Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese, and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Informant testifies Jr. Gotti mocked witness' death

Mob informant John Alite, in colorful testimony Wednesday, tied John "Junior" Gotti to a series of robberies and drug deals in Queens in the 1980s and told jurors that Gotti admitted that a man was hanged to cover up Gotti's role in a fatal stabbing at an Ozone Park bar.

Prosecutors contend that John Cennamo, whose 1984 hanging from a low tree limb behind a self-service laundry in St. Albans was officially classified a suicide, was killed by the Gambino family because he had fingered Gotti as a killer of Danny Silva. Silva was knifed to death during a 1983 fight at the Silver Fox Bar.

Alite, a top aide to Gotti during the 1980s, said the subject of Cennamo's death came up in the summer of 1984, when Alite was hospitalized at Jamaica Hospital with injuries from a brawl and Gotti came to visit.

Gotti went to a window overlooking the Van Wyck Expressway, he testified, and began "creeping around," acting like the "Grinch who stole Christmas." Pointing out the window, Gotti jeered, "Hey, look, he's hanging from a tree!" Alite said.

As Gotti continued his macabre comedy routine, he said, "Look, you can see him from here hanging. Let's help a little bit! ... OK, let's help you put that over there and that over there, and now jump!" Alite testified, gesturing around his neck and at an imaginary limb as he quoted Gotti.

He said Gotti told him he was talking about Cennamo.

"He said he [Cennamo] was a witness at the Silver Fox," Alite testified. "He said John Carneglia was sent to take care of it on his father's orders." Alite said that Gambino mobsters Angelo Ruggiero and "Willie Boy" Johnson also were on the team of killers.

Carneglia, who was convicted in 1989 of running a heroin distribution ring and is serving a 50-year prison sentence, was an enforcer for Gotti's late father, John J. Gotti, then a capo and later the notorious Gambino boss known as the "Dapper Don."

Cennamo died in May 1984 - 14 months after identifying Gotti as one of the killers of Silva. The defense says it was a suicide, and prosecution witnesses have acknowledged that Cennamo's family and friends told investigators at the time that he was depressed over the loss of a job and a girlfriend.

Gotti is being tried on racketeering charges for the fourth time in five years and is separately charged with two drug-related murders. Three previous racketeering trials in 2005 and 2006 ended in hung juries, after Gotti's lawyers admitted that he once was a mobster but that he withdrew from the Gambino family and has engaged in no racketeering activities since the 1990s.

Prosecutors have to prove that Gotti engaged in racketeering in the last five years to bring the charge within the statute of limitations. While Alite and other new witnesses have described extensive criminal activities in the 1980s, none yet has described more recent behavior.

In addition to the details about Cennamo's death, Alite on Wednesday also described Gotti's role in the gunpoint robbery of a drug dealer. Alite also testified that Gotti helped with the drive-by shooting of some Jamaican marijuana dealers and demanded payoffs from Queens drug dealers in return for protection.

Alite has said he can link Gotti to six killings in addition to that of Cennamo.


Willowbrook butcher gets 24 months in prison in Bonanno gambling operation

A Staten Island butcher was sentenced to 24 months in prison for his role in a mob-linked gambling operation.
George Miller, 68, owner of Belfiore Meats in Willowbrook, was ordered to return to Brooklyn Federal Court on Nov. 30 to begin his sentence.

He was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution.
Miller pleaded guilty in March to a count of collecting unlawful debts in a sports betting ring that federal prosecutors said brought in $2,000 a day for the Bonanno crime family.
Three reputed mobsters also pleaded guilty in March: Michael Carucci, 38, of Rossville, and Vincent ( Vinny Bionics) DiSario, 47, of Manhattan, copped to the same count as Miller, while John (Big John) Contello, 55, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to collecting unlawful debts.

Sources said Miller got caught up in the ring when he took bets with "football cards" at his Willowbrook meat market.


How brother 'Junior' got made & unmade

MY BROTHER John stood, Christmas Eve 1988, dressed in his best suit, wearing a red tie for luck, in a dimly lit apartment on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.
More than a dozen others, hard men in expensive suits, stood with him. They were the elder statesmen of organized crime, come to take part in this time-honored ceremony. They had come to welcome the new blood into the organization.
John was to be inducted into the family, La Cosa Nostra, or whatever the media and the government calls it. We referred to it as the life.
He was handed a picture to hold in the palm of his hands -- a picture of a saint -- that had received a drop of blood from his father's finger, pricked by a knife. The picture was burned while an oath of loyalty was recited. John pledged that he would hope to burn like the picture if he were ever to betray La Cosa Nostra.
My father was not in attendance, to avoid an overtone of nepotism to the proceedings and to avoid possible bad luck. The underboss of the Gambino family at the time, Salvatore Gravano, presided over the ceremony. John later told me he had been proposed for induction by the family consigliere, Frank "Frankie Loc" Locascio. Others who were present were James "Jimmy Brown" Failla, Joseph Arcuri, "Frankie Dap" Dapalito and Joseph "Joe Butch" Corrao.
John was the youngest member at the time to be inducted, and with that, of course, would come the jealousy and unfavorable commentary. Already, the plotting would begin.
During the initiation, my brother told me he was told, "This is your new family; we come first, before your blood family. If we call you, you come in when we call you. Even if you have to kill your own brother, this is what it is."
But John was blissfully ignorant of the future on that Christmas Eve. He sat at a huge round table with about 10 other men of honor. John later told me, "I swear, I did think about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I was that impressed."
My mother had no idea at the time that my brother had just been granted formal entry into the family -- and neither did I.
JOHN rose rapidly, becoming a capo in 1990. One Satur day in April 1991, John was with his first soldier and best friend, Bobby Borriello, at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens. Bobby and John were trading zingers back and forth, discussing a little family business, eating and drinking.
Bobby left the club at about 7 p.m., taking a jar of homemade pasta sauce to bring back to his family. John was next door at the jeweler's, contemplating an anniversary gift for his wife, when he was told he had a phone call. It was Susan, Bobby's wife, screaming that Bobby had been shot. He was lying in a pool of blood on the driveway of his home, riddled with bullets.
A car full of men had followed him home, someone fired a shot, hit him, and he managed to throw the jar of sauce he was carrying at one of his assailants. Nine more shots followed; six more hit him. His wife and his 2-year-old child witnessed the killing from the house.
John later told me, "He was pronounced dead at the scene. A wife widowed, his two children fatherless, and Bobby, at the prime of his life at age 47, dead. My best man, my dear friend, dead."
After some time, it came to light that Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who had been at John's wedding with Bobby and toasted his good fortune with him, had ordered the hit. Gaspipe, onetime underboss of the Lucchese family, may have thought Bobby was behind an attempted hit on him, one that unfortunately failed. Or maybe he had Bobby killed to try to weaken the family, maybe as a prelude to killing my brother John.
All I know is that my brother saw the life in a whole new light that day. John told me then -- even as far back as 1991 -- that he "wanted out." He said he didn't have the treachery it took to survive or the stomach to withstand the ugliness of "the betrayal" that went with it. It was definitely the beginning of the end for John as far as the mob was concerned.
MANY mob watchers, in cluding the FBI, predicted a war when Dad went to jail in 1992. But because he had so many supporters -- men who really respected him, mostly the old-timers -- there wasn't. In a matter of months, my brother John was put in position of "acting boss" by Dad and with the support of the elders on the Commission -- the elders wanted my father, John Gotti, to hold on to the reins of the family.
On one of our visits to my father, John and I took our assigned seats behind cubicle No. 6 at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and waited for Dad to come down. This time, there was no smile or confident grin. The impromptu visit had to do with a recent newspaper headline and rumors about a possible hit put out on my brother by rival mobsters.
Dad insisted that the FBI had instigated the rumors and deliberately leaked them. He believed it was an attempt to "stir him up."
The FBI even leaked the name of the man who supposedly wanted my brother dead, Danny Marino. People speculated that Marino, a high-ranking Gambino captain, was still seeking revenge for Paul Castellano's death and resented having to answer to "a kid."
After we heard the chilling threats against my brother, Mom wrote Dad a missive filled with hate and anger. She let my father know that if "anything happened to John, she would never forgive him." She wrote of the pain of losing Frankie Boy and the "hole in her heart" that will never mend. She reminded Dad of his earlier promises to her to always keep John safe and protected -- and she let Dad know if he didn't release my brother from the life, she intended to turn her back on him forever.
As for John, he told me that he'd made "a big mistake" when he chose to be a part of our father's world. Without Dad out on the streets, John believed the usually loyal, dedicated and regimented men were replaced by "a bunch of Indians running amok -- a bunch of Indians all vying to be the chief." Meanwhile, the Organized Crime Task Force was expected to arrest my brother any day for acting in a supervisory role in the Gambino crime family. My father left the visiting cubicle with one word of advice for my brother: "Fight!"
On Jan. 19, 1996, the entire Gotti family gathered at John's house for a formal dinner. Rumor had it John would be arrested the next morning.
He'd made me promise I would help his wife and keep his kids safe. He also asked me to hem a pair of jogging pants for him to wear when he was arrested. At midnight, as I was walking out, actor Mickey Rourke was walking in. Mickey was a loyal friend of John's and wanted to offer his help. The two men retired to John's home office and had a few glasses of brandy in private.
The next morning, at exactly 5:30, FBI agents swarmed down on my brother's Mill Neck estate on Long Island. They stormed the front gates and surrounded the sides and back of the house. Camera crews and photographers gathered outside. John was one step ahead of them. He was staying in a comfortable room in a nearby hotel in East Norwich on Long Island. When his wife called him early that morning and told him about the raid, John immediately contacted his attorney and the two headed down to FBI headquarters.
OVER time, prosecutors kept "sweetening" a possible plea deal. John's lawyers went back and forth. Finally, a deal was offered that my brother believed he could live with.
I understood. My father did not.
So the plea that had taken months of negotiation between John's lawyers and the prosecutors had unraveled. John would never do anything without Dad's approval.
The prosecutors came back with another offer: five years and complete closure. It wasn't the shorter time in jail that attracted John. It was the "closure" clause. John wanted to put his legal troubles and his position in the life behind him.
Higher-ups in the life refused to accept John's resignation. John told me, "Vicki, I'm not Daddy. He's the last of his kind. He lived for that life, that world. It was his mission in life, to honor and support his men. It's not who I am."
Before accepting the plea package, John requested a visit with Dad. It would be a "contact" visit. John was looking forward to hugging Dad after nearly 10 years of incarceration.
John would tell me later that Dad understood his decision. But Dad tried his best to convince John the plea deal "reeked." He swore once they got their hands on John and put him in jail, they would never let him out.
Dad also let John know that taking pleas in the life was "not acceptable." Men were expected to stand tall. He told John, "Listen to me, son, you will never get out of prison if you accept this deal. The FBI will never leave you alone. The only way to beat these motherf- - -ers is to fight them. Do you understand me?"
The visit ended with Dad telling John, "Do whatever you want to do. I would never tell you what to do, how to live your life. But I will give you advice and tell you this deal is wrong."
What John remembers most was the hug at the end of the visit. "I knew it meant so much more to him. After not having any human contact for 10 years with anyone, it must have felt exhilarating."
John returned home with a heavy heart. He had a major decision to make. John took the deal, and a few weeks later, I went to see my father.
He was agitated. All he did was rehash his conversation with John, and then rant some more about how "real men don't accept plea deals -- they fight, fight, fight!" It was the beginning of a two-year feud between John and our father.
But my brother was about to begin his 77-month sentence, and Mom had written Dad another letter. Once again, it was nasty and filled with hatred. She'd reminded him of the son they had lost, and deemed John's lifestyle and Dad's encouragement of it as another "death" of one of their sons.
John had made it clear to Dad he wanted out of the life. Usually, there was only one way out: death. Because Dad was the boss, John was given a pass.
Before I'd left the visit, my father gave me a message to give Mom. "Tell your mother, your brother is out. He's released from his obligations."

Sister of murder victim lashes out at John "Junior" Gotti, blaming reputed mobster in angry letter

The sister of a Queens drug dealer who prosecutors charge was rubbed out on orders from John A. "Junior" Gotti ripped the accused gangster as "scum of the earth" in a furious five-page letter obtained by The Daily News.
Ivyann Gotterup-Stratton said Gotti sent "his dog" John Burke to kill her brother, Bruce Gotterup, in 1991.
"I guess killing my brother seemed like a way to move up the food chain to Burke," she wrote. "A lot of good people were killed just so some gangsters could keep their reputations."
Gotti, the former head of the Gambino crime family, belongs in jail "with his so called 'family,'" she wrote.
The son of the infamous Teflon Don, John Gotti Sr., Junior Gotti is on trial - for the fourth time in five years - for ordering the murder of Gotterup and the slaying of George Grosso, shot in the head by Gambino family hit man John Alite in December 1988.
Gotterup's angry sister released her letter before Alite took the stand Wednesday for a second day. He has accused Gotti - the man who was the best man at his wedding - of being a merciless killer with the blood of seven men on his hands.
In her letter, which she entitled "My Brother of Mine," Gotterup-Stratton said she doesn't fear Gotti. She also wrote that she wasn't intimidated when a crank who has been following the trial in Manhattan Federal Court tried to rattle her.
"A man came up to me, asked if I was press and when I said 'None of your business,' he said 'Boom,'" she wrote. "My response was to say, 'Bang' to him."
Prosecutors said Gotterup, 36, was gunned down Nov. 20, 1991, in Rockaway Beach after he fell behind on making payments to the mob to sell cocaine and marijuana in Queens.
Gotterup-Stratton conceded her brother was no "saint" but insisted he was more of a man than Gotti, Alite or Burke.
"My brother never had to work for someone to be seen as a true man, he was born one," she wrote.
Gotterup's sister said her brother tried to keep drug dealers out of the bar he worked at and protected "innocent patrons such a Blind Man Jim" from gangster bullies.
Once, Gotterup gave the "punk" nephew of Gambino crime family capo Ronald "Ronnie One Arm" Trucchio a taste of his medicine by holding an AK-47 to his head and asking him, "How does it feel to feel fear and humiliation?"
"This kid peed his pants and ran out the door yelling, 'I'm going to get my uncle! You're dead! You don't know who I am!'" she wrote. "But my brother did know who he was."
Gotterup-Stratton also took aim at a claim Victoria Gotti makes in her new book that the Gottis were more like Robin Hood than hoodlums.
"Victoria said they robbed from the rich to give to the poor," she wrote. "Is she speaking of the crumbs they threw the neighborhood when they gave a fireworks show with free hot dogs and sodas while they wore the best of clothing and ate at the best of restaurants and lived a lavish life?"

Impending arrests of Lucchese mobsters today?

Manhattan prosecutors are set to bust open a city Department of Buildings bribery scheme run by the mob, sources say.

Those expected to be arrested as early as today include Matthew Madonna and Joseph DiNapoli, the reputed acting boss and underboss of the Lucchese crime family, the sources say.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau is expected to charge about a half-dozen Department of Buildings employees with taking bribes from contractors, some of which were controlled by the mob, the sources say.

City officials declined to comment yesterday, as did several lawyers representing some of those expected to be charged.

Prosecutors said they'd have an announcement today dealing with their rackets unit.

As the Daily News reported in April, the probe arose during a gambling and loansharking investigation involving organized crime figures operating at a housing development called Boricua Village in the Bronx.

Allegations surfaced that contractors on that job had paid bribes to city Buildings Department employees to expedite permits.

The Department of Buildings has been at the heart of several recent mishaps, including the deadly collapse of two tower cranes in Manhattan last year and the fatal 2007 fire at the Deutsche Bank tower that killed two firefighters.

Gotti witness ties 'Junior' to seven murders

John "Junior" Gotti's former close friend and mob lieutenant tied his boss to seven murders and estimated that the two split more than $50 million in profits from a decade of often violent lawbreaking as the government's star informant spent his first day testifying in the Gambino family heir's racketeering trial.

John Alite, appearing in Manhattan federal court, testified that he had firsthand knowledge of Gotti's role in the drug-related murders of George Grosso and Bruce Gotterup, which are charged as separate counts, and the killing of Louis DiBono, who was slain for defying orders from his father. But Alite said Gotti also bragged about a role in four other killings.

Gotti, he said, took credit for the stabbing of Danny Silva in a Queens bar fight in 1983 and said he had a role in the 1984 hanging of a witness to that stabbing who fingered Gotti. Gotti also said he drove a getaway car in a hit on mobster "Willie Boy" Johnson, who was believed to be an informant, and discussed the killing of an unnamed victim at brother-in-law Carmine Agnello's junkyard.

"He told me they crushed him in the car chopper," testified Alite, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and sporting a cross-like tattoo on his thick neck.

Gotti, 45, of Oyster Bay, was tried three times for racketeering in 2005 and 2006, but each trial ended in a hung jury. Alite, however, was on the lam from a racketeering indictment in Tampa at that time and did not begun cooperating until 2008. Trial observers say his testimony is one reason prosecutors may have a chance for a different result this year.

Alite said he grew up poor, the son of a taxi driver, and had never become a made mobster because he is Albanian, not Italian. But he had been both best friends and a top criminal associate to Gotti, he said, from 1983 to 1994, when the friendship cooled and he began answering to underlings.

Alite said that during 10 years as a family intimate he helped Gotti's sister, Victoria, shop for her wedding dress, counted out a $100,000 cut from a heroin deal for the late Gambino boss John J. Gotti, blew $50,000 gambling with Gotti Jr. in Las Vegas, and was able to live the good life in return for doing whatever he was told. "We got treated like we were celebrities," he said. "I loved it."

During the early years, Alite testified, he committed a laundry list of crimes on orders from Gotti - more than three dozen shootings, beatings, burglaries and robberies, shakedowns and other crimes. "I did everything for him," Alite testified.

He estimated his activities grossed $50 million to $75 million. Most of that went to accomplices, and he and Gotti were supposed to split the profit. But he always shorted his boss - keeping about $10 million, and giving Gotti $7 million. "We cheat each other," he said. "That's the life. It's treacherous."

Gotti's mother and two of his sisters, Angel and Victoria - who Alite, in previous testimony, claimed he had an affair with - were all in attendance for Alite's appearance.

There were no outbursts or verbal sparks, although there was derisive eye-rolling from the lawyers at the defense table when Alite compared himself to some well-known gangland tough guys, which caused Alite to interject, "I don't know what's so funny about that."

Earlier Tuesday, a crooked former NYPD detective testified that he was present in the car when Alite committed one of the murders prosecutors allege Gotti ordered - shooting cocaine dealer Grosso in the head in 1988.

Former detective Phil Baroni, who had been implicated by Alite at an earlier trial, worked for the NYPD from 1973 until 1986 and fell in with Alite in 1987. He said that he didn't know a hit was planned when he and Alite met Grosso at a bar, and then got into the backseat of a car behind the dealer.

"I looked to the left, and just when I turned back, I heard three shots," said Baroni, who has pleaded guilty to committing a violent act in pursuit of racketeering and is awaiting sentencing. He said Alite spat on Grosso and called him an expletive after the killing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Retired cop: Gotti associate killed drug dealer

A former NYPD detective who committed crimes on behest of the Gambino crime family testified today that he witnesed an associate of John "Junior" Gotti shoot a drug dealer to death.

Phil Baroni, 57, who retired from the force in 1987, said he turned to a life of crime once he hung up his badge.

Baroni said a Gotti associate, John Alite, killed a drug dealer named George Grosso in 1988 -- a murder that the feds claim Gotti, who is currently on trial in Brooklyn, was involved with.

Baroni admitted on the stand that he committed robberies and burglaries for the Gambinos, and that he knew Alite took ordered from Gotti because he would send him money as a result of running a bookie sports operation.

John "Junior" Gotti

He said he and Alite were hanging out in a bar in Woodhaven, Queens moments before the shooting.

Baroni said Alite worked for Gotti, who the feds say headed the Gambinos, and that he was there when the former mob brute pulled the trigger, then spat on the man's dead body. He said the hit was ordered by Gotti.

"Just as I turned my back, I heard three shots," Baroni testified in Brooklyn federal court. "Alite had his gun pointed at Grosso's head."

Gotti, 45, has been tried three times in 2005 and 2006 on charges he plotted to kidnap Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group.

All the trials ended in hung juries and mistrials after Gotti used the defense that he had quit the mob for good in the 1990s.

This time, along with the Sliwa plot, Gotti has pleaded not guilty to charges that he was involved in three gangland slayings and that he trafficked drugs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mob witnesses to be sentenced soon

Vincent Rossetti, the Howard Beach dad who prosecutors said played ball with the mob, is scheduled to be sentenced on November 7, 2009 by Judge Ray Dearie in Brooklyn federal court. As readers of King of The Godfathers know, Rossetti and his fashionable wife Yvonne, became central figures in a Bonanno extortion case. Both Rossettis cooperated with law enforcement. But it turned out that Vincent had alot of problems, not the least of which was a guilty plea to a federal information in which he admitted to his part in a racketeering conspiracy, court records show. That plea took place in December 2006. Rossetti admitted to the conspiracy count, involving securities fraud and extortion, court records show. In addition the information accused him of a count of health care fraud. The information doesn't explain the latter but the charge sounds similar to what his wife plead to earlier this year in the same courthouse. Vincent testified for the government in the trial of Gambino soldier Charles Carneglia and said the government would write him a 5k-1 letter, bringing to Dearie's attention his cooperation. What Dearie will do at sentencing is anyone's guess. Yvonne may be sentenced in October.


Chuck Zito To Play Roy DeMeo In Ice Man Movie

Former Hell’s Angel and actor from the tv series Oz, Chuck Zito, appeared on Howard Stern’s “Wrap Up Show” last week and let us know that he will star alongside Mickey Rourke in the movie about Richard Kuklinsksi, the Mafia hitman who killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 people.

Zito will play Roy DeMeo, a high ranking member of the Gambino crime family in New York City. DeMeo was in charge of a crew full of car thieves, drug dealers and murderers. It is estimated his crew was responsible for somewhere between 75 and 200 murders in the 1970’s and 80’s. Kuklinski, also known as The Ice Man, was DeMeo’s favorite enforcer.

Zito will also be a stunt coordinator and producer for the movie.

Zito was a one-time bodyguard for Jean-Claude Van Damme (whose ass he later kicked in a New York City strip bar), Sylvester Stallone and Mickey Rourke.


Gotti:The day our boy was stolen away

Released from prison in 1977, John Gotti was quickly rising through the ranks of the Gambino crime family on his way to becoming "boss of all bosses." Even in his home life, the underworld big shot knew how to throw his weight around. When his second son, Frankie, didn't make the cut of his school football team, Gotti visited the coach, and later that day, the decision was reversed. But on March 18, 1980, as Frankie anticipated joining the team, Gotti family members' lives would be changed forever. Here, in the second of four installments from Victoria Gotti's new memoir, "This Family of Mine," is the story of their tragic loss. Click here to see the Gotti family photo album.

The day before his first foot ball practice, March 18, 1980, my little brother Frankie, 12, was so excited he couldn't eat or sleep. He took a shower and came running into my room and asked if he could borrow my hair dryer.

I, too, was in a rush. He was so impatient that he left the house with wet hair.

Later that afternoon, after school, he met a few neighborhood friends and went out to play. He couldn't wait to tell them the news. He'd finally made the team.

Coming out of a McDonald's near our house, I saw them on their bicycles.

I stopped and said something to him like, "It's late and you know you have to be home for dinner at 5 or Mommy will be pissed."

He nodded and took off down the avenue.

Mom was in the kitchen, preparing dinner and feeding my baby brother, Peter, then 4 years old. I ran upstairs to quickly change and head back to the kitchen to do my usual chores. I also relieved Mom and finished feeding Peter.

The phone rang four times before I was able to pick up the receiver. "Vicki, this is Marie Lucisano -- your brother's had an accident. Don't worry."

She went on to add, "He's OK -- I think he just broke his leg."

Just as I was frantically tying my shoes, my mother came flying down the stairs sensing something was wrong.

"What's going on?" she screamed.

"Frankie's been hit by a car. Marie Lucisano called. It happened in front of her house," I said.

Before I could even stand up, Mom was running the four or so blocks to the Lucisanos' house on 87th Street. The ambulance was already on the scene and things were far worse than just a broken leg.

My brother had borrowed another kid's minibike and was riding in a construction site near the side of the road. But that dreadful day, a drunken driver was speeding down the avenue and struck my brother.

The driver dragged him some 200 feet before angry neighbors stopped the car, pounced on his hood, and stopped him from crossing the avenue.

"Don't you even realize you have a kid under the wheels of your f- - -in' car?" one neighbor, Ted Friedman, recalled yelling out.

According to the neighbor, the driver, John Favara, then stopped the car. Another neighbor reached in and grabbed his keys, shutting the ignition off and pointed to my brother's near-lifeless body under the front wheels.

My brother's blood seemed to leave a trail down the entire block, leading up to the now-parked car.

Favara jumped from the car and started yelling, "What the f- - - was he doing in the street?"

According to the neighbor, "The driver of the car was angry, not remorseful." Ted Friedman later told me the guy was belligerent -- a real a- -hole until he realized the kid trapped under his wheels was John Gotti's son. Favara then appeared to be "dazed and confused," according to eyewitnesses.

My mother ran to Frankie, knelt and was cradling his head, screaming his name over and over, "Frankie, it's Mommy -- can you hear me? Frankie, Mommy's here."

Of all the things she could remember, it was "the look of abject fear in his eyes."

Frankie was rushed inside to the trauma unit. The hospital officials waited until my father arrived. They believed it was wise to tell him first that my brother had died.

My father nearly collapsed when he was first told that Frankie was hit by a car. He got the call in the middle of a meeting at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens.

He said the hardest thing he ever had to do was tell my mother that their son was dead. He'd told me that just seeing her sitting in the waiting room made him afraid for "the first time in my whole life."

He said he "felt no emotion that day" and that "it was as if he was on automatic pilot," especially when he had to identify his own son's body in the morgue.

Uncle Pete drove Mom home. I remember watching her pass Frankie's room, and she broke down.

She was deeply medicated -- though not enough to sleep. We all heard the crash, and then blood-curdling screams.

My mother had smashed the mirrored vanity in the master bathroom and then attempted to cut herself with the jagged edges.

Once again, my father had the doctor visit, this time increasing her medicine. She was still wild with grief, so much that she tried to take her life again, swallowing a fistful of pills.

I remember Dad running from my parents' bedroom, carrying her in his arms to a local doctor's private home, just around the corner.

My mother needed her stomach pumped and different medications to stabilize her before Dad brought her back home.

A few nights after Frankie's funeral, I heard a commotion coming from John Favara's house across the way. There was loud music and even louder laughter coming from the back yard.

I heard my mother's bedroom door open. She barely made the 11 or so stairs down to the first level of the house.

She walked into the kitchen and found me loading the dishwasher, making as much noise as I could in an attempt to drown out the noise coming from the back yard.

But my mother was immediately drawn to the yard like a moth to a flame. I stood right in front of her, saying, "Mom, you need your rest, you need to go back to bed!"

She didn't hear me. My mother looked as if she'd seen the devil himself. I ran and got my father.

In the minute or so it took, Mom had already made her way outside. She was standing against the fence, dressed in a flannel nightgown, her eyes filled with hate, disbelief and grief.

Favara took notice of her. Instead of getting up and going inside, which would have been the smart thing to do, he shot her a smug smile. Then he grinned.

But Favara never expected my father to push through the trees and retrieve my mother. Thankfully, Dad didn't see the smug smile and grin.

My father didn't say a word; he just guided Mom back inside the house. When Mom was sure that my father was sound asleep beside her, she crawled out of bed.

Carrying a baseball bat, she headed out the front door and made her way around the corner to Favara's house.

I grabbed my robe and chased after her. In his driveway was "the murder weapon" -- a late-model, brown Oldsmobile, with a dented right fender and badly damaged quarter panel.

My mother saw blood -- her son's blood now dried and caked on the car -- and went crazy.

She began banging the bat against the car, and within minutes, Favara came out, looking dazed. She was just inches from Favara. He was pointing a finger at my mother and staring at me -- screaming things like, "Get this crazy woman off my property!"

Then he looked at me and yelled, "What the hell was her son doing in the f- - -in' street?"

She lunged at him. Once, twice, three times. Each time, she only narrowly missed him.

"She's f- - -in' crazy!" Favara yelled.

The scene was getting louder, and I imagined one of the neighbors would call the police. While we walked home, my right arm wrapped around my mother and my left carrying the bat, Favara continued to rant and rave about his car and who was going to pay for the damages.

My mother was getting worse by the day, and Dad grew despondent. He believed that a few weeks away from home, being surrounded by what little family Mom had left, would do her some good. So, he arranged a trip to Florida -- Dad, Mom and my youngest brother Peter left early in the morning.

While they were gone, Favara went missing. According to the FBI, he was last seen being beaten and stuffed into a van.

I remember the FBI coming to the door only days after Mom and Dad returned. They came to see Dad, but because Mom was in the kitchen, they started asking her questions. Simple ones like, "How was your trip?" and "How are you feeling?"

The two men seemed nervous -- even anxious. It was obvious that they were affected by my brother's death. One of the agents said he had a 10-year-old boy.

Mom only nodded and left the room.

When Dad came downstairs, he ushered the two men outside. Dad and the two men spoke only for a few minutes. I heard one of the officers tell my father that Favara was missing.

I heard my father say, "Really?"

There was another minute of conversation, and then Dad said, "I wish I could help you gentlemen, but I'm sorry. I know nothing about this."

From "This Family of Mine" by Victoria Gotti. Copyright © 2009 by Victoria Gotti. Printed by permis sion of Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Mystery of the missing driver

No one has ever been charged in the murder of John Favara. But in 2001, while arguing for a stiffer sentence in Gambino hit man Charles Carneglia's extortion case, prosecutors for the first time publicly accused John Gotti of ordering the hit.

In 2004, FBI agents believed they were close to finding Favara's body when they dug up a mob burial ground.

Witnesses at Carneglia's most recent trial testified that he disposed of Favara's corpse in a vat of acid and, to prove he had done the job, threw one of the victim's fingers into a bowl of chicken soup that Angelo Ruggiero was eating.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jerry Capeci stands alone in his coverage of the New York Mafia

When Jerry Capeci walks into a courtroom, Mafia defense attorneys and prosecutors alike smile, slap his back, reminisce.
"You're making some friends in the jails," joked a onetime lawyer for John A. Gotti, known as "Junior," a former head of the Gambino crime family, as he slid into a seat near Capeci. "They're saying you're taking a more anti-government approach. You've turned."
In fact, for 20 years, Capeci's "Gang Land" column on the Mafia has given space to both those breaking the law and those enforcing it, offering a mix of exclusive interviews, prescient analysis and juicy details of Mob rubouts. The column started in 1989 in the New York Daily News, where it ran until 1996, when Capeci took it online. It also ran in the New York Sun for five years until 2007, when Capeci quit in a salary dispute shortly before the newspaper folded.
These days, both the Mob and Capeci seem like survivors of a previous New York, a more chaotic, less professionalized place, where Mafia bosses ruled their own bits of the city, and reporters for eight daily newspapers pounded the pavement in hot pursuit of wrongdoing. Colleagues describe Capeci as an old-time New York City newsman in an industry that's going extinct.
Well, don't write the career obit just yet.
Last year, Capeci took the innovative step of making his Web-only column subscription-based, charging $5 a month at a time when he had 50,000 to 60,000 unique visitors per week on his site. "I'm doing well enough to make a living," he said, unwilling to divulge details. Yet at a time when newspapers are trying to figure out ways to charge for content on the Web, Capeci could be seen as something of a small-scale trailblazer.
His stories are frequently picked up by the Huffington Post news aggregator, which in this new world of journalism has become emblematic of impact.
"I print his column every Thursday for my assistants to read," said Gerard Brave, chief of the organized crime and rackets bureau in the Queens District Attorney's Office.
"I have mailed his column to my clients in prison," said Seth Ginsberg, who has served as a defense lawyer for various organized crime figures.
Capeci appeared as himself on HBO's "The Sopranos," and gave the show's writers pointers on Mob etiquette and history. "It was like writing about fish and having Jacques Cousteau available," said Terence Winter, a writer and executive producer. "His knowledge about the gangster world goes back to the first caveman who tried to extort another guy."
More than a Mob gossip, Capeci, 65, has sources everywhere: underworld associates, victims, witnesses, prosecutors, FBI agents, cops and private investigators. Still, fully inducted mobsters must take a vow of omerta, and promise not to reveal the secrets of La Cosa Nostra. Capeci said he has had only two sources who are "real live, true-blue gangsters" who didn't flip. He often relies instead on documents and trials.
His work requires close knowledge of the complex geneaologies of Mafia families and instant recall stretching deep into their history of brutal crime, meaning he's the one approached at parties to answer trivia questions.
Who assassinated Mafia boss Albert Anastasia in a barber chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel in 1957? Capeci broke that story nearly 44 years after the fact. (It was a three-man hit team for Carlo Gambino, who took over the crime family when Anastasia hit the floor.)
Who killed John Favara in 1980 after he ran over neighbor John J. Gotti's 12-year-old son in a tragic car accident? Capeci broke that story, too. (Eight members of Gotti's crew killed Favara as he pleaded for his life, then put the body in a barrel, filled it with cement and sunk it in the Atlantic.)
In 1994, Capeci broke the story of the two New York Police Department detectives who took part in gangland slayings for a fee, sometimes using their badges to find victims. It took 11 years for investigators to gather enough evidence to press charges, but eventually, the detectives were convicted.
Capeci talks intimately about people with names like "Tommy Sneakers," "Mikey Scars," "Bobby the Jew" and "The Greaseball." Tom Robbins, a reporter at the Village Voice, met Capeci when they both worked at the Daily News. Robbins recalled asking Capeci for background on a minor Mob affiliate known as "Benny the Bump."
"Jerry said, 'I haven't heard of him, but anyone nicknamed "Benny the Bump" can't be all bad.' "
"He knew more about the five organized crime families in New York than I probably ever will," said Mitra Hormozi, who served as the chief of the organized crime unit in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.
"I remember looking at his stories, and thinking, 'How does he get the information?' said Michael Campi, now retired from the FBI, where he worked for 30 years, mainly in New York's organized crime division. "From attorneys? From people on the street? Did he grow up in those neighborhoods?"
Actually, Capeci grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, where Mafia men were a presence on the streets, in the bowling alleys and in the pool halls. The son of a cabdriver father and a mother who held various jobs, he never finished college. But in 1966, he started as a copy boy with the New York Post. He soon became a reporter covering cops and courts.
In 1976, Capeci was sent to cover the funeral of Mafia boss Carlo Gambino. Reporters were barred from the church, but Capeci knew the building and walked into a side entrance. He introduced himself to the priest, sat down in a pew and exited after the service only to be interviewed by other journalists. A Mafia expert was born.
In the 1980s, as Gambino crime family boss John Gotti became a household name, Capeci, then at the Daily News, was assigned exclusively to the Mob. A special intrigue surrounded Gotti, "the Teflon Don," who twice won acquittals on federal charges (once, by buying a juror) and saw another case dismissed before finally being convicted.
Of course, covering the violent, vengeful Gotti did not come without risk.
"Why don't you punch him in the [expletive] mouth?" Gotti said during a wiretapped conversation that was played at his 1992 murder trial, speaking of Capeci. "Make an appointment, I'll punch him in the [expletive] mouth for you, that rat [expletive]."
Capeci dismisses such talk and said law enforcement delivers more serious threats: In retaliation for exposing aspects of investigations, some officials have instructed subordinates to stop speaking to him, he said.
Still, pretty much no one questions his integrity, and most everyone calls him fair. Even Junior, Gotti's son, respects Capeci's column, said his lawyer, Charles Carnesi, though "he's not necessarily a fan."
The mother of imprisoned gangster James "Froggy" Galione once called Capeci in a panic and asked him to put out the word that her son had been wrongly accused of cooperating with federal investigators, Capeci said. He made some calls, found no evidence that Galione had turned, and published a column titled "Mom: My Son Is Not a Rat."
Lawyers to the Mob say it's well known that prosecutors leak news to Capeci, and so they read his column like a crystal ball in an effort to tell the future. Meanwhile, prosecutors say the column is valuable for telling them the latest word on the street.
Capeci is uncomfortable talking about his professional influence. He and his wife, Barbara, a high school science teacher, have three children -- a chemical engineer, an orthopedic surgeon and a human rights activist -- and he likes to spend time with his three grandchildren on the beach.
Capeci acknowledges that his column has outlasted many of those he set out to cover. John Gotti is dead. Junior Gotti is in prison. The clout of the Mafia has faded.
Still, the five families persevere, Capeci said. "One of them, the Bonannos, have been really battered and bruised and beaten up, and their boss became a cooperating witness. But all five families still have some sort of structure, and are trying their best to maintain the rackets they have and move on to more things."
And he writes about it.

Victoria Gotti claims father, John Gotti, let Gotti Junior leave the mob

John A. (Junior) Gotti may have been given permission to leave the mob by his father during a 1999 jailhouse visit with the Teflon Don, CBS reported Saturday night.

Gotti, who is facing his fourth trial on racketeering charges in five years, asked his father, John Gotti Sr., for permission to take a plea deal in his 1999 trial.

The wish was granted and may have been an unspoken grant to leave the Gambino family, said Victoria Gotti on "48 Hours Mystery" Saturday night.

"John, I'm not saying don't take this plea if you get what you want," the Teflon Don said to his son on the tape. "As a father, I want you to be happy."

Two months later, Junior Gotti pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges and served five years in prison.

The conversation was captured on videotape in February 1999 when Gotti visited his father at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo., where he was serving a life sentence. Gotti Sr. died in a prison hospital in June 2002.

A portion of the tape was played in March 2006, when Gotti was being tried a second time on racketeering charges.

Victoria Gotti: Mom stabbed my dad

John Joseph Gotti was raised by an abusive, absent father in a household of 11 children. He once said of his old man, "He never did nothin'. He never earned nothin'. And we never had nothin'." A high school dropout determined to make something of himself, Gotti entered a life of crime and rose to the head of the Gambino family. In her new memoir, "This Family of Mine," John's daughter Victoria Gotti reveals how her father's life in the mob left his wife and five kids -- Angel, Victoria, John, Frank and Peter -- suffering years of torment, anxiety and regret. Victoria tells the family's intimate secrets -- the lies her father told her, the bloody battles between her parents over his disreputable lifestyle, the sleazy visits to him in prison. At the age of 7, she writes, she discovered the truth about her father's life in the Mafia. He died in prison at the age of 61 in 2002 -- after giving her his blessing to write their story. Here, in the first of four installments from this explosive new book, she tells of learning the painful truth about her life.

IT WAS the end of summer, and my little brother John and I were dressed in matching red, white and blue shorts that Mom had made for us earlier in the week. We piled into the back seat of Dad's dark-brown Cadillac for a trip to the Aquarium. Along the way, he had to make a stop at a social club on Knickerbocker Avenue.

We waited in the car, and, when Dad came out a few minutes later, we complained that we had to use the bathroom.

Reluctantly, Dad took us inside the dimly lit bar. There were a few men in the back playing a game of cards, and when they saw me and my brother, they immediately began smiling and scooping up 10s and 20s, and handing them over to us.

Dad was livid. No kid of his would ever be allowed to accept money, not even from a few made guys and wannabes who were just trying to show off in front of my dad.

"Say hello and be polite," he quietly instructed us. "But give them back their money."

Then he turned and cordially thanked the older men, adding, "It's not necessary."

That's when the trouble began. There was a young platinum blonde behind the bar, a cocktail waitress. She was wearing hot-pink shorts, a small white T-shirt, pantyhose and stiletto heels.

My brother took it all in without saying a word -- until we got home that evening, when Mom asked about the Aquarium, and whether we had fun.

John was more interested in telling her about the "lady named Bunny who kept flirting with Daddy." And predictably, a major fight ensued.

I remember them screaming at each other, Mom telling Dad to "get out." My siblings and I cowered in the back bedroom for nearly an hour, sensing things were about to get uglier.

The next thing I knew, Mom had heaved a large fork from the kitchen to where Dad was standing 10 feet away.

Incredibly, the fork ripped into Dad's right shoulder. We were all stunned. There was blood everywhere. I remember the look of complete shock on my father's face.

Quickly, he removed the fork. Then he ripped off his shirt, revealing an impressive gash.

"Daddy's hurt!" my sister Angel screamed. "Oh, God, Mommy killed Daddy!"

My mother stood frozen at the kitchen sink, not knowing what to do. The drama escalated when Dad's best friend, Angelo Ruggiero -- Uncle Angelo -- arrived. The entire flat was like a battlefield, complete with wounded combatants and terrified onlookers.

Uncle Angelo saw Dad holding my new dress over the cut on his shoulder -- blood-soaked and still dripping down his back -- and he, too, started screaming.

"What the hell did you do to him?" he shouted at my mother. "Why? Why? Why?"

Uncle Angelo gave my mother a final dirty look and rushed my father out of the apartment and to the hospital.

It was light out by the time Dad finally came home. Bandages were easily visible through his white T-shirt, and we later learned that a dozen stitches were required to close the wound. Dad gave us each a little pat on the head, smiled, and then retreated to his bedroom to sleep.

There were too many episodes and blowups between Mom and Dad to count.

Most of them arose from my mother's dissatisfaction with the late hours my father kept or the places he frequented or the people he was with. (These three things were all linked, of course.)

As an adult, I can now say that I understand what my mother must have felt. At the time, however, I was more sympathetic to Dad; most of us were. We could not understand why Mom was always yelling, or why she seemed to instigate the fighting.

To our young and naive eyes, Dad seemed to be the victim, and Mom the abuser. How were we to know that her anger was justified?

IWAS 7 years old when I real ized that my father was not like other dads. We were still living in Brooklyn, and unfortunately, our financial situation hadn't changed much.

Dad repeatedly tried in vain to find a legitimate business opportunity; not so much because he had any ethical problem with being in the Mafia, but simply because he wanted to please his wife and provide his children with a sense of security.

He tried to hide from his children the fact that he didn't have a conventional job. There were various fabrications, the most common being his role as the powerful head of a local construction company.

In fact, every day when he left for "work," at the oddly late hour of 10 or 11 a.m., he would tell us about some new project he was developing: a skyscraper one month, a three-story beach house or a suite of offices the next month.

I remember how he used to bounce me on his knee and answer all of my silly questions about the construction trade.

I don't remember Dad leaving for jail in 1969, and later I came to believe that he left in the middle of the night because he didn't want to face us. Mom opted to tell us that Dad was going away on business, to "a new job, building the biggest building ever."

It did little to calm my fears. Even when Dad said that his "boss left him no choice," I was still upset with him.

I can vividly recall our monthly visits to the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. The imposing structure of the prison, the guard towers, the sanitary conditions -- these are things you don't ever forget. Nor do you forget what it's like to see your father trapped behind bars, like an animal.

There was a rhythm to the visits. After the prison's careful screening and scrutiny of us, my mother would lead us through a series of steel doors until we reached the visiting room.

It was always packed and bustling with activity. There was always a lot of crying, with inmates holding their wives and children, rocking back and forth.

Even though I was just a child, I could still pick out the knock-around guys from the ordinary thugs. The guys who were "connected" were well-groomed, with slicked-back hair, white deck sneakers and had trademark tattoos.

THOUGH he was paroled in 1972, my father's life on the outside didn't last long. When he'd returned to the streets, back to Gambino capo Carmine Fatico's Bergin Hunt and Fish social club, he was to be given a promotion.

Fatico had recently been indicted on loan-sharking charges, and it was likely he was going to prison. He'd chosen Dad to be the acting captain, or capo, in his absence.

As a result, Dad quickly became familiar with both adversaries and allies along the way. One such adversary was the "don" himself, Carlo Gambino.

A group claiming to be the Westies, an Irish gang originating out of Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan, had kidnapped Gambino's nephew. They demanded 100 grand in ransom. Gambino agreed to pay and wanted his nephew back safely. For the moment, he'd arranged for his nephew's wife to pay the ransom. Gambino delivered the full amount, but the kidnappers killed his nephew anyway.

Gambino reached out for Dad, the young man he'd been hearing so much about. Ironically, Dad was not yet even a "made man."

Gambino was very impressed with my father and made it his business to keep the young "buck" close to him.

He wanted the man responsible for killing his nephew brought to him -- alive.

Dad, Uncle Angelo and one of Gambino's soldiers, Ralph Galione, found out the man responsible for killing the don's nephew was James McBratney, a member of the Westies gang. Gambino's men found him one night at Snoope's Bar and Grill on Staten Island.

The three men entered the bar pretending to be detectives, claiming they had a warrant for McBratney's arrest -- a believable ruse, as McBratney was always in trouble with the law and had been arrested numerous times. But that night, McBratney resisted. He ignored the men and became belligerent.

What happened next was not part of the plan. Galione pulled out a small pistol and shot McBratney at close range, killing him. The three men fled the scene.

Dad and Ruggiero were soon identified from photos that police officers provided to eyewitnesses. They heard they were being hunted and went on the lam.

It was as if Dad was in prison again. Money was scarce, bills piled up once again, and Mom grew increasingly depressed. As young as I was, I remember the many times that Mom would wake us in the middle of the night, telling us to "dress quickly."

Then we all shoved into my Uncle Pete's car and hours later we'd arrive at some nondescript motel in New Jersey. Dad would be waiting, pacing the floors nervously until we arrived.

We wouldn't stay longer than overnight, so as not to draw unwanted attention to the motel and to Dad. He was on the lam and had to stay "underground" until things cooled off.

This period lasted about a year, until Dad was arrested in a Queens bar. He'd deliberately let himself get caught. Gambino, meanwhile, had been busy arranging top-notch legal counsel. Roy Cohn was hired to get Dad and Angelo the best possible deal, which, by the way, wasn't that hard to do.

In the case of Gambino's nephew being kidnapped, even the cops were outraged and wanted to see justice played out.

In the end, Cohn managed to get my father and Angelo two years in prison. The charge was later dropped from murder to attempted manslaughter. Galione, who actually pulled the trigger, was never seen or heard from again. Most in the life believe he was killed on Don Carlo's orders for botching the carefully planned event.

Both Dad and Ruggiero were sent to Green Haven Prison in upstate New York in 1974. This time, Dad was automatically initiated as "the Warden" of "Mafia row."

But on the streets, where it mattered most, word soon spread that John Gotti had officially earned his "bonus" -- a term used when a man became a wiseguy or goodfella.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gotti Junior may have killed his kid brother, but Frank Silva Jr. says, 'Not interested'

Frank Silva Jr. can live without knowing who killed his kid brother, even if federal prosecutors can't.

The New Jersey man, standing in his front door Friday, said he's ignored testimony this week that mob legacy John A. (Junior) Gotti stabbed and then taunted a dying Daniel Silva back in 1983.

"Not interested after 26 years," the 52-year-old Silva said flatly at his rural home. "You move on."

His brother's name dominated the first days of the racketeering trial, with an eyewitness implicating Gotti in the killing inside an Ozone Park bar.

Mike Bonner recalled the fatal March night at the Silver Fox, where a dispute between second-generation gangster Junior and a local barfly exploded into a barroom brawl.

As glasses and punches flew, the prosecution witness said, the then-19-year-old Gotti slid away from the juke box, pulled a knife and stabbed Silva.

Bonner recounted seeing the badly injured 24-year-old victim propped up on a bar stool, splattered with blood.

"He looked like he was in bad shape," Bonner said. "Blood all over his shirt."

Prosecutors said a sneering Gotti returning to taunt the mortally wounded Danny with a cruel Porky Pig impression: "Th-th-that's all folks!"

Bonner said Gotti's father paid $10,000 to a crooked detective to make the case disappear.

The details were lost on Frank Silva, whose son Daniel is apparently named for his late uncle.

His father, Frank Sr., died three years after his brother, Silva said, and his mom is in declining health.

Asked how he coped with Daniel's death, Silva offered a blunt two-word reply: "Never did." Silva declined to discuss the case or his brother. It's a position he's taken for decades, even before the latest link to Gotti.

"I don't speak of family matters," he said before asking a reporter and photographer to leave the property.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Update: Jr. Gotti Trial Scare

A woman whose brother was allegedly whacked by John "Junior" Gotti -- and whose husband is testifying against him -- complained yesterday that she was threatened in court by a spectator sympathetic to the mob scion.

The nature of the threat wasn't revealed, but it came to light after she told prosecutors, who informed the judge. When the judge confronted the man -- identified in the court record as Joseph McNeal -- he denied it.

"I did not threaten anyone. I've been here since Day 1. I don't know nobody here," he said.

McNeal was not charged and he left shortly afterward. Sources said he likes to sit in on Gotti's numerous trials but had no connection to the Dapper Don's spawn.

GOODFELLA, BAD FEELING: "Junior" Gotti (foreground) watches yesterday as Michael Stratton testifies. Stratton's wife, the sister of a mob-hit victim, told the judge that a spectator had threatened her.

The woman he approached is the sister of Bruce John Gotterup, a Queens drug dealer who is one of two people Gotti is on trial for killing.

Her husband, Michael Stratton, another Queens drug dealer, testified yesterday against Gotti in his fourth racketeering trial.

The chilling accusation came after an ex-cop testified he wrote up the hanging death of a witness to the other murder Gotti is charged with as an "apparent suicide." He said he did so after being pressured from a detective at the scene.

Retired NYPD patrolman Joseph Stillitano told a Manhattan federal jury he found John Cennamo hanging from a low tree branch at the rear of a Queens Laundromat after responding to a 911 call shortly before 8 a.m. on May 27, 1984.

Stillitano said he described Cennamo's death in his notes as an "apparent suicide" because a detective who showed up at the scene, whom he did not identify, immediately classified it a suicide. "I did not agree with him," said Stillitano, 47.

Prosecutors contend that members of the Gambino crime family murdered Cennamo -- and staged the scene to look like a suicide. The mobsters were allegedly trying to protect Gotti because Cennamo saw him kill Danny Silva during a bar brawl the previous year.

Another former lawman testified yesterday that the Silva investigation was complicated from the get-go by meddling from supervisors and other detectives, including one who allegedly pocketed $25,000 to steer the probe away from Gotti.

Retired Detective James McKinley said he heard Cennamo pin the stabbing death of his buddy Silva on Gotti following a fatal fight at the Silver Fox bar on March 12, 1983.

McKinley said Silva had just died and Cennamo shouted, "We all know who did it! We all know who did it! Johnny Boy Gotti."

McKinley said his investigation was marked by "heavy supervision from supervisors and a lot of input from other detectives," including retired Detective John Daly, who reportedly took $25,000 from Gambino mobster Angelo Ruggiero days after Cennamo's slaying.

Daly declined comment when contacted about that allegation in 2006.


Junior Gotti's night to remember: Sister Victoria Gotti describes secret Mafia ceremony in new book

Mob boss John Gotti (left) leaves court with John (Junior) Gotti (in tie) in 1987.

Cops: Witness fingered Junior Gotti and wound up dead

The NYPD didn't question John A. (Junior) Gotti in a barroom slaying despite an identification from a witness who was soon found hanging from a tree, two cops testified Thursday.

Within hours of the March 1983 slaying in the Silver Fox, witness John Cennamo was in Jamaica Hospital shouting at police that Gotti fatally stabbed Daniel Silva, retired Detective James McKinley testified.

"We all know who did it!" Cennamo shouted after McKinley arrived at the hospital. "Johnny Boy Gotti!"

McKinley later interviewed Cennamo at the 106th Precinct stationhouse, where he said he saw Gotti and three other knife-wielding men attack Silva.

Prosecutor James Trezevant asked if anyone ever attempted to ask Junior about the killing.

"No," McKinley replied.

An earlier witness in Gotti's racketeering trial testified that Junior's notorious father, John Gotti Sr., shut down the murder probe with a $10,000 bribe to an NYPD detective.

Under cross-examination, McKinley acknowledged arresting Gotti crony Mark Caputo for the Silva murder - although the case later fell apart. Fourteen months after the killing, Cennamo, 22, was found dead - a white sweater wrapped around his neck - from a low-hanging tree, prosecution witness Joseph Stillitano said.

The retired cop said the death had the look of a homicide, since the victim was "hanging too low." Cennamo's knees were almost touching the ground behind the Linden Blvd., Queens, laundermat, he recalled.

Another detective overruled Stillitano, calling it a suicide.

Prosecutors claimed Gotti was responsible for the Cennamo death, saying he bragged about the killing.

Meanwhile, Gotti's defense team argued he was the target of an overzealous FBI, and subpoenaed the personnel and discipline records of FBI Special Agent Theodore Otto.

Prosecutors filed paperwork to block the subpoena, saying Otto's file had nothing to do with the murder charges against Gotti.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NJ Gov Candidate has Family Links to Reputed Feared Genovese Boss

For Christopher J. Christie, it was inescapably an uncomfortable family connection. Tino Fiumara, the brother of his aunt’s husband, was a fearsome and ranking member of the Genovese crime family: twice convicted of racketeering, sentenced to 25 years in federal prison, and linked by investigators to several grisly murders, including one in which a victim was strangled with piano wire.

Tino Fiumara in 1979.

Mr. Christie, 47, who rose from a boyhood in Livingston to become a corporate lawyer, then United States attorney in New Jersey and now the Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey, does not appear to have talked much about Mr. Fiumara over the years.

He once acknowledged bumping into his uncle’s brother at a restaurant in the mid-1990s. And there was a 1991 visit Mr. Christie made to a Texas prison to see Mr. Fiumara — at the request, Mr. Christie said, of a relative.

But when Mr. Christie became New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor in January 2002, his distant tie became a potential problem. Mr. Fiumara was already under investigation by the federal prosecutor’s office for aiding the flight of a fugitive suspected of murder.

Mr. Christie recused himself from the case. Mr. Fiumara was arrested that April. Prosecutors and defense lawyers say Mr. Christie was never involved in any way.

But Mr. Christie, whose office issued news releases about a plea bargain and Mr. Fiumara’s eight-month prison sentence, never revealed his connection to the defendant or his sensitive decision to distance himself from the handling of the case.

“My view at the time was, I had had nothing to do with the case, I’d had no involvement with it, and I didn’t think it was of any import to anyone why I’d recused,” he said in an interview. “It was a personal matter; it was not a professional matter.”

Mr. Christie says his relationship to Mr. Fiumara never came up in his F.B.I. background check after his appointment as United States attorney, and he never raised it, though he says he assumed investigators were aware of it.

So as he runs for governor, the connection to one of the state’s more notorious and violent gangsters emerges as a somewhat startling footnote in the biography of a man who has built his campaign, and career, as a crime fighter.

Mr. Christie says that as United States attorney he was always tough on organized crime, though it did not rank as high among his priorities as public corruption, terrorism, violent street gangs or human trafficking did. And he says he stands by a 2007 remark that “the Mafia is much more prominent on HBO than in New Jersey.”

Mr. Fiumara’s older brother, John, who lived in Livingston, a mile from the Christie home, was the second husband of Mr. Christie’s aunt, Mr. Christie said. He said that he recalled seeing Tino Fiumara at large parties at his aunt’s home when he was a boy.

By then, Mr. Fiumara had built an extensive and violent résumé in the underworld. Jerry Capeci of GangLandNews.com, has reported that Mr. Fiumara cut his teeth in the late 1960’s working for Ruggiero Boiardo, a top Genovese crime family member in New Jersey, known as Richie the Boot, who lived in a sprawling Livingston estate that became a model for the suburban home of the fictional character Tony Soprano.

Mr. Christie said he was 15 when he found out about Mr. Fiumara’s involvement in organized crime, in 1977, reading about it on the front page of The Star-Ledger. Two years later, Mr. Fiumara was sentenced to 20 years for extorting a Parsippany restaurateur.

He was denied bail in that case, according to Mr. Capeci, after investigators linked him to the 1969 murder of a politically connected nightclub owner and bookmaker in Paterson, N.J. In 1980, he was convicted of charges that he controlled the New Jersey waterfront for the Genovese family, paying off union leaders and extorting shipping companies.

A United States Senate subcommittee investigating organized crime in the early 1980s attributed three murders to Mr. Fiumara, including the 1967 slayings of two brothers of one of his codefendants in the 1980 trial.

In 1983, Lt. Col. Justin Dintino of the New Jersey State Police called Mr. Fiumara “a callous killer who has resorted to violence with little provocation,” and said Mr. Fiumara had ordered the murder of the godfather of one of his own children.

Gerald Shargel, Mr. Fiumara’s lawyer, has called the murder accusations “an F.B.I. fantasy.”

Mr. Fiumara, 68, visited on Monday at his home in South Huntington, N.Y., referred reporters to another defense lawyer, Salvatore T. Alfano, who declined to comment.

Mr. Christie apparently has discussed Mr. Fiumara publicly only once before, in a brief item in The Star-Ledger in December 2001. He mentioned a chance encounter at a restaurant while Mr. Fiumara was out on parole several years earlier.

He did not mention having visited Mr. Fiumara behind bars.

In 1991, as a 29-year-old lawyer, Mr. Christie was planning a trip to Dallas to see a football game, he said, when his uncle asked him to visit Mr. Fiumara in the federal prison in Fort Worth.

He said that he remembered little of their conversation. “My best recollection is we updated each other on what was going on with the family,” he said. “It was not a very long visit.”

Mr. Fiumara was paroled from Fort Worth in February 1994. In 1999, he was returned to prison for associating with known criminals. A longtime associate, Michael Coppola, had fled murder charges in 1996, and Mr. Fiumara was caught on a wiretap speaking with him by phone while Mr. Coppola was a fugitive.

Mr. Fiumara was due to be released again in June 2002. But that April, he was indicted again, this time by Mr. Christie’s office on charges of helping Mr. Coppola avoid prosecution. Mr. Christie recused himself. Mr. Fiumara’s lawyers argued that he had already been punished through the parole violation. They sought house arrest, saying incarceration would jeopardize his chances of a kidney transplant. But prosecutors insisted on prison.

“The plea negotiations were very tough,” said Mr. Shargel. “No one was given any gift, that’s for sure.”

He said Mr. Christie had no involvement whatsoever.

Aidan O’Connor, who led the organized crime strike force for Mr. Christie at the time, agreed with Mr. Shargel.

Mr. Fiumara was released in January 2005. Last year he was named as a target of federal investigators who believe he ordered the slaying of an associate who was on trial for fraud in October 2005.

A senior law enforcement official said Mr. Fiumara now sits on a three-person ruling panel that oversees the Genovese family, which has not had an official boss since the death of Vincent Gigante in 2005.

Mr. Christie said that if he learned anything from his connection to Mr. Fiumara, it was at the moment he read about him in the newspaper as a 15-year-old.

“It just told me that you make bad decisions in life and you wind up paying a price,” he said. “Really, for most of my life, he spent his life in prison. That teaches you a lot.”

Victoria Gotti tells all about Dapper Dad

Victoria Gotti has spent a lifetime not discussing her father's career as a Mafia boss -- but with the release of a sensational new memoir, she breaks her silence about the late John Gotti's life as the most famous mob kingpin.

Victoria's book, "This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti," tells the story of her parents' abusive childhoods; her "Dapper Don" father's notorious career in the Mafia; her traumatizing marriage to a mobster her father warned her not to marry; and her father's decline in prison and death behind bars.

An exclusive, four-part excerpt will be published in The Post beginning Sunday.

"I loved the man . . . but I loathed the life, his lifestyle," she said in an interview for CBS's "48 Hours Mystery," to be telecast Saturday at 10 p.m.

"How can anybody worship that life? How could anybody think there was any glory in that life . . . I would lie awake nights and cry . . . Is my dad gonna come home? Is he gonna go to jail again . . . Is he going to get hurt? Is he gonna get killed?"

She said she had her father's blessing on the book project. "He had just one request. He said, 'Don't you ever look to make me out to be an altar boy. Because I wasn't,' " she said in the TV interview.

Victoria concedes her father was head of the Gambino crime family, the nation's most powerful mob syndicate, but when she was asked if he ordered the assassination of his predecessor, Paul Castellano, she said: "Absolutely not."

She denies the Dapper Don sanctioned any kind of hit of a Queens neighbor who in 1980 accidentally killed her 12-year-old brother, Frank.

John Favara was driving near the Gottis' home in Howard Beach when Frank, on a motorized bicycle, darted into the street and was struck by Favara's car.

Victoria recalled pleading with her dad to exact revenge.

"You're supposed to be a tough guy. How can you let somebody kill my brother?" Victoria recalled asking her father. "And he just looked at me and he said, 'It was an accident.' "

Gotti said her father added, "I’m telling you it was an accident. And you have to understand that."

Gotti said her decision to release a memoir now is prompted by brother John "Junior" Gotti's current trial in Manhattan federal court on racketeering and murder-conspiracy charges.

"I think, first and foremost, my brother John's life is on the line," she said.

She said her brother went against his father's wishes by pleading guilty in 1999 to racketeering charges as a way to say he wanted out of the mob. Junior was released from prison in 2005, and she believes he never went back into "the life."

"Father was dead set against it . . . and he said, 'Tell your brother, I will never tell him how to live his life. Tell him I will support whatever he does," Victoria said.

She added, "[Mom] had such a distaste for the fact that Dad was involved [in the Mafia] and now her son . . . She goes to see Dad and threatens [him], 'Either you release him or I'll never speak to you again.' "

When asked how she accepts that her father directly or indirectly killed people, she replied, "When you chose that life, I think you know what you're signing up for . . . I think he knew going in what was expected of him . . . I believe he knew that there was no living happily ever after. And I don't think he cared."


'Jr.' juror thought she was out, but judge pulls her back in

Could it be a case of Mafia fever?

A juror who on Day One tried to weasel out of the John "Junior" Gotti trial forced a postponement yesterday when she called in sick.

The woman, one of six alternate jurors on the case, initially phoned the court to say she was at her doctor's office and had experienced a "reaction" to a flu shot, Manhattan federal Judge P. Kevin Castel said yesterday morning.

Castel delayed the start of testimony to wait to hear from her and for the arrival of another alternate juror who had "called in to say he had taken the wrong train and was going to be a few minutes late."

But an hour later, the judge canceled the day's proceedings after the woman, who works as a city procurement analyst, reported that she was suffering from a sinus infection.

On Monday, the woman was among seven jurors who sent notes to the judge asking to be excused from Gotti's racketeering and murder trial.

Her note said: "I am losing money every day by being here. Six weeks is to [sic] long. I just brought [sic] a house and the extra money is helping me pay [for] the house."

Her request, along with the others, was denied. After summoning the other jurors, Castel didn't detail the woman's condition, but said she "has been given a prescription medicine" and "is of the view that she will be fit and ready to serve" this morning.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gotti's former pal testifies that he saw Jr. stab a man - and that his dad paid to make case go away

John A. (Junior) Gotti sat placidly in a nearby apartment after brutally stabbing a man to death in a wild 1983 barroom brawl, a drug-dealing ex-pal testified Tuesday.

The knife-wielding killer "showed no emotion at all" after leaving a gorespattered Daniel Silva to die on an Ozone Park barstool, career criminal Kevin Bonner told a Manhattan federal jury.

Gotti avoided prosecution for the vicious slaying in the Silver Fox when his mob boss father paid an NYPD detective $10,000 to make the case disappear, Bonner claimed.

Bonner, 45, acknowledged under cross-examination from Gotti lawyer Charles Carnesi that he kept the explosive testimony to himself for years - until he faced nearly a half-century in jail.

Bonner said he had mentioned the killing to mob murder victims George Grosso and Johnny Gebert, along with Junior's best friend-turned-informer John Alite.

"Gebert's dead. Grosso's dead. And Alite is cooperating," Carnesi noted dryly.

Bonner recounted the scene in the bar, when he said Gotti's disagreement with a pesky barfly known as Elf escalated into a glass-throwing free-for-all.

"I looked over at John, John Gotti, and saw him stab this kid," Bonner testified at Junior's federal racketeering trial. "I can see the kid get stabbed."

As members of Gotti's crew tried to hustle the mobster out of the bar, Bonner spotted a dying Silva propped up on a barstool, he said.

"He looked like he was in bad shape," Bonner testified. "Blood all over his shirt."

Bonner took the stand in Gotti's fourth federal trial in the past five years. The three previous cases ended in mistrials.

Gotti and his crew met in a Queens apartment after the slaying, where a cold-blooded Junior sat impassively before bolting for his cousin's Long Island home, Bonner said.

He returned after a payoff was made by the Dapper Don to "make it go away," Bonner said.

Bonner, who said he grew up idolizing the local mafiosi in Queens, said he wasn't surprised by Gotti's violent outburst. The second-generation gangster wanted to make his own way up the mob ladder.

"He didn't want anything given, handed to him," said Bonner, who is doing 25 years in a Florida prison for a series of armed robberies.

Dapper Don 'bribed' cop for Junior

John "Junior" Gotti fatally stabbed a man during a Queens bar brawl in 1983 -- but his father paid an NYPD detective $10,000 to make the investigation "go away," a former member of Gotti's crew testified yesterday.

Kevin Bonner said the up-and-coming mob scion "went to work" after 24-year-old Danny "Elf" Silva wouldn't stop drunkenly pestering Gotti one night at the Silver Fox Bar in Queens.

Gotti's youthful gangsters surrounded their 19-year-old leader as he savagely beat Silva on March 12, 1983, but all hell broke loose after someone tossed a glass that shattered on Bonner's forehead.

"It just became a big brawl," Bonner, 45, said during a day of highly detailed testimony at Gotti's racketeering and murder trial in Manhattan federal court. "As I was tussling, I looked over at John and I seen he stabbed this kid."

Other patrons dragged Silva onto a bar stool, where he moaned in pain.

"He had blood all over," Bonner said. "He got stabbed in the belly."

Gotti and his group hightailed it to a woman's apartment in the Lindenwood section of Howard Beach, where Bonner said Gotti showed "no emotion" after washing off Silva's blood in the bathroom.

"It was a little awkward at the table. Nobody said nothing," said Bonner, who then coldly headed off with his girlfriend for a late-night dinner in Manhattan.

But Bonner said neither he nor any other crew members were ever questioned by the cops afterward, with crew member John Gebert explaining that Gotti's father -- at the time a "very feared" captain in the Gambino crime family -- "was taking care of the investigation" by paying off a detective.

"He paid him money to kind of, I guess, make it go away," Bonner said, without naming the rogue cop.

The testimony marked the latest claim of police corruption tied to Junior Gotti's case, following a leaked FBI report last week that detailed allegations from former Gambino thug John Alite about cops in league with the mob.

Bonner -- who turned rat after being hit with a 25-year sentence for a string of armed robberies in Florida -- also pinned a mid-'80s shooting on Gotti, saying he opened fire during a fight that erupted at a Queens disco after a bouncer demanded proof of Gotti's age.

The victim, Bonner said, turned out to be connected to the Bonanno crime family, and everyone present was later summoned to the elder Gotti's Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park to help settle the matter.