NEW YORK – A reputed acting mob boss and eight other suspected gangsters were arrested Wednesday on federal charges accusing them of coast-to-coast Mafia crimes ranging from gangland hits and a fur coat heist in New York in the early 1990s to a home invasion by police impersonators in Los Angeles in 2006.
Among those named in a racketeering indictment unsealed in Brooklyn were Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, who authorities say is the acting boss of the Colombo organized crime family. Three other defendants already behind bars also were charged, including 89-year-old John "Sonny" Franzese, identified as the family's underboss.
Gioeli, 55, wearing a hoodie and basketball shorts to court following a pre-dawn arrest at his Long Island home, pleaded not guilty to robbery, murder and extortion charges and was ordered held without bail. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
"He's denied all the allegations," defense attorney Adam Perlmutter said outside court.
The eight other defendants arrested Wednesday also pleaded not guilty. All were jailed without bail except for one, who was released on $1 million bond.
The takedown — following a three-month investigation using turncoat mobsters and electronic surveillance — was part of a "relentless campaign to prosecute and convict the highest echelons of the Colombo family and La Cosa Nostra as a whole," said U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell. He noted that former Colombo acting boss Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico and another family member were convicted last year of orchestrating a 1999 murder.
Gioeli was charged in three of four murders detailed in the indictment, including the 1992 slayings of two men amid a bloody civil war for control of the family. A Colombo captain was accused of participating in the shooting and killing of an armored truck guard, also in 1992, while the victim was delivering money to a cash-checking store in Brooklyn.
The indictment also alleges Gioeli participated in the holdup of a fur shop in February 1991 in which he posed as a customer shopping for a Valentine's Day gift. He and other bandits handcuffed the owner before they "filled garbage bags with fur coats" and fled, court papers said.
In 2006, two other defendants flew to Los Angeles to try to rob a home where they believed there was $1 million in drug money, court papers said. Donning hats and T-shirts emblazoned with "DEA" and carrying a fake search warrant, the men burst into the home and pistol-whipped a woman there, but never found the cash, the papers said.
Prosecutors said the Colombo family also extorted a Long Island pizzeria and a West Hollywood, Calif., spa. In the case of the spa, they said, one suspect was caught on tape in 2005 instructing, "Even after we get 50 percent of the place and our money, give him a (expletive) beating anyway."
It was the second high-profile mob case to be made in recent months: In February, prosecutors charged 62 reputed members and associates of the once-powerful Gambino crime family with murders, drug trafficking, robberies, extortion, and other crimes dating back to the 1970s.
Last Thursday, the lone fugitive in the Gambino case, Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo, strolled up to the FBI's office and surrendered on charges he ordered a decades-old gangland hit that took an innocent bystander's life. He was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to racketeering, extortion and murder charges.