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Feds bust alleged Mafia gambling operations posing as shoe repair, coffee shop

(MERRICK, N.Y.) — Sal’s Shoe Repair in Merrick, New York, was doing more than fixing heels and worn soles.

The Genovese organized crime family operated an illegal gambling operation out of the shop, generating “substantial revenue,” which was then laundered through cash transfers, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.

Nine purported members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families were charged Tuesday with racketeering and illegal gambling offenses for running gambling parlors out of other legitimate-seeming establishments in Queens and on Long Island, including a coffee bar and La Nazionale Soccer Club.

Salvatore Rubino, 58, known as “Sal the Shoemaker,” was among those arrested, prosecutors said.

A Nassau County police detective, Hector Rosario, is also among the defendants. He allegedly accepted money from the Bonanno family in exchange for offering to arrange police raids of competing gambling locations, according to the indictment. He is charged with obstructing a grand jury investigation and lying to the FBI.

“Current members of the five families demonstrate every day they are not adverse to working together to further their illicit schemes, using the same tired methods to squeeze money from their victims. Enlisting alleged assistance from a member of law enforcement also proves they are willing to do all they can to hide their illegal behavior,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement.

Beginning in May 2012, the Genovese and Bonanno families jointly operated a lucrative illegal gambling operation in Lynbrook, New York, called the Gran Caffe. The profits earned through this and other gambling locations generated substantial revenue, which was then laundered through cash transfers to the defendants and through “kicking up” to the crime families’ leaders, the indictment said.

“Today’s arrests of members from two La Cosa Nostra crime families demonstrate that the Mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion, and violence while using our financial system in service to their criminal schemes,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement.

Among those charged are Anthony “Little Anthony” Pipitone, a captain and soldier in the Bonanno family, and Carmelo “Carmine” Polito, acting captain in the Genovese family, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors detail one call Polito made in October 2019 to an associate asking him to relay a message to a debtor: “Tell him I’m going to put him under the f——- bridge.”

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