Colombo Mobsters Charged with Extortion, Theft of Teamster Benefits

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Colombo crime boss Thomas GioeliNew York City's Colombo crime family still has what it takes to generate income. Unfortunately for them, federal officials haven't forgotten. On Tuesday morning, March 9, prosecutors inside Brooklyn federal court announced the results of an unsealed indictment against eight persons who are suspected Colombo members or associates. The eight-count indictment alleges the defendants variously engaged in racketeering, wire fraud, extortion and embezzlement. All had been arrested earlier that day following a lengthy joint probe by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Two of the members of this rogues' gallery are part of Colombo royalty: soldier Theodore Persico Jr. and associate Michael Persico, respectively, nephew and son of de facto Colombo family boss Carmine "Junior" Persico, now doing life in federal prison for murder and racketeering. Michael Persico, in a separate case, is currently under FBI investigation for his role in a kickback scheme involving soda and candy vending machines placed in car dealerships. The other six defendants are family soldier Thomas Petrizzo and associates Edward "Tall Guy" Garofalo Jr., Robert Bombino, Louis Romeo, Mike Lnu and Alicia DiMichele, who also is Garofalo's wife.

Much of the alleged criminal activity is connected to two major New York City construction sites - the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan and the Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant on the Brooklyn-Queens border - via a Colombo subcontractor front company, All Around Trucking. Federal prosecutors charged that certain defendants used All Around to facilitate an extortion-and-kickback scheme in conjunction with a Boston-area demolition contractor, Testa Corporation. Theodore Persico Jr., Michael Persico and other conspirators "convinced" Testa to award a subcontract to All Around for debris removal and make timely payments to the latter company. In return, All Around would send a portion of its profits to a Testa foreman.

Testa Corp., however, proved unable to pay back the money in accordance with the Colombo family's strict schedule. To "encourage" repayment, Michael Persico directed Robert Bombino to threaten Testa employees in person. The tactic worked. Bombino reported back to Persico that the employees were "shakin' in their boots over us." Another Colombo enforcer asked, "You want me to yoke the guy up and hit him over the fucking head with a coffee pot?" In a separate incident, Bombino, on Persico's orders, used this style of persuasion on the owner of a furniture store who owed money. The mob forced the owner to hand over control of his business to Bombino until the loan was paid in full.

There also was a labor union angle to the indictment. Prosecutors charge that Colombo associate Edward Garofalo, Jr. and his wife, Alicia DiMichele, embezzled from pension and welfare benefit plans established on behalf of members of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282. Garofalo and DiMichele allegedly engaged in an illegal "double-breasting" (i.e., a union-nonunion dual shop operation set up by an employer, typically in the construction industry) scheme, putting workers on the payroll of Colombo-controlled nonunion shell companies. In this way, the defendants could pocket the benefits rather than make fund contributions, as required by the collective bargaining agreement in force. Shell companies included DM Equipment, Big Trucking, T&E Leasing, and Roman Sand & Stone. The New York-based Local 282, which represents about 4,500 concrete and construction materials truck drivers, long had been notorious for links to the Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese crime families. This "candy store for the mob," as it often has been called, once served as home base to feared John Gotti-era Gambino underboss Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, now in federal prison, whose testimony proved crucial to convicting Gotti.

Much of the incriminating conversation was gathered through hidden tape recordings by an unnamed "Donnie Brasco"-style informant. The infiltration was part of a longstanding effort by the Justice Department to dismantle the Colombo crime family. This campaign, among other recent outcomes, led to the convictions of former acting boss Alphonse Persico Jr. and an uncle, Colombo underboss John DeRoss, for the turf-related murder of family capo William Cutolo; the convictions of Colombo capo Joseph Baudanza, brother Carmine Baudanza and nephew John Baudanza for a massive pump-and-dump stock fraud scheme; and the indictment of Colombo street boss Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli (see photo) and others on racketeering-related charges, including murder. "La Cosa Nostra continues to profit illegally in numerous sectors of our economy, allegedly including the World Trade Center construction site," announced Benton Campbell, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "Our office is dedicated to eliminating these crime families, which take a significant economic toll."