COUNTERFEIT PROBE: U.S. ATTORNEY CHARGES NEW YORK MOBSTERS
Byline: Vicki M. Young
NEW YORK — In an aggressive move against megabrand counterfeiting, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan on Wednesday unsealed seven indictments that charge several members of the Genovese crime family with racketeering, including trafficking in bogus branded watches and jewelry.
The counterfeit merchandise bore names ranging from Guess and Cartier to Gucci and Nike.
According to the indictment, Rosario Gangi and three others were charged with conspiring to transport and transporting stolen jewelry, watches and other goods stolen from Blue Stove Antiques in Fair Lawn, N.J.
Pasquale Parrello and two others were charged with the receipt of the jewelry valued in excess of $400,000, the indictment said. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Parrello and others possessed “thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit Tag Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger, Seiko, Cartier and Rolex watches.”
The office also said that others were charged with trafficking “thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit watches, handbags and sunglasses bearing the trademarks, among others, Gucci, Guess, Rolex, Nike, Ray Ban and Versace.”
The arrests of Gangi, Parrello and 71 other defendants were made Wednesday morning following a 40-month investigation. Thirty-four of those charged, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, are “capos, members or associates of the Genovese” crime family. Gangi and Parrello are listed in the indictment as “capos.”
An FBI source said that capos are “lower than mid-level management and each capo has a crew of 10 to 15 soldiers.” Bosses and consiglieres are higher, he said.
The indictments covered a wide range of crimes that included, but were not limited to: extortion, robbery, conspiracy, gun-trafficking, loan-sharking, credit card theft and fraud, check fraud, bank fraud, transportation and receipt of stolen property and dealing in counterfeit U.S. currency.
Mary Jo White, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement: “These arrests represent the strongest statement to date by federal law enforcement that, as the law-abiding citizens of New York try to return to normalcy in our lives, we will permit no such return to ‘business as usual’ for members of organized crime and the criminal element in New York.”
Steve Davis, president of Davis Investigative Group, which conducts private probes into counterfeiting activities, said organized crime isn’t the only force with its hand in the counterfeit game.
“I know that there are investigations going on involving trademarks and counterfeit goods and that these investigations have pretty clear ties to terrorist groups,” he told WWD. “They are not active in manufacturing the goods, but the rings are channeling funds to support their activities. While there’s been a stepping up of the efforts because of the full-scale attack against terrorist groups and their banks, this is something law enforcement has been eyeing since the 1993 bombing on the World Trade Center.”
Members of organized crime are opportunists, he noted, and with the crackdown on drug-trafficking and loan-sharking, the brokering of counterfeit goods has become an easy way to make a quick buck. Davis observed that recent counterfeiting arrests have tended to center on Asian gangs.
To be sure, the reach of organized criminal activities has been wide-reaching in the fashion industry in the form of loan-sharking and racketeering in sectors such as finance, manufacturing, trucking and labor. In 1998, 12 men with ties to the Luchese crime family, including Joseph “Little Joe” DeFede as alleged acting boss, were charged with extorting $2.5 million from garment firms.
The defendants pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy. In 1992, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office successfully prosecuted Thomas and Joseph Gambino and various lieutenants for restraint of trade in a case involving the Gambino family’s control of garment trucking.