STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It was a family affair on Monday for a purported mob capo and his son, an alleged associate, as each pleaded guilty to federal felony charges arising from criminal activities in the borough.
Joseph Amato, 62, the Colombo crime family captain and a Colts Neck, N.J. resident, admitted to shaking down two people on Staten Island and cyber-stalking his then-girlfriend by implanting a surreptitious GPS tracking device in her car.
His son, Joseph Amato Jr., 28, pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to extort a loan borrower.
The younger Amato is a Staten Islander.
The Amatos were among 20 suspects, including 17 borough residents, indicted in Brooklyn federal court in October 2019 on wide-ranging charges of racketeering, extortion, loansharking and stalking.
One defendant, Staten Islander Benjamin Bifalco, was recently sentenced to probation for trying to fix an NCAA men’s college basketball game between Wagner College and St. John’s University in December 2018.
However, as it turned out, no money ever exchanged hands, said prosecutors.
The Amatos were not charged in that scheme.
The takedown of the defendants resulted from a multi-year probe which entailed court-ordered wiretaps, witness interviews, search warrants, and physical evidence, said officials.
The defendants often spoke in code to avoid detection and tried to refrain from explicitly criminal conversations on the phone, authorities said.
On Monday, the elder Amato pleaded guilty to racketeering and interstate stalking.
With respect to the racketeering charge, he admitted to participating in two shakedowns on Staten Island.
According to a superseding indictment and statements made during Monday’s remote proceeding, Amato and others muscled in and took part of a gambling operation from another person via implied threats of violence in August 2018.
Employing similar tactics, they snatched a portion of an unidentified business between October 2018 and October 2019, per the indictment and court statements.
Regarding the stalking charge, Amato illegally monitored the whereabouts of his then-girlfriend in 2015 and 2016 by placing a GPS tracking device on her car, authorities said.
“This is my Island, not yours,” he emailed her, said officials. “I have eyes all over.”
He regularly retrieved the device to charge it and reposition in on her car, said authorities.
However, the GPS was later found in November 2016 in an oil pan of an MTA bus, after the woman apparently discovered it, officials said. Amato had reported the device lost to the electronic service provider.
“I knew it would cause … emotional distress to her,” Amato said Monday, during the sentencing hearing.
Under sentencing guidelines, Amato potentially faces a stiff prison term.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes said the government believes the sentencing range is 70 to 87 months behind bars.
Defense lawyer Scott Leemon said he calculated the sentencing range as between 63 and 78 months.
District Judge Brian M. Cogan will make the final determination at Amato’s sentencing, scheduled for July 20.
Afterward, Leemon declined comment on the case.
CHARGES VS. SON
The younger Amato faces significantly less prison time.
He pleaded guilty to extortionate extension of credit conspiracy.
In December 2018, he and others, including his father, agreed to extend a loan to an unidentified person, according to an indictment and statements made during Monday’s hearing.
The borrower was told he faced violence if he failed to repay the debt promptly.
Both Geddes, the assistant U.S. attorney, and defense lawyer James R. Froccaro agreed the sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of between 21 and 27 months.
The younger Amato, who said he is in his final semester at St. John’s University, will also be sentenced on July 20.
He remains free on bond.
Froccaro declined comment on the case.