RealNews

Cyber-Age Goodfellas

John Gotti’s Crew Makes a High-Tech Killing. It’s been a rough decade for New York’s mafia. Dozens of members broke rank and became government witnesses; racketeering lawsuits took away control of big moneymaking operations and unions. But for all the bad-mouthing brought on by those setbacks, charges now pending in Brooklyn federal court against two alleged high-tech schemers suggest that while garbage carting and the Teamsters may no longer be under mob sway, the organization has remained remarkably resilient—and immensely profitable. The government claims that a pair of wiseguys aligned with the late John Gotti’s Gambino crime family, working with veteran advertising hucksters and sophisticated publishing executives, took in more than $400 million over a five-year period in the late 1990s in twin scams involving the Internet and telephone services. The schemes allegedly mousetrapped Web surfers who logged onto pornography sites by presenting “free tours” in exchange for credit card information. The sites, as described in government search warrants, contained a cyber-age version of a mob-style offer that can’t be refused: The browser’s “back” button was temporarily disabled and no exit offered from the screens. Instead, charges mounted as viewers paged through the website. Full Story

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