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One of the heads of the Colombo crime family was freed from a Brooklyn jail on a $5 million bond on Friday despite federal prosecutors’ objections that he was still conducting mafia business.
Mob consigliere Ralph DiMatteo, 66, walked out prison just five months after turning himself in to the FBI in New York City after his son had posted a photo of the wanted fugitive at a sunny Florida pool.
DiMatteo was charged with 13 other mobsters on racketeering and extortion charges and has pleaded not guilty.
Despite prosecutors’ claims that DiMatteo was still an active member of the Colombo crime family and offering the group advice, Brooklyn Federal Court Magistrate James Cho said the mobster was not a flight risk and that home detention and phone monitoring was enough to ‘alleviate the risk,’ the New York Daily News reported.
Ralph DiMatteo, 66, had surrendered himself to the FBI in September after his son posted a picture of his parents at a Florida pool. The Colombo family consigliere was freed on a $5 million bond on Friday
DiMatteo served as a consigliere, an advisor to the Colombo family boss
DiMatteo’s defense lawyer, Gerald McMahon, argued his client’s release was necessary to prepare for their case, and as part of the deal, the mobster has agreed to electronic monitoring and home detention.
The mobster is allowed to travel outside his home only when visiting his attorney, going to court, seeking medical treatment and attending religious services.
Biggest mafia busts in history
November 14, 1957: State troopers raid a national meeting of mafia leaders at the home of mobster Joseph ‘Joe the Barber’ Barbara in Apalachin, New York. Dozens escape and the 58 taken into custody insisted they were there to deliver well-wishes to an ailing friend, and were eventually released. The incident raised major national awareness of the mafia.
February 1985: US Attorney Rudy Giuliani indicted 11 Mafia leaders, including the heads of New York’s five dominant crime families. The Mafia Commission Trial delivered a crushing blow to the mob.
December 11, 1990: Detectives raid the Ravenite Social Club, arresting Gambino boss John Gotti Jr, his underboss Salvatore ‘Sammy the Bull’ Gravano and Gambino consigliere Frank ‘Frankie Loc’ LoCascio.
January 20, 2011: Authorities arrested 119 organized crime suspects in what the FBI called the largest single-day operation against the Mafia in history.
According to court documents, prosecutors said that DiMatteo was still orchestrating Colombo family business while imprisoned as officials monitored his phone calls.
During one of the calls, he allegedly advised a relative to ‘stay off the phones’ because of FBI surveillance and told a Colombo associate during another call to avoid using a crime family meeting spot because authorities were aware of the location.
In the court documents, the prosecutors wrote, ‘In the months since his arrest, DiMatteo has continued to associate with and communicate with members of organized crime, seek their financial assistance, and remain involved in the affairs of the Colombo family.
‘The weight of the evidence against DiMatteo is overwhelming. The government’s evidence includes witness testimony, wiretap intercepts, consensual recordings… text messages, surveillance photographs.’
DiMatteo stands accused of colluding with fellow mobsters to devise a scheme to launder money from union healthcare contracts and payments.
DiMatteo is said to have done this through various channels linked to Joseph Bellantoni, who was named as a co-conspirator in the indictment, and eventually to the Colombo crime family’s leaders, according to the federal indictment.
He was also accused of threatening bodily harm to control the management of the labor union that they were targeting and influencing decisions that benefitted the family.
Reputed Colombo street boss Andrew ‘Andy Mush’ Russo, 87, and his underboss, Benjamin ‘The Claw’ Castellazzo, 83, were also scooped up by federal agents and New York police, along with seven other members of the Colombo crime family.
Among those charged was 75-year-old capo (captain) Vincent ‘Vinny Unions’ Ricciardo, who was recorded during a phone call in June threatening to kill a labor union official if he didn’t play ball, according to the 19-count indictment.
The other captains, or capos, arrested include Richard Ferrara, 59, and Theodore ‘Skinny Teddy’ Persico Jr., 58, who is the nephew of the late Colombo boss Carmine ‘The Snake’ Persico.
Colombo soldier Michael Uvino, 56, and associates Thomas Costa, 52, and Domenick Ricciardo, 56 – Vincent’s cousin – were also booked.
Reputed street boss of the Colombo crime family Andrew ‘Mush’ Russo, 85, (left) and Capo Vincent ‘Vinny Unions’ Ricciardo (right) arrested in an early-morning raid Tuesday in NYC
Colombo underboss Benjamin ‘The Claw’ Castellazzo (left), 83, and high-ranking capo Theodore ‘Skinny Teddy’ Persico Jr. (right), were among the 13 arrested mobsters, feds said
‘Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,’ FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll said concerning the indictment. ‘The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.’
‘These soldiers, consiglieres, underbosses, and bosses are obviously not students of history, and don’t seem to comprehend that we’re going to catch them. Regardless of how many times they fill the void we create in their ranks, our FBI Organized Crime Task Force, and our law enforcement partners, are positioned to take them out again, and again.’
According to the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators committed and are charged with a wide array of crimes – including extortion, loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking – on behalf of the Colombo organized crime family.
In 2019, the family sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from the union’s healthcare system directly to the administration of the Colombo crime family.
The Colombo family is one of five major mafia organizations in the northeastern United States. The others are the Genovese, Lucchese, Gambino and Bonanno families.
The latest indictments leave it unclear who remains to take control of the Colombo syndicate on the street.
The entire administration of the Colombo crime family, including Russo and Castellazzo, already pleaded guilty to a variety of mobster activities in 2012.
The New York mafia has been weakened by several blows in recent years, including arrests, fratricidal struggles and competition from other criminal organizations, but they are still considered active.
The reputed boss of the Gambino clan, ‘Frank’ Cali, was shot and killed outside his home in the New York borough of Staten Island in March 2019.
Colombo crime family: A history of violence and in-fighting
The Colombo Crime Family is the youngest of the big five families which run the organized mafia in New York.
It was initially recognized as the Profaci Crime Family, with Joe Profaci leading the family following the assassinations of Giuseppe ‘Joe The Boss’ Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano.
Profaci ruled the family until the 1950s when internal feuds led to three conflicts.
The first was led by Joe Gallo, but this revolt died down after Gallo was arrested and Profaci died from cancer.
The family remained divided until the 1960s when Joseph Colombo assumed control, however, after he was shot in 1971 following Gallo’s release from prison, a second family war broke out.
Colombo loyalists under the command of Persico defeated the Gallos and exiled them to the Genovese family.
A third internal family war eventually broke out in the 1990s when acting boss Victor Orena tried to seize power while Persico was in prison.
The family was divided in two, and ended after two years when Orena was imprisoned.
Persico continued to lead the family until his death behind bars in 2019.