The New York-based Colombo/Persico/
Orena family of La Cosa Nostra has approximately
120 members as well as more than 450 associates.
Only six of the family's members and one of the
family's 28 caporegimes (captains) live in New
Jersey. And while the family's operations run the
gamut of criminality, it is one of the least significant
of the five New York-based families in terms of its
New Jersey activities.
The family's illicit activities are known to include gambling, loansharking, arson, extortion, labor racketeering, cigarette smuggling, pornography, bankruptcy and mail fraud, tax evasion, counterfeiting and narcotics. The group specializes in thefts, larcenies and hijackings, and law enforcement authorities have said that organized thievery of cargo at Kennedy Airport in Queens has long been controlled by this family. The family also has interests in businesses such as trucking, vending machines, catering companies, restaurants and ownership of liquor licenses. One of its members is currently involved in motion picture production.
While the family's base of operations continues to be New York City, principally the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, some family members have relocated to upstate New York and to Suffolk County on Long Island. Others have moved to Florida, Nevada and California. Some of this migration has been attributed to the desire of members involved in narcotics trafficking to live closer to smuggling routes into the United States.
During the last 20 years, following the shooting of boss Joseph Colombo at a rally of the Italian American Civil Rights League on June 28, 1971, in New York City, the family experienced a steady decline in power within the LCN. Although Colombo was shot three times in the head, he did not die immediately but lingered on, paralyzed and brain damaged, for seven years until he died in 1978. Law enforcement sources attribute the family's decline during the period of Colombo's incapacity to the poor leadership of caporegimes Vincent Aloi of Suffern, New York and Joseph Brancato, who has since died, as well as to the "acting" status of temporary boss Thomas DiBella.
The family's weakening allowed other LCN factions, most notably the Gambino family, to take over many of the group's illegal activities. Ironically, it was then-boss Carlo Gambino, according to underworld sources, who was highly critical of Colombo's highly publicized activities on behalf of the Italian-American Civil Rights League. Colombo was protesting law enforcement efforts aimed at the LCN, calling them nothing more than persecution of Americans of Italian decent. He went so far as to picket FBI headquarters in New York. Gambino, according to sources, felt such actions accomplished nothing and succeeded only in bringing unwanted law enforcement attention and publicity to the LCN.
Immediately following the death of Colombo, Carmine Persico Jr. of Brooklyn took over leadership of the group. (The former acting boss, Thomas Dibella, had retired a year earlier). Persico was able to lead the group back to prominence for almost 10 years until 1986, when a series of racketeering convictions resulted in his being sentenced to prison for 139 years. With Persico behind bars, the group's hierarchy is again in disarray due to the continuing pressure from federal and state law enforcement agencies. Investigations targeting the family have resulted in the arrest and conviction of 26 members, many of them key leaders, in addition to Persico.
Of the five New York families, the Colombo family has been most affected by three major criminal prosecutions in New York City. The first, a racketeering conspiracy case, resulted in 15 members and associates pleading guilty in June, 1986, to their roles in the conspiracy. Most notable among the defendants were Vincent, Joseph and Anthony Colombo, all sons of the late boss Joseph Colombo. In the second case in Manhattan Federal Court, boss Persico, his son Alphonse (a caporegime), underboss Gennaro Langella and six others were convicted, again on racketeering charges. In the third trial, Persico was convicted with seven other mob leaders in November, 1986, for being members of the "Commission," the ruling body of La Cosa Nostra, and for engaging in a pattern of racketeering, extortion and labor payoffs.
Following these convictions, Persico designated Victor Orena, a caporegime from Cedarhurst, New York, as the family's acting boss.
One faction based in New York and headed by capo John "Sonny" Franzese has become particularly well known for its fraudulent activities. Franzese's son, Michael, became infamous in the early 1980's for his complicity in a gasoline tax fraud scheme. Another associate of this fraction, Joseph Tomasello, owner of the Anchor Bus Company in Brooklyn, has recently been convicted of conspiracy with Michael Franzese to receive stolen goods. Reportedly, the younger Franzese was delivering $100,000 per week to Tomasello. Tomasello served a 10-month prison sentence as a result of his conviction in the case. John Franzese is currently incarcerated for a parole violation, and son Michael is in a work release program for his previously mentioned fraud violations. During the past year, Michael became a government witness, is in protective custody and testified for federal prosecutors in Chicago that he was a "strong-arm" threat for sports agent Norbert "Norby" Walters. Franzese testified that Walters invoked his name to frighten college athletes into signing contracts designating Walters as their agent for purposes of negotiating contracts with professional sports teams. Walters was convicted for these activities, and Franzese is currently attempting to produce a television mini-series about his life in order to pay $10 million in restitution ordered by the court. Franzese has testified in a second case and has agreed to testify in other fraud cases against some of his former associates and co-conspirators in New York.
The small contingent of Colombo members in New Jersey has also felt the impact of law enforcement. Caporegime Salvatore Profaci, a resident of Holmdel, was convicted of mail fraud in December of 1985 and sentenced to four years in federal prison. Profaci has had extensive involvement in the food industry in New Jersey. Since his release from prison in 1988, he is again employed in that industry in Edison.
Profaci's father, Joseph "Joe the Boss" Profaci, was the original family head before Joe Colombo. And his sister Rosalie is married to Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno, son of Joseph Bonanno, the original boss of the New York-based family that bears his name. Based on his heritage and his stature within the family, Salvatore Profaci is a strong candidate to replace Carmine Persico.
In addition to Profaci, another key member operating in New Jersey is Caporegime Vincent Aloi of Suffern, New York. Aloi, along with his two sons, Sebastian and Vincent Jr., own and operate a garment trucking company in Hudson County. The company carries clothing to the garment district in New York City and also leases space to other garment carriers in both New York and Hudson County.
The Colombo family provides another example of the changing face of LCN. Twenty years ago, it was required that a man had to commit a murder before being made a member. Now, it is possible to gain membership in an LCN organization if one is considered a good "money maker." This easing of the requirements necessary to become a member has apparently also weakened the loyalty newer members and associates have toward the organization. One result of this more relaxed attitude is a breakdown of the LCN's "code of silence," a classic example of which is the decision of Michael Franzese to become a government informant in order to avoid serving a prison sentence.
Despite the fact that the upper echelon of this group has suffered convictions and lengthy prison sentences, the organization has managed to continue its operations and generate income. It has been theorized that the group has to some extent become self sufficient, and that the presence of leadership has only been necessary to make command decisions and settle disputes. This internal strength can be attributed to the organization's ability to amass large profits from selected activities.