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Gotti successor, nine members of Gambino crime family indicted

December 19, 1996

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ FBI agents moved to shut down the Gambino crime family’s South Florida operation Wednesday, nabbing John Gotti’s apparent successor on a Key Biscayne beach as he climbed out of the surf.

Nicholas ``Little Nick″ Corozzo, 56, was indicted on racketeering charges along with eight other alleged members of the Gambino crime family. The alleged crimes include loansharking, transporting stolen goods and attempted murder.

``This indictment shows that the life expectancy of a family head is not too long,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lothar Genge.

It was the first time an active boss of an organized crime family was arrested in Florida, according to FBI agent Paul Mallett.

``South Florida historically was always viewed as an open area where all of the families could operate,″ Genge said. The Gambino family was ``certainly attempting to get a stronger foothold in Florida. That’s what this indictment is all about.″

Corozzo, also known as ``Little Guy,″ and Ralph Davino Jr., 53, were wearing swimsuits when the FBI agents moved in and escorted them off the beach, covering their handcuffs with towels.

Gotti, serving life without parole in Illinois, reportedly gave up control of the 200-member family to Corozzo last month under orders from leaders of New York’s four other crime clans _ the Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno families _ in order to avert a bloody battle over leadership fueled by their dislike of acting Gambino boss John Gotti Jr.

The elder Gotti, 56, was convicted in the murder of rival boss Paul Castellano, who was gunned down on a Manhattan sidewalk. He began serving life without parole in a federal prison in Illinois in 1992.

One of Corozzo’s top lieutenants, Leonard DiMaria, was arrested in New York on Wednesday. Both men were acquitted with Gotti on racketeering charges in 1987 in New York.

According to the indictment, the family ran a loansharking operation out of EZ Check Cashing in suburban Deerfield Beach, where loans were extended with credit rates of 2 percent to 5 percent a week _ that’s up to 260 percent a year.

Other crimes associated with EZ Check Cashing, according to the indictment, include:

_ The attempted murder of a federal informant, Louis Maione, suspected of stealing money from the Gambino family.

_ Transportation of stolen designer sunglasses for sale in South Florida,

_ Conspiracy to commit arson on business in retaliation for testimony against a defendant,

_ Threatening to murder a witness and concealing incriminating evidence.

Also indicted and arrested Wednesday was David Furman, 30, at his home in Deerfield Beach, and Sydney Alwais, 60 and his son David, 30, of Boca Raton, who turned themselves in at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fort Lauderdale.

Anthony Ruggiano Jr., accused with Davino and DiMaria, 55, of relaying Corozzo’s orders to the family’s South Florida crew, was already in prison in New York on an unrelated charge.

The police were still looking for two others under indictment: Robert Engel, 42, of Woodhaven, N.Y.; and Salvatore Pecchio, 42, of Sunrise.

``This takes care of their South Florida crew,″ Genge said.

All nine face a racketeering count, which carries a possible 20-year sentence, and fines could run as high as $4 million.

Those in custody face initial court appearances Thursday in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York. Federal magistrates will be asked to deny bond for most of the defendants, Genge said.

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