New York mafia clan accused of running an underage sex ring
ONE of America's most notorious mafia clans has been accused of running a paedophile prostitution ring.
Fourteen alleged bosses, soldiers and other associates of the Gambino family were also accused of murder, extortionand jury-nobbling.
A 60-page indictment presented to a judge in Manhattan, New York, yesterday included accusations that the Gambinos ran a prostitution ring involving underage girls, providing teenagers for sex with gamblers at illegal poker games.
"No crime seemed too depraved to be exploited if it was a money-maker, including the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old," said George Venizelos, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation. Among those charged is Suzanne Porcelli, 43, alleged to be the mob's "madam", who helped to recruit girls aged 15-19 and then advertised them on internet sites.
Authorities claim Porcelli and six other defendants ran the operation for two years until 2009 and pocketed half of the girls' takings from appointments in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey and Staten Island.
The arrests are the latest blow to the Gambino clan, which has struggled to reassert its stranglehold on the New York crime scene since the days of John Gotti, the "Teflon Don", who evaded jail several times before being convicted of murder in 1992. The most senior figure on the indictment is Daniel Marino, 69, who is reportedly one of three "street bosses" running the family's crime empire.
"This is not the Gambino family of John Gotti," Mr Venizelos said. "But while the leadership may maintain a lower profile, this case shows that it's still about making money illegally, by whatever means."
According to the indictment, Marino and Gambino "soldiers" Thomas Orefice, 33, and Onofrio Modico, 46, led more than 200 "made men" and hundreds of other associates in "a staggering crime spree covering decades of criminality" that netted more than $200 million (130m) in the past decade alone.
Marino, a mobster with more than 30 years' service, according to US attorney Preet Bharara, is charged with the 1989 murder of Thomas Spinelli and the execution of a Gambino member suspected of "squealing" to the authorities, his cousin Frank Rydell, at a strip club in 1998.
Orefice and Modico face murder charges over the 1987 shooting of two men, one an innocent bystander, in a drugs dispute.
Meanwhile, Modico faces a jury-tampering charge relating to an alleged plot to reach jury members sequestered at a hotel as they decided a racketeering case against Gotti in 1992.
The attempt was called off, the FBI said, when Gotti became convinced that the jury would acquit him, which they did.
The other 11 defendants include one still at large, Steve Maiurro, who are charged with various offences including extortion, assault, wire fraud, narcotics trafficking, loansharking and illegal gambling All face a minimum of 20 years in prison.
"As today's case demonstrates, the mafia is not dead, it is alive and kicking," Bharara said in announcing the indictment. "Modern mobsters may be less colourful, less flamboyant and less glamorous than some of their predecessors, but they are still terrorising businesses, using baseball bats and putting people in the hospital."
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