The Cosa Nostra is still threatening to cut off people’s heads—in Massachusetts

Vito Genovese, one of the fathers of the crime family.
Vito Genovese, one of the fathers of the crime family.
Image: (AP Photo)
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If you thought that sleep-with-the-fishes-style Italian-American mafia antics are a thing of the past or just a pop-culture trope, the US Justice Department will gladly prove you wrong.

Today (Dec. 7) the government announced that last month two Massachusetts associates of the Genovese Cosa Nostra crime family, Francesco Depergola, 61, and Gerald Daniele, 52, pleaded guilty to extortion-related charges such as “interference with commerce by threats or violence” and “using extortionate means to collect an extension of credit.”

But the DOJ doesn’t leave us with dry legal jargon, detailing the men’s conduct, who by their own admission used “implied threats of murder and physical violence to instill fear in their victims.” Here’s one example (emphasis ours):

Depergola also admitted that in 2013, Depergola, Santaniello, Calabrese, and Valentini attempted to extort money from a Springfield businessman.  Santaniello assaulted the businessman and threatened to cut off his head and bury his body if he did not comply. Over a period of four months, the businessman paid $20,000 to Santaniello, Calabrese, Depergola and Valentini to protect himself and his business.

The men’s illegal activities included loansharking, extortion, illegal gambling, and collection of unlawful debts, which almost sounds like a mob-movie cliché. Of course, it’s not, and the mafia today, although much less powerful than in the past, remains a dangerous criminal organization.  

Last year, a federal sweep yielded dozens of alleged mafia members, including one of the men mentioned in this case, Vice reported at the time. A DOJ indictment listed 46 men, among them “Big Vinny,” “Tony the Cripple” or “Tugboat,” who were members of the “East Coast LCN Enterprise” (LCN=La Cosa Nostra), and who engaged in healthcare fraud, firearms trafficking and assault, among others.

“Today’s mafia is fully diversified in its boundless search for illegal profits,” said at the time Preet Bharara, then-Manhattan US Attorney. “And as alleged, threatening to assault, maim and kill people who get in the way of their criminal schemes remains the go-to play in the mob’s playbook.”