Operation Jersey Boyz Luchese Bust in Spotlight as Lawsuit Filed by Alleged Wiseguy's Family Moves Forward

Luchese wiseguy Frank Lagano was rounded up in 2004 in a gambling and loan-sharking probe dubbed Operation Jersey Boyz.

Frank Lagano

Three years later, he was whacked outside an East Brunswick restaurant he co-owned. The hit was never solved.

His family has been alleging in a lawsuit that law enforcement officials, including a detective who allegedly had been in business with Lagano prior to the 2004 bust, had caused his death by revealing Lagano was a turncoat.

Recently, the family won a victory when a state appellate court granted them access to sealed wiretaps and other evidence from the Jersey Boyz bust, which the family hopes will prove its allegations.

In the lawsuit filed in 2012, Lagano’s family alleged that a member of the Bergen County prosecutor’s office had informed organized crime members that Lagano was an informant, which allegedly sent him to his death in the parking lot of his restaurant in 2007.

The prosecutor’s office and a former chief of detectives, Michael Mordaga, deny any connection to Lagano’s death and had sought to dismiss the suit. A federal appeals court ruled it could move forward.

Mordaga left the prosecutor’s office in 2007. He denied the claims, saying, "there is not now and has never been the slightest evidence” linking him or any member of the prosecutor’s office to Lagano’s death.

The family also wants the more than a quarter-million dollars that belonged to Lagano seized in the bust. They claim it was earned legally.

The lawsuit has cast a spotlight on the Jersey Boyz case, a nearly yearlong investigation into a gambling, loan-sharking, and money laundering ring allegedly run by members of four organized crime families out of the Caffe Roma restaurant in East Rutherford, near the Meadowlands Racetrack.

More than three dozen people were charged in the December 2004 bust.

The case ran into problems when a judge dismissed many of the charges because the prosecutor’s office didn’t reveal that its wiretaps had recorded a state investigator and an informant involved in a separate investigation.

The investigator, James Sweeney, later filed a claim against the state attorney general’s office after he was fired in 2008.

The Lagano family’s wrongful death lawsuit relies on the allegations in Sweeney’s complaint.

Sweeney alleged Lagano became an informant after his 2004 arrest and alleged Lagano also had had a personal and business relationship with Mordaga.

Sweeney also alleged Lagano had rejected Mordaga’s recommendation that he contact a lawyer Mordaga knew who could make the case “go away.”

Sweeney'somplaint never explicitly revealed that Mordaga had exposed Lagano as an informant.