The Mafia is back — but they’re not badder than ever, unless you’re afraid of podcasts or hang out in eyeglass shops.
Earlier this month, it almost sounded like old times. Ten alleged mafioso from the Gambino crime family — one of New York’s big five families — were indicted by the feds for alleged violent attempts to take over the city’s garbage hauling and demolition industry.
The charges included a hammer attack that sent one worker to the hospital and a threat to cut a New Jersey restaurant owner in half with a knife.
Then it was announced that the FBI was digging for bodies at two upstate New York horse farms allegedly connected with the Gambinos last week.
But the old guard isn’t impressed.
“I knew there’d be no murders [in the indictment],” John Alite, 61, told The Post. The notorious former hitman for the Gambino family estimates that he himself shot between 30 and 40 people, beat up another 100 or so with baseball bats and killed seven others. He served less than 19 years, total, in prison, partly because he cooperated with the feds.
“The mob is small time now. The idea of killing today? They won’t do it. They’ve farmed out a lot to black gangs,” Alite said. “They don’t know how to set up a team to do a killing. You need a shooter, you need a getaway car. These guys talk like children. They lost the mystique. We dressed with some style. These guys are in T-shirts and jeans.”
Michael Franzese is the son of one-time Colombo family underboss Sonny Franzese and grew up to be one of the family’s most powerful capos, at one point reportedly earning millions per week. He left the life in the early ’90s when he got out of prison on racketeering charges and relocated to California.
Now 72, Franzese has more than a million followers on his Youtube channel, is the author of several books about the mafia, and offers a $67 video course called “Wiseguy’s Guide to Getting What You Want.”
“It’s kind of over, I gotta say,” Franzese told The Post of today’s mafia. “The golden era of the Cosa Nostra was from the mid-’50s to the ’80s. Rudy Giuliani put a knife through the heart of the whole enterprise.”
Franzese admitted he misses some aspects of his old life, especially what he called “the brotherhood” of his fellow made men. He has a sense of humor about how he and other ex-mobsters are trading on their past notoriety with podcasts and motivational speeches.
“Sometimes I turn to my wife and say, Are we really doing this? It’s kind of hilarious. But that’s social media for you. That’s where the action is today.”
The recent Gambino family indictments are a far cry from the mob’s heyday in New York, when sensational murders like the 1985 assassination of Gambino boss Paul “Big Paul” Castellano and his underboss Thomas Bilotti outside Sparks steakhouse in Midtown rocked the city — and catapulted John Gotti, who ordered the hit, into gangster superstardom.
Images of the fallen Castellano — capo di tutti capi, or “boss of all bosses” — dominated headlines and TV newscasts ofor weeks. Late night host David Letterman joked that there was a new dish on the menu at Sparks: “Duck!!”
One thing that hasn’t changed are the nicknames the crime families bestow upon members. Before the media dubbed him the Dapper Don and Teflon Don, Gotti was known to his peers as Crazy Horse and Black John.
The recent 16-count indictment lists Joseph “Joe Brooklyn” Lanni, 52, of Staten Island; Vincent “Vinny Slick” Minsquero, 36, of Staten Island; and Francesco “Uncle Ciccio” Vicari, 46, of Elmont, New York.
Diego “Danny” Tantillo, 48, of Freehold, New Jersey; Angelo “Fifi” Gradilone, 57, of Staten Island; Kyle “Twin” Johnson, 46, of the Bronx; and Vito “Vi” Rappa, 46, of East Brunswick are also named, as are Salvatore DiLorenzo, 66, of Oceanside, New York; and James LaForte, 46, and Robert Brooke, 55, both of New York.
Several are accused of kicking up hundreds of thousands of dollars to Lanni — a made man who was the crew’s “caporegime,” or captain — through an intricate web of payments made by companies they owned, according to federal prosecutors.
“”It’s totally unfair,” Rappa’s wife Margherita told The Post. “He’s working all day in a restaurant 14 hours a day. It’s just accusations at this point. Vito is innocent. They had no reason to go after him.”
As for the tip to the FBI about buried bodies, News 12 reported that the farms were formerly owned by Giovanni DiLorezo who shares a last name with one of the men in the indictment. But a top law enforcement source told The Post said he doubts much will be unearthed.
The big five mafia families in New York — the Gambinos, the Genovese, the Bonannos, the Colombos and the Luccheses — are still very much around but their wings have been severely clipped. It’s been a long, slow process that began in 1970 when the RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) was passed into law and, eventually, federal prosecutors — especially then Attorney General Rudy Giuliani — realized it could be used to tie the once untouchable big bosses to the crimes their underlings carried out.
“They’ve been reduced to street criminals,” Giuliani told The Post of today’s mafia. “At one point they had made incredible inroads into legitimate business. They controlled Vegas, they controlled the Teamsters, they controlled the garment, construction and waste carting businesses. They used to control the gay bars in the West Village for blackmail purposes. That’s all gone. Now they’re like little mom-and-pop businesses.”
Bruce Mouw is a former FBI special agent who headed the famed Squad C-16 that went after the Gambino family and helped bring down Gotti in 1990. He said today’s mob “still has captains and they have ceremonies and get made, but they lost control of the unions a long time ago — and that’s where the money and power was.”
“Most of them are broke now and they’re just hustling,” Mouw told The Post.
Today, crime bosses keep their names out of the papers and few know who truly runs each of the five families. Sources told The Post the bosses today are more likely to flip on their underlings.
Reputed acting Bonanno mob boss Mike “The Nose’’ Mancuso got sent back to prison in September after just getting out in 2019. He had served more than a decade after pleading guilty to a murder conspiracy involving the hit of Bonanno associate Randolph Pizzolo in 2004 when he was acting boss.
His crime this time? Being caught using his girlfriend’s Long Island eyeglass shop as a meet-up spot to huddle with mob types and talk about food, prosecutors said.
One of the more successful mobster-turned-podcasters is Phoenix-based Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, 78. Gravano — a one-time underboss for the Gambino crime family who flipped and turned on John Gotti —hosts a podcast called“Our Thing” and has awebsite selling washed-up gangster merch.
A set of four wooden coasters emblazoned with the phrase “Wassa Matter Wit You?” will set you back $29.
“They’re like one-time thoroughbreds who’s been totally castrated and weakened, and rightfully so,” Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, told The Post. “Every other wiseguy has a podcast now. Rather than shooting at each other they talk about their ailments. They’re a bunch of geriatric espresso sippers now.”
Sliwa, who’s also a veteran radio host, long tangled with Gotti’s actual family. John Gotti Jr., who was the acting boss of the Gambino family from 1991 to 1999 when his father went to prison, went on trial three times for racketeering charges that included an alleged plot to kidnap Sliwa, who was often critical of the Gottis on his radio show. The juries deadlocked three times.
(Gotti Jr. declined to comment for this story, citing his aversion to appearing in print with “a bunch of rats,” his spokesman told The Post.)
“They pretend to be big and bad but they’ve lost their juice,” Sliwa said of today’s mobsters. “There are cameras everywhere.”
In fact, Lanni and Minsquero were caught on camera after an altercation at a Toms River, NJ, restaurant on Sept.1 — seen punching a wall, threatening to burn down the place, and hitting the owner and putting a knife to his head.
Minsquero’s lawyer Lou Gelormino told The Post that his client was innocent and looks forward to being fully vindicated.
“Why don’t they pick on Russians or Albanians?” Gelormino said. “It’s always the Italians.”
Back in the day, however, there was less whining and more swaggering.
‘We were untouchable, who was going to stop us? We felt like we had all the power we’d want,” said former soldier in the Gambino crime family said on the 2020 Netflix documentary “Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia.”
Retired fed Mouw said that the mafia mindset — both sinister and psychopathic — doesn’t necessarily go away even if a former mobster goes straight and becomes a social media star.
“You could sit next to guys like that and think, This guy could kill me with his bare hands or a gun and then get up and go eat dinner with his wife and kids. Normal people don’t do that. They’re not people I’d recommend hanging out with.”
This article was originally posted here