Street Soldiers Die Hard: Frank Gangi Interview

"I was in New York for two years. People knew I was back in Brooklyn. I even ran into people I knew.

Frank Gangi

"I saw an old girlfriend on Staten Island I hadn't seen in 30 years.

"People knew I was back in New York.

"I didn't go up to mob guys but I saw a lot of guys who were connected to them."

The speaker is Frank Gangi, former partner of Thomas "Tommy Karate" Pitera. He's talking about a period during the past decade when he returned to his old stomping grounds from the wilds of Witness Protection.

Gangi noted the surprise and befuddlement he feels regarding how a secret society he once killed to belong to has evolved to the extent it has.

He refers to the many former mobsters who openly post on places like Facebook, noting his surprise that even high-profile former gangsters regularly update their social media accounts.

No, the mob aint what it used to be.
Pitera, first arrested.

"The guys in the mob now -- these [turncoats] put their fathers and brothers away for life. If these guys in the mob don't have the heart to do it, I don't know who would."

Gangi also is a turncoat. He is old enough to remember the way the mob used to work, back when he was killing people for Tommy Karate in Brooklyn and burying them on a nature preserve on Staten Island.

(We're not going into Tommy Karate here; we're working on a book to tell that story.)

Gangi says that today it doesn't even make sense to go into the Witness Protection program.

"Everybody knew who Sammy the Bull was and that he was out in Arizona."

He mentions how many mobsters have written books about how they have changed their lives.

He doesn't believe they are very sincere in this regard.

"I don't think you change; I think this is another way to make some money. Everyone is broke today."

"I am not proud of what i did," he notes. "But I don't exaggerate or anything though and I don't bullshit about anything."

While serving his prison sentence in the protected witness's unit, Gangi gained firsthand experience regarding the very worst side of "the life," the side that no one wants to discuss or consider.

"I saw Sammy the Bull give other people information that would help them reduce their sentence. He'd tell people about stuff that happened so that they could then tell the feds that they were there and they knew what happened.

"The more information the less time you got. That is why I got 10 fucking years.

"Every time you testify for them you get years taken off your sentence.

"I was in there for nine years," he recalls, offering a roll call of fellow inmates that includes Sammy the Bull, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Phil Leonetti and Carmine Sessa, to name a few.

"They put Carmine and Gaspipe together and they got into a fight. They put Gaspipe in the hole and ripped up his agreement. I think a lot of that had to do with Carmine Sessa.

"Carmine felt Gaspipe was responsible for the Colombo war.

Asked how, specifically, he couldn't recall. He did say that "Gaspipe killed a lot of people and set a lot of people up."

Gangi notes that while in prison for the first few years after flipping, living in the unit with other guys who flipped, who had lived the life, it was easy for he and his former cohorts in crime to slip into an imaginary world in which they were still wiseguys while there in prison, living together, sharing a common culture and from the same streets.

"We lived like we were still wiseguys," he says. There is even a boss, underboss, etc.

Well, not exactly. But "there was a chain of command in the witness units."

Sammy, he says, was "boss" in one unit where Gangi spent time.

"I had respect for Sammy because he was a major witness.

"And If I didn't get along with him, he could have had them send me to Minnesota."

Looking back at his decades on the street, Gangi notes that when it comes to getting made, the mob only cared about money.

"That's what the shit was all about - it wasn't about being tough, taking care of your family. If you brought in money you could be made. There was always this picture that you had to be a tough guy to be made.

"If you made a lot of money and knew someone in the mob, you'd be sponsored and be made.

He noted how easily Donny Brasco penetrated the Mafia back in the 1970s.

"When he first came around he said he was a big jewelry thief. He had a lot of money in his pocket, too," which was given to him by the feds as part of his cover.

"When i grew up if you didn't know the mother of that baby... you know? If they weren't so greedy they might have noticed he didn't even have any family - he didn't have parents or sons and daughters.

But back to his original point about being made: "A lot of mobsters were punks, when they were young, other guys stole their lunch money.

"But if your family had money--then you had money and you were in."

He noted how one guy -- someone in Gangi's case -- had proffered and was being held in the witness unit.

"He already ratted people out -- but he didn't testify against them. He got out 10-11 years later and they made him."