Drugs

Bonanno Crime Family Members Turn to Selling Pills Online to Generate Cash

The Bonanno crime family turns to selling pills online
Bonanno crime family members Anthony Santoro (left), Vito Badamo (center) and Ernest Aiello at their arraignment. AP

The old-school mob may be alive and well in New York. The organized crime ring known as the Bonanno Crime family has now turned to selling Viagra and Cialis pills online at nearly $20 per pill, among a myriad of other criminal operations.

Viagra, also known as sildenafil, is used mostly by men to treat erectile dysfunction but is also used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension — high blood pressure in the lungs of both men and women.

The Bonanno Family, one of the "Five Families" that has dominated organized crime in New York City, originated in the Province of Trapani, Sicily at the turn of the century. One of the members indicted was 71-year-old Nicholas Santora, also known as "Nicky Mouth," who was depicted in the 1997 film "Donnie Brasco," and is already serving a two-year jail term for a separate mob case.

The group sold more than 300,000 Viagra and Cialis pills, with prices ranging from $5 to $20 per pill, according to the criminal complaint. During the takedown, which occurred after a 2-year-long investigation, officers found 500 oxycodone pills, two dozen boxed tablets of Viagra, and a large amount of marijuana in several of the mobsters' homes. Oxycodone is a highly addictive pain medication synthesized from poppy-derived thebaine, often used as an alternative to oral morphine for cancer pain.

The group also faces charges of usury — running a loan-sharking operation that charged 200% interest a year — as well as a gambling operation in Costa Rica which raked in almost $7 million in 230 days.

It's only been two weeks since the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation reduced its number of agents working mob cases. The city now has about 3 dozen investigators working mob cases — 60 percent fewer than in 2008.

This might be because the F.B.I. has been quite successful at breaking up organized crime, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said at a news conference. Vance said "that many [people] mistakenly believe that the mob has disappeared entirely."

But organized crime still exerts a "corrupting influence" in the city, he said.

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