Powerful government agencies on Tuesday took the first steps in shutting down two local trade groups that operated in age-old areas of commerce.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman used his authority to arrest 10 people trying to make a living at a pub and a smoke shop in New Rochelle. U.S. District Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman indicted four individuals, including one based in Bronxville, for their work in a brokering business.
The New Rochelle case involved entrepreneurs supposedly connected to an old family business.
That’s “family,” as in the Lucchese organized crime family.
The local affiliate centered its activities at McKiernan’s Lawton Street Tavern and the Glass Room vape shop in downtown New Rochelle where they operated lucrative bookmaking and loan sharking businesses, according to the indictment.
Schneiderman identified Dominick Capelli, 61, of New Rochelle, as the head of the enterprise. Capelli, a “made member” of the Lucchese crime family, the indictment says, delegated responsibilities to a “super-agent,” Frank McKiernan, 53, and a manager, Robert Wagner, 59, both of New Rochelle. “Soldiers” and associates carried out other duties.
During the investigation dubbed “Operation The Vig Is Up” – a reference to vigorish, the interest that bookies charge on bets – investigators identified 47 loansharking victims in Westchester County and the Bronx.
The attorney general says the enterprise funneled gamblers to the loan sharking branch of the operation and then charged exorbitant weekly loan rates that averaged more than 200 percent a year and took in more than a million dollars.
The group allegedly ran a gambling website, bxbets.com, that generated over a half-million dollars in annual wages.
Schneiderman said the enterprise was the largest loansharking operation ever investigated by his office.
Also named in the indictment are Jessica Bismark, 32, New Rochelle; Richard Caccavale, 59, Yorktown Heights; Anthony Martino, 76, Port Chester; Steve Murray, 49, Bethel, Connecticut; Seth Trustman, 36, Bronx; Michael Wagner, 63, Bronx; and Robert Wagner Jr., 33, New Rochelle.
The 64-count indictment include charges of enterprise corruption, criminal usury, conspiracy and promoting gambling.
Schneiderman also indicted Michael Lepore, 61 and Vincent Tardibuono, 41, both of New Rochelle, on bookmaking charges for allegedly running the website ezplay2001.com that generated more than $1.5 million in annual wages. He indicted Lucien Cappello, 38, New Rochelle, on charges of possessing and selling controlled substances.
The second local trade group to be shut down, by Berman, the U.S. District Attorney, was an alleged interstate prostitution ring.
Guixia Wu, 49, of Bronxville, and Flushing, Queens residents Gui You Wu, 46, Youmei Chen, 51, and Hong Zhong, 37 were charged in federal court, White Plains, with violations of the Mann Act and the Travel Act. They were accused of running a network of prostitutes, primarily Chinese nationals, from 2013 to 2017, and coordinating their travels from motels to hotels in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New York and Virginia.
They allegedly recruited customers on classified advertising websites such as Backpage.com. The defendants, Berman said in a press release, “raked in millions of dollars from their illegal and exploitive activities.”