"I don't think that people should feel the streets are any safer because these prosecutions are going forward."
Should these alleged mob leaders be convicted in the present case, law enforcement officials said they are unsure how the underworld in Southern California will regroup.
Rizzitello, whom the state attorney general's office identified as one of Milano's strongest rivals for leadership of the family and who might have been a logical candidate to succeed him, was indicted shortly after Milano in an alleged scheme to sell $1 million in stolen public improvement bonds. He faces a potential 15 to 25 years in prison.
The man identified by the attorney general's office as the consigliere of the family, Jack LoCicero, in his mid-70s and in poor health, is probably in no shape to help the family regroup, law enforcement officials speculate.
And some say that this apparent power vacuum could leave Los Angeles more open than ever to the activities of other crime families.
Already, East Coast families, primarily the Gambino and Luchese organizations, hold firm sway over the Los Angeles pornography trade, the production source of an estimated 80% of the nation's pornography, a market worth nearly $1 billion a year locally that Southern California mobsters have been largely unable to tap.
Likewise, it is primarily Eastern crime figures who have been linked to inroads in Hollywood's recording and movie industries, real estate developments, hazardous waste disposal and Italian cheese production. Chicago mobsters, until recent criminal convictions cut into their home organization, held partial control of rackets in the Southland.
With the current round of indictments, "there won't be many remnants to pull together," the FBI's Bretzing said. "So it really leaves one wondering whether or not a vacuum is being created into which other organized crime elements, either traditional or non-traditional, will move, or whether we've stamped out something which will not replace itself.
"I happen to be a little more skeptical than others, and I think we're going to have to be very alert. It's going to be a situation that's going to require an awful lot of watchful care."
Times research librarian Nona Yates contributed to this story.