New Jersey Busts an Illegal Money Laundering, Gambling, and Loansharking Ring
Illegal gambling and money laundering are just two of the charges lodged against a group of New Jersey men thought to have mafia ties. The state of New Jersey has charged 11 men with running a racketeering syndicate from a Newark restaurant and local check cashing businesses. The men, who are associated with the New York crime families, collected millions of dollars through money laundering practices and loansharking.
One of the ringleaders is Charles Tuzzo of Bayside, New York. Tuzzo is reputed to be a capo for the Genovese crime family. He is charged with racketeering, loansharking, money laundering, promoting gambling, and loansharking.
55 year old Vito Alberti of New Providence, New Jersey, who is reputed to be a Genovese “soldier”, also was arrested. In addition to receiving the same charges as Charles Tuzzo, Mr. Alberti received one tax-related count.
Tuzzo, Alberti, and 5 other men are being held on $400,000 bail for each. These 7 men are scheduled for an initial court appeared in Morris County on Tuesday. Three other people are charged by summonses. An eleventh man, Vincent Coppola of Union, is being sought by police. It is unclear whether any of the men have lawyers.
Vincent Coppola is the son of Michael Coppola, a capo for the Genovese family who was captured in 2007. When Michael Coppola was captured in 2007, he had been on the run after being charged in a fatal shooting of fellow mobster. That crime had taken place outside a New Jersey motel in the late 1970’s.
Domenick Pucillo’s Businesses
The money laundering and loansharking business was run out of the check cash stores owned by Domenick Pucillo of Florham Park. Besides operating the payday loan businesses themselves, Pucillo is thought to have had about $3 million in illegal loans on the streets of New York and New Jersey. These loans accumulated over a two-year period.
The loansharking business is thought to have charged annual rates as high as 156%. The profits from such extortionate rates eventually gained the men $1.3 million in interest alone. In any civilized country or state, laws assure loans cannot exceed a certain (much lower) level of return.
Check Cashing Business
Michael Murphy, commissioner of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, says that a separate and even larger check cashing business was operated through the Portucale Restaurant in Newark’s Ironbound section. The Portucale Restaurant saw $400 million in illegal activity over a 4 year period.
According to Murphy, people could cash checks up to $10,000 at the Portocale Restaurant. The business owners would charge up to a 3% fee on these checks. This is the way a money laundering business works, because it allows people to put a layer of anonymity between them and whatever activity won them the money in the first place.
With racketeers, it is often hard to sort through the myriad of crimes. Officials say these loan sharks also handled illegal betting, but have provided scant details at the present. As the case continues to unfold, more details should emerge about the syndicate’s gambling operations. Given the tens of millions of dollars involved in other aspects of their criminal enterprise, it might emerge these alleged mobsters had a quite large illegal sports betting ring.
Many see irony in the idea that New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement is busy busting illegal sports betting syndicates, when the state is also busy trying to legalize sportsbooks in the state. These sportsbooks would be restricted to Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks which are already licensed by the DGE. It might be particularly ironic that Chris Christie’s strategy is not to regulate such gaming destinations, but to look the other way while they continue to take bets. Of course, proponents of such venues say that the legal form of sports betting would make it much less likely that gamblers would go to the illegal bookmakers, like the men in this case.