BENZ BURNER: Fifth Colombo Mobster Pleads Guilty In Brooklyn Racketeering Case

We understand wiseguys like the convenience of modern technology. (So do we.) But threatening someone who owes you money by way of text message FOR MONTHS doesn't seem very prudent....

Vito Difalco ran sports betting out of the Tryst Lounge.
 Vito Difalco ran sports betting out of the Tryst Lounge.

Jerry Ciauri, aka Fat Jerry, pleaded guilty yesterday in Brooklyn federal court to racketeering, including predicate acts of extortionate collection of extensions of credit.

He did so before United States District Judge William F. Kuntz II, joining four Colombo mobsters who also pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Vito Difalco, also known as “Victor” and “The Mask,” and two Colombo family associates, Salvatore Disano and Joseph Maratea, pleaded guilty to racketeering last week. 

 On March 15, 2019, Joseph Rizzo, an associate of the Colombo family, pleaded guilty to stalking conspiracy.

 The defendants’ criminal activities took place in Brooklyn, Staten Island and elsewhere between March 2017 and June 2018. (The indictment initially charged for alleged criminal activities going back to December 2010.)

According to court filings and facts presented during the guilty plea proceeding, Ciauri made extortionate loans and used extortionate means to collect payments on those loans from six victims. 

In connection with this loansharking business, Ciauri once threatened to shoot a loansharking partner who had fallen behind making payments to Ciauri, and on another occasion, enlisted an associate to slash a victim’s tires in the middle of the night. 

Disano assisted Ciauri in collecting debts enforced with extortionate means. Rizzo and Ciauri also stalked Ciauri’s former loansharking business partner after he started to cooperate with law enforcement officers and stopped assisting Ciauri with the business.

Stressed Out And Fearful
According to the complaint, Ciauri and "John Doe," ran a loansharking business. Ciauri lent the cash and Doe collected the payments and gave part of the cash to Ciauri.

At some point between July and August of 2017, "Doe" didn't have the money Ciauri said he was owed. 

Ciauri began threatening him over the phone.

Doe distanced himself from Ciauri, and on Dec. 6, Ciauri sent three text messages to the man's wife in rapid succession.

One text contained a photo of the man's car parked near his home, the complaint said.

Telephone records for that day showed Rizzo and Ciauri had exchanged nine text messages, starting early that morning.

Rizzo lives a few blocks from Doe, leading authorities to believe he had sent Ciauri the photo of Doe's car, which Ciauri texted to the wife, the complaint said.

Afterward, authorities wiretapped Ciauri's cell phone.

Over the next several months, Ciauri and Rizzo exchanged multiple text messages, in which, authorities said, Ciauri asked Rizzo to monitor Doe and his car.

For example, at 11:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, Rizzo texted Ciauri, "Everyone In The House." 

Ciauri responded, "Nice[.]," the complaint said.

In an intercepted phone call on Jan. 21, Ciauri told Rizzo to "pass around later; take a picture for me," said the complaint.

The next day, Rizzo sent what authorities believe was a photo of Doe's car to Ciauri, said the complaint.

More recently, on June 3, Doe saw Rizzo driving by slowly in a white SUV, the complaint said. He believed Rizzo was surveilling him.

Doe told officials he's stressed out and fearful due to Ciauri's text messages to him and his wife, and because he's seen Rizzo and others watching him and his home, the complaint said.

Difalco and Maratea also ran a loansharking business. In connection with that business, Difalco used extortionate means to collect debts from eight victims, and Maratea helped collect debts from five of those victims.

In one conversation, Difalco threatened a loansharking victim by telling him that he had a past history of setting fire to the cars of those who failed to make timely payments.

Difalco told the victim, “Good things happen to me when I stay calm, see? Like I was by your house the other day…. Four years ago, I would have put the Benz on fire.”

The four were initially charged in a 32-count indictment that was unsealed last July in Brooklyn federal court.

 A fifth defendant, Anthony Licata, also known as “Anthony Suits,” a member of the Gambino family, also was arrested last July.

“This investigation shows that members of La Cosa Nostra continue to prey on members of our community, enriching themselves and their criminal network by making extortionate loans and using threats of violence to collect,” stated United States AttorneyRichard P. Donoghue.

“Rooting out traditional organized crime’s dangerous and corrupting influence continues to be a high priority for this Office and our law enforcement partners.”

“As alleged in the indictment, these defendants instilled fear in the hearts of their victims through threats of violence,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “These extortionate threats are the trademark of the mafia’s power, but in the end all it does is expose their weakness. "

“The mob is certainly diminished, but it is not dead,” stated NYPD Police Commissioner O’Neill.

When sentenced, Ciauri, Difalco, Disano and Maratea face up to 20 years of imprisonment. Rizzo faces a maximum of five years on the stalking conspiracy charge.