Feature Articles

August 2002

Introducing John Givens

By John William Tuohy

     One of the more interesting characters to step onto the Mobs fleeing stage of fame in the past few years is John Givens, a self professed "one-man crime wave" is six foot four and 400 pounds, (or as he put it once "A pizza shy of 400 pounds.")

     He didn�t scare easily. Once, when a hood refused to tell Given where he stashed his money and drugs, the professional juice collector took a knife and slit the man's nostrils so he could fit burning cigars up his nose, but the man still refused to give any information -- until Givens pulled down the man's pants and put the knife to the man's testicles, the man finally relented, telling them where to find his money and drugs.

     In another prolonged torture session, the victim begged to be killed. He didn't give up any information until Givens sliced off his ear. "He started losing so much blood, I guess he just got delusional and he didn't know what he was saying. He held out, he was a very tough guy"

     For some of his biggest dope scores, Givens and his gang outfitted themselves as fake Drug Enforcement Administration agents, equipped with phony arrest warrants and the Crown Victoria cars favored by the agency. They would "arrest" a drug dealer -- often ones associated with the Colombian cocaine cartels -- and torture him until he gave up his drugs or money or both.

     Once, Givens and his gang, dressed up as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, kidnapped a cocaine dealer and his girlfriend and took them to an apartment where Givens put the woman in a bedroom and then handcuffed and blindfolded the dealer with duct tape and hung him over a bathtub so they could wash any blood down the drain while they tortured him.

     Givens bragged that he and his gang did the same thing to another man, whom they believed was hiding $11 million. The victim finally begged Givens to kill him. The mans body, they assumed he was dead after he passed out, was dropped off and left for dead in a deserted field, but he survived.

     When asked Givens if he had a method to his torture, Givens said he did not. "I never thought of it as a procession of tortures," he said. "Whatever happened, happened." Years later, when Givens was about to be sentenced for racketeering in 1997, he told his judge, "I'm not the monster everybody's tried to make me out to be." And, he wanted his judge to know, that with regard to the tortures he'd conducted, "it was just business.

     He later helped plot ingenious thefts, including $500,000 of clothing looted from a warehouse after a gang member had posed as a worker with a security company to disconnect the burglar alarm

     Givens,who did a stint working for Gold Club owner, Steve Kaplan, a New York born son of a magazine stand operator inside New York's Grand Central Terminal, who had built his fortune on a series of strip clubs along the east coast. Givens was a bouncer in Kaplan�s latest venture, the Club Boca discoth�que in Boca Raton.

     Givens also collected debts for John DiGiorgio's, a nephew to Gambino crime family boss, John Gotti, who ran a loan-sharking operation, which Steve Kaplan helped finance. It was Kaplan who introduced Givens to the Gambino�s.

     Occasionally, Kaplan would use Givens to collect debt owed to him personally, including one man who had stolen boat for Kaplan but then pocketed the money. "I lumped him up� Givens said "took whatever money he had on him and left him 10 bucks for lunch. The money came from Steve Kaplan, through John DiGiorgio. The pain came from me."

     Givens said "Kaplan never talked about his association with the Gambino family, but Steve had to kick out because of the club, to John Junior and from the club here in Atlanta and Boca..Every month he has to give them an envelope with money" for protection from everything. There's no problems, you know? Anybody wants to get involved with the club or, you know, take over the club, [Steve] would have no problems.

     Police also suspect that it was Steve Kaplan who ordered more than 20 beatings of people, all doled out by John Givens, who did not repay loans at high rates in interest

     When members of the Bonnano crime family ordered John Givens to kill Kaplan so they could take over his clubs, Givens declined the order, even though the hoods offered him a cut in the operations after they took over and assured him John Gotti himself had agreed with the move, which, apparently, wasn�t true. "Kaplan was the number one money earner for the family" Givens said "but that I came within days of carrying out the contract. We were going to take him out to the ocean and dump him, but I backed off, I mean, if an earner like Kaplan gets whacked with what he means to the family, half of New York is going to come down to find out what happened"

     Givens said he often saw John Gotti Sr.,. then boss of the Gambino crime family in New York and one of his Capo�s or captain, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo visit Kaplan in Florida regularly and saw Kaplan give them envelopes stuffed with cash that Givens said was skimmed from the nightclub

     Given knew John Gotti Jr. a well. One time, Gotti had left a message for Steve Kaplan that he would be flying into the Miami airport and expected to be picked up. Only Kaplan hadn�t gotten the message and Gotti, after waiting fifteen minutes, called the club, enraged.

     Kaplan was scared to death and sent Givens to pick up the heir. to the Gambino crime empire. "Everybody was petrified -- Kaplan was white," Givens said. "Leaving the boss of the Gambino family standing on the curb with his luggage isn't a pretty sight."

     Gotti was purple with rage and when he arrived at the club, he tongue-lashed Kaplan to the point that Givens feared Gotti was going to order him to hurt Kaplan or worse. "I don't care how much money he is worth to us," Gotti screamed . "He doesn't think we kill people anymore. . . . A roll of linoleum and some waterproof tape and you can disappear just like that."

     One night a stripper at another Florida club, Pure Platinum, openly boasted that she was Junior's girlfriend, according to a mobster.

     "She was just bragging that she was his girlfriend and that when he comes down there, you know, he goes to see her," Campo said. "She started mentioning John Gotti Jr.'s name, tells me that she knew John Junior and this and that. So I called the club and spoke to John Givens."

     The stripper was summoned to Club Boca, and when the hood arrived later, he found her in tears and frightened. He explained that it was not a good idea to go around dropping Junior Gotti's name. "You don't want to say somebody's name just to anybody because you never know. It could be a CI (confidential informant) or cop, and it heats things up,"

     In 1997, Givens was arrested for racketeering and was about to be sentenced when he decided to flip after police discovered his plan to kill five witnesses against him and after he learned the Mafia had put a contract on his life.

     Givens was the key prosecution witness in the ongoing Gold Club trial in Atlanta, although Kaplan�s lawyers quickly ripped apart most of his statement and pointed out that Givens hoped to have his 13-year prison sentence cut for his cooperation and that he had "has had years to put together a script and concoct a story."

Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to

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