The Ravenite Transcripts: John Gotti's Secret Meetings In Mrs. Cirelli's Apartment

“Now Neil was a man’s man. He wouldn’t betray nothin’.”
 -- John Gotti on the Ravenite transcripts 

The FBI surreptitiously recorded about 600 hours of discussions in the apartment above the Ravenite social club, six hours of which were entered into evidence during the 1992 murder and racketeering trial of John Gotti and his consiglieri Frank Locascio.

Ravenite social club then and now

And in an ongoing series we'll present as much of them as we can...

The FBI agents were acting under a federal statute that permits government agents to break and enter into homes and businesses or other locations where there is probable cause to believe that criminal activity will occur.

By 1987, the FBI had “limited success” with electronic surveillance and began to look for locations to plant bugs to spy on Gotti.

Bruce Mouw, the leader of the Gambino squad, chose the Ravenite Social Club at 247 Mulberry Street in Little Italy as the best place to attempt a surveillance effort. But the acoustics of the club were terrible, and the ambient noise -- a hissing espresso machine, rattling soda machine, multiple simultaneous conversations -- made things even worse. The FBI tried surreptitiously moving the bug around, and used different audio filters to try to delete extraneous sounds. None of it worked.

An informant dropped a tip that Gotti sometimes left the Ravenite through a back door and went into an adjacent first floor hallway of the building where he spoke with captains. The same informant also reported that Gotti often went upstairs to an apartment in the building. Nettie Cirelli, the widow of Gambino wiseguy Michael Cirelli, lived there, they eventually found. (When alive, late Gambino underboss Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce also used the apartment for secret meetings.)

Over Thanksgiving weekend of 1989, Mrs. Cirelli was vacationing in Florida, and the FBI surveillance team planted the apartment bug.

The tapes made from the Cirelli bug were paydirt for the FBI.

Eventually, the tapes and other evidence allowed the FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn to build a major racketeering indictment naming Gotti, Locascio, Gravano, and reputed captain Thomas Gambino as defendants. On the night of December 11, 1990, agent Bruce Mouw watched with binoculars as law enforcement arrested the Gotti hierarchy of the Gambino crime family.

The building that contained the Ravenite was owned by Gambino mobster Joseph (Joe The Cat) LaForte. The Feds moved to seize it in January 1993. LaForte indicated he would fight the lawsuit, but never did, and by October 1997, Brooklyn Federal Judge I. Leo Glasser forfeited the five-story brick building at 247 Mulberry St. because it was the hub of racketeering activity during Gotti's tenure as boss. The U.S. Marshal service descended on the Ravenite to "arrest" the building that housed the social club and the studio and one-bedroom apartments, including the former Cirelli place...

NOVEMBER 30, 1989 

FILE NUMBER: 183A-3507 PLACE: Apartment above the Ravenite Social Club, located at 247 Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Manhattan 

TIME: 8:15 P.M. 


GOTTI: Now this fuckin’ Neil was a man’s man. He, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t betray nothin’. When that fuckin’ bum asked for the tapes, you were there, I’m best friends with Frankie.

GRAVANO: Yeah, absolutely!

GOTTI: Frankie said to me, he’s crazy. “Hey, Frank, don’t start.” “Tell him not to give them fuckin’ tapes.” What was he, what was he gonna do, Sam? What was he gonna do if five of us got mad? (Tap sound) What the fuck was he gonna do?

GRAVANO: Nothin’!

GOTTI: Once he starts—

GRAVANO: Well, you know, that (inaudible). He would’ve, he would’ve tried to make a move from outside, I think.

GOTTI: He couldn’t succeed.

GRAVANO: It was evident to us.

GOTTI: He couldn’t succeed.

GRAVANO: He, he already smelt it all.

GOTTI: He couldn’t succeed because, Sam, he felt, and you know what we heard, “He felt he hadda hit me first.” But, if he “hits” me first, he blows the guy who really led the ring, Angelo and them. Supposedly. That’s the guys on the tapes.

GRAVANO: I think he would’ve “hit” Angelo and not you.

GOTTI: Nah! (Tap sound)


GOTTI: And what was he going to do with us?

GRAVANO: Because now—

GOTTI: He knows we were (inaudible).

GRAVANO: Angelo (inaudible) he would’a done nothing.

GOTTI: “—Sally’s.” Nah! He knew we weren’t “lay down Sally’s.” They knew we weren’t “lay down Sally’s.”

GRAVANO: Well, not “lay down Sally’s.” He thought maybe, maybe would’ve conned you or explained it to you—(Inaudible) him. “Hit” Angelo.

GOTTI: Neil would have told him just like this: “Go fuck your mother.” Listen to me, Sammy.

GRAVANO: Oh, I believe it!

GOTTI: (Inaudible)

GRAVANO: But I’m saying this guy was stark raving nuts.

GOTTI: And Neil was another one. Neil would’ve told him just like this, “What? What are we cops here?” Let’s kill all the cocksuckers that (inaudible), in the whole “Family.” Every fuckin’ Gambino; every fucking Castellano; Neil would’ve—. He, he wanted to—he didn’t want no part of (inaudible) ya know, Neil, he wanted no part of the confrontation; which was a shame in itself. That’s your “underboss.” You gotta love him. You don’t “break” him. Get rid of the cocksucker!

GRAVANO: I, I was privy to a lot of, you know, I was privy to a lot of his conver— I think he was stark raving fuckin’ (tap sound) nuts.

GOTTI: Ah, he was a jerkoff!

GRAVANO: I thought he had—

GOTTI: Because he—

GRAVANO: He thought after a while he had a memory lapse.

GOTTI: (Coughs) Sammy—

GRAVANO: You know, like the President—

GOTTI: Sammy—

GRAVANO: —like Nixon, you don’t think you could die no more; you didn’t think nothing.

 GOTTI: Nah, Sammy.

GRAVANO: John, what, what would it take just to—

GOTTI: What that, push the button, you go to the moon shit?

GRAVANO: (Inaudible) No, fuckin’, button, the moon. (Mumbles—inaudible)

GOTTI: Yeah, because we were gonna send the people to the moon.

 GRAVANO: Well, how, how could he have conversations with us? Me and Frankie, and Angelo. We were sitting there, says, “Yeah, I’m gonna go down Neil’s—Christmas part—”, ah, he looked at me like I had fuckin’ five heads. Frankie was there. “You’re on our side! Where you going?”

GOTTI: Our side.

John Gotti chats outside social club

 GRAVANO: Our side. Minchia! That’s when I “buzzed” Frankie. That’s the first time I ever “buzzed” Frankie (inaudible). I was with (inaudible) that’s (clap sound) the first time I, I says, “Frankie, what happened? What’s he have a problem? What do you mean on our side? What’s he talking about?”

GOTTI: Ah, Sammy—

GRAVANO: The first time I ever, you know—

GOTTI: Sammy, let me tell you what (inaudible).

GRAVANO: —recognized that, er—

GOTTI: When you see who done that—

GRAVANO: —I said, “What the fuck was that?”

GOTTI: You see who done that?

GRAVANO: But he said that open that time. I didn’t like try to hide it or nothin’.

GOTTI: You see, yeah, but, Sammy, you see who done that? Pete, now he was a “rat” motherfucker. This fuckin’ “rat” brother was, the brother-in-law was a “rat” motherfucker. A backdoor motherfucker. He wouldn’t, he purposely wouldn’t make him consigliere. He didn’t wanna make him no “underboss.” He wouldn’t make nobody official. This fucking bastard. Because he was a “rat” motherfucker! He loved to fucking party. And this fucking “rat” motherfucker was no better. He divided the “Family.” He was like the (inaudible) in like this.

GRAVANO: (Inaudible)

GOTTI: This is like you go home and telling your daughters, “Your mother is a big cunt. You don’t know what I do with your mother. You don’t know how many guys your mother blew.”

GRAVANO: (Clears throat)

GOTTI: It, it’s, it’s the same thing. When you go—and you, if you don’t like your fucking “underboss,” “break” him! End of discussion! Then you’ll fall in love with him. I mean, what are you kidding somebody or what? Youse are getting to be like—

GRAVANO: But he—

GOTTI: —brothers.

GRAVANO: You’re absolutely right; Machiavellian-type a guy (inaudible).

GOTTI: (Coughs)

GRAVANO: He won’t break him because he won’t look good.

GOTTI: Yeah, but Sam—

GRAVANO: You know, a whole con—

 GOTTI: I don’t know if you ever, ah, ah—

GRAVANO: (Inaudible)

GOTTI: —if you, how close you were with Neil. But he knows him as long as I know him. Did you ever hear Neil curse this guy or pan him?

LOCASCIO: I don’t; never!

GOTTI: Never! Never! And even (inaudible) Carl I shouldn’t see my kids alive. “I’ll go see what the ‘boss’ wants.” That’s an “underboss.” Ya fuckin’—

GRAVANO: Oh, he was great, John.

GOTTI: (Inaudible) That he should have “blew” the guy. But instead he was gelosia [jealous]! Because he wasn’t half the man the guy is. If tomorrow I was to die and the, the “Family” voted, voted a new “boss,” and they voted, ah—let’s make a “wishy-washy” guy downstairs. Let’s get a guy that’s (inaudible) ah, Pete Castellano, our new “boss.” He’d hate you two with a fucking passion!

GRAVANO: Absolutely.

GOTTI: Because he ain’t a man! You a tough, hey, you a tough guy. He’d hate ya. Ah, ah, and any time he could knock you, he’s gonna knock you.

GRAVANO: Yeah. He’s jealous (inaudible).

LOCASCIO: Hoping, hoping that something would happen to us.

GOTTI: That’s right.

GRAVANO: Frank, he’s not a man. Eh, ah—a guy—

GOTTI: He’s not gonna be able to break ya.

GRAVANO: (Inaudible) right. He’s not ballsy enough.

LOCASCIO: He’s no man.

GOTTI: Yeah—

GRAVANO: So they gotta deal with deviousness—

GOTTI But Neil wouldn’t have—

GRAVANO: —scheming.

GOTTI: —Neil would’ve never fuckin’—he would’ve never tolerated Angelo with the tapes. He would’ve tolerated, put him on the shelf. And, what are you gonna do? You gotta understand.

GRAVANO: And it’s part of life.

GOTTI: Using hindsight now, ourselves—he deserved to have his tongue cut out. If nothing else, his fucking tongue cut out. But I don’t know where all our fuckin’ so-called “friends” are. That they went to his fuckin’ house. Where did they think they went, to clubhouse? You get a guy like Vic and “Gas.” I wanna show you something. They’re fuckin’—

GRAVANO: I tell, I tell you what I thought. I tell you what I thought. I wasn’t there a lot of times, I only went there four times with—I’ll tell you what I thought. I thought that this guy had tonnage. And I thought that this guy had the expertise. When you’re a “boss,” you gotta know you’re hot. At that point. Maybe, ah, as a, as a “street” guy, or something, you think nobody is watching you. But, as a “boss,” you gotta know you’re taking the “heat.” I figured that fucking house was impregnable. I thought he had that fuckin’ house impregnable.

GOTTI: He didn’t have one security thing there!

GRAVANO: No, he had security things there.

GOTTI: Fuck—

 GRAVANO: His money.

LOCASCIO: You’re talking about Angelo, and he’s talking about—

GRAVANO: Well who, who you talking about?

GOTTI: Oh, you talking about Paul?

GRAVANO: Yeah, Paul.

GOTTI: I’m talking about Angelo.

GRAVANO: Oh! Oh, Angelo, I don’t know.

GOTTI: Paul? (Inaudible)

GRAVANO: I thought that house was impregnable.

GOTTI: Sammy—

GRAVANO: I thought he had done—

GOTTI: —Paul, let me tell you about Paul, Sammy. He didn’t—he was a fucking fish on the desert. He was a fish outta water! He don’t know this life! (inaudible).

GRAVANO: (Inaudible) I know it. But I didn’t know like that.

GOTTI: He, he goes to the door. He sees on the TV, O’Brien and the other guy (coughs). He goes there, “Hello, Joe.” Tells, calls the [FBI] agent by the first name, “Come on in.” Make Nina make coffee for you. You fucking “rat” motherfucker! My wife gotta make coffee for the fucking agents? “Hello, Joe.” Come in my house? You gotta kick—

LOCASCIO: I tell ’em, “Get your fucking foot—

 GOTTI: Yeah!

 LOCASCIO: —out of the door!”

GOTTI: You gotta kick that fucking door down! Joe Gallo done the same thing.

LOCASCIO: “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!” Humph! (Inaudible)

GOTTI: Joe Gallo done the same thing (inaudible).

LOCASCIO: —that fuckin’ door.

GRAVANO: They got sharpshooters. They got a guy that can—

GOTTI: They fuckin’ hard-ons! They not big shot; they’re fuckin’ punks.

GRAVANO: They’ll tell you they think they are.

GOTTI: You know what got me sick?

GRAVANO: (Laughs)

 GOTTI: I curse people. Everybody does it. We’re human. We’re bums. We bums in the street.

LOCASCIO: That’s right. (Radio in background)

GOTTI: Every fucking time I went there on a Saturday or a Sunday, I hated it, Frank. I hated the fucking world. Because whoever was there before me, as soon as he left, he cursed out. “Scumbag,” “asshole,” “motherfucker.” Minchia! I mean, ain’t there nobody good here? You leave that door, he’s gonna say it about you.… I didn’t wanna leave until the house is empty. (Laughter) … But, ya know, you know, your heart’s breaking because you’re saying, “I ain’t got three cents in my pocket! I got nothing but heartaches. I gotta have this motherfucker—

GRAVANO: (Laughs) 

GOTTI: —curse me again.” 

GRAVANO: [Remember] the meeting we had down (tap sound) in the basement? (Laughs) When we were talking, poor Frankie said something? (Laughs) Fucking Neil (clap sound) “jumped” on him! Remember? In the basement? When he called us all together. It was you, ah, Angelo, Neil, me, I remember Frankie, Paul, Joe Gallo (tap sound). What we talked about? 

GOTTI: I remember...

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The Ravenite Transcript Series