NEW YORK // For nearly 30 years, federal authorities say, reputed gangster Bartolomeo Vernace got away with murder.
They say the bloodshed - a double killing at the Shamrock Bar in Queens - was all over a spilt drink.
Mr Vernace's luck ran out on Thursday when he was charged in connection with the killings in one of the largest Mafia takedowns in FBI history. He was among 127 people named in 16 indictments stemming from separate underworld investigations in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
The indictments listed colourful nicknames - Bobby Glasses, Vinny Carwash, Jack the Whack, Johnny Cash, Junior Lollipops - and catalogued murders, extortion, arson, drug dealing and other crimes dating back three decades.
Past investigations have resulted in strategic strikes aimed at crippling individual crime families. This time, authorities used a shotgun approach, with some 800 federal agents and police officers making scores of simultaneous arrests.
They also used fanfare: Eric Holder, the US attorney general, made a trip to New York to announce the operation at a news conference with the city's top law enforcement officials.
Mr Holder called the arrests "an important and encouraging step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra's operations". But he and others also cautioned that the mob, while having lost some of the swagger of the "Dapper Don" John Gotti era, is known for adapting to adversity and finding new ways of making money that still harm the economy and spread fear.
"Members and associates of La Cosa Nostra are among the most dangerous criminals in our country," Mr Holder said.
* Associated Press