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Feds bust Colombo crime family leadership in racketeering scheme involving Queens-based labor union

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The NYPD and FBI arrested eleven members of the Colombo crime family, including its leadership, on Tuesday on various crimes related to labor racketeering, attempted extortion and extortionate collection of credit and money laundering conspiracy.

In Brooklyn federal court, a 19-count indictment was unsealed charging 14 defendants, including multiple charges against the Colombo crime family members, that are related to multiple schemes in an alleged long-running effort to infiltrate and take control of a Queens-based labor union and its affiliated health care benefit program.

By infiltrating and taking control of the Queens-based labor union, the Colombo family members who were charged and arrested were able to extort a substantial amount of money, which should have been used for the members of the union, a law enforcement official explained.

“Today’s charges describe a long-standing, ruthless pattern by the administration of the Colombo crime family, its captains, members and associates, of conspiring to exert control over the management of a labor union by threatening to inflict bodily harm on one of its senior officials and devising a scheme to divert or launder vendor contract funds from its healthcare benefits program,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis said.

Kasulis added that along with the schemes for “their own enrichment,” the Colombo family members allegedly conspired to engage in “extortionate loansharking, money laundering and fraud, as well as drug trafficking.”

“This office and its law enforcement partners are committed to dismantling organized crime families, eliminating their corrupt influence in our communities and protecting the independence of labor unions,” Kaulis said.

Among those charged with racketeering are Andrew “Mush” Russo, the boss of the Colombo crime family; Benjamin “Benji” Castellazzo, the underboss; and Ralph Di Matteo, the consigliere.

Thirteen defendants were arrested in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, Sept. 14, in New York and New Jersey and are scheduled to be arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Taryn A. Merk at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself. The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well,” FBI Assistant Agent-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said. “These soldiers, consiglieres, underbosses and bosses are obviously not students of history, and don’t seem to comprehend that we’re going to catch them. Regardless of how many times they fill the void we create in their ranks, our FBI Organized Crime Task Force and our law enforcement partners, are positioned to investigate these types of allegations.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the indictment is an example of the NYPD’s “long-term commitment” in working with law enforcement partners to ensure those accused of organized crime are held accountable.

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