A recent hire by former mayoral and current Staten Island Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis was part of a Mafia scheme to fix a college basketball game, according to court filings from a sweeping 20-suspect mob bust Thursday.
Benjamin Bifalco, 25, was caught on a wiretap scheming with the son of a Colombo crime family captain to fix an NCAA men’s basketball game, and offered to pay players thousands of dollars to lose badly enough to cover the spread, according to federal court documents.
Bifalco, who sources said is a nephew of disgraced former Staten Island Rep. Vito Fossella, was hired as Malliotakis’ director of community affairs on Sept. 16, her office confirmed. He had not yet collected his first paycheck, sources familiar with the case said.
“He was active in local politics, planning to apply to law school and was recommended to me by a number of people,” Malliotakis said in a prepared statement Thursday. “I am shocked and saddened by this news. I have zero tolerance for criminal activity and he was dismissed from my staff effective Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.”
Malliotakis is looking to unseat Democrat Max Rose in New York’s 11th Congressional District next year.
Bifalco, 25, pitched his scheme to Joseph Amato Jr., son of Colombo capo Joseph Amato, trying to get him to bet thousands on the game.
But Amato Jr. wouldn’t bite, telling another accomplice in text messages, “Ok I wouldn’t trust the game I was telling u about” and “I’m not touching it personally,” according to court documents.
It turned out Bifalco couldn’t pull off the fix, since the winning team couldn’t cover the spread after all.
Bifalco was charged alongside 19 others, including Amato and his son, in three separate indictments unsealed in Brooklyn federal court Thursday.
He was released on $200,000 bond. His lawyer, Vincent Martinelli, declined comment Thursday.
The charges include racketeering, cyber-stalking, extortion and assault. Federal authorities started investigating Amato in November 2016, when workers at an MTA bus depot in New Springville on Staten Island discovered a tracking device attached to the oil pan of a city bus.
The incident made headlines. NYPD Emergency Services Unit cops swarmed the depot, searching each bus for more devices, and union officials worried who might have planted the tracker.
It turned out Amato bought the device to put a girlfriend under “close surveillance,” federal prosecutors allege.
“This is my island. Not yours. I have the eyes all over(.),” the 60-year-old capo wrote in an e-mail to the woman, prosecutors allege.
In a second unhinged e-mail, he told the woman, “I’m called a MANS MAN!!! … Anyone could end up in jail. I don’t wish it on anyone[.] Especially weak men. Who could never deal with it. I thrived there and anywhere I go,” prosecutors allege.