The feds busted up a mob-run ring that allegedly lured Eastern European women to work at strip clubs in New York and arranged sham weddings for them, the U.S. District Attorney's office said Wednesday.
Twenty people were taken down in the bust - including seven mobsters from the Gambino and Bonanno families - and slapped with charges including extortion, transporting and harboring illegal immigrants, racketeering, visa and marriage fraud.
"The defendants themselves had one thing in common -- the desire to turn the women they allegedly helped enter this country illegally into their personal profit centers," said U.S. District Attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara. "Today's arrests have brought an end to their illicit activities."
Prosecutors said the ring controlled clubs in Manhattan, Queens and Long Island, and that they would recruit women through newspaper ads and social networks to work as waitresses and hostesses. But when they got to the U.S., the alleged mobsters sent the women to work at clubs such as Cheetah's Gentleman Club and Restaurant in Manhattan and Perfection in Queens.
Most of the women allegedly came to the country through student visas. However, those visas prohibit working in adult entertainment, so the women maintained that they were working as hostesses and waitresses, according to officials. But in some cases, the alleged mobsters found single men to marry the immigrants for $5,000 to give them legal status to work at the clubs.
Among the indicted include alleged Gambino captain Alphonse Trucchio and alleged Bonanno captain Anthony Frascone.
"The defendants controlled their business and protected their turf through intimidation and threats of physical and economic harm," said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"Today's arrests bring to an end a long-standing criminal enterprise operated by colluding organized crime entities that profited wildly through a combination of extortion and fraud."