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Amma_Schneider

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Charges Called ‘New Low’ for Gambinos

    When members of the Gambino crime family correctly suspected in the late 1990s that a nephew of one of their most powerful captains was cooperating with the government, they plotted to kill him, the authorities say.

    But before carrying out the plot, they sought permission from the captain, who was in prison at the time.

    The captain, Daniel Marino, authorized the killing, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Tuesday.

    The nephew, who was 31, was lured to a strip club on Staten Island, and was shot and killed, the prosecutors said.

    The killing was just one of a series of crimes included in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday against 14 members and associates of the Gambino family. The cases represent “literally decades of criminality,” as Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, put it at a news conference.

    Some of the charges announced Monday — extortion, gambling, loan sharking, marijuana and cocaine trafficking — seem routine, almost boilerplate in mob cases. There was even an attempted jury tampering charge related to the 1992 trial of John J. Gotti, the family’s boss at the time.

    But in what Mr. Bharara said appears to be a first in a case involving the Mafia, some defendants were charged with operating an interstate sex trafficking network, in which they recruited women to work as prostitutes in New York and New Jersey.

    Mr. Bharara said the sex trafficking reflected perhaps “a new low for the Gambino family.”

    “The defendants advertised on the Internet, set up and drove the women to appointments, and kept about half of the collected fees,” he said.

    He said the women used as prostitutes were all under 20 years old, and one was 15.

    “As today’s case shows,” Mr. Bharara said, “the rumors of the Mafia’s demise are greatly exaggerated.”

    The authorities offered no details about what had happened to the women who were used as prostitutes. Among the defendants was one woman, who was charged in connection with the sex trafficking ring. The indictment does not elaborate on her role.

    Mr. Marino, 69, has been a “made member” of the Gambino family since at least the 1970s, and is now “a boss,” prosecutors said.

    The indictment says that the family is now run by a panel, a step taken “to protect and insulate” the Gambino family’s leaders “from detection and scrutiny by law enforcement.”

    “While the leadership may maintain a lower profile,” said George Venizelos, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s New York office, “this case shows that it’s still about making money illegally, by whatever means.

    “No crime seems too depraved to be exploited if it was a money-maker,” he added, “including the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old.”

    Mr. Marino pleaded not guilty in a brief court appearance, and, at the government’s request, was ordered detained pending further proceedings.

    Mr. Marino’s lawyer, Charles F. Carnesi, said after the proceeding that he planned to oppose the government’s detention request.

    Twelve other defendants also have also pleaded not guilty in court; one remains at large.

    Mr. Marino has more than 200 Gambino family members and hundreds more associates “under his command and authority,” the indictment says. “He was a boss reigning over the entire Gambino family,” Mr. Bharara added.

    And it was that family which came first, Mr. Bharara made clear. He cited the charge that Mr. Marino approved the killing of his nephew.

    “When Daniel Marino was faced with that choice, between his own family and the Gambino crime family, he chose the Gambinos,” Mr. Bharara said.


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    Gambino Crime Family

    Mark Cardwell/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

    The crime family run for 20 years by Carlo Gambino reached its peak of notoriety in the 1980's under the leadership of John Gotti (pictured left), the media-friendly Dapper Don. At its height, it was considered the most influential of the the "Five Families'' of the Mafia in New York City.

    Investigators who succeeded in planting bugs in the homes and social clubs where Gambino leaders did business slowly chopped away at the gang. The effort gained in the 1990's with the defection of his underboss, Salvatore Gravano and other high-level mob figures. Federal and state authorities focused on the mob's control of certain industries and corrupt unions. From garbage carting and construction to the garment center and the waterfront, the authorities improved their use of racketeering laws to loosen the mob's control.

    After winning three acquittals on federal charges -- and a second tabloid nickname, the Teflon Don -- Mr. Gotti was convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992, and over the course of the next decade almost the entire family hierarchy was sent to jail.

    After Mr. Gotti's imprisonment, investigators said they believed that he was trying to cling to power through his brother Peter. But Peter apparently stepped aside after facing multiple federal indictments, and by the time of John Gotti's death from cancer in prison in 2002, the authorities described the family as severely diminished.

    On Feb. 7, 2008, law enforcement officials announced the indictment of 60 people in connection with racketeering. The entire leadership of the Gambino family was among those charged, officials said, including the man they named as the group's boss, John D'Amico, also known as Jackie the Nose.

    --Feb. 7, 2008

     


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    This week in American Gangland

    Bingy Talks; FBI Digs Up Body

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    Bingy ArillottaA useful mob turncoat is supposed to be able to tell you where the bodies are buried and so far, sources tell Gang Land, Anthony (Bingy) Arillota is doing a heck of a job. 

    Arillota, the onetime mob boss of Springfield Massachusetts, became a federal cooperator just a few weeks ago. He has already led the feds straight to the secret last resting place of a local hood who has been missing since November 2003.

    What are believed to be the mortal remains of Gary Westerman, a Springfield gangster, were found last week by teams of FBI agents after nearly five days of digging through Massachusetts mud using backhoes and other excavation equipment.

    Westerman was killed just a few days before Arillotta engineered the rubout of capo Adolfo (Big Al) Bruno and took over the crime family’s rackets in the Springfield area.

    Sources say that bones and other evidence of the slain hoodlum were found last week right where Arillotta said they were – buried in a wooded area behind a friend’s home off the beaten path in the town of Agawam – right across the Connecticut River from Springfield.

    Arillota had good reason to recall exactly where Westerman, an ex-con, was planted: He was Bingy’s former brother in law.

    Sources say Westerman’s killing was unrelated to the murder of Bruno, whose demise Arillotta supervised, allegedly for the family’s New York honchos, including then-acting boss Arthur (Little Guy) Nigro.

    Gary WestermanGang Land’s sources declined to say whether Bingy was involved in the Westerman killing. They also would not say if it was related to a 1 AM incident several weeks before Westerman (left) disappeared, when one or more gunmen riddled Arillotta’s Springfield home with more than 20 bullets and shot up his car. Arillotta, his wife, two children and his mother were home at the time, but escaped injury.

    The August 31, 2003 shooting echoed a famous scene in the Godfather saga in which Don Michael Corleone is the target. In Corleone’s case, he gets plenty of revenge. It’s not clear what Bingy did but that morning, Arillotta – as well as his wife and mother – were questioned about the shooting. They told police they did “not know who could have done it,” according to a report by Springfield police officer David Franco.

    That was in 2003 when he was still a standup guy. Not anymore.

    The finding of Westerman’s remains is an important milestone for Arillotta, as well as for FBI agents investigating the Bruno slaying and the long-established but murky links between the New York leaders and the Massachusetts faction of the Genovese crime family.

    “He established his credibility with that,” said one source.

    As Gang Land disclosed two weeks ago, Arillotta, 41, was officially “released” from his digs at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan on March 25 so he could be unofficially debriefed by FBI agents and prosecutors about wiseguys from New York to New England.

    Arthur NigroMeanwhile, the man who allegedly hired the actual gunman in the Bruno murder for Arillotta and had been scheduled for trial in Springfield this month, Fotios (Freddy) Geas,  has finally arrived in New York, where he is now slated for trial with Nigro (right) in November.

    Because of crowded conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, Geas, 42, and Nigro, 65, are both housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn these days as prosecutors decide whether to obtain retribution for Bruno by seeking the death penalty against them.

    The legal reasons for seeking capital punishment in the case seem pretty tenuous, however, and Gang Land would not be surprised if the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office decides to chuck that idea before too much time passes.

    According to prosecutors Jonathan New and Mark Lanpher, Bruno was marked for death to prevent him from “providing information to law enforcement about crimes committed by members of the Genovese crime family” – a crime that is eligible for capital punishment.

    Al BrunoBut so far, there’s been no evidence offered – or even any indication – that Bruno, 57, (left) ever had any intention to do what his successor would end up doing. But the feds say that if they can prove that Nigro and Geas murdered him because they thought he might cooperate, the men would face execution. That’s what the feds are currently considering.

    It seems like a stretch. Bruno’s reputation amongst his wiseguy peers was as a solid mob citizen. And even if Bingy were to testify that he heard that Bruno was thinking of flipping, it’s hard to see a New York jury swallowing that tale from a onetime wiseguy who immediately took over Bruno’s rackets right after he had him killed.

    Death Hanging Up Feds; FBI Readies Turncoats & Wife, Too

    Joey Caves CompetielloArillotta – as noted previously – is only the fourth Genovese family mobster to become a cooperating witness. The tally of defectors from the Colombo family, on the other hand, is too long to list just at this moment. 

    Suffice to say that at the upcoming trial of three wiseguys charged with several murders, there are not one, not two, but three Colombo family “made men” ready, willing and able to testify, according to court papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court. And get this: there is even a wife of a Colombo cooperator who is primed to testify for the feds. 

    And just as in Nigro’s two-month old case in Manhattan, the indicted Colombo mobsters – Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace, Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli, and Dino (Little Dino) Saracino – are all charged with death penalty eligible murders for which the local prosecutors have not yet made a decision, some 16 months after the charges were filed. 

    In the Colombo case, Judge Brian Cogan displayed a bit of displeasure and impatience with prosecutors James Gatta and Cristina Posa for their inability to pull the trigger on the death penalty issue that has been in the works since December of 2008. 

    That’s when Cacace, who celebrated his 69th birthday last week, and Saracino, 37, were charged with the 1997 execution murder of NYPD housing cop Ralph Dols, and Gioeli, 57, was charged with the 1999 slaying of Colombo underboss William (Wild Bill) Cutolo. 

    Judge Brian CoganThe judge didn’t issue a drop dead ruling on the subject. But he strongly advised Gatta and Posa last week to make a final determination on the question by the next scheduled status conference on May 26. 

    One defense attorney in the case, who asked not to be named, believes prosecutors “are having a tough time because their witnesses have told so many conflicting stories” they are having a difficult time figuring out “who and what to believe.” 

    The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment. But two affidavits written by the lead FBI agent in the case and obtained by Gang Land seem to back up some of the defense lawyer’s assertions. 

    Little Dino SaracinoIn the affidavits, FBI agent Scott Curtis states that the turncoat mobster who gave the feds the legal ammunition to charge Cacace and Saracino with the Dols killingJoseph (Joe Caves) Competielloinitially lied about his own involvement in that slaying and still denies taking part in another murder, and a robbery, that he is charged with. 

    Curtis wrote that Joey Caves first admitted that he stole a car, but insisted that he had no idea it would be used in the Dols slaying. But that story changed: “Competiello later implicated himself in the murder,” wrote Curtis, adding that Joey Caves still denies taking part in the murder of Frank (Chestnut) Marasa, as well as a fur robbery that he is accused of committing in 1991 along with along with Tommy Shots. 

    The affidavits, filed in November, 2008, each sought court authorization for search warrants. To stress that Competiello was a credible witness despite the above facts, Curtis stated that Joey Caves had admitted four other murders and had supplied information that led to the discovery of Cutolo’s remains a month earlier.

    Since then, capo Dino (Big Dino) Calabro, who was also charged with the 1991 crimes along with Gioeli and Competiello in the initial indictment, has also opted to play for the government. Calabro’s version of those crimes is unclear, but the efforts of Big Dino’s wife on behalf of her hubby and the FBI are detailed in another affidavit by Curtis.

    A year ago, while Big Dino (left) was still on the fence, his wife Andrea, at the behest of the FBI, obtained photos of Dino and other Colombo cohorts from Gioeli’s wife Maureen on a pretext, and turned them over to the FBI in an effort to boost Dino’s chances of being drafted by Team America. 

    While on the job in Gioeli’s home for the FBI, Andrea managed to lift “an address book that was lying on the table,” wrote Curtis, who was quick to add that the sticky fingered mole acted on her own when she did that, having been instructed “only to obtain photographs…and to only obtain those photos with the consent of Gioeli’s wife.”

    Tsk. Tsk. That’s one trouble with recruiting wiseguys and their spouses to work for Uncle Sam: They are not big on following the rules.

    Junior Scores On 60 Minutes;
    But Did He Ever Kill Anyone?

    Junior GottiHe made one major mistake, and his appearance may not trigger the seven figure movie-book deal that he’d love to land, but give credit where credit is due: In his sitdown with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday, John (Junior) Gotti was poised, polished and – dare we say it? – even somewhat sympathetic.

    Gotti sounded solemn and sincere as he talked about his decision to leave his father’s business, the Mafia. He also came across as the proud family man (that’s lower case ‘family’) he has long claimed to be.

    Junior GottiThat said, he screwed up royally when he deflected a question from newsman Steve Kroft about whether he ever killed anyone. First he took a shot at the question, as though it was somehow wrong to even ask it. He then compounded the error by taking a shot at the government. “Absolutely not,” was the perfectly acceptable answer from a guy who had just insisted at trial that he was innocent of three murders.

    What he did say was this: “First of all, it’s a ridiculous question. Second off, if you go by the government, who didn’t I kill?”

    Gotti also fared poorly when trying to defend his father for “probably” having murdered a neighbor who killed Junior’s brother Frank in a tragic accident. His shrug at an innocent man’s death was even more questionable given his later and more credible “argument” about why and how his father, in his own mobster mind, had justified murder. 

    Frank GottiWhen it came to poor John Favara, who was killed on his father’s orders by eight members of his dad’s mob crew, Gotti said he “did not know for certain” that his old man had done the deed. But he agreed that “knowing John, and how he was, and how he felt about a lot of things, especially regarding his own children, probably….Knowing my father, there’s no way you’re gonna hurt one of his without him hurting you. It’s just not gonna happen.” 

    But on the subject of his father committing murders in general, a minute or two later in the broadcast, Gotti opined that he didn’t know if anyone could ever justify it. But he said he could give Kroft an argument, if he wanted to hear it. When Kroft answered in the affirmative, Gotti stated:

    “John was a part of the streets. He swore that that was his life. He swore, ‘I’m gonna live and die by the rules of the streets. The code of the streets.’ And everybody that John’s accused of killing, or may have killed, or wanted to kill, or tried to kill, was a part of that same street. That was a part of the same world, same code. And my father always said, in his mind, ‘You break rules, you end up in a dumpster.’ ‘If I break rules,’ meaning himself, ‘they’re gonna put two in my head and put me in a dumpster. That's the way it works.’ So, am I justifying it? No, I’m explaining it.”

    John GottiThe only streets that John Favara and John Gotti shared were in Howard Beach, Queens, where they lived as backyard neighbors until a tragic accident, for which Favara was found not to be at fault, cost him his life.

    During Kroft’s final remarks, which most likely were uttered under prompting by Gotti and his attorney to assuage any concerns that Gambino wiseguys may have about a book Junior is planning, the newsman managed to also devalue the price of any movie-book offer.

    “He has been working for several years on a book about his life,” said Kroft, “but don't expect him to bad-mouth the mob or the people who were loyal to him and his father. They know where he lives and he says they were happy to let him go just like he knew they would. It’s more money for them.”

    And less money for Junior.

     

    ******

     
     


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    BECOMING boss of the Gambino Crime Family is a mixed blessing. If, like Carlo Gambino, you last long enough, there are untold riches to be had. On the other hand, as Paul Castellano and John Gotti discovered, there is an excellent chance you will end up murdered or in jail. With the fates of Castellano and Gotti so fresh in the minds of Gambino family mobsters, it will not be surprising if less and less of them push for the leadership of the family in the future. With that thought in mind, here is a brief look at the first hundred years of the Gambino Crime Family.

    Our first real knowledge of this group does not begin until the late 1920's when Al Mineo was the boss. At this time Joe Masseria was the dominant figure in La Cosa Nostra and Mineo was closely allied to him. This partnership would end unhappily for Mineo during the early stages of the Castellammarese War of 1930.

    The Castellammarese War was the biggest of a seemingly never ending series of conflicts between families in the New York area. This particular upheaval has become famous because it involved all five families in New York and others, especially Chicago and Detroit. Eventually, it lead to the formation of the Commission which dominated La Cosa Nostra on the east coast for the next sixty years.

    The main combatants in the war were Masseria (Genovese Family) and Sal Maranzano (Bonanno Family). In order to undercut Masseria, Maranzano decided that Mineo had to go. He had become Masseria's chief strategist after the death of Masseria's underboss a short time before. Mineo was gunned down in an ambush in November of 1930. Also killed was his underboss Steve Ferrigno.

    Lucky LucianoChief beneficiary of this hit was an early defector to the Maranzano forces - capo Frank Scalise. He was elected boss by the family which was more an indication of a desire to not anger Maranzano than faith in Scalise's leadership. It was to be a very short time at the top for Scalise, however. When Maranzano was killed just months after his victory, suddenly, Scalise became a liability to his family. He was seen to be too close to Maranzano and the family did not want to incur the wrath of Lucky Luciano, (right) who had engineered Maranzano's death. Scalise stepped down and Vince Mangano was elected in his place. He too had been a defector to Maranzano but was seen to be a more neutral choice than Scalise.

    Mangano, as boss his New York Crime Family, became one of the seven original members of the Commission. According to Joe Bonanno, Mangano served as chair of the group, most likely in recognition of the status of his powerful family, which was the largest of all. Mangano's selection of Albert Anastasia as his underboss was probably not only an acknowledgement of Anastasia's power but more importantly his friendship with Lucky Luciano. In hindsight it was a choice that Mangano probably wished he didn't have to make.

    An indication of the differences in personality of the two men can be seen in the mid thirties when the mob was discussing the looming threat possed by Thomas Dewey, the famous rackets buster. Anastasia's solution to the problem was to kill Dewey! This would have been a shocking change to the modus operandi of La Cosa Nostra. Mangano, as boss, quickly vetoed the idea which no doubt embarrassed the volatile Anastasia.

    By 1951 the animosity between the two came to a head. Anastasia emerged the winner with the disappearance of Mangano and the discovery of the body of his brother Philip. Anastasia's alliance with Frank Costello, (right) who headed the Genovese Family, was the key factor in his victory.

    Anastasia (left) took over the top position with a justified reputation of ferocious killer. However, we now know that this reputation was greatly exaggerated due to the myth of Murder Incorporated. Serious historical research has established that there was no such thing as Murder Incorporated with hired killers sitting around waiting for killing assignments. Unfortunately, the legend lives on, distorting a real understanding of Cosa Nostra history.

    Six years after his successful coup, Anastasia's connection to Costello came back to haunt him. Vito Genovese had been conspiring with Anastasia underboss, Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese. The first objectives were to overthrow Costello and replace Anastasia with Gambino. Within a few months both goals were achieved. After being shot and wounded by up-and-coming gangster Vincent Gigante (right) on May 2, 1957, Costello stepped down and left Anastasia without his trusted ally. In June, Anastasia underboss, Frank Scalise, the same person who briefly had been boss of this family in 1931, was gunned down in a scene that was recreated in The Godfather. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia was murdered in a hotel barbershop, completing the initial part of the Genovese\Gambino\Lucchese plot.

    In order to solidify what they had accomplished, the three leaders successfully lobbied other influential bosses to hold a National Meeting of La Cosa Nostra. Speculation has it that they wanted to get formal recognition of Gambino and Genovese from the other family leaders. This would "legitimize" what had been accomplished in fact. This meeting was the infamous Apalachin fiasco of November 14, 1957. Beginning in 1931, National Meetings of the bosses of La Cosa Nostra, were held every five years with the main agenda being to confirm members of the Commission for the next five year term. In 1956, a regularly scheduled gathering had been held at the estate of Joe Barbara, boss of the northeastern Pennsylvania crime family (now called the Bufalino Family). Shortly after that assembly had ended, Bonanno underboss Carmine Galante was arrested for misrepresenting his identity after being stopped for speeding. Galante brought enormous political pressure to bear in order to obtain his release on a relatively minor charge. Detective Sergeant Edgar Crosswell became curious as to why Galante was in the vicinity and began checking various hotels to see where Galante had stayed. It was then that Crosswell discovered that a large number of men with criminal records had recently been in the area. The next year Crosswell was on the alert when known criminals began to gather at Barbara's place. Panicked at the sight of State Troopers copying down licence plates, most of those in attendance fled. Fifty eight were arrested including Gambino and Genovese. Whether or not the two had been formally recognized became academic after the fiasco. Both continued to act as bosses and were not seriously challenged.

    Joe BonannoAfter three years of lying low to avoid more publicity, the plotters began their ultimate successful undermining of both Joe Bonanno (right) and Joe Profaci. (left) These two veteran leaders were not blind to the machinations against them but were seriously hampered by the long illness and then death of Profaci. Joe Magliocco, the new Profaci (Colombo) boss was unable to unite the family under his leadership. In desperation the two plotted the deaths of Lucchese and Gambino but were discovered. Ultimately Magliocco died and Bonanno lost his position of power and was no longer a factor in Cosa Nostra. Lucchese succumbed to cancer in 1967, leaving Gambino on top.

    Joe ColomboFor the next eight years Gambino was as near to being "Boss of Bosses" as was possible. Not only did he control his own family but leaders beholding to him sat on the thrones of the other 4 New York Cosa Nostra organizations. There were blips such as when Joe Colombo (left) began asserting his independence with his Italian-American Civil Rights League. Fortunately for Gambino, a lone gunman assassinated Colombo, preventing a serious disagreement from turning into a mob war. Since the killer was executed at the scene, his motives and associations were never determined.

    By 1976 Gambino was seriously fading and made it known that he preferred that Paul Castellano be his replacement. It was an astute move in that no one would dare openly oppose his wishes while he was still alive. His underboss and potential replacement, Aniello Dellacroce, acquiesced. On October 15, 1976 Gambino (right) became the only formal leader of the family to die of natural causes while a free man.

    Paul CastellanoGambino's brother-in-law, Paul Castellano (left) ruled the family for the next nine years. Economically, for the hierarchy of the organization it was boom times with both the blue and white collar rackets flourishing. Castellano's power grew. He appeared invulnerable, but it was an illusion. A number of factors would ultimately lead to Castellano lying in his own blood outside Sparks Steak House in December of 1985 . Years earlier, he had withdrawn from the streets and conducted his family business from his huge house on Staten Island. This only heightened the sense of detachment usually felt by troops toward their leader. The crews which reported to underboss Aniello Dellacroce, began to feel they were a separate entity which in fact they nearly were. The government's attack on LCN, tied up not only Castellano, but the bosses of the other families. This created a power vacuum which was exploited by a ruthless capo named John Gotti.

    As has been well documented, Gotti (left) began to feel that he and his close associates were in some jeopardy due to the revelations on government tapes which exposed their drug dealing. With mentor and protector Dellacroce not expected to live long, Gotti was soon to be at the mercy of Castellano who did not like him. Faced with the possibility of his own demise, Gotti initiated a daring plan to overthrow his boss. With the death of Dellacroce, (right) the planning accelerated. No one, outside that life, would have given him a remote chance of succeeding had they known of his plot.

    Gotti brought other family powers into his scheme and in addition obtained unofficial approval from three of the other four families. The reasons the others joined Gotti are varied but it is safe to say they were all looking ahead and were gambling that Castellano was probably finished due to the legal cases against him. If they didn't join up with Gotti now, they would be left by the wayside if he succeeded. No doubt, Gotti's charisma and fearlessness played a large role as well. In any case, the net result was Castellano was dead and Gotti was shortly thereafter elected boss.

    Gotti instantly became a media darling, and he loved it. With his manner and dress, he played the part perfectly and was quickly dubbed the Dapper Don by the New York media. His successes in three prosecutions only heightened the mystique and led to a new moniker, the Teflon Don. Behind the scenes, he was ruthlessly cementing his position by establishing a fearsome reputation. Anyone showing even the slightest disapproval was in great danger. Surrounded by sycophants such as Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano and Frank Locascio, Gotti had no wise consigliere to reign in his giant ego and urge a disciplined use of violence rather than its wholesale implementation. In addition, he was constantly battling the justice system and under fire from the Genovese crew lead by Vincent Gigante. It is little wonder Gotti was not thinking straight and let himself be taped discussing murders and his rackets. When the feds finally convicted him in 1992 and he began a life sentence, an incredible era came to a close. He died in a federal prison hospital of cancer in 2002.

    junior03a.JPG (13328 bytes)Gotti's son, John A. (Junior) Gotti, (left) his brother Peter, and capos Nicholas (Little Nick) Corozzo and John (Jackie Nose) D'Amico, ran the family while Gotti appealed his conviction. By late 1996, with most of his appeals lost, the Mafia Commission pressured Gotti to step down and be replaced by someone with a surname other than Gotti when his final appeal was resolved. FBI reports indicate that Corozzo was picked, but before he could be officially selected, he was caught up in two racketeering indictments, one in Brooklyn and a second in Ft. Lauderdale, and imprisoned until June 2004.

    Peter GottiWhen the onetime Dapper Don passed away, his older brother Peter, a former sanitation worker took over as the family's official boss. By time that happened however, Peter (right) was already destined to meet the same fate as his brother. A week before his brother died, Peter was hit with waterfront labor racketeering charges, jailed as a danger to the community. He has been there ever since. He was found guilty of those charges, and later of separate murder charges, and sentenced to life.

    In late 2007, Corozzo's brother Joseph, who had served as the Dapper Don's bodyguard-chauffeur for a time, was the family's consigliere. Little Nick Corozzo was feeling his oats and said to be vying for the top spot. And an old Gotti ally, Jackie Nose D'Amico was the family's acting boss.

    Meanwhile, Junior Gotti, who served as acting boss until he was indicted on racketeering charges in 1998, copped a plea deal, and was released in 2004, only to be hit with racketeering charges stemming from the 1992 kidnap shooting of Guardian Angels founder and controversial radio talk show host, Curtis Sliwa. After three trials ended in hung juries, the charges were dropped and in late 2007, the onetime Junior Don, who claimed to have quit the mob while doing a 77-month prison stretch, was said to he looking to relocate away from the New York area.

     

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    The Genovese Family is the most powerful of the Five Families that formed independently out of the underbelly of the many thousands of Italian immigrants who flocked to the new world around the turn of the twentieth century. It's often called the Ivy League of Organized Crime. 

    Joe The Boss MasseriaIts boss in 1931, the same year the Mafia Commission was created, was Joseph (Joe the Boss) Masseria, (left) who rose from the ranks and took over as  leader in the early 1920s the usual way – killing off his rivals. In the late 1920s, particularly after he orchestrated the October 11, 1928 murder of Salvatore D’Aquila, the leader of what we know as the Gambino Family, Masseria was recognized by Cosa Nostra leaders as the ultimate arbitrator of all major decisions that cut across family lines. Masseria enjoyed this prestige and didn't hesitate to flex his muscle at the least opportunity. For all intents and purposes, he was the boss of bosses of the era.

    Masseria, who had success sending one of his powerful soldiers from Brooklyn, Al Capone, to Chicago to help strongman Johnny Torrio take control of that city, spread himself too thin, however, and he ultimately had fatal trouble at home.  

    His demise came from within, at the hands of an ambitious capo, Salvatore Lucania, better known as Lucky Luciano. Charlie Lucky arranged Masseria’s killing at an Italian restaurant in Coney Island, and easily assumed control of the family.

    Luciano, who is credited by most as the brains and driving force behind the formation of the Commission, the supreme Mafia ruling body in 1931, ruled for only a few years. By the mid 1930’s, Charlie Lucky was a household name, much to his regret. He became an important target of famous rackets buster, Thomas Dewey. In 1936, he was convicted of organizing a prostitution racket and was sentenced to 30 to 50 years.

    Despite numerous appeals and a consensus that the sentence was outrageously harsh, Luciano (right) languished in prison until February of 1946, when he was released and deported to Italy, winning an early parole for cooperating with a naval intelligence effort to prevent sabotage on the New York waterfront during World War II. In 1947, Luciano traveled to Cuba and met with leading Cosa Nostra figures. American government pressure forced his return to Italy, however. Despite repeated rumors that he was involved in the heroin trade, nothing was ever proven. He died in 1962.

    Luciano’s underboss, Vito Genovese, the logical successor, was facing a murder inquiry, however, and fled to Italy at about the same time that Luciano was incarcerated. Capo Frank Costello took over, first as acting boss and then later as official boss when it became clear that Luciano’s appeals of his conviction would fail and he would never be able to retake the reins. Costello ran a low-key operation, solidifying political and union connections to protect and enable a wide range of rackets from New York to Las Vegas, earning himself the title of the "Prime Minister of Organized Crime.”

    Frank CostelloAfter World War II, the murder case against Genovese fell apart. He returned to New York and chafed under Costello's leadership and plotted to take over. By 1957, Genovese felt he had enough support and made his move. He entrusted a former boxer and drug dealer who was then an up-and-coming wiseguy to “hit” Costello. The gunman, Vincent (Chin) Gigante, only wounded Costello, (left) but he promptly stepped down. Unfortunately for Genovese, just two years later, he was convicted of narcotics conspiracy and was given a 15-year sentence.

    Four months after Don Vitone arrived at Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, family soldier Joseph (Joe Cago) Valachi for there courtesy of his own 15-year-sentence for heroin trafficking. When Valachi got there, he got a frosty reception from his boss.

    This was two years before Valachi would become the first American mobster to publicly break his vow of omerta, but Genovese already looked on him as a traitor – for dealing drugs for a crew whose capo, Anthony (Tony Bender) Strollo, was not sharing his profits with the boss.

    Joe Cago ValachiIn March of 1962, after Valachi was convicted in a second drug case, and sentenced to 20 years, he went back to Atlanta accompanied by rumors that he was an informer. And Genovese believed them.

    Valachi began to fear for his life. He had himself placed in solitary confinement, but was returned to general population when he refused to reveal the reason for his request. Finally, on June 22, 1962, Joe Cago’s nerves cracked. He bludgeoned to death an inmate who resembled drug dealer Joseph (Joe Beck) DiPalermo, a man Valachi thought Genovese had commissioned to kill him.

    A few weeks later, after then–Manhattan U.S. attorney Robert Morgenthau was contacted, Valachi agreed to cooperate in return for protection. On July 17, he pleaded guilty to murder and was transferred to New York.

    On September 8, 1962, FBI agent James Flynn coaxed Valachi into spilling his guts about his life in the mob.

     

    “Joe, let’s stop fooling around,” said Flynn, according to the account by Peter Maas in The Valachi Papers. “I want to talk about the organization by name, rank, and serial number. What’s the name? Is it Mafia?”

    “No, it’s not Mafia,” said Valachi. “That's the expression the outside uses.”

    “We know a lot more than you think,” said Flynn, who had a wealth of information on La Cosa Nostra from the FBI’s many illegal bugs and informants they had cultivated. “Now I’ll give you the first part. You give me the rest. It’s Cosa!”

    “Cosa Nostra! So you know about it,” said Valachi, after staring blankly at Flynn for nearly a minute.

    After Flynn turned him on, Valachi was never turned off. He filled in many gaps about the knowledge of the Mafia. His accounts complemented thousands of hours of bugged talks the FBI had heard the previous three years. He detailed the family structure and the role of the Commission. He gave excellent estimates of the sizes of the Genovese and Gambino families and others he knew about. He described the induction ceremony and the rules they lived by and died for. He detailed murders of bosses going back three decades and gave insight about many significant events.

    In addition, Valachi was a great public relations tool. In September and October of 1963, he appeared before a nationally televised session of the McClellan Committee. Through his public testimony, authorities were able to describe the structure, personalities, and rackets of Cosa Nostra. He was a real-life gangster who put flesh and bones on an organization that, until then, many claimed was merely a Vito Genoveserumor and gossip in newspaper and magazine stories. His appearance was a bombshell and made the Mafia big news.

    Five decades later, it still is.

    Valachi died in 1971 in a federal prison in El Paso, Texas, two years after the Genovese (left) bit the dust behind bars.

    Even with the Valachi breakthrough, the Genovese family managed to keep the identity of its real boss a secret, often even from the leaders of the other four  families, for the next decade.

    Philip (Benny Squint) Lombardo headed the family from 1969 until his death in 1981, but a series of “up front” bosses – Thomas (Tommy Ryan) Eboli, Frank (Funzi) Tieri, and Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno – dealt with the other families and were carried in FBI files as family boss. Salerno was convicted as the family boss in the historic Commission case and was sentenced to 100 years in 1987.

    In reality, however, Gigante took over as boss shortly after Lombardo’s death and remained the family’s official boss until his death in a federal prison hospital in 2005, as he served back-to-back sentences for racketeering and obstruction of justice that were scheduled to end in 2010.

    Vincent (Fish) Cafaro, the second family turncoat, was the first to clear up the identities of the real family bosses after the Genovese’s death. Like Joe Cago, Fish decided to cooperate while he was in prison. His reasons were not quite as dramatic.

    During a jailhouse argument about money, Salerno, his mentor of more than 30 years, threatened to hit Cafaro with his cane. Cafaro felt that to be an insult, and reached out to the feds and became the second family turncoat.

     

    Essentially, the identity of the “real” boss is academic. All of the named mobsters played leading roles in the family. They controlled the Fulton Fish Market, the San Gennaro Festival, the Javits Convention Center, the New York, New Jersey and Miami docks, large gambling rings, and a major portion of the labour racketeering activities in Manhattan and parts of New Jersey, along with a host of other illegal enterprises.

    Vincent (Chin) GiganteFor 30 years, Gigante (right) avoided trial by pretending to be mentally ill. He would often walk through Greenwich Village in slippers and a bathrobe, muttering to himself. FBI Arrests Chin GiganteFollowing his 1990 arrest on a racketeering indictment, he played his crazy act to the hilt, and avoided trial until mid-1997. But the game ended, and he was convicted of racketeering, and lived the rest of his life in prison. 

    Even though Gigante’s Oddfather routine was anything but a traditional modus operandi for a mob boss, he did view one Mafia Commission rule as most important, and punishable by death – the murder of a mob boss. 

    Along with leaders of the Luchese family, Gigante wanted John Gotti to pay the ultimate price for killing Paul Castellano, and according to Luchese turncoats Alphonse (Little Al) D’Arco and Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, Chin was part of a years-long plot to whack the Dapper Don. Casso claims to have been on the scene in April 1986, when Gotti’s first underboss, Frank DeCicco, was blown up in a Sunday ambush that had been planned to get both DeCicco and Gotti. Gigante was looking to install Gambino capos Jimmy Brown Failla and Daniel Marino in place of them, but Gotti, a late riser, thwarted that plan by deciding to meet up with his underboss later in the day.

    The Genovese Family has lost major sources of income since the feds began an all out assault on the mob in the early 1980s. And convictions of Gigante and others, including underboss Venero (Benny Eggs) Mangano, and acting bosses Dominick (Quiet Dom) Cirillo, Ernest Muscarella, Lawrence (Little Larry) Dentico, have also hurt. Daniel (The Lion) Leo, a powerful, low-key capo who rose to acting boss after Gigante’s death, was convicted of racketeering in 2007, and won’t get out of prison for about five years.

    But the family's structure is solid and still in place.

    Liborio (Barney) Bellomo, (left) a capo Gigante tabbed as acting boss when Chin was indicted in 1990, has been hit with racketeering charges three times since 1996. Even so, he’s due out of prison in  2009, at age 52.  

    Capo Tino Fiumara, a feared New Jersey-based wiseguy with power and influence on the family’s waterfront rackets on the New York and New Jersey piers, is viewed as a viable contender for the family's top spot. Fiumara, (right) whose ability to meet with mobsters has been curtailed by post-prison restrictions following his most recent stay behind bars, is expected to start flexing his mob muscles when his supervised release restrictions end in January, 2008.  

    With a membership of nearly 250 members, the Genovese family is still the largest and most powerful family in the New York area, and arguably the entire country.

     

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    Joseph Bonanno, the man for whom the crime family is named, emigrated from Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily to the United States in 1924 and quickly became a major player in the booming bootleg liquor industry. He was elected family boss in the fall of 1931, shortly after the execution of Salvatore Maranzano, a legendary Cosa Nostra figure in his own right.

    After the Castellammarase War, a conflict that included families across the country, Maranzano proclaimed victory when key rival Joseph (Joe the Boss) Masseria was killed in April 1931. Maranzano had a short run, however. On September 10, 1931, he was whacked by men employed by rival Lucky Luciano.

    Bonanno had a 33-year reign. His first major activity involved the formation of the Mafia Commission. As a charter member, his clout lasted for decades. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the family expanded its gambling, loan sharking, and labor rackets. Bonanno, ruthless and shrewd, invested in many legitimate businesses, which had a distinct competitive advantage over rival firms whose trucks and warehouses would burn down or whose plants would suffer from labor problems.

    Carmine GalanteHis lucrative reign was relatively uneventful until the 1950s, when he sent a rising star, Carmine (Lilo) Galante, (left) to Montreal to establish a Bonanno branch there. The Canadian seaport was a wide-open city with many politicians, police, and court officials on the take. Galante and his men used strong-arm methods to extort tribute from major gamblers, nightclubs, pimps, con men, and drug dealers. When a reform movement tried to gain power in a Montreal city election, hoods openly intimidated voters at polling booths. Unfortunately for Galante, the reformers won. Eventually, in 1956, political pressure forced him to leave Canada, but the Bonanno family influence remains to this day.

    Bonanno’s control of his family and the Commission began unraveling in the 1950s. In 1957, longtime ally Albert Anastasia was killed and replaced by future rival Carlo Gambino. Rivals also headed the Genovese and Luchese families. In addition, his longtime support from cousin Stefano Maggadino, boss of the Buffalo family, began to wane. Bonanno was also being pursued by a number of jurisdictions that were conducting inquiries into a variety of matters including the disastrous Mafia conclave in Apalachin, NY in late 1957. Bonanno reacted by adopting a policy of constant movement. This only raised the suspicions of his underworld rivals, who felt that Bonanno had designs on their territories.

    In the early 1960s, Bonanno's troubles worsened. He lost the support of one crime family when Joseph Profaci, another 1930s ally, died. Bonanno pushed Profaci's brother-in-law and underboss, Giuseppe Magliocco as boss. two Commission members, Gambino (right)  and Thomas Lucchese, supported capo Joe Colombo instead. An angry Bonanno plotted to whack Gambino and Lucchese. This intrigue was developing during an explosion of public interest in the Mafia because of the revelations of informer Joe Valachi, who knew Bonanno and spoke about him. When the feds tried to get Bonanno before a grand jury, he went on the lam for two years. At the same time, the Commission was looking to quiz him about plotting to kill two members.  Bonanno was deposed by the Commission, but for a time, resisted. Sporadic shootings broke out, accomplishing little but generating great publicity. Ultimately, he gave up the losing battle and, in 1968, retired to Tucson, Arizona, where he died in 2002.

    The crime family endured years of instability following Bonanno’s departure from New York.

    In January 1974, Galante was released from prison after serving 12 years for heroin trafficking. The family’s boss Philip (Rusty) Rastelli was tied up with his own legal problems, and Lilo moved for the top slot. He also rekindled his heroin connections, trying to make up for lost time.

    Galante Murder at Joe and Mary's Galante’s style didn’t appeal to many in his family nor to other New York leaders. With the Commission’s blessing, some capos allied themselves with Galante’s closest aides and whacked him in a storied rubout at Joe and Mary Italian-American Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn on July l2, 1979.

    Rastelli had the throne but spent much of his reign behind bars. That led to more disunity, the worst instance of which was the execution of three capos on the same night, May 5, 1981. It’s believed that the family lost its seat on the Commission during this period. Others say it happened during Bonanno’s last years. No matter. When word surfaced a few months later that FBI agent Joseph Pistone was able to infiltrate the family so well that he was proposed for membership, the Commission’s belief that the family was out of control was reinforced. Pistone’s work also destroyed the ascending mob career of capo Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano, who had been close to Pistone. He paid for this mistake with his life. Rastelli’s bad luck also continued. Rusty was found guilty of federal racketeering charges and died of liver cancer on June 26, 1991, while serving a 12-year prison sentence.

    Philip RastelliOut of this mess emerged Joseph Massino, a Rastelli (right) ally who had orchestrated the three capos murders in 1981 and surrounded himself with loyalists, when he got out of prison in 1992. He shut down the family social clubs and tried to adopt a more secretive manner of doing business. Under his leadership, the Bonannos regained their seat on the Commission and reasserted themselves in narcotics, labor racketeering, and other criminal enterprises.

    After an 11-year-run, the bubble burst for him, and the crime family, in 2003, on the day before Massino’s 60th birthday.

    On January 9, 2003, Massino was arrested on a racketeering indictment, and charged with the 1981 murder of Sonny Black. Detained without bail, he faced life if convicted.

    Joe MassinoThings got worse for Massino (left) and the entire family during the next 16 months.

    By time he went to trial in 2004, the indictment was expanded to include six additional murders between 1981 and 1987, and a litany of lesser charges. Massino was also accused of arson, loan sharking, and running a variety of illegal gambling businesses – a baccarat game, a sports betting operation, and the distribution of joker poker machines in Metropolitan area bars and restaurants. On top of that, Massino faced the death penalty for a 1998 murder of a capo who had fallen out of favor.

    The crime family, which despite all the chaos of the Bonanno years had never had a defector among its members, was also reeling. Eight made men had spilled their guts to the feds and were prepared to testify against their boss and other family members. In a separate case, more than two dozen Massino loyalists had also been hit with racketeering charges, with most facing at least one murder charge.

    Anthony SperoThe circumstances surrounding the plight of the family's long time consigliere, Anthony Spero, didn't bode well for Massino Two years earlier, Spero, (right) was sentenced to die in prison for three 1990s murders for which he had been convicted on the testimony of a few low level associates who had neither heard nor seen Spero order the slaying of any of the three victims.

    Against Massino, the feds had much more. They had six made men who were prepared to testify about the seven murders he was charged with.

    Prosecutors also had a myriad of financial records that linked Massino to several companies involved in shady dealings that dovetailed nicely with the testimony of the turncoats. The records tied Massino to a bakery, a parking lot, and a restaurant where Massino often held court with family members.

    Frank Coppa Sr.In late 2002, capo Frank Coppa Sr., who was doing a three-year stretch for securities fraud, was the first to roll over. Coppa, (left) then 61, had been hit with three extortion counts around the same time he was incarcerated, and, in the words of one source, “was not looking to add any more time to his stay.”

    His defection made him the first Bonanno mobster to agree to publicly break the Mafia vow of silence that has been breached dozens of times by wiseguys from New York’s other four families since 1962, when Genovese soldier Joe Valachi paved the way.

    In short order, Coppa had an avalanche of followers. Two months after Massino’s 2003 arrest, he got the worst possible news. His underboss, his brother-in-law, Salvatore (Good Looking Sal) Vitale, had defected.

    With Vitale leading the way, Massino was buried at trial.

    Good Looking Sal Vitale Vitale (right) gave chapter and verse about the May 5, 1981 murders of capos Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato, Philip (Philly Lucky) Giaccone, and Dominick (Big Trin) Trinchera at a Brooklyn social club. Vitale wielded a submachine gun during the bloody coup.

    For decades, the details remained a closely guarded secret shared, amazingly, by dozens of Bonanno family members and a select group of Gambino mobsters, who somehow managed to keep the specifics from becoming common knowledge. Indeed, for weeks, until Sonny Red’s body was found in a shallow grave in a lot on the Brooklyn-Queens border, there was no physical evidence confirming that the three capos had been eliminated.

    The murders were carried out with an official sanction from the Commission, Vitale testified.

    The Commission, which had okayed the execution of cigar-chomping Galante two years earlier, initially vetoed the bloodshed. But with Gambino boss Paul Castellano taking the lead, the ruling body reversed itself after learning that the rebel capos were planning an all out assault against Rastelli’s supporters.

    John GottiSeveral Gambino mobsters, including underboss Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce, and future boss and longtime Massino pal, John Gotti, (left) were in on the plan and helped dispose of the bodies, according to Vitale and other Bonanno turncoats.

    The triple slaying ran into a few snafus. One was the accidental wounding of Santo Giordano, a member of the Sicilian faction that threw in with Massino. Giordano was hit by mistake in the wild shootout that began when the three capos entered the club for what they believed were peace negotiations.

    The other was Vitale’s own screw-up. He was handed a submachine gun and told to position himself in a closet. He was unfamiliar with the weapon, however, and precipitated chaos and a near crisis when he “accidentally discharged the weapon before the three capos arrived.”

    Vito RizzutoKey players in the plot were gunmen from the family's Sicilian faction – including Vito Rizzuto, (right) whom Canadian authorities would later call the Mafia Godfather of Canada – who were imported from Montreal and were hiding with Vitale when the capos arrived.

    Rizzuto jumped out and launched the carnage, shouting, “This is a stickup.”

    The shooters then fled, with Vitale remaining to escort Massino and the other plotters to a waiting car. Vitale did double duty as part of the cleanup crew headed by Sonny Black Napolitano. The bodies of the three capos were wrapped in painter’s drop cloths and brought by van for burial at “The Hole,” a debris-strewn lot on Ruby Street in Brooklyn.

    Twenty four years later, as reporters and curious area residents looked on for weeks, FBI agents using backhoes and shovels unearthed the remains of Big Trin and the inaptly nicknamed Philly Lucky from their unmarked grave. 

    The FBI was directed there by Massino, who defected and became the first New York mob boss to publicly violate omerta, the Mafia vow of silence following his conviction. Ironically, his initial efforts to cooperate – only days after his conviction – were rebuffed by the feds. 

    Vinny Gorgeous BascianoSix months later, however, Massino tape recorded his hand-picked acting boss, Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano (left) discussing mob murders and an alleged plot to whack a federal prosecutor in two jailhouse talks in January of 2005, and his status as a cooperating witness was assured. 

    So, in February 2005, the feds closed the book on the three capos murders, and with Massino spilling his guts on his old pals, ramped up the pressure on the remains of a bedraggled Bonanno family. 

    In addition to indicting Basciano for murder, and subsequently convicting him, the feds also obtained a racketeering indictment against his successor as acting boss, Michael (Mikey Nose) Mancuso, who is slated for trial in early 2008.

    Meanwhile, in an effort to stymie the feds, the family decided to go back their roots, and chose a little-known Sicilian-born wiseguy, Salvatore (Sal the Ironworker) Montagna with few ties to the previous leaders, as acting boss.

     

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    Like the other four families, the Colombo family's origins go back to the last decade of the nineteenth century. Joseph Profaci, the family boss in 1931, the year the Commission was formed, was a cagy leader who held the reins for more than three decades.

    He established thriving legitimate businesses that enabled him to live an opulent lifestyle despite a few battles with the IRS. He was known as the "Olive Oil King" because a company he owned was the largest importer of olive oil and tomato paste in the United States. As a charter member of the Commission, Profaci had powerful allies in this body and was unchallenged by any serious dissent from within during his lifetime. He died in 1962.

    Based in Brooklyn, with some Staten Island interests, the Profaci soldiers were involved in gambling, loan sharking, hijacking, labor racketeering, extortion, counterfeiting, and many other criminal pursuits. The feds listed Profaci as a major heroin dealer, but he never was charged with drug dealing.

    Profaci's brother-in-law and longtime underboss, Joe Magliocco, was quickly selected to head the family after Profaci's death. The other New York families weren't too happy about him, and this led to much turmoil. Magliocco took over right before the government trotted out its first Mafia turncoat, Joe Valachi, who promptly named Magliocco as boss of one of the old Profaci organization. In a desperate attempt to secure control of his family, Magliocco joined Joe Bonanno in a plot to kill rival bosses, Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese. It failed, as did Magliocco's heart – he died on December 28, 1963.

    Joe ColomboCarlo Gambino supported Joe Colombo (left) as the new boss. Initially, Colombo kept a low profile. That changed when one of his sons was arrested by the FBI in 1970. He led noisy demonstrations outside the FBI's Manhattan offices. In short order, the protest grew exponentially, and soon Colombo was a national figure, heading a quasi–civil rights organization that captured the imagination of many Italian-Americans.

    The attention backfired, however. It increased FBI pressure, which displeased other bosses. They urged caution, but Colombo ignored them. He manned a bullhorn, got gangsters and their relatives and friends to protest rallies at FBI Headquarters. On one memorable occasion, he appeared on the Dick Cavett television show to promote his cause. Colombo became a household name and the media began referring to the crime family as the Colombo family. Around the same time, hotheaded soldier Crazy Joe Gallo was released from prison and resisted Colombo's leadership. At a Columbus Circle rally of Colombo's civil rights organization on June 28, 1971, the crime chieftain was shot and permanently crippled, both physically and mentally. Carmine (Junior) Persico

    With Colombo incapacitated, the logical successor was veteran capo Carmine (Junior) Persico, (right) but he was unable to formally move to the top slot because of a pending prison sentence.

    The other contender for the throne, John (Sonny) Franzese, a capo with extensive interests in the entertainment industry, was convicted in 1967 of a bank robbery conspiracy that had taken place a decade earlier. Sentenced to 50 years, he began serving his time in 1970. He was released on parole in February of 1979. Since then, he has been busted many times for parole violations. Released at age 87 in January 2004, Sonny (left) was nailed a fifth time in mid 2007, jailed again, and is the target of a racketeering probe that will likely doom him to die behind bars.

    Aging capo Thomas DiBella was the first of several acting bosses. Persico and his brother Alphonse were the real powers, though. When DiBella's health failed, Carmine, Alphonse, and capo Gennaro (Jerry Lang) Langella acted in his stead.

    Like the other families, along with their assorted other illegal activities, the Colombos became active in drug dealing. Associated with three of the other New York families, the Colombo leadership was also becoming rich with labor racketeering proceeds through their control over the construction industry in Manhattan.

    By the 1980s, though, the Persicos had serious legal difficulties, as did many Colombos. This was during the great FBI push to cripple Cosa Nostra across the country. In 1987, Carmine and underboss Jerry Lang were sentenced to more than 100 years in jail. Alphonse was convicted of federal loan-sharking Victor (Little Vic) Orenacharges and died behind bars after a number of years on the run. Carmine Persico selected capo Victor (Little Vic) Orena (right) to mind the throne. It was clear to most – not Orena, obviously – that Persico planned to install his son Alphonse in the top slot. First though, Alphonse, a capo who had been convicted at the same trial as his father, had to complete his prison sentence.

    By 1990, Orena, with the backing of Gambino boss John Gotti, was angling to take permanent control of the family. An unsuccessful attempt was made by Persico loyalists on Orena's life outside his home in June 1991. Although no shots were fired, Orena went into hiding and protested to the other families. A committee of top mobsters from the other families attempted to broker a truce, but this fell apart.

    Wild Bill CutoloThe shooting started in November 1991 when a group of Orena supporters under capo William (Wild Bill) Cutolo (left) ambushed Persico loyalist Greg Scarpa Sr. near his home. Several passersby were injured in a wild shootout and chase that followed, but Scarpa escaped unhurt. It was a costly debacle, and Scarpa, a controversial gangster who had been a top-echelon FBI informer for more than 30 years, killed three Orena faction members over the next several months as a bloody Colombo war erupted.

    Orena and Persico loyalists quickly split up into hit teams. A dozen people, including two innocent bystanders, lost their lives in open warfare that lasted two years. Finally, authorities applied enough pressure to bring the shootings to a halt. Nearly 100 mobsters and associates were hit with murder and racketeering indictments. Many mobsters and associates defected, most notably consigliere Carmine Sessa, a Persico loyalist.

    Scores of gangsters from both factions went to prison, some for life. In the end, the Persico side won, but many of them will be old and gray before they get out of prison. Many Orena rebels, including Wild Bill Cutolo, were acquitted, but Orena himself was a big loser. He was convicted of murder and racketeering and is serving a life sentence.

    While under house arrest in December of 1992, Scarpa (right) got involved in a shootout a few blocks from his home and lost an eye. He drove himself home, poured himself a Scotch, and called police. Scarpa died two years later from AIDS, having contracted the HIV virus during a blood transfusion eight years earlier.

    Following his release from prison, the college educated Alphonse Persico took over. He made an outward attempt at unification by naming Cutolo underboss. However, Wild Bill was called to a meeting in May of 1999 and hasn't been seen since. Arrested on gun charges a few months later, Allie pleaded guilty and received an 18-month sentence. On the eve of his release in early 2001, he was slammed again, this time with racketeering Alphonse Persicocharges that earned him 13 more years behind bars. On December 28, 2007, Alphonse (left) was found guilty of Wild Bill’s murder, and like his father, is slated to die in prison.

    The Colombos have been in near-constant leadership turmoil for more than 40 years. Despite that, the organization has always managed to survive attacks both from the law and from within. And although their days of playing a leading role in the mob’s control of the city’s construction industry are over, they are still involved in mob staples of bookmaking, loan sharking and extortion, as well as stock manipulation, and a host of other rackets.

    Tommy Shots GioeliBut being boss of the Colombo family is not as appealing as it once was. Many of its members are jailed, the internal war created great and lasting mistrust, and the loss of significant income from major labor racketeering rackets has substantially weakened the organization.

    In June, 2008, the bloody 1990s war came back to haunt the family again. The family's acting boss, Thomas (Tommy Shot) Gioeli, (right) was hit with murder and racketeering charges that included a 1992 double slaying and ordered held without bail to await trial.

    A Persico cousin, Andrew Russo, (left) who served as an acting family boss in the early 90s, is viewed as a likely contender for the top spot again.

     

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    FROM its beginnings early in this century, the Lucchese Cosa Nostra crime family has maintained a low profile. While the bosses of other families basked in the limelight that only New York can create, whether by design or circumstance, no Lucchese leader became really well known.

    The first Lucchese boss I am aware of - undoubtedly there were others before him - was Tom Reina. His murder during the Castellammarese War in 1930 brought the team of the two Tommy's to the fore. The Reina hit had been engineered by Joe Masseria, who was trying to prevent the Reina family from teaming up with his mortal enemy, Sal Maranzano. Rather than be intimidated, Tommy Gagliano, Tommy Lucchese and their men joined the Maranzano forces.

    It was a smart move. With the death of Masseria (left) and the end of the war, Gagliano and Lucchese found themselves in an excellent position. At the series of regional meetings held shortly after Masseria's death, Maranzano (right) formally recognized Gagliano as boss of the family. At La Cosa Nostra's first national meeting, held in Chicago in 1931, Maranzano confirmed Gagliano's role again.

    Within a few months, sensing that the tide had changed, Gagliano and Lucchese quickly turned against Maranzano, forming a new alliance with Lucky Luciano. Soon after, Maranzano was killed in his office while Lucchese watched. Most likely, Lucchese, as a regular Maranzano visitor, arranged to be there so he could "finger" Maranzano for non-Mafia killers who had been hired to divert suspicion away from Luciano et al.

    Both Gagliano and Lucchese took part in discussions that led to the creation of the Commission, La Cosa Nostra's board of directors. Once formed, Gagliano became one of its initial members, along with the heads of the four other New York families, as well as the bosses of Buffalo and Chicago.

    Gagliano's initial alliance with Luciano (right) did not last long. By the mid 1930's, Luciano was jailed and eventually replaced by Frank Costello. The power on the Commission had moved into the hands of Vince Mangano (Gambino), Joe Bonanno , Stefano Magaddino (Buffalo) and Joe Profaci (left, below). Gagliano and Lucchese had to be very careful in the face of such a formidable alliance. In part, this explains their practice of avoiding both internal Cosa Nostra conflict and publicity.

    By the early 1950's, a series of significant events had taken place which would drastically change this situation, and dramatically change the various alliances and eventually lead to much conflict - Lucky Luciano was finished in the United States; Vito Genovese had returned from Italy; Willie Moretti, Costello's underboss, was "mercy" killed; Albert Anastasia (right, below) had taken over the Gambino family, and Tommy Gagliano had died of natural causes.

    With Gagliano's death in 1953, Tommy Lucchese took over as boss without opposition. Centered in the Bronx, the family continued it's gambling, loan sharking, labour racketeering, truck hijacking, and assorted other rackets. As with most families, a number of the Lucchese members were involved in drug trafficking "off the record." The idea was to kick a portion of the drug profits up to the boss without anyone saying where the money came from. This would allow the leaders to deny their family was violating La Cosa Nostra's "no drug" rule.

    Lucchese had his own semi legitimate interests including highly profitable trucking concerns in the garment industry. Interestingly enough, these companies would eventually pass into the hands of his son in law, Tommy Gambino, who would make tens of millions off this monopoly.

    A few years after taking over the top position in his family, Lucchese came close to losing both his title and his life. Frank Costello, then head of the "Genovese" family, accused Lucchese (left) of plotting against "Gambino" boss, Albert Anastasia, according to Joe Bonanno. Bonanno claims that at a Commission meeting called to hear the charges, he "saved" Lucchese's life and brought about an accord between the scheming families. Events would soon prove this "peace" was a sham.

    Lucchese was deeply involved in a massive plot that succeeded in bringing both Carlo Gambino (right) and Vito Genovese to the top of their respective families by the end of 1957.

    By the early 1960's, this group, despite the fact Genovese was in jail, secretly supported a revolt within the Profaci family. (now the Colombos) After a number of years of turmoil, the net result was that Joe Colombo, (left) a Gambino protege, was elected boss.

    Lucchese, Gambino, Colombo, and the Genovese stand ins began to undermine Joe Bonanno. As detailed in the Bonanno section, they succeeded in deposing the long time boss and had him replaced by a leader they could manipulate. Lucchese, however, was seriously ill with cancer and by 1967 would be dead.

    The early favorite to replace Lucchese was powerful capo Tony Corallo. Unfortunately for "Tony Ducks," he had been convicted in a scheme were he had bribed New York City's Water

    Commissioner in order to obtain lucrative contracts to clean and repair part of the massive water reservoir system.

    Gambino was now far and away the most powerful Cosa Nostra boss in New York. Gambino gave the nod to capo Carmine Tramunti, whom he knew would be very appreciative and thus cooperative. Tramunti did not last long. In 1974, he was convicted of financing a heroin smuggling ring and spent the rest of his life in prison.

    In the meantime, Corallo had been released from jail and took over the top spot, holding it until the famous Commission Case in the mid 1980's. During his years in power, two major sources of income were derived from labor racketeering -- the private sanitation industry and major construction projects in Manhattan. These activities were minutely detailed by a bug state authorities placed in a Jaguar that Corallo's bodyguard/chauffeur Salvatore Avellino used to drive him around.

    The family's practice of keeping a low profile continued despite the heavy publicity surrounding the Commission Case. Corallo's less than charismatic personality played a big role in this. In addition, he was just one of three bosses and a number of underlings who went to trial. The "Pizza Connection Case" and Dapper Don John Gotti grabbed the lion's share of the media attention. By the time Corallo went off to jail to begin his 100 year sentence, it was clear his era was over.

    casso.gif (12845 bytes)Unrest, uncertainty and betrayal marked the next decade in the Lucchese family. Vittorio Amuso was recognized as boss of the borgata whose membership had slipped from around 110 members in the 1960's to less than a hundred. In 1991, capo Peter Chiodo was shot numerous times when he fell into disfavor with Amuso and his trigger happy underboss, Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, (right) like many Lucchese mobsters and associates did in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Chiodo became a cooperating witness and testified a year later against Amuso, who was convicted and sentenced to life. Meanwhile, Casso, who had gotten tangled up in a plot with Amuso and Genovese boss Vincent Gigante (left) to kill John Gotti, was nabbed on the same murder charges that had been the undoing of Amuso, and pleaded guilty, opting to become a government informer like Chiodo and former acting boss Alphonse (Litttle Al)  D'Arco and many other family mobsters.

    Casso blew his chance for a sentence reduction and will be spending the rest of his life jail. Amuso, serving life, anointed capo Little Joe DeFede as acting boss, and he ran the severely weakened family until he was popped for racketeering and jailed in 1998. He followed D'Arco's lead and began cooperating in 2002. Meanwhile, Steve Crea, Defede's successor acting boss was hit with state racketeering charges, followed by similar charges by the feds. Many family members are jailed, including capos Anthony Baratta and Salvatore Avellino, who testified that he retired from the mob. Capo Joseph (Joey Flowers) Tangorra, jailed without bail as he awaited trial on three separate state and federal indictments, began seeing a prison shrink, then pleaded guilty and is serving a 16-year sentence. The family is in disarray.

     

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    This Week In Gang LandApril 22, 2010

    Top Gambino Wiseguy, Crew
    Hit With Sexploitation Raps

    A Gang Land Exclusive

    He’s not the Boss of the Gambino family, and he’s twice the gangster that Big Paul Castellano ever was. But Daniel Marino is in the same embarrassing predicament that engulfed the late businessman-boss of their powerful crime family back in March of 1984.

    That was when Castellano’s endless quest for cash tied him to a murderous crew of drug-dealing car thieves who ate pizza as they dismembered the bodies of their victims for quick and easy disposal. It was very undignified company for the Boss to be keeping. Even at trial.

    Marino, a powerful capo, has got a similar problem: He is now  the centerpiece of a massive racketeering indictment that includes mobsters and other associates who are charged with such low-life crimes as pimping for teenaged hookers, including a 15-year-old girl.

    But Marino has only himself to blame for now facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

    The powerful 69-year-old mobster, a member of a three-capo panel that runs the Gambino crime family these days, ignored the dangers of racketeering statutes that make the leaders of criminal enterprises responsible for the crimes of their subordinates.

    Police & FBI Agents Surround The Body Of Paul CastellanoOf course, there’s always the upside: No matter how badly his case ends up, Marino is not expected to end up the way Castellano did – lying  face up in a pool of blood on a sidewalk in midtown Manhattan. Unlike Big Paul, Danny Marino doesn’t have to worry about an ambitious gangster like the late John Gotti looking to move on him. In the first place, he’s not the Boss of the crime family; and in the second place, eventually, the FBI would figure out who he was, and probably bring him down the same way it nailed the late Dapper Don.

    Marino is charged with two murders – including a 1989 slaying for which he has already served time, and the 1998 murder of his nephew Frank Hydell, a killing he steadfastly denies, according to defense attorney Charles Carnesi. But even if he somehow manages to beat those allegations, he will be hard pressed to evade a conviction on racketeering charges that tie him to crimes of his underlings, particularly those of a young reputed Gambino soldier he befriended while they were in federal prison together.

    Marino was behind bars from 1994 to 2000 for the 1989 murder of mobster Thomas (Tommy Sparrow) Spinelli. Sources say that during the last 18 months of his incarceration at the federal prison in Fort Dix, NJ, he became “very close” to wannabe wiseguy Thomas Orefice, who was then serving an 87-month stretch for racketeering that ended in 2004.

    Thomas OreficeUpon his release, Orefice, 33, “became one of Marino’s closest and most trusted Mafia subordinates on the streets, and, by 2008, Orefice (right) was inducted as a Gambino family soldier,” according to prosecutors Elie Honig and Steve Kwok.

    In addition to dreaming up and overseeing “an interstate sex trafficking ring” that involved teenage girls in 2008 and 2009, Orefice was involved in four violent shakedown plots, including one in which he used his “fists and a baseball bat” to put one extortion victim into a hospital, say prosecutors Honig and Kwok in court papers that sought to detain both men as dangerous criminals.

    “Under Marino’s direction and guidance, Orefice has engaged in a staggering crime spree from 2005 through the present” that also includes fraud, narcotics trafficking, loansharking and gambling, wrote prosecutors Honig and Kwok.

    U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara described the prostitution allegations that involved a 15-year old runaway as “a new low” by a mob family that firmly established that “the Mafia is not dead” but “alive and kicking” and “terrorizing businesses, using baseball bats, and putting people in the hospital.”

    New York FBI boss George Venizelos said the Mafia “is about murder, mayhem and money” and that “this case shows that it’s still about making money illegally, by whatever means, including the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old.”

    Prosecutors say in court papers that the sensational sex trafficking charges are corroborated by numerous tape-recorded conversations, but none of the conversations were disclosed.

    Susan PorcelliIn addition to Marino and Orefice, the 23-count racketeering indictment charges 12 other defendants, including six allegedly involved in the sex trafficking operation, including the accused madam, Susan Porcelli, 43.

    Orefice and Marino were detained without bail but their lawyers told Gang Land they will soon seek their release on bail as they prepare to fight the charges.

    “I’m confident that my client had nothing to do with prostitution and certainly nothing to do with underage girls,” said his Orefice's attorney Seth Ginsberg. “He has a young daughter of his own and that’s the last thing he would ever consider.”

    FBI Friday Promise A Get-Out-Of-Jail Card On Wednesday

    Noel Modica

    The titillating sexploitation case against Marino & Company exploded with a bang on Tuesday. But it began very quietly last Friday afternoon when FBI agents arrested a Gambino mobster on murder and racketeering charges at his physical therapist’s office and tried to cajole him to be a stool pigeon.

    Yesterday, the agents’ failed efforts to flip soldier Onofrio (Noel) Modica (left) played a major part in the decision by tough Manhattan Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan to reject a prosecution bid to jail Modica as a danger to the community. Kaplan ordered him released on a $2 million bond secured by three properties belonging to friends and relatives.

    The issue arose after defense attorney Mathew Mari made an impassioned plea that his client had nothing to do with two 1987 murders with which he is charged. Mari then informed the judge that FBI agents told his client they would rescind the arrest if he agreed to cooperate.

    Mari stressed that what the agents had done wasn’t improper in any way; agents have the right to ask people to cooperate. “What I’m saying, Judge, is that on Friday he was not a danger, but today, because he didn’t cooperate, he’s a danger,” said Mari, adding that the move to detain Modica now on 23 year-old charges smacked of retribution, not because Noel was a danger.

    His client, the lawyer insisted, was not a criminal mob associate, but a “social associate” of many people the government has targeted. Modica, 46, had himself become a target of cooperating witnesses because he had assisted defense lawyers in digging up dirt on the mob turncoats, claimed Mari. (right)

    Kaplan questioned the defense attorney’s account of Friday’s arrest after prosecutor Elie Honig initially dubbed the lawyer’s account “preposterous.” But prosecutors were forced to backtrack and concede that two agents had quietly arrested his client in order to seek out Modica’s cooperation and that Mari’s account was accurate.

    Honig stated that while agents did indeed approach Modica and offer him his freedom in return for his assistance, this did not mean that the defendant was not a danger. Instead, the feds believed the danger would be minimized if their would-be cooperator was placed under close supervision, and underwent a lengthy vetting process.

    This line of reasoning presented Mari with his own chance to ridicule the prosecutor’s argument. He reasoned that in order to work effectively as an undercover operative against his Judge Lewis Kaplanmob pals, Modica would have to have been placed back on the street immediately.

    “They told Noel he would be home in two hours and that no one would ever know,” said Mari. This logic rang true for Kaplan, (left) who promptly set bail for Modica. Which just goes to show: In Gang Land, if you’re going to look a federal gift horse in the mouth, it’s a good idea to remember all those marvelous promises.

     

    Feds: 'Good Brother' Has
    Mob Family Ties Too

    Sebastian SaracinoIn the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn where Sebastiano Saracino (right) lived with his parents after they emigrated from Italy in 1979, neighbors often referred to Sebby as the “good brother.” Little brother Dino, the one who was born in the U.S., on the other hand, was “no-good.”

    Two years ago, when Little Dino was charged with the murder of Police Officer Ralph Dols and three other slayings as a member of the Colombo crime family, the reputation of Sebastiano Saracino, who was married and living in Northern California, was still unsoiled, at least publicly.

    But not anymore.

    According to court papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, Sebby Saracino is a “made man” who used his Colombo family connections to line his pockets in an arson-for-profit scheme, and who helped Little Dino dispose of a murder victim, one whose remains have never been found.

    Sebby Saracino, 45, was “straightened out” on the same night in 2004 that his brother Dino and two other wannabes swore their allegiances to the Colombo crime family, according to an arrest warrant filed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Frank Iervasi.

    He proved his mob value more nine years earlier when he helped take care of a family problem. In August of 1995, Iervasi wrote, Sebby Saracino drove the body of low-level hoodlum Richard Greaves from Brooklyn – where he had been killed – to Farmingdale, L.I. That's where Greaves was laid to rest in a makeshift grave dug by a member of the hit team who has since cooperated with the FBI, Joseph (Joe Caves) Competiello.

    Joe Caves and Little Dino – who had murdered Greaves along with Dino (Big Dino) Calabro and Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli in the basement of the Saracino home – retrieved Greaves’ body from the trunk of Sebby’s Jeep Wrangler and buried him, according to Iervasi’s arrest complaint.

    In 1996, wrote Iervasi, Sebby enlisted Joe Caves to help him torch a building he owned at 2555 Stillwell Avenue in Gravesend. It was a double-tiered scheme that not only drove out his low-paying tenants, but also enabled Saracino to reap a lucrative insurance payoff.

    Joey Caves CompetielloAlong with Little Dino and others, Sebby and Competiello “poured gasoline on the first and second floors of the property and then lit matches,” wrote Iervasi, adding that an investigation by Fire Department investigators found that the August 9, 1996 fire at 2555 Stillwell Avenue was “intentionally set.”

    Sebastiano also owns several other Brooklyn properties, including a three-family home at 475 Avenue Y where a cache of nine firearms were recovered by police in 2005. The "good brother" was arrested in February at his home in Salinas, California on several racketeering charges, including murder in aid of racketeering. He was released on a $1.5 million bond co-signed by his wife Jennifer, who owns or manages several properties with her husband.

    Last month, however, Brooklyn prosecutors filed an indictment charging Saracino only with lying to Immigration Authorities in 2002 when he filed for citizenship. The low-level charge was filed after Saracino's San Francisco attorney, John Jordan, refused to extend the 30-day limit the feds have to either indict or drop the charges, and demanded a speedy trial.

    Jordan, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, did not respond to several phone messages from Gang Land about his “put up or shut up” legal strategy, which requires that his client be tried within 70 days. Federal prosecutors wouldn’t discuss it either.

    But the aggressive defense tactic has the feds in a bit of a bind. They are still many months away from bringing Little Dino and his codefendants – mobsters Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace (left) and Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioelli – to trial some 16 months after their indictment. And with prosecutors still unsure whether they will seek the death penalty in the execution murder of Officer Dols, it’s unlikely they want to unveil Competiello – or one of two other cooperators who can point a finger at Sebby – before they bring the three accused murderers to trial.

    A pre-trial conference in Sebby’s case is scheduled for June 15.

     ******
     


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    John Gotti

    Oct. 27, 1940 - June 10, 2002

     

    John Gotti, a former truck hijacker from Queens, burst on the scene after his Mafia boss was blown away in midtown Manhattan during the height of the evening rush hour. A few days later, when Gotti showed up dressed to the nines for a previously scheduled court appearance and reporters asked if he was now the boss of the Gambino family, Gotti smiled and said, "I'm the boss of my family - my wife and kids at home." Like a skilled politician on the stump, Gotti pushed his way through a gaggle of reporters, always smiling broadly for the cameras, until he and a woman reporter arrived together at the courtroom door. "I was brought up to hold the door open for ladies," he said with a twinkle in his eye as he grasped the door with his right hand and ushered her in with his left. Gotti was the focus of many Daily News Gang Land columns, including one as his racketeering trial opened in January, 1992, and another as the case drew to a smashing conclusion five months later. Gotti was the antihero of "Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti," by Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci, and is also the main focus of Gotti: Rise & Fall, an HBO movie.

    On June 10, 2002, nearly 10 years after he was sentenced to life in prison and was flown to Marion Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, Gotti died of head and neck cancer at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He was 61. A few days later, following a two-day wake in Maspeth, Queens, he was laid to rest alongside his father and his son Frank.

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    John "Junior" Gotti
    Acting Boss

     

    John A. (Junior) Gotti became the acting Gambino family boss when his father, John J. Gotti, was jailed for life following his racketeering and murder conviction in 1992. Junior, who used to visit his dad regularly at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois, has come a long way since 1986, when he threatened to "start choppin' heads off" if a New York Daily News reporter and photographer didn't abandon a stakeout of his father's Howard Beach, Queens home. He's got himself a nice  home, plenty of GOTTI: Rise & Fallcash, and despite some hassles with the law, has done quite well for himself -- at least up until January, 1998 when he was hit with racketeering charges. GOTTI: Rise & Fall, depicts Junior as just the body-building son of John Gotti until he got his button (official membership in the mob.) Buttonship happened not too long after Junior was captured on FBI videotape bouncing to the beat of his Walkman on Mulberry Street near the Ravenite Social Club, the Gambino family's former Manhattan base of operations in Little Italy. But a few years later, the feds say, the former be-bopper began standing in for his jailed-for-life dad as acting boss.

    In 1989, Junior made $300,000 dumping loads of construction waste at a mob-controlled Pennsylvania landfill; a year later, he became a caporegime in the Gambino crime family. By time his father went off to prison for life, he was acting boss Junior Gottiand a major target of a federal grand jury in Brooklyn. Before long, he was also a major target of a federal grand jury in Manhattan. In December, 1995, Junior paid $717,800 for a six-bedroom Colonial mansion on three acres of rolling hills in Mill Neck, an exclusive community on the North Shore of Long Island. Previously owned by descendents of a Union Army major general during the Civil War, the estate includes a swimming pool, tennis court and 220-foot dock with a spectacular panorama of Oyster Bay. It would make a lovely home for young Gotti and his family. Junior's lawyer originally said it was merely an investment, but in 1996, young Gotti applied for building permits that indicated he was thinking of moving to the North Shore.

    As 1998 rolled around, Junior Gotti was still running things for his father, with state Organized Crime Task Force investigators and FBI agents tailing him and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and in White Plains scrambling to make a racketeering case yonkers.jpg (19794 bytes)against him.

    Finally, on Jan. 21, 1998, he was arrested on racketeering charges and detained without bail to await trial. He was released on $10 million bond nine months later, confined for the most part to his refurbished Mill Neck mansion. His trial was scheduled for April 5, 1999, but late that afternoon, he pleaded guilty in a deal carrying a maximum of seven years, three months.  His sentencing, originally scheduled for July 8, was put off until Sept. 3, 1999, when he was given 77 months by White Plains Federal Judge Barrington Parker. He began serving his term at Ray Brook federal prison in upstate New York on Oct. 18, 1999.

    He was due out in September 2004, but while Junior was living near the Canadian border, a Gambino capo who had been inducted into the crime family the same night as Curtis SliwaJunior in 1988 told the FBI that Junior was behind the 1992 shooting of outspoken radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa. In July 2004, about six weeks before he was due to be released,  Junior was indicted on federal charges that included the kidnap-shooting of Sliwa. On September 20, 2005, the jury acquitted him of securities fraud and hung 11-1 for conviction on racketeering charges that included the assault on Sliwa. His re-trial on the remaining charges the following March also ended in a mistrial, with the jury hung 8-4 for acquittal. At the third trial involving the Sliwa assault, prosecutors convinced 12 jurors that Junior had ordered the kidnapping but failed to convince them that he had engaged in criminal activity after 1999 and the jury again deadlocked on the racketeering charges, this time voting 8-4 for conviction.

    A few weeks later, the government dropped all charges against the Junior Don.

    The feds didn't give up though. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and the Queens based FBI squad that nailed his father 15 years ago dusted off some old murder allegations against Junior, including a 1983 Queens barroom slaying, looking to take one more shot at making a case against Gotti that will stick.

    EXCLUSIVE Gang Land Photo No charges ever materialized from that probe, but in August, 2008, a federal grand jury in Tampa indicted Junior for three murders and drug dealing that allegedly took place in New York in the late 1980s and 1990s. But after his lawyers filed motions to move the case to New York, it was transferred to Manhattan Federal Court. After spending 15 months behind bars, Junior walked out of court a free man for the fourth time in five years when Gotti IV ended in a mistrial, with jurors hopelessly deadlocked after 11 days of deliberations. 


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    Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano
    The Turncoat Underboss

    Ruth Pollack Sketch of Sammy Bull Taking The Stand Against The Dapper Don"I was the underboss of the Gambino Organized Crime Family," said Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano when he took the witness stand at the murder and racketeering trial of John Gotti and became the first Mafia underboss to testify against his boss. "John was the boss; I was the underboss. John barked and I bit." For pointing a deadly finger at Gotti and scores of other mobsters from the witness stand, Gravano earned his freedom in 1995 after serving less than five years in prison.

    His last testimony as a prosecution witness came at the racketeering and murder trial of Genovese family crime boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante. (See below.) Gravano said he spoke nothing but the truth on the witness stand, but the pint-sized gangster talked a much different game back in 1987 when he was Gotti's consigliere. He admits taking part in 19 gangland style slayings, including the murder of his brother-in-law. "Sometimes I was the shooter," Gravano testified. "Sometimes I was a backup shooter; sometimes I set the guy up; sometimes I just talked about it. When you go out on a piece of work it doesn't matter what position you're in." The only time Gravano "was the shooter" was on Feb. 28, 1970, when 5-foot-5 Sammy Bull made his bones in a Mafia love story.

    Freed in March 1995, Gravano seemed to be doing quite well for himself, especially in April 1997, when he appeared on ABC TV with Diane Sawyer on two consecutive nights to promote a book about his life that was written by Peter Maas. Sammy Bull Gravano

    The bubble burst however on Feb. 24, 2000, when Gravano, his wife, son, daughter, and son-in-law were arrested on drug charges by Arizona authorities. Ten months later, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Sammy Bull and son Gerard with buying thousands of Ecstasy tablets in Brooklyn for distribution in Arizona.  

    On May 25, 2001, two weeks before his federal drug trafficking trial was set to begin, Gravano and the Baby Bull pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges. In July 2002, Gerard was sentenced to nine years. On September 6, 2002, Sammy was given 20 years. Their prison terms were concurrent -- served at the same time -- as similar sentences they received for their state crimes in Arizona.

    Five months later, in February 2003, Gravano was charged with the 1980 murder of a corrupt New York City detective who was shot to death in Saddle River, New Jersey as he drove home based on the say so of Richard Kuklinski, a convicted serial killer who had first spun his very tall tale on an HBO special. Sammy Bull faced trial in 2006, but was spared when Kuklinski, who had been serving life sentences for several murders, died in a New Jersey state prison.


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    Leroy "Nicky" Barnes
    Mr. Untouchable

    Leroy (Nicky) Barnes, the former Harlem drug merchant dubbed "Mr. Untouchable" in a New York Times Magazine cover story, was so feared in the late 1970s that the federal judge presiding over his trial decided, on his own, to keep the names of jurors secret for their own protection. His was the first anonymous jury.

    Called the John Gotti of his day by one federal prosecutor, Barnes was found guilty of heroin trafficking in 1977. While serving life in federal prison four years later, however, Barnes cooperated with federal prosecutors and helped convict more drug dealers and murderers than superstar turncoat underboss Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano. Unlike Gravano, who received a five year prison term, Barnes was still in jail more than 20 years after his conviction.

    Despite much praise from many law enforcement officials, including former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Barnes served a total of 21 years in prison, finally winning his freedom in August 1998, was released many years and four Presidents after it had been promised. He was given a new identity, and relocated under the federal Witness Protection Program.

    Ironically, his key mob drug supplier, Matthew Madonna, was released from prison three years before Barnes, after serving 20 years of a 30 year rap. In 2003, Madonna, by then a powerful Luchese capo, was hit with a parole violation for associating with his wiseguy pals and sent back for a relatively brief refresher.

    In early 2007, Barnes co-authored a book about his life entitled what else, "Mr. Untouchable."


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    Vincent "Chin" Gigante
    The Pajama King

    After six years of legal wrangling, legendary New York City Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante  was arraigned in 1996 on a litany of federal murder, labor racketeering and other charges   following a ruling that he had been feigning insanity for 30 years in an effort to avoid prosecution for his Mafia activities. Gigante underwent open heart surgery Dec. 10, 1996. He was released from the hospital a month later. He went to trial that summer, was found guilty of labor racketeering, and sentenced to 12 years in prison in December, 1997.

    A little more than five years later, on Jan. 23, 2002, Chin, his son Andrew, and family wiseguys who included former acting boss Liborio (Barney) Bellomo, were charged with running lucrative extortion rackets on the New York, New Jersey and Miami waterfronts. Scheduled for trial before Brooklyn Federal Court Judge I. Leo Glasser in March, 2003, Chin admitted that he had been playacting the role of a crazy man for years and pleaded guilty in Vincent (Chin) Gigantea deal that cost him an additional three years in prison. Due out in 2010, at age 82, Gigante died in December 2005 in a federal prison hospital in Springfield Missouri, the same facility where his longtime rival, John Gotti, died three years earlier. 

    Nearly 50 years ago, on orders from Don Vito Genovese, Gigante, (right) then a wet-behind-the ears but ambitious assassin, Frank Costellotried to take out Mafia-fixer Frank Costello (left) -- the Prime Minister of Organized Crime for Vito Genovese. Chin became the family's boss in the early 1980's. At his 1997 trial, he was acquitted of ordering six mob slayings and he beat the rap for conspiring to kill Gotti as retribution for his assassination of Castellano on statute of limitations grounds. (GOTTI: Rise and Fall provides  insight about the murder plot against Gotti, disclosing that two members of Gotti's inner circle joined in Chin's scheme and were poised to take over the Gambino family if the murder plot had succeeded.) Chin's lawyers insisted Gigante was crazy but prosecutors, Gravano, mobster Joe Black, and ultimately a federal jury decided Chin was the head of a sophisticated bid rigging and kickback scheme and found him guilty of labor racketeering. Meanwhile, his original team of federal prosecutors moved on to other things, and one, Charles Rose, passed away in 1998. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Gigante's conviction in January, 1999. A few months later, Chin's lawyers and federal prosecutors were back in court again after prosecutors learned that the Gigante family had hired an operative to try and obtain some dirt on the anonymous jurors who convicted the Chin.

    In 2002, the feds hit Gigante with waterfront racketeering charges involving the Genovese family's longtime control over the New Jersey and Miami piers through the family's influence over the International Longshoremen's Association. His son Andrew served as Chin's point man in the scheme, according to the indictment. The following year, father and son, along with six other family wiseguys and associates copped plea bargains that added three years to Chin's prison days and cost Andrew a two year stretch behind bars. Andrew was released in July, 2005.


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    Gregory Scarpa
    Life On The Edge

    scarpa2.jpg (6099 bytes)GREG Scarpa, who died of AIDS in 1994, lived his entire life on the edge, functioning as a top echelon FBI informer for some 35 years. A week after Scarpa's death, Tom Robbins reported in The New York Daily News that former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover used Scarpa to solve the Ku Klux Klan slayings of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964.

    On May 24, 1996, a federal judge unsealed reams of FBI documents that confirmed that the FBI used Scarpa on secret missions to the deep South during the civil rights era. The released papers do not mention the 1964  case, in which Scarpa kidnapped a Klansman and threatened him with death to learn where the bodies of the victims were buried, but they reveal that he made a similar mission in 1966. "If he'd lived 400 years ago, he would have been a pirate," says a  former Scarpa lawyer.

    Scarpa was the intended target of the first shootout of the bloody Colombo war that began in 1991 and ended two years later with 12 dead, including two bystanders. A staunch supporter of the winning Persico faction, Scarpa killed more rivals than any other member of either side in the conflict. "I love the smell of gunpowder," he said after one shooting. Following the war, he survived an Greg Scarpaambush in which he lost an eye. Jailed in 1994, he offered up a deathbed alibi for Alphonse Persico on the eve of his trial. Before Scarpa (left) could testify, however, he died of AIDS, contracted from tainted blood that a Scarpa cohort had donated shortly before Scarpa underwent surgery in 1986.

    His son Joseph Schiro Scarpa, one of two children he had with his long time common-law wife, Linda Schiro, was killed in a dispute between Brooklyn drug dealers in 1995.

    In March, 2006, based on Linda Schiro's testimony, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office obtained an indictment charging Scarpa's longtime FBI handler, R. Lindley DeVecchio, with aiding Scarpa commit four Brooklyn murders from 1984 to 1992, including the former girlfriend of a top family mobster. Eighteen months later, while Schiro was still on the witness stand, the DA's office dropped the charges after hearing tape recordings in which Schiro gave vastly different accounts of three of the murders in interviews she had with Robbins in 1997 for a book project that never materialized.   


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