Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

11 Charged as Operators for Crime Family

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

11 Charged as Operators for Crime Family

Article excerpt

Eleven alleged members and associates of the Genovese crime family were charged by New Jersey authorities Tuesday with reaping millions of dollars through loan-sharking, illegal check cashing, gambling and money laundering -- some of which was tied to drug trafficking, officials said.

Investigators detailed a network of criminal enterprises that reached from the streets of Newark to a betting room in Costa Rica, using "sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes," said Elie Honig, director of the state's Division of Criminal Justice.

The charges followed a three-year investigation, called Operation Fistful, led by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office along with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

"Traditional organized crime continues to exist in New Jersey," operating in the "shadow of the threat of violence" and "preying on the most vulnerable in our society" to turn a profit, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

Seven of the 11 defendants have been arrested, including Charles "Chuckie" Tuzzo of Queens -- an alleged capo, or captain, in the Genovese family -- as well as one of the family's "soldiers," Vito Alberti of New Providence in Union County.

All seven people arrested Tuesday were charged with first-degree racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, as well as an array of illegal lending, tax fraud and illegal gambling charges.

Three other defendants were charged by summons, authorities said, and another remained at large.

156 percent interest

At the heart of the scheme, authorities said, was Domenick Pucillo, 56, of Florham Park, an alleged Genovese associate accused of using his licensed and unlicensed check-cashing businesses in Newark to launder money and operate a "massive loan-sharking operation" that charged interest rates of up to 156 percent.

Thousands of victims -- typically local residents who could not get cash through legitimate means -- paid interest on a weekly basis, authorities said. Pucillo allegedly shared the proceeds of his loan-sharking with Alberti and Tuzzo, up the Genovese chain of command.

The so-called "New Jersey crew" also included Robert "Bobby Spags" Spagnola, 67, of Morganville, who is accused of partnering with Pucillo in the loan-sharking business, authorities said. …

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