Feature Articles

October 2004

America's Children
and the American Mafia

By J. R. de Szigethy

     The Gambino Mafia Family, which for decades has victimized America�s children through the trafficking of drugs and production of child pornography, may be about to take on a new direction in regards to it�s treatment of our Society�s most vulnerable; lawyers for John "Junior" Gotti, the son of the late Gambino Godfather, claimed in a Court proceeding that "Junior" has renounced crime and is writing children�s books. The stunning claims elicited an angry reaction from Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who was in Federal Court in Manhattan when lawyers tried unsuccessfully to convince the Judge in Gotti�s case to release the convicted felon on bail. Junior is facing numerous new charges that could send him to prison for life, including charges he ordered the assassination of Sliwa, who was shot five times and narrowly escaped with his life in 1992. Sliwa, a popular radio talk show host, had angered the Gotti Family by denouncing the Gambino Godfather as "Public Enemy Number One" during the dark days when Gotti and his crew roamed - and ruled - New York City at will.

     The new claims about Junior, based in part upon conversations with him taped by prison inmate snitches, came as the FBI began digging up a vacant lot in New York where new information indicates there may be several Gambino murder victims buried. One such person thought to be in the lot is John Favara, abducted and murdered after Favara, a neighbor of the Gotti family, accidentally ran over and killed Gotti�s 12 year old son in 1980.

     Over the years the children of America have received a great disservice by the entertainment industry and some members of the Media, who have portrayed members of the Mafia in heroic and Romantic terms. Gambino Family Godfather Paul Castellano, sometimes portrayed as a "man of Honor" and a gentleman, was, in fact, in charge of a Mafia Family that victimized children through the production and distribution of child pornography. Castellano was in fact indicted on these charges and others, including murder, by Federal Prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani until his murder by the elder John Gotti and his crew outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan in 1985.

     With John Gotti in control, the Gambino Family continued to victimize young people through the trafficking of drugs. Gene Gotti, John�s brother and Junior�s Uncle, is currently serving a life sentence for heroin trafficking. The Gambino Family also during the Gotti years continued to produce and distribute child pornography, with this operation being overseen by Associate Robert "Dibi" DiBernardo, who also handled corrupt labor unions for the Gambino Family. DiBernardo was one of several men eventually murdered by Gambino Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano in order to take over their lucrative businesses, legal and otherwise.

     John Gotti finally was sent to prison for Life after Sammy "The Bull" �flipped� and agreed to testify against him. Once free on the streets of America, Gravano then set up his own young son and daughter in a scheme that trafficked drugs to young people in four States. Gravano also allegedly participated in a plot to assassinate attorney Ron Kuby, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of children of men murdered by Gravano. The lawsuit, which eventually succeeded, sought the confiscation of the profits Gravano received from the sale of his best-selling book "Underboss," written with author Peter Maas.

     Many of the children of murder victims of Gravano involved in this lawsuit were in attendance at the 1997 trial of Genovese Mafia Family Godfather Vincent "Chin" Gigante, at which Gravano testified as a Prosecution Witness. These victims, who grew up without their fathers because of Gravano�s murderous greed, were a sad sight for those who attended the trial.

     One of the few books to deal with the subject of the psychological damage inflicted on children by Mafia operations was the 2001 best-seller "The Lost Son" by former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. In his autobiography Kerik details the emotional trauma he suffered for years due to the first years of his life spent in the custody of his mother, a drug addict who worked as a prostitute for an Ohio operation associated with the Cleveland Mafia Family. Kerik overcame his demons by dedicating his life to the fight against organized crime. Kerik, along with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, became a national hero after nearly losing his life on 9/11. Kerik also narrowly escaped assassination while working as a civilian for the State Department in Baghdad, Iraq.

     The victimization of children by organized crime was also explored by reporters for the Boston Herald and Boston Globe during the late 1990s and into this decade as the scandal unfolded regarding the "Winter Hill" Gang, a group of Irish and Italian mobsters that ruled New England during the past two decades. This crime syndicate, led by "Whitey" Bulger, an FBI Informant, was made up of several pedophiles who preyed on underage girls, many of whom were plied with the illegal drugs that funded the gang�s operations. Some of these sexual encounters were videotaped for the pedophile market.

     Bulger�s top aides were Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and "Cadillac Frank" Salemme.Flemmi�s sexual conquests included two teenagers he would eventually murder once they grew too "old" for him after leaving their teens; Deborah Davis, and Deborah Hussey. Hussey was Flemmi�s step-daughter whom Flemmi first raped when she was 14 years old.

     The Winter Hill gang was protected for many years by FBI agents, including Paul Rico, who had recruited Flemmi as an FBI Informant, and agent John Connolly, who handled Whitey Bulger. Rationale for this arrangement was Bulger�s and Flemmi�s role in assisting the FBI in targeting members of the Patriarca Family, Boston�s original Italian Mafia syndicate.

     In 1994, "Whitey" Bulger went on the lam after agent Connolly tipped him off he was about to be indicted for the murders of 18 people. Connolly is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for his role in these crimes. Retired FBI agent Paul Rico was indicted for his role in helping the gang murder Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler, but Rico died before his trial began.

     As the current sagas have unfolded in New York City, Scott Favara, the now-grown son of Gotti murder victim John Favara, has broken his many years of silence, revealing to the New York Daily News the anguish his family has suffered through in the years since his father�s disappearance. Favara is hopeful that his father�s remains will be found so that he can give him what the family wants to provide - a decent burial.

     This sad and somber story is in stark contrast to some reports on Curtis Sliwa�s and Ron Kuby�s top-rated radio program, syndicated to a national audience every Monday through Friday morning. Their program has had a field day during the first week of these new disclosures and Court proceedings, running devastatingly humorous satires as to how children�s books by Junior Gotti might read. Putting the humor aside, the outcome of the upcoming trial is of grave concern for Sliwa, who is seeking Vindication and Justice, and for Gotti, who is seeking a second chance to live a life outside organized crime.

     Junior Gotti could in fact be on the level regarding his desire to write books, given that he could be taking inspiration from his sister Victoria Gotti, who has carved out a successful career as a best-selling author and journalist. However, Junior might best find inspiration for his writing from the best-selling book of all time, copies of which are available in every prison across America, which addresses the issue of the Sins of the Father being passed on to their sons.

Related stories by this author:

Crime Scene: World Trade Center

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