Monday, April 4, 2005

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Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, today announced the indictment of 17 individuals -- including reputed Genovese organized crime family soldier Victor Colletti -- on charges of operating a multi-million dollar, Queens-based illegal gambling enterprise controlled jointly by the Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families.

A 24-count Enterprise Corruption indictment filed in the Supreme Court in Queens County charges that the mob-run gambling ring operated out of at least three Queens bars -- in Maspeth, Flushing, and Ridgewood -- as well as other locations in Bronx, Kings and Westchester Counties. The criminal enterprise allegedly handled illegal betting action of nearly $200,000 a week totaling about $12.5 million over the 15-month span covered by the indictment.

According to the indictment, reputed Bonanno soldier Anthony Frascone -- identified in the indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator -- was a silent partner of the enterprise. The case represents the first instance in Queens County in which reputed members of two organized crime families are being prosecuted on charges involving an alleged partnership in an illegal gambling enterprise.

District Attorney Brown said, “Illegal gambling generates huge profits for organized crime which uses them as seed money to capitalize its other more insidious forms of corruption, such as labor racketeering, drug trafficking, auto theft, insurance fraud and loan sharking. The illegal gambling enterprise in this case -- allegedly under the control of the Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families working together in partnership -- is alleged to have accepted illegal wagers of over $10.0 million a year involving horse-racing, numbers and college and professional sports contests, including bets on the Final Four NCAA basketball tournament, an event second only to the Super Bowl in bettor popularity. ”

Police Commissioner Kelly said, “There is no such thing as a friendly wager when the mob is involved. Inevitably, the mafia organizers of sports betting and other illegal gambling have blood on their hands.”

District Attorney Brown said that earlier today detectives assigned to the New York City Police Department’s Organized Crime Investigation Division arrested the defendants on charges of Enterprise Corruption -- a violation of New York State’s Organized Crime Control Act -- as well as promoting gambling, possession of gambling records and conspiracy. The defendants face up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.

District Attorney Brown said that the investigation leading to today’s arrests began in February, 2003 when NYPD OCID detectives developed information about an illegal betting ring and began a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau.

According to the District Attorney, the indictment charges that Victor Colletti, 69, of 61-72 70th Street in Middle Village, Queens, a reputed Genovese soldier, and Anthony Frascone, a reputed Bonanno soldier and an unindicted co-conspirator, were the bookmakers of the corrupt criminal enterprise with ultimate authority over its illegal business.

The indictment charges that Neil “Curly” Ruocco, 65, of 2988 Saddle Ridge Drive in Yorktown Heights, New York and Nicholas Terrigno, 54, of 1144 Lydig Avenue in the Bronx were the ring’s “controllers” who managed its day-to-day operations, settling bettor disputes, authorizing and accounting the debts and payouts and supervising numerous, lower-ranking employees.

The indictment charges that Patricia Riebling, 63, of 61-12 69th Street in Middle Village worked as the ring’s bookkeeper, maintaining the won-loss figures for each of the ring’s runners and coordinating the collection and payouts of gambling debts.

The indictment charges that Frank Morsello, 58, of 22 Hill Lane in Smithtown, New York in Suffolk County and Ercole “Cozie” Petrizzi, 66, of 79-15 Woodhaven Boulevard in Glendale were the ring’s “collectors” who routinely transported the gambling proceeds between the ring’s management and individual runners and bettors, collecting debts and paying out winnings.

The indictment charges that Marie “Summer” Celestino, 56, of 218 Bay 13th Street in Brooklyn, Michael Distasio, 71, of 948 Huntington Avenue in the Bronx, Thomas Tubiolo, 49, of 1603 Williamsbridge Road in the Bronx and Victor Costa, 50, of 8 Lomond Avenue in Chestnut Ridge, New York were the ring’s “clerks.”

It is alleged that each “clerk” performed a variety of duties, including accepting bets, managing bettors’ accounts, maintaining gambling figures, safeguarding gambling proceeds and manning traditional “wire room” locations that accepted wagers via telephone and maintained gambling accounts for numerous runners and bettors.

The indictment charges that Joseph “Mo” Beninati, 60, of 61-01 60th Road in Maspeth, Queens, Frank “the Beard” Catalano, 50, of 6433 Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, Vito “Monte” Montemorra, 75, of 159 Avenue O in Brooklyn, Anthony “Mangi” Mangiaracina, 63, of 61-21 Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth, Richard “Dickie” Kearns, 64, of 1164 Divot Court in Spring Hill, Florida, Michael “MC” Parisen, 45, of 66-24 77th Place in Middle Village and Charles “Number 11” Casquarelli, 70, of 598 Odell Avenue in Yonkers were “runners” in the gambling ring.

It is alleged that each of these “runners” in exchange for a share of the ring’s gambling profits managed his own group of bettors by accepting and relaying bets or by providing bettors with a phone number and runner’s code for a particular wire room, then settling up their bettors’ won-loss amounts.

The indictment charges that the ring stationed runners at multiple bars in Queens County to accept sports, horse and numbers bets. The bars included the Clubhouse Sports Bar at 61-21 Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth; the First German Sports Club at 60- 60 Metropolitan Avenue in Flushing and Tee-Dee’s Tavern at 64-31 Cooper Avenue in Ridgewood.

The indictment charges that the criminal enterprise used other locations to conduct its illegal business, including “wire rooms” at 218 Bay 13th Street in Brooklyn and 948 Huntington Avenue in the Bronx as well as other locations to store gambling records and proceeds including 1603 Williamsbridge Road in the Bronx, 61-12 69th Street in Middle Village and McLean Avenue Liquor Store at 974 McLean Avenue in Yonkers.

It is alleged that during its busiest times the ring booked up to about $30,000 in sports wagers each day, typically including individual $5,000 wagers on single contests, such as Major League Baseball’s playoff game in October, 2004.

The indictment also alleges that the ring used a non-traditional “wire room” in the form of an off-shore, internet-based gambling service named Datawagers, formerly known as Databets. At least three of the defendants -- Victor Costa, Nicholas Terrigno and Thomas Tubiolo -- are alleged to have maintained numerous runners’ and bettors’ gambling accounts through the internet website in an effort to evade law enforcement detection through traditional methods.

Law enforcement crackdowns on traditional mob-run wirerooms have led to the use by illegal gambling rings of off-shore gambling websites where action is available around the clock. Bettors can click on an off-shore gambling website over the internet and be assigned individual login codes and passwords. Their wagers and won-loss amounts are recorded in “sub-accounts” maintained in “runner’s” and “agent’s” accounts. These gambling websites typically store their information on computer servers outside the United States –- some in Costa Rica and Curacao –- and “bounce” their data through a series of server nodes in efforts to evade law enforcement.

The investigation was conducted by Detective William Bowler, of the New York City Police Department’s Organized Crime Investigation Division under the supervision of Sergeant James Baratta, Lieutenant Brian Verworth and Inspector Brian O’Neill and the overall supervision of Chief Douglas Ziegler.

Assistant District Attorneys Peri A. Kadanoff, Unit Chief, and Michael A. Wiesenfeld of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau are prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gerard A. Brave, Bureau Chief, and Marc P. Resnick, Deputy Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Linda M. Cantoni.

It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Joseph Beninati, 60, 61-01 60th Road, Maspeth
Charles Casquarelli, 70, 598 Odell Avenue, Yonkers
Frank Catalano, 50, 6433 Catalpa Avenue, Ridgewood
Marie Celestino, 56, 218 Bay 13th Street, Brooklyn
Victor Colletti, 69, 61-72 70th Street, Middle Village
Victor Costa, 50, 8 Lomond Avenue, Chestnut Ridge
Michael Distasio, 71, 948 Huntington Avenue, Bronx
Richard Kearns, 64, 1164 Divot Court, Spring Hill, Florida
Anthony Mangiaracina, 63, 61-21 Fresh Pond Road, Maspeth
Vito Montemorra, 75, 159 Avenue O, Apartment 2-H, Brooklyn
Frank Morsello, 58, 22 Hill Lane, Smithtown
Michael Parisen, 45, 66-24 77th Place, Middle Village
Ercole Petrizzi, 66, 7915 Woodhaven Boulevard, Glendale
Patricia Riebling, 63, 61-12 69th Street, Middle Village
Neil Ruocco, 65, 2988 Saddle Ridge Drive, Yorktown Heights
Nicholas Terrigno, 54, 1144 Lydig Avenue, Apartment 5-F, Bronx
Thomas Tubiolo, 49, 1603 Williamsbridge Road, Bronx