Two years ago, when the FBI announced the arrest of an accused drug dealer here with alleged organized-crime connections, Breckinridge L. Willcox, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, rejected the idea that the man was a mobster.
"So far as we know, the LCN [La Cosa Nostra, or Mafia] is not doing any major drug business here," the prosecutor said then.
"If there are any of them in Baltimore, they're probably on vacation," he added.
Today, Willcox is unwilling to discuss specific cases his office is prosecuting, but he acknowledges that the Mafia has not bypassed Maryland entirely.
"We're seeing more of an interest in Baltimore and Maryland rTC among organized-crime figures who don't live around here but who are willing to do business here, more of the tentacles than we did three or four years ago," Willcox says.
"But there are no significant [Mafia] activities here. I don't think things have changed significantly."
In the past two weeks, federal grand juries here have indicted six out-of-state men on money-laundering charges connected to the Bingo World operation in Brooklyn Park and four other men on loan-sharking charges connected to Dominic's Restaurant on Fallstaff Road.
Two defendants in the Bingo World case, Dominic Peter "Large" Cortina, 65, of Chicago, and Donald J. Angelini, 70, of Elmhurst, Ill., allegedly have ties to organized crime and have been convicted in the past on illegal gambling charges.
The other indictment said the loan-sharking operation, allegedly run locally by restaurant owner Dominic "Yama" DiFelice and his son, Bruce, was financed by Harry A. Dascenzo, 65, of Somerdale, N.J., and aided by Frank J. Lebano, of Springfield, Pa.
Both indictments smack of traditional organized-crime activities, but court records do not identify any such ties.
"We try to catch 'em at the state line," Willcox says, "because it's a trend that we don't want to see continue. We want to make it clear that Maryland is an inhospitable place for them to do business. The way to demonstrate that is with very vigorous prosecution."
Similarly, FBI spokesman Jim Dearborn describes organized crime as nothing more than "a fringe element" in Baltimore.
"I've never heard anything about anyone directly connected to the Mafia here," Dearborn says.