Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Gotti, the Last Mafia Icon

More Family Woes

The next family member to fall to law enforcement was Carmine Agnello.  On one of her visits to see her father in Marion prison, Victoria listened during the taped session as John Gotti asked, "So what's the story with Carmine? Does he get in the backseat of the car and think someone has stolen the steering wheel?" This was only one of the demeaning remarks that showed the disrespect Papa Gotti had for his son-in-law. The events of January 2000 would have little effect in changing Gotti's perception of Agnello.

In April 1999, undercover police from the Auto Crimes Division in Queens set up an undercover sting operation in the Willets Point section near Shea Stadium. The sting was set up to catch thieves selling stolen auto parts. Before the month was out in walked Agnello to inform the undercover operators that they would have to sell him parts at half price in order to stay in business. Rebuked by the officers, Agnello twice attempted to burn down the operation to make his point. He was later indicted and charged with coercion, conspiracy, grand larceny and arson, not to mention restraint of trade and enterprise corruption.

On January 25, 2000, Agnello was taken into custody and held on $10 million dollars bail, prompting his then attorney, Marvyn Kornberg, to utter his famous line, "That's not bail, it's a telephone number." Three Agnello associates were also indicted. Queens' prosecutors moved quickly to freeze Agnello's assets, and they even took the unusual step of having police follow Victoria and surround an ATM machine at a Pathmark store to keep her from withdrawing money from the family accounts.

It seems as though, of all the Gotti family members, the stunningly attractive Victoria is the most intelligent, as well as the most talented and successful. The author of several best-selling novels, Victoria had handled the majority of the arrangements to bail out brother Junior a year earlier, only to see him sent away for six-plus years. Now she was looking at the prospect of seeing her husband incarcerated for a lengthy prison term.

After hearings, the bail was reduced so that Victoria, using $125,000 from a book advance, could free her husband with the help of friends and family. Agnello's return to his Old Westbury mansion would be short, but certainly not sweet. Information from the investigation alleged that Agnello was having an affair with one of his employees. Despite initial denials by both himself and his wife, the following year Victoria would divorce Agnello, ending 15 years of marriage to the hot-headed 38 year-old mobster.

Meanwhile, on March 7, 2000, Agnello was arrested again. Named in a sweeping federal indictment, FBI agents awakened Agnello one morning and hauled him into a Brooklyn Federal Courthouse where he was charged and held without bail. This time Victoria was unsuccessful in her attempts to bail him out. He remains in jail as of this writing awaiting trial.

The one offspring who seemed to keep a low profile was Peter Gotti, the youngest of the children. In early April 2001, Peter was pulled over at a Rego Park, Queens police sobriety check point, where he was arrested for driving without a license. After spending the night in jail, he was fined $80. The beefy 26 year-old had a long record of traffic violations, and he'd had his license suspended or revoked on four separate occasions. In 1994, he'd allegedly attacked a policeman who was in the act of issuing him a traffic citation.

In the years since John Gotti's 1992 imprisonment, if there has been anything to make the former Teflon Don happy, it would had to have been the arrest of his former underboss Sammy "the Bull" Gravano. On February 24, 2000, Gravano, his wife and two children were arrested in Arizona for their participation in a statewide drug ring that distributed the new designer drug, Ecstasy.

A subsequent indictment was issued against Gravano and his son Gerard in New York, charging them with conspiring with Israeli mobsters to distribute Ecstasy. As a June 4, 2001 trial date approached, Gravano and son agreed to plead guilty. On May 25, Gravano appeared in the same Brooklyn Federal Courthouse where he had testified against John Gotti. While the families of Gravano's murder victims listened, Sammy told Judge Allyn Ross, "I loaned money to people" who purchased Ecstasy. Gravano was scheduled to be sentenced in September 2001. That same month Gravano goes on trial in Arizona. It's unlikely that within the next fifteen years, the Mafia's most celebrated "rat" will be a free man.

Finally, on April 18, 2001 the New York Daily News announced that John Gotti "has taken a turn for the worse." They reported that the cancer doctors thought had gone away had returned, and now the Dapper Don was suffering from its advanced stages and was expected to last just two months. Gotti's lawyer, Joseph Corozzo, told reporters that John was putting up a brave front. "He's forced to be in a wheelchair," the attorney stated, but emphasized that Gotti "insists on getting about on his own without assistance. John is defiant to the end."

The following week the New York Post reported that the medical facility, the Bureau of Prisons hospital in Springfield, Missouri, had relaxed its regulation and Gotti was allowed to have limited contact with family members. They stated that "he is allowed to hug his wife, his two daughters, his son, and other relatives while prison videotape rolls."

Week from chemotherapy treatments, Gotti was receiving nutrition and medication through intravenous tubes. When not visiting with family members Gotti still spent most of his time in solitary confinement.

On April 25, 2001, Junior Gotti was transferred from Ray Brook prison to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, in the hope that he would testify at the trial of Steve Kaplan, an alleged Gambino Family associate. Kaplan and several others were on trial in federal court in Atlanta on racketeering conspiracy charges, which included loansharking, prostitution, illegal ties to organized crime, credit card fraud and police corruption. The prosecution charged that Kaplan paid Junior Gotti protection money from his high class Gold Club, a popular Atlanta strip club that drew big names athletes.

On May 17, in a private hearing in the judge's chambers, Gotti was asked four questions, to which Junior invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer. He was then returned to 23-hour lockdown in the Atlanta prison. The newspapers reported that Gotti would "likely be returned to prison in upstate New York within days." However, nearly a month later, when it was reported that his father was near death, Junior was still en route back to Ray Brook.

The New York Daily News reported on June 13, 2001 that John Gotti had lost so much weight that chemotherapy treatments were discontinued. The following day, it was reported that the former Teflon Don was suffering from pneumonia and that shunts which helped deliver medicine into his body had developed infections around them. An unnamed source said, "It's a matter of weeks." The Gotti family was upset because they were unable to speak with Junior while he was still in transit. Although he was flown to Atlanta in a trip that took a total of five hours, the government was giving him the "scenic route" back, placing him on a prison bus that had stops in three different states along the way.

Against all predictions, Gotti lived almost another entire year, finally passing away June 10, 2002.

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