Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
An alleged capo of the New England mob, Mark Rossetti, was charged today with being the leader of a sprawling criminal enterprise that engaged in extortion, loansharking, gambling, marijuana smuggling, and violent home invasions.
Rossetti, an East Boston resident, is already in custody on drug trafficking charges. Now he faces allegations that he led the ring and its 30 members, all of whom were charged today for allegedly committing crimes throughout Eastern Massachusetts, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley and Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
The investigation, which was conducted by troopers assigned to the Massachusetts State Police Special Services Section, involved the execution of 30 search warrants and the seizure of $1.3 million in cash from extortion cases, $120,000 in alleged drug money, more than a kilo of heroin, a heroin press, 200 pounds of marijuana, a pipe bomb, two bulletproof vests, a rifle, a loaded handgun, a fake Uzi machine gun and five motor vehicles.
Authorities released this flow chart of what they allege was the "Rossetti Criminal Organization.''
One of the men indicted, Charles Toomajian is an attorney and is listed on the city of Malden's website as a special assistant to Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard. Toomajian, 53, of Malden, is accused of being an accessory after the fact to embezzlement, according to law enforcement officials.
Boston attorney Thomas Drechsler, who represents Toomajian, said, "He's innocent of any wrongdoing. He did not commit any crime and certainly did not act as an accessory to any crime.''
Drechsler said he has not been provided a copy of the indictment and does not know the details of the case against his client. He said Toomajian is waiting for a date to be set for his arraignment. He added, "He has a long and unblemished history and he's led an exemplary life.''
Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said the organization committed violent acts and vicious attacks that were "quite shocking'' and "sometimes happened in front of victims' families.''
He said the group was becoming increasingly violent and credited State Police with protecting victims. "What they've done is prevent murders from happening,'' Blodgett said.
The names of the 31 people and the charges they face can be found here.
Earlier today, Darin Bufalino, who is alleged to be a Rossetti ''soldier,'' pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston to attempted extortion and conspiracy to attempt extortion and being a habitual offender. He was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail.
Assistant Attorney General Dean Mazzone said in court that even though Bufalino was wearing a GPS locating device because of a pending criminal charge, he conspired with Rossetti to extort money.
Mazzone said some of the evidence against Bufalino and Rossetti came from wiretaps that recorded numerous conversations between the alleged conspirators.
Bufalino, 49, was arrested at his Winthrop home Wednesday night. When State Police went to arrest Bufalino Wednesday night, they discovered a doormat outside his Winthrop home that said, "Come Back with a Warrant.'' Armed with an arrest warrant, they took him into custody without incident, according to law enforcement officials.
In court today, Mazzone asked Assistant Trial Court Magistrate Connie Wong to order Bufalino held without bail, alleging that Bufalino participated in criminal activities even as he wore the GPS device because of a pending extortion case in Essex Superior Court.
"He engaged in extortionate activities as a soldier,'' Mazzone said. "The evidence is overwhelming.''
Mazzone alleged that Bufalino was wearing the device when he and Rossetti collected thousands of dollars in cash from one person who was already paying back a loansharking debt to another person. The prosecutor said the victim was "befuddled'' by having to pay two criminal groups, but fearful of what would happen to him if they did not hand over the cash to Bufalino.
Wong set bail at $500,000 cash for Bufalino, whose wife, Jacqueline, was in the courtroom. Later, she said of her husband, "He's a great guy.''
Defense attorney Timothy Flaherty said in court that Bufalino is a hard-working employee of an Everett scrap metal company he identified as Minichiello Brothers Company. Flaherty said Bufalino works 70 hours a week.
"He does nothing more than go to work every day and his whereabouts are known at all times,'' Flaherty said. He also said Bufalino made a dozen court appearances on the pending case, which was proof he was not a flight risk.
Outside the court, Flaherty dismissed the claims that his client was a Mafia solider. "I think it's a myth,'' he said.
Bufalino, who once worked as a model, had changed his clothes since being arrested by State Police at his Winthrop home last night. Today, he was impeccably dressed in a crisp white shirt, red tie and gray suit as he stood with his hands in cuffs in the prisoner's dock.
At the end of the session when he was being led away by court officers in handcuffs, Bufalino politely said to Wong, "Thank you, magistrate.''
At least three other men connected to the ring were in courtrooms today. Joseph Giallanella, 62, of North Andover, and Wendell Bradford, 45, of Taunton, were scheduled to be arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn.
In the same courtroom as Bufalino, another alleged Rossetti associate, Mark Weddleton, 52, pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking in more than 50 pounds of marijuana and for allegedly using a telephone to arrange large-scale marijuana deals with a reputed bookmaker, identified by authorities as Gerald Sarro.
Weddleton, an East Boston resident,, was released on $5,000 cash bail. Sarro is also charged in the case and prosecutors said they seized 80 pounds of marijuana at his mother's home.
Weddleton's attorney, Steven Boozang of Dedham, said after the court appearance that his client has been friends with some of his alleged criminal associates for years. "These are guys he grew up with,'' Boozang said. "We will see how it plays out. He is quite surprised.''
Boozang said Weddleton, who has served a prison term for marijuana traficking in Arizona, ''is a law-abiding citizen who paid his debt to society.''
Giallanella, who also goes by the name Jason Peters, is charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, assault and battery, witness intimidation, attempt to procure perjury, loansharking, and illegal gambling. Bradford is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion, and assault and battery.
Bufalino was described by law enforcement officials as a “long-term, well-known organized crime figure.’’ He allegedly worked as an enforcer for former New England Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank’’ Salemme during a violent internal power struggle in the organized crime family during the 1980s.
Officials allege that after many years as an associate, Bufalino was inducted into the Mafia within the past year.
In 1985, after being released on bail while awaiting trial on armed robbery charges, Bufalino fled the country. While he was gone, he was also charged with the 1984 murder of a Revere drug dealer and was named one of the state’s most wanted fugitives.
He hid in Ireland for several years, working as a model and at a pub, then fled to Spain, where he was captured and extradited to the United States.
The murder charge was dismissed by a judge who ruled that a tape in which Bufalino discussed the slaying could not be used at trial.
In 1999, Bufalino was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for a 1993 bank heist. He was released five years ago.
Then in January of 2009, he was arrested again. After a friend of Bufalino arranged to sell salt to a landscaper, Bufalino allegedly robbed the landscaper of the $11,000 he had on him when he showed up to buy the salt, authorities said.
"We fully expect Mr. Bufalino, after trial, will be exonerated of (the Middleton) allegation and of these allegations,'' Flaherty said today.
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