In this June, 4, 2008 photo, reputed acting boss of...

In this June, 4, 2008 photo, reputed acting boss of the Colombo crime family Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli is led by FBI agents from Federal Plaza for arraignment in Manhattan. Credit: AP

Alleged Colombo family leader Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli of Farmingdale was accused of heading up a cold-blooded mob hit squad for 20 years as his trial on murder and racketeering charges began Monday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Gioeli, accused of six murders, and co-defendant Dino Saracino, accused of three, were involved in killings ranging from the ambush of a cop who had angered a mob boss by marrying his ex-wife, to the execution of other mobsters, to the shooting of innocent bystanders, said prosecutor Christine Posa.

"Gioeli and Saracino got away with murder for a very long time because as professional killers that was their specialty -- committing murders, and getting away with them," Posa said in her opening statement to the jury.

Gioeli, 59, and Saracino, 39, are charged together in killings that include the 1997 murder of NYPD Officer Ralph Dols, who was shot on a Brooklyn street, and the 1999 shooting on orders of family leaders of Colombo underboss William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, whose body was found in 2008 buried in a mob graveyard in Farmingdale.

Gioeli is also charged in the 1992 double homicide in North Massapequa of John Minerva and Michael Imbergamo. Minerva was allegedly a mob soldier in a rival contingent in an internal Colombo war, while Imbergamo was a friend who happened to be in his car.

Defense lawyers responded in their opening arguments by telling jurors that prosecutors and the FBI had unfairly targeted Gioeli, and attacking the informants at the heart of the government's case as multiple murderers and liars who were implicating Gioeli to escape punishment.

Carl Herman, Gioeli's lawyer, described his client as a father of four daughters, married for 30 years, living in a modest house in Farmingdale, who had done little more than associate with other mobsters who were high school friends. "When did that become a crime?" he asked.

"We all want to trust the government and the FBI, but sometimes they push too hard, sometimes they get desperate -- your government," said Herman, echoing claims of persecution that his client has made on a prison blog. "That's what happened here."

Samuel Braverman, Saracino's lawyers, said the government's informants were walking embodiments of the seven deadly sins.

"They are wrathful, lustful, greedy, slothful liars," he told jurors. "And they will say anything."

The trial, expected to last weeks, is scheduled to resume today.

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