The FBI arrested more than 100 suspected Mafia members in a series of early-morning raids Thursday in what Attorney General Eric Holder called a major effort to "once and for all" crack the Northeast's major crime families.
Holder announced Thursday that 127 people in at least three states are charged with organized crime activities ranging from extortion to murder.
"Today’s arrests and charges mark an important step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra’s illegal activities," Holder said at a news conference in New York City. "This largest single-day operation against La Cosa Nostra sends the message that our fight against traditional organized crime is strong, and our commitment is unwavering."
"This will remain a top priority for all of us in law enforcement," he said.
Holder called organized crime a "major threat" to the "economic well being of this country." He said a total of 800 local, state and federal law enforcement agents took part in the arrests in New York City, New Jersey and Rhode Island. One person also was arrested in Italy, he said.
Holder said that the defendants include high-ranking members of the Gambino and Colombo crime families and the reputed former boss of organized crime in New England. All five of New York's five major crime families were targeted, authorities said, and one of the defendants is a former New York City police officer.
The alleged crimes include "numerous violent and illegal acts," and some of the defendants were involved in "truly senseless murders," Holder said. He added that one of the alleged crimes involved a double shooting in a bar after a dispute over a spilled drink. Other charges include alleged corruption among dockworkers who were forced to kick back a portion of their holiday bonuses to the crime families.
Holder was joined at the news conference by law enforcement officials from the FBI, U.S. Attorney's offices in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Thursday's pre-dawn takedown was the result of multiple investigations. Federal probes aided by mob turncoats have decimated the families' ranks in recent years and have resulted in lengthy prison terms for several leaders.
Authorities say the investigation was aided by informants who recorded thousands of conversations by suspected mobsters.
Luigi Manocchio, the reputed former head of New England's Patriarca crime family, was arrested Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the U.S. attorney's office in Providence said. An indictment accused him of collecting protection payments from strip club owners. Also arrested was Thomas Iafrate, who worked as a bookkeeper for strip clubs and set aside money for Manocchio, prosecutors said.
The takedown was the result of multiple investigations. Federal probes aided by mob turncoats have decimated the families' ranks in recent years and have resulted in lengthy prison terms for several leaders.
On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced John "Sonny" Franzese, 93, to eight years in prison for extorting Manhattan strip clubs and a pizzeria on Long Island.
In October, Mafia turncoat Salvatore Vitale was sentenced to time served after federal prosecutors praised his total betrayal of his own crime syndicate -- and after he apologized to the families of his victims. Authorities said he had a hand in at least 11 murders, including that of a fellow gangster in the fallout from the infamous Donnie Brasco case.
The evidence provided after his arrest in 2003 helped decimate the once-fearsome Bonanno organized crime family, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report