When Boss, Pete Gotti Never Showed Much Compassion, Some Say (Part 6)

Pete Gotti is at death’s door, lawyers for the man who is or was official boss of the Gambino family continue to say.

Peter, John Gotti.

“We are truly afraid he is dying now, he feels he is,” James Craven wrote in court papers. “As his lawyer, I am afraid this will all become moot soon if nothing is done.”

Pete  also "is increasingly difficult to understand on the phone. His voice is weak, labored, and very faint.”

Gotti is locked up at Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina. His lawyers initially filed for compassionate release in June (the filing is reproduced in its entirety at the bottom of this story), and when they did, they posed several arguments for his release: He suffers from more than a dozen medical ailments, including cardiovascular disease and a likely cancerous growth in at least one lung; he's rehabilitated and sorry; and his continued incarceration is financially irresponsible.

The release also explains that “Peter Gotti has a loving home to go to, too, with his daughter in Howard Beach, New York. He has served over 80% of his sentence and is dying. May he get there in time,” the motion reads.

Federal prosecutors objected in September, underlining their belief that Gotti remains a danger to the community and could still command others to do violence on his behalf, despite his age and medical condition.

Craven has made a half-dozen court filings since Nov. 4, with each one describing Gotti's health as increasingly dire.

Last month Craven took a somewhat different approach in a filing, saying that "Even Stevie Wonder could see that mobster Peter Gotti is a changed man." (Which kinda threw us ... What does the Luchese underboss have to do with this, we wondered, thinking Craven was describing something Stevie Crea had said about Gotti. Of course, Crea (and Matty Madonna and Chris Londonio and Terence Caldwell) has his own legal and existential worries having been convicted last month of murdering Luchese associate Michael Meldish, plus conspiracy to commit racketeering and other felonies, and now faces a mandatory life sentence. The blind pianist, Craven was talking about, we realized. Not the Luchese wiseguy. Still, Craven ought to have known better -- and should have used Ray Charles.)

Gotti, who is 80, is only 17 years into a 25-year sentence and still has quite a ways to go until his May 5, 2032 release date.

One of Pete's duties back when he was on the street was running his brother Gene's loanshark business. Gene, 72, who ranks among the New York Mafia's last remaining legitimate tough guys, was released from prison last year. Gene Gotti had gone away for heroin trafficking in 1989 with John Carneglia, 73, who also was released last year.

Gene and Johnny Carneglia were both identified by Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano as having been among the shooters responsible for gunning down Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti in front of Sparks Steakhouse in December 1985. (Carneglia is believed to have fired the coup de grĂ¢ce in Castellano's head.)

When Gene was away, many of his phone calls and visits had to do with the day-to-day operation of an extremely lucrative joint loansharking operation that Gene and a longtime buddy, Colombo capo Joe Scopo, started. (Scopo was since murdered in 1993 during the Colombo war.)

Peter ran Gene's part of the loansharking business for Gene, giving some of the proceeds to Gene's wife and children, and presumably keeping a percentage for himself.

Business was reportedly pretty good a ways back.

"Despite Gene’s incarceration and Scopo’s death, their loanshark business is booming," Gang Land News reported back in 2002, noting that after Scopo died, his brother Ralph, a Colombo soldier, took over his brother’s share of the loanshark operation, which was valued at $500,000 by an affidavit reviewed by Gang Land. Sources also told Jerry Capeci that the book "ha(d) more than $1 million 'on the street' earning from 100 to 200 per cent interest a year."

No doubt in 2019 that book is worth more than $1 million -- yes, we're deliberately being uncharacteristically restrained....

John Carneglia and Gene -- you can't speak about one without the other.

"Peter never had compassion for anybody," Anthony Ruggiano Junior told us recently.

When Fat Andy and Anthony (Tony Lee) Gurrieri were active wiseguys, Peter Gotti for a while was the guy they reported to, their capo. (Peter had been promoted to capo from New York City Department of Sanitation employee. (He exited Sanitation with a disability pension after an accident: he supposedly cracked his head against the back of a garbage truck.)

At some point, Anthony Junior took over a vending machine company owned by a guy who had been around his father and Tony Lee. At the time his father was in jail and Tony Lee was ill.

The guy who owned the vending machine company had some issues related to the West Side Crew of the Genovese family (the West Side referred to anything that had to do with Vincent Chin Gigante). That meant they were problems Anthony had to deal with.

"I went to the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club to see Peter," he recalled.

Peter and Anthony walked around the block, and Anthony started to say, "This guy Louie from the West Side, I'm gonna have to hurt him--"

"I don't wanna hear about this!" Peter replied, holding his hands over both ears. (Like when a baby covers his ears and hums loudly to drown everything out....)

"But they are on our route, you have to hear this," Anthony told him.

"You can't win against them," Peter said.

"I asked Pete to let me and Ronnie One-Arm (Trucchio) meet with them. Ronnie was a friend of mine who also owned a vending company."

The upshot was that Anthony, Ronnie, and Mikey Gal (Michael Guerrieri, a Gambino wiseguy/original Gotti crew member who was Tony Lee's brother) went to the sitdown with the other guys, who were from New Jersey, and ultimately it was decided that they'd all be partners in the vending machine business.

"We wind up splitting it fifty-fifty, and Pete was useless."

That's when Anthony Junior became an "official" client of Gene Gotti and Joe Scopo's loanshark business.

He borrowed $25,000 and put some of it to work on the street and invested some of it in the vending company.

"I borrowed the money technically from Gene (and Scopo); it was his book, but I got it through Pete, who was the one handling things on the street. And Pete's the one i am paying the vig to every week: that was $250 a week, just in vig."

Vigorish (aka juice, among a rich assortment of other words) is the name of the fee charged by a bookmaker (or bookie) for accepting a gambler's wager; or, as in Anthony's case here, it refers to the interest owed a loanshark. (Vig,the term, supposedly came to English usage via the Yiddish slang word vigrish, which was itself a loanword from the original Russian, meaning "gain, winnings.")

As per a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: You borrow $25,000 off a loanshark connected to one of the five families... In addition to being out of your fcking mind, let's say you pay Pete $250 every week for say 25 years? The rest of your life? No, let's make it, you pay $250 a week until doomsday -- meaning you'd still owe the entire $25,000, the entire original amount, because not one red cent of that weekly payment of $250 goes toward the $25,000 (or the principal amount).... that's what a vig is...

"I never missed any payments," Anthony said. "But then I got arrested for gambling with Mikey Gal and Ronnie Cigars and all these guys from Brooklyn and Queens in December 1995."

"I was getting ready to take a plea for three to six years and I wanted to make it a knockdown loan. Now years ago, when you stood up for the family and went to prison, they looked out for you. They never went in their pocket, but they tried to help you and your family. Like they wouldn't usually charge you a vig; they wouldn't abuse your family for money. If you stood up, they gave you a pass until you came home."

When Anthony was getting ready to serve his sentence, he went to see Peter at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club.

"We're walking around the block and I tell him that I am turning myself in in November to take three to six years, and that I want either to make it a knockdown loan or I ask him if we could put it on hold until I get home.

"Pete tells me that his brother Gene said that I had to keep paying the vig. I told him that Gene would never say that because he knew what happens when you go to jail. I told Pete that, that Gene would never do that to a guy going to jail.

"So I sat in jail for three years and had to pay him $250 a week, just the vig, and I still owed him (the full principal amount) when I got out.

"I am furious over that. I go to jail in November 1996 and I have some guys running the vending company who are paying that vig. Then my father gets home in 1997 and he's furious with Peter for taking that vig off me while I'm inside.

"My father borrows off (Genovese capo) Ciro Perrone, and pays Pete the $25,000, then my father pays Ciro back.

"While i'm in prison before my father gets out, my sister gets into a car accident involving a limousine. My father calls Mikey Gal from jail about the accident, and Mikey Gal tells my father, 'me and Pete took care of it.'"

Then Fat Andy gets out in 1997 and gets back to 88th Street-- and his backyard.

"Mikey Gal walks into the backyard. Now, this is after Peter was made official boss."

Mikey Gal hands Fat Andy a sheet of paper. Picture these two guys standing in a backyard, one of them pulls out a piece of paper and hands it to the other.

It was a bill. From Pete Gotti.

Mikey Gal was there to give Fat Andy a bill for $1,800.

"Pete sent Mikey Gal to hand my father that bill, which was for the limo accident with my sister.

"My father just did 13 years in prison, and he'd been told that Pete took care of it. So my father tells Mikey Gal that, that Pete said he'd taken care of it. My father hands the bill back to Mikey Gal and tells him to give it to Pete and to tell Pete, 'If he wants me to pay him this, tell him to let me know which street corner he wants to meet me on, and I'll pay him, whatever street corner he wants.

"The subject gets dropped cold and nothing ever came of it, no on was ever sent for or anything."

About 18 months later, Fat Andy died.

"I am still serving that three- to six-year sentence, but I catch another case, and that turns into another 10 years. I am all wrapped up.*

"A kid who works for me comes to visit and tells me that I have to pay $1,800 to Pete, the bill from my sister's accident. He dogged it with my father. He was official boss and he mutted it with my father.

"My father was a gangster and he was a sanitation worker.

"I call Freddy Hot (aka Alfred DiCongilio) and ask him what's going on. He tells me, Pete wants his money. I tell him that I'm in jail. He tells me Pete is doing this to everybody.

"This is the guy who wants compassion. Where was the compassion for me and the other guys who were in prison, where was it when my father died? That's how fcking greedy he was. Everybody in the federal prison at Schuylkill, Pennsylvania -- Frankie Bones, Sally Avellino, captains and bosses -- they were all in shock when they heard the story of what happened to me. They were like, what kind of guy is he? The whole prison was asking that."

Mikey  Gal

"And these judges that believe these sob stories, these jurors and judges that give these people all kinds of breaks -- they should have their head examined."

"Frankie Loc -- he says he didn't kill Louie DiBono -- okay, but what about all the other guys you did kill, Frankie? He was a  coldblooded murderer who liked to chop people up. When his best friend went to jail, they killed both his sons on the same day. (They were bad kids, though, and they hurt people all over the Bronx.)

Anyway, "Frankie Loc okayed it; that's what I was told."

One night in December 1989, John Gotti and Frank Locascio, Consigliere, talked about murdering a troublesome underling who had failed to show up to a meeting.

“Louie DiBono,” Gotti said. “You know why he’s dying? He’s gonna die because he refused to come in when I called. He didn’t do nothing else wrong.”

Locascio predicted DiBono would bringing Gotti cash the next day. “But I wouldn’t take nothing,” the boss answered, then affirmed in quite colorful language that DiBono’s days were numbered.

That taped conversation, along with testimony of Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, was enough to convict Locascio of conspiring to murder DiBono, who  was found in a Manhattan parking garage 10 months later. Locascio received a life sentence for murder and racketeering.

For years, Locascio has insisted that he tried to talk Gotti out of  killing DiBono, claiming he tried to broker a deal under which DiBono would pay Gotti $50,000 to make peace. He's also claimed that the same audiotapes used to convict him, if enhanced with modern digital techniques, would prove he is right.

I am all wrapped up.*

While Anthony Junior was in jail on the gambling case, he caught a second case that put him on the path for another 10 years. This other case was pretty big back then, and had to do with the Gambino family's South Florida rackets.

In December 1996, FBI agents (waving a 20-count racketeering indictment) swooped into a Key Biscayne, Florida, beach resort and moved to shut down the Gambino family’s South Florida operation, nabbing John Gotti’s apparent successor on a beach as he climbed out of the surf.

Nicky (The Little Guy) Corozzo and Ralph Davino Jr., were wearing swimsuits when the FBI agents moved in and escorted them off the beach, covering their handcuffs with towels. Corozzo lieutenant Leonard DiMaria was arrested in New York on the same day.

It was the first time an active boss of an organized crime family was arrested in Florida, according to FBI agent Paul Mallett.

"South Florida historically was always viewed as an open area where all of the families could operate,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lothar Genge. "The Gambino family was certainly attempting to get a stronger foothold in Florida. That’s what this indictment is all about."

At the time John Gotti was still serving life without parole in Illinois, having been given the sentence in 1992. (At the time, it was reported that Gotti had been "ordered" by the leaders of New York’s four other crime clans-- the Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo, and Bonanno families -- to hand control of the Gambino family over to Corozzo in order to avert a bloody war fueled by their dislike of acting Gambino boss John (Junior) Gotti.)

According to the indictment, the Gambino family ran a loansharking operation out of EZ Check Cashing in suburban Deerfield Beach, where loans were extended with credit rates of 2 percent to 5 percent a week, or up to 260 percent a year.

Other crimes associated with EZ Check Cashing, according to the indictment, included: The attempted murder of a federal informant Louis Maione, suspected of stealing money from the Gambino family; transportation of stolen designer sunglasses for sale in South Florida; conspiracy to commit arson on business in retaliation for testimony against a defendant; threatening to murder a witness and concealing incriminating evidence.

Also indicted were Sydney Alwais and son David, who ran the EZ Check Cashing store that prosecutors said was the hub of a Gambino family loansharking operation in South Florida; David Furman; of Deerfield Beach; Anthony Ruggiano Jr., who was accused with Davino and DiMaria, of relaying Corozzo’s orders to the family’s South Florida crew; Robert Engel, of Woodhaven, N.Y.; and Salvatore Pecchio, of Sunrise.

"This takes care of their South Florida crew,″ Genge said.

(This wasn't a typical kind of bust, however, as in June 1997 it was revealed that the FBI agent who headed the squad that nabbed Corrozzo was himself nabbed -- meaning the agent himself also was indicted on charges of stealing more than $400,000 of the mob money he helped seize. Jerome R. Sullivan, a 25-year FBI veteran,also was fired from the FBI. "I don’t think Mr. Sullivan’s actions jeopardized any cases that are ongoing,″ an FBI spokeswoman said. Sullivan was known to have alcohol and gambling problems, was broke and seeing a psychiatrist, according to his lawyer Mark Schnapp at the time. Schnapp also said that the FBI knew about Sullivan’s drinking problem and even put him in a treatment program in 1989, but didn’t do enough to make sure there weren’t other problems.)