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Colombo family members plead guilty to Queens union shakedown


A longtime Colombo crime family captain has admitted to shaking down a high-ranking official of a Queens construction union and could now spend the rest of his days in prison. 

Vincent Ricciardo, aka “Vinny Unions,” pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court Friday to racketeering, loansharking and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Breon Peace said.

Ricciardo, 77, is the last of 14 Colombo family defendants and confederates indicted in 2021 and 2022 to plead guilty to labor racketeering charges in connection with a long-running effort by the organized-crime crew to infiltrate and take control of the unnamed union and its health-care benefit program, Peace’s office said. 

Peace said the guilty pleas effectively dismantled the Colombo family, the youngest of Cosa Nostra’s Five Families, along with the Bonanno, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese clans.

“Today, there can be no doubt that the Colombo crime family has been decapitated as a result of the guilty pleas by its leadership and other facilitators of lucrative schemes,” Peace said in a statement announcing the guilty pleas. 

Ricciardo, who has been in custody since his arrest in September 2021, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 11.

‘I’m not afraid to go to jail’

According to a September 2021 indictment, beginning in 2001, Colombo family members, including Ricciardo and a cousin, Domenick Ricciardo, began threatening the senior union official and his family with lethal violence if he did not turn over a portion of his salary, which Vincent Ricciardo would claim was his rightful union pension.

A few months before his arrest, Vincent Ricciardo was heard saying in a wiretapped conversation that the union official knew he would be killed if he didn’t comply. 

“I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f-----g house,” he said, adding “I’m not afraid to go to jail … to prove a point.” He suggested he knew he did not have long to live himself: “I would f-----g shoot him right in front of his wife and kids, call the police, f--k it, let me go, how long you think I’m gonna last anyway?”

Then, starting in 2019, the Colombo family associates, at the direction of then-family boss Andrew “Mush” Russo, started extorting money from the union and its health fund. Family members also helped Vincent Ricciardo and Domenick Ricciardo prevail on the union and its health-care benefits fund to contract with mob-associated vendors for services that were never delivered, enriching the mobsters by more than $10,000 a month, the indictment said. 

They then rebid the vendor contracts, for claims administration, pharmaceuticals and other health services, through an associate’s company in exchange for kickbacks. 

Among other Colombo family members who had already pleaded guilty to various charges, including money laundering conspiracy and racketeering, are underboss Benjamin Castellazzo, consigliere Ralph DiMatteo, and captains Richard Ferrara and Theodore (Teddy) Persico Jr., who federal officials said was next in line to become the family boss, and acting captain Michael Uvino. Each faces the possibility of 20 years in prison. 

Colombo associate Thomas Costa, who pleaded to racketeering charges and had been accused of running ammunition along with Vincent Ricciardo, faces a 30-year term.

Welfare benefit plan brokers and providers Albert Alimena, Joseph Bellantoni and Erin Thompkins, pleaded guilty to health care fraud conspiracy, and face up to 10 years in prison. John Glover, who falsified paperwork submitted to government agencies, faces a possible 15-year term. 

Vincent Martino was charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and faces a 20-year term. John “Bazoo” Ragano pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced in April to 57 months. Domenick Ricciardo pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced last month to 28 months in prison.

Russo, the Colombo boss, had been out on bail following his indictment on racketeering charges when he died last year at 87.



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