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FBI's biggest-ever mob bust shows where Mafia still holds sway

FBI and local law enforcement arrests 127 people allegedly connected to the Mafia, mostly in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Officials say the mob is still 'entrenched' in certain industries and has a 'pervasive' influence at ports.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / January 20, 2011

US Attorney General Eric Holder (r.) and US Attorney for New York's Southern District Preet Bharara confer at a news conference on Thursday in New York. Law-enforcement officials said more than 120 organized-crime associates face charges including murder, extortion, and narcotics trafficking in the largest Mafia crackdown in FBI history.

Bebeto Matthews/AP

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New York

Even by New York mafia prosecution standards, the haul of alleged mobsters arrested on Thursday morning by law-enforcement officials was eye-popping.

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A gigantic dragnet of 800 police or FBI officials arrested 127 individuals who were either "made members" of La Cosa Nostra or associated with it, according to federal indictments. To avoid clogging the courts, the accused mobsters were processed at an Army base. The FBI calls it one of the biggest single day operations in its history and the largest ever against the Mafia.

Those pulled in included Bartolomeo Vernace, who reportedly sits on organized crime’s “Ruling Panel,” that arbitrates interfamily spats. The haul also included the head of the Colombo Family and 34 members of the Gambino Family. Those arrested included “consiglieres” as well as captains, soldiers and associates.

Altogether, the arrests encompassed six crime families, plus the New England Cosa Nostra which operates in Boston and Providence.

“Today’s arrests and charges mark an important step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra’s illegal activities,” said Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, in a press conference in New York.

Mob remains 'resilient and persistent'

The scale of the arrests may come as a surprise to many people. But law-enforcement officials as well as organized crime experts say it shows that organized crime continues to be a blight on society. And even though former law enforcement officials, such as Rudolph Giuliani, former attorney general for the southern district of New York, made inroads in the crime families, the families remain active.

“The mob has shown itself to be resilient and persistent,” said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York division. “Arresting and convicting the hierarchy of the five families several times over has not eradicated the problem.”

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