The law enforcement community in New York is certain that Nicholas Santora is a member of the Bonanno crime family and has been for decades. Santora first was convicted under federal racketeering charges in the 1980s when an investigation into his family activities was started. This was partially portrayed in the movie Donnie Brasco in the late 1990s.
In 2012, Santora pleaded guilty to extortion after he was yet again indicted for racketeering. This was one of the many blows that law enforcement and the feds have hit the Bonanno family with in the last 20 years.
But this week, a 60 day trial in Manhattan State Supreme Court, where Santora and three others were facing federal charges including enterprise corruption – ended with the judge declaring a mistrial.
The problem was that a juror needing replacing and another informed the judge that he no longer was able to deliberate on the case; that juror seemed to feel that the other jurors only wanted a guilty verdict and would not listen to his objections.
The jury failed after eight days to come to a verdict on whether Santora still was a powerful member of the mob from 2010 to 2012. Allegedly, the accused gangster was overseeing illegal operations including gambling and loan sharking.
Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, stated that prosecutors want to retry the corruption case. She noted to the media that one juror being unable to deliberate does not reflect the strength or weakness of the case.
Nevertheless, the corruption case mistrial is a serious setback for federal prosecutors after a long trial, where jurors listened to more than 400 recorded telephone calls. They also listened to many conversations between Santora and his driver, which were secretly recorded.
Also, the jury listened to testimony from James Tartaglione, who is a Bonanno crime family kingpin who stated that he was there when Santora was first sworn into the criminal family.
As far as mob trials go, Santora’s did not feature a great deal of violence. There were no assaults or murders attributed to men under his oversight. He and the other defendants were accused of operating a loan shark business through a local Teamsters union. They also were accused with running a gambling website based in Costa Rica. Also, he stands accused of selling prescription drugs such as Cialis and oxycodone.
The mistrial in the federal charges case also affects three other men – Ernest Aiello, 36; Vito Badamo, 53; and Anthony Santoro, 52.
Some of the defense lawyers have argued that their clients have been victimized by overly aggressive detectives and prosecutors who are trying to attach Santora to crimes that were done by the three other defendants above.
They argue that the evidence showed that Santora actually went several weeks without discussing anything with the other men. Also, the defense stated, prosecutors did not have proof that the three men sent money to Santora from the illegal operations.
On the other hand, the lead prosecutor – Gary Galperin – stated that there is strong evidence on tape that Santora led the group.
For example, Santora told Bantora at one point that he has to know everything that Bantora is doing. Santora also said on tape that no illegal card games could be done without his say so.
More About Federal Racketeering Charges
Racketeering laws have been established at the federal level because it can be very difficult to prosecute the leaders of criminal enterprises, such as Mafia families and their illegal operations. According to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as 18 USC §§ 1961-1968, federal legislators tried to address some of the loopholes that have allows some Mafia leaders to avoid being prosecuted.
They were able to do so by avoiding being directly associated with the criminal activities that they accomplices most likely were ordered to do from above. Today, federal RICO laws are the main way that federal prosecutors convict crime bosses.
RICO is defined by statute as many criminal activities. Generally, RICO laws affect any enterprise that is acquired, established or operated where any illegal income is derived, or any enterprise is operated to commit acts that are illegal. Such laws help the federal authorities to charge and convict high level crime heads who may be able to otherwise get distance from the people that actually carry out the crimes.
Federal RICO laws provide the government with the legal ability to break up criminal families and empires that may stretch across states or even the whole country. Some of the most common RICO charges are extortion, blackmail and bribery.
Any illegal enterprise falls under the RICO Act, which would include loan sharking and illegal gambling activities. Another common RICO Act charge is money laundering. Even if most participants in the illegal trades do not know about the criminal activities directly, the leaders of the groups can be prosecuted under RICO for racketeering.
Generally, imprisonment for racketeering is up to 20 years, and the illegal property and/or profits also must be given up.