Showing posts with label Salvatore Gravano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvatore Gravano. Show all posts

Monday, April 23, 2018

Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate

Bada-bing. For some people, The Godfather is no mere movie but a manual – a guide to living the gangster's life. They lap up all that stuff about going to the mattresses and sleeping with the fishes. The famous scene in which a mafia refusenik wakes up next to a horse's head may be macabre make-believe, but in some quarters it's treated like a tutorial.

So who are these apparent innocents taking their cues from Hollywood? None other than the mafia themselves, writes Diego Gambetta in his new book, Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate. The Oxford sociologist offers example upon example of gangsters apeing Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece – or what he calls "lowlife imitating art".

There's the Don who took over a Sicilian aristocrat's villa for his daughter's wedding – with 500 guests revelling to the film's soundtrack; the building contractors of Palermo who receive severed horse's heads if they get in the mob's way; and John Gotti's former lieutenant, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, who confessed that plagiarism ranked among his (lesser) crimes: "I would always tell people, just like in The Godfather, 'If you have an enemy, that enemy becomes my enemy.'"

Yet Mario Puzo, The Godfather's inventor, admitted that he "never met a real honest-to-God gangster", while many of the film's most quotable lines (remember "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli"?) were improvised. So what accounts for its influence not just among the mafia but with Hong Kong triads, Japanese yakuza and Russian mobsters?

Well, strip away the mystique and organised crime is a business – one with big handicaps. It may be called "the Firm", but managing a poorly educated, violent workforce is a challenge, advertising job vacancies only attracts the law, and appraisals for underperforming staff can err on the brusque side. The Godfather and other gangster movies plug those holes, says Gambetta. They give criminals an easy-to-follow protocol and a glamour that serves as both corporate feelgood and marketing tool. Uncomfortable though it may be to acknowledge, the underworld is not above taking its cues from the upperworld.

Thanks to Aditya Chakrabortty

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Very Persuasive Story that James Comey Has to Tell

In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Donald Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Decades before he led the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn’t hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

A February 2017 meeting in the White House with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus left Comey recalling his days as a federal prosecutor facing off against the Mob: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” An earlier visit to Trump Tower in January made Comey think about the New York Mafia social clubs he knew as a Manhattan prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s — “The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. CafĂ© Giardino.”

The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey writes, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been — how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Comey’s book fleshes out the testimony he gave before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 with considerable emotional detail, and it showcases its author’s gift for narrative — a skill he clearly honed during his days as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The volume offers little in the way of hard news revelations about investigations by the F.B.I. or the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (not unexpectedly, given that such investigations are ongoing and involve classified material), and it lacks the rigorous legal analysis that made Jack Goldsmith’s 2007 book “The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration” so incisive about larger dynamics within the Bush administration.

What “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" does give readers are some near-cinematic accounts of what Comey was thinking when, as he’s previously said, Trump demanded loyalty from him during a one-on-one dinner at the White House; when Trump pressured him to let go of the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn; and when the president asked what Comey could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

There are some methodical explanations in these pages of the reasoning behind the momentous decisions Comey made regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign — explanations that attest to his nonpartisan and well-intentioned efforts to protect the independence of the F.B.I., but that will leave at least some readers still questioning the judgment calls he made, including the different approaches he took in handling the bureau’s investigation into Clinton (which was made public) and its investigation into the Trump campaign (which was handled with traditional F.B.I. secrecy).

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” also provides sharp sketches of key players in three presidential administrations. Comey draws a scathing portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal adviser David S. Addington, who spearheaded the arguments of many hard-liners in the George W. Bush White House; Comey describes their point of view: “The war on terrorism justified stretching, if not breaking, the written law.” He depicts Bush national security adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as uninterested in having a detailed policy discussion of interrogation policy and the question of torture. He takes Barack Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch to task for asking him to refer to the Clinton email case as a “matter,” not an “investigation.” (Comey tartly notes that “the F.B.I. didn’t do ‘matters.’”) And he compares Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to Alberto R. Gonzales, who served in the same position under Bush, writing that both were “overwhelmed and overmatched by the job,” but “Sessions lacked the kindness Gonzales radiated.”

Comey is what Saul Bellow called a “first-class noticer.” He notices, for instance, “the soft white pouches under” Trump’s “expressionless blue eyes”; coyly observes that the president’s hands are smaller than his own “but did not seem unusually so”; and points out that he never saw Trump laugh — a sign, Comey suspects, of his “deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”

During his Senate testimony last June, Comey was boy-scout polite (“Lordy, I hope there are tapes”) and somewhat elliptical in explaining why he decided to write detailed memos after each of his encounters with Trump (something he did not do with Presidents Obama or Bush), talking gingerly about “the nature of the person I was interacting with.” Here, however, Comey is blunt about what he thinks of the president, comparing Trump’s demand for loyalty over dinner to “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony — with Trump, in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man.’”

Throughout his tenure in the Bush and Obama administrations (he served as deputy attorney general under Bush, and was selected to lead the F.B.I. by Obama in 2013), Comey was known for his fierce, go-it-alone independence, and Trump’s behavior catalyzed his worst fears — that the president symbolically wanted the leaders of the law enforcement and national security agencies to come “forward and kiss the great man’s ring.” Comey was feeling unnerved from the moment he met Trump. In his recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Michael Wolff wrote that Trump “invariably thought people found him irresistible,” and felt sure, early on, that “he could woo and flatter the F.B.I. director into positive feeling for him, if not outright submission” (in what the reader takes as yet another instance of the president’s inability to process reality or step beyond his own narcissistic delusions).

After he failed to get that submission and the Russia cloud continued to hover, Trump fired Comey; the following day he told Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office that firing the F.B.I. director — whom he called “a real nut job” — relieved “great pressure” on him. A week later, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

During Comey’s testimony, one senator observed that the often contradictory accounts that the president and former F.B.I. director gave of their one-on-one interactions came down to “Who should we believe?” As a prosecutor, Comey replied, he used to tell juries trying to evaluate a witness that “you can’t cherry-pick” — “You can’t say, ‘I like these things he said, but on this, he’s a dirty, rotten liar.’ You got to take it all together.”

Put the two men’s records, their reputations, even their respective books, side by side, and it’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Trump and Comey: They are as antipodean as the untethered, sybaritic Al Capone and the square, diligent G-man Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables”; or the vengeful outlaw Frank Miller and Gary Cooper’s stoic, duty-driven marshal Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic “High Noon.”

One is an avatar of chaos with autocratic instincts and a resentment of the so-called “deep state” who has waged an assault on the institutions that uphold the Constitution.

The other is a straight-arrow bureaucrat, an apostle of order and the rule of law, whose reputation as a defender of the Constitution was indelibly shaped by his decision, one night in 2004, to rush to the hospital room of his boss, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, to prevent Bush White House officials from persuading the ailing Ashcroft to reauthorize an N.S.A. surveillance program that members of the Justice Department believed violated the law.

One uses language incoherently on Twitter and in person, emitting a relentless stream of lies, insults, boasts, dog-whistles, divisive appeals to anger and fear, and attacks on institutions, individuals, companies, religions, countries, continents.

The other chooses his words carefully to make sure there is “no fuzz” to what he is saying, someone so self-conscious about his reputation as a person of integrity that when he gave his colleague James R. Clapper, then director of national intelligence, a tie decorated with little martini glasses, he made sure to tell him it was a regift from his brother-in-law.

One is an impulsive, utterly transactional narcissist who, so far in office, The Washington Post calculated, has made an average of six false or misleading claims a day; a winner-take-all bully with a nihilistic view of the world. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one of his own books. In another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The other wrote his college thesis on religion and politics, embracing Reinhold Niebuhr’s argument that “the Christian must enter the political realm in some way” in order to pursue justice, which keeps “the strong from consuming the weak.”

Until his cover was blown, Comey shared nature photographs on Twitter using the name “Reinhold Niebuhr,” and both his 1982 thesis and this memoir highlight how much Niebuhr’s work resonated with him. They also attest to how a harrowing experience he had as a high school senior — when he and his brother were held captive, in their parents’ New Jersey home, by an armed gunman — must have left him with a lasting awareness of justice and mortality.

Long passages in Comey’s thesis are also devoted to explicating the various sorts of pride that Niebuhr argued could afflict human beings — most notably, moral pride and spiritual pride, which can lead to the sin of self-righteousness. And in “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” Comey provides an inventory of his own flaws, writing that he can be “stubborn, prideful, overconfident and driven by ego.”

Those characteristics can sometimes be seen in Comey’s account of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, wherein he seems to have felt a moral imperative to address, in a July 2016 press conference, what he described as her “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” even though he went on to conclude that the bureau recommend no charges be filed against her. His announcement marked a departure from precedent in that it was done without coordination with Department of Justice leadership and offered more detail about the bureau’s evaluation of the case than usual.

As for his controversial disclosure on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the F.B.I. was reviewing more Clinton emails that might be pertinent to its earlier investigation, Comey notes here that he had assumed from media polling that Clinton was going to win. He has repeatedly asked himself, he writes, whether he was influenced by that assumption: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”

He adds that he hopes “very much that what we did — what I did — wasn’t a deciding factor in the election.” In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, Comey stated that the very idea that his decisions might have had an impact on the outcome of the presidential race left him feeling “mildly nauseous” — or, as one of his grammatically minded daughters corrected him, “nauseated.”

Trump was reportedly infuriated by Comey’s “nauseous” remark; less than a week later he fired the F.B.I. director — an act regarded by some legal scholars as possible evidence of obstruction of justice, and that quickly led to the appointment of the special counsel Robert Mueller and an even bigger cloud over the White House.

It’s ironic that Comey, who wanted to shield the F.B.I. from politics, should have ended up putting the bureau in the midst of the 2016 election firestorm; just as it’s ironic (and oddly fitting) that a civil servant who has prided himself on being apolitical and independent should find himself reviled by both Trump and Clinton, and thrust into the center of another tipping point in history.

They are ironies that would have been appreciated by Comey’s hero Niebuhr, who wrote as much about the limits, contingencies and unforeseen consequences of human decision-making as he did about the dangers of moral complacency and about the necessity of entering the political arena to try to make a difference.

Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Mafia Wife: My Story of Love, Murder, and Madness

The seamy world of the Gambino crime family first took book form thanks to notorious turncoat Salvatore""Sammy the Bull"" Gravano, who told his story to Peter Maas for the 1997 Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia.

Linda Milito, the long-suffering wife of Sammy's partner Louie Milito (murdered in 1988 under Sammy's orders, Linda maintains, though Sammy""told the feds it was John Gotti's idea""), now tells her own tale of the mob life, as seen from the home front. Hers is not a glamorous account: she documents her husband's rise from a petty crook who robbed pay phones to a""straightened out"" tough who became a captain with the Gambinos.

The grinding monotony and terrible strife of her existence--struggling to make money legitimately while her husband languished in jail, trying to protect her son from bullies, coping with terrible physical abuse--is chilling. The image-conscious""wiseguys"" that formed her social circle (and who are rather hilariously obsessed with The Godfather) become pitiable figures, trapped in a cycle of murder and deceit.

On the whole, Milito manages to tell her story unflinchingly, without sounding self-pitying, even as she details her mental illness and her current abusive relationship. Collaborator Potterton does an excellent job of keeping the narrative running smoothly, organizing the tangle of names and connections, and maintaining Milito's honest and streetwise Brooklyn voice.

Mafia Wife: Revised Edition My Story of Love, Murder, and Madness.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sammy the Bull, Salvatore Gravano, is Released from Prison 5 Years Early

Notorious ​M​afia hit man-​turned-canary Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano has been released from an Arizona prison five years early, according to inmate records.
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The ​infamous ​72-year-old mob rat, who ​squealed to ​help authorities bring down “Dapper Don” John Gotti in exchange for a 1991 plea deal, was let out Sept​. 18, Arizona’s Department of Corrections records show.

He’ll​​ remain on federal parole for the rest of his life, as ordered by Brooklyn federal ​Judge Allyne Ross in 2002 when she locked him up.

“I spoke to him,” the aged wiseguy’s daughter, Karen Gravano, ecstatically told The Post. “He is happy to be out after spending the last 17½ years in prison. He’s in good health, great spirits and he’s anxious to move forward with the next phase of his life.”

“There is no doubt I’m extremely happy,” she said. “I’ve been fighting for this day the whole 17½ years that he’s been in prison, so I’m ecstatic it’s finally here.”

Defense attorney Thomas Farinella echoed Gravano’s comments almost exactly, saying his client was “in good health and great spirits” and “extremely happy to be out.” He declined to comment on whether the elder Gravano would settle again in Arizona, or if he would continue sketching — a hobby he picked up while incarcerated.

The former Gambino underboss pleaded guilty to running a nearly 50-person, $500,000-a-week ecstasy ring in 2001, and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

That conviction followed a sweetheart deal in which Gravano was sentenced to just five years in prison for an admitted 19 murders — in exchange for helping the feds fell 39 mobsters, including his former boss and pal the Teflon Don.

The turncoat consigliere took the stand and spilled the Five Families’ secrets for five days during Gotti’s trial — and then testified in nine more, putting 39 wiseguys and associates in prison.

At the time, he was the highest-ranking member of La Cosa Nostra to turn fed.

After a short stint in the big house followed by an even shorter one in witness protection, he moved to Tempe, Arizona, and lived under the assumed name Jimmy Moran.

While Gravano was living in Arizona, peddling ecstasy and installing pools, he barely escaped his own killing, when the late godfather’s enraged brother, Peter Gotti, sent a team of hitmen to go find him in the Copper State.

The then-Gambino crime boss ordered the hit in retaliation for his brother’s death from cancer at age 61 behind bars.

His latest bid for early release was in 2015, when Ross declined to shave years off his sentence, citing his “longstanding reputation for extreme violence.”

Thanks to Oli Coleman and Emily Saul.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires By Selwyn Raab

As the Mafia grew into a malignantly powerful force during the middle of the last century, it owed much of its success to its low-priority ranking as a law enforcement target. During most of his reign as FBI director from 1924 to 1972, J. Edgar Hoover denied that the Mafia even existed. In the late 1950s, Hoover was ''still publicly in denial" that there was such a thing as the Mafia, writes Selwyn Raab in ''Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires," his engaging history of the New York mob.

Even Hoover, who hesitated to tackle mob cases because they were difficult to win and might corrupt his agents, grudgingly came around. ''Five Families," a gritty cops-and-robbers narrative and a meticulous case history of an extraordinary law enforcement mobilization, shows how the federal government finally brought the Mafia down.

Raab, a former reporter for The New York Times whose beat was organized crime, exudes the authority of a writer who has lived and breathed his subject. Indeed, Raab seems too attached to every last nugget that he has unearthed. ''Five Families" bogs down in places under the groaning weight of excessive, repetitious detail.

Even as he tosses congratulatory bouquets to the cops for having reduced the mob to a ''fading anachronism," as one of them puts it, Raab inserts a cautionary note. The redeployment since 9/11 of US law enforcement personnel from an anti-Mafia to an antiterrorism posture is providing Cosa Nostra -- as the Italian-American organized-crime syndicates refer to themselves, meaning ''Our Thing" -- a ''renewed hope for survival," Raab says.

If they are to prosper again, all five of New York's mob families (the Gambinos, Luccheses, Colombos, Genoveses, and Bonannos) must first rebuild their leadership. The top bosses of the five families, along with many underlings, have been convicted in racketeering prosecutions and sentenced to long terms in federal prison. Those prosecutions constitute ''arguably the most successful anticrime expedition in American history," according to Raab.

The decades-long jelling of the law enforcement response to the Mafia threat commands Raab's close attention. An impetus came from Democratic Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, whose subcommittee investigated labor racketeering in the late 1960s. One key behind-the-scenes figure -- an American hero, in Raab's account -- was G. Robert Blakey, who helped craft the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations legislation as an aide to McClellan and, as a crusading law professor, tirelessly promoted the statute's use after Congress enacted it in 1970.

The law enabled prosecutors to throw the book at top mobsters, who otherwise would have been able to insulate themselves more easily from criminal accountability. Electronic surveillance, which a related law authorized, added another invaluable weapon to the federal prosecutors' arsenal.

Another of Raab's heroes, G. Bruce Mouw, supervised the FBI's Gambino Squad. Mouw's relentless, six-year investigation of John Gotti stands as a model of aggressive anti-Mafia pursuit. Gotti, whom the tabloids dubbed ''the Teflon Don," beat federal charges three times. Mouw produced ironclad evidence of Gotti's guilt by identifying an old lady's apartment as the Gambino godfather's clandestine inner sanctum and bugging it. Prosecutors nailed the Teflon Don in a fourth trial.

As for the villains portrayed by Raab, they and their operatic brutality seem endless. Raab's profiles of such ogres as Joseph ''Crazy Joe" Gallo or Salvatore ''Sammy the Bull" Gravano quickly dispel any Hollywood depiction of mobsters as lovable rogues or, as in the case of Tony Soprano of HBO's prize-winning series, as an angst-ridden man groping for life's meaning.

Mobsters typically start out as losers, dropouts from school at an early age. They are natural bullies who turn to crime out of desperation and indolence. As adults, to quote Raab's description of Gotti's wise guys, they join together as a ''hardened band of pea-brained hijackers, loan-shark collectors, gamblers, and robotic hit men."

No surprise, then, that such lowlifes would resort to violence as their modus operandi. But their cavalier acts of viciousness are nonetheless shocking. Thus, when Vito Genovese falls in love with a married cousin, he apparently has her husband strangled to death so he can marry her.

Or when Lucchese thugs believe that one of their own, Bruno Facciolo, is talking to authorities, they shoot and stab him to death. They then murder two of his mob buddies, Al Visconti and Larry Taylor, to prevent them from retaliating. Visconti is deliberately shot several times in the groin because the Luccheses believe he is a homosexual and has shamed the family.

Although ''Five Families" detours outside New York to chronicle aspects of the Cosa Nostra story, New England's Patriarcas, who deferred to New York's Gigante family, rate only passing mention. Summarizing how officials view Cosa Nostra's once-thriving 20-odd families around the country, Raab reports that those in New York and Chicago retain a ''semblance of [their] organizational frameworks," while the others, including Patriarca's, are ''in disarray or practically defunct."

Raab has much to say about what he regards as the possible involvement of a Florida mafioso, Santo Trafficante Jr., in President Kennedy's assassination. Raab theorizes that Trafficante -- who lost his organized-crime base in Havana when Fidel Castro took over and who loathed Kennedy for not unhorsing the Cuban revolutionary -- may have conspired to kill Kennedy.

Exhibit A is the confession of a gravely ill Trafficante, four days before his death in 1987, that he had had a hand in Kennedy's murder. Raab's source for the purported confession was Trafficante's longtime lawyer, Frank Ragano. Raab collaborated with Ragano on a book, ''Mob Lawyer."

Of course, any mob role in Kennedy's assassination remains a speculative matter, as Raab concedes. But in ''Five Families," he notes that ''Ragano's assertions are among the starkest signs implicating Mafia bosses in the death of President Kennedy." To buttress his theory, Raab might have mentioned that the Mafia was at or near the apex of its power in 1963, the year of Kennedy's murder.

Reviewed by Joseph Rosenbloom

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Mob Wives Slammed by Victoria Gotti

They may both be daughters of Mafia members, but Victoria Gotti doesn't think she has much in common with Karen Gravano.

At least that's what she implied in a radio interview with Frank Morano on AM 970 The Apple.

Morano asked Ms. Gotti for her thoughts on "Mob Wives" in general and Karen Gravano's attempts to make herself a celebrity. "God bless them, is what I say," Ms. Gotti said. "If you ask me, do I see any major talent there in each of them, or any of them? No."

Ms. Gotti's father was John Gotti, the Gambino crime boss who Ms. Gravano's father, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, testified against. Gotti died in federal prison.

Ms. Gotti has written several novels and is a former columnist. She was recently voted off Donald Trump's television show "Celebrity Apprentice."

"I'm working since I'm 15," Ms. Gotti told Moran. "What I've done, I would have done if I were Victoria Smith. No one would have stopped me." But long before Ms. Gravano cashed in on being a mob daughter on "Mob Wives," Ms. Gotti and her three sons starred in "Growing Up Gotti" on A&E.

She also wrote her own book about growing up in a Mafia family -- but only when she thought it would help her brother, John "Junior" Gotti, who was facing criminal charges. "I was offered to do a book, God, 10, 15 years ago, and God knows the dollar amounts thrown at me," she said. "I don't do that until it's to help save my brother's life. So we have different mindsets, you know, her and I."

Ms. Gotti called "Mob Wives" a "train wreck," and said it wasn't "real."

"I've never met this girl. I don't know her. I don't like what I see, per se, and hear, but at the same time, I think the whole 'Mob Wives' thing is a complete joke," she said.

Morano, the radio host and a Staten Islander, said on the air he is often asked why he attacks Ms. Gravano but praises Ms. Gotti. "I guess to me the major difference is Karen is herself a convicted criminal, and she really doesn't have any major talents," Morano said.

Ms. Gravano pleaded guilty to being part of her father's ecstasy ring when the family lived in Arizona, after Salvatore Gravano's relatively short stint in federal prison and abbreviated stay in the witness protection program. While her father wound up back in prison, Ms. Gravano was sentenced to probation.

A representative of Ms. Gravano's did not respond to a request for comment from the author and reality show star.

Thanks to Jillian Jorgenson

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Mob Daughter: The Mafia, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, and Me!

From Karen Gravano, a star of the hit VH1 reality show Mob Wives, comes a revealing memoir of a mafia childhood, where love and family come hand-in-hand with murder and betrayal.

Karen Gravano is the daughter of Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, once one of the mafia's most feared hit men. With nineteen confessed murders, the former Gambino Crime Family underboss—and John Gotti’s right-hand man—is the highest ranking gangster ever to turn State’s evidence and testify against members of his high-profile crime family.

But to Karen, Sammy Gravano was a sometimes elusive but always loving father figure. He was ever-present at the head of the dinner table. He made a living running a construction firm and several nightclubs. He stayed out late, and sometimes he didn’t come home at all. He hosted “secret” meetings at their house, and had countless whispered conversations with “business associates.” By the age of twelve, Karen knew he was a gangster. And as she grew up, while her peers worried about clothes and schoolwork, she was coming face-to-face with crime and murder. Gravano was nineteen years old when her father turned his back on the mob and cooperated with the Feds. The fabric of her family was ripped apart, and they were instantly rejected by the communities they grew up in.

This is the story of a daughter’s struggle to reconcile the image of her loving father with that of a murdering Mafioso, and how, in healing the rift between the two, she was able to forge a new life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chicago Version of VH1's "Mob Wives" in the Works?

This one should set tongues to wagging from Bridgeport to Chicago Heights and along Grand Avenue to Elmwood Park.

The folks behind “Mob Wives,” VH1’s hit reality television show following the lives of four tough-talking, loud-living Staten Island women with personal ties to New York mob figures, plan to start filming a new Chicago spinoff within the next month.

Talk about your Operation Family Secrets.

The biggest secret is which Chicago women have been signed up by the network to participate.

Jennifer Graziano, the show’s producer, is keeping that information within the family, so to speak, despite numerous scouting trips here over the last several months to lay the groundwork for a series that is expected to air in the spring.

I’ve heard a couple of names, including one you can bet wouldn’t be doing this if her father were still alive, but both women angrily hung up on me.

Television gossip isn’t my normal turf, but it’s been too hard to resist this story since Graziano’s co-producer called this summer looking for Chicago mob insights.

Apparently, big city daily newspaper columnists are supposed to have lots of sources inside the mob, and I hate to break it to my readers, but unfortunately I’m fresh out.

Still, I know a spit storm brewing when I see one. I can’t tell you about New York, but in Chicago, mob wives — and daughters and girlfriends — are still supposed to stay out of the public eye.

Chicago lawyers who have represented mob clients were beyond skeptical when asked if they were aware of the project. “It’s inconceivable,” one said. “I just don’t think it would meet with approval here.”

I tried to make the same point to Graziano when she stopped by the office around Labor Day between meetings with prospects. But Graziano, whose father is Anthony “The Little Guy” Graziano, reputed consigliere to the Bonnano crime family, just gave me a knowing look as if to indicate she had her bases covered.

“I’ve got some family contacts here, people that have known my family and friends of mine,” said Graziano, whose sister Renee is one of the stars of the show along with Karen Gravano, daughter of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, the mob hit man who became a government witness and took down John Gotti and the Gambino crime family. “One of the selling points is we don’t write about anything that hasn’t been in the news,” Graziano said. “We don’t divulge any secrets.”

While hoping to land a recognizable mob family name or two for the Chicago cast, Graziano said it was more important that the characters “pop” on television.

I suggested they pay a visit to former Cicero Mayor Betty Loren-Maltese. That was the weekend Betty happened to be having a garage sale, so it seemed pretty obvious she could use the money. I also assured them Betty “pops” on television. But they weren’t certain Betty fit the demographic they were seeking, in other words, too old. Sorry, Betty. I tried.

I’ve never watched “Mob Wives” myself. “Wives” shows give me the heebie-jeebies. But my wife assured me “Mob Wives” was the best show on television during its first season, and I can attest she is a connoisseur of a certain kind of TV — the trashy kind.

“Mob Wives,” as I understand it, is way more raw, more intense, more real, than any of those “Housewives” shows. When these women have a fight, as they often do, you fully expect somebody to get hurt.

My wife’s favorite character is Drita D’avanzo. She is particularly impressed with how effortlessly Drita slips off her high heels while charging headlong into battle. You’ve got to admire that in a woman.

This embrace of mob stereotypes has received its share of criticism in New York, and anticipating the same here, I called Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. “I wish them nothing but failure,” said DiFrisco, who hasn’t seen the show but knows the type. “I think it’s a very ugly continuation of the long-standing slandering and defaming of the Italian-American people.”

If the characters pop, I can’t imagine it will be a failure. But this being Chicago, you still have to wonder if somebody will get popped.

Thanks to Mark Brown

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Karen Gravano of VH1's Mob Wives

Karen Gravano is the daughter of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the infamous mobster who cooperated with the government to help take down John Gotti and the Gambino crime family. Karen was just 19 years old when her father turned on the mafia, a move that left Karen devastated.

Karen Gravano of VH1's Mob Wives


While her family relocated to Arizona to start over, at first Karen stayed behind in New York--her way of showing that she had trouble with her father's cooperation. After a couple years, she joined her family in Arizona where she became a licensed aesthetician, opened up a lucrative day spa, and had her first and only child, Karina.

After 12 years of coming to terms with who she is and understanding her father's choices, Karen is ready to close up shop in Arizona and return to Staten Island. Beyond reconnecting with old friends, Karen hopes that coming back will help her stand on her own, out of shadows of her father's infamous past.

Strong, driven and business minded, she has already inked a deal to write a book about her life and is ready to revisit her old stomping grounds and reconnect with her old friends.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Salvatore Vitale Murders 11, Serves Only 7 Years in Prison

A Mafia boss who turned informant on one of New York's notorious five families - and pleaded guilty to 11 murders - has been sensationally sentenced to 'time served' today.

Salvatore Vitale, 63, immediately cooperated with the FBI and prosecutors after his arrest and imprisonment in January 2003.

He identified more than 500 gangsters and helped convict more than 50 - including his brother-in-law and former Bonanno chief Joseph Massino.

Today's sentence will mean that Vitale will have served around 18 months for each of his 11 murders.

It is expected that he will immediately enter the witness protection programme
.
'Quite simply, Vitale has likely been the most important cooperator in the history of law enforcement efforts to prosecute the Mafia,' said Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, of United States District Court in Brooklyn, when he meted out the sentence today.

Judge Garaufis noted that the criminal justice system was 'dependent on the cooperation of criminals in the prosecution of other criminals'. He added: 'This cooperation does not come without a cost.' The judge noted that he was under no illusion that Vitale had become a government witness for any reason other than self-preservation, noting that he did so only when he realised that the crime family had come to see him as a liability.

The judge said: 'It is unfortunate that law enforcement must, of necessity, obtain the cooperation of felons to address the pernicious crimes committed by organised crime,' the judge said. 'But without the benefit of cooperating witnesses like the defendant, the government’s ability to prosecute the secretive and rule-bound world of organised crime would be greatly impaired.'

In October 2004, information he gave to federal officers led to the discovery of three bodies in Ozone Park, Queens.

Vitale’s lawyers, Kenneth Murphy and Brian Waller, had pushed for the sentence to be 'time served'.
Vitale had been facing life in prison.

In a bid to put Vitale away for good, prosecutor Greg Andres read aloud letters sent to the judge from the wife and daughter of one of the victims. Robert Perrino was a Bonanno associate who was the superintendent of deliveries at The New York Post and who was slain in 1992. Vitale ordered the killing based on the fear that Perrino might cooperate with the authorities. Perrino’s body was not found until Vitale himself began cooperating with police. Perrino'd widow Rosalie wrote: 'As a result of Salvatore Vitale’s criminal inhuman behaviour, my grandson never knew his grandfather, and he and our granddaughter have grown up without this special man. 'Salvatore Vitale caused my own life to unravel and the colour in my life to drain away.'

Vitale alternately stared at the table before him and watched the judge as Mr Andres read the letter.
At the end of the hearing, the judge asked the people in the gallery to remain seated so deputy United States marshals could escort Vitale out of the courtroom. He left through the courtroom’s rear door, beside the judge’s bench, and did not look back.

It is not the first time Mafia informants have been given lesser sentences for information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of their bosses. Salvatore Gravano, an underboss for the Gambino family known as 'Sammy the Bull', admitted to 19 murders in 1991 in exchange for a lesser sentence and served just five years.
As part of his testimony, notorious gangster John Gotti was jailed for life.

Vitale, wearing a blue suit and silver pattered tie, twice dabbed tears from his eyes during the court proceeding - and exhaled sharply just before the judge read out the sentence.

The former paratrooper - known as Good Looking Sal' during his three decades committing countless crimes on behalf of the Bonanno family - read from a statement where he apologised to the families of his victims.
He said: 'I would say to them that I pray daily for my victims’ souls and I’m truly sorry. I stand in front of you, your honour, ashamed of the life I used to live. 'I disgraced my father’s name, my name, my sons’ name.'

Vitale operated at the highest levels of organised crime while a member of La Cosa Nostra, and knew many of the Bonanno secrets - including quite literally where bodies were buried.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Will 4th Junior Gotti Trial End in Another Stalemate?

John Gotti Jr. sat at the defense table, the weight of his family history and whatever we have learned from countless movies and TV dramas about the Mafia, swirling around him.

This was the fourth time in the last four years that prosecutors have brought a case against him, this time for murder and racketeering, and just like the previous three trials in the ornate federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, a jury of 12 ordinary citizens have not been able to decide if he is guilty of the crimes charged.

"They have exhibited strength, intelligence, compassion and truthfulness and should be doubly commended for standing tall and firm for their beliefs and disbeliefs," Victoria Gotti, John's sister, told Fox News, acknowledging the proceedings have been a "difficult and exhausting trial." That slow journey will continue after the Thanksgiving holiday, with the jurors returning for more deliberations next week.

The jury announced it was deadlocked, just as the last three juries have since 2005, potentially handing federal prosecutions a stalemate. The U.S. government has so far been unable to convince 48 people that Gotti continued to follow his father's line of work. He has said he quit, in 1999, when he plead guilty to racketeering charges and went away for six years. At the time he said he thought that plea, and the sentence, would wipe the slate clean, but he was slapped with new charges when he left prison four years ago.

Prosecutors have ridiculed the claim that he quit.

"This defendant has lived the Mafia life," declared Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant, "and he never, never quit that life." They say the claim was concocted as a legal strategy and tried to show you just can't give the mob walking papers.

They presented the testimony of Bonanno Family Capo Dominick Cicale, who said you can only leave the Mafia by cooperating with the federal government or by dying. But others have walked away and lived to tell about it.

The most noted examples were the founder of the Bonanno crime family, the late Joseph Bonanno, and his son, Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno. Bill told Fox News in 2006 that he thought John Gotti Jr. had indeed left what they call "the life," in 1999, seeing what the world glamorized by "The Godfather" had really become.

In his book, "A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno," Bonanno wrote: "The world I grew up in is gone and what is left is in ruins. The Mafia stories continue, however, regardless of the emptiness behind them."

Bonanno wrote those words in 1999, not only the same year Gotti, Jr. claims he dropped out, but the year that the "The Sopranos" debuted on HBO, giving America a new, fictional mob fascination.

"The Sopranos" ended with the famous, and controversial, black-out scene. No Tony in handcuffs, no Tony walking away. Just Tony eating with his family. We think he's still out hustling in New Jersey and then dining at the Vesuvio with Carm. But in real life, organized crime careers have voluntarily ended with the finality viewers were denied by "The Sopranos" nebulous ending.

"You can quit the mob, I've done it," former Columbo crime family Capo Michael Franzese told Fox News.

The 58-year-old Franzese is the son of John "Sonny" Franzese, "a kingpin of the Columbo crime family," as Michael's Web site, MichaelFranzese.com, puts it. But after being released from prison, he became a born-again Christian, motivational speaker, producer and author. His latest book, "I'll Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse," applies what he learned in the mob to the business world - legally.

"You've got to be crazy to stay in the life," says Franzese. "Like me, John wasn't destined for this life and neither was I. I was going to school to become a doctor. I question my own self at times. I did this for my dad. At one point I wanted him to be proud of me, and I think John shares a similar feeling like that. So we got into it for one reason and realized what it was all about, and maybe had second thoughts."

The most intriguing, and surprising evidence of precedent for departing the ranks of wise-guys and not being stuffed in a barrel and dumped in the ocean, was a 1985 F.B.I. wiretap of Aniello Dellacroce. The then 71-year-old mob patriarch suffered from terminal cancer, and as the reputed underboss of the Gambino Crime Family at the time, he actually explained how the Gambinos had kicked someone out.

Dellacroce, who was the mentor of John Gotti Jr.'s father, was secretly recorded talking about a dismissed crime family member on June 9, 1985, in his home on Staten Island, New York, six months before he died.

"We threw him out of the Family," Dellacroce explained.

"So, youse knocked him down," responded a listener, meaning the man in question was demoted.

"No,"responded Delleacroce. "He's out of the family."

"He's out?" asked his friend, incredulously.

"Yeah," said Dellacroce. "We threw him out. Out."

"You threw him out?"

"Out. He don't belong in the Family no more. Any friend of yours, any, any friend of ours in the street...that you see...you tell them. This guy, he ain't in the family no more. You don't have nothin' to do with him. That's it."

Four days later, another FBI wiretap heard the group discussing their lawyers, and their visit to one lawyer's office.

"My God, what a layout he's got. They got more customers... Michael Franzese was there," noted one speaker, impressively.

During that tape, they resumed discussing the banished former Gambino.

"This guy is out, We threw him out," the group was reminded and then they start arguing about that possibility.

"I heard (this guy) was just taken down, he wasn't thrown out." said one.

"This guy was thrown out. Ya understand?" Dellacroce snapped. "Nobody's gonna bother with him...I wouldn't bother with him and nobody else would...I'll explain to him a little better this time…Maybe he didn't get the message right... Threw him out, that's, that's right. We threw him out...They don't understand English," said Dellacroce, trying to finally get his message through.

Even Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who later served as the Gambino Underboss, quit by agreeing to testify against the senior Gotti in 1992. Gravano wrote in his book, "Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia," that he when he walked in to meet Gotti's prosecutor, he declared: "I want to switch governments," meaning from the Gambinos to Uncle Sam. He later was caught running a drug ring in Phoenix after he served five years for 19 murders, and is now back in prison.

The current, active members of Cosa Nostra may not agree, but history shows that even their leaders, at the highest levels -- including the bosses of two crime families- have walked away. And now a jury, once again, is trying to determine if John Gotti, Jr. did just that.

"I can tell you, unmistakably, that he has left that life," John's sister, Victoria, told Fox News. "We're not talking about a guy that is being paraded out there and there are videotapes or audio tapes of John with present day mob members," she notes, indirectly alluding to the avalanche of wiretaps and surveillance videos the Feds used as evidence against her father.

"John is no part of that life anymore," she adds. "I believe they know that deep in their hearts and in their brains."

Meanwhile, John Gotti, Jr. waits for a verdict -- if there is one.

Thanks to Eric Shawn

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Will Sammy the Bull Testify on Behalf of Junior Gotti?

John Gotti Jr.’s lawyer is considering making a star defense witness out of the mob rat whose testimony consigned Gambino crime family boss John Gotti Sr. to a life prison term, but this time he may be asked to save the Dapper Don’s son from a similar fate.

The defense is expected to begin presenting its case next week and Charles Carnesi, chief defense counsel for Gotti Jr., said he first wants to question Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano before deciding whether he will bring Gravano into the trial of Gotti Jr. in Manhattan federal court. “I plan to interview him, then we’ll see,” Carnesi said.

Gravano testified against Gotti Sr. in the 1992 trial that convicted the man that up to then had also been known as the Teflon Don for having avoided conviction in three earlier trials.Gravano was a high-ranking member of the Gambino family.

Gotti Sr., a Howard Beach resident, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison where he died in 2002.

As with most convicted criminals who testify for the prosecution, Gravano was put into the federal Witness Protection Program. Gravano was relocated to Arizona, but sentenced to a 19-year prison sentence after he was convicted of operating an Ecstasy-selling drug ring.

The defense in Gotti Jr.’s trial is interested in questioning Gravano about the 1990 rub-out of Louis DeBono, whose body was discovered in a Cadillac in a World Trade Center garage. Federal prosecutors have been trying to establish that Gotti Jr. was involved in DeBono’s slaying.

Gotti Jr. is on trial for the fourth time since 2005 on charges of racketeering and two murders.

Federal Judge Kevin Castel, meanwhile, announced he had relieved of duty a second member of the jury, a 39-year-old equities manager, who complained that serving at length on the panel could come at a heavy cost to him.

The juror, who manages a portfolio, told the judge his work required unceasing supervision and if he was not allowed to have access to a computer, “then I have no choice but to respectfully ask that I am relieved.”

The judge had previously dismissed a female juror, who said she was too frightened to continue after a car grazed her near Union Square.

Federal prosecutors said Gotti Jr. was a Mafia mogul who presided over an empire of racketeering and ordered people killed.

The defense maintains that while Gotti Jr. may have once been a La Cosa Nostra higher up, he abdicated and turned his back on organized crime by 1999.

His first three trials ended in hung juries.

Thanks to Phillip Newman

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Mafia Crime Families Adapted for the 21st Century

New York City's Five Families owned the 20th Century. Now they must confront the 21st — still alive, still armed and still dangerous.

Today's traditional Mafia family has ventured far from its roots as an ultra-secret society formed in the streets of New York at the dawn of the Depression. The evolution has been epic.

To some, it appears a gang of criminals has turned into a popular culture commodity, spawning movies and TV shows that will long outlast the real-life story. In that version, the bosses are in jail, the gang is undone, and all that's left is the book and movie deal.

In reality, the mob somehow survives, transforming, changing, adapting to the new economies and technologies — sometimes a jump quicker than law enforcement. "As the economy goes, these guys go," said Michael Gaeta, supervisor of the New York FBI's organized crime unit. "Despite our attacks, they've managed to adapt."

Strategically, law enforcement sources say, the mob is closer to its roots, returning to the shadows, avoiding the public walk-talks that brought law enforcement to their door.

They still reap ill-gotten gains from traditional sources. They still have some control over corrupt contractors and unions, and illegal gambling continues as a primary source of wealth. They've also diversified, crafting new scams befitting a new century.

"They're clearly not as visible as they used to be," Gaeta said. "You're not going to see the regular meetings you used to see. They're much more compartmentalized.

"They're smarter about the way they conduct business. At meetings, they make sure everybody leaves their cell phone at the door."

Today's Mafia families no longer perform the ornate induction ceremonies in which a card depicting a saint is burned and a gun is displayed. They've ditched the saint and the gun. Still, they induct new members when old ones die, and they find new ways to steal.

Several families, for instance, got in on the housing boom of 2002-2007 through corrupt construction companies and unions, court papers and sources say. Records show mob-linked companies have been subcontractors on most of the major projects of the last few years, including highway repair, the midtown office tower boom, the massive water treatment plant in the Bronx, even the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

"They were taking full advantage of that — even if it was only removing waste from a construction site," one source said. "They'd have their favorite companies getting jobs. If the union was a problem, they'd take care of it."

Each family had a different method of adapting to the new century.

In the Wall Street boom, a Luchese soldier formed a fake hedge fund, operating out of a one-family house in Staten Island. He conned hundreds of wealthy investors into putting their money in bundled mortgage securities — one of the major causes of the economy's collapse.

When the housing bubble burst, a Genovese crew cashed in on the wave of foreclosures through house-flipping schemes in suburban Westchester.

The Gambino family stole credit card numbers via Internet porn sites, laundered gambling money through an energy drink company called American Blast, and took over a company that distributed bottled water — a far cry from the Prohibition days of bootlegging.

All the families use the Web to enhance their multi-million dollar illegal gambling empires through offshore betting shell corporations.

As part of the new mob order, the penchant for violence has diminished. That is a sea change in New York that also represents a return to the old ways.

For years, the five families divided up New York City in mostly peaceful co-existence, with occasional bouts of behind-the-scenes violence usually wrought by internal power struggles.

Bloodshed began to escalate in the 1980s, as bodies turned up in Staten Island swamps, the World Trade Center garage, even at the doorstep of Sparks Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan.

Then came a major shift in the mob's ability to enforce the vow of silence known as ‘omerta.' In 1991, Gambino underboss Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano decided to become an informant. A wave of informants followed, which deteriorated into shootouts in the streets and dozens of suspected informants who disappeared.

Since 2000, the number of bodies has dropped precipitously, law enforcement sources say. They take this as a sign that the mob once again craves a lower profile to avoid scrutiny. "They keep things calm," one source said. "They try to keep things looking legit. They'd rather take 5 cents from 1,000 people than $10,000 from one."

They've also adopted management changes. Since the conviction of all the major bosses of the middle 20th century, all five families have struggled to find replacements who will last.

Three of the five families have retired the official boss altogether, forming flexible leadership panels that mediate disputes and enforce the so-called rules. "They retrenched. They became much less visible," said one law enforcement source. "The days of John Gotti nonsense, you don't see that anymore."

Today, the mob's haunts aren't what they were. Neighborhoods of Italian immigrants that once served as Ground Zero of Mafia-dom are ethnically diverse, with many former residents relegated to suburbia. The days when mobsters hung out at inner city social clubs — and FBI agents watched from nearby vans with tinted windows — are rare.

Some of the best-known clubs have just vanished:

  • Gravano's old hangout, Tali's Bar in Bensonhurst, where bar owner Mikey DeBatt was whacked in the back room by one of Gravano's crew, is a Vietnamese restaurant.
  • John Gotti's Ravenite Social Club is a trendy shoe store.
  • The Palma Boys Club, where the Genovese family met is an empty store front with lime green walls, is up for lease.
  • The Wimpy Boys Club in Gravesend — where a mob moll was once shot in the head and her ear turned up weeks later — is now Sal's Hair Stylist.

But just because they can't be seen doesn't mean they aren't there.

Thanks to John Marzulli

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