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Alleged Philadelphia 'boss' of La Cosa Nostra arrested

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
  • Suspect plus 10 others charged with extortion, witness tampering
  • Assistant attorney general says there were "all the hallmarks of organized criminal activity"

(CNN) -- FBI agents Monday arrested alleged Philadelphia crime boss Joseph Ligambi and 10 others in a takedown federal authorities hope represents a crushing blow to organized crime in Philadelphia.

Among those arrested was alleged La Cosa Nostra "underboss" Joseph Massamino, according to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

The suspects were named in a 50-count indictment unsealed in Philadelphia. The indictment charges the defendants with witness tampering, extortion, loan sharking and gambling. The suspects displayed "all the hallmarks of organized criminal activity," Breuer said in a news conference in Philadelphia. He cited secret ceremonies and sworn blood oaths of loyalty.

"As we continue our efforts to bring down these groups, we will use all the tools at our disposal, including wiretaps, undercover operations and consensual recordings," Breuer said.

The arrests follows the roundup of 126 La Cosa Nostra leaders, members and associates in January. In March federal agents brought racketeering charges against key alleged mob members in New England. While fighting traditional organized crime groups, the FBI has had its eye on newer transnational crime groups. In March more than 100 members and associates of these groups, including Armenian Power, were indicted in Los Angeles.

"The life of a mobster has been dramatized in the movies and on TV. But there is nothing entertaining about violence in our communities," Breuer told reporters. "There is nothing endearing about lives spent pursuing criminal activity, and there is no excuse or honor in favoring allegiance to crime family over the rule of law."