10 members, associates of reputed crime family arrested

AP News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2015 7:51 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Reputed members of a New Jersey crime family long believed to be the model for HBO's "Sopranos" plotted to kill a recalcitrant member who, they told an undercover informant, was "out of control" and had to "meet death," federal prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint released Thursday.

Three criminal complaints name 10 reputed members or associates of the DeCavalcante crime family, including 71-year-old Charles Stango of Henderson, Nevada, believed to be a capo, or captain, in the family. The arrests were the fruits of more than three years of work by an undercover agent who was able to infiltrate the family and gain the confidence of Stango and others, according to the complaints.

The complaints charge the 10 with a litany of crimes including conspiracy to distribute cocaine, promoting prostitution and purchasing 120,000 untaxed cigarettes.

Stango, who purportedly went by the nickname "Beeps," was charged with two other men, 72-year-old Frank Nigro and 68-year-old Paul Colella, both of Toms River, with scheming to kill the unidentified victim over a dispute regarding the victim's being promoted as a "made" member of the family. Colella purportedly was known by the nickname "Knuckles."

According to one complaint, the intended victim also had insulted an acting DeCavalcante boss at a social gathering.

The complaint alleges the DeCavalcante family operates under the direction of New York's Gambino crime family. For years, the DeCavalcantes have been considered the inspiration for the hit HBO series that starred the late James Gandolfini.

Some of the dialogue alleged in the complaint wouldn't have been out of place in the frequently violent TV series.

Stango allegedly sought and obtained permission from Nigro to carry out the murder in New Jersey. Authorities say Stango discussed his plans with the undercover agent, telling him the target was "out of control." The intended victim "had to meet death or you gotta maim him or you just gotta put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life," Stango told the agent, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors claim Stango and his son, Anthony, also planned to operate a high-end escort service in the Toms River area.

Nine of the men appeared in federal court in Newark on Thursday; no pleas were entered. Five of the nine were ordered held pending bail hearings next week, while the rest were allowed to post bail. The tenth, Stango, was to appear in court in Nevada.

"My client is professing his innocence and wants to vindicate his name," said Christopher Patella, an attorney representing Rosario Pali, who is charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine with Anthony Stango.

Other defense attorneys deferred comment, saying they hadn't had time to look at the complaints.