Biggest mafia bust nets 119 in US

The roundup, conducted with the help of former mobsters-turned-informants, shows the mafia remains a threat despite decades of crackdowns that have sent its hierarchies to prison but also that the famed “omerta” code of silence is largely a myth, officials said.

More than 800 federal and local law-enforcement officials detained suspects in at least four states plus one in Italy, targeting New York’s five mafia “families,” one in New Jersey and one in New England.

Sixteen grand jury indictments charged 127 suspects with murder, drug trafficking, extortion, gambling, loan-sharking and other crimes going back 30 years, US Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference in New York.

Five of those indicted were already in prison, putting the total number detained at 124, and three others were not in custody, the Justice Department said.

The Italian-American mafia, also known as La Cosa Nostra with its roots in Sicily, maintains a hold on American popular culture thanks to decades of movies and television shows including “The Godfather” in 1972. Some of the suspects were known by colourful nicknames typical of the Mafia such as “Tony Bagels,” “Vinny Carwash” and “Junior Lollipops,” according to the indictments.

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