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Nine charged in Bonanno family crackdown

Ernest Aiello (l.), Dominick Siano and Scott O'Neill wait in handcuffs before their arraignment Tuesday. AP Photo/Richard Drew
TimesLedger Newspapers

A crew of the Bonnano crime family was busted this week on charges of running a multi-million-dollar gambling scheme out of Costa Rica, among other allegations, the Manhattan district attorney said.

Nine suspected associates of the mob family, including two from Howard Beach, were indicted in State Supreme Court in Manhattan Tuesday on extortion, loan sharking, gambling, drug dealing and possession of firearms charges, the DA said.

“Today’s indictment is the absolute heartland of what organized crime prosecutions are about — prosecuting in one fell swoop the diversified rackets of organized crime families,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. “The charges against this Bonanno crew and their captain, Nicholas Santora, make clear that traditional organized crime refuses to go away.”

The defendants are Nicholas Santora, 71, of Deer Park, L.I.; Ernest Aiello, 34, of the Bronx; Vito Badamo, 50, of Brooklyn; Nicholas Bernhard, 51, of Congers, N.Y.; Scott O’Neill, 48, of Howard Beach; Anthony Santoro, 49, of Staten Island; Dominick Siano, 23, of Howard Beach; Richard Snide, 48, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J.; and Anthony Urban, 49, of Staten Island.

The various charges against them include enterprise corruption, grand larceny, criminal usury and perjury.

Among the accusations are that the crew ran an underground sports betting enterprise in Costa Rica in which nearly $7 million in bets were wagered in 2011 and 2012.

Crew members also allegedly sold marijuana, oxycodone and prescription medications Viagra and Cialis, the DA said.

Two of the defendants, Badamo and Santoro are accused of helping another, Bernhard, become president of Local 917, a labor union based on Long Island, to facilitate their illegal activities.

Santora allegedly ran the crew from prison, where he is serving time after pleading guilty to a federal extortion charge, according to the DA.

The arrests came after a two-year-long investigation involving undercover police work, surveillance, eavesdropping and search warrants.

“The organized crime activity described in the indictment is as old as the Bonnano crime family, and as relatively new as online betting and trafficking in highly addictive oxycodone,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “Either way, it’s corrosive to society and lines the pockets of those who use or sanction violence to enrich themselves.”

In 2005, former Bonnano family boss Joseph Massino, known as “The Last Don,” was sentenced to two life terms after being convicted of seven murders. He ran the Bonnano empire out of his Maspeth restaurant Casa Blanca. He is the first American Mafia boss to turn and testify against his associates. Massino is pressing authorities to release him from prison based on his testimony.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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