More than 62 people, including leading members of an organised crime family, have been named in a U.S. indictment following a massive police swoop in New York this week. And online sportsbetting is alleged to be among the range of criminal charges that include some of the most serious drug, violence and loan-sharking felonies on the books.
The Gambino family, long associated with organised crime, is at the centre of the numerous charges laid by the U.S. Attorney's office for the region.
Authorities carried out one of the largest Mafia takedowns in recent memory, reports MSNBC, scooping up dozens of reputed Gambino members and charging them with gangland crimes spanning three decades.
The federal indictment in Brooklyn named 62 people, including the three highest-ranking members of the Gambino clan and the brother and nephew of the late John Gotti, the notorious boss who ran the family in its heyday.
State prosecutors separately charged 26 others with running a gambling ring that took nearly $10 million in bets on professional and college sports.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday that the Gambinos' sports book operation substituted "the traditional wire room and street corner bookie who penciled in wagers in a little black book with offshore based Internet Web sites and toll-free numbers through which they were able to manage numerous gambling accounts."
He did not identify the four Costa Rican websites involved, but claimed these were being used in conjunction with toll free phone numbers and illegal wire rooms to allow illegal gambling activity. The gambling brought in over $10 million to the Gambino family in two years, Brown added.
The New York raids coincided with an Italian operation, code-named "Old Bridge" and centered on the Sicilian capital of Palermo, targeting Mafia figures who were strengthening contacts between mob groups in Italy and the United States.
Authorities said the investigations, though technically unconnected, signaled an international attempt to disrupt Sicilian ties to the Gambino family, which has been decimated by prosecutions since family head John Gotti's highly publicised prosecution and fall. Gotti was sentenced to life in prison in 1992, and died in 2002.
The U.S. investigation ensnared whatever members of the Gambino hierarchy were still at liberty and will bring "closure to crimes from the past," U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said, including drug trafficking, robberies and other crimes dating to the 1970s.
The probe's scope shows the mob "still exists in the city and the state of New York," said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "We like to think that it's a vestige of the past. It's not."
Among the 29 people arrested or sought in Italy were members of clans linked to Salvatore Lo Piccolo, the Sicilian Mafia boss arrested in November, Italian officials said. "We have cut short a dangerous connection that would have been the basis for new illegal trafficking," Palermo Prosecutor Francesco Messineo said.
When Lo Piccolo was arrested, investigators warned that as part of his attempt to become the Cosa Nostra's next "boss of bosses," he had been working to mend ties with U.S.-Italian clans such as the Gambinos and the Inzerillos