SPRINGFIELD >> Five alleged associates of the New York-based Genovese crime family were arrested on extortion-related charges Thursday in Massachusetts as part of a huge East Coast mob sweep.
The men were accused of committing crimes in Springfield, including loansharking and extortion from both legitimate and illegal businesses. Federal prosecutors say the men used violence, exploited their affiliation with La Cosa Nostra and made implied threats of murder to instill fear in their victims.
The men arrested include: Ralph Santaniello, Giovanni Calabrese and Gerald Daniele, all of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Also arrested were Francesco Depergola, of Springfield, and Richard Valentini, of East Longmeadow.
Federal prosecutors said Santaniello and Calabrese would identify businesses to extort and that Santaniello, Calabrese, Valentini and Depergola would try to collect the money through violence and threats.
On Sept. 30, 2013, Calabrese and Santaniello allegedly confronted the owner of a towing business at his home. They told him that since he had not paid any kickbacks since the 2003 killing of another mobster, he would have to start paying them kickbacks, including the arrears, authorities said.
During the confrontation, Calabrese and Santaniello threatened to cut off the man's head and "bury his body in the backyard" if he refused to pay, the indictment alleges. It also says Santaniello hit the man in the face and ordered him to make an initial payment of $20,000, and then monthly payments of $2,000.
The men made initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Thursday and were ordered held until a bail hearing scheduled for Aug. 11.
Attorney Daniel Kelly, who represented Santaniello, Calabrese and Valentini at Thursday's hearing, said he expects to delve into the allegation that the men were associates of the Genovese crime family during the bail hearing.
"They drop the indictment on you with a little bit of a surprise, but today's the government's day, but the fight for us begins right now," Kelly said after the hearing.
Federal prosecutors in New York on Thursday announced indictments of 46 suspects, including old-school mobsters in New York and Philadelphia. Among those charged was Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, the reputed boss of a Philadelphia crime family.