The news that former Marine Retailers Association of America chairman Glenn Mazzella was charged along with 126 others last month as part of a sting against some of the East Coast's most notorious organized crime families seemed to come as a surprise to the industry.
"I was as surprised as most people to read it," MRAA president Phil Keeter told Soundings Trade Only. "You're always surprised to hear those kinds of things, but I knew nothing about it. I had no idea. If he had mob connections, I didn't know it."
Keeter said that after many in the industry learned of the news he received phone calls expressing surprise, along with questions about whether Keeter had any suspicions.
"He was a very good MRAA chairman and he worked very hard at his job," he added. Mazzella was elected to chair the group in 2004 and served through 2006.
Mazzella, according to court documents, is accused of being an "associate" within the Genovese crime family. He and others are charged with racketeering conspiracy involving the extortion of two individuals.
He is alleged to have "knowingly and intentionally" conspired to obtain property by compelling "John Doe No. 1 ... to deliver such property, by instilling in him a fear that if the property was not delivered, one or more persons would cause physical injury to some person in the future and cause damage to property."
Documents also suggest Mazzella and others "did knowingly and intentionally conspire to obstruct, delay and affect commerce, and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce, by extortion in that the defendants and others agreed to obtain property ... from John Doe No. 1, with his consent, which consent was to be induced through wrongful use of actual and threatened force, violence and fear."
Court documents also mention a second "John Doe" who was allegedly threatened by Mazzella and others.
These actions allegedly took place between May 2007 and February 2010, documents show. Others charged along with Mazzella include Peter Pace Jr. and Daniel Cilenti, also known as "Uncle Danny," a soldier and an associate within the Genovese crime family.
Mazzella, according to court documents, poses "a danger to the community and a risk of flight that can only be mitigated, if at all, through substantial bail packages and restrictive conditions of release."
The 127 defendants charged in these cases were rounded up as part of the organized crime families that make up La Cosa Nostra, which operates in numerous cities throughout the country and "routinely engages in violence and threatens violence to extort money from victims, eliminate rivals, settle vendettas and obstruct justice," according to a statement released along with news of the charges.
"This largest single-day operation against La Cosa Nostra sends the message that our fight against traditional organized crime is strong and our commitment is unwavering," U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said in a statement.
Mazzella, who is out on bail, asked the judge to be allowed to travel to the Miami International Boat Show next week, the New York Post reported. His lawyer, Michael Rosen, told the court that Mazzella runs a yacht brokerage in Florida and needs to attend the show for business.
No ruling was immediately made on the request, according to the newspaper.
Keeter said he had no knowledge of this business and court documents do not mention the name of a yacht brokering business in Florida.
According to filings in bankruptcy court, where Mazzella filed last year for Chapter 7 protection, he previously served as president of the now defunct Glenn Marine Family Boating Center Ltd. dealership and did business through an entity named Worldwide Yacht Corp. in which he had an ownership interest.
Worldwide Yacht Corp. was the sole dealer/distributor of Windy boats in the United States.