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Four accused in Mafia extortion scheme against strip clubs

BOSTON (Reuters) - Four alleged New England Mafia

members were arrested on federal racketeering and extortion charges for terrorizing strip clubs with demands for protection payments, authorities said on Friday.

The arrests of Edward Lato, 64, Alfred "Chippy" Scivola, 70, Raymond "Scarface" Jenkins, 47, and Albino Folcarelli, 53, were announced by U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha at a news conference in Providence, Rhode Island.

They were accused in a federal indictment of committing crimes as members of the New England La Cosa Nostra, the organized crime family that traces its roots back to Sicily.

Prosecutors allege that the defendants, with other New England crime family associates, extorted large monthly cash payments from operators of strips clubs in Providence and elsewhere, since the mid-1980s.

Their arrests were part of an ongoing battle to stop organized crime from infiltrating all aspects of community life, Neronha said.

"It extends its tentacles into our citizens' everyday lives," Neronha said in a statement.

The four defendants appeared Friday in U.S. District Court in Providence. Prosecutors said Lato was charged with racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and travel in aid of racketeering; Scivola with racketeering and extortion conspiracy; Folcarelli with extortion conspiracy; and Jenkins with extortion and extortion conspiracy.

In court documents, prosecutors allege the New England crime family operates in Providence, among other places, and routinely engages in violence and threats "to promote a climate of fear, preserve its power, and enrich its members and associates through extortion."

The mob has a hierarchical structure, dominated by a boss, underboss and capos who oversee associates who commit crimes and serve to insulate the enterprise's leadership from criminal exposure, officials said.

Authorities previously charged the alleged boss, Luigi Manocchio, and three associates in the strip club extortion scheme. Further details about the kingpin's role were revealed in the latest indictment this week.

According to the indictment, Lato was a capo responsible for the crime family members in Rhode Island who received monthly cash protection payments ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 from some of the strip club owners.

After his alleged boss's arrest, Lato sought to continue the extortion scheme with the help of Scivola and others, the indictment said.

The indictment further alleges that Jenkins and Folcarelli were crime family associates, who together with Lato, extorted $25,000 from an unidentified person by threatening him with violence.

The maximum penalty for each charge of racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and extortion is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charges come nine months after the biggest single-day sweep against organized crime in U.S. history, when authorities in January arrested more than 100 organized crime suspects, targeting New York's five Mafia "families," one in New Jersey and one in New England, according to the FBI.

(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Lauren Keiper and Greg McCune)

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