Feds Probe Mob Prince in Vending Machines Scam

Mob scion Michael Persico got himself locked up for the first time this month on racketeering charges stemming from a Ground Zero extortion scam. But Gang Land has learned that the son of legendary Colombo crime boss Carmine (Junior) Persico is also the focus of a federal grand jury probe into one of the oldest of mob scams: the placement of candy and soda machines.

In Persico's case, the vending machines are allegedly part of a secret business deal he has involving mob-run car dealerships.

Details about the grand jury probe are contained in a search warrant that FBI agents obtained to search Persico's Dyker Heights, Brooklyn home for business records involving the alleged vending machine scheme on the day he was arrested in the current case.

Ironically, agents were able to get a search warrant because Persico was not home when agents knocked on his door at 6AM on March 9, according to a copy of the search warrant that is filed in Brooklyn Federal Court. The reason Persico wasn't home, sources tell Gang Land, was because he was at that moment being processed on DUI charges at a location outside the city. It wasn't the first time. Sources say Persico, who has otherwise managed to avoid major trouble, has two other drunk driving arrests, one in 1982 and another in 2005.

But because he wasn't home, the FBI was entitled to break in and search for him. Sources say that while looking for Persico, agents called him on his cell phone and told him they had an arrest warrant for him. He agreed to turn himself in, and drove to the FBI's Manhattan headquarters and surrendered a few hours later.

In the meantime, the feds took a nice long look around. In an "office area" in a second-floor bedroom, agents spotted checkbooks and a milk crate that contained "a number of letter-sized manila folders which appear to contain business documents," wrote FBI agent Scott Curtis in the search warrant that sought permission to search for business records that could confirm other information they had obtained about the venture.

Agents had learned from a Persico business partner, Curtis wrote, about some seemingly shady cash deals involving a plan to place vending machines in New York area car dealerships that were controlled by the Colombo family. Agents believed, he stated, that they would find financial records that would back up their suspicions in his home.

But they came up largely empty. Sources tell Gang Land that the agents did not locate any the bank records or other documents they had hoped to find during the day-long search.

No specific crimes are alleged in the vending machine scheme, but one thing the feds seem to be investigating are efforts by Persico to evade laws that require individuals and businesses to file reports involving cash transactions of $10,000 or more.

According to the search warrant, Persico invested $80,000 in the vending business and his unidentified partner was "depositing between $4,000 and $7,000 in cash per month in a bank account in Persico's name" to repay Persico as part of an "oral business agreement" they have.

When the grand jury subpoenaed the businessman's records about their partnership, he reported that Persico had custody of the records and had refused to provide them, thus making him guilty of obstruction of justice, Curtis wrote.

Persico may not be able to do much about the uninvited guests poking their noses in his private files. But there is a little issue of some damage to the back door that he will surely be reimbursed for if he makes a stink about it.

Meanwhile, two Perisco codefendants who were detained without bail along with his wiseguy cousin, Theodore (Skinny) Persico Jr., when they were arrested last week, were released from the Metropolitan Detention Center where the Persicos currently reside.

Michael's former father-in-law, Colombo soldier Thomas Petrizzo, was released on a $1 million bond. The 76-year-old construction company mogul was released on a $1 million bond secured by property.

Mob associate James Bombino was released on a $2.8 million bond secured by properties posted by relatives and friends. Bombino, 47, an electrician at the Owl's Head Water Pollution Control Plant in Brooklyn, was confined to his home and ordered not to speak to any reputed mob associates, even his co-defendants, outside the presence of their attorneys.

Magistrate Judge Steven Gold ruled that mob associate Edward (Tall Guy) Garofalo Jr., could be released under strict house arrest provisions after 21 relatives and friends posted property worth more than $3 million on his behalf. But that decision was stayed, at least temporarily, when prosecutors appealed Gold's ruling to Brooklyn Federal Judge Sandra Townes.

Regarding last week's report about this case, the column contained an error. Gang Land incorrectly reported that a Gambino associate who had been the focus of a sitdown between the Gambino and Colombo families in February 2008 was the wired-up turncoat in this case. Untrue. That associate was, as reported, released by the Gambinos to the Colombos. But he is not, repeat not a cooperating witness in this case. This error has already been corrected in the original column. Gang Land recognizes that this is no small deal in certain circles and greatly regrets the mistake.