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Big Fish Locked Up in NY Mob Takedown

MANHATTAN (CN) — A reputed Genovese boss who owns a popular Bronx restaurant and an accused arsonist will remain in jail, awaiting charges from a giant bust on 46 alleged La Cosa Nosta members across the East Coast.

More than a dozen of the men pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon in Manhattan Federal Court, as new details emerged about their rude awakening at 6 a.m., when they were arrested in connection with a sprawling racketeering indictment.

Targeting alleged crime families scattered across New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Florida, the indictment paints a picture of a mafia busily juggling loan-sharking, firearms-trafficking, illegal gambling, health care fraud, arson and extortion conspiracies.

Its victims included insurance companies, debtors, taxpayers, gambling addicts, credit card owners and, in one instance, someone mistaken for a panhandler, prosecutors say.

For Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the indictment shows how "today's mafia is fully diversified in its boundless search for illegal profits."

"Today's charges against 46 men, including powerful leaders, members and associates of five different La Cosa Nostra families, demonstrate that the mob remains a scourge on this city and around the country," he said in a statement.

Lead defendant Pasquale "Patsy" Parrello, a 72-year-old from Tuckahoe, N.Y., is the owner and namesake of the Zagat-rated restaurant Pasquale's Rigoletto on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and a reputed Genovese family member.

Grizzled, stocky, balding and comfortably dressed in a white T-shirt and black athletic pants, the reputed mobster waved to his family seated in the arraignment room before pleading not guilty before Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses.

Parrello, who will remain in jail until a future bail application, recently finished a long spell of incarceration, having faced a seven-year sentence for union embezzlement in 2001.

A decade later, Parrello still owned his Bronx restaurant when he ordered Israel "Buddy" Torres to "break [a panhandler's] knees" after seeing someone bothering customers in 2011, according to the indictment.

Nabbing the wrong person, Torres and several unknown goons assaulted a bystander with "glass jars, sharp objects, and steel-tipped boots," prosecutors say.

Two years later, Parrello and Torres allegedly stabbed another man charged Thursday, Anthony Vazzano aka "Tony the Wig" and "Muscles", in the neck in an act of retaliation, which the indictment does not specify.

Prosecutors say that another site of violence was a gambling club in Yonkers, where Parrello and five others allegedly profited from poker tournaments, dice tournaments and horse-race betting.

"The owners of the Yonkers Club (the 'House') took a percentage of the gambling proceeds," the 32-page indictment states. "Additionally, the Yonkers Club generated additional money through the installation of illegal poker machines."

To intimidate a rival bookmaker, reputed wiseguy Mark "Stymie" Maiuzzo "set fire to a motor vehicle parked outside of the gambling club," acting upon the instructions of Anthony "Anthony Boy" Zinzi, prosecutors claim.

Maiuzzo, a 37-year-old from Scarsdale, N.Y., also wore a white T-shirt and a sour expression as he sat cross-armed in the courtroom of Magistrate Judge Frank Maas, where roughly a dozen other alleged mobsters faced arraignment.

Of that group, only Maiuzzo will stay behind bars pending a future bail application, as the other defendants seated with him in the jury box were allowed to leave on bonds ranging from $150,000 to $400,000.


The men also face travel restrictions, but Judge Maas said he would make accommodations for an unspecified defendant whom he said is an Uber driver.

One of those men, Bradford Wedra, jumped up from his chair — over his lawyer's protests — to complain to the judge upon learning about his $300,000 bond.

"Now I'm home, I can't afford nothing," said Wedra, a 61-year-old from Mt. Vernon, N.Y. accused of helping the mafia sell contraband cigarettes.

Prosecutors say the illegal smokes netted the mafia roughly $3 million, and the mob also ran sports-gambling businesses in New York and Costa Rica.

Another alleged hustle involved convincing corrupt doctors to over-prescribe an expensive prescription compound, and using credit card skimmers to make fraudulent cards and purchases, according to the indictment.

Mitchell "Mitch" Fusco is charged with the firearms-trafficking conspiracy, which prosecutors say sold 11 weapons and bought six others for reselling.

More than a dozen of the men are accused of extorting, intimidating and threatening people for unpaid debts owed to their gambling businesses between 2011 and 2014.

Quoting chilling attempts to collect gamblers' debts, prosecutors say Parrello told Torres to "choke" one man, "actually choke the motherfucker... and tell him, 'Listen to time I'm not gonna stop choking... I'm gonna kill you.'"

With another victim, Parrello was recorded telling his crew to cut a victim's "fuckin' tire," prosecutors say.

"That way he has to change the tire," Parrello is quoted as saying. "So then you know you can catch up with him. Give him a flat."

Prosecutors say that 39 of the men are in custody, and authorities recovered three handguns, a shotgun, gambling paraphernalia and more than $30,000 during their arrests.

Six of the men, Joseph "Joey" Merlino, Pasquale "Patsy" Capolongo, Frank "Harpo" Trapani, Carmine Gallo, Craig Bagon, Bradley "Brad" Sirkin, will be presented in Federal Court in West Palm Beach later Thursday.

Francesco "Frank" Depergola and Ralph Santaniello will appear in Federal Court in Springfield, Mass.

In a detention memo filed Thursday, prosecutors say Parrello was a Genovese Capo, and they had a snitch inside his famous Bronx restaurant.

The cooperating witness, with Parrello's permission, began working under Merlino, who is "believed to be the boss of the Philadelphia Crime Family," the 21-page detention memo states.

"As evidenced by the consensual recordings made by [the witness and an undercover FBI agent], the myriad of criminal schemes pursued by Parrello, Merlino, [and Eugene] O'Nofrio — three powerful LCN leaders — and their underlings were, in many respects, intertwined," the memo states.

Prosecutors plan to fight any attempt to bail out Parrello, whom they allege committed these crimes while on supervised release.

"Parrello poses a dire threat to the safety of the community," the memo states. "His demonstrated appetite and capacity for vengeance, control, and violence cries out for detention without bail pending trial."

The government also recommends that Merlino, O'Nofrio and seven others be detained pending trial, because "there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of the community and the future appearance" of those defendants, according to the memo.

Most of those charged face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, if convicted.

Some notable exceptions include Parrello and Torres, who face up to 40 years; Maiuzzo and Zinzi, who faces up to 30 years; and Fusco, who faces up to 25 years.

The first pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Aug. 23 at 11:30 a.m. before Judge Richard Sullivan.

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