TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that Matthew Madonna, a ruling boss of the New York-based Lucchese crime family, was sentenced to state prison as a result of Operation Heat, an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice that uncovered an international criminal gambling enterprise that transacted billions of dollars in wagers, primarily on sporting events, and relied on extortion and violence to collect debts.
Madonna, 79, of Seldon, N.Y., a member of the three-man ruling panel of the Lucchese crime family, was sentenced yesterday, Sept. 30, to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County. Madonna pleaded guilty on June 17 to a charge of second-degree racketeering. Madonna controlled the family’s gambling operations and other criminal activities from New York. A second member of the crime family’s ruling panel, Joseph DiNapoli, 80, of Scarsdale, N.Y., allegedly controlled those operations and activities with him. Charges are pending against DiNapoli.
The former New Jersey underboss for the Lucchese crime family, Martin Taccetta, 64, of East Hanover, N.J., also was sentenced yesterday. Judge Ahto sentenced Taccetta to eight years in state prison. Taccetta already was serving a sentence of life in state prison plus 10 years as a result of a Division of Criminal Justice prosecution in the 1990s. He pleaded guilty to first-degree racketeering on June 17.
Four other Lucchese crime family members, including the top New Jersey capo, Ralph V. Perna, pleaded guilty to first-degree racketeering on June 17 and are awaiting sentencing. Perna, 69, of East Hanover, N.J., faces a recommended sentence of eight years in prison; his sons Joseph M. Perna, 45, of Wyckoff, N.J. and John G. Perna, 38, of West Calwell, N.J., face recommended sentences of 10 years in prison; and John Mangrella, 72, of Clifton, N.J., faces a recommended sentence of eight years in prison.
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, is prosecuting the defendants for the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
“Through our far-reaching investigation into this multi-billion dollar criminal gambling enterprise, we built a racketeering case that extended to the top bosses of the Lucchese crime family in New York,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By putting Madonna in prison, we send a powerful message that we are committed to combating organized crime in the most effective way possible, which is to target the leadership ranks and disrupt the command structure of these criminal organizations.”
“Sending this New York-based mob boss to New Jersey State Prison represents another major milestone for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in its decades-long tradition of fighting organized crime,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “As long as these crime families maintain their corrosive presence in New Jersey, we’ll investigate them and put them behind bars.”
Judge Ahto has scheduled sentencing for Ralph Perna, Joseph Perna and John Perna for Jan. 7, 2016. Mangrella had been scheduled for sentencing yesterday, but he is being rescheduled.
The defendants were initially charged and arrested in Operation Heat in December 2007. The investigation uncovered an international criminal enterprise that, according to records seized, transacted an estimated $2.2 billion in wagers, primarily on sporting events, during a 15-month period. The gambling operation received and processed the wagers using password-protected websites and a Costa Rican “wire room” where bets were recorded and results tallied.
The gambling operation involved agents or “package holders,” each of whom brought in bets from a group of gamblers. The enterprise and all of its packages involved hundreds or even thousands of gamblers. Records showed that one high-rolling gambler wagered more than $2 million in a two-month period. The illicit proceeds were divided by the package holders and the members they worked under, such as the Pernas and Tacetta, who in turn made “tribute” payments to the New York bosses, including Madonna and DiNapoli. Collection operations at times took the form of threats or acts of violence.
The investigation also uncovered a scheme in which a former New Jersey corrections officer and a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang entered into an alliance with the Lucchese crime family to smuggle drugs and pre-paid cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.
The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved inmate Edwin B. Spears and a former corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, Michael T. Bruinton. Spears was at East Jersey State Prison at the time of the alleged conduct. It is charged that Edwin Spears, an admitted “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods, formed an alliance with Joseph Perna and another defendant from the Lucchese crime family, now deceased, to smuggle drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through Bruinton. The alliance allegedly extended beyond smuggling. In one instance, Joseph Perna sought assistance from Spears to stop an individual associated with the Bloods from extorting money from a man with ties to the Lucchese family. The charges are pending against Spears and Bruinton. Several other defendants were charged in that scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Romanyshyn and former Assistant Attorney General Mark Eliades presented the case to the state grand jury. Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue and Detective Patrick Sole of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau were lead detectives for the case, under the supervision of Chief of Detectives Paul Morris. Sgt. Noelle Holl was the principal detective for the financial portion of the case. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also credited former Acting Supervising State Investigator James Sweeney and the following Detectives: Sgt. Audrey Young, Ho Chul Shin, Lt. Brian Bruton, Mario Estrada, Richard DaSilva, and John Delesio. He credited the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their assistance. He further thanked Auditor Thaedra Chebra of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Detective Andrew Varga of the New York City Police Department and members of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who provided assistance.