Mafia muscle 'behind Wall Street scams'

MAFIA scams to con innocent investors out of millions of dollars turned Wall Street into the "Wild West", complete with armed stockbrokers and a 21-stone biker to guard mob traders, a New York jury has been told.

The court heard that when barrow boys took over from the Wall Street old school in the 1990s, the mob could not resist getting a piece of the action.

In the hallowed halls of the New York Stock Exchange, the DeCavalcante mob boss, Philip Abramo, orchestrated a vast "pump and dump" share scheme, pressuring investors into buying stock in worthless companies to drive up the price, before selling Mafia shares for a massive profit.

But former Abramo stockbroker Victor DiChiara told the Manhattan jury trying 57-year-old Abramo on charges including racketeering and murder, that other mob operations were also involved.

He said he had previously worked for Hanover Sterling, a now-defunct company owned by two associates of the Genovese Mafia family, Ray Ageloff and Bob Catigio.

"Most brokers carried a gun," he said. "Not every desk had a phone. [There were] holes in the wall - fights every day between traders."

Like Abramo’s operation, Hanover Sterling ran initial public offerings, gaining control of a company’s shares before they were traded, and then manipulating the price, the jury was told.

On the day a company’s shares were traded for the first time, brokers at Hanover were usually forbidden from selling any from their clients’ portfolios, to keep the price artificially high.

A six-foot tall, 21-stone biker was stationed at the office’s trading window to enforce the no-sales policy.

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