MORRISTOWN, N.J. – MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) — Three of New York's five organized crime families came under the microscope for alleged illegal gambling activities Monday, the result of investigations that have produced more than 50 arrests reaching to the top rungs of one organization.
In New Jersey, the son of a legendary Philadelphia mob figure and two men believed to head the New York-based Lucchese crime family were among nearly three dozen people to plead not guilty to racketeering for allegedly running a multibillion-dollar offshore gambling operation.
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, District Attorney Charles Hynes announced the indictment of 17 reputed members and associates of the Gambino and Genovese families who allegedly ran several Internet gambling rings that took in $20 million annually in bets.
"Illegal sports gambling is a cash cow for organized crime, and this case shines a bright light on the connection between the two," Hynes said about the New York arrests.
Five separate indictments charge 17 people with crimes including illegal gambling, loan sharking and extortion. Prosecutors allege they took bets through three websites, cell phone text messages, telephone and paper betting tickets.
The New Jersey indictment, handed up in May, centered on a gambling operation that allegedly processed $2.2 billion in wagers over a 15-month period and was run by the Lucchese family in New Jersey, whose members sent a percentage of profits to their New York bosses as a tribute.
Bets were recorded and processed using password-protected Web sites and a wire room operation in Costa Rica, according to prosecutors. One gambler bet more than $2 million in a two-month period, they said.
Though prosecutors do not consider him the highest-ranking crime family member arrested in the sweep, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. carried the highest name recognition into court in Monday. His father, Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, is serving a life term for running the Philadelphia-Atlantic City mob in the 1980s.
The younger Scarfo, 45, of Ventnor near Atlantic City, served four years and seven months in state prison in the mid-1990s for racketeering. He was sentenced in 2002 to 33 months of federal time for illegal gambling after losing a court battle to suppress gambling records FBI agents secretly obtained from his computer.
Scarfo's attorney, Donald Manno, did not comment on the charges Monday.
Among Scarfo's co-defendants are Matthew Madonna of Selden, N.Y., and Joseph DiNapoli of Scarsdale, N.Y., whom prosecutors say were part of a three-man ruling panel that controlled the Lucchese family's criminal activities from New York. First Scarfo and then Ralph Perna of Wyckoff, in northern New Jersey, ran the family's operations in New Jersey, prosecutors allege.
The New Jersey indictment also indicates an alleged alliance between organized crime and reputed members of the Bloods street gang to smuggle contraband into East Jersey State Prison with the help of a corrections officer, who also has been charged.
Three of the 35 New Jersey defendants did not appear Monday, including alleged Bloods gang member Dwayne Spears, who is in jail in Pennsylvania. While most defendants remained free on bail, Spears' brother, Edwin, whom prosecutors said once bragged of being a "five-star general" in the Bloods, was ordered held pending a bail hearing.
Monday's proceeding was perfunctory, with each defendant entering a plea and waiving the reading of the charges, but the sheer number of defendants kept Manahan busy for more than two hours.
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long in New York contributed to this story.