Colombo Underboss ‘The Claw’ Gets Leniency for Union Shakedown

Posted on: January 24, 2024, 06:24h. 

Last updated on: January 25, 2024, 11:58h.

A federal judge in Brooklyn opted to go easy on an alleged Colombo crime family underboss and former illegal gambling kingpin because of his ill health.

Benjamin Castellazzo, The Claw, Mafia, Colombo
Benjamin Castellazzo, above, whose last conviction involved the theft of a tomato sauce recipe, was offered leniency by a federal judge Monday for charges related to shaking down a union in Queens. (Image: Daily Mail)

In July, Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo, 86, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy charges. These were related to his longstanding efforts to shake down a Queens-based labor union and take control of its health care benefit programs.

He was one of 14 individuals indicted for the scheme in September 2021. Among those arrested were 10 Colombo members and associates.

On Monday, Castellazzo was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment despite prosecutors wanting more than two years.

Castellazzo’s lawyer, Ilana Haramati, argued that a long prison term would exacerbate her client’s poor health, which includes cardiac problems for which he must take a “battery of medications.” A federal prison sentence would “effectively turn into a death sentence,” she claimed.

Prison Would be ‘Death Sentence’

Prosecutors wanted to know why Castellazzo’s health issues only seemed to surface when he was in the dock facing charges for his latest criminal escapade.

The defendant has referred to his health each time he has been before a court in this district,” Brooklyn Assistant US Attorney Andrew Reich complained.

The elderly wise guy has a long rap sheet dating back to the 1950s, when he was imprisoned for stealing a tractor.


The last time Castellazzo was up before a judge was in 2013, when he pleaded guilty to extortion related to a stolen pizza sauce recipe.

In that case, Castellazzo accused Bonanno associates of stealing the recipe from a well-known, Colombo-affiliated Brooklyn pizzeria. The rival syndicate then used the recipe when it opened its own restaurant, and Castellazzo decided the Colombos deserved “royalties.” He was sentenced to 63 months.

“I can tell your honor in all sincerity that you will never see me before this or any court of law again,” he told the judge then.

In 1995, Castellazzo was convicted of operating underground gambling dens that offered craps games and sports betting and conducted a numbers racket.

In the mid-1970s, he was sentenced to four years in prison for his involvement in a heroin importation and distribution ring.

Castellazzo earned his nickname, “the Claw,” because he had his claws in everything, according to