Friday, April 16, 2010
LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY APRIL 16, 2010, 7:49 PM
BY JUSTO BAUTISTA
Joseph “The Eagle” Gatto of Paterson, a reputed captain in the Genovese Crime Family who allegedly inherited his legendary gangster father’s lucrative North Jersey gambling rackets, died last week in Hackensack.
At a New Jersey Commission of Investigation hearing in 2003 on organized crime in the state, Joseph Gatto was identified as a capo, or crew leader, of one of five main Genovese crews in New Jersey.
The Genovese family has long been the dominant crime family in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties, running the largest bookmaking and loan-sharking rings in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.
Gatto’s death came nearly one year after a grand jury declined to indict him in a case that authorities had dubbed “Operation Jersey Boyz,” a joint probe by the State Police and Bergen County.
Gatto, and 43 alleged mobsters and associates, were rounded up in December 2004 on racketeering and gambling charges in connection with a vast offshore gambling operation by the Genovese crew that took in millions of dollars in illegal wagers for the Genovese, Lucchese, Bonanno and Gambino crime families.
Also arrested was Frank Lagano, 67, of Tenafly, an alleged Lucchese soldier who was shot and killed in April 2007 in what authorities said they believe was a hit outside a diner he owned in East Brunswick.
In well-publicized raids, investigators seized 25 guns and nearly $1.3 million in cash.
Gatto, who had been released from Ray Brook federal prison in upstate New York in October 2003 after serving 53 months of a 61-month federal gambling and loansharking conviction, was accused of controlling a wire room in Costa Rica, known as Catalina Sports.
Prosecutors said the gambling venture had 12,000 customers nationwide and raked in about $300,000 a week for the family.
Federal agents arrested Gatto a day after he was charged in the “Operation Jersey Boyz” investigation, charging him with violating terms of his release from federal prison.
The “Jersey Boyz” case began unraveling in late 2005 amid concerns over the handling of informants and other legal issues.
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