Showing posts with label Paul Castellano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Castellano. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mob Boss Killer Anthony Comello Shows Love of Trump with Pen Markings of #MAGA Forever and Additional Patriot Slogans

The man charged with killing the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family wrote pro-Donald Trump slogans on his hand and flashed them to journalists before a court hearing Monday.

Anthony Comello, 24, was arrested Saturday in New Jersey in the death of Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali last week in front of his Staten Island home.

While waiting for a court hearing to begin in Toms River, New Jersey, in which he agreed to be extradited to New York, Comello held up his left hand.

On it were scrawled pro-Trump slogans including "MAGA Forever," an abbreviation of Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." It also read "United We Stand MAGA" and "Patriots In Charge." In the center of his palm he had drawn a large circle. It was not immediately clear why he had done so.

Anthony Comello MAGA Forever.jpg


Comello's lawyer, Brian Neary, would not discuss the writing on his client's hand, nor would he say whether Comello maintains his innocence. Asked by reporters after the hearing what was on Comello's hand, Neary replied, "Handcuffs."

He referred all other questions to Comello's Manhattan lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, who said in an emailed statement his client has been placed in protective custody due to "serious threats" that had been made against him, but gave no details of them. Ocean County officials could not immediately be reached after hours on Monday.

"Mr. Comello's family and friends simply cannot believe what they have been told," Gottlieb said. "There is something very wrong here and we will get to the truth about what happened as quickly as possible."

The statement did not address the writing on Comello's hand, and a lawyer from Gottlieb's firm declined to comment further Monday evening.

Comello sat with a slight smile in the jury box of the courtroom Monday afternoon as dozens of reporters and photographers filed into the room. When they were in place, Comello held up his left hand to display the writings as the click and whirr of camera lenses filled the room with sound.

During the hearing, Comello did not speak other than to say, "Yes, sir" to the judge to respond to several procedural questions.

Cali, 53, was shot to death last Wednesday by a gunman who may have crashed his truck into Cali's car to lure him outside. Police said Cali was shot 10 times.

Federal prosecutors referred to Cali in court filings in 2014 as the underboss of the Mafia's Gambino family, once one of the country's most powerful crime organizations. News accounts since 2015 said Cali had ascended to the top spot, though he was never charged with leading the gang. His only mob-related conviction came a decade ago, when he was sentenced to 16 months in prison in an extortion scheme involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was released in 2009 and hasn't been in legal trouble since then.

Police have not yet said whether they believe Cali's murder was a mob hit or whether he was killed for some other motive.

The last Mafia boss to be rubbed out in New York City was Gambino don "Big Paul" Castellano, who was assassinated in 1985.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Anthony Comello Arrested in Murder of Frank Cali, Mafia Hit May Have Been Domestic Violence Beef Instead

The mafia didn’t kill Gambino boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali — a twentysomething Staten Island hothead with a personal beef did, police and sources said Saturday.

Anthony ComelloAnthony Comello, 24, a non-mobster who works odd construction jobs, was named as the suspect who blasted at least ten slugs into Cali, 53, on the street outside the boss’s brick mansion.

It was the first assassination of a New York City mob boss since an upstart John Gotti had Gambino boss Paul Castellano whacked outside Sparks Steak House in 1985.

Investigators quickly feared a mob war in the making.But they now believe a personal dispute was to blame — over a woman in Cali’s family, according to multiple law enforcement sources.

The nature of the dispute was not immediately clear. But sources said Cali — who helmed a family notorious for gambling, loan sharking, and its deadly trade in heroin and oxycodone — thought Comello was trouble, sources said.

Cali didn’t think Comello was worthy of associating with a woman in his family, the sources added.

At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea announced Comello’s arrest, but said such issues as motive and possible accomplices were still under investigation.

“Everything is on the table at this point,” he said. “The investigation continues.”

Thanks to Larry Celona and Amanda Woods.

Potential Hit Man in Police Custody in the Shooting of Frank Cali, Reputed Godfather of the Gambino Crime Family #Breaking

New York City detectives have a 24-year-old man in custody related to the shooting death this week of reputed crime boss Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali.

"The investigation is still in progress and an arrest has not yet been made," NYPD Assistant Chief Patrick Conry wrote in an email.

Conry said the 24-year-old was taken into custody early Saturday, but he did not say where. More information is expected to be released Saturday afternoon.

Citing "sources familiar with the investigation," NBC 4 New York reported the 24-year-old was arrested in Brick, New Jersey.

Cali, 53, died at a hospital after being shot multiple times in the torso in front of his home at 25 Hilltop Terrace in Staten Island. Police found Cali wounded after receiving a 911 call reporting an assault in progress about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors have referred to Cali in court filings as the underboss of the Gambino family, saying he was connected through marriage to the Inzerillo clan in the Sicilian Mafia.

Multiple press accounts since 2015 said Cali had ascended to the top spot in the gang, although he never faced a criminal charge saying so.

His death marks the first killing of a New York City boss in more than 30 years, according to reports. Former Gambino head Paul Castellano was famously killed in 1985 outside a midtown Manhattan steakhouse in a hit ordered by John Gotti, who seized control of the family.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Frank Cali, Reputed Gambino Crime Boss, Shook Hands with Mafia Hit Man before Getting Whacked

Details continue to emerge as the investigation advances in the murder of a reputed Gambino family mob boss outside his Staten Island home, the first such incident in New York in three decades.

Multiple police sources say that whoever shot Francesco "Frankie Boy" Cali drove up to the mobster's Hilltop Terrace home in the Todt Hill section, came to a stop, and then gunned the engine in reverse, crashing into Cali's parked Cadillac SUV.

The force of the impact knocked the license plate off the SUV and seemed to investigators to have been done intentionally in order to get Cali's attention.

Once Cali came outside the home, sources said, video showed the two men talking and then shaking hands. Apparently Cali sensed no danger, because he turned his back on his killer to put the license plate inside the rear of the SUV.

That's when the gunman took out a 9mm handgun, held it with two hands -- as if he was trained, the sources said -- and opened fire.

The video is said to be grainy and has not been released because the suspect's face cannot be seen. The NYPD is continuing to canvass the neighborhood in search of clearer video.

Cali's wife and child were in the home at the time, which sources say is a highly unusual circumstance in the lore of organized crime -- which, in its heyday, followed certain rules that kept targets from getting whacked in front of their families.

Eyewitness News obtained Cali's mugshot from 2008, when he pleaded guilty in an extortion scheme involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was sentenced to 16 months behind bars and was released in 2009. It is believed he took the reins of the notorious Gambino crime family in 2015.

Mob experts have been wary about possible conflicts erupting in the crime family, particularly after the brother of former Gambino boss John Gotti recently was released from prison. Gene Gotti is a reputed captain.

They say the type of hit -- at his home, with no real attempt to hide what happened -- suggests that it was a message killing. The question for detectives is what type of message was being sent.

This is the first time a reputed mob boss has been killed in New York City in more than 30 years.

The last Mafia boss to be shot to death in New York City was Gambino don Paul Castellano, assassinated outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985 at the direction of Gotti, who then took over.

Cali kept a much lower profile than Gotti.

With his expensive double-breasted suits and overcoats and silvery swept-back hair, Gotti became known as the Dapper Don, his smiling face all over the tabloids. As prosecutors tried and failed to bring him down, he came to be called the Teflon Don.

In 1992, Gotti was convicted in Castellano's murder and a multitude of other crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of cancer in 2002.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Francesco "Frank" Cali, Reputed Gambino Crime Family Boss, Shot to Death Outside His Home

A reputed New York crime boss was shot and killed outside his home Wednesday night.

Francesco "Frank" Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso in the borough of Staten Island, the NYPD said.

A law enforcement official confirmed that Cali was a high-ranking member of the Gambino organized crime family and is believed to be the acting boss.

Police are searching for a pickup truck that fled the scene, NY Police Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea said. No one has been arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Cali was home with family members when the truck hit a car outside the residence, Shea said. It's "quite possible" that the incident was staged to draw Cali outside and into a confrontation with the suspected shooter, he said.

About a minute into the confrontation, the suspect pulled out a gun and began shooting at Cali, Shea said. When Cali tried to take cover behind his car, the pickup truck drove into it and "rocked" it significantly, possibly damaging the truck, Shea said.

Medics arrived at the scene and transported Cali to Staten Island University Hospital North, where he was pronounced dead.

Cali had been considered a unifying figure in the years after then-Gambino boss John Gotti, "Dapper Don," was convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992 and sent to prison for life. Unlike the well-dressed Gotti, Cali kept a low profile.

Cali was the first New York crime family boss shot in 34 years, according to WPIX. In 1985, Paul Castellano was shot dead as he arrived at Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan -- a killing organized by Gotti, authorities said. Gotti, who then assumed control of the family, reportedly watched the action from nearby with his eventual underboss, Sammy "Bull" Gravano. But Gravano would eventually testify against Gotti, leading to Gotti's 1992 conviction in five murders -- one of several major convictions that thinned the Mafia ranks in the 1980s and '90s.

Cali was an associate in the Gambino family, according to court documents, when he was indicted in 2008 with more than two dozen other Gambino members for a range of alleged crimes.

Later that year, he pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy related to the planned construction of a NASCAR speedway on Staten Island -- a plan that eventually was scrapped.

Authorities alleged Cali and others arranged, through force and threat of force, to receive cash payments from someone who had worked on the project.

Cali was sentenced to 16 months in prison and was released in 2009.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Mob Hit on Rudy Giuilani Discussed

The bosses of New York's five Cosa Nostra families discussed killing then-federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani Mob Hit on Rudy Giulani Discussedin 1986, an informant told the FBI, according to testimony in October of 2007, in Brooklyn state court. But while the late Gambino crime boss John Gotti pushed the idea, he only had the support of Carmine Persico, the leader of the Colombo crime family, according to the testimony.

"The Bosses of the Luchese, Bonanno and Genovese families rejected the idea, despite strong efforts to convince them otherwise by Gotti and Persico," said an FBI report of the information given by informant Gregory Scarpa Sr.

Information about the purported murder plot was given to the FBI in 1987 by Scarpa, a Colombo captain, according to the testimony of FBI agent William Bolinder in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

Bolinder was testifying as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of ex-FBI agent Roy Lindley DeVecchio, who handled the now deceased Scarpa for years while the mobster was a key informant. Prosecutors contend that DeVecchio passed information to Scarpa that the mobster used in killings.

In his testimony, Bolinder described the contents of a voluminous FBI file on Scarpa, who died of AIDS in 1994.

In September 1987, DeVecchio reported that Scarpa told him that the five mob families talked about killing Giuliani approximately a year earlier, said Bolinder. It was in September 1986 that Giuliani's staff at the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office prosecuted bosses of La Cosa Nostra families in the so-called "Commission" case.

The Commission trial, a springboard for Giuliani's reputation as a crime buster, resulted in the conviction in October 1986 of Colombo boss Carmine Persico, Lucchese boss Anthony Corallo and Genovese street boss Anthony Salerno. Gambino boss Paul Castellano was assassinated in December 1985 and the case against Bonanno boss Philip Rastelli was dropped.

The purported discussion about murdering Giuliani wasn't the first time he was targeted. In an interview in 1985 Giuliani stated that Albanian drug dealers plotted to kill him and two other officials. A murder contract price of $400,000 was allegedly offered by convicted heroin dealer Zhevedet Lika for the deaths of prosecutor Alan Cohen and DEA agent Jack Delmore, said Giuliani. Neither Cohen nor Delmore were harmed.

Other tidbits offered by Scarpa to DeVecchio involved an allegation of law enforcement corruption within the Brooklyn district attorney's office, said Bolinder. In 1983, stated Bolinder, Scarpa reported that an NYPD detective assigned to the Brooklyn district attorney's office (then led by Elizabeth Holtzman) had been taking money to leak information to the Gambino and Colombo families. A spokesman for current Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said no investigation was ever done about the allegation.

Scarpa also reported to DeVecchio that top Colombo crime bosses suspected the Casa Storta restaurant in Brooklyn was bugged because FBI agents never surveilled the mobsters when they met there. The restaurant was in fact bugged, government records showed.

Thanks to Anthony M. Destefano

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Gene Gotti, Brother of Mafia Godfather John Gotti, to Be Released from Prison

If the late John Gotti’s long-jailed brother finds the 21st-century Mafia unrecognizable later this month, he knows where the blame lies.

Gene GottiGene Gotti, behind bars since 1989 for running a multi-million dollar heroin distribution ring, is set for a Sept. 15 release from the Federal Correctional Institution in Pollock, La. The Long Island father of three, now 71, wore a white jogging suit and cracked wise about his upcoming prison time when surrendering in the last millennium at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.

Back in the ’80s heyday of his immaculately-dressed older brother and the Gambino family, FBI bugs captured Gene discussing topics from drug dealing to hiding illegal cash to changes in mob hierarchy.

The recordings of the Gambino capo and his mob associates became the first damaging domino to fall for the family in 1983, setting in motion the demise of their criminal empire.

What remains is a faint whisper of the roar that followed the ascension to boss of John (Dapper Don) Gotti, who took over after ordering the Dec. 16, 1985, mob assassination of predecessor “Big Paul” Castellano — in part to save his smack-dealing sibling’s life.

“What is Genie coming home to?” mused one long-retired Gambino family hand and Gotti contemporary. “There’s nothing left.”

When Gene Gotti started his 50-year prison bid, George H.W. Bush was in year one at the White House, an earthquake rocked the Bay Area World Series and the lip-syncing duo Milli Vanilli topped the charts.

Gene Gotti was convicted at his third federal drug-dealing trial, with jury tampering cited for a mistrial in the first one and a hung jury in the second. He and brother John were also cleared in a 1987 federal racketeering case where a juror was bribed.

Angel Gotti, Gene’s niece and the daughter of John, expects her uncle to find his footing in freedom.

“My uncle has been away 29 years so I'm sure he will be spending all his time with his wife, kids and grandchildren,” Angel told the Daily News.

Gene became one of five Gotti brothers to embrace “The Life” of organized crime. Though John emerged as the top gun, Gene earned his own spurs and became a valued mobster.

“He was a bona-fide wiseguy,” said ex-FBI agent Bruce Mouw, former head of the agency’s Gambino squad. “He wasn’t there because of his brother. He made it on his own.” But bona fide wiseguys are hard to find in 2018. Big brother John is dead 16 years, and sibling Peter appears destined to die behind bars, too. John’s namesake son Junior Gotti quit the mob after doing time for a strip club shakedown; he then survived four prosecutions that ended in mistrials. The Gotti crew’s Bergin Hunt & Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens, is gone, replaced by the Lords of Stitch and Print custom embroidery shop.

Even the Mafia “brand” is down: The recently-released movie with John Travolta playing the “Teflon Don” grossed a mere $4.3 million — hardly “Godfather” numbers.

“The American Mafia has a recruitment problem: Who the hell wants to be a member?” said mob expert Howard Abadinsky, professor of criminal justice at St. John’s.

The new generation is filled with wanna-bes “who have either seen too many Mafia movies or losers who do not have the smarts or ambition for legitimate opportunity,” he added.

The older generation was not always a Mensa meeting, either — and Gene Gotti was Example A.

By the early 1980s, Gene was partnered with pals John Carneglia and Angelo Ruggiero in a lucrative heroin operation that ignored a Mafia edict against dope dealing. Gambino boss Castellano imposed a death penalty for violators, worried that drug convictions with lengthy jail terms provided an incentive for mobsters to rat out the family’s top echelon.

Gotti and his cohorts not only ignored the decree, they were caught discussing their drug dealing on an FBI bug planted in Ruggiero’s home. “Dial any seven numbers and it's 50/50 Angelo will pick up the phone,” a disgusted Carneglia later observed of his chatty cohort.

For Mouw, the recordings that led to Gene Gotti’s August 1983 arrest altered the landscape for the feds and the felons under their watch. “Without those conversations, a lot of things could have changed,” he said.

Instead, Castellano was soon pressing the Gotti faction for the damning tapes turned over by prosecutors as part of pre-trial discovery. The boss’ demand was greeted with excuses and delays, until Castellano was whacked 10 days before Christmas outside a Midtown steakhouse.

Decades later, it’s too late to change anything — including Gene’s decision to reject a plea deal that might have freed him after just seven years in prison.

“His brother John said no,” recalled Mouw. “He and Carneglia, they would have been home 20 years ago.”

The past is the past. What does the future hold for Gene Gotti?

“That’s the big question,” said Mouw. “Are you going to retire and enjoy your grandchildren? Or are you going to get active, and return to jail?"

Thanks to Larry McShane.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Where the Mob Bodies, Bootleggers and Blackmailers are Buried in the Lurid History of Chicago’s Prohibition Gangsters

In 1981, an FBI team visited Donald Trump to discuss his plans for a casino in Atlantic City. Trump admitted to having ‘read in the press’ and ‘heard from acquaintances’ that the Mob ran Atlantic City. At the time, Trump’s acquaintances included his lawyer Roy Cohn, whose other clients included those charming New York businessmen Antony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano.

‘I’ve known some tough cookies over the years,’ Trump boasted in 2016. ‘I’ve known the people that make the politicians you and I deal with every day look like little babies.’ No one minded too much. Organised crime is a tapeworm in the gut of American commerce, lodged since Prohibition. The Volstead Act of January 1920 raised the cost of a barrel of beer from $3.50 to $55. By 1927, the profits from organised crime were $500 million in Chicago alone. The production, distribution and retailing of alcohol was worth $200 million. Gambling brought in $167 million. Another $133 million came from labour racketeering, extortion and brothel-keeping.

In 1920, Chicago’s underworld was divided between a South Side gang, led by the Italian immigrant ‘Big Jim’ Colosino, and the Irish and Jewish gangs on the North Side. Like many hands-on managers, Big Jim had trouble delegating, even when it came to minor tasks such as beating up nosy journalists. When the North Side gang moved into bootlegging, Colesino’s nephew John Torrio suggested that the South Side gang compete for a share of the profits. Colesino, fearing a turf war, refused. So Torrio murdered his uncle and started bootlegging.

Torrio was a multi-ethnic employer. Americans consider this a virtue, even among murderers. The Italian ‘Roxy’ Vanilli and the Irishman ‘Chicken Harry’ Cullet rubbed along just fine with ‘Jew Kid’ Grabiner and Mike ‘The Greek’ Potson — until someone said hello to someone’s else’s little friend.

Torrio persuaded the North Side leader Dean O’Banion to agree to a ‘master plan’ for dividing Chicago. The peace held for four years. While Torrio opened an Italian restaurant featuring an operatic trio, ‘refined cabaret’ and ‘1,000,000 yards of spaghetti’, O’Banion bought some Thompson submachine guns. A racketeering cartel could not be run like a railroad cartel. There was no transparency among tax-dodgers, no trust between thieves, and no ‘enforcement device’ other than enforcement.

In May 1924, O’Banion framed Torrio for a murder and set him up for a brewery raid. In November 1924, Torrio’s gunmen killed O’Banion as he was clipping chrysanthemums in his flower shop. Two months later, the North Side gang ambushed Torrio outside his apartment and clipped him five times at close range.

Torrio survived, but he took the hint and retreated to Italy. His protégé Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone took over the Chicago Outfit. The euphemists of Silicon Valley would call Al Capone a serial disrupter who liked breaking things. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, there had been more than 700 Mob killings in Chicago alone.

On St Valentine’s Day 1929, Capone’s men machine-gunned seven North Siders in a parking garage. This negotiation established the Chicago Outfit’s supremacy in Chicago, and cleared the way for another Torrio scheme. In May 1929, Torrio invited the top Italian, Jewish and Irish gangsters to a hotel in Atlantic City and suggested they form a national ‘Syndicate’. The rest is violence.

Is crime just another American business, a career move for entrepreneurial immigrants in a hurry? John J. Binder teaches business at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and has a sideline in the Mob history racket. He knows where the bodies are buried, and by whom. We need no longer err by confusing North Side lieutenant Earl ‘Hymie’ Weiss, who shot his own brother in the chest, with the North Side ‘mad hatter’ Louis ‘Diamond Jack’ Allerie, who was shot in the back by his own brother; or with the bootlegger George Druggan who, shot in the back, told the police that it was a self-inflicted wound. Anyone who still mixes them up deserves a punishment beating from the American Historical Association.

Binder does his own spadework, too. Digging into Chicago’s police archives, folklore, and concrete foundations, he establishes that Chicago’s mobsters pioneered the drive-by shooting. As the unfortunate Willie Dickman discovered on 3 September 1925, they were also the first to use a Thompson submachine gun for a ‘gangland hit’. Yet the Scarface image of the Thompson-touting mobster was a fiction. Bootleggers preferred the shotgun and assassins the pistol. Thompsons were used ‘sparingly’, like a niblick in golf.

Al Capone’s Beer Wars is a well-researched source book. Readers who never learnt to read nothing because they was schooled on the mean streets will appreciate Binder’s data graphs and mugshots. Not too shabby for a wise guy.

Thanks to Dominic Green.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Reviewing the History of @RealDonaldTrump and The Mob

As billionaire developer Donald Trump became the toast of New York in the 1980s, he often attributed his rise to salesmanship and verve. "Deals are my art form," he wrote. But there is another aspect to his success that he doesn't often discuss. Throughout his early career, Trump routinely gave large campaign contributions to politicians who held sway over his projects and he worked with mob-controlled companies and unions to build them.

Americans have rarely contemplated a candidate quite like Trump, 69, who has become the unlikely leader among Republican Party contenders for the White House. He's a brash Queens-born scion who navigated through one of the most corrupt construction industries in the country to become a brand-name business mogul.

Much has been written about his early career, but many details have been obscured by the passage of time and overshadowed by Trump's success and celebrity.

A Washington Post review of court records, testimony by Trump and other accounts that have been out of the public eye for decades offer insights into his rise. He was never accused of illegality, and observers of the time say that working with the mob-related figures and politicos came with the territory. Trump declined repeated requests to comment.

One state examination in the late 1980s of the New York City construction industry concluded that "official corruption is part of an environment in which developers and contractors cultivate and seek favors from public officials at all levels."

Trump gave so generously to political campaigns that he sometimes lost track of the amounts, documents show. In 1985 alone, he contributed about $150,000 to local candidates, the equivalent of $330,000 today.

Officials with the New York State Organized Crime Task Force later said that Trump, while not breaking any laws, "circumvented" state limits on individual and corporate contributions "by spreading his payments among eighteen subsidiary companies."

Trump alluded to his history of political giving in August this year, at the first Republican debate, bragging that he gave money with the confidence that he would get something in return. "I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me," he said. "And that's a broken system."

As he fed the political machine, he also had to work with unions and companies known to be controlled by New York's ruling mafia families, which had infiltrated the construction industry, according to court records, federal task force reports and newspaper accounts. No serious presidential candidate has ever had his depth of business relationships with the mob-controlled entities.

The companies included S & A Concrete Co., which supplied building material to the Trump Plaza on Manhattan's east side, court records show. S & A was owned by Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family. The men required that major multimillion-dollar construction projects obtain concrete through S & A at inflated prices, according to a federal indictment of Salerno and others.

Salerno eventually went to prison on federal racketeering, bid-rigging and other charges. His attorney, Roy Cohn, the former chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), was one of the most politically connected men in Manhattan. He was also Donald Trump's friend and occasionally his attorney. Cohn was never charged over any dealings with the mob, but he was disbarred shortly before his death in 1986 for ethical and financial improprieties.

"[T]he construction industry in New York City has learned to live comfortably with pervasive corruption and racketeering," according to "Corruption and Racketeering in the New York City Construction Industry," a 1990 report by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force. "Perhaps those with strong moral qualms were long ago driven from the industry; it would have been difficult for them to have survived. 'One has to go along to get along.' "

James B. Jacobs, the report's principal author, told The Post that Trump and other major developers at the time "had to adapt to that environment" or do business in another city. "That's not illegal, but you might say it's not a beautiful thing," said Jacobs, a law professor at New York University. "It was a very sick system."

Trump entered the real estate business full-time in 1968, following his graduation from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked in Queens with his father, Fred Trump, who owned a development firm with apartment buildings and other holdings across the country. Donald, who had worked part-time for the firm for years, learned the business from the inside.

When he joined his father, Donald Trump examined the books and found tens of millions of untapped equity. Trump urged his father to take on more debt and expand the business in Manhattan. "At age twenty-two the young baron's dreams had already begun to assume the dimensions of an empire," Jerome Tuccille wrote in a biography of Trump.

Donald Trump took over in 1971 and began cultivating the rich and powerful. He made regular donations to members of the city's Democratic machine. Mayors, borough presidents and other elected officials often were blunt in their requests for campaign cash and "loans," according to the commission on government integrity. Donald Trump later said that the richer he became, the more money he gave.

After a series of scandals not tied to Trump, campaign finance practices in the state came under scrutiny by the news media. In 1987, Gov. Mario Cuomo and New York Mayor Ed Koch appointed the state commission on government integrity and gave it subpoena power and a sweeping mandate to examine official corruption.

The commission created a database of state contribution records that previously had been kept haphazardly in paper files. It called on politicians and developers to explain the patterns of giving identified by the computer analysis.

Trump appeared one morning in March 1988, according to a transcript of his appearance obtained by The Post. He acknowledged that campaign contributions had been a routine part of his business for nearly two decades. He repeatedly told the commission he could not remember the details.

"In fact, in 1985 alone, your political contributions exceeded $150,000; is that correct?" Trump was asked. "I really don't know," he said. "I assume that is correct, yes."

A commission member said that Trump had made contributions through more than a dozen companies. "Why aren't these political contributions just made solely in your name?"

"Well, my attorneys basically said that this was the proper way of doing it," Trump said.

Trump told the commission that he also provided financial help to candidates in another way. In June 1985, he guaranteed a $50,000 loan for Andrew Stein, a Democrat who was running to be New York's City Council president. Six months later, Trump paid off the loan. "I was under the impression at the time it was made that I would be getting my money back," Trump told the commission. "And when were you disabused of that notion?" "When it was time to get my money back," Trump said.

Asked whether he considered such transactions as a "cost of doing business," Trump was equivocal. "I personally don't," he said. "But I can see that some people might very well feel that way, sir."

Stein told The Post he did not recall the loan, but he said developers were close to city officials at the time. "The Donald was a supporter, as well as a lot of the real estate people were," Stein said. "They have a huge interest in the city and have their needs."

Trump's donations were later cited by the organized crime task force's report as an example of the close financial relationships between developers and City Hall. "New York city real estate developers revealed how they were able to skirt the statutory proscriptions," the report said in a footnote. "Trump circumvented the State's $50,000 individual and $5,000 corporate contribution limits by spreading his payments among eighteen subsidiary companies."

Trump, then in his early 40s, said he made some donations to avoid hurting the feelings of friends, not to curry favor. "[Y]ou will have two or three friends running for the same office and they literally are all coming to you asking for help, and so it's a choice, give to nobody or give to everybody," according to his testimony at a 1988 hearing by the New York Commission on Government Integrity.

John Bienstock, the staff director of the Commission on Government Integrity at the time, recently told The Post that Trump took advantage of a loophole in the law. "They all did that," Bienstock said. "It inevitably leads to either the reality, or the perception, that approvals are being bought by political contributions."

As his ambitions expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, Trump had to contend with New York's Cosa Nostra in order to complete his projects. By the 1980s, crime families had a hand in all aspects of the contracting industry, including labor unions, government inspections, building supplies and trash carting.

"[O]rganized crime does not so much attack and subvert legitimate industry as exploit opportunities to work symbiotically with 'legitimate' industry so that 'everybody makes money,' " according to the organized crime task force report. "Organized crime and other labor racketeers have been entrenched in the building trades for decades."

In New York City, the mafia families ran what authorities called the "concrete club," a cartel of contractors that rigged bids and squelched competition from outsiders. They controlled the Cement and Concrete Workers union and used members to enforce their rules.

Nearly every major project in Manhattan during that period was built with mob involvement, according to court records and the organized crime task force report. That includes Trump Tower, the glittering 58-story skyscraper on Fifth Avenue, which was made of reinforced concrete.

"Using concrete, however, put Donald at the mercy of a legion of concrete racketeers," according to "Trump: The Deals and the Downfall" by investigative journalist Wayne Barrett.

For three years, the project's fate rested in part with the Teamsters Local 282, the members of which delivered the concrete. Leading the union was John Cody, who "was universally acknowledged to be the most significant labor racketeer preying on the construction industry in New York," according to documents cited by the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice in 1989. Using his power to disrupt or shut down major projects, Cody extracted millions in "labor peace payoffs" from contractors, the documents said.

"Donald liked to deal with me through Roy Cohn," Cody said, according to Barrett.

Trump was subpoenaed by federal investigators in 1980 and asked to describe his relationship with Cody, who had allegedly promised to keep the project on track in exchange for an apartment in Trump Tower. Trump "emphatically denied" making such a trade, Barrett wrote.

Cody was later convicted on racketeering and tax-evasion charges.

The mob also played a role in the construction of Trump Plaza, the luxury apartment building on Manhattan's east side. The $7.8 million deal for concrete was reserved for S & A Concrete and its owners, court records show. The crime families did not advertise their role in S & A and the other contractors. But it was well known in the industry.

"They had to know about it," according to Jacobs, the lawyer who served on the organized crime task force. "Everybody knew about it."

While these building projects were underway in the early 1980s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York authorities carried out an unprecedented investigation of the five New York crime families. Investigators relied on informants, court-authorized wiretaps and eavesdropping gear. Over five years, they gathered hundreds of hours of conversations proving the mob's reach into the construction industry.

On Feb. 26, 1985, Salerno and 14 others were indicted on an array of criminal activity, including conspiracy, extortion and "infiltration of ostensibly legitimate businesses involved in selling ready-mix concrete in New York City," the federal indictment said. Among the projects cited was Trump Plaza. Salerno and all but one of the others received terms of 100 years in prison.

Trump also dealt with mob figures in Atlantic City, where he was pressing to go into the casino business, according to court records, gaming commission reports and news accounts. One of these figures, Kenny Shapiro, was a former scrap metal dealer in Philadelphia turned real estate developer on the Jersey Shore. Shapiro also was an associate of the Scarfo crime organization, serving as a financier of mob activities in south Jersey and Philadelphia, according to a report by New Jersey authorities.

Shapiro worked closely with Daniel Sullivan, a Teamster who also was an FBI informant, documents show. Trump's brother once described him as a "labor consultant" on Trump projects in New York.

Shapiro and Sullivan leased land to Trump for the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. They also agreed to help bankroll the campaign of a Michael Matthews, a mayoral candidate the mob considered to be friendly to its interests. Matthews was elected, but he later went to prison on extortion charges related to an FBI sting operation and a $10,000 bribe.

After questions surfaced about the mob's possible involvement in Trump's proposal, the state gaming commission delayed approval of Trump's casino license and eventually told him to buy the land outright to avoid trouble. In commission hearings, Trump defended Shapiro and Sullivan, according to "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald."

"I don't think there's anything wrong with these people," he said. "Most of them have been in Atlantic City for many, many years and I think they are well thought of."

Records show Trump was aware of mob involvement in Atlantic City. In confidential conversations with FBI agents who contacted him about his casino deal, Trump said "he had read in the press media and had heard from various acquaintances that Organized Crime elements were known to operate in Atlantic City," according to a copy of a an FBI memo obtained by the Smoking Gun.

Trump told the FBI that "he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City but he did not want to tarnish his family name."

Thanks to Robert O'Harrow Jr..

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Here's What's Known about @realDonaldTrump's Reputed Mob Ties

In his signature book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license. But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.

Why did Trump get his casino license anyway?
Why didn’t investigators look any harder?
And how deep did his connections to criminals really go?

These questions ate at me as I wrote about Atlantic City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and then went more deeply into the issues in a book, Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business. In all, I’ve covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime. Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory. In an April 27 phone call to respond to my questions for this story, Trump told me he did not recall many of the events recounted in this article and they “were a long time ago.” He also said that I had “sometimes been fair, sometimes not” in writing about him, adding “if I don’t like what you write, I’ll sue you.”
I’m not the only one who has picked up signals over the years. Wayne Barrett, author of a 1992 investigative biography of Trump’s real-estate dealings, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention, has tied Trump to mob and mob-connected men.

No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

This is part of the Donald Trump story that few know. As Barrett wrote in his book, Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn, in a meeting recounted by a Cohn staffer who told Barrett she was present. This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business.

From the public record and published accounts like that one, it’s possible to assemble a clear picture of what we do know. The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.

Now that he’s running for president, I pulled together what’s known – piecing together the long history of federal filings, court records, biographical anecdotes, and research from my and Barrett’s files. What emerges is a pattern of business dealings with mob figures—not only local figures, but even the son of a reputed Russian mob boss whom Trump had at his side at a gala Trump hotel opening, but has since claimed under oath he barely knows.

Neither Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Hope Hicks, nor Jason Greenblatt, the executive vice president and chief legal officer at the Trump Organization, responded to several emailed requests for comment on the issues raised in this article.

Here, as close as we can get to the truth, is what really happened.

After graduating in 1968 from the University of Pennsylvania, a rich young man from the outer boroughs of New York City sought his fortune on the island of Manhattan. Within a few years Donald J. Trump had made friends with the city’s most notorious fixer, lawyer Roy Cohn, who had become famous as lead counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Among other things Cohn was now a mob consigliere, with clients including “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, the most powerful Mafia group in New York, and Paul Castellano, head of what was said to be the second largest family, the Gambinos.

This business connection proved useful when Trump began work on what would become Trump Tower, the 58-story high-rise where he still lives when he’s not at his Florida estate.

There was something a little peculiar about the construction of Trump Tower, and subsequent Trump projects in New York. Most skyscrapers are steel girder construction, and that was especially true in the 1980s, says John Cross of the American Iron & Steel Institute. Some use pre-cast concrete. Trump chose a costlier and in many ways riskier method: ready-mix concrete. Ready-mix has some advantages: it can speed up construction, and doesn’t require costly fireproofing. But it must be poured quickly or it will harden in the delivery truck drums, ruining them as well as creating costly problems with the building itself. That leaves developers vulnerable to the unions: the worksite gate is union controlled, so even a brief labor slowdown can turn into an expensive disaster.

Salerno, Castellano and other organized crime figures controlled the ready-mix business in New York, and everyone in construction at the time knew it. So did government investigators trying to break up the mob, urged on by major developers such as the LeFrak and Resnick families. Trump ended up not only using ready-mix concrete, but also paying what a federal indictment of Salerno later concluded were inflated prices for it – repeatedly – to S & A Concrete, a firm Salerno and Castellano owned through fronts, and possibly to other mob-controlled firms. As Barrett noted, by choosing to build with ready-mix concrete rather than other materials, Trump put himself “at the mercy of a legion of concrete racketeers.”

Salerno and Castellano and other mob families controlled both the concrete business and the unions involved in delivering and pouring it. The risks this created became clear from testimony later by Irving Fischer, the general contractor who built Trump Tower. Fischer said concrete union “goons” once stormed his offices, holding a knife to throat of his switchboard operator to drive home the seriousness of their demands, which included no-show jobs during construction of Trump Tower. But with Cohn as his lawyer, Trump apparently had no reason to personally fear Salerno or Castellano—at least, not once he agreed to pay inflated concrete prices. What Trump appeared to receive in return was union peace. That meant the project would never face costly construction or delivery delays.

The indictment on which Salerno was convicted in 1988 and sent to prison, where he died, listed the nearly $8 million contract for concrete at Trump Plaza, an East Side high-rise apartment building, as one of the acts establishing that S &A was part of a racketeering enterprise. (While the concrete business was central to the case, the trial also proved extortion, narcotics, rigged union elections and murders by the Genovese and Gambino crime families in what Michael Chertoff, the chief prosecutor, called “the largest and most vicious criminal business in the history of the United States.'')

FBI agents subpoenaed Trump in 1980 to ask about his dealing with John Cody, a Teamsters official described by law enforcement as a very close associate of the Gambino crime family. The FBI believed that Cody previously had obtained free apartments from other developers. FBI agents suspected that Cody, who controlled the flow of concrete trucks, might get a free Trump Tower apartment. Trump denied it. But a female friend of Cody’s, a woman with no job who attributed her lavish lifestyle to the kindness of friends, bought three Trump Tower apartments right beneath the triplex where Donald lived with his wife Ivana. Cody stayed there on occasion and invested $500,000 in the units. Trump, Barrett reported, helped the woman get a $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials.

In the summer of 1982 Cody, then under indictment, ordered a citywide strike—but the concrete work continued at Trump Tower. After Cody was convicted of racketeering, imprisoned and lost control of the union, Trump sued the woman for $250,000 for alteration work. She countersued for $20 million and in court papers accused Trump of taking kickbacks from contractors, asserting this could “be the basis of a criminal proceeding requiring an attorney general’s investigation” into Trump. Trump then quickly settled, paying the woman a half-million dollars. Trump said at the time and since then that he hardly knew those involved and there was nothing improper his dealings with Cody or the woman.

There were other irregularities in Trump’s first big construction project. In 1979, when Trump hired a demolition contractor to take down the Bonwit Teller department store to make way for Trump Tower, he hired as many as 200 non-union men to work alongside about 15 members of the House Wreckers Union Local 95. The non-union workers were mostly illegal Polish immigrants paid $4 to $6 per hour with no benefits, far below the union contract. At least some of them did not use power tools but sledgehammers, working 12 hours a day or more and often seven days a week. Known as the “Polish brigade,” many didn’t wear hard hats. Many slept on the construction site.

Normally the use of nonunion workers at a union job site would have guaranteed a picket line. Not at this site, however. Work proceeded because the Genovese family principally controlled the union; this was demonstrated by extensive testimony, documents and convictions in federal trials, as well as a later report by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force.

When the Polish workers and a union dissident sued for their pay and benefits, Trump denied any knowledge that illegal workers without hard hats were taking down Bonwit with sledgehammers. The trial, however, demonstrated otherwise: Testimony showed that Trump panicked when the nonunion Polish men threatened a work stoppage because they had not been paid. Trump turned to Daniel Sullivan, a labor fixer and FBI informant, who told him to fire the Polish workers.

Trump knew the Polish brigade was composed of underpaid illegal immigrants and that S&A was a mob-owned firm, according to Sullivan and others. "Donald told me that he was having his difficulties and he admitted to me that — seeking my advice — that he had some illegal Polish employees on the job. I reacted by saying to Donald that 'I think you are nuts,'" Sullivan testified at the time. "I told him to fire them promptly if he had any brains." In an interview later, Sullivan told me the same thing.

In 1991, a federal judge, Charles E. Stewart Jr., ruled that Trump had engaged in a conspiracy to violate a fiduciary duty, or duty of loyalty, to the workers and their union and that the “breach involved fraud and the Trump defendants knowingly participated in his breach.” The judge did not find Trump’s testimony to be sufficiently credible and set damages at $325,000. The case was later settled by negotiation, and the agreement was sealed.

While Trump’s buildings were going up in Manhattan, he was entering a highly regulated industry in New Jersey – one that had the responsibility, and the means, to investigate him and bring the facts to light.

From the beginning, Trump tried to have it both ways. While he leveraged Roy Cohn’s mob contacts in New York, he was telling the FBI he wanted nothing to do with organized crime in Atlantic City, and even proposed putting an undercover FBI agent in his casinos. In April of 1981, when he was considering building a New Jersey casino, he expressed concern about his reputation in a meeting with the FBI, according to an FBI document in my possession and which the site Smoking Gun also posted. “Trump advised Agents that he had read in the press media and had heard from various acquaintances that Organized Crime elements were known to operate in Atlantic City,” the FBI recorded. “Trump also expressed at this meeting the reservation that his life and those around him would be subject to microscopic examination. Trump advised that he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City but he did not wish to tarnish his family’s name.”

Part of the licensing process was supposed to be a deep investigation into his background, taking more than a year for would-be casino owners, but Trump managed to cut that short. As he told the story in Trump: The Art of the Deal, in 1981 he threatened to not build in Atlantic City unless New Jersey’s attorney general, John Degnan, limited the investigation to six months. Degnan was worried that Trump might someday get approval for a casino at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, which could have crushed Atlantic City’s lucrative gaming industry, so Degnan agreed to Trump’s terms. Trump seemingly paid Degnan back by becoming an ardent foe of gambling anywhere in the East except Atlantic City—a position that obviously protected his newfound business investment as well, of course.

Trump was required to disclose any investigations in which he might have been involved in the past, even if they never resulted in charges. Trump didn’t disclose a federal grand jury inquiry into how he obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan. The failure to disclose either that inquiry or the Cody inquiry probably should have disqualified Trump from receiving a license under the standards set by the gaming authorities.

Once Trump was licensed in 1982, critical facts that should have resulted in license denial began emerging in Trump’s own books and in reports by Barrett—an embarrassment for the licensing commission and state investigators, who were supposed to have turned these stones over. Forced after the fact to look into Trump’s connections, the two federal investigations he failed to reveal and other matters, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement investigators circled the wagons to defend their work. First they dismissed as unreliable what mobsters, corrupt union bosses and Trump’s biggest customer, among others, had said to Barrett, to me and other journalists and filmmakers about their dealings with Trump. The investigators’ reports showed that they then put Trump under oath. Trump denied any misconduct or testified that he could not remember. They took him at his word. That meant his casino license was secure even though others in the gambling industry, including low-level licensees like card dealers, had been thrown out for far less.

This lapse illustrated a fundamental truth about casino regulation at the time: Once the state licensed an owner, the Division of Gaming Enforcement had a powerful incentive not to overturn its initial judgment. State officials recited like a mantra their promise that New Jersey casinos were the most highly regulated business in American history, more tightly regulated than nuclear power plants. In Temples of Chance, I showed that this reputation often owed less to careful enforcement than to their willingness to look the other way when problems arose.

In 1986, three years after Trump Tower opened, Roy Cohn was disbarred for attempting to steal from a client, lying and other conduct that an appellate court found “particularly reprehensible.” Trump testified that Cohn, who was dying from AIDS, was a man of good character who should keep his license to practice law.

This was not the only time Trump went to bat publicly for a criminal. He has also spoken up for Shapiro and Sullivan. And then there was the case of Joseph Weichselbaum, an embezzler who ran Trump’s personal helicopter service and ferried his most valued clientele. Trump and Weichselbaum were so close, Barrett reported in his book, that Weichselbaum told his parole officer about how he knew Trump was hiding his mistress, Marla Maples, from his first wife, Ivana, and tried to persuade Trump to end their years-long affair.

Trump’s casinos retained Weichselbaum’s firm to fly high rollers to Atlantic City. Weichselbaum was indicted in Ohio on charges of trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. The head of one of Trump’s casinos was notified of the indictment in October 1985, but Trump continued using Weichselbaum—conduct that again could have cost Trump his casino license had state regulators pressed the matter, because casino owners were required to distance themselves from any hint of crime. Just two months later Trump rented an apartment he owned in the Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan to the pilot and his brother for $7,000 a month in cash and flight services. Trump also continued paying Weichselbaum’s firm even after it went bankrupt.

Weichselbaum, who in 1979 had been caught embezzling and had to repay the stolen money, pleaded guilty to two felonies. Donald Trump vouched for Weichselbaum before his sentencing, writing that the drug trafficker is “a credit to the community” who was “conscientious, forthright, and diligent.” And while Weichselbaum’s confederates got as many as 20 years, Weichselbaum himself got only three, serving 18 months before he was released from the urban prison that the Bureau of Prisons maintains in New York City. In seeking early release, Weichselbaum said Trump had a job waiting for him.

Weichselbaum then moved into Trump Tower, his girlfriend having recently bought two adjoining apartments there for $2.4 million. The cash purchase left no public record of whether any money actually changed hands or, if it did, where it came from. I asked Trump at the time for documents relating to the sale; he did not respond.

As a casino owner, Trump could have lost his license for associating with Weichselbaum. Trump has never been known to use drugs or even drink. What motivated him to risk his valuable license by standing up for a drug trafficker remains unclear to this day. Trump, in his phone call to me, said he “hardly knew” Weichselbaum.

The facts above come from court records, interviews and other documents in my own files and those generously made available by Barrett, who was the first journalist to take a serious investigative look at Trump. Our files show Trump connected in various deals to many other mobsters and wise guys.

There was, for example, Felix Sater, a senior Trump advisor and son of a reputed Russian mobster, whom Trump kept on long after he was convicted in a mob-connected stock swindle. And there was Bob Libutti, a racehorse swindler who was quite possibly Trump’s biggest customer at the casino tables at the time. Libutti told me and others about arrangements that went beyond the “comps”—free hotel rooms and services, for example—that casinos can legally give to high-rollers. Among these was a deal to sell Trump a less-than-fit horse at the inflated price of $500,000, though Trump backed out at the last minute. Libutti accused Trump of making an improper $250,000 payment to him, which would have cost Trump his license. The DGE dismissed Libutti as unreliable and took Trump at his word when he denied the allegations. (Libutti was a major figure in my 1992 book Temples of Chance.)

Some of the dealings came at a remove. In Atlantic City, Trump built on property where mobsters controlled parts of the adjoining land needed for parking. He paid $1.1 million for about a 5,000-square-foot lot that had been bought five years earlier for just $195,000. The sellers were Salvy Testa and Frank Narducci Jr., a pair of hitmen for Atlantic City mob boss Nicky Scarfo who were known as the Young Executioners. For several adjoining acres, Trump ignored the principal owner of record and instead negotiated directly in a deal that also likely ended up benefiting the Scarfo mob. Trump arranged a 98-year lease deal with Sullivan, the FBI informant and labor fixer, and Ken Shapiro, described in government reports as Scarfo’s “investment banker.” Eventually the lease was converted into a sale after the Division of Gaming Enforcement objected to Sullivan and Shapiro being Trump’s landlords.

Trump later boasted in a sworn affidavit in a civil case that he made the deals himself, his “unique contribution” making the land deals possible. In formal hearings Trump later defended Sullivan and Shapiro as “well thought of.” Casino regulators thought otherwise, and banned Sullivan and Shapiro from the casino industry. But the Casino Control Commission was never asked to look into FBI reports that Trump was involved, via Shapiro, in the payoffs at the time of the land deals that resulted in Mayor Michael Mathews going to prison.

Thanks in part to the laxity of New Jersey gaming investigators, Trump has never had to address his dealings with mobsters and swindlers head-on. For instance, Barrett reported in his book that Trump was believed to have met personally with Salerno at Roy Cohn’s townhouse; he found that there were witnesses to the meeting, one of whom kept detailed notes on all of Cohn’s contacts. But instead of looking for the witnesses (one of whom had died) and the office diary one kept, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) took an easier path. They put Trump under oath and asked if he had ever attended such a meeting. Trump denied it. The inquiry ended.

Taking Trump at his word that he never met with the mobsters in Cohn’s townhouse saved the casino investigators from having to acknowledge their earlier failure—that from the start, they had never properly investigated Trump and his connections to criminals. They certainly had the leverage to push harder if they chose. Indeed, two of the five Casino Control commissioners in 1991 declared that the DGE showed official favoritism to Trump. Commissioner David Waters complained that DGE did not go nearly far enough in seeking a $30,000 fine against Trump for taking an illegal loan from his father, which could be grounds to revoke Trump’s casino licenses. Waters called it “an outrage that the Division of Gaming Enforcement would take this position and fail to carry out what I understand to be its responsibility to enforce the provisions of the Casino Control Act.”

Even after he got his license, Trump continued to have relationships that should have prompted inquiries. For example, he made a deal to have Cadillacs dolled up with fancy interiors and exteriors beginning in 1988, marketing them as Trump Golden Series and Trump Executive Series limousines. The modifications were made at the Dillinger Coach Works, which was owned by a pair of convicted felons, convicted extortionist Jack Schwartz and convicted thief John Staluppi, who was so close to mobsters that he was invited to the wedding of a mob capo’s daughter. New York liquor regulators proved tougher than those in New Jersey, denying Staluppi, a rich car dealer, a license because of his rap sheet and his extensive dealings with mobsters, as Barrett’s former reporting partner Bill Bastone found in public records. So why did Trump repeatedly do business with mob owned businesses and mob-controlled unions? Why go down the aisle with an expensive mobbed-up concrete firm when other options were available?

“Why’d Donald do it?” Barrett said when I put the question to him. “Because he saw these mob guys as pathways to money, and Donald is all about money.” From a $400 million tax giveaway on his first big project, to getting a casino license, to collecting fees for putting his name on everything from bottled water and buildings to neckties and steaks, Trump’s life has been dedicated to the next big score. Through Cohn, Trump made choices that—gratuitously, it appears—resulted in his first known business dealings with mob-controlled companies and unions, a pattern that continued long after Cohn died.

What Trump has to say about the reasons for his long, close and wide-ranging dealings with organized crime figures, with the role of mobsters in cheating Trump Tower workers, his dealings with Felix Sater and Trump’s seeming leniency for Weichselbaum, are questions that voters deserve full answers about before casting their ballots.

Thanks to David Cay Johnston.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Good Rat - A True Story

Jimmy Breslin stared helplessly out the window of his office in The Daily News one afternoon in the 1970s, seeking inspiration — through a haze of cigar smoke — from the nondescript facade of a building across 42nd Street.

He betrayed no visible brain activity, not even a flicker of the genius that infused his columns, one of which was close to being overdue. I know because I was his anxious editor. But his blank stare was an illusion. Mr. Breslin was eavesdropping. He was mining a rich lode of gossip from his assistant, Ann Marie, who was chatting on the telephone outside his office door.

Mr. Breslin is a very good listener. Almost imperceptibly, his head began to turn until he finally fixed his gaze on Ann Marie, and in one of those unheralded but defining moments in journalism, a series of columns about the underside of life in the Big City — with the names changed to protect the guilty and Mr. Breslin himself — was born.

In “The Good Rat: A True Story” (Ecco Press), Mr. Breslin recalls another of his eureka moments, which took place in a Brooklyn courtroom where he had gone to research a book about two cops turned Mafia hit men. One was fat and sad-eyed, the other thin and listless.

“Am I going to write 70,000 words about these two?” Mr. Breslin asked himself. “Rather I lay brick.” But when the trial started two years ago, he recalls, an unknown name on the prosecution witness list “turns the proceeding into something that thrills: the autobiography of Burton Kaplan, criminal.” Mr. Breslin had found his subject, a Brooklyn Tech dropout, father of a judge, who was “a great merchant, too great, and after he sold everything that did belong to him, he sold things that did not.”

And lucky for us. His book ingeniously synthesizes Burton Kaplan’s bizarre biography, his testimony, and Mr. Breslin’s memoirs of his own earlier exploits and encounters with characters who punctuated his columns but are mostly dead, imprisoned, or hidden in witness protection programs.

“You can drink with legitimate people if you want,” Mr. Breslin writes of his social circle, adding that he is a product of nights when the mobster Fat Tony Salerno looked around the Copacabana, scowled at him and asked, “ ‘Didn’t you go where I told you to?’ ”

Where had Mr. Breslin been told to go? That morning, he had encountered Mr. Salerno at a court engagement where the mobster complained, “You look like a bum,” and slipped him an East Side tailor’s business card.

“Tell him you want a suit made right away so you don’t make me ashamed I know you,” Mr. Salerno ordered.

The book is cleverly constructed, opening with an annotated cast of characters, and it delivers canny anthropological insights into organized crime (“The feds soon realized all they had to do was follow guys who kiss each other and they’d know the whole Mafia”). Mr. Breslin also criticizes John Gotti for having “violated New York’s revered rush-hour rules when he had Paul Castellano killed in the middle of it.”

Mr. Breslin’s account of a victim who was killed by mistake belies the idea that there are no innocent bystanders. And every page reveals his talent for putting a twinkle in your mind’s eye (the lawyer Bruce Cutler wore “a light khaki summer suit that could have used 10 pounds less to cover”). The book is Jimmy Breslin at his best.

Thanks to Sam Roberts

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

MAFIA-PEDIA - The Government's Secret Files on Organized Crime

The government has opened an old treasure trove of information on some 800 gangland goons who wielded power during the Mafia's Golden Age - a virtual Social Register of the worst sociopaths to have packed a silenced pistol, wielded an ice pick or driven a getaway car in a sharkskin suit.

The dossiers, complete with black-and-white photos, chronicle the backgrounds of wiseguys ranging from mob bosses Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Sam Giancana and "Crazy Joe" Gallo to lesser lights like Al Capone's two-bit hoodlum brothers.

The files read like single-page snapshots of the mobsters' lives - their aliases and detailed physical descriptions, from distinguishing scars, tattoos and facial tics to styles of dress, home addresses, arrest histories and family trees - and even the names of mistresses.

Also revealed are the legitimate businesses they owned and their preferred leisure haunts - racetracks, prizefights, nightclubs and favorite restaurants - as well as an overview of the criminal status each man held within the larger Mafia firmament.

The 944 pages of material - featured in the book "Mafia: The Government's Secret File on Organized Crime,"from HarperCollins - was mined from the raw intelligence gathered by agents of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, a forerunner of today's Drug Enforcement Administration.

The cavalcade of hoods includes two men named Frank Paul Dragna, the son and nephew of one-time Los Angeles Mafia kingpin Jack Dragna.

The first Frank is known as "One Eye," the second "Two Eye," to distinguish the cousin with the glass right eye.

Entrants are listed by state, and New York, with more than 350 wiseguys, overwhelmingly leads the pack. A multitude of others resided in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan. There are groupings of gangsters from Canada, France and Italy, as well.

The index cross-references each racketeer by nickname, many of them hilarious.

There's "The Old Man" (there are, actually, three), "The Bald Head," "Hunchback Harry," "Schnozzola" (he has a large nose), "Mickey Mouse" (he has large ears), "Slim," three people dubbed "Cockeyed," as well as four "Fats" and a "Fat Artie," "Fat Freddie," "Fat Sonny" and "Fat Tony" for good measure.

There's "Big Al," "Big Frank" (two), "Big Freddy," "Big John," "Big Larry," "Big Mike" (two), "Big Nose Larry," "Big Pat," "Big Phil," "Big Sam," "Big Sol," "Big Yok" - even a "Mr. Big."

Thanks to Phillip Messing

Monday, April 18, 2011

Joseph Massino Testifies That Mob Commission is Extinct

A former mob boss has testified that the infamous Mafia "commission" glamourized in Hollywood films hasn't had a meeting in 25 years.

Ex-Bonanno crime family chieftain Joseph Massino made the claim this week while testifying for the prosecution in a murder trial in Brooklyn.

For decades during the mob's heyday, the leaders of New York City's five major crime families held occasional summits to lay down rules and settle disputes. But Massino says these commission meetings stopped happening after Gambino boss Paul Castellano was assassinated outside a Manhattan restaurant in 1985, and the heads of the other families went to prison for racketeering.

"There ain't no commission," Massino told a jury, although he acknowledged that top leaders of the crime rings do get together to talk shop now and again.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

John Gotti, Father and Godfather

For the first time ever, John Gotti's children, Angel, Victoria and Peter, speak openly about a life shrouded in secrecy and reveal what they knew about the mafia in an exclusive interview with "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Troy Roberts.

"I loved the man… but I loathed the life, his lifestyle," said Victoria Gotti. "Prosecutors say my father was the biggest crime boss in the nation... If you really want to know what John Gotti was like, you need to talk to my family. We lived this life…

"I think I realized early on that my family wasn't like other families…
Growing up, my parents tried to hide a lot of things from me…from all of us…

"I think you grow up scared, anxious all the time…" she said.

"I used to get up as a young boy and I used to get excited when I would go and see that my father was alive," said Peter Gotti. "When I would hear him snore, I’d know he made it home."

"We didn’t talk back to my father. We didn’t ask him, 'Did you kill anyone?'" said Angel Gotti.

"I didn’t know his life…I didn’t know his lifestyle," said Peter. "Honestly, I was just a kid that wanted to love his father."

"The public saw my father right out of central casting. He looked the part, acted the part… he was the part! The real life Godfather," said Victoria. "People treat him like he was the second coming of Christ!

"It was very difficult for me to look into these crimes that he was accused of committing… I was angry at everybody for lying to me," she said.

"Do I believe now that my father was this big boss? Yes, I do now," Angel concedes.

"Should I lie and say I don’t love him? We loved him. And that's really all we should have been held accountable for. We just wanna move on," said Victoria.

Now, their brother, John "Junior" Gotti, is on trial again. If convicted, he could face life behind bars.

"My brother John’s life is on the line…like my father. John was a player in that world… but John is not in that courtroom," said Victoria. "I believe that it’s the last name Gotti. It’s definitely Dad."

"It does not mean that a child has to answer for his father’s sins," said Peter.

"Now it’s time to set the record straight," said Victoria. "No one knows John Gotti better than his family does. Nobody. And we’re ready to talk about it. We’re ready to talk about him… finally.

They are images the public has never seen before: the private, treasured photographs and home videos belonging to the children of mob boss John Gotti - a man who once ran the largest organized crime syndicate in the country; a man convicted of multiple counts of murder.

"You don’t want to believe it. And when you love that person, it makes it so much more hard," said Victoria Gotti.

For the first time, the Mafia chieftain's daughters, Victoria and Angel, and his son, Peter, are talking openly about the life they’ve always kept secret… and no question is off limits.

"How difficult is it to accept that your own father either directly or indirectly killed people?" correspondent Troy Roberts asked John Gotti's youngest daughter.

"When you choose that life, I think you know what you're signing on for…," Victoria said. "I think he knew going in what was expected of him. What he would have to do. What it would cost him. And I don't think he cared. I think that all goes along with that life."

"Why do you call it the life?" asked Roberts.
"Because, mostly it’s called the life," Victoria replied.
"No one ever says, 'I’m in the mob?'" Roberts asked.
"No. It’s always the life."

Victoria has never spoken about "the life" publicly, but in her new book, "This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti," she's finally talking about what it was really like growing up Gotti.

When asked why she decided now to write a tell-all, she said, "It got personal. I woke up one day and said, 'Enough's enough.' There were so many things that had to be addressed as far as rumors, lies, gossip."

Victoria talked to her father about the possibility of writing a book before he died.

"'If you ever write that book,' he said, 'You write it as your life. One thing I ask that you do… Don't you ever look to make me out to be an altar boy, because I wasn't.'"

But when Victoria and her siblings were children, it's clear that John Gotti never wanted them to know that side of him.

"He just took everything to another extreme," said Gotti's youngest son, Peter. "I remember getting excited about going to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. He would talk for a half an hour, 45 minutes, about how he just wanted to get them chestnuts. You can't even find roasted chestnuts anymore. But he was so excited he would talk like a little kid."

"He was a very funny. People don't know that. He was very funny," said Angel, Gotti's firstborn. But mixed in with the fun, were the lies - like what he told his children he did for a living. "He told me that he worked in a construction crew. I asked where he was going and he would say he was off to somewhere to build a school or a building," Victoria told Roberts.

They believed him, but the truth was that all John Gotti had ever wanted to be was a mobster. He had grown up one of 11 children - raised in Brooklyn by an abusive father and an overwhelmed mother. He quickly embraced a life of crime and violence, working for local gangsters and building a rap sheet.

"This is where he came from," Victoria explained. "These men were the men that were respected. This was something he saw early on and made up his mind that this was what he was going to do. This is what he was going to be. And he never saw anything wrong in that."

In 1958, the future Don was in a local bar where he met Victoria DiGiorgio. He was instantly smitten. Their affair produced a daughter, Angel, and in 1962, they were married. Gotti didn't earn much as a low-level mobster, and they struggled, "facing eviction month, after month, after month," according to Victoria.

Later that year, Victoria was born.

"Mom went into labor unexpectantly. I was early," she explained. "Mom, she said, 'They basically said to your father, "You can come back and pick up mother and child when you pay up the bill." At that time they didn’t have any monies. He comes back late, late that night - literally broke into the hospital. He scooped me up. He helped my mother down the stairs. They hobbled out. They had a good 13-block walk, it was freezing. They had no money for a cab or a bus ride and years later, my dad swore we bonded during that walk."

Two years later, the Gotti's son, John, was born, followed by Frankie. Despite the needs of his growing family, Gotti spent most of his time out of the house, getting into trouble. Victoria said her parents often fought over money and that her mother "was always fearful of the uncertainty."

In 1969, Victoria was just starting grade school, when her father was convicted for hijacking cargo from Kennedy airport and was sent to a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania for three years. As strange as it sounds, his children had no idea their father was in prison, even when they went to visit him.

"We used to go to prison to see him, and my uncle would be in the same prison. And we really didn't know that he was in prison," Angel told Roberts.

She explained that her mother told the children their father was working. "I remember driving to Pennsylvania. And there would be the big, giant wall. And we’d say, you know, 'Why is that wall… Oh! He built that wall.' I said, 'Wow, he built that big wall.' [And we'd ask] 'And Uncle Angelo, too?' 'Yeah.' We believed it."

When they were home in Brooklyn, Victoria tried to be just like all the other kids. But at the age of 7, she finally found out the truth about her father.

"I went to school and we had to write an essay [about] who our heroes were. And most kids chose their fathers. And I wrote like the other kids, you know, my dad is a construction worker and he builds tall buildings. So I took my place in the front of the room and I started to read this report. And there was a young girl in the back. She yells out, 'Her father’s not, you know, a construction worker. Her father’s a jailbird. He’s in jail.' She had heard it from her parents at the dinner table. She blurted everything that she could out. The fact that he had gone to jail before, that he wasn’t coming home. I remember just standing there in front of that room. It was like, 'Wow - what is she talking about?'' But it made sense to me. And I remember the class laughing at me and I got so upset, so nervous that I just peed on the floor. I'll never forget the teacher. She made me, in front of the kids, get on my hands and knees and clean up the mess."

Victoria asked her mother for the truth.

"I said to her something like, 'Is Daddy really in jail?' She had said to me, 'Sometimes people do bad things. Sometimes they need to pay for these things that they do.' And I remember looking at her and saying, 'Where’s my father? Is he in jail or is he working?' And she looked at me and she said, 'He is in jail.' And those words, I remember they just haunted me for days, nights, weeks, months. All I kept hearing was my mother's words, 'He is in jail.'"

The charade was finally over.

Learning that her father was in jail was Victoria Gotti's first indication that he lived a secret life. "I would lay awake nights and cry a lot thinking, is my dad gonna come home? Is he gonna go to jail again? Is he going to get killed?"

She was right to be afraid. Outside the home, John Gotti lived in a violent world.

In 1973, Gotti was sent to do a personal favor for the Godfather himself, Carlo Gambino. His orders: find the man thought to be involved in the kidnapping and murder of his nephew. At Snoopes Bar in Staten Island, Gotti and his partners confronted James McBratney, who was shot and killed. Although he was not the triggerman, Gotti went to prison, this time for attempted manslaughter.

By the time Victoria reached her early teens, her father had been incarcerated or on the lam for nearly half her life. But the McBratney hit was a big break in Gotti’s career. When he was released from prison in 1977, he was officially inducted into "the life," becoming a made man in the Mafia.

"He had earned his way. He had earned his keep," Victoria explained. "And that really started the rise in that life."

Living that life meant more time spent out of the house, either in his headquarters, called a social club, or out on the town. Gotti’s wife, Victoria, didn't like it one bit.

"She would do crazy things, my mother. One time she sent his armoire to his club," Angel told Roberts.

"As if to say don’t come back?" he asked. "Yeah, 'Here's your clothes, take them.'"

When they weren't fighting, the Gottis were enjoying the fruits of his newfound status. They were now living at a house in Howard Beach, Queens. Angel was 18 when she first got an inkling of how others really saw her father.

"I was dating someone from Ozone Park. He says to me, 'You know - your father’s really, he’s feared. He’s the toughest guy in this neighborhood.' And I’m like, "OK."

All the Gotti children - even Peter, the youngest - would have a moment when they discovered their father had a reputation.

"I was 12 years old. I remember I had a crush and I asked her out. And she said, to me, 'I would love to go with you. But my dad said I'm not allowed. Your family are very bad people,'" he told Roberts. "And, when I had gotten home I had started to cry. My mother told me, 'Peter, I'm telling you right now, your father loves you more than life. You forget all the nonsense and things they're saying; you remember that man would give his life for you. OK? And don't ever forget that.'"

But John Gotti couldn't protect his family from tragedy. In March 1980, 12-year-old Frankie, who Gotti affectionately called "Frankie Boy," was struck by a car while riding a mini bike.

"My sister called me and said, 'Frankie Boy got hit by a car,'" Angel said, tearing up at the memory. "I said, 'Mom, stay in the house. I just have to go and check on Frankie Boy.' And then we went there. And you know, [he's] lying in the street in front of my friend’s house."

Frankie died later that night.

"Dad walked in and then I remember he sat down and I remember he cradled his head in his hands and he lost it," Victoria said.

The driver of the car was the Gotti’s backyard neighbor, John Favara. Victoria claims Favara hit Frankie because Favara was driving erratically.

"He didn’t stop. He had gone to the end of the block and the neighbors were screaming. And he got out of the car and he was very upset. And he started to scream, 'What the f - was he doing in the street to begin with. Whose f-in' kid is this?'"

Police called it an accident, but Victoria was furious with what she says she heard about Favara's callous behavior, and she spoke to her father about it.

"I looked at him and I said, 'You’re supposed to be a tough guy. How can you let somebody kill my brother?' And he just looked at me and he said, 'You know, honey, it was an accident.' And I said, 'No it wasn’t.' And Dad didn’t want to believe it. He looked at me and he said, 'You're wrong, you’re angry. You’re wrong.'

"For the first time, I was so angry at my father that his life - if he could ever be this man when I really needed it, when I really wanted it - I think if ever I could have him be this man that he said he was. It would have been the moment because…"

"You wanted revenge?" asked Roberts.

"I wanted revenge. I was so upset and I thought our lives would never be the same again."

The tragedy sent their mother into a suicidal depression that left her practically bedridden for a year.

That July, John Gotti tried to brighten his wife's spirits by taking the family to Florida. Just three days later, John Favara was abducted as he left his job at a furniture store. Witnesses say several men hit him over the head, forced him into a van and drove off. Favara was never heard from again.

"Four months after your brother was killed John Favara disappeared. Is your father responsible?" Roberts asked Victoria.

"No," she replied.

"How can you be so sure? Did you ask him?"

"I'm positive he wasn't responsible."

"I just can't imagine that this incident, this horrible, tragic accident that devastated your family and your father didn't want to exact revenge?" asked Roberts.

"No… he didn't."

"You were a teenager. Your mother attempted suicide," Roberts continued.

"I'm with you. I'm with you," said Victoria. "I couldn't understand why, either. It angered me."

"I know what my father said, that it was an accident," said Angel. "That's what he said."

When asked by Roberts if it ever entered her mind that perhaps her father was behind that disappearance she replied, "Sometimes. I'm being honest. Sometimes."

Victoria believes her father's mob associates took it upon themselves to exact revenge.

"Do I believe someone in Dad's circle did it? I do. Somebody did it and they thought they'd be celebrated."

Favara's body has never been found. And police never made an arrest in the case. In the years after Frankie’s death, the Gottis struggled to get back to a normal life. Angel met, and then married, her boyfriend.

A year later, it was Victoria's turn.

"I think I was just a kid in a hurry to get out of my father's house quickly," she said.

"You had 1,500 [wedding] guests," Roberts noted. "That's a lot of thank you notes."

"A lot of people to greet," she said. "I didn't know half of the people at my wedding. More than half. I didn't know them. They weren't there for me. They were there for Dad… and I remember thinking something's up."

Little did Victoria know, but the groundwork for her father's ascension to Boss of Bosses was being laid. She danced that night not just with her father, but with the future Godfather.

"He was gonna become a leader. He wasn't gonna be a follower. He was gonna rise to the top," Victoria Gotti said of her father's ambition. "He was gonna make it."

On Dec. 16, 1985, at 5:25 p.m., John Gotti did just that. In a hail of bullets, his fortunes - and the fortunes of his unsuspecting family - changed forever.

It was widely reported that Gotti orchestrated one of the most famous mob murders in New York City history - the hit on his boss Paul Castellano and Gambino No. 2 man Thomas Bilotti.

"Gotti showed a lot of sophistication in engineering almost a flawless assassination of Castellano," said Selwyn Raab, a reporter who has covered the mob for more than 40 years and is a CBS News consultant.

Within days of the murder, Raab said it was no secret John Gotti was the new Godfather.

"After Castellano's murder, Gotti showed up at one of the most important mafia hangouts in New York, the Ravenite Club in Little Italy. And people were kissing his hand. And people were going over and fawning over him."

But back in Howard Beach, Queens, the family had no idea had what was going on.

"And my mother says, 'You're not gonna believe this.' And she was laughing. And she said, 'They have your father now as the boss.' And I said, 'The boss?' And she said, "The boss of the Gambino crime family.' And we all started laughing," Angel said. "We really thought it was funny. I thought it was a big, like - 'Oh, my God - like what are they gonna say next?'"

Peter was in the fifth grade when he learned his father ran the Gambino crime family.

"It was 1985. I had gone to school one morning and we're sitting in class and current events came around. And there are my friends, kids I grew up with. They would parade up to the class, in front of the class, and talk about my dad as if I wasn't even sitting in the room," he told Roberts.

The kids were all talking about a story in the New York Daily News. The headline read, "New Godfather Reported Heading Gambino Gang."

"'John Gotti's the new boss of the Gambinos,' that's what the article said. And, needless to say," Peter continued, "I went on home and I cut that article out of a newspaper. Without my mother knowing. Without my dad knowing. Without anybody knowing. And I still… to this very day, have that article."

Even before John Gotti became the boss of the Gambino crime family, he had brought his oldest son, John Junior, into the family business. It was a secret not even his mother knew about.

"John saw dad driving the fancy car and having these guys look up to him like he was God," said Victoria. And on Christmas Eve 1988, in a secret ceremony, John Junior became a made man.

"I have to wonder if John saw this as a way to just get our father's approval or to somehow make him proud," she said.

The family business was doing pretty well. According to investigators, during the 80s the Gambino crime family grossed about $500 million a year and Gotti himself was getting a pretty big cut. The family says they didn’t see it.

"He didn't move, he didn't go out and buy a huge house somewhere," Victoria told Roberts. "I'm not saying he didn't have it, but he didn't spend it."

"Investigators say he made between $10 to $12 million," Roberts pointed out.

"Oh, yeah, and investigators also say that… he left us $200 million buried somewhere in the backyard," Victoria responded. "I'm still trying to find that money. Investigators say. You tell me where the money is. I'm still lookin'."

But one look at John Gotti told another story.

"He was now wearing custom-made silk suits. I mean, he had monogrammed socks, only cashmere coats," said Raab. "He was now going to the chic restaurants in New York, nightclubs."

Gotti often stayed out all night, had a reputation as a womanizer and was a compulsive gambler.

Peter said his father loved to gamble. ""His way of bonding with me was to watch a ball game with me. Here I was, seven, eight years old. He's askin' my opinion on who I liked to win a college football game."

"Did you help him win? Roberts asked.

"Obviously, not. Because he didn't win much," Peter said with a laugh. But John Gotti made sure his family life was always separate from his work life.

"It sounds odd to people, they don’t understand it," said Angel. "We're not like 'The Sopranos.' We didn’t sit at the dinner table and you curse… we didn't ask him, you know, 'Did you kill anyone?' We didn't ask him those questions."

But if the family didn't want to ask him any questions, the government certainly did.

Raab said, "He was an emperor, he was a titan. He had this attitude, 'Come and get me if you can.'"

In the first five years of his reign, John Gotti was put on trial three times: for assault, for racketeering and for ordering the shooting of a union boss. And in each of those trials, Gotti beat the rap. What no one knew was he had bribed a juror, intimated a witness, and had a crooked cop on the inside.

Gotti's celebrity grew with each victory.

"They just couldn't seem to get enough of him," said Victoria.

John Gotti became a celebrity attracting celebrity. In an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, the Gambino Godfather met actor Marlon Brando, the Hollywood Godfather, and invited him to his social club across the street.

According to Victoria, "Brando was telling jokes all night and doing magic tricks. Dad was doing what he does best, telling stories. And they just enjoyed each other's company."

John Gotti's growing fame was a double-edged sword: he had become the most notorious mobster since Al Capone and he put himself squarely in the sights of the FBI.

"This is going to be very bad," Victoria said. "I was always terrified."

"I think he saw there was no happy ending," Victoria Gotti told Troy Roberts. "I think he knew that one day he was either gonna spend the rest of his life in jail or he was gonna end up dead."

John Gotti knew the FBI was never going to let up. He suspected they had bugged his headquarters in Little Italy, the Ravenite Social Club.

"He didn't trust the atmosphere in general, so he would get up and walk outside, and constantly walk around the block with someone. He didn't want to be recorded," Victoria explained. But someone was listening.

The FBI had placed bugs everywhere-in the club, in the apartment Gotti occasionally used upstairs, and even on the street. They gathered hundreds of hours of recordings of mob business.

The tapes led to Gotti's arrest in December 1990. He faced a litany of charges, including the murder of Paul Castellano.

"There's no question the government had a strong case," said reporter Selwyn Raab. "It was his own words. He talks about five murders. About Castellano, Bilotti. He talks about three other people and the reasons why they were killed."

But the government didn't just have tapes - they had a star witness: Gotti's right-hand man, his underboss in the Gambino crime family, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano.

"Sammy Gravano, you know, dots the I's and crosses the T's," said Raab. "Gravano was the icing on the cake. He made it easier for them."

Sammy Gravano, a self-confessed mafia hit man who admitted to taking part in 19 murders, turned on his former boss and made a deal with the government. He took the stand and told the court that John Gotti planned and organized the hit on Paul Castellano and that he and John Gotti were actually there went it went down.

"Sammy told a lot of lies," said Victoria.

Roberts asked her, "Did your father orchestrate the assassination of Paul Castellano?"

"Absolutely not," she replied. "No one man is that powerful in this organization. Not one man."

In her book, Victoria claims the assassination was a plan agreed upon by mafia bosses.

"I'm not arguing that he had no part in it, and I'm not arguing and saying he wasn't the boss after it. He was. Nobody can stand there and tell me that he did it alone."

But that's not what the jury said. On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was found guilty on all counts. And he was the only person ever tried and convicted for the murder of Paul Castellano.

Seventeen years ago, as a local reporter in New York, Roberts talked to Victoria just hours after her father was convicted.

"Victoria what did you think of the verdict?" Roberts asked in 1992.

"My father is the last of the Mohicans. They don't make men like him anymore, and they never will," she replied.

"I knew that I've lost my father. I knew that was it," she tells Roberts in 2009. "It was as if somebody had told me my father had died. And that's how I felt that day."

John Gotti was sent to the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, for life.

"The man was never coming home," said Peter Gotti. "I believed the day would never come where I would be able to hug my father again, you know. I had trained myself to believe that that's it. I'm gonna visit my father behind glass for the rest of my life."

Peter was 18 years old when his father was put in solitary confinement.

"My dad had 6,000 meals alone. Ain't never ate with… he ate meals in his cell. And again, I’m not justifying anything. Just saying… he paid. He paid the piper."

Roberts asked Peter, "I'm curious to know why you did not follow in your father's footsteps. You're the only Gotti man to not do so."

"Did it ever dawn on you that my dad shielded me from it? And my brother enforced it even more. He did everything he can, he did everything he can to prevent me. Everything he can. He tried to screen every person I'm socializing with."

At the same time he was protecting Peter, John Junior was rising in the ranks of the Gambino crime family, becoming the acting boss when his father went to prison.

"When did you learn that your brother was in the mafia? Roberts asked Angel Gotti.

"When he got arrested," she replied.

John Junior was arrested in 1998, for extortion, loan sharking and gambling. His mother was caught completely by surprise. For 10 years, her oldest son had been a mobster and then acting boss of the Gambino crime family. And she never knew it.

"You know, John is her life. And she was not standing for it," Victoria said. "And she had such distaste for the fact that Dad was involved and now her son."

Mrs. Gotti believed her husband had lied to her, betrayed her trust and put John Junior in grave danger.

"She wasn't speaking to my father when he was in prison for a while." Angel said, "It caused a lot of problems for all of us."

John Junior was in grave danger; he was facing 20 years in prison and he was thinking of making a deal.

In a prison tape recorded in February 1999, and obtained exclusively by "48 Hours Mystery," John Junior asks his father's permission to take a plea.

"I don't love you John, I adore you," John Gotti told his son.

"I know you do," John Junior replied. "You understand my circumstance."

After some discussion, the Godfather reluctantly consented.

"John, I am not saying don't take this plea if you get what you want. As a father... I want you to be happy," John Gotti said. But John Junior wanted more from his father. According to Victoria, he also asked for permission to quit the mob. And Victoria says her mother decided to get involved.

"Mom goes to see Dad and Mom threatens Dad. And she says, 'Either you release him or… I'll never speak to you again. I won't be here anymore. You'll never see me in your life again.'"

When John Junior went to prison in September 1999, Victoria claims he left the mafia. Federal prosecutors didn't believe it. But her brother wasn't the only one Victoria says had secretly joined the mob. Her husband was also a Gambino member.

It was yet another secret she says her father had kept from her.

"I was angry at my ex-husband, at my father. I was angry at everybody. This isn't what I wanted for my life, for my kids," she said. But her anger would fade with time as her father grew gravely ill.

"He just looked at me and said, 'I'm never gonna be around forever.' And, of course, I knew that. And I said to him, "Yeah, I know, Dad. You know, whatever." But then he looked at me again and he said, 'I think it's time.'"

Ten years into his life sentence, John Joseph Gotti, the Godfather of the Gambino crime family, father of five and grandfather of 15, died of cancer. The last days of his life were spent in a prison hospital with his son, Peter, at his side.

"I watched this for six months. He never admitted or denied anything," said his youngest child. "That's what was funny about his personality. You know… his was [a] 'Hey, hey, hey, you mind your business,' type of personality. 'Let me pay with God.' And he did… In the end, he did."

To his family John Gotti was a fallen hero, to the public he was the last Don, but for his mob family he was a disaster. At the end of his reign, the Gambino crime family was decimated - more than half of the leadership was either dead or behind bars.

"I think about the devastation that this life has had on your family, on the Gotti men. Your father, your brother, three uncles are all incarcerated," Roberts said to Victoria.

"Yep. And a husband," she added. And "the life" continues to take its toll on the Gotti family.

John Junior Gotti is back in court facing a new round of charges. But Victoria says the government's case is about the past, not the present.

"My brother is not in that courtroom. It is my father, always, all over again, day in, day out. It's about John Gotti. That's what it's about."

The Gotti family claims the government is persecuting John Junior and that he quit the mob years ago. The government says John Junior is a killer and that he did not quit.

"They don't want to believe it," Victoria said. "John's attitude is, 'I paid for what I did in that life. I gave them my pound of flesh.'"

Now divorced, Victoria's life is focused on her three sons. They were the infamous bad boys of the TV show "Growing Up Gotti."

Today, the boys are all in college and Victoria isn’t worried that they will take up "the life."

"If they wanted to break my heart, they can do that. They know that. But, they know better."

For years, there have been questions about the multimillion-dollar mansion that Victoria and her sons still live in. Where did she get the money to buy it?

"My ex-husband certainly started this family, helped to build this house. Everything I own to this day came from me. Never my father," she told Roberts. "It came from legitimate money. I'm not in the mob, you know?"

Prosecutors investigated whether the house was bought with mob money, but found no evidence that it was.

Victoria is determined that her sons will not follow their father - and her father - into the mafia.

"Never a discussion about that," she said. "If they wanted to break my heart and go against everything I stand for, they can do that. They know that. But they know better."

John Gotti's grandchildren have decided, it seems, they don’t want to remember the Godfather… just their grandfather.

"I love my grandfather to death. He taught me everything I need to know," said John Gotti Agnello. Victoria's middle child, named after his grandfather, made him a promise just before he died. Could law school be in his future?

"You know what? I promised my grandfather a long time ago that I would do it. I wrote a personal letter to him on his funeral. I put it in his pocket that I would do it for him."

Carmine, Victoria's oldest son, is an aspiring musician who wrote a song about his family.

"I've been recording now in the studio for the past two and a half - almost three years. I mean, it's been a lot of work. Five days a week throughout the year. Everything's comin' together."

But John Gotti's children are still trying to figure out what it all meant-their father’s mob life; the death of their brother; the disappearance of their neighbor; the hit on Paul Castellano; the trials; prison; brothers and husbands in jail.

At the end, Peter Gotti says, his father was refusing medical care.

"I believe in my heart that it went around a full circle, 'cause I believe in the end, that he was punishing himself for the things he may have done. And… I feel for anyone if there was pain caused by him or not. I feel regret and sadness for that."

Hear more from Peter Gotti

For Victoria, the circle closed at her father's funeral.

"I remember sitting there. I was the last to get up. And I remember getting so angry and so angry and so angry. And just saying to him, 'What was this all for? What did you do? Look at you. Look at the life that you lived. Look at us. You loved us most in the world. Look at us. What was this all for?' And I walked out of there so angry. And I'm still angry. I don't understand it and I guess I never will."

Thanks to 48 Hours

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