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NJ FBI foils $1 million mob cigarette heist

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A pair of stings by New Jersey federal agents led to charges against eight reputed mobsters today in connection with a conspiracy to steal $1 million worth of cigarettes.

Those snagged include 72-year-old Augustine “Augie” Guido of Staten Island.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said the crew included James “Jimmy Boy” Dellaratta, 70, of Amityville, John Torlone, 46, of Bellmore, and several Staten Island men, including 51-year-old Charles “Charlie Tuna” Giustra.

The government used a cooperator who wore a bug while talking with several reputed organized-crime members, Fishman said.

One of the conversations took place at a funeral in New York, where Guido was recorded telling the cooperator he was interested in boosting perfume, cigarettes and pharmaceuticals and asking if he knew where to get them.

The cooperator also participated in the heist of a tractor-trailer loaded with 270 cases of counterfeit Pall Mall and Lucky 7 cigarettes valued at nearly $1
million.

“The cigarettes did not bear tax stamps or other evidence of the payment of applicable New Jersey or local cigarette taxes,” Fishman said.

“The cigarettes were placed in the back of a tractor-trailer at a locked commercial trucking and warehouse in Edison,” he said. “As part of the undercover operation, federal agents placed video cameras and other evidence gathering equipment in and near the area.”

During a conversation with crew members, the cooperator recorded one of them saying they could use a “plumber’s tool” to snap off the gate lock in the storage area.

Guido is heard saying the lock was a “piece of shit” and advised the others that they needed ski masks and baseball caps.

The heist went down on July 31, 2010, Fishman said.

That day, as federal agents watched, Giustra drove a green tractor into the yard after Cerchio snapped the lock with a bolt cutter, the U.S. attorney said. Guido, sitting in a car outside, communicated with both of them via walkie-talkie, he said.

Giustra then hooked the trailer full of cigarettes to the tractor and took it to a warehouse in Perth Amboy — where federal agents recovered the stolen goods.

The haul included 52 full boxes, with each box containing roughly 50 cartons of cigarettes, Fishman said.

Another sting, which took place in June 2011, involved more than two dozen 32-inch Toshiba flatscreen televisions that were stolen and then transported to New York by Guido and Torlone, the government said.

Charges include conspiracy to commit cargo theft and conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce.

A ninth defendant was charged in a separate complaint with distributing cocaine.

Fishman praised special agents of the FBI and thanked several agencies for their help: NJ State Police; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Department of Labor; the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor; N.J. State Commission of Investigation; and the Bayonne Police Department.

The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Moscato of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.

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