ELIZABETH — The chief of detectives at the Union County prosecutor’s office says Mafia members are “patriotic” citizens who “believe in the American way.”
Robert Buccino claims that gangsters engaged in loan sharking, extortion, dockworker shakedowns and murder for hire would not permit terrorists to access the ports or bring potentially dangerous cargo the country illegally.
Buccino was quoted in an Associated Press story saying of organized crime figures, “They do raise the American flag in front of their house, and they participate in American society.”
“They are patriotic,” said Buccino, whose salary was $160,000 in 2009; “and they believe in the American way.”
Buccino’s boss, Albert Cernadas, Jr., is the first assistant Union County prosecutor and the son of one of the men charged in the recent high-profile organized crime indictments.
Buccino said the Mafia would not do anything that could jeopardize homeland security, but that view was disputed by Joseph King, a retired customs official who teaches classes on terrorism and organized crime at New York’s John Jay College.
“I don’t believe the old idea that they’re loyal Americans,” said King. “They’re in business, they don’t care what it is, they’re looking for money.”
King said crooked dockworkers could smuggle a container carrying nuclear material through customs, thinking it is drugs or some other contraband cargo.
The First Assistant Prosecutor was a former co-worker and close friend of Jon Deutsch, who was fired as the Waterfront Commission General Counsel in 2008 for leading the questioning of his father, Al Cernadas, Sr., during a joint investigation with federal authorities.
Deutsch also inappropriately intervened in a police investigation for a friend of the Cernadas family, Jimmy Zamuz, and schemed to cover up the federal felony conviction Frank Cardaci so he could operate a warehouse in direct violation of the Waterfront Commission Act.
“The mob isn’t what it used to be,” Buccino said. “I don’t see it as any threat to our security, and the crimes associated with Cosa Nostra never really impacts on terrorism.”
Cernadas Sr., a repeated campaign contributor to the Assembly campaign funds of Union County Undersheriff Joe Cryan, was removed as president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1235 five years ago after pleading guilty to funneling thousands of dollars in union funds to organized crime.
A 52-page federal indictment in December charged that the elder Cernadas is an associate of the Genovese family who shook down union members under threats of violence, in what was described as a long-running organized crime racketeering operation.
The Genovese and Gambino families have controlled a lucrative extortion racket on the New Jersey waterfront for decades and 127 members and associates of organized crime syndicates were rounded up in a January raid that the FBI called one of the largest Mafia takedowns in history
Two weeks earlier, the elder Cernadas was arraigned before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark and released on a $1 million bond.
While he was commander of the Organized Crime Bureau of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in 1989, Buccino wrongly obtained an arrest warrant for Frank Schneider, Jr. of Lodi.
A jury awarded Schneider, who was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Bruno/Scarfo crime family, damages and counsel fees of $376,944 to be paid by Buccino and another investigator but the innocent man committed suicide three days later and in 2000 the state Supreme Court ruled that Buccino had immunity.
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