Monday, May 6, 2013

RICO and The Mafia

The 1970's was a bad decade for La Cosa Nostra and they had no idea what was yet to come. One word: RICO, an acronym for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It was introduced into the US Code in 1970 after having been written by G. Robert Blakey.

RICO is the single most powerful weapon the Government had to use against the Mafia.  They used two other weapons in conjunction with the RICO Act, asset forfeiture and The Witness Security Program.

RICO enabled the FBI to finally make cases against the Bosses that controlled the Mafia.  J. Edger Hoover never let his Agents work undercover because he felt they would get dirty.  So they were stuck making cases against low level hoods.  RICO enabled the Government to put together cases against the organization as a whole based on two predicated acts committed in a 10 year period for the group or with it.  These acts or crimes are (1) “racketeering activity,” which means any act of murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in a controlled substance or a listed chemical, dealing in obscene material (Porn etc) -- and this definition really gives the Government a second bite at the apple.  They can use crimes you already did time for to hit you with RICO.

There are more acts but this is not a law blog and I just want to give you an idea of what it is about:
- It shall be unlawful for any person who has received any income derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or through collection of an unlawful debt in which such person has participated as a principal
- It shall be unlawful for any person through a pattern of racketeering activity or through collection of an unlawful debt to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce.

Like I said above, this is just a little bit of the RICO ACT. The best part?  You get 20 years to life and lose everything as does your family.

So the FBI used this as a big hammer against the Mafia.  By the late 70's they really knew how to use it best.  They then started assaults on the Families all over the country.  They started an operation against the oldest Mafia family in the US headed by its iron fisted leader Carlos Marcello who had ruled the New Orleans underworld for decades.

The FBI called this Operation Brilab.

The FBI got the whole operation moving when a Washington DC Lobbyist Isaac Irving Davidson started doing business with a convicted conman from Los Angeles named Joseph Hauser. Davidson was really in the mix in DC politics and he also happened to be very close to Carlos Marcello.  Davidson introduced Hauser to Carlos and soon, thanks to a quarter million dollars, Carlos had him working with all the Unions.  Hauser even bought a New Orleans insurance company, but things did not go well.  He was soon in deep troubles with the SEC and the Feds.  Hauser was looking at some huge fines and prison time for his failed insurance business.  That is when the FBI approached him to work as an informant in Operation Brilab against Carlos Marcello.  Hauser soon introduced two undercover FBI Agents to Carlos.  The two undercover agents had set up a fake insurance company in Los Angeles and they were soon looking for Carlos to get them contracts through his contacts.  Carlos fell for this right away because all he could see was the huge cut he would get from the commissions.  It was during this time that Hauser, wearing a wire, picked up Carlos talking about the LA Family.  

The Los Angeles Family leadership, Boss Dominic Brooklier, Underboss Sam Scorentino, Capo Mike Rizzi and others were facing a RICO case thanks to Jimmy Frattiano who had flipped after the family had turned against him.  He became the second made member of the Cosa Nostra to flip and tell the FBI everything.  One of the things he told the FBI about was how the LA Family had set up and killed Frank Bompensiero in San Diego.

Carlos was close to the LA Family because a high ranking member was related to Sam Scorintino, the LA Underboss.  This is what Carlos told Hauser, "I'm doin' this for friends of mine in California. They Maf like me, you know, personal friends." The FBI came up with a plan right away because now they had proof from Carlos that he was in the Mafia.  They had Hauser tell Carlos that he could bribe a Federal Judge and help out the LA Family.  Carlos played right into the FBI's trap, he was eager to help his friends. Carlos agreed to pay the judge $125,000 for the bribe to help out the family.  The FBI took Carlos down.  First on the Brilab and then on attempting to bribe a Federal judge in Los Angeles.  Carlos lost his RICO case in New Orleans and he knew right away that he would lose the LA Case.  Carlos had beaten the Government for years on his home turf, but in LA it was a different story.  He was convicted on all counts and soon faced almost 20 years in prison.  The LA Family had gotten of easy because Tommy Riccardi, the shooter of Frank Bompensiero, had died during the trial.  Los Angeles Family Boss Dominic Brooklier, largely resulting from the testimony of government informant Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno, is convicted of racketeering charges and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. Other members of his organization include Capo Michael "Big Mike Rizzi" Rizzitello with 5 years, Underboss Samuel Scoirtino with 4 years, and 2 years each for Capo Louis Dragna and Consigliere Jack LoCicero, who are also convicted of racketeering, included the gangland slaying of former Capo/Consigliere Frank Bompensiero.
This case shows a lot about how the Cosa Nostra works, how they cross state lines and how relations exist among all the families. It also proves how effective RICO can be against Organized Crime.

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