboss of the Lucchese family; Christopher Furnari of the Lucchese family; and Ralph Scopo, member of the Colombo family and president of the Concrete Workers District Council, Laborers International Union of North America.
Officials associated with the investigation gave much credit to the physical and electronic surveillance provided by the FBI. An electronic bug planted in the car of one of the men provided some taped information.
Though the impact of the Mafia on everyday life throughout the country is not always overt, it is tangible, say law-enforcement officials. Mafia activities levy ``hidden taxes on all of us everyday,'' says New York City Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward.
Giuliani agrees there is ``very great relevance'' between organized crime and crime in urban areas, partly because of organized crime's involvement in illicit narcotics distribution. He also mentioned the costs passed on to consumers through criminal control of the concrete industry.
There are questions as to whether the arrests will bring about violence in the underworld.
``I don't know if [the Mafia] can become any more dangerous,'' said Giuliani at the Tuesday press conference, noting that the indictment charges the commission with authorizing at least five murders during family power struggles.