Two of New York’s most storied Mafia families formed a secret gambling alliance — then suffered a whack to their profit streams with a round of arrests Tuesday morning.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say eight members or associates of the Bonanno and Genovese crime clans were taken into custody for their roles related to a string of illegal poker parlors run out of a coffee shop, a shoe repair store and several social clubs dotted around Queens, N.Y., and suburban Long Island.
Reputed Bonanno capo Anthony Pipitone, known as “Little Anthony,” was among the highest ranking of the wiseguys rounded up as authorities unsealed two indictments — one for each family – with allegations dating back a decade. Among the charged associates is a Nassau County police detective who allegedly accepted money from Bonanno coffers to arrange police raids on rival gambling operations.
The twin indictments, secretly handed down earlier this month, allege 49-year-old Pipitone, who has a history of mob-related charges, jointly operated a “lucrative” gambling parlor inside the Gran Caffe coffee and gelato shop in Lynbrook after he successfully negotiated a profit-sharing split with Genovese family capo Carmelo Polito, 63, and 68-year-old Genovese soldier Joseph Marcario, also known as “Joe Fish.”
The clandestine gambling den hosted “illegal joker poker-style” machines and traditional card games that earned more than $10,000 per week for the crime family coalition, prosecutors allege.
Defendants Joseph “Joe Box” Rutigliano, 63, and Salvatore “Sal the Shoemaker” Rubino, 58, allegedly collected the café’s proceeds for the Genovese side, kicking them up to Polito and Macario. (Rutigliano was not among the men arrested Tuesday and remains at large, prosecutors say.)
Defendant Agostino Gabriele, 35, allegedly collected proceeds for the Bonanno family, sending laundered tribute payments up to higher-ranking members such as Little Anthony and yet another co-defendant, Vito Pipitone, 40.
Beyond the Gran Caffe, prosecutors say the Genovese family also ran illegal gambling parlors at Sal’s Shoe Repair in Merrick, N.Y., and the Centro Calcio Italiano Club in West Babylon. The Bonanno family, meanwhile, ran more concealed gambling parlors out of two sports-themed social clubs on Myrtle Avenue in Queens and a third in Valley Stream, the feds allege.
Polito is further charged with working with co-defendant Mark Feuer, 59, to run an online sports gambling website called PGWLines. Prosecutors claim Polito threatened violence while trying to collect debts owed to the site, warning one person during a 2019 phone call that he would “break” the individual’s “face.” Polito allegedly had a similar chilling message for yet another delinquent debtor: “Tell him I’m going to put him under the fucking bridge.”
The new indictments charge the nine defendants with charges ranging from racketeering, illegal gambling and money laundering to conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The disgraced detective from Nassau County, Hector Rosario, 49, is charged in the Bonanno family indictment with obstructing a grand jury investigation and lying to the FBI.
“Today’s arrests of members from two La Cosa Nostra crime families demonstrate that the mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion, and violence while using our financial system in service to their criminal schemes,” Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
Peace said “the shameful conduct” of the detective who “betrayed his oath” was “disturbing.”
Seven of the defendants made their first appearances in federal district court in Brooklyn on Tuesday. They pleaded not guilty and were released on various bond amounts: $2 million for Anthony Pipitone, $1.1 million for Polito, $700,000 for Macario, $500,000 for Gabriele, $200,000 for Feuer and $150,000 for Rubino.
“Gambling is legal everywhere in America, except in Brooklyn — if you’re Italian!” Gerald McMahon, defense lawyer for Macario and Polito, tells Rolling Stone. Efforts to reach attorneys for others charged were not immediately successful.
In a letter to the judge requesting “substantial” bond amounts with strict conditions, prosecutors said Pipitone has prior convictions for heroin distribution and a “violent stabbing.” They said he poses a “particular threat” because he has “the ability to direct those who report to him to commit crimes on his behalf.”
They said Polito has a “serious criminal history” that includes a conviction for planning the November 1994 murder of two Genovese crime family associates.
“These violent criminal organizations operated secret underground gambling parlors in local commercial establishments, generating substantial amounts of money in back rooms while families unknowingly shopped and ate mere feet away,” Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, whose office partnered in the investigation, said in a statement.