Earlier this week I had a fascinating conversation with some people I know, They were all knowledgeable about the American Mafia, and had either been directly involved or had researched it. Part way through the discussion the name John Gotti Jr cropped up. It was like opening a Pandoras Box. You could have cut the air with a fire axe! The venom came not only from an ex Gambino crime family member, but also from an ex FBI undercover agent.

By the time our phone call had ended I was surprised that my telephone had not melted!

It was clear that for people in the know, John Gotti Jr is about as popular as BP are in the states that have coastline on the Gulf.

Yesterday I assembled the same group of people to explore the John Gotti Jr story. This panel is without doubt the most knowledgeable group of people about organized crime possible.

Andrew DiDonato was an associate with the Gambino family for most of his adult life. Andrew does not pull any punches. He tells it the way he sees it. His recent DVD is a chilling introduction to the world of organized crime.

Denny Griffin is a well respected author on the subject of the American Mafia, his book The Battle For Las Vegas is on the ‘must read’ list for anyone that wants to understand the history of Vegas and its many ties to organized crime. He is also the co-author of Cullotta, a difinative biography of Tony Spilotro’s right hand man Frank Cullotta. Some books win awards, this book did something else, it solved a 27 year old cold case. The file that had been gathering dust for almost thirty years was dusted off, and finally a double homicide was stamped solved.

Jack Garcia also joined us, he is a an ex FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino family, he spent two years on their payroll and was so successful that the family proposed to make him a ‘Made Man’. A strange situation indeed!

The FBI decided to roll up the operation at that time, I am sure that they got cold feet at the possibility of having an agent in such a high ranking position.

In 2008 Jack released his first book Making Jack Falcone which details his life in the Gambino crime family, this year it has been released in paperback, and well worth a read.

My final panelist was D. Alan Johnson, he is a Private Military Contractor, as such he does not operate in the US, but rather in harms way in other countries. He is well versed in Organized Crime, and has much to say about it. He is also the author of two books, a novel set in Africa, Asgaard, which in some ways explores the relationship between international governments and organized crime, it also touches on how even reputable companies can become unwitting bed fellows. His other book How To Get A Job In The War On Terror, is a guide for those brave enough to want to follow in his footsteps.

So, why do these people hold John Gotti Jr in such low esteem? I really did not know much of the story prior to the radio program.

I think Jack Garcia summed it up well, the Mafia existed and flourished because it was a secret society, John Gotti Jr changed that.

His father John Gotti Sr had the nickname of the ‘Teflon Don’, he always seemed to manage to distance himself from any law enforcement activity, but his luck finally ran out, and in fact died in jail. He none the less kept his secrets to himself, those secrets went with him to his grave.

John Gotti Jr in many ways shares the ability to shake off the law enforcement activities, but does it in a very open style. Four times the Feds have tried to get him and four times he has wriggled out of problems. This would normally be seen as good planning, and great strategy. However he has broken the golden rule. Being indicted brought enough publicity to cause the family to reach for the Tums, John Gotti Jr has taken it to new levels, his recent appearance on 60 Minutes, did nothing to quell the queasy stomachs of those remaining family members.

A secret society is no longer secret when the leader speaks out.

Is it possible that this latest publicity stunt might backfire?

With this as the backdrop, the discussion started.

Usually my job as host is to keep the fire burning by adding new logs to it. There was no need for that activity in this program. The panel hit critical mass within the first couple of minutes and stayed there!

We even managed to drift into a discussion about Guardian Angel founder Curtis Silwa. A man that has little love for the Gambino family. His encounter with them left him with 5 bullet wounds. Did he deserve it? The answer is no. Did the Feds screw up in that prosecution, the answer is likely yes. The Silwa hit was attributed to John Gotti Jr, a payback for some unkind remarks that Silwa had made on the radio. Prosecuting the perps of the shooting should have been a slam dunk. The problem was, they brought the ‘Teflon Son’ into the mix. The Curtis Silwa trial was the first of four that John Gotti Jr would escape guilt through hung juries. A jury verdict of 11 to 1 sounds like victory, but it is not.

While no one is so bold as to claim there was a pay off, the inference stands.

ny_dl_mug.jpgThe popular saying ‘Crime Does Not Pay’ seems to cut both ways when dealing with the Gotti family. For sure, many of the foot soldiers, such as Andrew DiDonato discovered a hard lesson. The code of ethics was a one way street, you trusted the people ‘up the line’ implicitly. Yet that trust was not a two way street.  The foot soldiers were a disposable item when needs be. Andrew found himself in the situation where it was just a matter of time. Would he die at the hands of the the people that he called ‘family’, or would the Feds get him? The Feds represented the same death sentence, it would be behind bars, it would be some punk with a shank, but death was still the only option on the table.

In many ways Jack Garcia faced the same risks, to be caught as an FBI undercover agent would have shortened his career. Jack survived the mob, my guess is that he did it by the skin of his teeth. Both Jack and Andrew had much to lose, Andrew was offered, and for a period of time, accepted life in the Witness Protection Program. Jack took a different path, he retired from the FBI, he was, and is Jack Garcia. Is there a price on his head? My guess is yes, but ‘whacking’ Jack would be a very bad move.

You can listen to the whole program here. There are no punches pulled. With this crowd, people don’t get killed, they get ‘whacked’.  Listen at your own discretion.

Simon Barrett

Be Sociable, Share!