He Shoots! He Scores!
Part Two of Two
By John William Tuohy
To add insult to injury, the government froze the properties causing an angry Gotti to ask reporters "Who's the racketeers?" and went on to claim that he was nearly broke and had to borrow money from his sister, best-selling author Victoria Gotti. "It's just a game to them," he said "But this is my life"
The government placed liens on his Mill Neck, L.I., mansion, rental property in Queens, a commercial building on Long Island and plots of land in rural Pennsylvania, because, the government argued, he had purchased the properties with income from criminal activity from Scores and other deeds. They also feared that Gotti will transfer the properties to his family. The liens barred Gotti from selling the property. "It's all mortgaged out. Everything with equity they took," Gotti said. What's left over, he said, offers him "extremely minimal equity."
But they weren’t done with him yet. After Gotti borrowed $125,000 from his brother-in-law, Carmine Agnello, to pay legal bills for his four lawyers, he transferred money out of his bank account to Agnello's account. "They seized [Carmine's account], too," he said, shaking his head in disgust because, he says, that money was earmarked to repay the loan. Gotti's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, went one step further: "It's outright thuggery."
And as far as investigators are concerned, he also has no visible means of support.
According to a money analysis of John Jr.'s finances, he doesn't appear to hold a job, nor can he explain the source of most of his six-figure income. When questioned, his secretary, Delmy Avila, who works out of Jrs office on Sutphin avenue in Queens said "I don't know what he does. He receives checks." Avial volunteered that she is paid in cash
Earlier in the year, Avail and Gotti’s accountant were recorded discussing a bogus mortgage application Gotti had filed for his mansion in which he claimed earnings of $324,000 from a real estate firm called JAG Brokerage. But investigators said JAG showed no signs of genuine business activity. Paul Tong , the accountant is heard to say that he worried that investigators would discover that JAG had no payroll.
Avila responded, "I know that, but they don't."
Gotti could explain the source of only $593,000 of the Long Island home's cost, saying the remaining $124,800 had come "from unknown sources."
The financial investigation led agents through checking accounts and transaction records of Gotti and Gotti-connected firms and although they were able to determine that Gotti has "tons of cash" in multiple bank accounts, a 14-room mansion (with3.07 acres of sweeping lawns and an unobstructed view of Oyster Bay, three bathrooms, two fireplaces and a 10-foot-high fence, a tennis court, a swimming pool, a 220-foot dock and guests house and a $300,000 country vacation home in the Poconos, "he is effectively unemployed. John Gotti Jr. follows none of the daily patterns of a person with ongoing responsibility at any normal business, either as an employee, officer or owner,"
He also owned 50 undeveloped acres in upstate New York which he later sold for $75,000. Gotti also had part-ownership in two companies that repair auto glass - Neptune Glass and Pay Less Glass in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The police say Gotti took over Neptune Glass through extortion.
Unemployed or not, in 1996, $300,000 was deposited in one of several bank accounts, a stockbroker managed an unspecified portfolio held in the names of Gotti's children, he received $8,800 monthly rent from businesses on his property in Queens and $115,800 a year from rent on commercial property in Long Island. He also spent $8,000 in one Christmas season on Tickle Me Elmo dolls and other stuff at a Toys 'R' Us in Queens.
The origin of most of Gotti's bank deposits was characterized as "unknown" and, according to the report, "substantial assets appeared to come from "no-show jobs" used as cover to make it appear he was earning a legitimate living."
And the proceeds from the "no-show jobs" were substantial: $1,900 a month from Cross Island Auto Glass, $2,800 a month from Neptune Auto Glass and $1,350 a month from Zollo Concrete - totaling more than $72,000 in 1996 alone.
Zollo was secretly overheard worrying about the investigation because he had Gotti on his payroll as a salesman, though he did no work. "So that means you paid him on the books, and everything was legit. What's the problem?" Zollo replied, "No-show job. Racketeering."
The investigators found checks from Vincent Zollo, "negotiated" by Gotti, for amounts of $10,000 and $20,000 that Zollo called bonuses. There also was a $50,000 payment Zollo called a loan.
Zollo and his two companies, Zollo Concrete and Zollo Contracting, and an equipment rental firm that authorities contend is run by a Gambino associate, were later investigated for have gotten more than $10 million worth of work from public agencies in less than five years to build everything from playgrounds to boat basins for the city of New York. The basis for the investigation was the suspicion that Zollo billed the School Construction Authority as if they paid workers one wage while they actually paid far less and pocketed the difference.
Investigators from the state Organized Crime Task Force raided the companies' Brooklyn headquarters and carted away boxes of records looking for evidence.
City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, whose authority paid Zollo firms nearly $6 million on six parks projects leaped to Zollo defense and said that "In one case, they even returned money because the job came in below cost,"
The school authority had an interesting connection to the Gambino’s. In one job, Michael Menechino, collected more than $500,000 in pay during the six-year renovation of Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, but rarely if ever on the job. "I was there 30 times and saw him twice, once when he was driving away," said Thomas Horn, 55, a plumbing supplies trucker The mobbed up project became one of the School Construction Authority's biggest boondoggles, ballooning from a projected $30 million to $103 million due to change orders and cost overruns.
Michael Menechino, then 29, was paid from the contract from 1992 until 1997 as the onsite steward for Teamsters Local 282.
A union steward normally earns over $100,000 a year because they have put in their time and are contract-savvy, veteran truckers. Menechino, however, admitted that he never worked as a driver. Instead, he is the son of Peter Menechino Sr., an alleged Gambino associate who was barred from the Teamsters for mob ties and serving as mob messenger, relaying shakedown payments and information between corrupt union officials and Gambino underboss, Sammy Gravano.
Under questioning, the elder Menechino Sr. told investigators how he arranged onsite steward posts for mob-approved members. Among them were his sons, Michael and Peter Jr., because Gravano wanted allies who could be bribed to ignore contract violations on the sites. He also owns JAG Equipment Company, with annual sales $100,000, illegally hid from contract monitors the fact that it was working on two city projects. JAG was located at the same address as yet another company Junior owns, New York City Auto Salvage on Liberty Ave. in Ozone Park, It has annual sales of $300,000.
Cash fat or not, Gotti almost got thrown back in jail for not paying a security firm, United Security Inc., of Staten Island, for a month. The firm terminated 24-hour monitoring of his every move. coverage, which had been ordered by a federal judge. United called Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White's office and advised of Gotti's deadbeat status, "despite the benefits of a reduced cost and flexible payment terms,".. of $24,000 a month The feds threatened to arrest Gotti, and within minutes, Gotti handed the security guard on duty a $10,000 check, the money borrowed from his sister.
Through it all, Gotti insists he is a normal businessman with a wife and four kids hounded by the government and media because of his famous name.
A while later, Gotti has put his mansion up for sale and started looking for a more modest place.
"In order to obtain the money he owes the government as part of the plea agreement, Mr. Gotti is looking into purchasing another home and selling his Mill Neck home. No decisions have been made." His lawyers said. And they should know. Since the indictment was handed down in 1998, Gotti had been forced to pay a team of five high dollar defense attorneys
Later, under his plea agreement, Gotti would agreed to pay $1 million in restitution.
The point of the governments nik-picking was wear Gotti down, mentally and financially, to the point where he would accept a that he would be willing to turn state evidence an d government lawyers approached with the deal. Gotti, who had already been in jail for five months, passed on the offer and shortly afterwards, the feds set a trial date, January 1999.
Prosecutors then tried to disqualify Bruce Cutler and three lawyers from the case because they might appear in FBI surveillance tapes that will be used as evidence, they told a judge. However, the judge rejected the bid.
When John hired Cutler on, his father said "You make your Uncle Pete tell Bruce . . . that you don't want [Cutler] to be a campaign manager running a fucking publicity campaign. We're not lookin' for no fucking false publicity. We're lookin' for the truth to combat this thing."
Later, Gotti Sr. was recorded say "My son, who is the most legitimate, upstanding citizen you could find if you wanna be technical, look what he gives them to hang their hat on. Over here you got the smartest kid in the world, over here you got a babbling idiot."
The government released the tapes, I fact of the hundreds of hours of conversation it had of Gotti speaking from prison, it seemed only capable of releasing only those tapes that would embarrass the Gotti family.
In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge, Gotti attorney Gerald Shargel and his three co-counsels called the release of the transcripts to the media part of "a curiously sadistic effort to ridicule both the defendant and his father."
Then, in a temper tantrum, the government froze young Gotti’s assets as collateral toward the $20 million it alleges the Gambino crime family made in illegal profits under Gotti's leadership and tried to force him to stand trial twice by trying to split the phone card charges off into a separate trial. "They want to get as much blood as they can get," he said.
In retaliation, Prosecutors tried but lost a bid to revoke Gotti's $10 million bail because he held jailhouse meetings with co-defendants Gregory and Craig DePalma to give his okay to plead guilty.
After that, the prosecution demanded an anonymous jury for Gotti because his father allegedly once paid off a juror. Gotti's lawyer Gerald Shargel denounced the anonymous jury request as "unjust" because it hinges on allegations against the defendant's father ."In this country, there's no charge of corruption in the blood,"
Then prosecutors abruptly dropped all telephone card fraud charges against Gotti, without explanation.
On October 1, Gotti was released after posting a $10 million dollar bail, a ridiculous sum, since its extremely doubtful that the very visible Gotti would skip town, and if he did, where would he have gone that he wouldn’t have been caught?
The bulk of the bail money came from sister Victoria and her husband Carmine Agnello’s Old Westbury, Long Island mansion. The balance was provided by sister Angel and 25 other family members and friends.
The conditions of the bail, rarely set on others and designed to run Gotti into the ground, was that Gotti was to wear an ankle bracelet and would be unable to leave his estate for any reason. FBI agent were to make random searches and each of his visitors had to be approved by the government, his phone was tapped and he was forbidden to use a fax machine or a cell phone.
Gotti was also forced to provide, from his own pocket, pay for a 24-hour private security firm to monitor his every move. The cost of the security was $21,000 a month.
The pressure was put on for Gotti to accept a deal. Of the 40 men indicted with him, by March, only Junior and one other Gambino were left to stand trial.
Scores bouncer Willie Marshall testified against Gotti after newspaper revealed that he police had uncovered about $300,000 in unexplained cash in his Yonkers apartment after his arrest, and, he claimed, he learned Gotti suspected him of selling drugs, a line of work outlawed in the Gambino family.
"I was accused of selling drugs, which I had never done, by the bosses of the Gambino crime family," he said. "I felt threatened. . . . They use that as an excuse to get rid of you."
Marshall appealed to Alphonse (Allie Boy) Persico, the college-educated reputed acting boss of the Colombo crime family, and asked Persico if he could jump to the family named after slain Mafia leader Joseph Colombo. Persico said no. "He advised me it was not a good idea for me to leave the Gambino crime family to come over to his faction, because it might make things worse for me."
Marshall also the feds that he turned over $50,000 shakedown money to Gotti, the cash taken from Defoe construction, highway contractor. "Defoe was required to make a payment of $50,000 to John Jr.," Marshall said. "It's more or less a contribution to show he's onboard, he's with the family."
When the Genovese crime family started to shake down Defoe Gambino soldier, Greg DePalma, "was acting under orders from John (Junior) Gotti to handle the situation." Marshall said
DePalma was ordered to instruct Defoe that they were with the Gambino family, and that the company must pay $50,000 in "tribute."
Mickey Hops Sergio, the Gambino associate who was the contact man at Scores, was the next to flip after pleaded guilty to sealed counts and agreed to cooperate with Manhattan U.S. Attorney. Sergio's son Stephen pleaded guilty to tax evasion and racketeering conspiracy, admitting he took money from the Scores coat room. The father began negotiations with the feds only if his son got a favorable plea arrangement
That same afternoon, two other Gambino members cross over the lines as well. Joseph (Davey Crocket) Fusaro, swore out a statement that he collected tribute, paid to Gotti, by a Connecticut gambling ring, and Dominic (Fat Dom) Borghese, who agreed to go on record that Gotti was a mob boss.
The government positioned professional informer Frank Gioia Jr. an d prepared to unleash the former Luchese hood against Gotti. Gioia, had already testified and helped to convict more than 60 defendants, including five capos as well as former Gravano crew members Louis (Big Lou) Vallario and Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo,, of racketeering, murder, drug dealing and other crimes.
Gioia had told the FBI of at least one mob slaying that Gotti ordered that was carried out by DiLeonardo and, while he ran wild on the streets, Gioia met regularly with Gambino capos John (Jackie Nose) D'Amico and Salvatore (Tore) Locascio and soldier Greg DePalma and as a result "Has a wealth of information on the Gambino family" a federal prosecutor said. "He's already got better numbers than Sammy," (Gravano)"Gioia grew up in the mob. He's articulate, and his knowledge goes back long before he became a made man,"
Gioia, then 31, was inducted into the Luchese crime family in 1991 when he was dating the daughter of a Luchese associate who had been killed in a construction-site accident that the crime family suspected was deliberately caused by the Gambino family. He said he met Gotti a year later and could have testified about Gotti's reputed status as acting boss for father As a reward for being the government primary informer, Gioia's seven-year sentence was reduced to time served and he was released from prison, given a new identity and relocated under the federal witness protection program.
On April 6, the day jury selection was to begin, Gotti surprised everyone near him when he agreed to accept a government offer to serve 77 months for extortion, loansharking, gambling, mortgage fraud and tax evasion. In addition, he forfeited $1.5 million in cash and property. On October 18, 1999, over six months after pleading guilty, John Gotti Jr. entered a medium-security federal prison New York, which was still 300 miles from his family. Gotti Jr. became Inmate No. 00632-748 at the Federal Correctional Institution at Ray Brook., New York, about 300 miles from Manhattan and just outside the Lake Placid ski resort area.
Dressed in his standard black clothes, he was due to report in at 2 p.m., Gotti arrived a half-hour late. When a reporter asked how he felt , he replied "I’d rather be home" and then began the bureaucratic obstacle course faced by every other inmate.
He surrendered his jewelry and civilian clothes for government issued khaki pants and shirts, a bedroll, blankets and sheets. He got to keep his wedding ring.
For the next five years, he would rise at 6 a.m., have breakfast (required by prison rules) and begin work detail at 7:30 am. making canteen holders for the U.S. Army in the prison factory at $1.25 per hour. After dinner, he would be marched back to his cell block by 8:30 p.m., and watch television or read until lock down at 11 p.m.
Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to MobStudy@aol.com
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