Story Of Gambino Capo Mikie Scars Continues On "No Excuses" Podcast

Michael DiLeonardo, aka Mikie Scars, rose to capo in the Gambino family during the reign of John Gotti. He was close to the Gottis, and if John Gotti had not crashed and burned in the early 1990s courtesy of the FBI, Mikie Scars' rise likely would have continued, and daily life for him might be very different today.

Paulie Zaccaria
 Paulie Zac, DiLeonardo's mob mentor.

But as fate had it, John Gotti was arrested, tried, convicted, and in 1992 was sent to a Federal prison for life. He was around 10 years into his sentence when he died on June 10, 2002, at the Federal prison hospital at Springfield, Mo. He was 61. (The cause was cancer.) As we detailed in 2015, the Feds filmed Mikie Scars ("I was born on record") attending the Dapper Don's wake. Days later, Michael and others were arrested based on Craig DePalma's sealed Grand Jury testimony. While sitting in jail, DiLeonardo learned that Joseph (Jo Jo) Corozzo, consiglieri, speaking for Peter Gotti and Nicholas (Little Nicky) Corozzo, "stopped all my income, all my money, mob and non mob-related," Michael said. The irony here is that John Gotti had sent a message through Peter Gotti to offer DiLeonardo the consiglieri position circa late-1998-1999. “I turned him down,” Michael said, thus creating the vacancy for Jo Jo.

DiLeonardo had nothing coming to him, he was informed. 

Angered, Michael sent a message back to the administration: "I don't remember dying or getting life yet. I may come home one day."

Soon after, associate Noel Modica sent a message to Michael through Madalina that he'd been shelved.

"She had no clue what it meant," Michael said. But Michael knew, of course. "I couldn't believe (it)."

However, as he took pains to note, "this is not an excuse for flipping. There are no excuses for flipping if you are in the life. So it crushed me. Broke my heart. In that state of mind I made the choice to flip. It obviously was not a good time to make a huge, life-changing decision, but I did, to my chagrin." 

Michael DiLeonardo and RJ Roger
DiLeonardo, left, RJ Roger.

Flipping was a traumatic experience that haunts DiLeonardo to this day and probably will for the rest of his life. This much seems obvious to anyone who thoughtfully watches the podcasts he started doing last summer with RJ Roger, his cohost. 

As he tells RJ in one of them, "There's people in jail and not coming home because of me, because of crimes they committed that I divulged... I don't like myself for what I did; it's still in me."

Michael remembers his testimony, almost verbatim, as if it were engraved on his soul. (We know this because he often referenced it to get his bearings when we were working on some of the many stories we've written with his assistance over the years.)

Michael's testimony against John (Junior) Gotti in February 2006 was published online at Thomas Hunt's American Mafia website, during which he discussed, among other things, his brother Robert ("He was shot dead") and his Mafia mentor, Paulie Zaccaria ("You consider Paulie Zac your mentor?" "Yes"). The testimony offers only the barebones of a biography. There is obviously more to the story. 

Enter the podcasts, which are Michael's opportunity to put some meat on the bones, which he has been doing carefully and deliberately over the course of many episodes. We learn how Paulie Zack sought to take the young Gambino associate to sitdowns to school him. On at least one occasion, however, one of the parties objected, and Michael was compelled to exit the venue, which we imagine would have been a social club. Even then, Paulie Zack was able to transform the experience into a teachable moment. 

Life is like an onion. You peel off one layer, and then you weep, so they say—and there always seems to be another layer....We suddenly wanted to know more about Paulie Zack, whose father was a brother-in-law to Salvatore D'Aquila, aka Toto, one of the original Mafia bosses in the United States. We wanted to know if Michael, while under his mentor Paulie Zac, ever got another chance to join a sitdown, and if he did, what was the lesson learned? We don't know any of this because that thread of the podcast stopped there. But interest is testament to the strength of the content offered.

Then there are the few topics Michael apparently isn't ready to discuss even now, all these years later. We doubt he's playing coy. Rather, he's simply still not ready to discuss certain traumatic events, like the death of his brother, which happened more than 40 years ago. In "If you kill one of ours, we kill two of yours (see below)," DiLeonardo and RJ discuss some of the ramifications of cold-blooded murder, and about this, we get a wealth of detail. (They may be Mafia members, but they die just like we do, and they also have wives, daughters, mothers, fathers, and brothers who must soldier on without them.) "He killed people, he was involved in murders and ultimately paid the price that he doled out to others... My brother accepted that reality... he thought he could get killed." Michael reveals that his brother's wife "didn't talk to me for 20 years or more." "My nieces still pay the price for it. They're broken kids. They are grown women now and have children of their own." "The guys who shot my brother in that car, I am not mad at them. I am not happy about (what they did)... (but) I can't hold them accountable. If my brother was ordered to shoot one of them in the head, he would have done it regardless of their family." "It was because of the guy above that he died, for politics."
As for the actual mechanics of the shooting—the motivation, the identities of the shooters as well as those behind the killing—we get nothing, only "I will explain in the future what led up to it" and "I don't want to get into it right now."

Michael DiLeonardo, aka Mikie Scars
A pensive moment: Mikie Scars BF (Before Flipping).

The relationship between Michael and RJ is a key dynamic of the podcast. It evolves. In some podcasts, we felt like we were watching a Socratic dialogue; in others, a debate; sometimes we thought we were watching a movie in which an older man from the street is schooling a young apprentice about the ins and outs of the life. (RJ, by the way, authored The Olive Branch: 36 Rules of the Bosses - A Treatise, a book that details 36 rules he found while researching more than 100 years of underworld history.)

The podcast also is about more than the Mafia. Discussion on various topics, including batting averages, even, is occasionally worked in. 

In another blog post, we will write about the podcasts on the Gotti Tapes during which Michael "translates" the transcripts of recordings of John Gotti and others engaged in what they thought were private discussions about Gambino family business in the apartment about the Ravenite social club in Little Italy.

A rundown of some YouTube episodes of "Mikey Scars" we recently perused:  

"Mikie Scars and RJ Roger discuss Cosa Nostra and why no member of The Life ever has the right to cooperate. In this show, Mikie discusses John Gotti, Pete Gotti, Paul Castellano, Sammy the Bull, and Carlo Gambino."

"Michael DiLeonardo and RJ Roger discuss the death of Robert DiLeonardo, the brother of Michael who was killed in 1981. Additionally, Michael discusses Anthony Spero, Jimmy Calandra, Paulie Gulino, and Frank Cali."

"Michael "Mikie Scars" DiLeonardo and RJ Roger discuss the popular Valuetainment / Patrick Bet-David between Michael Franzese and Sammy the Bull Gravano. Who is right? Who is wrong? Are they both right? Also discussed in this show: Paul Castellano, John Gotti, John Riccobono, Carlo Gambino, and more."