The Velentzas crime family is a Greek-American criminal organization operating in the New York City area. Mostly active in the 1980s and 1990s with illegal gambling. Today the organization is still active in illegal gambling operating with the Lucchese crime family.
The group originated from the Kourakos clan, a Maniot-Greek family led by Peter "Pete The Greek" Kourakos. It became a dominant group in the 1980s under Spyredon "Spiros" Velentzas, a Greek mobster who worked with and was aided by the Lucchese crime family. The Velentzas family mainly operated in the Greek-American neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. With over 30 members, the group gained power in other Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods in the 1980s and the 1990s by setting up and taking over illegal gambling rackets that included dice games and horse-racing parlors.
On June 20, 1992, Velentzas, a.k.a. "Sakafias," was found guilty of murder, loan sharking, gambling, and tax fraud charges. Along with Velentzas were arrested two other crew members, Peter Drakoulis and Michael Grillo. Velentzas was later sentenced to over 20 years in prison from his charges; however, the jury did not find Velentzas guilty of the murder of a gambling rival, which was ordered by Lucchese. Spyredon was found guilty of murdering Sarecho "Sammy the Arab" Nalo and was convicted to life in prison. Velentzas, 82 years old as of 2017, is currently still serving his life sentence in prison.
The lucrative horse racing parlors of Spiros Velentzas have been impugned by some as to be using satellite dishes for importing races from all around the world, in order to view them ahead of time in an attempt to cheat customers. Velentzas has denied this allegation.
The Velentzas family has had very good relations with the Lucchese crime family, which offered protection in return for a percentage of the gambling profits. The other Mafia families of New York City have kept out of the Greek business and generally do not see them as a threat. However, there were attempts by some of the family members to expand business into Gambino crime family territory, but operations ended and receded back to Greek areas after warning from the Gambinos. As one Italian mobster was said to have stated, those "... Greeks know the game so damn good they'd cheat us blind."
On August 3, 2001, members of the Albanian Rudaj Organization attacked Greek associates of the Lucchese crime family. The brief fight was over controlling gambling rackets in Astoria, Queens. The Rudaj Organization held on to this territory until 2004, when most of the leaders were convicted of racketeering.