The feds made headlines last year when they rounded up 46 alleged mobsters and associates from four of the five New York mafia families and the Philadelphia mafia in a massive racketeering case.
According to the feds, they were working together in an organized crime network called the East Coast LCN Enterprise that was involved in various rackets including illegal gambling, credit card fraud, and health care fraud. The case looked like a massive blow against the mafia until it began to fall apart last March after prosecutors alerted the judge to a probe into potential misdeeds by FBI agents. According to court documents, FBI agents failed to archive debriefings and mishandled evidence collected by a cooperating witness named John Rubio a former Genovese crime family associate that wore a wire and secretly recorded his Cosa Nostra pals.
“John Tognino and Anthony Vazzano”
This development prompted prosecutors to offer plea agreements that included dropping the racketeering charges allowing all the defendants to plead to lesser crimes. The racketeering charge carried with it a potential 20-year prison term so taking it off the table would lead to drastically lower sentences. According to a recent report from the NY Post, atleast 37 of the accused wiseguys are expected to take the feds offer and plead guilty by May 19th. The first to take advantage of these sweet plea offers were alleged Genovese family associates Anthony “Tony the Wig” Vazzano and John “Tugboat” Tognino. Both Vazzano and Tognino plead guilty to running an illegal gambling including running illegal poker and dice tournaments and taking bets on horse races.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Tognino now faces between 4 and 12 months in prison and Vazzano between 6 and 12 months. Among the others set to plead guilty according to sources is alleged Genovese family capo Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello. The feds claim Parrello along with fellow Genovese family capo Eugene O’Nofrio and Philadelphia mafia boss Joseph Merlino controlled the organized crime enterprise. Parrello was facing a couple of racketeering charges which could have landed him behind bars for up to 40 years but could see his potential sentence cut in half or more under the terms of the plea offers. He has reportedly been on the fence deciding over the plea deal and the possibility of taking his chances at trial although this new report seems to indicate he is leaning toward taking the deal.
According to reports from various sources, Joey Merlino has at least so far balked at the plea offer and has told prosecutors that he plans to go to trial. He could be facing as little as two years behind bars as part of the plea agreement but it would also come with having to forfeit a large sum of cash which seems to be among the sticking points. With the case clearly in shambles, Merlino may hope to negotiate an even better deal or believes the odds are now in his favor if he takes his chances in court. More details should continue to emerge as the rest of the 37 defendants who have reportedly already agreed to deals in the mafia case make their way to court to plead guilty between now and May 19th.