New Charges for Mob Family as U.S. Indictment Names 20
By ALAN FEUER
April 20, 2001
The DeCavalcante crime family once held itself in such high esteem that its members were caught on federal wiretaps two years ago boasting that they were the real-life inspiration for the fictional wise guys on the cable television series "The Sopranos."
But unlike their HBO counterparts, the real mob family from New Jersey was crippled by federal indictments in recent years, and yesterday was hit with its fourth since December 1999, the most potentially debilitating indictment yet: a 58 page document accusing its leaders and several underlings of committing 7 murders, being involved in 14 murder conspiracies and attempting 2 other killings since 1978, in a crime spree that spanned both sides of the Hudson River.
The new indictment, which was released in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accuses 20 men on charges that may seem shocking even for a Mafia clan that was described last year by a federal prosecutor as a group of "guys who are willing to kill at the drop of a hat." It accuses DeCavalcante members of not only challenging a longstanding mob tradition by conspiring to murder the wife and children of a man they believed was a turncoat, but also of a somewhat cannibalistic plot (metaphorically speaking) to kill three men, listed in the indictment both as defendants and as targets.
The last two years have been rough on the DeCavalcantes, a family that has traditionally been considered a second-rate mob clan but that has close ties to the Gambino family in New York, investigators say. Its hierarchy was decimated by the first two indictments, which the authorities said put the family at the brink of extinction.
In December 1999, for example, Vincent Palermo, a man described as the family's acting boss, and more than 30 others were arrested largely because of conversations that were secretly recorded by a government informer who had finessed his way into the DeCavalcantes' inner circle. Less than one year later, a dozen more men were indicted because of information, investigators say, provided in part by a cooperative Mr. Palermo himself.
The authorities said the DeCavalcantes drew their name from the family founder, Sam DeCavalcante, a man who was known as Sam the Plumber and was an early organizer of sophisticated labor racketeering schemes. The government also charged that the family helped pioneer the mob's infiltration of Wall Street. Indeed, extortion in the construction industry and stock fraud were among the new indictment's smorgasbord of charges.
Those charges were a direct outgrowth of the second indictment, which contains many of the same accusations. The new allegations are different in quantity only. There are, for instance, two additional murder charges and eight new murder conspiracy counts.
Federal authorities made much of the fact that one man charged in the indictment, Francesco Polizzi, was accused of ordering the murder of the family of a suspected informer.
As Barry W. Mawn, an assistant director in charge of the F.B.I.'s New York office, put it: "The brutality of the members and associates of the DeCavalcante family on display in this indictment belies the Hollywood notion of organized crime members as colorful rogues who beat the system."