NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Members and associates of one of New York's legendary crime families used check cashing businesses and a Newark restaurant to run a racketeering enterprise that reaped millions of dollars through loansharking and money laundering, New Jersey officials said Tuesday as they announced charges against 11 people.
One of those arrested was reputed Genovese family capo Charles Tuzzo of Bayside, New York, who was charged with racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy, loansharking and promoting gambling. Also arrested was reputed Genovese soldier Vito Alberti, 55, of New Providence, New Jersey, whom authorities charged with the same crimes as Tuzzo as well as one tax-related count.
The 80-year-old Tuzzo, Alberti and five others were being held on $400,000 bail each and were scheduled for an initial court appearance later Tuesday in Morris County. Three people were charged by summonses and one, Vincent Coppola of Union, was being sought.
It wasn't immediately clear whether any of the defendants had lawyers.
Coppola is the son of jailed Genovese capo Michael Coppola, acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said Tuesday. Michael Coppola was captured in 2007 after spending more than a decade on the run after being charged in the fatal shooting of a fellow mobster in a New Jersey motel parking lot in the late 1970s.
The money laundering and loansharking ran through check cashing businesses owned by Domenick Pucillo of Florham Park, Hoffman said. Pucillo had about $3 million in illegal loans on the street over a two-year period, and he and others reaped about $1.3 million in interest by charging annual rates of up to 156 percent, Hoffman said.
Hoffman and Michael Murphy, commissioner of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, estimated that $400 million in checks were illegally cashed through the Portucale Restaurant in Newark's Ironbound section over a four-year period in another operation they say was financed by Pucillo. They said patrons would cash checks for more than $10,000 at the restaurant for a fee of up to 3 percent to launder money or hide income.
The owner of the restaurant, Abel Rodrigues, 52, of Bridgewater, was charged with racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy, operating an unlicensed check cashing facility and filing a bogus tax return.
Racketeering and money laundering carry prison sentences of 10 to 20 years, and sentences for first-degree money laundering — a charge faced by all 11 defendants — run consecutive to sentences for other charges, according to the attorney general's office.
In all, about $12 million in illegal profit was collected through the various enterprises, in addition to a sports gambling operation that used an offshore website in Costa Rica, Hoffman said. A percentage of the profit was kicked up to the Genovese family in New York, he said.
"They were up to a lot of the old Mafia tricks in New Jersey, including loansharking and illegal gambling, to the tune of millions of dollars," Hoffman said. "History teaches us that as long as demand exists for illicit loans, illicit gambling, drugs and other black-market goods and services, organized crime is going to turn a profit by preying on society."