The boss and underboss of New York City’s infamous Colombo crime family were among more than a dozen people arrested Tuesday morning in connection with allegations of corruption and healthcare fraud, Fox News has learned.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday the indictment of 14 people – including “the entire administration of the Colombo organized crime family” – in connection on charges including racketeering, money laundering and extortion, officials said. Those arrested include Colombo crime boss Andrew “Mush” Russo, underboss Benjamin “Benji” Castellazzo, the family’s consigliere and several captains. John Ragano, an alleged Bonnano family solder, was also nabbed in the early morning bust.
The charges stem from an alleged “long-running effort by the crime family to infiltrate and take control of a Queens-based labor union” and it’s health-care benefits program, and an alleged conspiracy to “commit fraud in connection workplace safety certifications,” the press release states.
Of the 14 people indicted, 12 were arrested Tuesday in New York and New Jersey, and another was picked up in North Carolina, officials said. The 14th person, Colombo consigliere Ralph DiMatteo, was being sought as of the afternoon.
Charges against them range from labor racketeering and loansharking, conspiracy, fraud and drug trafficking, officials said.
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The Colombo family’s administration and captains used extortion and threats to control the ranks of a Queens, N.Y. labor union, the indictment states. As such, the Colombo crime family’s extortion efforts allegedly caused the labor union to make decisions that benefited the family.
At least two of the family’s associates had been collecting “a portion” of a senior labor union official’s salary since about 2001, “by threatening to harm [him] and his family,” the indictment states. The court papers identify the man only as “John Doe #1.”
“At the direction of the Colombo crime family’s leadership, beginning in late 2019, the defendants broadened the extortion effort to force John Doe #1 and other at the Labor Union and its affiliated Health Fund to make decisions that benefitted the Colombo crime family, including by forcing them to select vendors for contracts who were associated with the Colombo crime family,” the indictment alleges. “The defendants sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from the Health Fund’s assets to the administration of the Colombo crime family.”
One example included in the indictment includes details from a recorded phone call on June 21, 2021.
Alleged Colombo crime family captain Vincent Ricciardo “threatened to kill John Doe #1 if he did not comply with Vincent Ricciardo’s demands,” the release states.
According to authorities, Ricciardo said John Doe #1 knows, “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f—–g house, you laugh all you want pal, I’m not afraid to go to jail, let me tell you something, to prove a point? I would f—–g shoot him right in front of his wife and kids, call the police, f–k it, let me go, how long you think I’m gonna last anyway?”
In a different instance involving a separate victim, “John Doe #2,” some of the defendant tried to extend and collect on extortionate loans of more than $250,000, with a 1.5% interest rate that was paid weekly and did not decrease the principle owed, authorities said.
Russo, being 87, is the oldest of the 14 defendants, followed by Castellazzo, who is 83. The youngest, Joseph Bellantoni, is 39. Each of the arrested men is expected to appear in court on Tuesday afternoon.
Source: Fox News