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Head of N.Y. Record Firm Charged With Extortion; 16 Others Arrested in Sweep

September 24, 1986|WILLIAM K. KNOEDELSEDER JR. | Times Staff Writer

As reported by The Times in a profile of the record executive earlier this year, Levy has a long history of business and personal ties to organized crime figures, including Vastola; Vincent (the Chin) Gigante, reputedly the underboss of the Genovese family, and Thomas Eboli, reputed head of the Genovese family until he was gunned down gangland-style on a Brooklyn street in 1972.

In a telephone interview earlier this year, Levy acknowledged those associations, saying that he'd known Gigante and Vastola "since we were kids."

Roulette has produced almost no hit records for two decades, yet Levy has been considered an influential figure in the record business and is known socially by many major executives in the industry.

Until Tuesday's arrest, the government has never brought a racketeering charge against Levy. In June, 1975, he was indicted for assaulting an off-duty police officer outside a New York nightclub--a beating that resulted in the officer losing an eye. He was indicted along with Nathan McCalla, decribed as a vice president of Roulette Records. The assault case was later dismissed, and the case records have been sealed by court order. McCalla was later murdered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Tuesday's indictments describe Vastola, also known as "The Big Guy" and "The Galoot," as the kingpin of an extensive criminal enterprise that operated out a company called Video Warehouse Inc. in West Long Branch, N.J.

According to the indictment, the "Vastola Organization" carried out a "pattern of racketeering" in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida. Its illegal activities allegedly include loan sharking, gambling, bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud and insurance fraud. The indictment states that "under the direction and protection of Vastola" and members of his organization, "heroin and cocaine were transported to New Jersey and New York for distribution in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania."

Vastola's ties to Levy and the music business go back at least 20 years. According to published transcripts of FBI wiretaps on the phones of Sam (the Plumber) DeCavalcante, Vastola earned half a million dollars from a record counterfeiting deal in 1965.

During hearings before the House Select Committee on Crime in 1972, Vastola was identified by a New Jersey State Police criminal intelligence officer has having an interest in a New York talent agency called Queens Booking Agency, "which has booked many principal entertainment figures throughout the country." According to law enforcement and entertainment industry sources, Queens has booked concert appearances at Atlantic City, N.J., casinos by such performers as Red Foxx, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Sammy Davis Jr.

Vastola has been convicted of extortion twice before, in 1970 and 1972. Along with his cousin, Palmer (Sonny) Brocco--who was also arrested Tuesday--he was indicted in New Jersey in October, 1985, for allegedly extorting executives of a local New Jersey airline that flies gamblers on junkets to Atlantic City.

One investigator described Vastola as "a tough character, very intelligent, with a background of violence."

Times researcher Tony Robinson contributed to this story.

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