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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gambino rat says he went to strip clubs to avoid blowing his cover

A Gambino mobster-turned-FBI informant testified yesterday that he felt duty-bound to join the crime family’s wiseguys during their sojourns to strip joints and massage parlors — because opting out would have blown his cover and jeopardized his safety.
“Being a guy and being in that life . . . you know, that’s what we like to do. That’s how we have fun. We go out, and we go to strip clubs,” the former Mafioso, Howard Santos, told jurors at a mob murder trial in Brooklyn federal court.
“I’m not saying that I didn’t want to do it because, you know, I didn’t really have a hard time . . . deciding to,” he admitted.
Santos said his motivation for one these outings was helping the feds collect information about a Gambino hit.
"This [mob] associate, Todd LaBarca, was pretty persistent on me and him going to get a massage. And at the time, I was trying to get information from him about a murder," he said.
Santos feared that if he didn't accept and strip down, the mobster would have suspected he was wearing a hidden recorder.
"I thought - maybe because you have to undress in front of each other - maybe he was trying to see if I had a 'wire' on," Santos said.
"You know, when you have a recording device on you, sometimes you do get a little paranoid. And I thought if I didn't do it, it definitely would have raised an eyebrow," Santos said.
His dilemma mirrored a scene in HBO's "The Sopranos" when Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero - who later turned out to be a rat - was urged by mob soldier Paulie Walnuts to shed his clothes at a Turkish bath, in a ploy to see if he was wired up.
Santos said he consulted his FBI handler, who gave him the green light - if refusing would have compromised his safety.
Eventually he went with LaBarca to get the massage.
The junket may have paid off. Last year LaBarca pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a mob murder and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Santos, now in the witness-protection program, was testifying at the murder and racketeering trial of Bartolomeo Vernace, a Gambino capo and ruling panel member accused of helping to kill two men over a spilled drink in 1981.



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