The Chicago Syndicate: Gambino Boss Heading to Jail

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gambino Boss Heading to Jail

NINE YEARS FOR GEEZER GODFATHER

Friend of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, Peter Gotti, John Gotti, Gregory DePalma

Reputed Gambino head Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri copped a plea to racketeering charges stemming from a daring three-year probe by an undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the crime family's ranks and brought down its leadership.

Squitieri, 70, confessed to racketeering and three shakedown schemes in a plea deal with the feds that will likely land him behind bars for nine years - roughly half the time he would have faced had he taken his chances with a jury. But the aging mafioso, who appeared in Manhattan Federal Court clad in tan prison garb that exposed a tattooed arm, made it clear he wasn't pleading guilty to save himself.

After admitting his misdeeds yesterday, Squitieri turned to coldly point at his wife, Marie, in the spectator seats.

"I did it for you. I pleaded guilty because of you," Squitieri said, prompting his wife to well up with tears and rush from the courtroom.

Also looking on were three of Squitieri's daughters, including raven-haired attorney Ginger Squitieri, who sat next to her father as a member of his defense team and greeted him with a kiss.

The feds claim Squitieri took the reins as Gambino acting boss when reputed boss Peter Gotti was arrested in 2002 - the first generation of Gambino bosses in the post-John Gotti era.

Under the deal hammered out with Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Conniff, Squitieri confessed to racketeering and raking in cash through shakedown schemes targeting two construction companies, in Mineola, L.I., and Westchester, and a New Jersey trucking company.

"I know it was wrong," Squitieri said. But the reputed mob leader - identified by the feds as an acting boss - kept his lips zipped when asked to acknowledge his role in the Gambino crime family.

"Mr. Squitieri makes no concession with respect to the name of the enterprise," defense lawyer Gerald Shargel told Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger.

"With the Gambino name out of it? Guilty," said Squitieri, who must also forfeit $100,000 in cash.

The gravelly-voiced wiseguy joked with the judge when asked to identify the time frame of his crimes. "I can't remember too good, your honor. I'm getting up in age," Squitieri said, estimating that the extortions occurred between 1999 and 2005.

The feds have pegged Squitieri as official underboss and acting boss of the crime family, but some members of his ranks viewed him as holding the ultimate power, according to tapes of secretly recorded conversations.

On Nov. 5, 2004, steely-nerved undercover FBI agent "Jack Falcone" asked reputed capo Gregory DePalma if Squitieri was acting boss, to which the high-ranking mobster replied, "No, he's the boss. The boss is the boss," law-enforcement sources said.

In that same momentous conversation, DePalma told the 6-foot-4, 300-pound-plus Falcone he wanted to propose him as a "made" member of the crime family - not knowing he was an undercover agent.

The probe came to an abrupt end soon after this exchange in order to protect the burly agent, who was later targeted in a $250,000 murder contract foiled by the feds in August 2005 and first reported by The Post.

Squitieri was one of 32 reputed mobsters rounded up in March 2005 as the result of the daring undercover investigation, and all but two have pleaded guilty.

Thanks to Kati Cornell and Murray Weis

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