updated 3/31/2006 9:04:31 PM ET 2006-04-01T02:04:31

Eight members and associates of the Gambino organized crime family, including an acting underboss, have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, authorities said Friday.

The eight were among 11 people charged with racketeering in a prosecution aimed at taking down current and future leaders of a crime family more than a century old.

In all, more than 30 people were arrested on various charges.

The arrests stemmed from a probe in which an undercover FBI agent infiltrated the mob during a three-year period with an act so convincing he was considered for membership, authorities said.

The eight defendants, including acting underboss Anthony Megale, entered their pleas in recent days in federal court in Manhattan. They had faced trial in May; three others still face trial.

The pleas were "significant additional steps in the steady march toward reducing the influence of organized crime," said Mark Mershon, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office.

In his plea, Megale admitted extorting money from a Greenwich, Conn., restaurant; a New Jersey trucking company; and from the owners of a Westchester County construction company.

"I have never threatened anybody for anything," Megale said. "But, it could be by me talking to them, I could be implying a threat to them without them realizing it."

The eight agreed to forfeit a total of about $550,000 for their roles in a decade-long racketeering scheme including assaults, extortion, loansharking, union embezzlement, illegal gambling, trafficking in stolen property and fraud.

They are expected to be sentenced between May and July. They face prison terms ranging from five years to more than 20, and face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The pleas came several weeks after a jury deadlocked at the racketeering retrial of John A. "Junior" Gotti, who prosecutors say became the family's street boss after his father was sentenced to life in prison in 1992.

The younger Gotti has said he quit the mob before mid-1999.

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