Feature Articles

September 2009

Last Days of the Gotti Gang

Part Sixteen: Liar's Poker

By J. R. de Szigethy

     The Fifth prosecution of John "Junior" Gotti, son of the late Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti, in now underway in Manhattan Federal Court, and will feature testimony impugning the reputations of several legendary New York City Police Officers.  NYPD legends Joe Coffey and Bo Dietl - names known to almost all New Yorkers - have been identified in an FBI report leaked to the Media that relies on allegations of John Alite, a former close friend of Junior Gotti who has alleged that several cops during the years of the reign of the Gotti Gang were in league with the Mafia.   Joe Coffey's career involved solving some of the most notorious murder cases in NYPD history, including those committed by the "Son of Sam," David Berkowitz.  Coffey also had the distinction of having arrested John Gotti on three separate occasions.  Coffey solved over 80 Mafia murders during his career, which included his work on New York City's Organized Crime Task Force.  Dietl's career was equally famous, and the subject of his book "One Good Cop," and the motion picture by the same name.

     At the website of his private investigation firm, Dietl blasts the allegations that the Gambinos paid him for sensitive, confidential law enforcement information during his years as an NYPD Detective.  Detective Dietl has been praised for his work against organized crime by people such as James Fox, the former Director of the New York City office of the FBI, and Gregory O'Connell, a former Prosecutor who convicted Genovese Family "Oddfather" Vinnie "Chin" Gigante. 

     O'Connell also was involved in the debriefing of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the former Underboss of the Gambino Family who 'flipped' against John Gotti and revealed everything he knew about the crimes committed by the Gotti Gang.  It was Gravano's business to know who the corrupt members of law enforcement were who were selling information to the Family, and, according to O'Connell, neither Gravano nor other high-ranking mobsters ever revealed any information suggesting Dietl was on the take.  Now, all these years later, Alite, a man who was a low-level drug dealer, and not eligible to become a member of the Gambino Family due to his Albanian heritage, claims to have known what the Underboss of the Family did not know about a celebrated cop whose name appeared frequently in the New York newspapers in regards to the numerous crimes he helped to solve.

     Former Detective John Hamburger has been accused by Alite of selling information to Godfather John Gotti, but again, this was not known to the Underboss, Sammy Gravano.  Nor was the Detective a famous cop like Coffey and Dietl.  However, Alite is very aware of whom this Detective is, because, as he reminded the New York Daily News, he once arrested Alite for possession of a stolen Cadillac.  Alite was also reported to have given up the name of a former cop, Phil Barrone, whom he claims worked for Dietl and supplied information to the Gambinos he received from Detective Joseph Coffey.  Dietl claims he never hired Barrone, and Coffey vehemently denies ever even knowing Barrone.

     However, there may be at least some truth to what Alite has alleged, given a Newsday report that Barrone has copped a plea with the Feds.  In testimony earlier this year in Brooklyn Federal Court, in which Gambino hitman Charles Carneglia was convicted of several crimes, including the murder of Louis DiBono, Alite testified that he was involved in the murder of a drug dealer named George Grosso, and implicated Barrone and another New York Police Officer in that crime. 

     Thus, as the trial gets underway, Junior Gotti is charged for his alleged role in the murders of Grosso and another drug dealer, Bruce John Gotterup, and Louis DiBono, who held the lucrative contract to fireproof the buildings of the World Trade Center and was murdered in the parking lot of the North Tower in October, 1990.  Gotti is also charged with a variety of crimes, including drug trafficking, and the all-important, all-encompassing racketeering. 

     Junior Gotti, however, is likely to be overshadowed during this trial, as the attention of the Media, and members of law enforcement, will focus on the testimony - and credibility -  of John Alite, as the determination of whether his allegations are all lies, all true, or a mixture of both, will have consequences for many, long after this trial has concluded. 

     Members of the American Mafia, by definition, develop their trade through the Art of Deception.  Indeed, often their very lives depend on the ability to convincingly tell a lie, especially to those whom may want to murder them.  This second nature, however, can become a handicap whenever a member of the Mob agrees to become a co-operating witness for the government and be accepted into the Witness Protection Program.  During the process leading up to this, such criminals are repeatedly warned by FBI agents and Prosecutors that if they tell a single lie, they will be disqualified, their co-operation agreement negated, with the result being their serving out the sentence for the crimes they have admitted to, which usually means incarceration for the rest of their lives.  Despite this admonition, some career criminals simply cannot resist their inclination to tell lies; several have been detected doing so, and in at least one case, the serial perjurer nevertheless received his sentence reduction and is now walking the streets as a free man.

     That criminal is "Big Sal" Miciotta, a drug dealer and murderer for the Colombo Mafia Family of New York.  In 1993 "Big Sal" created a sensation when he accused
a decorated NYPD cop, Joe Simone, of being the Colombo Family's 'mole' on the FBI-NYPD Organized Crime Task Force.   Miciotta's own secretly tape recorded conversations proved that Simone was not corrupt, and thus the jury acquitted Simone in 2 hours, with 10 of those jurors standing outside the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in the cold, Winter rain to offer their emotional support for the beleaguered cop and his wife.  Miciotta testified in other trials in Brooklyn Federal Court in regards to the Mob War that was waged inside the Colombo Family from 1989 to the early 1990s, in which at least 12 people were murdered, including one innocent bystander.  In those trials, jurors also acquitted the Defendants, not believing the testimony of Miciotta.  Citing a pattern of lies, criminal conduct and inadequate co-operation, the Feds then dropped Big Sal from the Witness Protection Program. 

     This story, however, did not end there.  Miciotta would get a second chance to obtain a 'get-out-of-jail-free card' by once again going after a target of the Feds, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the deranged Acting Underboss of the Lucchese Mafia Family who was on the lam in the early 1990s after being tipped off by a corrupt member of law enforcement as to his ensuing indictment.  That case was the infamous "Windows" case, in which members of 4 of New York's 5 Mafia families resorted to bribes and kickbacks involving contractors, corrupt Union leaders, and other public officials in a lucrative contract to replace windows in public housing projects owned by New York City.  Casso was captured in 1993, and agreed to co-operate in exchange for a reduced sentence, admitting to the murders of 34 people, many of whom he murdered because he suspected they would turn "rat" and bring him down as the same sort of co-operating witness he would later become. 

     Gaspipe told some stunning truths to the Feds, including the fact that he had 2 corrupt "Mafia Cops" on his payroll for many years, who provided him with information which led to murders - including that of a completely innocent young man, killed through a case of mistaken identity, and that the two cops actually committed 2 murders themselves, one being the blatant, public execution of Eddie Lino, a hitman and heroin dealer for the Gambinos.  Casso obviously took inspiration from Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who by that time had turned against John Gotti and secured his conviction, for which Gravano would eventually only serve 5 years in prison for the murders of 19 people. 

     Casso expected a similar arrangement, but tripped up by the allegations he made against Gravano.  Casso claimed that he and Gravano had trafficked drugs, something Gravano had denied in his plea bargain.  That allegation alone could potentially result in Gotti's conviction being overturned and a new trial ordered, on evidence that the key witness against him, Gravano, had lied about his not having trafficked drugs.  Gaspipe's allegation about Gravano in this regard would later be corroborated, when Gravano was arrested in Arizona for having set up a drug trafficking ring, in which he included his own young son and daughter.

     It was, however, a lie Casso told the Feds about Gravano that was quickly and easily proven not to be true; Gaspipe had told the Feds that he had visited Gravano, who confided to him that he was the one who arranged the attempted murder of the activist Al Sharpton, who was stabbed during a Demonstration in New York City in 1991.  This was clearly a lie, as Gravano was in jail awaiting trial when the alleged meeting took place. 

     Thus, the Feds determined that Casso had to be eliminated as a potential prosecution witness, and it was their former comrade, "Big Sal" Miciotta, who was quick to rise to the task.  "Big Sal" proved his resourcefulness by turning 'rat' on Casso, blowing the whistle to the Feds as to how, while both men were being held in the Witness Protection Program, Gaspipe bribed prison guards to smuggle illegal contraband to himself and other criminals, which included heroin.  Miciotta was last reported to be living in Canada, whereas Gaspipe is in Supermax, the most secure Federal prison in America, which is also the home of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the man he sought to discredit.  

     Because of the single lie Gaspipe Casso told the Feds about the stabbing of Al Sharpton, "Mafia Cops" Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa remained free men for another decade, enjoying a life of decadence in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Their's was the most stunning betrayal of the badge of a police officer in American history, and it would not be the FBI who would bring them to Justice, but, rather, the single-minded determination of one "Untouchable" cop; Tommy Dades.  With Gaspipe Casso discredited, Dades, newly retired, joined forces with Michael Vecchione of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, in launching a new investigation of the "Cold cases" of murder attributed by Casso to the Mafia Cops.  After years of investigation, the case was finally put together, aided by agents of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.  Taken over the Feds in Brooklyn, the two rogue cops were convicted and will serve out their lives in Federal prisons. 

     Thus, Tommy Dades helped to restore the reputation of the NYPD.


     In recent years, New Yorkers have been rocked by unprecedented corruption scandals within the NYPD.  The Mollen Commission of the 1990s revealed that the crack cocaine epidemic had ensnared many cops, some of whom even sold drugs from out of their patrol cars.  Some cops stole drugs from various drug gangs and then sold the drugs to other gangs.  The case of Justin Volpe was unimaginable; in the bathroom of a Precinct stationhouse, Volpe rammed a broken-off mop handle into the rectum of a handcuffed prisoner, Abner Louima, puncturing his colon and bladder and nearly killing him in the process.  Then came the case of the "Mafia Cops," who helped the Mafia in at least 10 murders. 

     It is against this background that New Yorkers will follow with interest the trial of John "Junior" Gotti, because it is not just the Godfather's son who is on trial; it is also the reputation of the NYPD in general and that of the accused cops in particular that are on trial.  The outcome will likely have consequences and repercussions beyond the Fate of Junior Gotti, one such being that, going forward, it may become much more difficult for State and Federal Prosecutors to obtain a jury conviction based upon the testimony of a New York City Police Officer.

To be continued

Related Features by this Author:

Crime Scene - World Trade Center

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Fifteen: "Junior" Gotti Indicted! Again!

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Fourteen: Heroin Chic

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Thirteen: Partial Victory for Gotti and Sliwa

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Twelve: Playing the 'Race Card?'

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Eleven: First Amendment Under Siege

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Ten: Mis-Trial and Error

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Nine: The Three Victims

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Eight: A Father�s Sins

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Seven: �Plan B; to �Get Gotti�

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Six: Homecoming for Junior Gotti

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Five: Junior�s Trial Intersects �Mafia Cops� Trial

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Four: Curtis Sliwa Gets His Day In Court

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Three: "Dirty Dozen" Trial of Junior Gotti Begins

Last Days of the Gotti Gang:
Part Two: Peter Gotti Convicted, Junior Awaits Trial

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part One: The Two Godfathers vs. the Two Ladies


James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at:

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