Investigative Programs: Organized Crime
For at least 30 years the Detroit Family of the La Cosa Nostra (LCN) was an extremely active criminal enterprise consisting of approximately 30 "made members" and between 200 and 300 associates. Detroit LCN members are tightly bound through blood and marriage, making the organization extremely difficult to penetrate. Traditionally, this family has been involved in illegal gambling, loan sharking, money laundering, drug trafficking, and the infiltration of legitimate businesses. They have also maintained a strong relationship with Sicilian Mafia members operating in the Detroit area.
The "Gamtax" investigation was the major focus of the Detroit FBI's organized crime program for over six years. This case targeted LCN collection of "street taxes" from illegal gambling operations, loan sharking, and extortion; and acts of violence used to support these activities.
In April 1990, based on information from highly placed sources in and close to the Detroit LCN Family, the Detroit Office of the FBI opened a racketeering investigation targeting individuals known to be members and leaders of the Detroit LCN family. After over a year and a half of conducting surveillance, questioning informants, and collecting criminal intelligence the Detroit FBI Office had developed information indicating that LCN members were operating an illegal gambling business and collecting "street tax" from independent illegal bookmakers and gamblers through threats of violence and force. Based on this information, the Detroit FBI received court authority to intercept conversations of LCN Members as they drove around in their vehicles looking for victims to confront, threaten, and extort. This was only the beginning of a long and arduous investigation that would, for the first time, substantiate in court that the LCN did exist in Detroit.
This first of many court-authorized intercepts, provided information on murders, new LCN members, the Detroit LCN organizational structure, meetings of members, and feuds with other criminal enterprises. Both undercover operations and conversations intercepted during the extortion activities provided evidence needed to obtain court authority to intercept telephone calls, facsimile transmissions, and personal meetings between LCN members. The intercepted conversations of the LCN members were some of the most damaging evidence in the prosecutions.
In all, this investigation utilized 20 court-authorized wiretaps and intercept operations in several states and included an office, various restaurants, and five vehicles owned by LCN members. These intercepts and the evidence gathered by the undercover operations provided the information necessary to prevent two murders and several assaults. When evidence showed that individuals were targeted for murder or assault by the Detroit LCN, the intended victims were warned that their lives were in danger and LCN Boss Jack Tocco was told by FBI agents he would be held responsible for these acts of violence. The murders and assaults were averted and the conspiracy became part of the basis for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) indictment that also included robbery, extortion, bribery, and drug violations.
Although the Detroit LCN's "street tax" and resulting violence was the cornerstone of this case, their control of the Alladin and Edgewater Casinos in Nevada during the 1970s was also included in the RICO indictments of March 13, 1996. On that date, a Michigan Federal Grand Jury charged the entire hierarchy of the Detroit LCN family, except one capo, with 25 counts of racketeering. The greatest significance of this indictment is the fact that the Detroit LCN family was indicted as a racketeering enterprise.
The LCN members charged included several notorious individuals. Capo Vito Giacalone became the first member to publicly acknowledge his membership and the existence of the Detroit LCN family when he pled guilty to the charges. LCN Boss Jack Tocco, whose only previous conviction was for attending an illegal cock fight, was convicted of racketeering and extortion. Also, Capo Anthony Giacalone, one of two people Jimmy Hoffa was supposedly waiting to meet when he disappeared in 1975, was included in the indictment but died of a kidney illness before being brought to trial.