Former Suffolk County police Emergency Services Unit officer Robert Dito was assigned to investigate illegal gambling - but instead allegedly conspired to protect a gambling operation at a Ronkonkoma club by tipping off owners to police raids, authorities said.
Dito, who also was supposed to investigate Gambino and Colombo crime family soldiers and associates, was charged with obstructing a state investigation.
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Some of those arrested were indicted on charges of involvement in illegal gambling at clubs in Westbury and Bohemia, while others were charged with extortion involving club owners.
One of the alleged operators of the Ronkonkoma club, whom authorities identified as Robert Berliner, was charged as a co-conspirator with Dito.
Officials said Dito was involved in a tip-off to a raid scheduled for Aug. 10, 2009.
Sixteen of the organized crime figures were arrested on Long Island, sources familiar with the investigation said.
Several prominent New York crime family leaders were among those arrested. Among the charges were murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion, gambling and labor racketeering.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder held a news conference Thursday at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn with the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern and Southern districts, Loretta Lynch and Preet Bharara, as well as the U.S. attorneys for New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Sources familiar with the arrests said a number of the cases involved are unrelated. But, as one official said: "It was felt that they are ripe for prosecution at this time."
Those arrested on Long Island are to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in federal court in Central Islip before U.S. Magistrate Arlene Lindsey.
Among those arrested were Andrew Russo, the acting head of the Colombo family, and Robert Vernace, a member of the ruling council of the Gambino family, sources said.
Vernace was charged with a double murder in Queens in 1981, the sources said.
The victims were the owners of the Shamrock bar in Richmond Hill, Richard Godkin and John D'Agnese.
The arrests deal another blow to New York's organized crime families, as recent investigations aided by mobster informants have chipped away at the families' ranks and have ended in prison terms for several leaders.
With Gary Dymski and John Valenti