One of the biggest mob busts in FBI history is in danger of collapse after agents broke their own code of silence and lost wiretaps worn by a key informant.
Last year, authorities hauled in 46 alleged Mafia wiseguys, including the so-called Nicky the Wig, Sammy Shark and Tony the Cripple, on charges including arson, leg-breaking and gun-running rackets.
The bust also saw reputed Genovese capo Pasquale “Patsy” Parrello and notorious Philly mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey’’ Merlino arrested.
But now the case is in jeopardy after FBI agents reportedly leaked case information to a Mafia fan-blog while losing vital other evidence.
Three investigators are alleged to have lost wiretaps from the case’s key witness, John Rubio, and given case information to Gangland News, a blog claiming to be an expert on the Mafia.
The government’s case rests heavily on the covert recordings made by Rubio, who worked for both Parrello and Merlino.
Lawyers for the alleged Mafioso are hoping that an alleged blunder by federal investigators could now turn into a “get out of jail free card”.
If true, it means that 46 accused mafia members, spread across four of the five major crime families, could be released after they were rounded up in a massive racketeering charge bust in August of 2016.
Last week federal prosecutors alerted the men’s defence teams that two FBI agents and a supervising agent in the case are being probed internally about their interactions with a key witness.
“The problem is, if they cheated a little bit, they cheated a lot,” one source said.
Only in January Parrello, who owns Pasquale’s Rigoletto Ristorant in New York, managed to make headlines after retired judge Anthony Fiorella agreed to help out on his case because he liked the veal scallopini at the restaurant.
According to court documents, Parrello is accused of having a small room in the basement of his business as a place to threaten enemies.
He spent more than two years violently hounding a rival over £23,000 sports betting debt, the 32-page indictment says.
Prosecutors allege he told his men, including one named Vincent “Big Vinny” Terracciano: “Choke him… actually choke the motherf*****. And tell him, ‘Listen to me… next time I’m not gonna stop choking. I’m gonna kill you’.”
Parrello is also accused of ordering associates including Ronald “The Beast” Mastrovincenzo to take care of a beggar near the restaurant.
“Break his knees,” Parrello ordered, according to the authorities.
Other arrested men include alleged bookmaker John “Tugboat” Tognino, and Pasquale “Mustache Pat” Capolongo, 67.
All the suspected mobsters pleaded not guilty. Other charges include insurance fraud and loan sharking.
The FBI and the Manhattan US Attorney’s office have declined to comment.