Some two dozen people, several of whom reportedly have ties to the Mafia, were arrested for allegedly running elaborate marijuana and oxycodone distribution schemes, as well as an illegal gambling operation and tax fraud, prosecutors announced yesterday. They've been charged as the result of a two-year probe run by the NYPD, the Manhattan District Attorney's office, and the Waterfront Commission. Officers seized more than 600 pounds of marijuana, 600 oxycodone pills, and 11 handguns.
According to prosecutors, between February 2014 and November 2015, the defendants grew high-end medical marijuana in California and shipped it to New York via the U.S. Postal Service. New York distributors allegedly picked up the pot from UPS stores in the city and repackaged it, and then sold it under names such as "Pineapple Haze," "Girl Scout Cookies," and "Blue Dreams."
They're believed to have made more than $350,000 a month over a 21-month period, prosecutors said.
John Kelly, 52, and Richard Sinde, 51, are accused of being the ringleaders of the scheme, and the latter is currently in prison for participating in organized crime with the Bonanno crime family. He pleaded guilty and is serving a two- to six-year sentence upstate, according to the Daily News.
Michael Paradiso, 76, who's been charged with conspiracy for allegedly helping transport, distribute, and sell the marijuana, is also an alleged mobster, and Lawrence Dentico, 33, charged with coordinating the shipping and distribution of the weed, is apparently the grandson of the 93-year-old Genovese captain with whom he shares his name. The Daily News reports that two members of the Colombo crime family and one member of the Gambino crime family were also among those busted.
Also among those charged is 60-year-old Frank Parisi of Parisi Bakery on Elizabeth Street, and it appears he was also arrested in 2003 when cops found 75 pounds of marijuana in the pastry shop. He's been charged in both the marijuana scheme and the gambling scheme.
Several of those charged are also accused of participating in an oxycodone distribution operation that netted a comparably wimpy $18,000 in profit, and several are also accused of generating some $1 million in revenue from gambling. Sinde, Kelly, and several others are also charged with tax fraud for failing to report their illegal income.
"Whether the alleged offer was marijuana, pills, or a return on bets placed through an unlawful gambling operation, the defendants developed a comprehensive system of monetizing illicit activities and trade," Manhattan DA Cy Vance said in a statement. "In this case, the alleged schemes generated millions of dollars in illegal revenue for the defendants, virtually none of which was reported, and likely all of which went straight into the defendants’ pockets. Profiting on unlawful conduct will not be tolerated in New York."
The 22 accused have been indicted on a laundry list of charges, including sale of a controlled substance, sale of marijuana, tax fraud, promoting gambling, and conspiracy. Information for their attorneys wasn't immediately available.