Anthony "Big Anthony" Russo, a Colombo crime family acting captain, is the latest member of the embattled Mafia organization to switch sides and become a federal informant, a source told the Post.
Russo, who has been held behind bars since his arrest two weeks ago in the biggest single-day Mafia bust in US history, was noticeably absent Friday in Brooklyn federal court when the rest of his fellow Colombo members appeared at a mandatory hearing before a judge.
That's because Russo is now the newest inductee in the Justice Department's witness protection program, making him the first Colombo mobster to turn rat since the massive January action against organized crime.
The development marks yet another significant blow to the Colombos, who have been hard-hit over the past few years by an aggressive strategy formulated by the New York FBI's Colombo squad and prosecutors targeting the family at the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.
A senior member of the crime family, Russo is believed to have personal knowledge about a vast array of its illegal activities, which could strengthen the feds' case against the Colombo leaders recently arrested - and possibly lead to even more arrests.
Russo also is thought to bring with him direct eyewitness testimony to the 1993 murder of Colombo member Joseph Scopo in Ozone Park, Queens, during the crime family's bloody factional war.
He also has knowledge of an an extortion scheme to shake down the Gambino crime family that allegedly implicates ranking Colombo members Andrew "Mush" Russo, the family's street boss, acting Colombo underboss Benjamin "The Claw" Castellazzo, consigliere Richard "Richie" Fusco, and captain Dennis "Fat Dennis" DeLucia.
Andrew Russo and Anthony Russo are not related.
The motivation for Anthony Russo to become a government informant seems clear - he has been charged with a series of crimes including murder, extortion, loansharking, and firearms possession, and if convicted faces life in prison. By helping prosecutors put his fellow Colombos away, he could reduce his sentence substantially under federal sentencing guidelines that reward government informants for providing damning information.
The feds' bare-knuckled approach towards the Colombos in recent years has resulted in most of the family's leadership now sitting behind bars.
The January raids netted "basically the whole administration of the Colombo family," a law enforcement official said at the time.
These recent arrests left the Colombo family in tatters, given that its top ranks were gutted after a series of previous federal investigations.
In late January, Colombo underboss John "Sonny" Franzese was sentenced to eight years in federal prison on racketeering charges for shaking down the Hustler and Penthouse strip joints in Manhattan. Franzese, 93, is in very poor health and would be available for release at the earliest when he turns 100.
The Colombo family's acting boss, Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli currently sits in a federal detention center awaiting his own racketeering trial in Brooklyn federal court.http://fivefamiliesnyc.blogspot.com/http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/mob_c...I#ixzz1D3OcEArH