Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Lost Gotti

Meet the lost Gotti.

Banished from Gambino crime family activities by his infamous brothers John and Gene - and relegated to being a house-husband while his wife brought home the money - Vincent Gotti's crime career was mired in drug abuse and petty arrests. But times have changed, mostly for the worse for the Gambinos, and Vincent Gotti has finally hit the big time, sort of.

Six years ago, after the death of his boss brother John - and just before he turned 50 - Vincent, the black sheep of the Gotti family, finally became a Mafia soldier, authorities say.

The career surge came with a burgeoning loansharking business and the right to order at least one murder, the feds said.

Unfortunately, finally getting on the mob radar meant he got caught up in the recent massive indictment that Brooklyn federal prosecutors say has nearly decimated the Gambinos.

"Because the crimes for which [Vincent] Gotti has been charged constitute crimes of violence and narcotics offenses for which the maximum term of imprisonment is life," Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris argued in court papers, prosecutors asked that he be jailed without bail.

Magistrate Robert Levy and Federal Judge Jack Weinstein denied him bail this month in hearings that divulged many new details about this virtually forgotten Gotti.

"I can't sleep," Gotti told Weinstein last week in court after the judge asked if he was being treated well at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Defense lawyer Scott Leemon jumped in, saying that some inmates in the prison dormitory are up until 3 a.m.

The judge chuckled. "It might be a question of age," Weinstein said. "I'm sure at one time he could have slept through that."

Vincent Gotti's rap sheet starts in 1973, when he pleaded guilty to petty larceny. Over the next two decades, he was collared for robbery, criminal impersonation and indicted in 1980 for selling cocaine.

During this time he was also abusing drugs himself, leading to the exile imposed by older brothers John and Gene. Law enforcement sources said Vincent Gotti was banned from John Gotti's social club scene, the Ravenite in Little Italy and the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens.

Although John Gotti did not disapprove of drug dealing and Gene Gotti remains in prison for heroin trafficking, Mafia rules prohibit drug use. "John abhorred drug users," a source said. "Not for moral reasons, but for security reasons. The security of the family."

Former FBI agent George Gabriel summed up Vincent Gotti's situation in a 1992 interview with his parole officer: "Vincent has no place within the family organization. He was chased away as an embarrassment due to the stupid things he has done in the past," he said in a document in the parole file.

Even behind prison walls, though, the surname Gotti still carried some weight. A prison superintendent at the Queensboro Correctional Facility was demoted for asking Vincent to "pull strings" with executives at a construction company about a prison project, the Albany Times Union reported.

Vincent Gotti was once a shop steward in Local 23 of a construction union, but doesn't appear to have worked for some time except for a job in a phone store. His lawyer described Vincent in court as a "homemaker" whose wife of 24 years, Carmela, brings home the bacon from her job at a subsidiary of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Gottis reside in a modest home in Hewlett, L.I., with their daughter, 16, and a son, 10.

The bail motion states that Vincent coaches his son's baseball team, "never misses his daughter's softball games" and is "very active" in a charity called Bless the Kids Foundation. The foundation's Web site lists an address in Ozone Park; the phone number is disconnected.

John Gotti died of throat cancer in prison in June 2002. Five months later, with eldest brother Peter Gotti running the Gambinos, Vincent was inducted into the family.

Prosecutors allege Vincent has gotten into loansharking and ordered the murder of Howard Beach bagel store owner Angelo Mugnolo in 2003.

A former law enforcement official said he was "surprised" to learn of Vincent Gotti's emergence from obscurity. "I guess it's the passing of years and the [Gambino] ranks have gotten thinner," the official offered as an explanation

Thanks to John Marzulli

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