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DA: 9 linked to Bonanno crime family charged

Nicholas Santora.

Nicholas Santora. Photo Credit: Handout

An imprisoned Bonanno crime family captain from Deer Park was among nine people charged in Manhattan state court Tuesday in a vast operation involving drug dealing, extortion and loan-sharking, authorities said.

Nicholas Santora, 71, was identified by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. as a Bonanno family captain whose crew allegedly was involved in union corruption and an illegal online betting operation.

"The organized crime activity described in the indictment is as old as the Bonanno crime family, and as relatively new as online betting and trafficking in highly addictive oxycodone," said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, whose investigators were involved in the probe.

Santora is serving a 20-month federal prison term on a 2012 extortion conspiracy conviction. He was charged Tuesday with enterprise corruption, grand larceny and usury in the latest case.

Santora was also convicted in 2008 in a different federal case and sentenced to three years in prison. In the 1980s, Santora was tied to Bonanno crime family activities and was convicted of being part of a federal racketeering conspiracy. A portion of his conviction was later overturned.

Also charged were reputed Bonanno acting captains Ernest Aiello, 34, of the Bronx, and Vito Badamo, 50, of Brooklyn. Aiello was charged with enterprise corruption, second-degree grand larceny and first-degree criminal usury. Badamo was charged with enterprise corruption, second-degree grand larceny and first-degree criminal usury. Richard Rehbock, an attorney for Santora in his 2012 case, said he wasn't aware of the new charges and declined to comment.

Vance said the Santora crew was involved in the sale of oxycodone and marijuana and a loan-sharking operation that charged interest of 200 percent a year. The indictment alleged that the crew used a gambling operation in Costa Rica where bettors wagered online on sporting events. Proceeds from the operation amounted to almost $7 million in less than 230 days, the indictment charged.

Badamo and another defendant, Anthony Santoro, 49, of Staten Island, were also accused of actively promoting the election of Nicholas Bernhard in 2010 as president of Local 917 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Santoro was charged with enterprise corruption, second-degree grand larceny and first-degree criminal usury. Bernhard, 51, no longer holds the union post, prosecutors said. He was charged Wednesday with enterprise corruption, second-degree grand larceny, first-degree criminal usury and first-degree perjury after having a union assistant shop steward help in the illegal activities, prosecutors said. Officials at the union, headquartered in Floral Park, could not be reached for comment.

Aiello, Badamo and Santoro were held without bail and arraignment information for them and Bernhard was not available. Bernhard's bail was set at $500,000, said a spokeswoman for Vance. Santora is expected to be arraigned at a later date.

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