Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy announced that Joseph Napoli, a ruling boss of the New York-based Lucchese crime family, was sentenced to state prison today as a result of Operation Heat, an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice that uncovered an international criminal gambling enterprise that transacted billions of dollars in wagers, primarily on sporting events, and relied on extortion and violence to collect debts.
Joseph DiNapoli, 80, of Scarsdale, N.Y., a member of the three-man ruling panel of the Lucchese crime family, was sentenced today to three years in New Jersey State Prison by Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County. DiNapoli pleaded guilty on Feb. 12 to a charge of second-degree racketeering. DiNapoli controlled the family’s gambling operations and other criminal activities from New York, along with a second member of the crime family’s ruling panel, Matthew Madonna, 80, of Seldon, N.Y. Madonna also pleaded guilty to racketeering in Operation Heat and was sentenced to five years in state prison on Sept. 30, 2015.
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, is prosecuting the defendants for the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau and handled today’s sentencing. DiNapoli also is scheduled to be sentenced today in absentia by a state judge in New York to a term of one to three years in prison based on a companion investigation by the New York County District Attorney’s Office that led to charges against a number of members of the Lucchese crime family related to the family’s criminal activities in New York. The New York and New Jersey sentences for DiNapoli will be served concurrently. DiNapoli will serve the sentences in New Jersey State Prison. Acting Attorney General Lougy thanked Assistant District Attorney Brian D. Foley and other members of the New York County District Attorney’s Office Rackets Bureau for their assistance in Operation Heat.
On Jan. 7, Ralph V. Perna, the top New Jersey capo for the Lucchese crime family, and two of his sons were sentenced to state prison after pleading guilty to first-degree racketeering in Operation Heat. Ralph V. Perna, 70, of East Hanover, was sentenced to eight years in prison; John G. Perna, 39, of West Caldwell, was sentenced to 10 years in prison; and Joseph M. Perna, 46, of Wyckoff, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. On Sept. 30, 2015, the former New Jersey underboss for the crime family, Martin Taccetta, 64, of East Hanover, N.J., was sentenced to eight years in state prison on a guilty plea to first-degree racketeering in Operation Heat. Taccetta already was serving a sentence of life in state prison plus 10 years as a result of a New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice prosecution in the 1990s. John Mangrella, 73, of Clifton, N.J., another senior member of the crime family, was sentenced on Oct. 29, 2015 to eight years in state prison on a guilty plea to first-degree racketeering in Operation Heat.
The defendants were initially charged and arrested in Operation Heat in December 2007. The investigation uncovered an international criminal enterprise that, according to records seized, transacted an estimated $2.2 billion in wagers, primarily on sporting events, during a 15-month period. The gambling operation received and processed the wagers using password-protected websites and a Costa Rican “wire room” where bets were recorded and results tallied.
The gambling operation involved agents or “package holders,” each of whom brought in bets from a group of gamblers. The enterprise and all of its packages involved hundreds or even thousands of gamblers. Records showed that one high-rolling gambler wagered more than $2 million in a two-month period. The illicit proceeds were divided by the package holders and the members they worked under, such as the Pernas and Tacetta, who in turn made “tribute” payments to the New York bosses, including Madonna and DiNapoli. Collection operations at times took the form of threats or acts of violence.
The investigation also uncovered a scheme in which a former New Jersey corrections officer and a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang entered into an alliance with the Lucchese crime family to smuggle drugs and pre-paid cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.
The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved inmate Edwin B. Spears and a former corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, Michael T. Bruinton. Spears was at East Jersey State Prison at the time of the alleged conduct. It is charged that Edwin Spears, an admitted “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods, formed an alliance with Joseph Perna and another defendant from the Lucchese crime family, now deceased, to smuggle drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through Bruinton. The alliance allegedly extended beyond smuggling. In one instance, Joseph Perna sought assistance from Spears to stop an individual associated with the Bloods from extorting money from a man with ties to the Lucchese family. The charges are pending against Spears and Bruinton. Several other defendants were charged in that scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Romanyshyn and former Assistant Attorney General Mark Eliades presented the case to the state grand jury. Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue and Detective Patrick Sole of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau were lead detectives for the case, under the supervision of Chief of Detectives Paul Morris. Sgt. Noelle Holl was the principal detective for the financial portion of the case. Acting Attorney General Lougy also credited former Acting Supervising State Investigator James Sweeney and the following Detectives: Sgt. Audrey Young, Ho Chul Shin, Lt. Brian Bruton, Mario Estrada, Richard DaSilva, and John Delesio. He credited the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their assistance. He further thanked Auditor Thaedra Chebra of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Detective Andrew Varga of the New York City Police Department and members of the New York County District Attorney’s Office Rackets Bureau who provided assistance.