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03/10/2010

ICE arrests Mafia soldier following joint international law enforcement operation

NEW YORK - A Gambino soldier and two associates were arrested Wednesday in New York and North Carolina following a nine count indictment charging the three defendants variously with obstruction of justice, extortion and concealment of assets in bankruptcy.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, in a joint enforcement operation with the FBI, IRS and Italian authorities, arrested Gaetano Napoli, Sr., 71, Gaetano Napoli, Jr., 44, and Thomas Napoli, 31.

The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of New York Benton J. Campbell; ICE Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr.; Assistant Director in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations in New Yor Joseph M. Demarest Jr.; and Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS) Patricia J. Haynes.

As detailed in the detention letter filed today by the government, Gaetano Napoli, Sr. is a soldier in the Gambino crime family of La Cosa Nostra. Through wiretap interceptions, physical surveillance, consensual recordings and other investigative techniques, the government uncovered numerous forms of criminal activity engaged in by Napoli and his co-defendants.

The criminal charges filed against Napoli, Sr. include his threatening an extortion victim and obstruction of the government's grand jury investigation of Napoli's criminal activities. In one instance, Napoli admitted during a consensual recording that he had "schooled" a grand jury witness to influence the witness' testimony. Napoli, Sr. is also charged with committing fraud and concealing assets in regard to federal bankruptcy proceedings for one of his companies, Napoli & Sons Meats & Provisions, Inc.

Wiretap intercepts and visual surveillance revealed that, at the same time Napoli was claiming in the bankruptcy proceeding not to have assets, he and his co-defendants were secretly hiding some assets and conveying others to third parties.

The government's investigation also revealed that Napoli, Sr., using his position in the Gambino crime family, provided protection for Roberto Settineri, a Sicilian mafia associate operating in the United States. In a coordinated action, the FBI arrested Settineri on Wednesday in Florida on federal charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice filed in the Southern District of Florida, hours before he was scheduled to fly from Miami to Italy.

Simultaneously, prosecutors in Palermo, Italy, charged Settineri and 18 co-defendants in Sicily variously with Mafia association, extortion, drug trafficking, attempted homicide, and other crimes arising from their affiliation with Santa Maria di Gesù, a Sicilian Mafia family. Italian authorities executed arrests on those charges in and around Palermo early Wednesday morning.

Wiretap intercepts of Napoli, Sr. and Settineri revealed that in 2009, Napoli, Sr. "sat down" on behalf of Settineri when Settineri had a dispute with members of the Colombo crime family of La Cosa Nostra operating in the Miami area. In those interceptions Settineri openly referenced his Sicilian Mafia affiliation. Because La Cosa Nostra protocol required Settineri to be represented by a member of La Cosa Nostra as to U.S.-based matters, Settineri turned to Napoli, a Gambino crime family representative, for assistance.

"This investigation is a culmination of an extensive joint law enforcement effort to dismantle criminal enterprises that threaten our local communities," said ICE's Hayes.. "ICE will continue to use its unique immigration and customs authority to assist our federal and international law enforcement partners to prevent and deter criminal organizations from breaking the law."

"The criminal dominion of La Cosa Nostra and the Sicilian mafia is international, but, thanks to the vigilance and sustained cooperation of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners in the United States and Italy, both countries' efforts to push back the tide of international organized crime have achieved success, said U.S. Attorney Campbell.

"This investigation not only exposed an alleged scheme to commit bankruptcy fraud - wiretapped conversations also established that Gaetano Napoli and the Gambino family protected Roberto Settineri in the U.S. and captured Settineri admitting his association with the Sicilian mafia," said the FBI's Demarest. "However, while the Gambino crime family may have direct ties to Mafia families in Sicily, the FBI has even stronger ties to anti-Mafia investigators and prosecutors in Italy."

"The prosecution of individuals who charged with intentionally concealing income and evading taxes is a vital element in maintaining public confidence in our tax system," said Haynes of the IRS. "We should not expect the honest taxpayer to foot the bill for those who would hide income from the IRS."

If convicted of the most serious offenses, Gaetano Napoli, Sr. and Gaetano Napoli, Jr. face a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment, and Thomas Napoli faces a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment.

The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Amy Busa, Cristina Posa and Karen Hennigan.