NEW ROCHELLE – 13 people, most from New Rochelle, were arrested and indicted today as part of a long-term investigation by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force. 10 individuals were indicted on charges stemming from the alleged operation of lucrative loan sharking and gambling activities controlled by the Lucchese Organized Crime Family, said New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
The long-term investigation — deemed “Operation The Vig Is Up” — involved the alleged loan sharking and bookmaking activities of alleged Lucchese “made member” Dominick Capelli and alleged Lucchese “Associates” or “non-made” crew members in Westchester and the Bronx. The loan sharking operation is the largest such operation ever investigated by the New York Attorney General, with usurious interest payouts exceeding a million dollars just during the approximately one-year investigation.
“As we allege, this brazen ring of criminals preyed on New Yorkers – using a gambling operation to funnel victims into their loan sharking operation, and then saddling them with usurious loan payments,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to root out organized crime and prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”
As part of the long-term investigation, investigators utilized wiretaps, covert surveillance cameras, a car bug, undercover police officers, and hidden cameras. Additional evidence came as a result of search warrants executed at defendant Robert Wagner’s home in New Rochelle and at McKiernan’s Lawton Street Tavern in New Rochelle.
In total, investigators identified over 47 distinct loan sharking victims, many with multiple loans, who were preyed on by the defendants. Loan sharking victims were allegedly required to make weekly, high interest “vig” payments, either by directly paying individual defendants, or by dropping off cash payments at two New Rochelle businesses: McKiernan’s Lawton Street Tavern and The Glass Room, a smoke shop. Victims were allegedly charged exorbitant weekly loan rates averaging over 200 percent per year, effectively creating a high-cost debt trap for all individuals taking out such loans.
Additionally, defendants Capelli, Wagner, and Frank McKiernan are alleged to have run an illegal bookmaking operation, utilizing the gambling website bxbets.com to generate over a half a million dollars in annual wagers.
Today, Attorney General Schneiderman charged the following ten individuals with Enterprise Corruption – with underlying crimes of Usury in the First Degree and Promoting Gambling in the First Degree:
- Dominick Capelli, 61, of New Rochelle, NY
- Robert Wagner, 59, of New Rochelle, NY
- Frank McKiernan, 53, of New Rochelle, NY
- Anthony Martino, 76, of Port Chester, NY
- Michael Wagner, 63, of Bronx, NY
- Steve Murray, 49, of Bethel, CT
- Seth Trustman, 36, of Bronx, NY
- Richard Caccavale, 59, of Yorktown Heights, NY
- Jessica Bismark, 32, of New Rochelle, NY
- Robert Wagner Jr., 33, of New Rochelle, NY
The Enterprise Corruption charge alone carries a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Two related indictments were also filed in conjunction with this investigation. A separate bookmaking indictment charged Michael Lepore, 61, of New Rochelle, NY, and Vincent Tardibuono, 41, also of New Rochelle, NY, with running an online bookmaking operation via website ezplay2001.com, which generated over $1.5 million in annual wagers.
Additionally, a related narcotics-based indictment filed by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and prosecuted by OAG OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Thomas Luzio, charged Lucien Cappello, 38, of New Rochelle, NY with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, a Class A-II felony, as well as six counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and seven counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree. If convicted, Cappello faces ten years in state prison and five years of post-release supervision.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanks Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. and his office for their assistance and support.
Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. said, “This investigation and successful take down of this organized crime loan sharking operation was the culmination of a collaborative effort among the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, the New Rochelle Police, and our office. We commend the work of all involved and will continue to work together to fight organized crime here in Westchester.
Acting New Rochelle Police Commissioner Joseph F. Schaller said, “I want to commend members of the New Rochelle Police Department’s Special Investigation’s Unit, members of the New York State Attorney General’s Office and members of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for their hard work and dedicated efforts in helping to root out illegal gambling and loan-sharking in the City of New Rochelle.”
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The investigation was directed by OCTF Investigators John Mullen and Kyle Vitale-O’Sullivan, Supervising Investigator Bradford Miller, and Deputy Chief Investigator Christopher Vasta, under the supervision of Chief Dominick Zarrella; and New Rochelle Detective Dwayne Jones, under the supervision Lieutenant Brian Fagan.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paige Wallace, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Bureau Chief Diego Hernandez. Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff runs the Organized Crime Task Force and Margaret Garnett is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice.