The Life of a Mob Underboss
Prosecutors refer to this mobster as the “Claw,” and he lives in a two-bedroom trailer home complete with garden and eat-in kitchen. He could face eight years in jail.
Prosecutors allege he was part of a Colombo crime family plan to seize control of a union health benefit fund. An octogenarian crime boss, underboss and consigliere were arrested with 14 others from this clan.
Early Life and Education
In 2002, he was found guilty of owning and operating a social club that used coercive methods to control credit, gambling and other illegal activities, in addition to engaging in mob-related crimes. Although he received three-year jail time for this conduct, he soon found himself drawn back into its underworld connections.
An 83-year-old from Manahawkin was recently charged in a comprehensive federal indictment with 14 others for labor union shakedowns, racketeering/extortion/loansharking and money laundering conspiracies. Officials allege that mob mobsters took over Queens-based union and health fund before pocketing part of its senior official’s salary by threatening harm against him and his family; crime family members laundered health benefit funds while taking funds stolen from third-party vendors for these activities.
Benjamin Castellazzo, known by his nickname The Claw, has been charged with engaging in an array of illegal activities such as racketeering, extortion and loansharking. At 75, this alleged mobster lives in New Jersey where he has two children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Castellazzo used his stolen proceeds from loansharking to invest in his criminal career, using tape recordings as evidence against him that revealed him to be often abusive towards his loan-sharking clients, who included Colombo family associates.
Big Anthony Russo reported during a 2011 FBI debriefing that he learned of Spata’s impending induction through the family’s rising acting underboss, Benji. They may have believed this inductee could act as their proxy in sitdown meetings with other crime families without needing Big Anthony and Allie present.
Achievement and Honors
Castellazzo was arrested alongside acting boss John Franzese, underboss McLaughlin and consigliere Fusco in January 2009 as part of one of the biggest mob arrests ever. This bust saw off nearly half of Colombo family made members, making them one of the smallest crime families. Rocco Giangregorio, Glenn LaChance, Nicola Miraglia, Anthony Turzio were all charged in 2009 with conspiring to defraud both NMDU and Hudson News by applying for union cards and employment positions on behalf of Benjamin Castellazzo Jr.
According to reports, The Claw lived a much more modest lifestyle than you’d expect of an average mobster. His wife Sophie filed for bankruptcy in 2011 citing only $1,115 monthly net income from Social Security payments; according to court records they resided in a trailer home near Manahawkin. Even with all his mob connections he still tried giving back to the community by purchasing shoes and food for low-income residents in his neighborhood.
Benjamin Castellazzo has taken steps to avoid lengthy jail time for his involvement in extorting Brooklyn’s La Quila construction company and The Square Pizzeria on Staten Island by living in a New Jersey trailer park with his wife who subsists off food stamps.
Castellazzo was worth millions as a high-ranking mobster, yet, according to federal prosecutors’ motion for his release, his criminal proceeds were reinvested into loansharking operations instead.
He earned the moniker “The Claw” due to his penchant for raiding lower-level associates and “clawing into their rackets,” according to mob records.
Doch, unlike his crime-family peers, he didn’t lead an extravagant lifestyle. According to his family’s description, he was generous with shoes and food donations near his modest Manahawkin home; furthermore he lived on Social Security despite having trouble affording the $2-2.5 million bail demanded by prosecutors; eventually being granted release with electronic monitoring and other restrictions attached.