Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged six alleged Genovese crime family mobsters with racketeering conspiracy involving illegal gambling and extortion.
Among them were two alleged “capos” of the notorious New York Mafia family, Nicholas Calisi and Ralph “the Undertaker” Balsamo. Michael Messina and John Campanella were allegedly “soldiers,” while Michael Poli and Thomas Poli were allegedly “associates” of the outfit.
They are accused of “terrorizing New York communities with violence and illegal businesses” via underground gambling and loan sharking operations that saddled victims with debt that they could not repay, according to federal prosecutors.
In 2007, Balsamo was sentenced to eight years in prison for narcotics trafficking, firearms trafficking, extortion, and union-related fraud.
The mobsters generated revenues through a campaign of financing and collecting betting credit through extortion. They threatened to cause economic and physical harm to debtors, while identifying themselves to their victims as “the Mafia,” prosecutors said.
Internally, they engaged in violent power struggles to protect their operations from “persons who engaged in activity that jeopardized the power and criminal activities of the enterprise, the power of the leaders of the enterprise and the status of its members and the flow of criminal proceeds to members and associates of the enterprise.”
The Genovese are one of five New York Mafia families, along with the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, and Luchese.
Each family is organized into groups known as “crews,” which contain their own hierarchies. Each crew is headed by a “caporegime,” or “capo,” who presides over “made members,” also known as “soldiers.” Below them are “associates,” trusted individuals who aid the crew in its criminal operations.
Many associates are aspiring soldiers. Typically, they must demonstrate the ability to generate income or commit acts of violence for the family in order to become made men.
Capos supervise the activities of their crews, resolve disputes, and provide protection to their soldiers, in return for a cut of their earnings. They report to the underboss, who himself reports to the boss of the family.
The current Genovese boss is reputed to be Liborio Salvatore Bellomo. In the mid-1990s he was indicted by the US government for murder and extortion. He beat the murder rap and served ten years in a federal prison on the latter charge. He was released in 2008.
All of the six suspects face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted. Balsamo’s attorney, Gerald McMahon, told The New York Post that “the government can’t seem to go three months without rounding up some Italians, today just happened to be Ralph Balsamo’s turn.”
The government had a different take.
“From extortion to illegal gambling, the Mafia continues to find ways to prey on others to fill its coffers,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “Our office and our law enforcement partners remain committed to putting organized crime out of business.”
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