Federal prosecutors indict Howard Beach mob boss

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Prosecutors leveled charges against 17 suspected members and associates of the Gambino crime family Tuesday, including two Howard Beach brothers of John Gotti, for their roles in an alleged shakedown of a longshoreman’s union and an attempt to extort money from a Hollywood film star.

A three-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York State Organized Crime Task Force resulted in a 68-count indictment that focuses on the Gambino family’s alleged efforts to use “threats of force, violence and fear” to control the International Longshoreman’s Association and businesses on the Brooklyn and Staten Island waterfronts.

“When it comes to the waterfront, the greedy grip of organized crime knows no bounds,” said U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad, whose office will prosecute the case.

According to the indictment, portions of the proceeds from the alleged crimes were turned over to acting Gambino family boss Peter Gotti, 62, of 156-41 89th St. in Howard Beach, during eight separate street meetings in the southern Queens neighborhood.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Genser, one of the prosecutors, described these street encounters as “kicking up tribute” to the boss. The payments were reportedly as high as $10,000 a month.

Gotti, the eldest brother of jailed family leader John Gotti, was arrested along with another brother, alleged mob captain Richard V. Gotti, 59, of 154-34 84th St in Howard Beach. John Gotti’s nephew, Richard G. Gotti, 34, of Valley Stream, L.I., was also named in the indictment.

The arrests mean Vincent Gotti is the lone Gotti brother not in jail or under indictment. Gene Gotti, 55, is serving a 50-year federal prison term for heroin trafficking. John Gotti’s son and successor as mob chief, John A. Gotti, who had a business in South Ozone Park, was indicted on racketeering and extortion charges in 1998 and sentenced the next year to seven years in prison.

Peter Gotti, was charged with racketeering and eight counts of money laundering and faces up to 180 years in jail if convicted, prosecutors said. He was arraigned Tuesday afternoon with the other defendants before Judge Cheryl Pollack in Brooklyn federal court and ordered held pending a Friday hearing, said Genser.

Other defendants were held for hearings or released on bail ranging from $150,000 to $1.5 million, he said

The charges against the 17 defendants include racketeering, extortion, money laundering, running an illegal gambling business and witness tampering, prosecutors said.

They said convictions in the case would go a long way toward loosening organized crime’s hold on New York’s waterfront.

“Today’s charges ... present an historic opportunity to deliver perhaps the most powerful blow yet to organized crime’s control over the New York waterfront,” said Vinegrad

Court papers allege the Gambino family gained control over the Brooklyn and Staten Island chapters of the ILA through intimidation and coercion. Elections were rigged and the trustees of the union’s health benefit fund were forced to award a lucrative prescription drug contract to a GPP/VIP, a company that kicked back $400,000 to the mob, the papers said.

The family also extorted tens of thousands of dollars from waterfront businesses and from laborers themselves, according to a detention letter filed in federal court Tuesday. The Gambino clan tried to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from “an individual in the film industry,” the letter said. Lawyers later identified that actor as action star Steven Seagal.

The case is the latest in a series of law enforcement assaults on organized crime’s corruption of labor unions on the New York/New Jersey waterfronts through control of the ILA, prosecutors said. In January, a federal grand jury indicted eight members of the Genovese crime family, including its boss, Vincent Gigante, with extortion of the union.

The Gambino and Genovese families have traditionally divided control of the metropolitan area waterfront, with Brooklyn and Staten Island coming under Gambino control, court papers said.

Former Gambino boss John Gotti, who lived in Howard Beach, was sentenced to life in jail without parole in June, 1992, on a series of charges, including racketeering and murder in the aid of racketeering. He is in a Missouri prison, where he is suffering from terminal cancer.

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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