In what is reported to be the largest organized crime sweep in …
In what is reported to be the largest organized crime sweep in …
The Target 12 Investigators take you "Inside the Mafia." The …
He infiltrated a New York crime family and took down their …
Rhode Island has a long history with the Mafia. Now Target 12 …
Updated: Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 10:46 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 9:04 AM EST
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - The elderly alleged former leader of the New England Mafia was arrested Wednesday in Florida as part of a massive organized crime bust, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
Federal authorities arrested Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, 83, in Fort Lauderdale the same day admitted mobster Anthony "The Saint" St. Laurent agreed to plead guilty to extortion and murder-for-hire charges. The reputed ex-boss was held overnight in the Broward County Jail.
"Mr. Manocchio has been a target for a long time," Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha told Target 12 in a phone interview Thursday. "When you're able to bring forth charges and take him into custody, it's a big deal."
Manocchio was charged with conspiracy and extortion for allegedly accepting protection payments from Providence's Satin Doll and Cadillac Lounge strip clubs starting as early as 1993, according to court documents filed Jan. 7 and unsealed Thursday morning.
Manocchio will appear for a hearing in a Florida courtroom later Thursday for an "identity hearing" that will determine whether he is the individual listed in the indictment, Neronha said. Prosecutors will ask for him to be detained. There is no word yet on when he will be brought back to Rhode Island.
In addition to "Baby Shacks," court documents also refer to Manocchio using the nicknames "The Old Man" and "The Professor."
Also arrested in the sweep was Thomas Iafrate, 69, described in court documents as a mob associate and bookkeeper for the Cadillac Lounge and Satin Doll clubs. FBI agents have raided the Cadillac Lounge at least twice in recent years, although it's unclear whether that investigation and Thursday's arrests are connected.
FBI agents from Providence arrested Iafrate Thursday morning at his home in Johnston on charges of conspiracy and extortion, officials said. They allege he was responsible for setting aside, collecting and delivering payments to Manocchio on behalf of Cadillac Lounge, Satin Doll and other adult-entertainment businesses.
Iafrate will be arraigned at 2 p.m. Thursday in federal court in Providence. He and Manocchio both face a maximum of 23 years behind bars if convicted, 20 for conspiracy and three for extortion, according to the indictment. The pair allegedly used "force, violence and fear" to get $2,900 from the owner of the clubs on Nov. 6, 2008.
Seven Mafia familes targeted
Thursday's huge sweep - described by authorities as the largest Mafia roundup in FBI history - targeted seven Mafia families in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, with arrests made by more than 800 federal, state and local officers. The bust was mostly completed by 8 a.m. and charges will include murder, racketeering and extortion, sources said.
"One of the things is, these [investigations] take patience," Neronha told Target 12. "You have to stay at it. The New England La Cosa Nostra is an insular group."
Neronha joined U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other top law-enforcement officials to announce the charges at a morning news conference in Brooklyn. Officials arrested and charged 127 people in the bust, including 91 alleged members and associates of La Cosa Nostra, the Italian Mafia.
Despite what some people may think, the mob remains powerful in New England, according to Neronha. "It was worse five years ago - now it's getting worse again," he said, comparing targeting organized crime to playing "whack-a-mole."
Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director of the FBI's New York division, thanked agencies including the Rhode Island State Police and the Providence Police Department for their roles in carrying out the sweep. The Italian National Police also arrested one person as part of the investigation, she said.
The crimes outlined in 16 indictments unsealed on Thursday include killings - from "classic mob hits to eliminate rivals" to "truly senseless murders," Holder said - as well as narcotics trafficking, illegal gambling, arson and labor racketeering.
Fedarcyk said that while "the mob has shown itself to be resilient and persistent," a growing number of Mafia members have been willing to break with the culture of omertà - the code of silence - to assist law enforcement. Omertà "is more a myth than a reality today," she said.
In a plea agreement filed Wednesday in federal court, Anthony St. Laurent admitted to being a made member of the notorious Patriarca organized crime family and confirmed that Manocchio was its leader as of 2006. Neronha declined to say whether there was a connection between St. Laurent's plea and Monocchio's arrest.
The Patriarca crime family's power has waned in New England compared with its height in the 1970s and '80s, but the mob still remains a force in illicit activities like illegal gambling and loan sharking.
Long criminal record for 'Shacks'
This is far from the first time Manocchio has been in trouble with the law.
In April 1999, he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property – specifically a dishwasher and refrigerator that he gave to his mother, who was 90 at the time. He'd been arrested in 1996 for allegedly taking part in a $10 million burglary ring.
In 1985, Manocchio was found guilty of a gangland murder committed in Providence's Silver Lake neighborhood in 1968 and sentenced to two life sentences. That conviction was eventually overturned, though Manocchio did serve two years in prison for conspiracy.
Manocchio, a Federal Hill resident, is believed by law enforcement to have taken the reins of the mob around 1995 or 1996, after his alleged predecessor, "Cadillac" Frank Salemme, was indicted.
Unlike other mobsters who neglected their health, Manocchio earned a reputation as a fitness nut. Neighbors would see him jogging up Federal Hill to his apartment.
The origin of Manocchio's "Baby Shacks" nickname – sometimes reported as "Baby Shanks," though the federal government says it's "Shacks" – has never been nailed down. Theories include it being a reference to the alleged boss's success with women – "shacking up" – or the small dagger nicknamed a "shank."
Neronha, who said he began working on this investigation when he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, said he finds "disconcerting" the image some people have of Mafia members as somehow honorable or largely harmless.
The mob can be "incredibly violent," he said. "They are not just nice old men. They are a threat to everyday society, and all that conduct that they engage in affects all of us in a variety of ways.
"That's why organized crime has to be taken as seriously as we take it," Neronha added.
An earlier version of this story gave Thomas Iafrate's age as 63, based on information provided by the U.S. Attorney's office earlier Thursday. He is 69, according to statements made in a court hearing later in the day.
Ground rules for posting comments: No profanity or personal attacks. Please comment on the subject of the story itself. If you do not follow these rules, we will remove your post. Keep it civil, folks!
Our commenting section is powered by IntenseDebate. If you registered for an account but didn't receive a verification e-mail, check your spam folder or click here for more information. For additional technical help, click here.