Andrew Merola, "a reputed high-ranking member of the Gambino crime family in New Jersey," pleaded guilty yesterday "to federal racketeering conspiracy charges . . . admitting he led a crew that profited from illegal gambling, loan-sharking, extortion, identity theft, fraud and labor racketeering" as reported by Peter J. Sampson for the Record. He was among the nearly two dozen busted in May 2008 on federal racketeering charges which piggy-backed upon an earlier New Jersey state investigation. Nineteen other defendants already have pleaded guilty, and "three remaining defendants, including Martin Taccetta, a reputed former underboss of the Lucchese crime family’s New Jersey faction, are awaiting trial." Joe Ryan reports for The Star Ledger:
He [Andrew Merola] said he ran an overseas sports-betting ring. He corrupted labor unions. He shook down lunch truck guys. And, he said, he directed underlings to swap barcodes on televisions and power tools at Lowe’s, Home Depot and other big-box stores to avoid paying full price.
"'He's one of the highest ranking made members of the Gambino crime family here in New Jersey,' Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald D. Wigler said after the hearing" as reported by Matt Manochio for the Daily Record.