Union City man pleads guilty in bust tied to organized crime family

Five pleaded guilty in "Operation Fistful"

Vincent Coppola, a Union City resident who pleaded guilty in "Operation Fistful."
Vincent Coppola, a Union City resident who pleaded guilty in "Operation Fistful."

Union City resident Vincent Coppola was one of five men to plead guilty in connection with schemes that involved loansharking, unlicensed check cashing, gambling, and money laundering, which were carried out in connection with the New York-based Genovese crime family, according to a statement from the state attorney general.

The other four men who pleaded guilty are Domenick Pupillo, a 61-year-old Florham Park resident; Robert Spagnola, a 71-year-old Morganville resident; Vito Alberti, a 60-year-old Morristown resident; and Manuel Rodriguez, a 53-year-old Chatham resident.

The defendants were indicted as the result of “Operation Fistful,” a joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The investigation was conducted with the assistance of New York and Queens County District Attorney’s Offices and other law enforcement agencies.

Much of the illicit revenue was collected and laundered through licensed and unlicensed check-cashing businesses in Newark run by alleged Genovese associate Domenick Pucillo. Pucillo and the other associates who were indicted allegedly are part of a New Jersey crew that was operating under the supervision and control of two alleged “made” members of the Genovese crime family, Vito Alberti, an alleged Genovese “soldier,” and Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo, an alleged Genovese “capo.”

The two allegedly answer to the Genovese hierarchy in New York.

Assistant Attorney General Annmarie Taggart and Deputy Attorney General Mohammad Mahmood took the guilty pleas for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20.

“When those involved in traditional organized crime engage in schemes such as loansharking and illegal gambling, they profit at the expense of victims who are struggling with debt, gambling problems, and other issues,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. “By prosecuting the men who ran these schemes and putting key defendants behind bars, we send a message that we will not tolerate these corrosive criminal activities that harm individuals, families, and society as a whole.”

The defendants were charged with running a number of criminal schemes ,which allegedly generated tribute payments up the Genovese chain of command.

Pupillo, Spagnola, Alberti, and Tuzzo were charged for a massive loansharking operation that yielded about $4.7 million in illegal interest.

Coppola was charged with running an illicit multi-million dollar offshore sports gambling enterprise.

Pucillo and Rodriguez were charged with running an unlicensed check-cashing business that made $9 million in fees in four years, while enabling customers to launder funds and evade taxes by skirting federal reporting requirements.

Alberti, Spagnola, Coppola, and Rodriguez were charged with tax fraud and evasion.

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