An FBI agent posing as a crooked businessman with ties to shady bankers was key to the indictment announced Thursday of 11 people on charges they ran a South Florida racket for New York's Bonanno organized crime family.

The unidentified agent was able to gain the trust of the crew and its leader, Thomas Fiore, by seeming to provide them with access to foreign bank accounts to launder criminal cash as well as help with drug trafficking and sale of stolen goods, according to the indictment.

All the while, the undercover agent wore a hidden recording device that captured their conversations. The FBI also recorded numerous telephone conversations between Fiore, other members of the crew and senior Bonanno bosses.

Although he was not a formally inducted or "made" Mafia member, prosecutors said in the indictment that Fiore "would travel to New York in order to consult with the hierarchy of the Bonanno crime family and pay tribute to various Bonanno crime family members."

Fiore, 46, has been in custody in Palm Beach County since February on state charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He pleaded guilty last year to state racketeering charges and had been on probation before federal agents found the weapon during a search of his Boynton Beach home, according to court records.

Even while in jail, prosecutors say Fiore tried to obstruct justice by persuading someone else to claim ownership of the gun and to dispose of a computer containing incriminating evidence.

The indictment accuses the South Florida crew of crimes ranging from identity theft and manufacturing fake checks to violently shaking down business owners over placement of vending machines and conspiring to commit murder. The FBI said they sold stolen goods such as plasma TVs and cigarettes, defrauded Medicare and insurance companies and staged high-stakes illegal poker games for wealthy people.

Fiore even burned down his own business — the Round 1 Fitness Center in Royal Palm Beach — in 2007 as part of an insurance fraud scheme, according to the indictment. That arson investigation led to the undercover FBI agent's infiltration of the crew.

Fiore and the other 10 suspects each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of racketeering conspiracy. An attorney for Fiore did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment, and it wasn't clear Thursday if the others had hired lawyers. Most made their initial court appearances Thursday in Fort Lauderdale federal court.

One of the men indicted, 44-year-old Kenneth Dunn of Boca Raton, is a suspended attorney who acted as the crew's legal adviser, allegedly using his law firm's escrow fund to help launder money from Medicare fraud schemes. Dunn's law license was suspended in 2006 for misconduct, according to Florida Bar records.