Mafia crackdown one of FBI's largest

U.S. federal agents arrest more than 120 suspected mobsters in multiple investigations of New York's organized crime families.

U.S. federal agents have arrested more than 120 suspected mobsters in multiple investigations of New York's organized crime families.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, right, and U.S. Attorney for New York's Southern District Preet Bharara confer at a news conference on Thursday in New York. Charges in the organized crime crackdown include murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking. ((Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press))

It was one of the largest mafia crackdowns in FBI history.

The FBI said most of the arrests were made Thursday morning. Many were in Brooklyn, but occurred throughout New York City, and in New Jersey and New England. One person was arrested in Italy.

Charges include murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference Thursday in New York City that the 127 defendants include high-ranking members of all five of New York's major crime families.

Holder said the charges cover decades worth of offences, including "classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals," a killing during a botched robbery and a double shooting in a barroom dispute over a spilled drink.

Informants recorded conversations

Authorities say there were multiple investigations, with help coming from informants who recorded thousands of conversations by suspected mobsters.

Federal probes aided by mob turncoats have decimated the families' ranks and resulted in lengthy prison terms for several leaders.   

On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced John (Sonny) Franzese, 93, to eight years in prison for extorting Manhattan strip clubs and a pizzeria on Long Island.

John (Sonny) Franzese arrives at Federal Court in the Brooklyn borough of New York in June. The 93-year-old was sentenced last week to eight years in prison as part of an ongoing battle with the city's Mafia families. ((Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press))

Federal prosecutors had sought at least 12 years behind bars for the underboss of the Colombo crime family — in effect, a life term.

To bolster their argument, they had an FBI agent testify that Franzese bragged about killing 60 people over the years and once contemplated putting out a hit on his own son for becoming a government co-operator.

In October, Mafia turncoat Salvatore Vitale was sentenced to time served after federal prosecutors praised his total betrayal of his own crime syndicate — and after he apologized to the families of his victims. Authorities said he had a hand in at least 11 murders, including that of a fellow gangster in the fallout from the infamous Donnie Brasco case.

The evidence provided after his arrest in 2003 helped decimate the once-fearsome Bonanno organized crime family, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres said.

"The Mafia today is weaker because of his co-operation," Andres said. "Mr. Vitale provided lead after lead …the results speak for themselves."