A reputed Luchese crime family captain who was once accused of taking part in the double murder of two Long Island carters in the 1980s pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal extortion charges following his arrest Monday by the FBI.
Carmine Avellino, 70, of St. James was held without bail after his arraignment in federal court in Brooklyn on a two-count indictment. Avellino hadn't had enough time, his defense attorney said, to prepare a bail application, so Magistrate Judge Joan Azrack ordered him detained until a bail hearing Monday.
The indictment accused Avellino of being part of a scheme to extort repayment of a $100,000 loan from a victim in 2010, according to a memorandum to court by prosecutors seeking Avellino's continued detention without bail. Avellino's brother Salvatore was once the driver for the late Luchese boss Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo.
The case originally went before a grand jury last year. The indictment named only reputed Luchese crime family associates Michael and Daniel Capra as defendants. The Capra brothers are accused of being used to collect the debt from two people who weren't identified. Michael Capra, 49, is from Smithtown, and Daniel, 56, is from Copiague.
But according to the memo from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Celia Cohen and Maria Cruz Melendez, Avellino became personally involved in that alleged debt collection effort. Avellino was shown on wiretaps and surveillance videos directing the Capra brothers on how to collect the debt -- efforts that resulted in assaults on the two victims, the prosecutors said in the memo.
Only Avellino appeared in court Tuesday. Outside court, defense attorney Scott Leemon noted to reporters that the alleged debt was incurred over four years ago.
"The question is why did they wait so long to bring the case against Carmine?" Leemon said.
Avellino was accused in a federal case in 1994 of taking part in the murders of brothers-in-law Robert M. Kubecka, 40, and Donald E. Barstow, 35, both owners of an East Northport carting company. They had helped state and federal investigators probing organized crime in the Long Island carting industry.
Kubeck and Barstow expressed concern about their safety to state investigators, who told them to call the Suffolk County police. Both men were shot dead in their office on Aug. 10, 1989.
Avellino ultimately pleaded guilty to offenses that didn't include the double murder. His brother Salvatore pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit the murders and was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. In 1998 a state Court of Claims judge awarded the families of Barstow and Kubecka a total of $10.8 million due to the state's failure to protect the men.