The Colombo family was a principal target in the January 2011 FBI raid against the Italian Mafia in the Northeast, and on Friday the feds announced that with the exception of reputed soldier Ralph Scopo Jr. it has wrapped up the case as reported by John Marzulli for the Daily News:
Scopo, 63, claims he is suffering from liver failure and thus is too sick to stand trial on extortion charges relating to the Cement and Concrete Workers Union Local 6A, according to court papers. He was scheduled for trial in January but Brooklyn Federal Judge Kiyo Matsumoto adjourned the trial date Friday until April due to his claims of deteriorating health.
Friday otherwise was marked with guilty pleas from the five remaining defendants in the Colombo case, and in a press release the FBI took a well-deserved victory lap as reported by AFP. However, the Bureau may have reached too far by expressing its "optimism" that the Mafia "will become a thing of the past": "'The dwindling strength of all five La Cosa Nostra families is cause for optimism that their pernicious influence in various industries -- and their violence in pursuit of that influence -- will become a thing of the past,' said FBI assistant director-in-charge Mary Galligan."
Predictions about the end of the Mafia or even a particular family are about as silly as the claims by others that there never was such a thing as "this thing of ours." Of course a mob family can have its ups and downs depending upon a number of factors ranging from the strength of its leadership to pressure from law enforcement. To the extent that the FBI has made some inroads with some families -- i.e., Bonanno, Colombo, Lucchese -- its own agents express no doubt that the ever-resourceful, ever-evolving mobsters will regroup particularly after the Bureau slashed the number of agents assigned to target the wise guys as reported by Josh Margolin for the New York Post.
After all, it's called organized crime for a reason, and numerous previous reports on the demise of the Mafia always have been greatly exaggerated in retrospect. Anthony Cardinale -- a criminal defense attorney who has represented former Patriarca bosses Francis "Cadillac Frank" and Gennaro Angiulo -- aptly notes that "as long as there are criminals who need protection, there will be organized crime" as reported by Milton J. Valencia for The Boston Globe: "'As long as there's drugs going on, and bookmaking, there will always be a mob,' he said. 'Even with all the risks involved, there will still be somebody policing the bad guys, and that's what the mob guys do.'"
By "the end of the last century, prosecutors and FBI officials all too frequently proclaimed that even the mob's sacred stronghold in New York was crushed" as reported by Selwyn Raab for The New York Times:
[I]n the early 2000s the Justice Department dropped Cosa Nostra investigations as a priority, reassigning hundreds of agents to antiterrorist units. In New York, the linchpin in the F.B.I.'s crusade against wise guys, the number of agents and Police Department investigators assigned to battling the five families in combined task forces declined to about 100 from a high point of 450. Last [January's] indictments demonstrated how effectively the borgatas had regrouped.
Gratuitous declarations about the death of the Mafia ignore its fundamental character which is to exist as an organic entity independent of individual members. Raab further writes:
Above all, though, the mob's ability to survive is a legacy from Charles (Lucky) Luciano. He was a brilliant criminal executive who created the framework, culture and ground rules for the American Mafia 80 years ago. Luciano realized that other ethnic gangs were loosely organized, usually involved in just one type of crime and easily obliterated when their leaders were imprisoned. Hence his cardinal principle: the organization — the family — was supreme and not reliant on a single individual or one racket. Whenever a boss or a capo was removed, a replacement would be waiting in the wings to keep the loot flowing. * * * There have always been, and always will be, ambitious, greedy wise guys who are willing to risk long prison sentences for the power and riches glittering before them.
For the FBI to have taken its eye off the Mafia in the United States over the last decade to chase down terrorists across the globe was nothing short of reckless which cost billions of dollars to the legitimate economy and incalculable heartache to its victims. Indeed, "organized crime is like a chronic disease," and "if it is not managed and controlled, it will kill us" as reported by Edwin Stier for the New York Post: "We must be honest with ourselves that it will always be there, and we must be willing to devote the resources necessary to keep it in check."
In fact, notwithstanding takedowns against the Mafia, the Genovese family remains largely untouched as reported by the New York Post:
"They remain a very powerful group," agreed Jack Garcia, a legendary FBI undercover agent who posed as moneyman Jack Falcone to infiltrate the Gambino family for three years beginning in 2002. The Gambinos have dropped to No. 2, he said. In the Genovese family, you really don't have that many defectors. They're still very entrenched in the unions and construction industry," Garcia said.
Moreover, hundreds of unsolved gangland hits still haunt the streets and billions in mob money parked in real estate and business fronts remains unrecovered. Mission accomplished against La Cosa Nostra with so much left on the table? Hardly.