Podcast Uses Life Experience To Dissuade Youths From Mob, Gangs

The latest installment of the Johnny & Gene Show —the podcast with John Alite and Gene Borrello —features former Gambino associate Anthony Russo, aka Hootie, who was among the dozens of wiseguys and associates arrested on Mafia Takedown Day in 2011.

Hootie, Gene Borrello, John Alite, Felix Levine.
From left, Hootie, Gene Borrello, John Alite, Felix Levine. 

After sitting in a cell for months, Russo—a drug dealing associate aligned with a powerful Gambino capo, Alphonse Trucchio—was facing a mandatory minimum of 20 years behind bars if convicted of drug trafficking charges.

Russo, who was first charged with being a member of Trucchio’s crew in 2002, threw in the towel and began cooperating.

(As for Alphonse Trucchio, he was released from prison on February 21 of this year. Trucchio also was one of more than 100 mobsters busted in four states in January 2011 in the FBI's biggest Mafia takedown. He was once viewed as a rising star in the Gambino family. He pleaded guilty to racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, assault, loansharking, and gambling in February 2012 and was sentenced to eight to 10 years in prison. On the way out of Manhattan Federal Court after his sentencing, Trucchio issued a memorable sound bite: “They can’t take my honor,” he said while marshals escorted him back to jail.)

Listen to the show, below.

The Johnny & Gene show is now recorded and edited in a studio by Felix Levine, who recently joined the team as an occasional host, manager, and producer. Felix also hosts Where's This Going, his own podcast, which has featured both John and Gene, as well as UFC World Champions, comedians, actors, and former Colombo capo Michael Franzese.

The Johnny & Gene Show kicked off around when the COVID-19 shutdown began. John and Gene are doing the show to influence youngsters to avoid life on the street in a gang or mob crew.

It comes down to offering their life experience via the podcasts, which generally include guests who also have life experiences to share. The Johnny & Gene podcast offers mostly free content, with some available for payment via Crime Flix in Australia.

"We can tell them how fake and treacherous street life is," John said. "We want to help them see it for what it is. We keep it real and hope to help kids understand gangs, the streets, the mob, and that there is opportunity in life outside crime, whether they live in the inner cities or rich areas."

"Most people have never had to shoot or stab anyone and have no idea what it's like on the street."

"Me and Gene are from two different generations," but both have experienced violence in ways that are beyond most people's understanding.

"During my era, there was tons of murders and if Gene grew up with us, he would have been a serious killer, but by Gods wishes, he wasn’t--but he was very capable of those things. I wasn’t that fortunate; I grew up and was accustomed to killing and stabbing, in jail or out. Violence was my whole life."

We've written extensively about both John and Gene; you can review stories about each one here and here.

We met John in 2014 when George Anastasia escorted him into the spotlight to promote Gotti's Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia. John has been talking ever since, generally via interviews -- with websites, newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV shows, podcasts.... and Cosa Nostra News. He's also coauthored several additional niche-focused memoir-type books, including Darkest Hour: John Alite: Former Mafia Enforcer for John Gotti & The Gambino Crime Family with S.C. Pike and Prison Rules with Nick Christophers.

The first story we wrote that mentioned John Alite was published in 2011, when attorney Seth Ginsberg (unsuccessfully) asked Tampa Federal Judge Susan Bucklew to toss Ronald (Ronnie One Arm) Trucchio's conviction aside and grant him a new trial on the grounds that certain things Alite had said while on the stand during John (Junior) Gotti's trial undercut testimony that put Trucchio away for the rest of his life.

More recently, we noted how Joseph Corozzo, the lawyer son of former Gambino consigliere Joseph (JoJo) Corozzo and nephew of capo Nicholas (Little Nicky) Corozzo, confirmed for Gang Land News that Alite was still in the fight against the Feds after John Junior Gotti spoke to the FBI in 2005. John Junior has sought to mitigate his actions by claiming he bullshitted the FBI agents. We wonder how a certain Gambino boss who took power in late 1985 would have reacted if he heard a member or associate had spoken to the FBI, bullshit or not.

Since then, John Junior sent an email to Gang Land to convey various criticisms, some of which could theoretically apply here. In the letter, which Gang Land wrote about on May 7, Gotti noted that he "chased" Alite and initiated the Gotti-Alite "breakup" back in 1991. As proof, he noted, "the government had no audio or video or still photographs of Alite in our company since that year." (ED. NOTE: See photo below, which John Alite sent us in response o that s statement.)

Truth be told, as Gang Land noted, nothing John Junior cited changes the fact that Junior talked to the Feds two years before Alite cooperated, which is the heart of this "dispute."

The Johnny & Gene Show also touches on political issues, a topic close to John's conservative heart.

He has a unique take on issues. Cops, he believes, get a bad rap in some cases because they are forced to do things that shouldn't fall under their purview.
Before the breakup: Junior Gotti, left, John Alite, as his father was being convicted.

"Police quotas for tickets and fines -- that's a means to generate money for the county, city, and state. Politicians are forcing police to do everything but what they should be doing, building rapport with their community. These politicians are the puppet masters forcing police to do things they shouldn't be doing. Blame politicians for abusing the public. Years ago, these government positions hardly paid, but now elected officials get filthy rich with kickbacks and fake donations and security money all stolen from us citizens. It’s a joke."

Society could benefit from certain prison reforms, John says. For example, some inmates who are genuinely rehabilitated can have an extremely difficult time finding meaningful work. Reforms that address this problem, that enhance job prospects, could be quite helpful.

As things stand now, even rehabilitated former inmates could be "forced back into street because they have no opportunity."

Podcasts as a genre have been taking off since the 2014 debut of Serial, a weekly podcast that detailed the story of a journalist’s year-long investigation into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a Korean American high school student in Baltimore. Serial became a phenomenon, with about 2.2 million on average downloading each episode. Serial also raised significant questions about ethics. (Last year the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not be considering an appeal filed by Adnan Syed, who was convicted for murdering Lee and continues to serve a life sentence.)

Six years later and it seems almost that Cosa Nostra News is the only online entity not doing a podcast. It seems that everyone has a microphone now; whether it is their voice or the written word they seek to disseminate, the barrier to entry to being a publisher via Amazon ebook or broadcaster via YouTube podcast is low enough as to be nonexistent today.

Doing a podcast requires only that you record yourself (audio and video, or audio only) and post the results on YouTube, preferably after the segment has been professionally edited. But who will listen/read/download it? Creating content is “easy” today, but getting distribution is not.

YouTube used to allow the small content creator to earn via advertising fees -- but only after a video generated 10,000 views. Then in 2018, YouTube raised the threshold more and added complexity to its model.

To fix its allegedly shaky financials, YouTube's monetization threshold went from the 10,000 views requirement to 1,000 subscribers/4,000 hours of watch time within a 12-month period.

However, not everyone is creating online content for monetary reasons, the Johnny & Gene Show for example….