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Crime sweep nets five accused New York mob members

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five accused mobsters from two of New York City's organized crime families were arrested on Friday on multiple charges including racketeering and extortion, federal law enforcement officials said.

Vincent Badalamenti, known as Vinny TV and described as a member of the Bonanno crime family's "administration," was the highest-ranking mafia member arrested in the sweep. He was apprehended at his home on New York City's Staten Island, said Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Badalamenti, 53, and his mafia colleagues are charged with using violent threats to extort money and property from eight unidentified men between 1999 and 2011, according to an indictment filed at the federal courthouse in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on Friday.

In one incident, Badalamenti is accused of forcing a man to turn over control of his bar on Brooklyn's Coney Island Avenue for failing to repay a debt, the indictment says.

Badalamenti was previously convicted in 2003 of extortion before being released from prison in 2005, prosecutors said.

In another incident, Anthony Calabrese, who prosecutors said holds the rank of soldier in the Bonanno family, is accused of intimidating a Staten Island pizzeria into handing over profits.

The arrests followed a years-long investigation by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration that included surveillance and covert recordings made with the help of convicted former crime-family members. They were secretly helping the government in exchange for lenient sentences, the U.S. attorney's statement said.

The same indictment resulted in the arrests of Vito Balsamo, 55, and Nicholas Santora, 69, at their homes in Staten Island and on Long Island, New York, and a Bonanno captain Anthony Graziano, 71, already in custody on an earlier extortion charge.

James LaForte, 35, whom prosecutors say is an associate of the Gambino crime family, also was arrested on Friday and charged with loan sharking.

Lawyers for the accused men could not be reached on Friday.

If convicted, the men each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

(Editing By Barbara Goldberg)

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