The Chicago Syndicate: Salvatore Gravano
Showing posts with label Salvatore Gravano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvatore Gravano. Show all posts

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

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Peter Gotti Denied by Judge in Attempt to Overturn Conviction

Looks like Peter Gotti will be in jail until his dying day.

A federal judge Wednesday shot down the former crime boss' latest attempt to overturn his 2004 conviction for ordering a hit on mob rat Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano.

Manhattan Judge Harold Baer shrugged off the so-called Dopey Don's claims that prosecutors violated his rights by withholding details of a conversation between Gravano and his FBI supervisor Bruce Mouw.

"The fly in the ointment is the failure on [Gotti's] part to explain how the fact of an allegedly ongoing relationship between Gravano and Mouw could have impeached Mouw's credibility," Baer wrote. "Gravano did not testify at the trial and apparently his only role at the trial was as the target that [Gotti] had directed to be killed," Baer added.

Baer said Gotti's lawyers could have simply read media accounts of the recorded conversations between Mouw and Gravano.

Gotti, 69 and in poor health, was sentenced to 25 years for ordering a hit on Gravano - who was nabbed in a drug bust before it could happen.

Gotti already had begun serving a nine-year sentence on a Brooklyn racketeering conviction, and together with the 25-year term he began serving in 2005, he won't be eligible for release until 2032, when he would be 92.

Thanks to Thomas Zambito

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Can Mobster Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso Answer a Mystery Around the French Connection Case?

In prison, far from the Brooklyn haunts where his name was scrawled in blood, Anthony Casso stews. He stews over old vendettas. He stews over betrayals of the flesh — heart problems and prostate cancer.

Mr. Casso has served 15 years at a “supermax” prison in Colorado. And Mr. Casso, the once fearsome underboss of the Lucchese family who is now serving multiple life sentences amounting to 455 years for murder, stews over his secrets: unsolved crimes that, he says in an outpouring of letters, he is eager to help close if only he could show the authorities where the bodies are buried (especially if it entails a trip outside the gates).

“I would go out there in a heartbeat,” Mr. Casso said on Friday in a telephone call to a former detective seeking the mobster’s help in clearing his own name. But as much as he hopes for a taste of freedom, or a reduction of his sentence, prosecutors question what his information may be worth and what perils may lie in reopening contact with an antagonist some compare to the fictional monster Hannibal Lecter.

Dangling as a prize is the answer to one of New York’s most scandalous mysteries: how 400 pounds of heroin and cocaine, much of it seized in the so-called French Connection drug bust in 1962, were spirited out of the police property vault for resale back on the street. By the time the record theft was discovered in December 1972, the drugs — then valued at $73 million — had been replaced with flour and cornstarch.

Who committed the deed? There were four narcotics detectives,” Mr. Casso wrote the former detective, Pat Intrieri, in October, amplifying information he offered in his 2008 biography, Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss. “One worked inside the property clerk’s office.” One, he added, was later shot to death; Mr. Casso said he remembers where the gun was thrown. But Mr. Casso, 66, whose mob nickname was Gaspipe, says he is having trouble with exact locations. So, naturally, he would like to get out, if only for a day, to be helpful. Or at least win some leniency along the lines of a plea deal he says the government reneged on: six and a half years in prison.

“Of course he’d like to get out — he’s serving 55 million years,” said Michael F. Vecchione, chief of the rackets division in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. Like other prosecutors, Mr. Vecchione has little stomach for Mr. Casso. But without any promises, he has arranged to visit Mr. Casso on Tuesday at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., where he has been undergoing cancer treatment, although it would take corroboration far beyond the mobster’s word to make any case.

“I bet you when the state guys come, they don’t know half the things,” Mr. Casso said on Friday to Mr. Intrieri, who relayed his remarks to The New York Times.

There is little chance that Mr. Casso, now 15 years behind the stoutest walls America can contrive, will ever see his release — not after pleading guilty in 15 murders and being tied to some 22 others.

He has also been accused of plotting to kill a federal judge and prosecutors, and violating the terms of his agreement to turn informant as one of the highest-level mobsters ever to flip — becoming the only major Mafia defector to be thrown out of the federal witness protection program.

Mr. Casso has also waffled on whether he corrupted an F.B.I. agent and hired two New York City police detectives, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, as mob assassins. The former detectives are to be sentenced on March 6 on racketeering charges.

If, moreover, he still wonders why the authorities are leery of his offers, Mr. Casso may have provided the answer to his biographer, Philip Carlo. In his 2008 book, “Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss,” Mr. Carlo, a longtime friend of the Casso family, outlined several of the mobster’s escape schemes, including the planned ambush of a van carrying him back from court after his capture in New Jersey in 1993.

“He’s where he should be,” said Gregory O’Connell, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who initially interviewed Mr. Casso with his late partner, Charles Rose, and called him “the most treacherous sociopath we ever dealt with.”

But a man can dream, and for Mr. Casso, that means being back once again in the Brooklyn sunshine, pinpointing old Mafia execution grounds and the watery grave of a murder weapon. Not rising at 5 a.m. every day to meticulously clean his cell in a federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colo., that also houses the likes of the Unabomber, Theodore J. Kaczynski; the Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols; and such fellow mobsters as Gregory Scarpa Jr. and Salvatore Gravano, known as Sammy the Bull.

“I think he got a raw deal,” said Joshua L. Dratel, the latest of Mr. Casso’s many lawyers. Mr. Dratel said Mr. Casso was “poor at playing the system” and threatened major cases by exposing Mr. Gravano and other government witnesses and federal agents as liars. Mr. Casso has long claimed that the records of his F.B.I. debriefings, never made public, would show that the government covered up his warnings of moles in its ranks and that to get out of their plea deal with him, prosecutors used other Mafia turncoats as witnesses instead.

Perhaps Mr. Casso’s staunchest pen pal is Mr. Intrieri, 79, a onetime decorated New York detective lieutenant who was convicted of tax evasion in 1976 in the aftermath of the French Connection drug thefts. Mr. Intrieri, who has drafted a memoir asserting his innocence, saw new information on the case in Mr. Carlo’s book and said he found Mr. Casso’s accounts of unsolved crimes credible.

“He wants to get out a little bit, I guess; he’s going stir-crazy,” Mr. Intrieri said, after getting more than a dozen phone calls from Mr. Casso in recent weeks. “But his goal is a sentence reduction.”

The drugs at the core of the mystery — popularized as “The French Connection: A True Account of Cops, Narcotics, and International Conspiracy” in a 1969 book by Robin Mooreand an Academy Award-winning film that followed two years later — were secreted in compartments in a 1960 Buick loaded aboard the liner United States sailing from Le Havre, France, to New York. The car and its 112 pounds of heroin were later claimed by a Lucchese family underling, Patsy Fuca, who, as it happened, was being tailed by a pair of dogged New York narcotics detectives, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.

The drug bust in January 1962 was widely hailed as a record. But the heroics proved short-lived. In six thefts between March 1969 and January 1972, someone signing the register as Detective Joseph Nunziata, a member of the narcotics bureau’s widely corrupt special investigations unit, and using fictitious badge numbers, removed the French Connection drugs along with another 300 pounds of heroin and cocaine from the police property vault at 400 Broome Street (now a New York University dorm).

Handwriting analysis and a discovered fingerprint never established that Detective Nunziata actually signed the police register. But eight months before the thefts were discovered, Detective Nunziata, charged with corruption in an unrelated case, was found shot to death in his car. It was ruled a suicide.

Mr. Moore, the author, wrote that as far back as 1967, he and Detectives Nunziata, Egan and Grosso joked about stealing the French Connection heroin.

Many suspects emerged, including Vincent Papa, a major drug dealer; Frank King, a retired narcotics detective and private eye working for Mr. Papa; and Mr. Intrieri, who upon his retirement had joined Mr. King as a bodyguard for one of Mr. Papa’s sons — “the biggest mistake of my life,” Mr. Intrieri now says. (Mr. Papa’s lawyer was overheard on a wiretap asking Mr. King, “Do we have anything to worry about the handwriting analysis?”) After providing what he thought was confidential information on four corrupt narcotics detectives, Mr. Papa was stabbed to death in prison.

Also under scrutiny was Vincent Albano, another former narcotics detective, who had served under Mr. Intrieri and had survived a mysterious hail of bullets in 1969, only to be slain in 1985.

Thomas P. Puccio, then a Brooklyn federal prosecutor, focused on Mr. King and Mr. Intrieri, but failed to tie them to the drug thefts. Mr. Puccio charged them instead with tax evasion for unexplained income, winning convictions and five-year sentences for both, along with three years for tax evasion by Mr. Albano. But the case remained a puzzle, Mr. Puccio conceded in an interview. “We never really conclusively solved it,” he said.

Still indignant over his conviction more than 30 years later, Mr. Intrieri — who held 15 police citations for bravery and valor — saw in Mr. Carlo’s book that Mr. Casso had named Mr. Albano and a mob associate as two of the French Connection thieves. The book related how Mr. Albano had been shot to death in Brooklyn in 1985, and how Mr. Casso had supplied the gun and helped dump the body on Staten Island.

Mr. Carlo, in an interview, said Mr. Casso had told him Mr. Albano had conceived the drug heist and asked Mr. Casso how to carry it out.

Mr. Intrieri, in his own manuscript, “The French Connection: The Aftermath,” told of running into Mr. Albano several times over the years — including in 1980 while Mr. Albano was casing a Queens bank — and said that Mr. Albano had laughed at hearing that Mr. Intrieri was a suspect in the drug thefts.

By opening an exchange of letters with Mr. Casso — a correspondence that grew to include this reporter — Mr. Intrieri elicited other details, and other crimes.

Mr. Casso offered details of the 1986 car bombing aimed at John Gotti that killed his Gambino family underboss, Frank DeCicco; the killing of a Russian mob associate, Michael Markowitz, in 1989; and the apparently unreported killing of a Jewish drug importer near Mr. Albano’s office around 1980, among other crimes.

Officials at the Federal Medical Center in North Carolina did not respond to repeated requests to interview Mr. Casso by phone.

“I’ll be here awhile receiving treatments for prostate cancer,” Mr. Casso wrote Mr. Intrieri in December. “Just my luck.”

As for the gun that killed Mr. Albano, Mr. Casso supplied a hand-drawn map with imperfect punctuation showing, he said, where it had been thrown: “Its in Sheepshead Bay.”

He also sketched a site where, he said, another mob victim was buried, calling it: “Drawing for the Colombians remains.”

Mr. Intrieri said that his follow-up inquiries gave credence to Mr. Casso’s information and that it was worth giving the old mob boss a chance to hand prosecutors new evidence. “I sincerely believe that until he goes to the site, he won’t remember,” Mr. Intrieri said.

Thanks to Ralph Blumenthal

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Did "Sammy the Bull" Spare Junior Gotti to Save His Own Son?

John A. (Junior) Gotti's role in a 1990 rubout at the World Trade Center was a gangland secret for years because of a "son for a son" deal between his father and a Mafia turncoat, a government witness revealed Monday.

Before federal prosecutors charged Junior last year with the murder of Gambino soldier Louis DiBono, the mob scion's name had never surfaced in connection with the hit ordered by John Gotti Sr.

That's because infamous turncoat Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano - who implicated the Dapper Don, underboss Frank Locascio and others in the murder conspiracy - never fingered Junior, and apparently with good reason, according to former capo Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo.

"Guys were going away for a long time and others were being left out. It was a mystery," DiLeonardo said Monday at the racketeering trial of reputed soldier Charles Carneglia in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Gambino capo Edward Garafola - Gravano's brother-in-law - provided the answer about a year after the murder, DiLeonardo said.

Although Gravano sent scores of Gambinos to prison, he spared Junior in a "son for a son" deal with Gotti Sr. in the hope that his own son, Gerard, would not be punished for his father's decision to break the Mafia oath of silence.

"It was the first time I learned that John Jr. was involved in the [DiBono] hit," DiLeonardo said.

Gotti Sr. was convicted in 1992 of ordering the murder of DiBono because he had ignored an order to meet with the crime boss when called.

Junior - who faces his own upcoming murder trial - assembled the hit team, prosecutors contend in court papers.

Carneglia is charged with sneaking up behind DiBono in the World Trade Center garage and pumping seven bullets into his head and body.

The reason Gravano did not implicate Carneglia at the time he fingered Gotti Sr. was not disclosed.

Although DiLeonardo has testified in 10 previous trials, he had not previously revealed the alleged son for a son deal. "It is implausible that after testifying against John [Jr.] three times, DiLeonardo suddenly remembered information about a murder charge," said Junior's attorney, Seth Ginsberg.

At the time he took the stand against the Teflon Don, Gravano was the highest ranking member of a Mafia family ever to cooperate with the feds.

Prosecutors ripped up Gravano's deal after he was caught trafficking Ecstasy pills with his wife, son and daughter in the witness protection program in Arizona. He is serving a 19-year sentence in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado. Gerard Gravano has nearly completed a nine-year term.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fannie Gotti, Mother of the Dapper Don, Dies at 96

The woman who spawned some of the most notorious and violent gangsters in mob history died peacefully of natural causes in a Long Island nursing home at age 96, her family said yesterday.

Philomena "Fannie" Gotti died of natural causes Tuesday night at a retirement home in Valley Stream, said "Dapper Don" John Gotti's widow, Victoria. "She was an amazing lady," Victoria Gotti told the Post. "One of those strong, strong old-timers."

The announcement of the gangland matriarch's death came just a day before her grandson, John "Junior" Gotti, will be arraigned on murder charges in Tampa, Fla.

His attorney said the death should not have any impact on today's court hearing. "We don't plan on bringing it up," lawyer Seth Ginsberg said.

Fannie Gotti, a Bronx native, was married to construction worker John Joseph Gotti. She gave birth to 13 children in 16 years, two of whom died in childbirth, according to the book "Mob Star" by Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain.

Five of her seven sons would go on to become made members of the Gambino crime family, which her fifth child, John, violently took control of by assassinating the reigning boss Paul Castellano in 1985 in front of Sparks Steak House.

Another one of her brutal boys, Peter, 68, tried to whack Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano, the turncoat who helped put the Teflon Don behind bars.

Vincent Gotti, 56, pleaded guilty earlier this summer to the botched rubout of Howard Beach, Queens, deli owner Angelo Mugnolo, in a fight over a woman. He's awaiting sentencing in Brooklyn federal court.

The late John Gotti, famous for his flamboyant style and swagger before he died in prison in 2002, scoffed at news articles that made his parents out to be Italian immigrants who scraped together meager savings to book passage to America.

"That was one of the things John got mad about," said a source. "The stupid reporters who thought his folks came from Sicily. They were born in The Bronx."

Victoria Gotti, John's widow, described her late mother-in-law as a "typical old-fashioned lady. She was a housewife, a stay-at-home mom."

She said that mom and mob-boss son got along swimmingly, although "I'm sure like any mother and child, they had their little tiffs now and again."

In later years, Fannie took a job at the Bohack supermarket chain, where she worked in the butcher department wrapping meat, Victoria said.

In June 1992, Fannie's husband died of cancer at 85. It was just two days after John was sentenced to life in prison for his career of murder and racketeering.

Fannie was living with her daughter, Marie, in Valley Stream before she moved into a nearby retirement home, Victoria said. Funeral arrangements had not yet been made, she said.

Junior Gotti was "as close as any of the kids could be" with his grandmother, Victoria said. He is accused of ordering three gangland slayings in the late 1980s and early 1990s and running a giant coke dealing operation out of bars in Ozone Park, Queens.

Ginsberg said he would soon file a change-of-venue motion with the Tampa trial judge to have the case moved back to New York.

Thanks to Stephanie Cohen

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Victoria Gotti Defends Her Brother, Junior Gotti

Just hours after John "Junior" Gotti was indicted on charges linking him to cocaine trafficking and three slayings, Victoria Gotti Victoria Gotti Defends Her Brotheris now coming to her brother's defense, speaking to CBS 2 in New York. She says the government is not just after her brother, but her entire family, and especially her father, despite his passing.

"It's obvious. If they could take my father out of the grave, and retry him and win again and again, they would," she said.

Once again, Victoria has to stand up for her brother, on the verge of yet another trial. Only this time, John A. Gotti will be tried for murder. Three murders, the government says. Two of the dead the feds say were allegedly part of drug deals with Gotti that go back 17 years ago. But a third, Louis Di Bono, was an associate of Gotti's father.

"What you have here is you have the Gambino crime family reaching out to Tampa, Florida, so you have a number of New York related gangsters and mobsters coming down to the Tampa area, and this indictment relates to their trying to get a foothold here," said Robert O'Neill of the U.S. Attorney's Office. But Victoria Gotti says there's more to the story than meets the eye.

"I don't know, I feel like saying, you know, it's this vendetta, but I'm so tired of hearing it myself from other people that you try to convince yourself its not, and you try to convince yourself these are supposed to be the good guys and it's just not working for me," she said. "If they were to come back at him, they would look like absolute fools," she said.

Victoria Gotti also said about the witnesses against her brother, like Mikey "Scars" DiLeonardo and Sammy Gravano, if they know so much, then what they were doing back then?

With charges as serious as murder, it wouldn't be surprising to find out that someone was wearing a wire and that there are tapes.

Watch the Pablo Guzman's entire video with Victoria Gotti.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

CW to Detail Mafia's Connection to the Fashion Industry

Just when it seemed Seventh Avenue had shed its cloak of organized crime, it could be pulled right back in.

Lewis Kasman, a former trim producer who once fashioned himself as John Gotti's "adopted son," is expected to turn state's evidence this week in the latest Mob crackdown. A federal court in Brooklyn unsealed an 80-count indictment last month charging 62 alleged mobsters with a list of crimes, from racketeering conspiracy and extortion to theft of union benefits and money laundering.

Although the indictment focuses on the connection between the Mafia, the construction industry and its unions, testimony by Kasman, who is alleged to have for years run a fashion industry front for the Gambino crime family, might also illuminate connections between organized crime and the New York fashion industry over the past three decades — although the ties go back longer than that.

Kasman is slated to appear in federal court Thursday and is expected to testify on his background as an associate of the Gambino crime family and his relationship with its leaders, including Joseph "JoJo" Corozzo. The government also has filed a motion to disqualify Corozzo's son, Joseph, an attorney on the case.

The indictment outlined crimes dating back to the Seventies and ensnared reputed associates of the Gambino, Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families with movie-ready nicknames such as "Vinny Hot," "One Eye" and "Fat Richie."

The three-year investigation also included a cooperating witness who wore a wire, according to the indictment, although it could not be determined at press time whether that witness was Kasman.

"The evidence relating to many of the charged crimes consists of hundreds of hours of recorded conversations secured by a cooperating witness who penetrated the Gambino family over a three-year period," said a statement last month from the office of U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell, who oversees the Eastern District of New York.

Despite the breadth of the current wave of indictments, this won't be Kasman's first time in a courtroom. He was a principal with the now-defunct Albie Trimming Co., a family-owned trimmings manufacturer with a storefront operation and warehouse at 229 West 36th Street that supplied materials such as zippers, linings and buttons to garment industry companies, but was said to be a front for the Gambino family, then headed by John Gotti. At the time, the Gambino family had a stranglehold on Seventh Avenue's trucking activities.

Kasman, who often played up his relationship with Gotti by saying he was like an "adopted son" of the convicted murderer and racketeer, pleaded guilty in 1994 in Federal District Court in Brooklyn to lying to a grand jury in 1990 by saying he was not familiar with the terms "Gambino," "capo" or "consigliere." Kasman was sentenced to six months in prison, was given a $30,000 fine and was sentenced to three years of supervised release once he was out of prison, with the stipulation that he not associate with any members of organized crime.

When Gotti, also known as the "Dapper Don," died in prison in 2002, Kasman told newspapers, "He's a man amongst men, a champion."

During its investigation that led to Gotti's conviction, the government said Albie Trimming and an associated firm, Scorpio Marketing, existed "merely to provide the appearance that John Gotti and other Gambino family members have a legitimate income." Gotti was even said to have an Albie Trimming card that identified him as "salesman."

It was the same Gambino crime family that was prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in 1992 for illegally controlling garment industry trucking. Then-assistant district attorney Eliot Spitzer, in his opening remarks in the trial of Thomas Gambino and Joseph Gambino, sons of crime family founder Carlo Gambino, said the Gambinos and their associates resorted to an occasional show of force "where the velvet glove comes off."

Spitzer won acclaim for his successful prosecution and used it as a stepping stone to his now-disgraced governorship of New York.

The level of the Mafia's involvement in Seventh Avenue today is a matter of debate, with some contending that the corporatization of the industry and the federal government's repeated crackdowns have stifled the Mob, but others saying it's still around. Whether Kasman's testimony will shed the kind of light on the garment industry and organized crime that past state's witnesses have remains to be seen. Sources told WWD after the Gambino trucking trial in state court in 1992 that one reason Thomas and Joseph Gambino pleaded guilty of restraint of trade was that prosecutors were prepared to call Mob-turncoat Sammy "The Bull" Gravano to testify how the family and its associates used strong-arm tactics and unscrupulous bookkeeping to form a garment industry cartel. In a separate federal trial that same year, Gravano was the star witness against Gambino crime family head Gotti and his damaging testimony led to Gotti's conviction and life sentence for racketeering and murder.

Thanks to Evan Clark and Arthur Friedman

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

John Gotti: How the FBI Made the Charges Stick

Friends of ours: John "Teflon Don" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Paul Castellano, Aniello Dellacroce, Thomas Bilotti, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano

He was slippery, yes, but even the “Teflon Don” couldn’t escape justice forever.

John Gotti Mug ShotDespite the future nickname, John Gotti—a violent, ruthless mobster who’d grown up on the streets of New York—had been in and out of prison several times in his early career. In 1968, for example, we arrested him for his role in a plot to steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. Gotti was sent to prison, but was released in 1972.

And quickly made more trouble. Within two years, we’d arrested him again for murder. Same story: he went to prison and was out in a few years. Soon after, he became a “made man” for the Gambino family, one of the five most powerful syndicates in the Big Apple. Gambling, loansharking, and narcotics trafficking were his stocks in trade.

The heat was on. By the early 80s, using Title III wiretaps, mob informants, and undercover agents, we were beginning to get clear insights into the Gambino family’s hierarchy and activities (and into the other families as well) and were building strong cases against them as criminal enterprises. A break against Gotti came in late 1985, when mob violence spilled out on to the streets of Manhattan.

The scene of the crime? Sparks’ Steak House, a popular hangout for major criminals. On the evening of December 16, 1985, 70-year-old-mafioso Paul Castellano—the apparent successor of recently deceased Gambino boss Aniello Dellacroce—was gunned down along with his number two in command, Thomas Bilotti, in front of the restaurant. Gotti, who’d been watching from a car at a safe distance, had one of his men drive him by the scene to make sure his deadly orders had been carried out. [Thanks to several readers who pointed out that Dellacroce was actually not the boss. It was best put by pointing out that Dellacroce was the underboss, & had been under Carlo Gambino. Castellano had been the boss since 1976 (when Gambino died). In 1976, there was fear Dellacroce, as underboss, would resist Gambino's choice of Castellano as boss, since Dellacroce was above Castellano in the family. However, after being given almost complete autonomy over several crews, Dellacroce acquiesced to Castellano's appointment as boss. Murder Machine (Capeci & Mustain) has more details of all this.]

Top hood. Having eliminated the competition, Gotti took over as head of the Gambino family. With his expensive suits, lavish parties, and illegal dealings, he quickly became something of a media celebrity, and the press dubbed him “The Dapper Don.” Following a string of highly-publicized acquittals—helped in large part by witness intimidation and jury tampering—Gotti also earned the “Teflon Don” nickname.

Our New York agents and their colleagues in the New York Police Department, though, refused to give up. With extensive court-authorized electronic surveillance, diligent detective work, and the eventual cooperation of Gotti’s henchman—“Sammy the Bull” Gravano—the Bureau and the NYPD built a strong case against him.

The end was near. In December 1990, our agents and NYPD detectives arrested Gotti, and he was charged with multiple counts of racketeering, extortion, jury tampering, and other crimes. This time, the judge ordered that the jurors remain anonymous, identified only by number, so no one could pressure them. And the case was airtight.

The combination worked. On April 2, 1992, 15 years ago Monday, Gotti was convicted on 13 counts, including for ordering the murders of Castellano and Bilotti. The head of our New York office famously remarked, “The don is covered with Velcro, and every charge stuck.”

Indeed. Gotti had evaded the law for the last time. He died in prison in June 2002.

Thanks to the FBI

Friday, November 17, 2006

Al Qaeda and The Mob

Friends of ours: "Big Paul" Castellano, Gambino Crime Family, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Colombo Crime Family, Greg Scarpa Jr., Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, Joseph LaForte

After whacking "Big Paul" Castellano and taking control of the Gambino Family in 1985 John Gotti set up headquarters at The Ravenite Social Club - located on the ground floor of a five story brick building at 227 Mulberry St. in Little Italy. Over the next seven years, the FBI's New York Office (NYO) conducted an around the clock surveillance of the site: taking pictures of The Dapper Don in the street outside the club from a plant or "perch" across the street, bugging his phones and planting dozens of surveillance devices in the building owned by Gambino wiseguy Joseph "Joe The Cat" LaForte.

By 1997 "getting Gotti" became the "top investigative priority" of the NYO and the personal obsession of Special Agent Bruce Mouw who called the Gambino boss as "a stone cold killer." The investigation cost the Feds millions, but during three separate prosecutions in Federal Court "The Teflon Don" eluded conviction. It wasn't until Mouw and the FBI's Special Operations Group (SOG) were able to install mikes in the apartment of Netti Cirelli, who lived upstairs from the club, that they caught Gotti in the incriminating conversations with Sammy "The Bull" Gravano that finally brought him down in 1992. It was a victory that cemented the reputation of the FBI as the law enforcement agency that "always gets its man."

This story is very well known. What's not known -- and will be revealed in detail with the publication next week of my new book Triple Cross -- is that the same New York Office of the FBI - also known as the bin Laden "office of origin," blew an opportunity in the summer of 2001 - to stop the 9/11 "planes as missiles" plot dead in its tracks. How? by merely applying the same dogged surveillance techniques across the Hudson in Jersey City to an al Qaeda hot spot that one former FBI informant had called "a nest of vipers."

The address was 2828 Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City; the location of Sphinx Trading, a check cashing and mailbox store that does millions of dollars in wire transfers each year between New Jersey and the Middle East. Sphinx was incorporated on December 15th, 1987 by Waleed al Noor and Mohammed El-Attris, an Egyptian. The store was located only four doors down from the al-Salam mosque, presided over by blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (OAR). Rahman runs like a hot circuit cable through the epic story of FBI failures on the road to 9/11.

Convicted by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in 1995 along with 9 other members of a "jihad army" for seditious conspiracy, OAR was the leader of the hyper-violent al Gamma'a Islamyah (Islamic Group) responsible for the Luxor Massacre in 1997. He was also spiritual head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) the terror group headed by Osama bin Laden's number two: Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri. Not only was the Sheikh's cell responsible for the first attack on the WTC in 1993, but the 1998 African Embassy bombings and the October, 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole were committed in his name. OAR was so important to the al Qaeda leadership that the infamous Crawford Texas, Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6th, 2001 referenced a 1998 intelligence report of a plot by bin Laden to hijack planes to free him. A similar report was contained in a PDB to Bill Clinton in 1998. So the NYO "office of origin" had good reason to focus on the dingy gray three-story building at 2824 Kennedy Boulevard that also housed what the Feds called "The Jersey Jihad Office."

Paul Fredrick MenStyleOne of the most astonishing revelations in my five year investigation into the FBI's handling of the war on terror was that Bureau agents knew as early as 1991 that Sphinx Trading was the location of a mailbox used by El Sayyid Nosair. A Prozac popping Egyptian-born janitor, it was Nosair who spilled the first al Qaeda blood on U.S. soil on the night of November 5th, 1990 when he gunned down Rabbi Meier Kahane, founder of The Jewish Defense League. Nosair had been trained by the principal subject of Triple Cross: Ali A. Mohamed, an ex Egyptian Army Major who had by then succeeded in penetrating the CIA in Hamburg Germany in 1984. Then after slipping past a Watch List and entering the U.S. a year later, Mohamed enlisted in the U.S. Army where he reached the rank of E-5 and got himself assigned to the highly secure JFK Special Warfare Center (SWC) at Fort Bragg, N.C. -- the advanced training school for officers of The Green Berets and Delta Force. It was members of Mohamed's radical Egyptian Army unit who had gunned down Anwar Sadat in 1981 and his C.O. at Bragg likened the chances of an ex-Egyptian Army officer with that kind of pedigree ending up at the JFK SWC with winning the Powerball Lottery.

On weekends Mohamed would travel up to New York and stay with Nosair -bringing along TOP SECRET memos he'd stolen from the SWC including the location of all Special Operations units worldwide - a treasure trove of intel that made its way to the al Qaeda leadership. On four successive weekends in July, 1989, during the tenure of Bush 41, Ali's trainees drove out from the al Farooq Mosque on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn (another OAR venue) to a shooting range in Calverton township on Long Island. There they spent hours firing AK-47's, handguns and other semi-automatic weapons. How do we know this? Because every weekend these "M.E.'s" or "Middle Eastern" men as they were known in Bureau speak were photographed by the Special Operations Group, the same unit that "Got Gotti" at the Ravenite Social Club.

Of the Ali Mohamed trainees photographed by the FBI half an hour above the Hamptons that hot July of '89, three were later convicted in the WTC bombing, Nosair, was convicted in the Kahane assassination and a third U.S. Black Muslim was convicted with the Blind Sheikh and Nosair in the plot to blow up the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan in 1995. Billed as the Day of Terror case, it was presided over by U.S. Attorneys Andrew McCarthy and Patrick Fitzgerald. As proof of their awareness that OAR's "jihad army" was an effective al Qaeda cell, Fitzie, as he was known, named 173 unindicted co-conspirators including Osama bin Laden, his brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, and Ali Mohamed - who by now was operating a sleeper cell in Silicon Valley. Also named on that list was Waleed al-Noor the co-incorporator of Sphinx Trading - proof that the Feds still had the Jersey City mailbox store on its radar.

What isn't known and will be revealed for the first time in Triple Cross was that Ali Mohamed had been acting as an FBI informant on the West Coast since 1992 - a year before the WTC bombing carried out by the same cell members he'd trained. More amazing, the revelation that in 1993 Ali had confessed to his hapless West Coast "control" agent John Zent that he was working for bin Laden and had helped set up al Qaeda training camps for jihadis in Khartoum. He'd also admitted that he'd provided al Qaeda members with anti-hijacking and intelligence training in Afghanistan.

If anyone in the bin Laden "office of origin" had been inclined to connect the dots, that single statement to a Special Agent in the San Francisco office should have set off alarm bells at 26 Federal Plaza - home of the FBI's NYO. But it didn't. Worse, when Mohamed was captured by alert Royal Canadian Mounted Police operatives in 1993 while attempting to smuggle al Qaeda terrorist into the U.S. from Vancouver, it was Special Agent Zent who vouched for Ali - effectively springing him from the custody of the Mounties.

After that, on the orders of Mohamed Atef, al Qaeda's military commander, Ali went to Nairobi where he took the pictures of the U.S. Embassy that bin Laden personally used to locate the suicide truck bomb that exploded five years later in August 1998. Along with simultaneous truck bombing in Tanzania 224 people died and 4,000 more were injured.

Using evidence from the SDNY court cases, interviews with current and retired Special Agents and documents from the FBI's own files, I prove in Triple Cross that Patrick Fitzgerald and Squad I-49 in the NYO could have prevented those bombings - not just by getting the truth from FBI informant Ali Mohamed, but by connecting him to Wadih El-Hage, one of the Kenya cell leaders. How would the Feds have done that? Easily.

They'd had wiretaps on El-Hage's Kenyan home since 1996. In August 1997, a year before the bombings, Special Agent Dan Coleman (of I-49) had searched El-Hage's house where he'd found Ali Mohamed's U.S. address and phone number. In fact, Fitzgerald himself had a face to face meeting with Mohamed in Sacramento, California in October 1997.

At that meeting Mohamed boldly told Fitzie that he "loved" bin Laden and didn't need a fatwa to attack the U.S. This "stone-cold" killer who had moved bin Laden and his entire al Qaeda entourage from Afghanistan to Khartoum in 1991 and trained the Saudi Billionaire's personal bodyguards in 1994 - then told Fitzgerald and other I-49 FBI agents including Jack Cloonan that he had dozens of al Qaeda sleepers that he could make operational on a moment's notice and that he himself could disappear at any time.

Then, After Mohamed walked out on him, Fitzgerald turned to Cloonan and declared that Ali was "the most dangerous man" he'd ever met and insisted, "We cannot let this man out on the street." But he did and ten months later in August, 1998 the bombs went off in Africa - delivered by another cell that Ali had helped train. It took Fitzgerald another month before he arrested Mohamed on September 10th bringing his 14 year terror spree to an end.

The immediate threat to the American people from Ali may have ended, but not his threat to the FBI and the Justice Department. You see, Ali, aka "Amiriki" or "Ali the American," was a one-man 9/11 Commission capable of ratting out the Feds on how he had eaten their lunch for years - how the two bin Laden "offices of origin" in the NYO and the SDNY where Fitzgerald was head of Organized Crime and terrorism - had been outgunned by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri dating back to that Calverton, L.I. surveillance in 1989. Fearful of what he would say if put on the stand and subjected to cross examination by defense lawyers in the upcoming Embassy bombing, Fitzgerald made sure that Ali was hidden away under a John Doe warrant. Finally, by October, 2000 Fitzie had cut a deal allowing the master spy to cop a plea and escape the death penalty.

In the end, Fitzgerald made his bones as the Justice Department's top al Qaeda buster by convicting El Hage and several other relatively minor bomb cell members. in U.S. vs. bin Laden in 2001. But the real "mastermind" of the Embassy bombings skated. Mohamed was allowed to slip into the security of custodial witness protection where he remains today - the greatest enigma of the war on terror.

All of this brings us full circle back to the big question: why should we care. What does it matter if an al Qaeda spy turned CIA asset, U.S. citizen, active duty Army sergeant and FBI informant was able to operate with virtual impunity for years, right under the noses of the best and the brightest in the FBI and DOJ?

Because Ali Mohamed was a metaphor for the dozens and dozens of counterterrorism failures by the NYO and SDNY on the road to 9/11 - while agents in the New York office like Bruce Mouw remained so obsessed with bringing down "The Dapper Don." Worse, at some point - I fix the date in 1996 - the evidence in Triple Cross shows that officials like Fitzgerald began suppressing evidence that might have proven embarrassing to the Bureau.

Much of it was contained in dozens of FBI 302 memos that can be examined by going to my website, www.peterlance.com. This treasure trove of intelligence was passed to the FBI, ironically, by a wiseguy name Greg Scarpa Jr. locked up in the cell next to WTC bomber and 9/11 plot mastermind Ramzi Yousef in the MCC - federal jail in Lower Manhattan. It was Yousef's uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohamed (KSM) who merely executed his nephew's "planes as missiles" plot after Ramzi's capture in 1995.

Among those 302's, a warning in December, 1996 of a plot by bin Laden (aka Bojinga) to hijack planes to free the blind Sheikh - the identical threat warning that was to appear in PDB's to Clinton in '98 and Bush 43 '01. Also, evidence of an active al Qaeda cell operating in New York City in 1996. But all of that intel got flushed by Patrick Fitzgerald and other DOJ officials in order to suppress a scandal in the NYO involved former Supervisory Special Agent R. Lindley DeVecchio. Lin or "the girlfriend" as he was called by Scarpa's father - a notorious Colombo Family killer - had been the target of a 1994 FBI internal affairs (OPR) investigation that threatened to derail the 60 remaining Colombo War cases in the (EDNY) Brooklyn. So, as I reported first in my last book COVER UP, Fitzgerald and other DOJ officials -- including current FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni - entered into an ends/means decision to discredit the younger Scarpa, bury the Yousef intel (falsely calling it a "hoax" and a "scam') and allowing DeVecchio to retire with a full pension.

They did this after he'd taken "the Fifth" and answered "I don't recall" more than 40 times after a grand of immunity - something that would have landed any other U.s. citizen in jail for contempt.

I'd told that tangled story of "The G-Man and The Hit Man" for the first time in Cover Up published in 2004. A year later, the deputy head of the Rackets Bureau in the Brooklyn D.A's office met with me. Later, armed with evidence supplied by forensic investigator Angela Clemente they empanelled a grand jury. On March 30th 2006 DeVecchio was indicted on four counts of second degree homicide stemming from his alleged "unholy alliance" with Scarpa Sr. But it was the desire by Federal officials in 1996 to bury the DeVecchio scandal and preserve those Colombo War cases that led to their ends/means decision to ignore all of that evidence from Ramzi Yousef to Greg Scarpa Jr. The belief that somehow the Mafia was more of a threat to New York than al Qaeda -- that caused the FBI to let their guard down on the bin Laden threat.

That's the only explanation I've been able to come up with to understand their stunning inability to keep an eye on Sphinx Trading.

There is now little doubt that if the Feds had devoted as much energy to a surveillance of Sphinx as they had to the Ravenite Social Club, they would have been in the middle of the 9/11 plot months before Black Tuesday. Because in July of 2001, Khalid al-Midhar and Salem al-Hazmi got their fake I.D.'s delivered to them in a mailbox at the identical location the FBI had been onto in the decade since El Sayyid Nosair had killed Meier Kahane. The man who supplied those fake ID's that allowed al-Midhar and al-Hazmi to board A.A. Flight #77 that hit the Pentagon, was none other than Mohammed El-Attriss the co-incorporator of Sphinx with Waleed al-Noor - whom Patrick Fitzgerald had put on the unindicted co-conspirators list along with bin Laden and Ali Mohamed in 1995.

How was it that Fitzgerald, the man Vanity Fair described as the bin Laden "brain," possessing "scary smart" intelligence, had not connected the dots and ordered the same kind of "perch" or "plant" to watch Sphinx that the Bureau had used against Gotti? Which "stone cold" killer was more a threat to the security of New York City? The Teflon Don or bin Laden's master spy who cut his deal without giving up those "sleepers" he'd told Fitzgerald about in October of 1997.

Here's an irony in a story pregnant with them:

Patrick Fitzgerald made his bones as a terror fighter by prosecuting U.S. vs. bin Laden, the trial of the African Embassy bombers that he and squad I-49 failed to stop. As a reward he was appointed U.S. Attorney in Chicago and got tapped as Special Prosecutor in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. We now know that even after learning the identify of the Plame leak source -- Bush retainer Richard Armitage - in the early weeks of the investigation, Fitzgerald still subjected the New York Times and Time magazine to a barrage of subpoenas unseen since the McCarthy era - going so far as to force the jailing of ex-Times reporter Judith Miller for 85 days. Until now, Patrick Fitzgerald has been famous for two things: prosecuting al Qaeda members and chilling the press. With the publication of Triple Cross his failure to contain bin Laden's master spy will now be on the record. The book hits the stores on Tuesday, November 21st.

Thanks to Peter Lance

Monday, September 18, 2006

Junior Mourns Manly Mob on Prison Tapes

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gambino Crime Family

As he languished in a federal prison in 2003, John "Junior" Gotti had plenty to worry about.

The jail, he told visitors, was crawling with informants. He had money problems. Old friends were getting indicted. Other members of the Gotti clan were stealing his money. But at the root of his troubles was this: The modern mob, he lamented, was losing its manliness. "Now are we men? Or are we punks or rats or weasels? You tell me," he angrily asked one friend while serving a racketeering sentence.

Gotti's conversations were routinely recorded before his release from prison last year, and the tapes have played a central role in his current racketeering trial in Manhattan. A jury was to begin deliberating the case Monday.

Among other things, the son of the legendary mafia boss "Dapper Don" John Gotti is accused of ordering an attack on Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who was shot twice by would-be kidnappers in 1992.

Prosecutors contend that "Junior" Gotti was involved in mob affairs even after he was imprisoned in 1999. The defense says the recordings, made at the federal prison at Ray Brook, N.Y., show that Gotti had developed a distaste for mob life and retired. In any case, the tapes provide an inside look at the gangster's code, particularly its obsession with "being a man" at all costs.

Lesson No. 1: Men fight.

"If a guy wants to get all fancy and prancy, if he picks his hands up to you, you pick your hands up back. You're not a punk," Gotti explained in one recorded discussion.

"No hiding behind fences," he said during another conversation. "Take our coats off like gentlemen. Now, let's see. Let's see who the tough guy is. No knives. No guns. Like gentleman. ... Let's see who the real man really is."

Lesson No. 2: Men tolerate no assault on their character.

Gotti is firm on this point when he discusses two uncles who diminished his leadership role in the gang by badmouthing him to his father in 2001, a year before the elder Gotti's death from cancer in prison. "If any of them ever come here, I'm telling you, I swear it to you, on my dead brother and my dead father, I swear to you, I will meet them by that (prison) door, with two padlocks in my hands and I will crack their skulls, I promise you that. I promise you that. This I take as a solemn oath as a man."

Lesson No. 3: Manliness is in the blood.

"You're a real man," he told longtime friend John Ruggiero. "You wanna know why, John? Not only for who you are. But for who your father was. You got his genes, you're a man."

A person who isn't a man, he added, can't simply become one by acting tough. "These ain't men you're dealing with, you're dealing with frauds," he said. "It's like a kid who gets (unintelligible) all his life ... and he gets his milk money taken. What does he grow up to be? A cop. He's got a gun and a badge. That's, that's his equalizer. Got a gun and a badge, now he's a man. Well, that's how all these guys are, John, they're no different."

Lesson No. 4: A man spends time with family.

"Listen, I love my brother," Gotti said. "But my brother's a bum. That's all he is. No more, no less. He doesn't spend a moment with his own children. I have a hard time respecting any man who doesn't spend any time with his wife and kids."

Lesson No. 5: Men can do prison time.

"Some guys are made for this. Some guys just aren't," Gotti said of his life behind bars.

"Gravano was an example," he said, speaking of Gambino crime family turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano. "I mean he was a legendary soldier in the street. Brooklyn, he was a legend in Brooklyn. He got to jail, he fell to pieces."

Lesson No. 6: Real men don't snitch, but if they do, they don't make stuff up.

"Bottom line is, if you're gonna become a rat, become a rat: Tell the f------ truth. Don't go out of your way to hurt people," he said.

This is Gotti's third trial on the latest racketeering charges. The first two ended when jurors deadlocked on the charges, in part because of the defense argument that he became disenchanted with the mafia and retired long enough ago that the legal deadline for prosecuting him for old crimes had expired.

Which brings us to Gotti's Lesson No. 7: Mafia life stinks.

"So much treachery ... My father couldn't have loved me, to push me into this life," he lamented to friend Steve Kaplan.

"Oh ... I'd rather be a Latin King than be what I am," he said, referring to the Hispanic street gang. "I swear to you, Steve, and I, I mean it on my father's grave. I'm so ashamed. I am so ashamed."

Thanks to David B. Caruso

Friday, August 25, 2006

Gotti Said To Break Mafia Vow During Meeting With Prosecutors

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Daniel Marino, John "Johnny G" Gammarano, Gambino Crime Family, Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, Genovese Crime Family, Luchese Crime Family, Paul Castellano, Peter Gotti, Frank DeCicco, Bartholemew "Bobby" Borriello, Edward Lino
Friends of mine: Joseph Watts


Mob prince John "Junior" Gotti broke his Mafia vow of omerta last year and used a pre-trial sitdown with federal prosecutors as an opportunity to settle some old scores with two of his father's former top lieutenants, Gang Land has learned.

Gotti has acknowledged the January 2005 secret session with the feds, but has maintained it was merely an effort to convince the feds of his innocence concerning the charges in the racketeering indictment.

He said he indignantly stomped out once he realized that prosecutors were seeking his cooperation. In a June 27 interview with the Daily News, he insisted he would never tell on his former crime cohorts, underscoring his own attitude about informing by quoting his late father's extreme views on the subject. "I could have robbed a church but I wouldn't admit to it if I had a steeple sticking out of my" rear end, Gotti said the Dapper Don had told him.

However, several sources confirmed to Gang Land that, in a failed bid to persuade prosecutors to drop their case against him, Gotti spilled old secrets about two "made men" and a Gambino crime family associate — all underlings of the elder John Gotti.

Junior fingered capo Daniel Marino, soldier John "Johnny G" Gammarano, and longtime associate Joseph Watts for numerous crimes that took place before 1999, when Junior Gotti has insisted he walked away from the Mafia life, sources said.

Gotti also allegedly gave the feds information about a crooked Queens cop who enabled him to beat one case during the 1980s, and a corrupt politician who was part of a land-grab scheme during the same time frame, sources said. Both men are deceased.

Despite Gotti's claims of retirement and his ultimate decision not to cooperate, any informant activity by the mob scion would be viewed as an abomination within his former realm, and equate him with the defectors who have testified against him and his late father. "If it's true, he's a rat, just like Sammy and Scars," an underworld source said, referring to the two major Gambino family defectors, former underboss Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano and onetime capo Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo.

The disclosure about Gotti's discussions comes as his third trial stemming from the kidnap-shooting of Curtis Sliwa is under way in Manhattan Federal Court.The trial judge, Shira Scheindlin, has issued a gag order in the case and prosecutors and defense lawyers are prohibited from discussing it.

Gang Land's sources declined to discuss specifics that Junior gave the feds, but said he focused primarily on Marino, 65, a powerful family capo and longtime thorn in the side of the Dapper Don, and Watts, 64, once viewed as a possible FBI informer by the Junior Don and his cohorts. While informing about Marino, Gotti, almost as an afterthought, also related alleged criminal activity by Gammarano, 65, a soldier in Marino's crew, sources said.

Marino, who served six years behind bars for a murder conspiracy ordered by the elder Gotti, was released in 2000. Watts, who spent 10 years in prison for his involvement in the same plot and a separate tax case, was released from prison in May. Johnny G, who served three years for a labor racketeering scam in Brooklyn and a Joker Poker gambling machine scheme in New Orleans, has been back in action since 2002.

Gotti has had it out for Marino and Watts for years, a source said. "He's talked about killing them both," the source said. The Gotti faction has long believed that Marino was poised to take over the crime family in the early 1990s as part of a retaliation plot by the Genovese and Luchese families for the unsanctioned 1985 killing of Gambino boss Paul Castellano.

Even after Marino was incarcerated during the late 1990s, Junior, Mikey Scars, Peter Gotti, and other supporters of the then-jailed Dapper Don debated whether to kill Marino, according to FBI documents. The discussions revolved around suspicions that Marino may have had a role in the murders of Frank DeCicco, Bartholemew "Bobby" Borriello, and Edward Lino — all key allies of the elder Gotti — between 1986 and 1991.

In the early 1990s, according to testimony at Junior's second trial, Gotti had two gunmen waiting in the closet of a Brooklyn apartment ready to kill Marino and Johnny G and dispose of their remains in body bags after Junior suspected they had kept $400,000 in annual construction industry extortion payments that should have been forwarded to him. The plot was thwarted, probably intentionally, by Watts.

Watts, who would become the focus of rubout talk a few years later, had been instructed to bring Marino and Johnny G to a meeting that would end with their execution. But when Watts and the targeted mobsters arrived in a stretch limo along with another mobster and a driver, Junior aborted the plan, according to the testimony.

In 1994 and 1995, according to court documents, Junior discussed killing Watts when "rumors began to spread within the Gambino family that Watts might be cooperating" and Gotti feared that Watts and then-superstar witness Sammy Bull would be a "deadly combination" that would threaten the "survival of the Gottis and the Gambino family."

The nasty talk about Watts fizzled out after he pleaded guilty and went to prison. But Junior has long suspected that Watts, who referred to Junior as "Boss" whenever they met, had worn a wire against him, according to FBI documents. And, during his session with the feds, "Junior was quick to point a finger at him," a source said. Sources said Gotti did implicate himself, and a few longtime friends, in several crimes, but they took place too long ago to be used in an indictment.

Gotti denied any role in a 23-year-old murder, a crime for which there is no statute of limitations, sources said. He insisted that he did not kill Danny Silva, a 24-year-old Queens man who died from a knife wound during a wild melee in an Ozone Park bar when Junior was a rowdy and arrogant 19-year-old wannabe wiseguy. "He said he was there, but he said he had nothing to do with the stabbing," a source said.

As Gang Land reported in our first New York Sun column four years ago, a formerly reluctant witness has told authorities that he "personally saw Junior stab Danny Silva" and the police and FBI reopened the case with an eye toward charging Gotti with Silva's murder.

Thanks to Jerry Capeci of Gangland News

Monday, May 15, 2006

La Cosa Nostra Tough Guy-Turned-Witness follows the Rules

Friends of ours: Bruno Facciola, Luchesse Crime Family, Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, John Gotti, Vittorio Amuso, Paulie Vario, Henry Hill, Vic Amuso, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Genovese Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Colombo Crime Family, "Little Vic" Orena, Bonanno Crime Family, Anthony Spero, James Ida
Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

The killers placed the dead canary in the freezer. Later, after their work was finished, they placed the bird inside the mouth of the equally deceased Bruno Facciola.

The August 1990 mob hit followed a tip from two corrupt NYPD detectives that the Luchese family capo had turned government informant. Facciola was stabbed, shot through both eyes and shot again in the head before the bird was stuffed in his mouth. It was murder with a message: See no evil. And definitely speak no evil.

The slaying was orchestrated by one of the crime family's true believers, a diminutive thug known to fellow Mafiosi as "Little Al." Few in organized crime embraced the mob ethos more fervently than Alphonse D'Arco, a hard case from the cradle.

"I was a man when I was born," Little Al once bragged. He committed every crime except pimping and pornography, which D'Arco deemed beneath his dignity. Murder was a different story; he committed eight while rising from Luchese associate to acting boss.

Few in organized crime despised informants more than Little Al. "Rats," he'd spit, his face contorted with disgust. He did a three-year heroin rap without opening his yap. So when the word came down that Facciola was singing to the feds, D'Arco arranged for his demise. And for the canary.

Four months later, with the family in turmoil, D'Arco stepped up to become the Luchese boss. His reign abruptly ended on Aug. 21, 1991, but not in the fashion he expected: on the wrong end of a jury verdict. Or maybe a bullet. Instead, D'Arco _ disgusted by the loss of mob honor, double-crossed by men he had respected _ became what he most abhorred: a rat. And not just any rat.

He brought down mob bosses, underbosses, consiglieres. Fifteen years later, the former made man is still making inmates out of accomplices as perhaps the most devastating mob informant ever _ even better than Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who famously flipped on mob superstar John Gotti.

Alphonse D'Arco, born July 28, 1932, grew up near the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The neighborhood was heavy with heavyweight mobsters, including some of his relatives. His childhood, D'Arco once recalled, was "like being in the forest and all the trees were the dons and the organized crime guys." D'Arco walked into the woods without hesitation. He was 14 when he started hanging with the local mobsters; one year later, he dropped out of school.

Two tenets of the old-school Mafia appealed to D'Arco: Loyalty and honor. Both extended into his personal life; in 1951, during the Korean War, D'Arco volunteered for the Army, served two years and received an honorable discharge. When he returned to Brooklyn and the mob, he found a wife; they remain married to this day. The D'Arcos had five children.

In 1959, D'Arco first met future Luchese family boss Vittorio Amuso. He was soon making money for the Lucheses in a variety of ways: Hijacking. Drug dealing. Burglary. Counterfeiting. Arson. Armed robbery.

D'Arco became a made man on Aug. 23, 1982, in a ceremony held in a Bronx kitchen. "I should burn like this paper if I betray anyone in this room," D'Arco swore. D'Arco was particularly good with dates, and he always remembered this one. He remembered plenty of other things along the way. D'Arco was a guy who listened more than he spoke.

D'Arco had long ago resolved the differences between mob life and straight society. As John Q. Citizen, D'Arco would have lived by the rules. As Alphonse D'Arco, mobster, he would abide by the Mafia's code _ no questions asked. He obeyed orders and his elders, kicked money up to the bosses. And he never cooperated with law enforcement. Not even on the smallest of matters.

His capo was Paulie Vario, one of the family's most valued leaders. As the entire crew would soon discover, the erosion of mob values was under way. And it was happening in their midst.

Henry Hill was a Luchese associate and a cocaine dealer. Once arrested, Hill became the most notorious Mafia turncoat of the decade. His testimony helped put Vario away in 1984. Hill's life became fodder for the classic mob movie "GoodFellas." Vario, played by Paul Sorvino in the movie, died in a Texas prison four years later. His replacement was Alphonse D'Arco.

D'Arco's old friend Vic Amuso became the head of the family. His underboss was another pal, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a hoodlum responsible for three dozen murders.

The mob life was good for D'Arco. He had about $1 million in loan-sharking money spread around, and ran his own crew. The family hierarchy relied on him to handle important business _ labor unions, racketeering, murder.

"He was a true believer in La Cosa Nostra," said former federal prosecutor George Stamboulidis. "He grew up in the life. It was something that he wanted, and succeeded at."

D'Arco dressed in shirts with big "wiseguy collars," and lived in an apartment on Spring Street in Little Italy. The market rent was $1,200 a month; D'Arco paid $200.

He brought his son, Joe, into the family business, and considered doing the same for another son, John. When the order came down for Joe to whack a guy in California, Al unflinchingly told his son to do it. At his father's behest, Joe committed a second mob murder in New York. The son played by his father's rules.

A few months after they exposed Bruno Facciola, the two crooked detectives provided Casso with a new bit of information: the underboss and Amuso were targeted for arrest. On Jan. 9, 1991, the pair met with Little Al at a Brooklyn bar, where Amuso pronounced him acting boss of the Lucheses. Then Casso and Amuso vanished. Top of the world, Al.

During eight eye-opening months as boss, D'Arco's blind allegiance to the mob was undermined. From seclusion, Amuso and Casso started a whispering campaign against D'Arco among the Luchese faithful. A fellow mobster informed D'Arco about the betrayal; so did FBI agents.

Yet D'Arco was unconvinced until the night of Sept. 18, 1991, when he attended a meeting in a midtown Manhattan hotel room. His longtime Luchese associates appeared unnerved. A family hit man was among the group, and the vibe was ugly. D'Arco had no doubt that he was marked for death.

D'Arco managed to bolt the meeting, and reconsidered his life _ or what might be left of it. He considered going to war against the Amuso/Casso faction, handling things in the style of his Brooklyn mentors. But D'Arco had no more loyalty to the Lucheses. And he no longer viewed them as men of honor.

"So I says, `That's it,"' D'Arco explained later from the witness stand. "I washed my hands of the whole thing."

D'Arco sent most of his family to Hawaii, far from the deadly streets of New York. Accompanied by his son, D'Arco hid in his mother's Long Island home. A deal was made. On Sept. 21, 1991, Alphonse D'Arco became the most unlikely cooperating witness ever recruited. And also one of the most expensive.

The federal government spent more than $2 million to relocate the D'Arco clan. Little Al and six other families were moved from New York to parts unknown. He left behind a mob fortune; his legal net worth was about $30,000.

News of the stunning defection spread quickly through the underworld. An attorney was dispatched to the Metropolitan Correction Center to inform jailed Gambino boss John Gotti that Little Al was switching sides.

The acting boss was one of the highest-ranking mobsters to ever flip, and federal authorities took advantage. He testified more than a dozen times against his former friends and the mob's top echelon.

D'Arco was a combative and effective witness. His memory for details and dates was unshakable. He took on New York's top defense attorneys, and refused to let any put words into his mouth.

Testifying at a 1996 competency hearing for Genovese family boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, D'Arco flew into a rage. "Don't break my chops," D'Arco warned defense attorney Michael Shapiro. "I'll break yours, too."

D'Arco's testimony helped convict ex-cronies Amuso and Casso; Gigante and Colombo boss "Little Vic" Orena; Bonanno consigliere Anthony Spero; Genovese consigliere James Ida; and an assortment of other mobsters.

He testified before uncounted grand juries, spilling about corruption in the unions, the Garment District, the airports and the Hunts Point market. "D'Arco gave them great value for the money," said criminal defense lawyer Edward Hayes. "He testified against a lot of guys, and they got convicted. D'Arco is a lunatic, but he has a story."

Once, in a Brooklyn courtroom, D'Arco stood before a federal judge who noted they had grown up in the same nearby neighborhood. "Yeah," D'Arco replied. "And we both rose to the top of our professions."

Prosecutor Stamboulidis said D'Arco embraced his new calling as fervently as his old. "When he entered an agreement with the government, he answered all the questions with brutal honesty and thoroughness," Stamboulidis said. "A true believer does everything 100 percent. He believes 100 percent in his current position."

His reward came in November 2002, when D'Arco was sentenced at a courtroom in suburban Westchester County. Little Al appeared via closed-circuit television and received time served, which essentially meant no jail time. He was fined $50, and returned to obscurity.

While mob turncoats like Gravano and Hill went back to jail, D'Arco stayed on the right side of the law. And one of the biggest trials yet remained in his future _ one that brought him back to the day when Bruno Facciola had a canary for his last meal.

It was March 2005 when federal authorities announced the indictments of ex-NYPD detectives Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, former police partners-turned-partners in crime. The two were charged with taking $4,000 a month from Gaspipe Casso to work as Luchese family hit men.

On occasion, they also slipped the underboss inside information. They let Casso know that Facciola was reportedly working as an informant. Casso ordered D'Arco to handle the hit.

Little Al was called again to testify. The federal RICO statute, a powerful tool that allows law enforcement to link crimes committed over decades, made D'Arco every bit as valuable in 2006 as he was 15 years before. It was a big case, and D'Arco could help bring down the "Mafia Cops."

The ex-boss, now 73, looked more grandfatherly than Godfatherly as he testified, his thick Brooklyn accent unchanged by years of life outside the city. He wore a 20-year-old suit to court, one of two now hanging in his closet.

He spent parts of two days on the stand, standing firm under withering cross-examination from Hayes and former Gotti lawyer Bruce Cutler. Caracappa and Eppolito were quickly convicted, and faced life in prison.

Alphonse D'Arco went home, where his loyalty was still appreciated. But there was a moment during his testimony where D'Arco recalled a less complicated time, when he was a young man whose belief in simple values was absolute.

The burly Cutler, his booming voice filling the courtroom, recited a litany of perks that came D'Arco's way from the Witness Protection Program: No jail time. A new identity. An attorney, free of charge. "That's another reward, yes?" Cutler asked.

"I don't see anything to be a reward," D'Arco responded without hesitation. "I'd trade it all to go back on Spring Street."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Friday, May 05, 2006

NY "Mafia" Firm is Closed

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, Edward Garofola, Michael "Mickey Scars" DiLeonardo

New York City has ordered a mob-tainted construction company at the center of former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik's bribe-taking probe to shut down because the owners "lacked character, honesty and integrity,". The Bloomberg administration's decision to deny permits for Interstate Materials Corp. to work within the five boroughs followed a ruling by the city's Business Integrity Commission that ripped into owners Peter and Frank DiTommaso, officials said.

According to officials, the BIC, formerly known as the Trade Waste Commission, quietly issued a "supplemental ruling" on Interstate's mob connections last fall that determined the company was not fit to do business in or with the city.

The commission also determined the DiTommasos bought the company from two major Gambino crime-family figures - Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano's brother-in-law, Edward Garofola, and Michael "Mickey Scars" DiLeonardo - merely to help the mobsters "avoid regulatory scrutiny and preserve the mob's influence over the transfer station," commission Chairman Thomas McCormack wrote.

Nearly two months later, the city Sanitation Department yanked "temporary" permits allowing Interstate to operate its massive "clean-fill material" facility on Staten Island for the past 10 years. City officials also instructed Interstate that it had until New Year's Eve to shut down.

Interstate obtained a stay from the Richmond County Supreme Court challenging the edict. A final decision regarding the city's right to cut off Interstate is expected shortly, Sanitation Department spokesman Vito Turso said.

Meanwhile, in The Bronx, a grand jury is continuing to probe whether Interstate paid for nearly $200,000 worth of apartment renovations for Kerik, then city correction commissioner.

It is also investigating whether the firm hired his brother, Donald, and a one-time close friend, Lawrence Ray, in exchange for getting Kerik to go to bat with the Trade Waste Commission. Kerik and the DiTommasos have denied any wrongdoing.

Sources say the Bronx grand jury will be asked in two weeks to indict Kerik.

Thanks to Murray Weis

Monday, March 06, 2006

Kuby an Out for Junior?

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Sammy "The Bull"Gravano, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo

On-air rivals Curtis Sliwa & Ron Kuby will be on different sides in court, too. Now it's Curtis versus Kuby. Pony-tailed civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby has been called to testify for the defense in the trial of John A. (Junior) Gotti - the mob scion accused of ordering two thugs to attack Curtis Sliwa, Kuby's radio show partner.

"Usually I try to stay as far away from the witness stand as I can, unless I'm handing a witness a sheaf of papers," Kuby said yesterday. Kuby said his testimony likely will not involve snitching on his longtime partner but will focus on his past representation of mobsters. He joked that he doubted Gotti attorney Charles Carnesi would ask, "Well, Ron, is it true you wanted to kill him, too?"

For a decade, Kuby has played the liberal foil to Sliwa's conservative lock-up-the-bad-guys views on their WABC-AM talk show, "Curtis and Kuby in the Morning." In recent weeks, Kuby has counseled Sliwa to come across as more likable to jurors at Gotti's retrial so they won't leave the courtroom thinking "it's not a bad thing that you got shot." The result was a less-confrontational Sliwa in court.

The Guardian Angels founder told jurors this week how he leaped out the passenger side window of a cab as he was being fired on by a masked gunman who had popped out next to the driver from under the dashboard. Prosecutors say Gotti, 42, ordered the 1992 ambush to silence Sliwa's unrelenting rants against the Gotti family following the late Dapper Don John Gotti's federal murder conviction.

Kuby has represented Junior Gotti's former brother-in-law, Carmine Agnello, the ex-husband of Victoria Gotti, as well as other alleged low-level mobsters. His late mentor, William Kunstler, once represented the Dapper Don. Kuby was named as the target of a mob hit plan hatched by Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano, according to the 2000 testimony of a Gravano associate arrested on drug charges in Arizona.

Gravano was upset with Kuby for representing the families of some of Gravano's 19 murder victims in a civil lawsuit. He planned to lure the lawyer to Texas where he would be gunned down, according to the testimony. After Kuby learned last weekend he might be called as a witness for Gotti, he said he purposely stayed away from the trial.

Prosecutors wrapped up Thursday. Much of their case rests on the testimony of mob snitch Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo, who has linked Gotti to the Sliwa kidnapping as well as to more than $1 million in construction extortion payoffs.

Gotti's first trial ended in a hung jury.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mob Wife on Scar's Betrayal

Toni Marie Ricci knows all about husbands with secret families. Ricci says her ex - mob rat Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, who told a jury last week that Mafia don John Gotti had a secret family and that "Junior" Gotti had a mistress - had secrets about everything. The secrets included his jobs, friends, mistress, out-of-wedlock son - even his phone number.

In an explosive interview in the upcoming issue of New York magazine, Ricci, detailed the turncoat's trail of lies and obsessions - calling him a "sicko" for dragging their college-age son into the middle of the high-profile mob trial, and railing at her ex-husband's secret family. "Michael was my life," Ricci told the magazine. "I did anything and everything possible to make the man happy. I never stopped and said to myself, 'You know, my husband is a gangster.' "Did I think anything? Yeah, I did. But did I talk to him about it? No. I guess I blocked it out."

Ricci, 19 when she married a 29-year-old DiLeonardo in 1985, was easily seduced by the perks of marrying into the mob. There were parties at "Sammy Bull's" house, Junior Gotti's wedding at the Helmsley Palace and an army of hangers-on. The glamour wore off. "I never had proof he was cheating, but I knew," she said.

"The first confrontation occurred in '95, '96. I got a job in a school in Mill Basin as an aide. I wanted to go to work; he never wanted me to. I came home one day and heard him upstairs on the phone in the bedroom, saying, 'I'll pick you up tonight. Just get dressed.' I ran up. 'Who were you talking to?' " He told her it was a male friend.

She said she started to think about leaving. Ricci said she tried without success for 12 years to have a second child, hoping it would patch up the couple's fraying marriage. In vitro failed her, but it worked fine for Scars' mistress, Madelina Fischetti.

"Right after that, he took the girl to get pregnant with the same procedures," she complained. Proof of its success came in December 2002. "We get a Christmas card: 'Congratulations to Michael and Madelina on their new baby boy - more to come.'

"I read this not even realizing what I am reading. Two seconds later it hits me, and I fell on the floor. This is a year after I tried to have another child with him. And I learn that he has a 6-month-old son. "He turned beet red: 'Someone's making up lies.' But I knew it was true as soon as I looked in his face."

She said she made her husband call his mistress at the apartment DiLeonardo rented for her on well-heeled Shore Road in Brooklyn. "He handed me the phone, and I said to her, 'Where do you come off having this child? I'm married to this guy for 17 years.' She didn't answer. I said, 'What's the matter? You're not woman enough to answer?' . . . He took the phone and hung it up. "So I took the phone and hit him over the head with it."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bad Cops First, Then Mob Cops?

Friends of ours: Burton Kaplan, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Luchese Crime Family, Gambino Crime Family, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, John Gotti, Paul Castellano
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa

Before they were mob cops, they were bad cops. On top of eight murders, disgraced NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are accused of other sordid deeds while wearing their shields - including drug use and robbing stores for extra cash.

Caracappa, 64, boasted to one witness expected to testify at their pending trial that he dabbled with cocaine while working as an undercover narcotics cop, according to court papers filed by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office.

The ex-detective also admitted to Mafia turncoat Burton Kaplan - the go-between for the pair and Luchese family boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso - he and Eppolito used to hold up local delis for spending money in the late '70s, when the two started working together.

Prosecutors also unveiled allegations that when Eppolito was getting ready to hang up his badge, he asked Kaplan for cash so he could use it to bribe doctors into lying that he had a bad heart.

The court document, which prosecutors hope the judge presiding over the case will allow into evidence, details the numerous shady dealings the cops had with the Mafia.

The two were busted in Las Vegas last March on charges that they acted as assassins and moles for the Luchese crime family in the '80s and '90s.

Eppolito began taking bribes for leaking information to mobsters as early as 1979, the papers say, while Caracappa joined five years later, and the two were put on a $4,000-a-month retainer.

Some of the jobs prosecutors say the pair took on:
  • In 1982, Eppolito tried to get a $5,000 bribe from Gambino big-turned-rat Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano to not investigate a murder Gravano was suspected of committing. Prosecutors did not say if he ever received the cash.
  • In 1990, Casso offered to pay them to assassinate Gravano to avenge the murder of Paul Castellano by John Gotti. The pair declined the contract.

The documents go on to describe a conversation Caracappa had with Kaplan. Caracappa said he would "keep an eye on Eppolito, because both feared Eppolito would cooperate against them," the court papers say.

"Caracappa was the real thing - a hero," said his lawyer, Ed Hayes. "I look forward to confronting these human monsters who say otherwise in court."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Turncoat details Gotti's alleged crimes on witness stand

The seeds for betrayal were sown in a secret induction ceremony on Christmas Eve 1988, when close friends John A. "Junior" Gotti and Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo swore to uphold the mob's code of silence.

Gotti's infamous father, the Dapper Don, wasn't there because he "did not want to show he's forcing his family into the life," recalled DiLeonardo. "It was a class act."

He offered that description and others about the inner workings of the Gambino crime family last week in federal court amid the Mafia equivalent of a messy divorce.

DiLeonardo, 50, broke his vow to the Gambinos by pleading guilty in 2003 and agreeing to testify against the younger Gotti at a racketeering trial. During four days on the witness stand, the admitted killer and government's star witness told jurors about Gotti's alleged crimes -- including a botched kidnapping of radio show host Curtis Sliwa -- and about his torment over becoming a turncoat. "John was very, very good to me," DiLeonardo said in one of several odes to the family scion. "I love John."

By his own account, DiLeonardo was to the 41-year-old Gotti what the most notorious Gambino cooperator, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, had been to Gotti's father: his confidant, his enforcer and, possibly, his undoing. The elder Gotti died in prison in 2002 after Gravano's testimony helped put him away a decade earlier.

The grandson of a gangster, DiLeonardo testified that he committed three murders and "extorted everybody I could" while rising through the Gambino ranks. Not all his lessons were learned on the street: He said he twice read "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli.

DiLeonardo said he eventually became a captain charged with collecting kickbacks from the construction industry, with millions of dollars going to Gotti. As a member of a council that assumed control of the family after his father was jailed in 1992, Gotti "had it coming," but was quick to share the wealth, DiLeonardo said. "His gifts were greater than my gifts," he said. "I couldn't keep up with him."

DiLeonardo made enough money himself to build a multimillion-dollar home that featured a fence crowned with gargoyles "to keep away evil," he said. The income also helped support children he had both with his wife and girlfriend -- not an unusual burden, he said, given the "social structure" of the mob. "We don't really socialize with our wives," he explained. "When we go out and commiserate, we don't take our wives to mix among gangsters and killers -- we take our girls. ... You're an oddball if you didn't do it."

DiLeonardo testified that Sliwa was targeted in June 1992 after Gotti grew tired of hearing the rant radio personality and founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group bash his father on the air. "You guys are going to have to do a piece of work for the family," DiLeonardo quoted Gotti as saying at a meeting with his crew.

The witness said Gotti ordered a "severe hospital beating." Instead Sliwa was shot during a struggle in a stolen cab; he survived, and testified last week against Gotti.

With Gotti in prison on a 1999 racketeering conviction, DiLeonardo was arrested and jailed in 2002. He was soon shocked to learn the Gambinos cut off his income and stripped him of his rank as captain. "They made me a nonentity ... and, above all, broke my heart," he said.

He eventually agreed to cooperate. But he testified that once he pleaded guilty and was released into the witness protection program, he became so distraught by the thought of betraying his "brother John" that he tried to kill himself by overdosing on sleeping pills. "John and I had a special bond in this life, and I always said I'd have undying loyalty to that man," he said. "I love that guy."

DiLeonardo emerged as a key witness last year in a case charging Gotti's uncle with being the acting boss of the Gambinos and with ordering a failed hit on Gravano; the uncle was convicted in 2004 and sentenced last month to 25 years in prison.

While awaiting Gotti's trial, DiLeonardo said, he anxiously scanned newspaper and Web sites for news about his old friend and partner in organized crime. "I has hoping John Jr. may have flipped and I wouldn't have to take the stand," he said. "I was rooting for him to flip."


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