Reputed mobster, son arrested in eastern N.C.
Posted March 10, 2010 9:39 a.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2010 6:26 p.m. EST
NEW YORK — The FBI arrested a reputed U.S. mobster Wednesday on charges he provided protection for a Sicilian counterpart mapping out criminal turf in Florida.
Gaetano Napoli Sr., 71, and his son, Gaetano Napoli Jr., 44, were arrested in eastern North Carolina on extortion, bankruptcy fraud and other charges contained in an indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn.
Both men were arraigned Thursday at the federal courthouse in Raleigh. They declined court-appointed attorneys, said they would like to have their detention hearings in New York and were led from the courtroom in handcuffs and leg shackles.
The arrests were part of an international sweep aimed at further crippling the storied Gambino organized crime family and disrupting its ties to the Italian mob.
Wiretaps and surveillance revealed that Gaetano Napoli Sr., a suspected Gambino soldier, had a "close relationship" and "communicated extensively" with Roberto Settineri, a suspected member of the Sicilian Mafia facing charges in Florida and Italy, according to court papers charging Napoli and his two sons. They said the elder Napoli helped settle a dispute last year between Settineri and members of the Colombo crime family during a "sit down" at a social club in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Settineri, 41, an Italian citizen living in Miami Beach, was caught on tape telling the elder Napoli that he wanted his participation to "show everybody good manners" – authorities say that was a reference to the La Cosa Nostra custom that only people officially sworn into the family and holding ranks known as soldiers, captains and bosses can handle such negotiations.
Like the other four major Italian crime families in New York, the Gambinos have been decimated by a steady stream of indictments and prosecutions since notorious boss John Gotti, the so-called Dapper Don, was sentenced to life in prison in 1992. He died in 2002.
The government offensive, aided by a crop of cooperators, has largely stemmed the headline-grabbing bloodshed caused by mobsters settling scores and put most of the families' top echelon behind bars. But the families have survived into the 21st century with new members continuing to commit still lucrative but less conspicuous crimes such as gambling and extortion and embracing the once-forbidden drug trade.
At a news conference in Miami on Wednesday announcing three more arrests there, U.S. and Italian authorities told reporters the Sicilian mob had dispatched Settineri to the United States to generate more business with American gangsters.
"He had the important ties to the American crime families of Gambino and Colombo," a top Italian National Police officer, Raffaele Grassi, said through an interpreter.
The indictment alleges that Gaetano Napoli Sr. was overheard admitting he had "schooled" a grand jury witness. He also was charged with threatening someone who owed him a $30,000 gambling debt.
"I'm giving you an extension which I shouldn't even give," court papers say he warned in one recorded message. "Don't make me come around and look for you."
A second son named in the indictment, Thomas Napoli, 31, pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn to concealing assets in a bankruptcy of a family business. He was released on $100,000 bond.
Investigators wouldn't say where thy Napolis were arrested or why they were in North Carolina.
FBI agents arrested Settineri on Wednesday hours before he was to fly from Miami to Italy, authorities said. He and 39-year-old Daniel Dromberhauser were indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiring to launder $10 million in crime proceeds.
Another Settineri associate, 37-year-old Italian citizen Antonio Tricamo, was indicted separately on charges of attempting to sell some 250,000 cigarettes without paying Florida taxes, laundering $1 million in ill-gotten gains and arranging a fake marriage in an attempt to gain legal status in the U.S.
Simultaneously, authorities in Italy executed about 20 arrest warrants targeting a Palermo-based Mafia crime family suspected of running extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking operations. Police there released video of the Palermo raids showing Italian officers and FBI agents discovering weapons, including guns stashed away in the rear compressor space of a refrigerator.
"The criminal dominion of La Cosa Nostra and the Sicilian Mafia is international," U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said in a statement. "But ... both countries' efforts to push back the tide of international organized crime have achieved success."
It wasn't immediately clear Wednesday if the Napolis being held in Raleigh and the Florida defendants - in custody pending bail hearings next week - had defense lawyers.
In 2008, the Gambinos were the target of one of the largest Mafia takedowns in recent memory, with federal agents rounding up 62 reputed members and associates and charging them with gangland crimes spanning three decades - including the brutal slaying of a court officer and extortion at a failed NASCAR track.
That case also coincided with a series of raids in Italy targeting alleged members of Mafia families who control drug trafficking between the two sides of the Atlantic. Authorities said at the time that the investigations, though technically unconnected, signaled an international attempt to sever Gambino ties to Sicily.