Allan May, Crime Historian
Allan May is an organized crime historian, writer and lecturer. He also writes a monthly column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Contact him at AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com
Wilfred “Willie Boy” Johnson
Source Wahoo – Out Sourced
By Allan May
In late 1984 Assistant U. S. Attorney Diane Giacalone was preparing her RICO case against John Gotti and others. Giacalone was said to be a Lily Tomlin look-alike; she was portrayed by Lorraine Bracco in a made-for-television Gotti movie. Bracco gained fame playing Karen Hill, the wife of wiseguy Henry Hill in the movie “Goodfellas,” and Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist in the HBO series “The Sopranos.” Giacalone grew up in Ozone Park and claimed that she often walked past the Bergin clubhouse and its assortment of mobsters and mobster wanna-bes.
Giacalone asked the grand jury to indict Johnson. She then planned to expose him as an informant thereby forcing him into the Witness Protection Program. The FBI’s Gambino Squad headed by Bruce Mouw was less than thrilled about Giacalone’s case. They were working on their own “fool proof’ case and were upset when they learned that Giacalone was threatening to reveal Johnson’s informant status. They backed out of the case citing “administrative and procedural differences.” Top FBI officials, fearful of losing one of their top informants and destroying the confidence of other informants about the FBI’s ability to keep a bargain, fought back. However, efforts by Thomas Sheer and James Kossler were turned back by the decision of Eastern District U. S. Attorney Raymond J. Dearie to support Giacalone.
Johnson’s handler, Agent Abbott, informed Willie Boy about what was about to happen.
“I will be killed,” Johnson said. “My family will be slaughtered.”
Abbott advised Johnson that his best bet was to take a plea, testify, and go into the Witness Protection Program.
“I will never testify,” Johnson stated.
On March 18, 1985 Abbott and his boss met with Giacalone to turn over the “Source Wahoo” files. Giacalone planned on giving them to the defense lawyers stating that they were entitled to them. The agents were confused as to why she was doing this voluntarily. Why not at least wait until they were requested?
“Sorry, boys,” she replied.
On March 25, 1985 Johnson’s name appeared on an indictment along with John and Gene Gotti, Neil Dellacroce and his son Armond, Charles and John Carneglia, Anthony Rampino, Nicholas Corozzo, and Leonard DiMaria. The ten men were charged with two RICO counts - racketeering and conspiracy – and facing sentences as severe as forty years in prison and fines of $50,000.
Seven of the ten indicted were soon rounded up and arraigned. On March 28, New York City police detectives and DEA agents arrested Johnson, John Gotti and his brother Gene just after 4:00 a.m. as they played cards at the Bergin Hunt & Fish Social Club. Neil Dellacroce was hospitalized and receiving chemotherapy, while his son and Charles Carneglia had not yet been located.
Johnson was the last to be arraigned. Giacalone told Judge Eugene Nickerson that Willie Boy, now the lone defendant in the courtroom, should be jailed because “no conditions of bail would secure his appearance.”
The startled Nickerson asked for an explanation.
Giacalone replied, “The reason is that Mr. Johnson has been an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a period of over fifteen years, including a period up through the present time.”
Johnson stood before the judge with his fists clenched so tight that his white knuckles clearly showed the words “true” and “love” that were tattooed on them. He adamantly denied the Giacalone’s statements.
“Not true, your honor,” protested Johnson.
Giacalone repeated to the judge Johnson’s statement to Agent Abbott that he and his family would be slaughtered. Nickerson bought Giacalone’s argument and Willie Boy was carted off to the Metropolitan Correctional Center where he would spend the next two years. In “Mob Star,” Jerry Capeci describes Johnson’s existence:
“Willie Boy was confined in his cell 23 ½ hours a day. His access to showers and recreation was restricted. A glass door to the pen enabled other inmates to taunt him. In a few days, he complained he found blood in his urine and needed medication. On Easter Sunday, his wife, who had sent messages from Wahoo to the FBI many times, was denied visitation. When his lawyers visited, he was led to them in leg shackles.
“The lawyers demanded a hearing to protest the ‘cruel and inhumane’ treatment, which they said was Giacalone’s attempt to force Willie Boy to become a witness, and to reapply for bail because ‘his life is not in danger.’”
Johnson spent sixteen months in the special section until the pretrial moves were completed.
A year after the arrests Giacalone won headlines as she was able to have Gotti jailed. She argued before Judge Nickerson that due to Gotti’s role in the Piecyk assault case he should have his bail revoked on the RICO indictment. The judge agreed and Gotti was placed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center that also housed Willie Boy Johnson. Sammy Gravano discussed a meeting that took place between the two there:
“It was up on the ninth floor,” Sammy said. “John told Willie Boy, ‘You did a bad thing for all them years. But I’ll forgive you. It’s not the first time it happened. You can never be with us after this case. But nothing will happen to you.’ Willie Boy asked John to swear on his dead son’s head, and John did. And Willie Boy never did testify.
“John totally conned Willie Boy. I don’t know how he fell for this, but he did. Lock, stock and barrel.”
During the trial Gotti went back and forth daily to the courtroom for months with Johnson. Willie Boy, represented by lawyer Richard Rehbock, sat near John at the defense table as Gotti’s attorneys, Bruce Cutler and Barry Slotnik, ripped apart the prosecution’s turncoat witnesses – James Cardinali, Salvatore Polisi, and Matthew Traynor. The trial ended in March 1987, on Friday the thirteenth. Gotti, Johnson and the others were found not guilty. This verdict would seal Gotti’s famed nickname of “The Teflon Don.” However, it was later discovered that one of the jurors had been bribed.
While in protective custody, Johnson was caught trying to set up a heroin deal over the phone with his son. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year, but since he had already served that much time, and more, awaiting the RICO trial, he was set free.
Based on Gotti’s commitment to him, Johnson felt he was out of harm’s way. Although banned from the Bergin, Johnson was back living in the old neighborhood with his wife and children and working at a construction job. Johnson was also rumored to be dealing in drugs again.
In the wake of the Giacalone case, the FBI records were turned over to Gotti’s lawyers. The information confirmed that it was Johnson who led the authorities to Gotti when he was hiding after the McBratney murder. The information also revealed that Willie Boy had provided information that allowed the FBI’s Gambino Squad to build their narcotics case against Gene Gotti, Angelo Ruggiero, and the others.
Gotti bided his time in reacting to the disclosed information. If Gotti had a soft spot for his old friend it hardened during the summer of 1988. Apparently Johnson had also passed on information to the authorities about the son of imprisoned Colombo boss Carmine Persico. Reportedly Alphonse Persico challenged the Gambino family by questioning, “What are you waiting for?”
In discussing the murder plans with Gravano, Gotti was concerned about the hit team failing and forcing Johnson into government protection where he could give up even more incriminating information. The contract was given to Eddie Lino, an ex-Bonanno associate and one of the shooters in the Castellano killing. Lino reportedly “sublet the contract” to a cousin in the Bonanno Family. The cousin in turn gave the assignment to three Bonanno gunmen to carry out.
On August 29, 1988 the killers struck. At 6:05 a.m., as Johnson walked from his Flatland’s home in Brooklyn to his car, the gunmen fired nineteen rounds at him. Johnson was hit once in each thigh, twice in the back, and at least six times in the head. The hit team then dropped jack-like spikes on the street to prevent the possibility of pursuit.
Hearing the shooting, Johnson’s wife ran out screaming. She cradled his head in her lap, but Willie Boy had been died instantly.
In 1992, Bonanno capo Thomas “Tommy Karate” Pitera and Vincent “Kojak” Giattino was indicted and tried for the murder of Willie Boy Johnson. Giattino was found guilty. Pitera, suspected in as many as thirty killings, was acquitted, but was later convicted of six other murders.
Copyright A. R. May 1999