For nearly a decade, families frequented a small suburban Long Island coffee shop for pastries and gelato. Many were unaware of the lengthy operation that was taking place just a stone’s throw from them: Mafia members ran a secret underground gambling den in the store.
The company was one of several across the island and in Queens, which served as a cover for two of New York’s oldest crime families and their illegal money-making schemes, according to two federal charges disclosed Tuesday. When other gambling clubs threatened their fortunes, an active Nassau County detective offered to conduct police raids on them in exchange for payments, prosecutors said.
On Tuesday, nine well-known members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno clans — including the detective — – were charged in a racketeering case brought by the US law firm in Brooklyn, which focuses on the illegal parlors and the money laundering and extortion schemes.
Federal prosecutors said the gambling activities provided “significant income” for the two families for a decade as they hid under the cover of businesses such as a football club and a shoe repair shop. The Long Island coffee shop alone typically earned them more than $10,000 a week, money that was laundered to the leaders of the crime families.
Breon S. Peace, the US attorney for New York’s Eastern District, said in a statement Tuesday that the arrests “demonstrate that the mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion and violence while using our financial system in the service of their own people.” criminal plans.”
He added: “Even more disturbing is the shameful behavior of a detective who betrayed his oath of office.”
The Nassau Police Department and the county’s largest police union did not immediately return requests for comment.
The power of the city’s five legendary mafia clans began to wane in the 1980s and 1990s, when aggressive persecutions disrupted their leadership and authorities targeted their control over unions. The Bonanno family, in particular, saw a string of damaging convictions and defections in the 2000s, including the family’s longtime boss, who began cooperating with authorities after being convicted in 2004 of a string of murders.
The families still exist, but with much less widespread fortunes.
In recent years, they have been charged with similar forms of organized crime — racketeering, illegal gambling, fraud — in both large-scale conspiracy cases that have spread along the East Coast to others who have continued to nurture the family’s leadership. Collaboration between the families has also been a common theme in some charges.
In the Brooklyn case, the Genovese and Bonanno crime families began running the Long Island coffee shop — known as the Gran Caffe in the Lynbrook area — around May 2012, according to the charges.
Members of the two clans agreed on a distribution of profits for the gambling facility, each helping to keep the operation going: employees from both families would collect the winnings and then distribute them to higher-ranking members, prosecutors said.
In their detention memo to the judge, the prosecutors argued that the “seriousness of the danger posed by the release of the suspects should not be underestimated” and that the men posed a significant flight risk. Citing the previous convictions and violent histories of several of the men, prosecutors wrote that they could only be released under strict control conditions and after placing high-security bonds.
The case was prompted by a multi-year joint investigation by several agencies, including federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, the FBI and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office.