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FBI targets mob in major sweep, dozens in custody

FBI targets mob in major sweep, dozens in custody
By David Ariosto, CNN

"If you look at the mob in the '50s and '60s and '70s, there were virtually no informants," said New York Waterfront CommissionerRonald Goldstock. "The picture has changed dramatically today. The mob is practically unrecognizable."

But Thursday's sweep may now do away with "the myth" of the mafia and the widely held notion that "La Cosa Nostra is a shell of its former self," said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Division.

"I think we made a serious dent today," Fedarcyk said, but she warned of a new generation of criminal leadership "coming up behind them."

The mob revival concept, however, is the subject of debate.

"Their leadership ranks have been battered by federal and local law enforcement over the years," said James B. Jacobs, a professor at the New York University School of Law. "It's very hard to see to how they could have ever reconstituted in the way they were before."

Attorney General Holder said organized crime is not resurgent and no longer nationwide, but still subtracts millions of dollars from local businesses by way of a "mob tax," or tribute exacted through corrupt local officials.

Holder described the phenomenon as "a major threat to the economic well-being of this country."

On Thursday, New Jersey and New York prosecutors identified more than a dozen New Jersey residents with alleged mob ties who worked as officials for longshoremen's unions, charging them with racketeering and other related offenses, according to a joint statement from district attorneys in both states.

A man described as a "soldier in the Genovese organized crime family" allegedly collected money from port workers, extorting payments after the workers received their annual Christmas bonuses.

Police say workers from the International Longshoremen's Association, Local 1235, were forced to pay corrupt officials between $500 and $5,000 each year if they hoped to rise above entry-level dock jobs, according to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"Organized crime means what it has always meant on the waterfront: Mobsters getting rich on the backs of dock workers," he said.

Despite declines in mob activity in other industries, dockyards in the U.S. Northeast are places where organized crime remains a threat, according to Waterfront Commissioner Goldstock.

And with law enforcement focused on preventing terrorism and providing port security, organized crime is often left without the "day-to-day pressures" it may have felt in years past, he said.

Last April, 14 members of the Gambino crime family -- including Daniel Marino, who was then considered the family head -- pleaded guilty to charges that included murder, racketeering, extortion and prostitution of minors, court officials said.

CNN's Mary Snow, Deborah Feyerick, Terry Frieden and Brian Vitagliano contributed to this report.

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