Sweeping Indictments

Hit N.J. Crime Family

NEW YORK--Prosecutors unsealed far-reaching indictments yesterday against New Jersey's Decavalcante family on charges ranging from murder to the theft of vitamins and wine, effectively dismantling the family's power base in New York.

Thirty-nine members and associates of the Decavalcante, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo and Luchese families operating in New York were charged in three separate indictments, including a 42-count racketeering case.

"These indictments represent the broadest racketeering charges ever brought against the New York faction of the Decavalcante family," Mary Jo White, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, told a news conference. "The effect of these charges will be to dismantle the Decavalcante family's power base in New York."

In the largest of the three indictments, 15 members and associates of the Decavalcante family were charged with racketeering, including murder, extortion, robbery, mail fraud, loan-sharking and illegal gambling.

White said the racketeering charges allege crimes over a 10-year period and reflect "both the traditional and changing face of organized crime, which more and more involves joint venture arrangements between and among different crime families."

Among those arrested were Vincent Palermo, also known as "Vinny Ocean," "the Uncle" and "Oscar," who is allegedly one of the three members of the ruling panel of the Decavalcante family, and Joseph Giacobbe, an alleged Decavalcante captain with crews operating in New York and Florida.

The racketeering allegations include the murder of a Decavalcante associate in 1998 and conspiracies to murder two other victims.

Other charges include the attempted robbery of a payroll office in the Tishman Building in Times Square, the attempted sale of counterfeit Tommy Hilfiger designer clothes, and the theft of 2,250 cases of Pinot Grigio wine, 29,000 packages of vitamins and a refrigerated truck of food.

Alcohol-Related Traffic

Deaths Hit Record Low

ATLANTA--Alcohol-related traffic deaths fell last year to a record low in the United States but still accounted for more than one-third of all U.S. traffic fatalities, federal health officials said.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 15,935 people died in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in 1998, a 1.6 percent decrease from the 1997 total of 16,189.

"We've seen a downward trend in the number of alcohol-related fatalities over the last 15 years. However, in the last few years, the progress has slowed somewhat," said Ruth Shults, an epidemiologist in the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention & Control.

Last year's total of alcohol-related deaths was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1982, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

Government researchers estimated 305,000 people were injured last year in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.


* A smoldering Detroit house fire killed six people--three children, their mother, their grandmother and their great-grandmother. The children's father had worked a night shift Wednesday and, after celebrating his 26th birthday with friends, arrived home before dawn to find firefighters outside. Officials said material near an electric space heater caught fire.

* As many as 17 homes in Daly City, Calif., with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean may have to be abandoned because the ground beneath them is slowly giving way and the problem is too expensive to fix. Landslide activity 80 to 120 feet beneath the homes on Westline Drive just south of San Francisco adds another serious danger to a place where earthquakes already loom as a deadly threat.