By Alexander Dworkowitz
With helicopters buzzing above their heads, police Friday raided and shut down 18 Willets Point businesses, three of which are owned by imprisoned Carmine Agnello, former son-in-law of Gambino mob boss John Gotti, authorities said.
Police said five auto body shops that allegedly bought and sold stolen car parts were closed under the nuisance abatement law, which allows the city to shut down businesses believed to be engaged in a pattern of criminal activity.
Agnello Auto Salvage and Carlos Tire Shop, both owned by Agnello, were shut down for having allegedly dealt in stolen auto parts, said Officer Louis Camacho, a police spokesman.
Three other auto body shops were also closed under the nuisance-abatement law, which allows the city to shut down businesses believed to be involved in a pattern of criminal activity, Newsday reported.
In addition, the Department of Buildings ordered the closing of 12 auto shops, one of which was owned by Agnello, and one deli for structural violations, the paper said.
The crackdown came as a result of a partnership between the NYPD’s Queens North Auto Larceny Unit, the Police Department’s Intelligence Unit and the Queens district attorney’s office.
Almost all of the businesses, including Agnello’s, are located on either Willets Point Boulevard or 126th Street in Willets Point.
Azia Ahmad of Bayside, was arrested in connection to the raid, said Camacho.
Agnello is currently serving a nine-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and arson in connection with his now defunct Willets Point scrap metal business, which earned $30 million a year. Agnello, 41, recently divorced Victoria Gotti, the daughter of jailed Gambino family mob boss John Gotti.
Agnello was arrested along with three associates in January 2000. Four undercover police officers had set up a mock scrap metal business in Willets Point in April 1999. After the officers refused to sell Agnello some of their crushed vehicles, Agnello hired an arsonist to burn down their business, Brown said. attorney. The arsonist was arrested before he could started the fire, the district attorney said.
At the time Queens District Attorney Richard Brown called Agnello “one of the most elusive figures in organized crime.”
Sammy Sambucci, who runs the auto salvage business Sambucci Brothers in Willets Point along with his uncle and brother, described Friday’s raid.
“There were helicopters and everything,” said Sambucci, whose 126th Street business is in the Willets Point “Iron Triangle,” where many of the auto shops were shut down. “It was a bum rush.”
Sambucci said he had heard from other business owners that the police had promised more raids in the future.
“The cops told them they’d come back,” he said.
The raids occurred more than a year after former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called for the condemnation of Willets Point. An October conference produced development ideas for Willets Point, which included designer shops, a hotel and land for parks.
Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman recently said both the city and the state were still working on finding a way to condemn Willets Point properties.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.