New mob indictments target last of Gotti era

Alleged members of the Gambino crime family arrested
February 8, 2008 8:45:31 AM PST
When the American Mafia's last superstar, John Gotti, went to prison for life in 1992, he left a few trusted men behind to steer his criminal empire.Now, it may be time to say "buona notte" to the last survivors of his notorious reign.

Federal and state prosecutors on Thursday indicted what was said to be almost the entire remaining hierarchy of the Gambino crime family, the once-powerful regime that has been limping from crisis to crisis since Gotti's death.

The operation seemed designed to clear away the last of the "Dapper Don's" confidants, at least those not already serving time.

The list of the accused - more than 80 people in all - included a roll call of well-known gangsters in their 60s. Many have previously been imprisoned for mob-related crimes.

Among them were two Gotti associates who prosecutors said were part of a committee that helped the crime family's heir, John A. "Junior" Gotti, run the operation during the initial years of his father's imprisonment.

John D'Amico, the 71-year-old reputed to be the acting boss, was charged with being at the top of the broad racketeering conspiracy. Nicholas Corozzo, 67, was accused of extorting construction companies, running a major illegal gambling operation in Queens, and ordering a gangland hit that also took a bystander's life in 1996.

The allegations against the gang were the usual litany for a big mafia case: skimming from unions, extorting tribute payments from construction companies, loan sharking, gambling. The allegations spanned decades, although prosecutors said many of the illegal acts took place just in the last few years.

The mob "still exists in the city and the state of New York," said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "We like to think that it's a vestige of the past. It's not."

The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Benton Campbell, whose office spearheaded the case, told reporters the investigation had ensnared the remnants of the Gambino leadership and would bring "closure to crimes from the past."

Most of the suspects were in custody late Thursday. Some have already been arraigned. Reputed Gambino consigliere Joseph Corozzo, 66, pleaded not guilty to charges that he distributed cocaine for 12 years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"He's never been involved in drugs," said his son, the defense lawyer Joseph Corozzo Jr.

To little surprise, the case will feature a few Gottis too.

The late don's younger brother, Vincent Gotti, and his nephew, Richard G. Gotti, were charged with distributing marijuana in the late 1990s and with planning a murder in the spring of 2003. Prosecutors said the intended victim was shot several times, but survived.

Notably, there is no mention in the case of the "Teflon Don's" son, who recently beat a racketeering case by claiming to have left the Mafia for good while serving time for racketeering. His sentence expired in 2004.

As the mob's reach has deteriorated in recent years, many of the prosecutions targeting its remaining members have centered on its persistent influence in unions and various labor trades, and much of the new case is no different. It centers partly on an unnamed Staten Island construction executive who prosecutors said had been repeatedly extorted by the Gambinos.

But there is blood in the indictment too.

Perhaps the most disturbing charges were lodged against Charles Carneglia, a 61-year-old reputed mafia soldier who was recently released from prison. He was accused in five slayings dating back to the days when the crime family was still run by its namesake, Carlo Gambino.

Carneglia's victims included Albert Gelb, a New York state court officer gunned down in 1976, and Jose Delgado Rivera, a security guard killed during an armored car heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1990, prosecutors said.

He was also fingered in the death of reputed Gambino associate Louis DiBono, who was shot to death in the World Trade Center's parking garage in 1990. John Gotti and several underlings were later convicted of orchestrating the killing, which was related to DiBono's contract to install fireproofing at the Trade Center.

Carneglia, who was also charged with extortion, securities fraud, robbery and marijuana distribution, is the brother of John Carneglia, who was accused of being one of the triggermen who rubbed out Gambino boss Paul Castellano in the 1985 hit that propelled Gotti to power.

John Carneglia is now serving a 50-year sentence for racketeering and drug trafficking.

The New York case coincided with a series of raids in Italy targeting alleged members of Mafia families who control drug trafficking between the two sides of the Atlantic.

Authorities said the investigations, though technically unconnected, signaled an international attempt to disrupt Gambino ties to Sicilian counterparts.