Thursday, May 24, 2007

NJ man arrested as Gambino leader

Andrew Merola, 40, of East Hanover NJ, was arrested May 21 and charged with supervising organized criminal activities, with racketeering and with theft by extortion, according to a story by Kareem Fahim of the New York Times.

Law enforcement officials say Merola (whose name was legally changed from Knapik) has been an important figure in the Gambino Crime Family and has worked closely with an ally in the Lucchese Crime Family on racketeering ventures.

Investigators have linked Merola to corruption in Springfield-based Local 825 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Newark-based Local 1153 of Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). Two union officials were also arested this week.

Through their influence with Local 825, Merola and his Lucchese Family ally allegedly arranged for a $20,000 bribe from a construction company. Prosecutors have charged Martin Taccetta with membership in the Lucchese clan and with engaging in racketeering with Merola. Taccetta is the brother of imprisoned Lucchese bigshot Michael Taccetta. (Martin and Michael Tacchetta shown at right.) Martin's recent racketeering conviction was overturned, and he is awaiting retrial.
Union officials John Cataldo of Nutley NJ and Joseph Manzella of West Orange NJ were arrested. According to a story in the Daily Record, Cataldo was an organizer for Operating Engineers Local 825, and Manzella was a business agent for LIUNA Local 1153.

"Both men basically surrendered their control of the unions to Andrew Merola of East Hanover, New Jersey, a known soldier of the Gambino Crime Family," said Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

Merola is also accused of supervising gambling rings in northern New Jersey and New York State. Those were allegedly run by Merola underlings Ralph Cicalese and Kyle Ragusa. Cicalese is a former investigator of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Before his name change, Knapik was reportedly jailed for almost four years in the 1990s for theft by deception and for distributing a controlled substance.

Genovese capo ordered assault on contractor

Angelo Prisco, 67, pleaded guilty in Newark, NJ, last week to authorizing an assault on an electrical contractor who was competing with a contractor allied to Prisco, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

The U.S. Attorney's Office identified Prisco as a capo in the Genovese Crime Family. Prosecutors charged that contractor John Capelli of the Bronx, NY, paid Prisco $2,500 for authorizing an assault on his competitor. Prisco reportedly passed the assignment along to Michael Visconti, who involved an associate already secretly cooperating with the FBI.

Prisco is likely to serve five years in prison. At the time of his arrest, he was on parole for a state arson conviction and on supervised release for a federal extortion conviction.

Chicago mobster admits 14 killings, cooperates

Nicholas Calabrese, former Chicago mobster and key witness to the upcoming Family Secrets trial, last week acknowledged participation in at least 14 mob murders, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The 64-year-old Calabrese pleaded guilty to the killings in U.S. District Court on May 18. Under a plea deal, county prosecutors will not try him for the murders and he will not face any charges as a result of his Family Secrets trial testimony. He is expected to serve at least 24 years in prison, but the U.S. Attorney's Office could recommend a shorter sentence if Calabrese is especially helpful in the upcoming trial.

At his hearing before Judge James Zagel, Calabrese admitted to participating in a racketeering conspiracy known as the Chicago Outfit, which engaged in murders, loansharking and extortion.

When the Family Secrets trial opens next month, Calabrese is expected to testify against his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr.

Nicholas Calabrese claims to have been present for the 1986 murders of brothers Tony (left) and Michael Spilotro. James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, 64, who the Sun-Times calls Chicago's "top mob boss," has been charged with participation in the Spilotro killings.

Nicholas Calabrese's cooperation with authorities followed that of Frank Calabrese's son, Frank Jr. Nicholas was linked by DNA and other evidence to the murder of John Fecarotta. Investigators believe Fecarotta was eliminated for failing to permanently dispose of the Spilotro corpses. Rather than take the fall for the Fecarotta killing alone, Nicholas Calabrese began supplying information on his underworld associates.

In late April 2005, 14 alleged Chicago Outfit members were indicted for racketeering conspiracy as a result of the Family Secrets investigation. Federal prosecutors linked defendants, including "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "Gumba" Saladino and Paul "the Indian" Schiro, with 18 murders dating back to 1970.

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Organized crime linked to Serbian assassination

Paramilitary police officers and members of the Zemun gang - linked to organized crime - were convicted and sentenced this week for the March 2003 assassination of reformist Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, according to a story by Nicholas Wood of the New York Times.

Milorad Ulemek, former leader of the country's top paramilitary unit, and his former deputy Zvezdan Jovanovic each were sentenced to 40 years in prison for their roles in the killing. Ten other associates received sentences between eight and 35 years.

Djindjic helped topple the Slobodan Milosevic regime in 2000. He was allegedly targeted by allies of the late Milosevic.

Reputed mob chief arrested in UK

Extradition proceedings against reputed Italian underworld leader Gennaro Panzuto, 32, begin in a London magistrate's court today, according to a report by BBC News. Italy filed a warrant of extradition with the UK in order to prosecute Panzuto for alleged organized criminal offenses.

After a cooperative effort by Italian and UK police agencies, Panzuto (right) was arrested last week in Lancashire, UK, according to a report on the website.

He has been charged with association with a criminal network and firearms crimes. He is also reportedly suspected of involvement in four organized crime murders in Italy, of extortion and of establishing businesses in Manchester and London to launder underworld funds. An initial review of the extradition papers was held on May 17.

Vittorio Pisano, a law enforcement official from Naples, Italy, stated that Panzuto was the head of the Pincirillo underworld clan of southern Italy, taking over that group from his uncles upon their arrests two years ago. The Pincirillos have battled the Missos clan in Naples for months. Police attribute 20 killings to the feud.

About Me

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Writer, editor, researcher, web publisher, specializing in organized crime history. (I am available to assist with your historical/genealogical research, as well as your writing and editing chores. Email me at
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website; moderator of Mafia-related online forums; author of Wrongly Executed?; coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime; contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime; writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.