The latest target of federal indictments against the mafia is an alleged mob network being called the “East Coast LCN Enterprise” by the feds.
According to the feds, the Cosa Nostra network controlled a multitude of criminal activities spanning from Florida to New York. Prosecutors claim it included members of the major New York mafia families Genovese, Gambino, Bonanno, and Lucchese along with an offshoot of Philadelphia mafia including alleged boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino. Merlino along with Genovese family captains Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello and Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio were leaders of the mob network according to the indictment.
But is the idea of this kind of Cosa Nostra enterprise at odds with American mafia protocol and mafia history? According to the court filing, John Meringolo a lawyer for alleged mobster John “The Tugboat” Tognino the idea of five east coast mafia families working together in this capacity is farfetched. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office said the enterprise worked together on a multitude of criminal activities including racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering, illegal gambling, dealing untaxed cigarettes, and even healthcare fraud.
But according to Meringolo the feds manufactured the whole enterprise saying “Despite the various dealings between families, it has been well established that each is its own distinct entity.” In his court filing, he pointed to testimony from Colombo family mobster Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico that outlined stringent mafia family protocols that showed how families kept their distance from one another. He documented in his court documents that “Members and associates of a family were not allowed to speak to members of other crime families or to higher-ranking members of their own family without a formal introduction.”
According to Meringolo, the five families of the New York mafia have historically been treated as separate enterprises for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy indictments in federal court cases. But the charges in this new indictment doesn’t definitely prove the existence of an enterprise or allege an enterprise in terms of any specific organized crime family. He called the alleged East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise an over-encompassing term that is not distinct at all and can not itself constitute a racketeering enterprise. The indictment instead attempts to “melds various organized crime groups — with their own sets of distinct rules and hierarchies — into one overly broad entity, concocted for the sole purpose of connecting these otherwise separate and independent units together.”
This indictment shows a complete failure by prosecutors to understand how mafia politics work says Meringolo. Tognino is facing one count of racketeering conspiracy related to his work as a bookie but is not being tied to any one crime family in the indictment which his lawyers says means he is being hit with overly general charges which should be dismissed. Could the various crime families today cooperate enough to maintain this type of criminal conspiracy? The 46 alleged mobsters and associates charged in the indictment will be hoping the feds can’t prove it!