Attorney General Cuomo And Police Commissioner Kelly Net 22 In Massive Takedown Of Organized Crime In Staten Island

NEW YORK, NY (November 18, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the arrest of twenty-two individuals - including reputed "made men" from the Gambino and Luchese crime families and an active New York State Court Officer - on charges stemming from the operation of lucrative loan sharking and gambling activities closely controlled by organized crime.

A series of early morning raids conducted by Attorney General Cuomo's Organized Crime Task Force and the New York City Police Department capped long-term investigations dubbed "Operation Pure Luck" and "Operation Night Gallery." Based on the evidence obtained in these investigations, the Attorney General's office secured five separate indictments from a Richmond County grand jury, charging a total of twenty-two individuals and a corporation on felony and misdemeanor charges. A full list of all charged individuals is below.

"From charges of loan sharking to bookmaking to bribery to obtain a New York City contract, these defendants allegedly ran organized networks of crime that were controlled directly by the mob," said Attorney General Cuomo. "Our extensive investigations revealed the inner workings of two crime families and even exposed connections in the city and state government. We will continue to work together with our partners in law enforcement to hold criminals accountable."

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, "One of the more satisfying aspects of these take-downs is that it began with an unsuccessful attempt by members of the Luchese crime family to bribe New York City Police officers with a quarter of a million dollars. It ended with arrests for bribery last month and the dismantling of two important gambling rings today."

Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., said, "These investigations uncovered the intricate network that organized crime families had developed in Staten Island. Today's takedowns have struck a major blow against organized crime in this borough. Together with Attorney General Cuomo, Police Commissioner Kelly and our other partners in law enforcement we will continue to investigate, prosecute and convict these criminal organizations."

City of New York Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said, "It's inexcusable that a high-ranking Sanitation official would sabotage the City bidding process for his own gain and that of a favored vendor, as charged in this indictment. I congratulate Attorney General Cuomo on this significant prosecution and am pleased that DOI was able to assist."

The alleged members of these criminal organizations include:

  • New York City Department of Sanitation Deputy Chief Frederick Grimaldi, who, acting with his alleged Gambino-soldier father-in-law Michael Murdocco, is charged with leaking contract bids, in exchange for money
  • New York State Court Officer Scott Weissman, who allegedly served as a "sheet holder" for alleged Gambino associate Vinnie LaFace (a "sheet holder" serves as an intermediary between a bookmaker and a group of bettors and receives a commission on bets made through him to the bookmaker)
  • Alleged Gambino capo Carmine Sciandra, who owns a chain of popular supermarkets on Staten Island called "Top Tomato"
  • Alleged Gambino associate Benedetto Casale, who owns the Casale Tile store in Staten Island

The investigations used wiretaps, video and audio surveillance, GPS tracking, and bugs inside key locations to gather evidence. Surveillance was also conducted on the Staten Island Ferry and throughout the streets of Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. Some defendants would use the ferry and conduct business on street corners in an effort to avoid detection by law enforcement.

"OPERATION PURE LUCK"

"Operation Pure Luck" was a long-term investigation into the alleged loan sharking and bookmaking activities of alleged Gambino capo Carmine Sciandra, alleged Gambino soldier Michael Murdocco, and alleged Gambino associates Vinnie LaFace and Benedetto Casale, among others. Sciandra owns a chain of popular supermarkets on Staten Island called "Top Tomato." Sciandra and Murdocco are alleged to be "made men" in the Gambino crime family.

"Operation Pure Luck" was a spinoff of a prior investigation called "Operation Crooked House." That investigation resulted in charges announced last month by Attorney General Cuomo and Commissioner Kelly, along with Southern District of New York United States Attorney Preet Bharara and Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. Those charges, against nineteen defendants different from those indicted today, included charges relating to efforts to bribe the NYPD for protection of illegal gambling operations, as well as a loan sharking enterprise controlled by the Luchese crime family.

In "Operation Pure Luck," conversations among high-level Gambino members - which were heard through bugs placed in Murdocco's car and in a Staten Island tile store owned by Casale ("Casale Tile") - revealed the hierarchy and alleged criminal activities of the Sciandra crew. According to the charges, Gambino members lent money to their victims at interest rates averaging 156% per year and collected from reluctant payers through extortion and threats of violence. The Sciandra crew also allegedly ran an illegal sports gambling operation through an off-shore wire room that handled wagers on college and professional sports and horse races. According to the charges, the gambling operation generated millions of dollars worth of wagers.

The charges also assert that Murdocco and his son-in-law, New York City Department of Sanitation Deputy Chief Frederick Grimaldi, engaged in bribery and bid-rigging to steer Department of Sanitation contracts. In exchange for kickbacks, Grimaldi allegedly leaked city contract bids to Murdocco to ensure that New Jersey-based Duramix Concrete Corporation and its President Vincent Alessi, a longtime acquaintance of Murdocco, would receive the contracts. Duramix Concrete Corporation and Alessi are also charged in this scheme.

Based on "Operation Pure Luck," New York State Court Officer Scott Weissman, who is assigned to the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, is charged as a sheet holder for Gambino associate Vinnie LaFace.

"Operation Pure Luck" resulted in four of the indictments being unsealed in Richmond County today, charging a total of seventeen defendants. In the first, 89-count indictment, thirteen defendants are charged with Enterprise Corruption based on a pattern of loan sharking and illegal gambling activities. The Enterprise Corruption charge alone carries a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Four of the Enterprise Corruption defendants, including Sciandra and Murdocco, were also charged in the second indictment, which alleges the use of extortion to collect gambling debts. Murdocco, Grimaldi, Duramix Concrete Corporation, and Alessi are charged in the third indictment with bribery, bid-rigging, and receiving kickbacks on a Department of Sanitation contract. The fourth indictment charges Christopher Cipriano, a loan sharking victim, with Workers' Compensation fraud and grand larceny.

"OPERATION NIGHT GALLERY"

"Operation Night Gallery" was a long-term investigation into the alleged loan sharking and bookmaking of alleged Luchese capo Anthony Croce, alleged Luchese soldier Joseph Datello, and Joseph Datello's brother, Frank Datello, among others. According to the charges, the Datellos would collect from reluctant payers by using threats of violence, and Joseph Datello and Croce based their operation out of a Staten Island bar called the "Night Gallery." Croce and Joseph Datello are alleged to be "made men" in the Luchese crime family.

Five defendants, including Croce, Joseph Datello, and Frank Datello, are charged in a Richmond County indictment with loan sharking and bookmaking charges. This is separate from the four indictments arising out of "Operation Pure Luck."

BACKGROUND

"Operation Pure Luck" and "Operation Night Gallery" were conducted by Supervising Investigator Paul Grzegorski and Senior Investigators Kerry Buttner, Joel Poccia, and Mark MacConnel from the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Dominick Zarrella and Chief Thomas Mullen, under the overall supervision of Chief Joseph D'Amico. The investigation was conducted along with New York City Police Department Detectives William Perez, John Kopak, and Joseph Ciulla of the NYPD Vice Enforcement Bureau, under the supervision of Sergeant John Moynihan and Lieutenant Michael Costello, and under the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Brian Conroy and Organized Crime Control Chief Anthony Izzo.

The Attorney General and Police Commissioner thanked the New York City Department of Investigation and the office of Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan for their assistance and cooperation.

The cases are being prosecuted by Organized Crime Task Force Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Dana A. Roth and Thomas Schellhammer under the supervision of Organized Crime Task Force First Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff, under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Robin L. Baker.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

DEFENDANTS

Defendants charged today as a result of five separate indictments from a Richmond County grand jury:

"OPERATION PURE LUCK"

  • Carmine Sciandra, 57, Staten Island, New York
  • Michael Murdocco, 64, Staten Island, New York
  • Benedetto "Benny" Casale, 68, Staten Island, New York
  • Andrew Castagna, 46, Brooklyn, New York
  • William Castaldi, 67, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Andrew Castaldi, 64, Bronxville, New York
  • William "Billy" Cosidente Jr., 45, Staten Island, New York
  • John D'Arpa, 41, Brooklyn, New York
  • Anthony LaFace, 36, Rochelle, NJ
  • Vincent LaFace, 31, Pittston, Pennsylvania
  • Thomas Marchese, 26, Staten Island, New York
  • Scott Weissman, 47, Brooklyn, New York
  • Sejin Myong, 34, Cliffside, New Jersey
  • Arthur "Skippy" Reynolds, 66, Staten Island, New York
  • Frederick Grimaldi, 44, Marlboro, New Jersey
  • Christopher Cipriano, 39, Staten Island, New York
  • Vincent Alessi, 42, Bayonne, New Jersey
  • Duramix Concrete Corporation, Bayonne, New Jersey

"OPERATION NIGHT GALLERY"

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