Absorbing story of how the FBI developed a new mode of attack on the New Jersey crime family--and then failed to make its case in court. Rudolph covers organized crime for Newark's Star-Ledger. Once the FBI had admitted, during the mid-70's, that there was such a thing as the mafia, it began insinuating undercover agents into crime families, especially--in the mid-80's--into the Lucchese family, which had a lock on New Jersey rackets such as loansharking, gambling, fraud, extortion, and drug-dealing. Masterminded by FBI agent Dennis Marchalonis, the government operation was carried on with such enormous secrecy--it had been decided to make a case against an entire crime family and wipe it out all at once, a historic decision--that FBI agents might find themselves under surveillance by two or three other legal agencies. When the secret task force finally had its evidence--gathered from wiretaps, informants, and agents--it rounded up the entire Lucchese family, then headed by Anthony (""Tumac"") Accetturo and Michael (""Mad Dog"") Taccetta, and brought indictments against 21 defendants. The government had a strong case and assembled a terrific team of prosecutors, led by hot-tempered, aggressive V. Gray O'Malley, who had never lost a case. The defense had a huge, strong, smartly chosen team as well. The flaw in the federal case was its size and the nearly two years it took to prosecute before a jury so wearied by picayune detail and evidence wandering off on endless tangents--with the jury's families under intense scrutiny all the while--that long before the 21 cases went to the jury, the jury had decided not to convict--in part, says Rudolph, to spite the government for having put it through such an ordeal. Richly served up and dotted with absurd moments as the fat cats go free and the feds eat their shoes.