NEW YORK — A gang of 13 grizzled gangsters associated with the Genovese crime family were busted for running an intricate ring of illegal sports gambling, loan-sharking and cigarette bootlegging, law enforcement officials said.
The sting, dubbed “Operation Shark Bait,” zeroed in on an illegal offshore sports bookkeeping operation that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says netted the crime family millions in illicit gambling proceeds.
“Despite these Genovese members continued attempts to evade detection, our investigation revealed millions in offshore sports betting, lucrative loan sharking, and tax evasion,” said New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
The alleged ringleader, long-time mobster Salvatore “Sallie” DeMeo, 76, is a “made member” of the Genovese syndicate and has a rap sheet that dates back to 1984, including busts for a New Jersey bank robbery and a 1996 New York armored car heist back.
All 13 crime family associates were busted in early morning raids, Schneiderman said.
“No matter how complex or clever the scheme, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to take down traditional organized crime,” he said.
At the heart of the charges was 4Spades.org, an illegal sports gambling operation run through a wire room in Costa Rica that handled wagers on various college and professional sports.
In addition, six defendants were charged with loansharking and shaking down victims with exorbitant weekly loan rates “which effectively created a high cost debt trap upon any individual who received such a loan,” Schneiderman said. Those charges by themselves carry a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Two defendants were also charged with bootlegging more than 30,000 cigarettes for which state and city excise taxes had not been paid.
In 2001, DeMeo went on the lam after 45 Genovese members were named in a sweeping mob indictment. He eventually surrendered, and was released from prison in 2006.
In 1996, he was charged with stealing $400,00 from a bank in Manalpan, N.J. and then ripped off an armored car in New York the following year.
DeMeo featured in an “America’s Most Wanted” segment in 1999 which led to his arrest.