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The FBI's Mafia crackdown: 5 strange facts
The Feds have charged 91 suspected Mafia members in three states in the biggest one-day mob bust in history. Here, some details you might have missed
 
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stands in front of a chart outlining the hierarchy of the alleged mob families.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stands in front of a chart outlining the hierarchy of the alleged mob families.
Getty

The FBI carried out the largest mob roundup in its history this week, arresting 125 suspected Mafia members and associates for crimes including homicide, racketeering, and extortion. The crackdown, carried out by 800 federal, state, and local officials, targeted La Cosa Nostra families in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. (See a video of the detained mobsters.) Attorney General Eric Holder said the suspects caught up in the sweep were "among the most dangerous criminals in our country." Here, five of the quirkier twists to this story:

1. "Vinny Carwash," and other classic mobster nicknames
The indictments revealed some of the more inventive aliases used by the alleged mobsters. These included "Tony Bagels", "Johnny Pizza", "Vinny Carwash", "Junior Lollipops", "Jack the Whack", "The Fang", "Vito Love", and, simply, "Burger." These, says The Wall Street Journal, are the kind of nicknames "aficionados of gangster films and books have come to savor."

2. A Goodfellas-style murder in a Queens bar
A Gambino family leader, 61-year-old Bartolomeo Vernace, was charged with a 1981 double murder over a spilled drink in the Shamrock Bar in Queens, New York. Such senseless killings were vividly portrayed in the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, in which mobster Joe Pesci is shown gunning down a waiter for answering back to him. Indeed, "Mafia families in New York are more Goodfellas than Godfather," mob historian Michael Woodiwiss told Channel 4 News.

3. One of the defendants was a pal of Frank Sinatra
One of the alleged mobsters arrested was Richard Fusco, 74, the consigliere of the Colombo family and "a former associate of the singer Frank Sinatra," reports Channel 4 News. An iconic photo, taken in 1978, shows Sinatra in the same room as the young Fusco. It has been a bad week for wiseguy friends of Ol' Blue Eyes — John "Sonny" Franzese, another of the singer's underworld pals, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday for shaking down strip clubs in Manhattan. 

4. Mafia control extends to the World Trade Center site
The Mafia's control of construction industry unions extends all the way to Ground Zero, reports Brian Kates in the New York Daily News. According to the indictment papers, an alleged mobster named Ralph Scopo, Jr., took a reform-minded Ground Zero foreman for a "meeting" with the Colombo crime family in 2007 to warn him not to defy the mob. Scopo's son still runs the local branch of the concrete union, but has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

5. Mafia turncoats broke the vow of silence
"Omerta" — the classic Mafia code that prohibits those associated with the crime families from testifying against their own — means nothing to La Cosa Nostra (which means "our thing" in Italian) these days, reports the New York Daily News. "Turncoat mobsters" helped the FBI with their investigation by wearing wires and revealing the whereabouts of wanted suspects. The crackdown was only possible because these "rats" were "more interested in cutting deals," says the News, "than honoring the mob code."

 

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