Monday, March 28, 2011
Goodbye Colombos! - FBI tactics toppling Mafia clan
The once-mighty Colombo crime family was brought down by FBI agents equipped with traditional guns and handcuffs and other G-men with even more potent weapons -- psychology and salesmanship, a law-enforcement source told The Post.
The dual approaches led to the biggest single-day mob sweep in US history, with more than 100 wiseguys -- the great majority of them Colombos -- charged with a variety of crimes in January.
It all started with the 2008 arrest in Miami of a relatively low-level soldier, Joseph "Joey Caves" Competiello, who was busted for his role in a mob hit.
He soon flipped and provided information that sparked a four-year domino effect of Colombo arrests -- many resulting in other wiseguys' becoming FBI rats themselves.
"Joey Caves starts the whole thing," a law-enforcement source told The Post.
Often, the agents didn't even have to arrest targets to flip them.
Armed with information from Competiello and his fellow informants, agents would visit other mobsters and associates. They'd let the goodfella know what they had on him, usually convincing him to cooperate.
Such operations aren't the stuff of flak vests and raid jackets.
"It could be a knock on the door," the source said. "Usually it's a one-on-one conversation."
The push against the family was spearheaded by a small team of FBI agents who learned intimate details of the mobsters' lifestyles, romantic affairs, personality traits and weaknesses.
"Does he have financial difficulties? Does he have a strong family life? Has he been to jail before? Is he married? Does he have young kids who won't see him if he goes to jail for a very long time?" the source said.
Armed with this information, they devised strategies for individual mobsters.
One Colombo after the next flipped, ratting out those higher up.
Using this strategy, the squad, headed by veteran supervisor Seamus McElearney, produced hugely successful results, busting the Colombo family's entire leadership.
For example, former street boss Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, who was busted last year and faces murder and racketeering charges, was brought down by snitches including his own nephew.
He was replaced by Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo, who was rounded up in January.
Turning a wiseguy is a delicate operation, and circumstances dictate whether his wife is also approached.
"It all depends on the relationship between the husband and the wife," the source said. "If they have a good relationship, you might leave it up to the [wiseguy] whether he wants to include his wife."
In cases where the marriage is faltering, "you would call his cellphone to get him out of the area" and have a discreet meeting without the wife in a private setting.
After flipping in 2008, "Joey Caves" offered details to Agent John Fallon about the Colombo killing fields in East Farmingdale, LI, where bodies of mob-hit victims were buried.
This information led to the Colombo squad's charging several other wiseguys with the rub-outs in exchange for lighter prison sentences.
Among them are Dino "Big Dino" Calabro, a Colombo captain turned by Agent Scott Curtis, and Sebastiano "Sebby" Saracino, a Colombo soldier-turned-informant, who is slated to testify against his own brother, Dino "Little Dino" Saracino, another soldier.
In fact, so many Colombos decided to became rats that at one high-level family sit-down on Staten Island last year, detailed accounts of what was discussed were passed to agents by three different informants.
"It becomes a race to see who is going to cooperate first," the source said.