Feds Busted “Entire” Colombo Family Administration, Including Heir Apparent Skinny Teddy

With the arrests on Tuesday (September 14) of 10 members and associates of the Colombo family for various offenses related to an alleged 20-year effort to loot a Queens-based labor union, the Feds completely beheaded the Colombo crime family, imprisoning the family's official boss, underboss, consiglieri, and a bevy of top capos, one of which is Carmine Persico's nephew/handpicked successor.

Andy (Mush) Russo
Andy (Mush) Russo 

The 19-count indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Federal court charges a total of 14 defendants, including the 10 members and associates of the Colombo family, and one member of the Bonanno family with various offenses, including labor racketeering, extortion, and money laundering conspiracy.

(A few guys had a good thing going for many years — until 2019, when the bosses moved in and fcked it all up -- eventually bringing in the Feds somehow…)

The charges relate to multiple schemes in a long-running effort by the family to infiltrate and control a Queens-based labor union and its affiliated health care benefit program, which provides medical benefits to the members of the union, and to a conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with workplace safety certifications.

Detention hearings in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as the defendants, who face up to 20 years in prison each, entered not-guilty pleas. Prosecutors had sought to keep 10 defendants in custody.

The identity of the Queens-based labor union hasn't been disclosed, though it’s "known to the Grand Jury," the Feds note in the indictment, adding that the union represents construction workers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. Gang Land News this morning identified the union as Local 621 of the United Construction Trades and Industrial Employees Union in Flushing.

Charged with racketeering are Andrew (Mush) Russo, the "official" boss of the Colombo crime family (Russo's title of official is also via Gang Land's report), underboss Benjamin (Benji) Castellazzo, and consigliere Ralph DiMatteo.  Also charged are alleged captains Theodore (Skinny Teddy) Persico, Jr., Richard Ferrara, and Vincent Ricciardo, soldier Michael Uvino, and associates Thomas Costa and Domenick Ricciardo. Alleged Bonanno family soldier John Ragano also is named and charged with loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking offenses.

According to the Feds, the scheme kicked off around 2001, when capo Vincent Ricciardo — aka Vinny Unions— began to demand part of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Ricciardo was imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, the top bosses  of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which expanded its money making efforts to include manipulating the selection of health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family and diverting more than $10,000 from the fund to the family each month.

The Feds learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday. With help from a confidential informant, investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped conversations and conducted surveillance of meetings among the accused. Ricciardo and his associates were repeatedly recorded threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

Thirteen defendants were arrested in New York and New Jersey and were scheduled to be arraigned via videoconference before United States Magistrate Judge Taryn A. Merkl at the Federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

Vincent Ricciardo was arrested in North Carolina and will be arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler in federal court in Charlotte. DiMatteo remains at large.

As set forth in the indictment and other court documents, the defendants and their co-conspirators committed a variety of crimes – including extortion, loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking – on behalf of the Colombo organized crime family.

Russo, Castellazzo, and Dimatteo, as well captains Persico, Ferrara and Vincent Ricciardo, used extortionate means, including direct threats of bodily harm, to control the management of the Labor Union and caused it to make decisions that benefitted the Colombo crime family.

Since approximately 2001, Colombo captain Vincent Ricciardo and his cousin, associate Domenick Ricciardo, have collected a portion of the salary of a senior official in the Labor Union (“John Doe #1”) by threatening to harm John Doe #1 and his family.

At the direction of the Colombo crime family’s leadership, beginning in late 2019, the defendants broadened the extortion effort to force John Doe #1 and others at the Labor Union and its affiliated Health Fund to make decisions that benefitted the Colombo crime family, including by forcing them to select vendors for contracts who were associated with the Colombo crime family. The defendants sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from the Health Fund’s assets to the administration of the Colombo crime family.

For example, on June 21, 2021, in a consensually recorded conversation, Vincent Ricciardo threatened to kill John Doe #1 if he did not comply with Vincent Ricciardo’s demands. He explained that John Doe #1 knows, “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f-----g house, you laugh all you want pal, I’m not afraid to go to jail, let me tell you something, to prove a point? I would f-----g shoot him right in front of his wife and kids, call the police, f--k it, let me go, how long you think I’m gonna last anyway?”

Colombo members Russo, Castellazzo, Dimatteo, Ferrara, Persico, Vincent Ricciardo, Uvino joined with defendants Thompkins and Bellantoni, among others, to devise a scheme to launder money from Health Fund contracts and payments through third parties and eventually to the Colombo crime family’s leaders. The defendants attempted to re-bid Health Fund vendor contracts for claims administration, pharmaceuticals and other health services to persons and companies affiliated with the defendant Joseph Bellantoni. Bellantoni and others agreed that in exchange for the new vendor contracts, they would pay kickbacks to the Colombo crime family and would use various intermediaries to hide the payments.

The indictment also charges Bonanno soldier Ragano with leading a scheme to issue fraudulent workplace safety training certifications. As alleged, Ragano operated two workplace safety schools in the New York area that claimed to provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s training courses and certifications, along with various New York state certifications, to construction industry workers. Rather than provide training, Ragano along with his business partner John Glover and Domenick Ricciardo, falsified paperwork to the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies which represented that hundreds of workers had completed required safety courses when in reality they had not. Instead, various defendants used Ragano’s “schools” to conduct meetings involving members of La Cosa Nostra and to store illegal drugs and fireworks.

Vincent Ricciardo, Uvino, Ragano and Costa are also charged with loansharking. As alleged, these defendants participated in extending and collecting on extortionate loans totaling $250,000 to an individual identified as “John Doe #2.” The defendants charged and collected a weekly 1.5% interest rate that did not reduce the principal owed and divided the proceeds between themselves. Further, Vincent Ricciardo, Ragano, Costa, Glover and Vincent Martino were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana by transporting large shipments of marijuana in vehicles from New York to Florida. Vincent Ricciardo and Costa were also charged, as previously convicted felons, with possessing and transporting ammunition, and Persico, who is currently on federal supervised release following his release for a prior racketeering conviction, was charged with lying to federal court officers about his dealings with other Colombo crime family members.

Announcing the charges and arrests were Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Michael Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office; Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent-in-Charge, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, New York Region; Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department; Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, NYPD; and Margaret Garnett, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation.

“Today’s charges describe a long-standing, ruthless pattern by the administration of the Colombo crime family, its captains, members and associates, of conspiring to exert control over the management of a labor union by threatening to inflict bodily harm on one of its senior officials and devising a scheme to divert and launder vendor contract funds from its health care benefit program. In addition, for their own enrichment, the defendants conspired to engage in extortionate loansharking, money laundering and fraud, as well as drug trafficking,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “This Office and its law enforcement partners are committed to dismantling organized crime families, eliminating their corrupt influence in our communities and protecting the independence of labor unions.”

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself. The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well. These soldiers, consiglieres, under bosses, and bosses are obviously not students of history, and don't seem to comprehend that we're going to catch them. Regardless of how many times they fill the void we create in their ranks, our FBI Organized Crime Task Force, and our law enforcement partners, are positioned to take them out again, and again,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.

“This indictment is another example of the NYPD’s long-term commitment, working with its law enforcement partners, in making sure those accused of organized crime are held accountable. I commend those who carried out the investigation as well as the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District in New York for its work in ensuring there is justice in this case,” stated NYPD Commissioner Shea.

“Every time construction certifications are faked, every time bogus records are created and used to manipulate the facts, building in this City is undermined and New Yorkers' safety is compromised. This investigation is evidence of how corruption can erode the integrity of construction in New York City. And these charges reveal how DOI is working with its law enforcement partners to uncover and stop the illegal conduct,” stated DOI Commissioner Garnett. “DOI thanks the City Department of Buildings for reporting allegations related to this conduct, and the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the FBI, and the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Labor for their partnership.”
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys James P. McDonald and Devon Lash are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

ANDREW RUSSO (also known as “Mush”)
Age: 87
Glen Head, New York

Age: 39
Massapequa, New York

BENJAMIN CASTELLAZZO (also known as “Benji”)
Age: 83
Manahawkin, New Jersey

Age: 52
West Islip, New York

Age: 66
Merrick, New York

Age: 59
Brooklyn, New York

Age: 62
Queens, New York

Age: 43
Medford, New York

THEODORE PERSICO, JR. (also known as “Teddy”)
Age: 58
Brooklyn, New York

JOHN RAGANO (also known as “Bazoo” and “Maniac”)
Age: 59
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 56
Franklin Square, New York

VINCENT RICCIARDO (also known as “Vinny Unions”)
Age: 75
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 53
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 56
Garden City, New York