The Chicago Syndicate: Don King
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Don King. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Don King. Show all posts

Thursday, October 31, 2019

John Gotti Once Ordered a Mob Hit on Don King, According to Sammy "The Bull" Gravano

It’s pretty much common knowledge that the mob and boxing had a long standing connection. And, although gangsters are no longer known to dominate the fight game, names like Owney Madden and Frankie Carbo will always stand out for having tarnished the sport’s reputation. Now another famous gangster, or former gangster, has come out with some rather revealing stories and opinions regarding the sweet science and organized crime.

Sammy “The Bull”Gravano was about as big a mobster as one could find. Connected to nineteen murders, he stood as underboss of the powerful Gambino crime family up until he early 90s, when he decided to testify against his boss, notorious mobster John Gotti.

Now in his 70s, Gravano is out of jail and going public in a big way. He recently was the subject of a terrific, if not disturbing,interview with Patrick Bet-David, where he talked about Gotti actually putting a hit out on famed promoter Don King. As Gravano tells it, he had a fighter who he wanted to have face Mike Tyson during Tyson’s prime. “He was a tough fighter,” Gravano says of the possible opponent in the interview, “and he was a little bit over the hill.”

Someone Gravrano refers to as “a street guy” was sent to King, who was promoting Tyson at the time, in order to generate interest. To his credit, the controversial King, who had done time in prison himself, didn’t want to get involved with the Gambinos. “I’m not doing any of that bullshit,”Gravano quotes King as saying. Taking the news of King’s refusal back to family boss Gotti, Gravano was given a pat order. The “street guy” was “to go back,make another appointment (with King), and kill him.” Gravano expressed surprise, but Gotti claimed the “street guy” should return to King and “hit him with a proposal” that would essentially stand as an offer King couldn’t refuse.“If he says no,” Gravano quotes Gotti as saying, “take a gun out and shoot him.”

Fortunately for King and the world of boxing, the hit never went down. Gravano claimed the “street guy” got cold feet and disappeared. Left without a hit man, Gravano had no interest in pursuing a matter he wasn’t crazy about to begin with. “I’m definitely not going after him,” Gravano reflects with a laugh, “because this is insane now. We’re hitting a guy because he doesn’t want to do a deal? We’ll be hitting guys every other week.”

Yet Don King isn’t the only figure Gravano talks about inthe interview. “Teddy Atlas is an asshole,” the former hit man says to Bet-David. Gravano, who liked to box, was once questioned by Atlas: “Are you afraid?” Gravano said no. “He took it,” Gravano goes on to say, “to a different level, meaning that’s cowardice.” While admitting Atlas is “a tremendous trainer,” Gravano also presents a personal challenge on camera.

“Teddy,” he says, “come down and put the fucking gloves on with me, I’ll show you how scared I am of you. And you’re a fucking bitch.”

It ain’t Shakespeare – but it gets the point across.

Thanks to Sean Crose.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Have Connections to the #Mafia Marked @RealDonaldTrump's Entire Career?

Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas titled their classic group portrait of Harry S. Truman’s foreign policy team, “The Wise Men.” A book about Donald Trump’s associations might be called “The Wise Guys.”

Mario Puzo would’ve been just the man to write it. Martin Scorsese could option the movie rights. And if he’s not in prison when filming starts, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves a role. Though Manafort hasn’t been accused of Mafia membership, Smooth Paulie certainly acts the part, judging from testimony at his trial in federal court on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He has a closet full of suits worthy of John Gotti (though even the Dapper Don might have balked at an ostrich-skin windbreaker) and a maze of offshore bank accounts dense enough to addle Meyer Lansky.

When Manafort’s turncoat lieutenant Rick Gates took the stand to detail their alleged conspiracies, I was transported to the day back in 1992 when Gotti’s underboss Sammy Gravano began singing at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Gotti’s lawyers attacked Sammy the Bull by demanding to know how many people he’d whacked. Manafort’s team asked Gates how many affairs he’s had.

If it seems harsh to compare Manafort to a mobster, take it up with President Trump, who got the ball rolling with a tweet before the trial began. “Looking back at history, who was treated worse, [Al] Capone, legendary mob boss . . . or Paul Manafort?” Trump mused. And the president ought to know: He has spent plenty of time in mobbed-up milieus. As many journalists have documented — the late Wayne Barrett and decorated investigator David Cay Johnston most deeply — Trump’s trail was blazed through one business after another notorious for corruption by organized crime.

New York construction, for starters. In 1988, Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro of the Genovese crime family testified before a U.S. Senate committee concerning the Mafia’s control of building projects in New York. Construction unions and concrete contractors were deeply dirty, Cafaro confirmed, and four of the city’s five crime families worked cooperatively to keep it that way.

This would not have been news to Trump, whose early political mentor and personal lawyer was Roy Cohn, consigliere to such dons as Fat Tony Salerno and Carmine Galante. After Cohn guided the brash young developer through the gutters of city politics to win permits for Trump Plaza and Trump Tower, it happened that Trump elected to build primarily with concrete rather than steel. He bought the mud at inflated prices from S&A Concrete, co-owned by Cohn’s client Salerno and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.

Coincidence? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Trump moved next into the New Jersey casino business, which was every bit as clean as it sounds. State officials merely shrugged when Trump bought a piece of land from associates of Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo for roughly $500,000 more than it was worth. However, this and other ties persuaded police in Australia to block Trump’s bid to build a casino in Sydney in 1987, citing Trump’s “Mafia connections.”

His gambling interests led him into the world of boxing promotion, where Trump became chums with fight impresario Don King, a former Cleveland numbers runner. (Trump once told me that he owes his remarkable coiffure to King, who advised the future president, from personal experience, that outlandish hair is great PR.) King hasn’t been convicted since the 1960s, when he did time for stomping a man to death. But investigators at the FBI and U.S. Senate concluded that his Mafia ties ran from Cleveland to New York, Las Vegas to Atlantic City. Mobsters “were looking to launder illicit cash,” wrote one sleuth. “Boxing, of all the sports, was perhaps the most accommodating laundromat, what with its international subculture of unsavory characters who play by their own rules.” But an even more accommodating laundromat came along: luxury real estate — yet another mob-adjacent field in which the Trump name has loomed large. Because buyers of high-end properties often hide their identities, it’s impossible to say how many Russian Mafia oligarchs own Trump-branded condos. Donald Trump Jr. gave a hint in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

For instance: In 2013, federal prosecutors indicted Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and 33 others on charges related to a gambling ring operating from two Trump Tower condos that allegedly laundered more than $100 million. A few months later, the same Mr. Tokhtakhounov, a fugitive from U.S. justice, was seen on the red carpet at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Obviously, not everyone in these industries is corrupt, and if Donald Trump spent four decades rubbing elbows with wiseguys and never got dirty, he has nothing to worry about from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But does he look unworried to you?

Thanks to David Von Drehle.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Will @MSNBC Suspend @TheRevAl Over Purported Lies Related to Work as a FBI Mafia Informant?

With its swift and severe punishment of Brian Williams, NBCUniversal declared yesterday that it will not stand for on-air talent lying to viewers.

Now that the media conglomerate has delineated that bright line, when does the Rev. Al Sharpton’s suspension without pay begin?

In the wake of last year’s lengthy TSG report about Sharpton’s secret work as a paid FBI Mafia informant, the MSNBC host sought to blunt the story’s disclosures with a series of lies told at a pair of press conferences, on his nightly “Politics Nation” program, and in a report on Williams’s own NBC Nightly News (which was rebroadcast on NBC's Today show).

Sharpton, 60, cast himself as a victim who first ran into the FBI’s warm embrace when a scary gangster purportedly threatened his life. He was “an American citizen with every right to call law enforcement” for protection, Sharpton told his MSNBC audience. His sole motivation was to “try to protect myself and others.”

He needed the FBI’s help, Sharpton claimed, because his relentless advocacy on behalf of African-American concert promoters had angered wiseguys with hooks in the music business. “I did the right thing working with the authorities,” Sharpton assured viewers. As for being branded an informant, that was a label for others to worry about. “I didn’t consider myself, quote, an informant. Wasn’t told I was that,” said Sharpton.

These claims, broadcast by NBCUniversal, were demonstrably false.

Sharpton was, again, lying about when, how, and why he became a government informant. This historical rewrite was intended to cast his cooperation in the most favorable--even heroic--light possible. The true story, however, was grimier and far less commendable.

Sharpton was once an organized crime associate who got caught up in an FBI sting and immediately agreed to join Team America to stay out of prison. The street-smart preacher’s decision to become an informant was borne out of fear and a desire for self preservation, a calculus not unique when someone is cornered by men with badges.

Now, if NBCUniversal cared to examine the televised claims Sharpton has made about his work as an informant, the company’s newly formed internal affairs division could review hundreds of pages of FBI documents chronicling Sharpton’s work as “CI-7,” short for confidential informant #7, and they could track down members of the FBI-NYPD organized crime task force for which Sharpton surreptitiously recorded his meetings with gangsters. And company brass would certainly want to review the first story to expose Sharpton as a snitch, a January 1998 Newsday piece authored by a Murderers Row of reporters: Bob Drury, Robert Kessler, Mike McAlary, and Richard Esposito. If that last guy’s name rings a bell, well, it is probably because Esposito--now senior executive producer of NBC's investigative unit--is heading the network’s review of Williams’s Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina claims.

Could there be a better man to head the Sharpton Task Force? Luckily, Esposito’s memories of Sharpton’s FBI activities remain clear, as evidenced by a article (“Rev. Al Sharpton and Me”) he wrote for the NBC News web site the day after TSG published its Sharpton story last April.

As detailed by TSG and Esposito and his Newsday colleaugues, Sharpton agreed to become an informant after he was secretly videotaped discussing a possible cocaine deal with an undercover FBI agent.

Sharpton was “flipped” on a Thursday afternoon in June 1983 when he showed up at a Manhattan apartment expecting to meet with a former South American druglord seeking to launder money through boxing promotions (like those handled by Sharpton pal Don King). The role of "druglord" was played by undercover FBI Agent Victor Quintana.

After Sharpton entered the apartment, FBI Agents Joseph Spinelli and Kenneth Mikionis emerged from the bedroom. They then played Sharpton a videotape of a prior meeting with Quintana during which cocaine was a topic of conversation. While the agents were unsure whether Sharpton had said enough to warrant a criminal prosecution, the civil rights activist had no doubt he was in trouble. Sharpton agreed on the spot to begin working as an informant.

The following day, at Spinelli’s direction, Sharpton recorded the first of several conversations with King, a major FBI target. Sharpton, of course, has repeatedly lied when asked whether he made such consensual recordings for his FBI handlers.

Over the next several years, Sharpton worked with FBI agents and NYPD detectives as they put together criminal cases against leaders of the Genovese organized crime family. For example, he used a briefcase outfitted with a hidden recording device to tape ten meetings with a Gambino crime family figure named Joseph Buonanno.

In sealed court filings, federal investigators lauded “CI-7” as a reliable, productive, and accurate source of information about mobsters. The FBI noted that its informant gathered information about La Cosa Nostra matters through his contact with members of four of New York’s five mob families and via “conversations with LCN members from other parts of the United States.”

About nine months into his work as an informant, Sharpton was purportedly threatened by Salvatore Pisello, a mob associate affiliated with MCA Records in Los Angeles. Pisello, Sharpton claimed in his autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh, was angry that the activist was agitating to have African-American promoters included in the “Victory Tour” starring Michael Jackson and his brothers. Presumably, such involvement by these promoters would have cut into Pisello’s piece of the lucrative tour.

The reported threat, however, amounted to nothing but talk. Sharpton, however, has cast the incident--for which he is the sole witness--as the motivation for him approaching FBI agents for some federal succor.

While Sharpton’s sleight of hand when it comes to matters temporal and factual is well established, he chose to boldly use the airwaves of NBCUniversal--his employer--to broadcast lies about his tawdry past.

Unlike Williams, however, viewers should not expect an apology--even a mangled one at that--from Sharpton.

Thanks to TSG.


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