Mole helps FBI round up clan at heart of the New York Mob

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The Independent US

In another setback for the New York Mob, federal agents have rounded up 32 members of the Gambino Mafia clan, including its acting boss, after a sting operation involving an FBI agent who infiltrated the gangster underworld, posing for two years as a specialist in moving stolen goods.

In another setback for the New York Mob, federal agents have rounded up 32 members of the Gambino Mafia clan, including its acting boss, after a sting operation involving an FBI agent who infiltrated the gangster underworld, posing for two years as a specialist in moving stolen goods.

The FBI made the arrests after it became clear that the mole, in his late forties, was on the brink of being inducted as a full member of the Gambino family. He was being compared yesterday to the FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who, under the alias of Donnie Brasco, infiltrated the competing Bonanno crime family 25 years ago. His work, which severely damaged the clan, was made into a Hollywood film.

It was the move to make the agent a member of the clan that spurred the FBI to take action this week. "Had we left him out on the street much longer, the Gambino family ranks would actually have increased by one," Pasquale D'Amuro, the New York director of the FBI told journalists.

Among those brought in was Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, described as the acting head of the Gambinos, a family once led by John Gotti - the so-called Dapper Don - who died in prison in 2002. Also in custody yesterday was the alleged underboss of the clan, Anthony "The Genius" Megale.

Charges against the men ranged from loan-sharking and illegal gambling to extortion of construction companies as well as of a popular New York radio station, WKTU, and an upmarket restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut. Prosecutors described one recent incident where a man who had fallen behind on his loan payments was beaten over the head with a candlestick in a suburban branch of Bloomingdales.

The undercover agent, who has not been identified for his safety, successfully tape-recorded hundreds of conversations between the gangsters. He earned their respect by conjuring large quantities of allegedly "hot" goods, from jewellery to flat-screen televisions, which had, in fact, been supplied by the FBI.

At the same time, the FBI bugged the room of a suburban nursing home occupied by the comatose son of a Gambino crew leader identified as Gregory DePalma. Prosecutors said Mr DePalma used his son's bedside as the venue for daily meetings with his criminal associates to plot their misdeeds.

Mr DePalma, who was also arrested, chose the nursing home assuming that within its walls he would be beyond the reach of federal surveillance. "They went into the nursing home and we were right behind them," said the US attorney for Manhattan, David Kelley.

Prosecutors said that WKTU had been strong-armed by the gangsters to run advertisements and promotional segments for adult nightclubs and other businesses that the family owned or had also targeted for profit-skimming.

Officials added that the agent was obliged to join other members in making verbal threats but never committed any acts of violence himself.

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