17 Charged in $22.7M Mafia Gambling and Loansharking Plot on Staten Island

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An enticing cloak of subterfuge lifted on Wednesday, unveiling an intense tale of nefarious activities linked to a Mafia-led gambling and loansharking plot on the gritty street corners of Staten Island, New York. The indictment unsealed recently divulged the roles of seventeen individuals who now face charges for their alleged participation in the conspiracy.

Leading this tangled web of deceit were a quartet of seasoned transgressors said to be entwined with the notorious Gambino mafia outfit: Flashy Fred Falcone Sr, Jumpy John LaForte, Calculating Anthony Cinque, and Meticulous John Matera. This motley crew included known Gambino confidants such as Erratic Edward LaForte, Furtive Frederick Falcone, Sr., Grumpy Giulio Pomponio, Deceptive Daniel Bogan, and the intriguing outsider, Colombo associate Chaotic Charles Fusco.

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In a gripping twist, among these alleged hoodlums is a former knight in blue from NYPD, a shady pizza parlour owner, and sprinkled throughout, various reputed members closely associated with the Gambino crime family.

Exemplifying a classic mafia modus operandi – illegal gambling and ruthless loansharking – these ne’er do wells meticulously managed their ventures with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. Among their plots and stratagems, retired cop Fred Falcone, Sr. delved deep in the world of numbers, ensuring each debt, however extravagant, was noted down to the last penny.

Falcone hung up his police badge back in 1992, after a twelve-year career marked by partnerships with distinguished figures, one of who being Joseph Esposito, who eventually became Chief of the New York City Police Department. Esposito, unfortunately, is no more, with his story ending in January 2024.

On the gambling front, Edward LaForte, John’s brother, managed a sports betting behemoth, cleverly deploying an offshore instrument-of-choice that possibly led to his downfall. Surrounding him were the “sheetholders,” whose unsavory roles comprised the collection of enormous bets and accumulation of grim debts.

Engulfed in a disheartening cycle of debt, gamblers found themselves confronted with extortionate loans, gifted by those masterminding this labyrinthine underworld enterprise. These loans were slapped with illegally high interests, which then turned into enticing profits for those in the upper echelons of the operation.

The indictment revealed shadowy figures from this ring handling over $22.7 million in stakes, with their usurious loans raking in weekly interests for around half a million dollars. Data from covert surveillance, wiretaps, and offshore gambling site warrants acted as damning epistles against the group.

Shrouded in secrecy, these syndicate members often met at the Eltingville and Greenridge Shopping Centers to orchestrate their operation. Edward LaForte was rumored to have left proceeds from their illicit ventures at Frank and Danny’s Pizzeria, a seemingly innocuous establishment in the Eltingville Shopping Center.

Ironically, the quaint idiom of “stopping over for a slice of pizza” became the group’s coded lingo to discreetly distribute their ill-gotten gains. New York Attorney General Letitia James, fresh off prosecuting the Trump Organization on fraud charges, boldly stepped in to dismantle this underworld entity, pledging to put several Gambino family members out of this profitable yet illicit business.

The charges collectively frame an enthralling 84-count indictment, encompassing enterprise corruption, promoting gambling, criminal usury, and conspiracy charges.