SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Five reputed organized crime figures were arrested in Springfield Thursday morning, as part of an investigation involving the FBI and state police.
In custody on federal crimes related to extortion:
- Ralph Santaniello
- Gerald Daniele
- Giovanni Calabrese (a.k.a. John Calabrese)
- Francesco Depergola
- Richard Valentini
According to a news release sent to 22News by the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, Santaniello, Daniele, Calabrese, Depergola, and Valentini are alleged associates of the New York-based Genovese La Cosa Nostra crime family. A federal indictment alleges that they committed a variety of crimes in the Springfield area, including loansharking, collecting unlawful debts, and extorting money from both legitimate and illegitimate businesses.
“The defendants allegedly used violence, exploited their relationship with LCN (La Cosa Nostra) and implied threats of murder and physical violence to instill fear in their victims,” the release states.
The indictment states that back in 2013, Santaniello, Calabrese, Depergola, and Valentini tried to extort money from the owner of a towing company in Springfield, who ended up paying about $20,000 in protection to them for himself and his business. Santaniello and Calabrese allegedly told the victim that since he had not paid any kickbacks since the 2003 death of Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno, that he owed back payments and would have to start paying. At one point, the two allegedly threatened to cut off the man’s head and bury his body in the backyard of his own home if he did not cooperate with them. Santaniello is also alleged to have hit the victim in the face.
Daniele is alleged to have extended two loans to a man at exorbitant rates, and then, along with Santaniello and Calabrese, threatened the victim if he did not pay up.
Attorney Dan Kelly, who is representing Santaniello, told 22News, “Today’s the government’s day. They’re able to drop the indictment on you with a little bit of a surprise, but today’s the government’s day and the fight for us begins right now.”
All 5 of them plead “not guilty” to their charges at the federal courthouse in Springfield Thursday.
The charges against the suspects are as follows:
- Ralph Santaniello, 49, of Longmeadow – Charged with conspiracy and interference with commerce by threats and violence, conspiracy and the use of extortionate means to collect extensions of credit.
- Giovanni Calabrese, 53, of Longmeadow – Charged with conspiracy and interference with commerce by threats and violence, conspiracy and the use of extortionate means to collect extensions of credit.
- Gerald Daniele, 51, of Longmeadow – Charged with conspiracy and the use of extortionate means to collect extensions of credit, two counts of making extortionate extensions of credit.
- Francesco Depergola, 60, of Springfield – Charged with conspiracy and interference with commerce by threats and violence.
- Richard Valentini, 51, of East Longmeadow – Charged with conspiracy and interference with commerce by threats and violence.
If convicted, the defendants could receive sentences of up to 20 years in prison, though the U.S. Attorney’s office notes that federal sentences are often much lighter than that.
In a news release sent to 22News by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York City, Santaniello and Depergola are listed among 46 alleged leaders and members of organized crime families that were charged Wednesday, with 38 others being arrested in New York and Florida. The remaining defendants are either already in custody, or are on the loose. Calabresee, Daniele, and Valentini were not included in the New York listing.
The investigation into the Springfield defendants was conducted by the FBI in Springfield, Massachusetts State Police troopers assigned to District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s office, and members of the Massachusetts State Police Special Services Unit.
A hearing is scheduled for next Thursday where a judge will decide whether they should be held until their trail.