CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Five western Massachusetts men were arraigned on federal organized crime charges Thursday. The defendants, Ralph Santaniello, Gerald Daniele, Giovanni Calabrese, Francesco Depergola, and Richard Valentini, are being held pending a hearing next week.
“It’s really crazy. I thought just back then that this kind of stuff would happen but it’s pretty crazy to hear this stuff coming out now,” said Jonald Maldonado of Springfield.
A federal indictment alleges the men committed a variety of crimes including loansharking and extortion. All five of men pleaded not guilty to the charges associated with extortion at the federal courthouse in Springfield on Thursday. They will be held without bail until a detention hearing on August 11th.
The indictment said the men are associates of the Genovese Crime Family in New York, part of “La Cosa Nostra.” They are five of 46 organized crime suspects arrested Thursday in a joint investigation by the FBI and State Police in Massachusetts, New York, and Florida. Organized crime has changed over the years.
George Michael Criminal Justice Professor at Westfield State University told 22News, “Before, they had much more influence. They were able to corrupt public officials, but more and more we don’t see “La Cosa Nostra” having as much of a far reaching influence. These arrests suggest they are involved in smaller operations,” said Michael.
La Cosa Nostra isn’t the country’s only ethnic criminal organization. Professor Michael said Latino, Albanian, and Russian organized crime groups are more active these days. He also said these groups are getting bigger across the country.