How John A. Gotti Became a Crime Fighter

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 Photograph by Dina Litovsky


They murdered. They dismembered. They burned the bodies. They dealt drugs, robbed banks, assaulted and extorted innocent people. They were greedy, manipulative, remorseless criminals. And now one of them might be your neighbor.

My name is John A. Gotti, and you’ve probably heard of me. My father, John Sr., was convicted of being the boss of the Gambino crime family, in 1992, and was sentenced to life in prison. He died there 10 years later. Afterward, the FBI accused—but never convicted—me of succeeding him as the “acting boss.”

Between 1987 and 2009, I was indicted eight times on everything from assault to ordering murders, for which I could have received the death penalty. I stood trial six times, five between 2005 and 2009. The government exhausted over 17 assistant U.S. attorneys and more than 100 cooperating witnesses against me, many of them violent felons, who altogether took part in over 100 murders and untold assaults, robberies, and drug deals.

In exchange for testifying against me, many of these people were released from prison, in some cases relocated back to the old neighborhoods where they committed their initial crimes. Some have even rejoined to form new criminal groups (with the protection of their government overseers). I call it the “Witsec Mafia.”

Witsec is the Federal Witness Protection Program. Founded by the Department of Justice in 1971, the program has provided protection to nearly 19,000 witnesses and their families. Witsec costs the government millions of dollars a year, but it generates results: Trials involving Witsec have an 89 percent conviction rate.

The program has been called “Team America,” but the way I see it, it’s anything but patriotic. Because while Witsec provides a much-needed service to society, it also has been a boon to a confederation of career criminals, who have magically been reborn as upstanding citizens. In some cases, they even get new identities with clean records and are allowed to keep their ill-gotten fortunes, as well as government stipends. Sometimes they are placed in new communities, where their criminal pasts are hidden, not just from neighbors but from local law enforcement.

And, in too many cases, these “rehabilitated” gentlemen continue their lives of crime.

Look, I’m not bitter. I was a criminal who deserved to go to prison, and in the end, I won. I’m home with my family and friends, and I run numerous businesses, while some of my former peers are serving life sentences, many for crimes they did not commit, often because rats lied about them. I often feel guilty I’m free and they’re not.

And I’m not out to trash the program. I want Congress to improve it. To that end, I’m working on Witsec Mafia, a book and docu-series that will expose the program’s flaws, detailing how ruthless criminals abuse it by capitalizing on the government’s naïveté, especially that of the ambitious agents and prosecutors eager to win cases at any cost.

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UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 27: Accused gangster John A. “Junior” Gotti, center, leaves Manhattan Federal Court with his attorney Charles Carnesi, left, Wednesday, September 27, 2006 in New York. A U.S. judge declared a third mistrial for Gotti, who was charged with ordering the 1992 kidnapping of radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa. Gotti, 42, son of the late Gambino crime family boss, faced up to 30 years in prison had he been convicted of racketeering and conspiracy charges. Image via Adam Rountree / Bloomberg / Getty

Like in the case of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. The ex-Gambino underboss turned snitch was the star witness at my father’s 1992 trial, where he testified that he was changing his life because he didn’t want kids to follow in his footsteps. The Feds stood up for him, and he was sentenced to just five years in prison, even though he admitted to 19 murders.

After spending only four years in custody, the last three in cushy witness-protection units, Gravano was relocated to Arizona. Allowed to keep his millions, he partnered with best-selling author Peter Maas to write a memoir. Gravano stated in it that when he cooperated, “for the first time” in his life he was “finally doing the right thing.” He said he was worried about his son, who he feared would follow him into the mob life. “At least, my own kids know now what the life really is,” Gravano wrote. “I hope other kids will realize it, too, from my experience.” Maas wrote that Gravano was “determined to create a new life for himself.”

Within five years of his release and fewer than three after the book’s publication, Gravano was indicted, along with his wife and children, for running a drug ring with a gang of white supremacists. (His son was convicted and received nine years.) He was even recorded trying to convince murderous former Gambino soldier turned informant Dominick “Fat Dom” Borghese to join him in what he was calling “the Arizona Mafia.”

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WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 1: Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, a former member of the Gambino family, prepares to testify 01 April, 1993 about corruption in the sport of professional boxing. Image via STEVEN PURCELL A FP / Getty Images)

That was then. Now there is John Alite. An Albanian from Queens who pleaded guilty to murders, drugs, assaults, and home invasions but was sentenced to only 120 months, in April 2011. His sentence was further reduced, in January 2012, and he was released.

Yet in a 2003 deposition, one of Alite’s former associates, Michael Malatin, testified that Alite threatened to rape his wife and slit her throat. While under cross-examination at my trial in 2009, Alite himself admitted that he threatened to make Robert Lamendola— another of his former associates—watch as he raped his wife, Lorraine, who testified in 2006 that Alite also threatened to hurt their children.

I retired from the streets in 1998. I took a plea on a case I could have beat, paid more than $2 million in fines, and went to prison for seven years on the condition the government would let me walk away after my release. Instead, they indicted me again, in 2004, and tried to convince jurors I was an active member of the Gambino family.

“Look, I’m not bitter. I was a criminal who deserved to go to prison, and in the end, I won.”

After failing at three racketeering trials and a parole and tax trial, they indicted me again, not in New York but in Tampa, Florida, a city I had never even been to. Their bet: that a jury there would convict me on a bogus multiple- murder case created around the lies of their new star witness, John Alite.

During two trials, in 2009, Alite testified that he was my hit man and a major, multi-millionaire mobster—“one of the biggest drug dealers in New York City,” he said, with about 150 men working for him. Unlike Gravano, however, who was what he said he was—a high-ranking gangster—Alite is a fraud, who was exposed in lie after lie, under cross-examination, as a low-level drug dealer. The judge declared a mistrial when the jury split on my innocence or guilt. But even the jurors who voted guilty did not believe Alite’s testimony. One juror, Paul Peragine, told reporters that “almost the entire jury didn’t believe the star witness; he wasn’t credible at all.”

And now? Even though he was laughed off the witness stand, in an attempt to rewrite history, Alite, 55, has hired Doug Anton, the same entertainment lawyer-agent who represents Sammy Gravano, to put them in “projects” together. Anton even stated that he knows the formula to get his clients around the Son of Sam law, which enables them to make money off their crimes, even though the law was enacted to protect their victims.

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Former Gambino mobster and government informant John Alite poses on a Queens street. Alite will be giving victim impact statement at sentencing Friday in Brooklyn Federal Court. Image via Mark Bonifacio / NY Daily News / Getty

Alite claims he’s a “changed man.” “The Streets are a dead end, and a waste of life,” he says on his website. “If I can change one kid’s decision to join a gang, to enter ‘the life,’ or to throw away his future, then I know everything I’ve been through hasn’t been in vain.” Alite is even marketing himself as a motivational speaker and anti-bullying expert. He claims he’s trying to help at-risk kids and has retired FBI agents vouching for him publicly, including Phil Scala, who was in charge of Gambino investigations throughout the country.

Scala, who supervised my cases, in 2017 introduced Alite to speak to children at the Hackensack Police Youth Academy, saying: “The John Alite that you’re gonna see here today…what he’s doing right now is, he’s a very busy man, and he does this pro bono…because we respect each and every one of you…. You’re important to us.”

Alite also claims to work as an adviser to Protocol Security Partners, a company owned by former FBI agent Dave Gentile, one of Alite’s handlers when he was a confidential informant during the 1990s. In 2015, Gentile said on television: “John has turned his life around completely, and he needs to be given kudos for what he has done. I’m trying to do whatever I can to…align him with…legitimate businesses…. I’ve got the highest regard and respect for how he’s comported himself since he’s been out of jail.”

What hogwash—especially since Gentile made his comments after Emmy-winning journalist Peter Lance sent evidence to Alite’s sentencing judge, Susan C. Bucklew, that Alite had violated his supervised release by threatening a woman on the internet and consorting with other turncoat murderers. These included former Bonanno-family associate Jimmy Calandra, who admitted to his involvement in the murder of a woman in 1993, and Patsy Andriano, who committed a murder with Alite while Alite was a confidential FBI informant in 1996.

But Bucklew did not send Alite back to prison. She left him free to threaten women and hang out with murderers while marketing himself as a “changed man” to at-risk kids.

During our investigation of the Witsec Mafia, Chris Kasparoza, Richard Stratton (writer-producers on this project), and I have come across case after similar case. In Alite’s case, sources were developed, including members of his immediate family, who provided evidence of him laundering money while committing construction and welfare fraud. One source kept repeating, “He has to be stopped.”

Thanks to my experience as a street guy, I can see through the fraud of “changed men” like Alite. As part of my effort to give back to the society I committed crimes against, a portion of the proceeds from this endeavor are going to a team of attorneys working to explore victims’ rights.

And John Alite and Sammy Gravano are merely the tip of the iceberg. For instance: After Marion Albert Pruett testified against his cellmate, in 1979, he was released into Witsec, only to go on a multistate crime spree, murdering five people. Ku Klux Klan leader Frazier Glenn Miller received a five-year sentence after testifying against 14 white supremacists in 1988. Then, in 2014, he went on an anti-Semitic killing spree in Kansas.

From the Russian mob, turncoat Mani Chulpayev was indicted for conspiring in the 2012 murder of an Atlanta rapper—after being given numerous passes for new crimes. This past October, The Arizona Republic published an exposé by Robert Anglen about former Lucchese soldier turned snitch Frank Gioia Jr.—who was going to testify against me in 1999—scamming millions from unsuspecting investors under his new identity, Frank Capri. Anglen wrote, “Judges have ordered Capri or his companies to pay plaintiffs $65 million in cases” from “at least 48 lawsuits…in 31 cities.”

“Thanks to my experience as a street guy, I can see through the fraud of ‘changed men’ like Alite.”

Gioia’s former brother-in-law is Colombo-family turncoat Frank Smith, who pleaded guilty to five murders—including one of a judge—and who appeared in Facebook pictures with Alite while Alite was on supervised release. During that time, Alite also lived with former DeCavalcante-family turncoat Sean Richard, and, according to his relatives, ran construction scams with Richard as well as with murderous Genovese-family snitch John “Johnny Balls” Leto.

After Alite got off supervised release, earlier this year, he went to Florida and posted pictures with “Big Anthony” Russo, the former Colombo-family acting captain turned snitch, who was still on supervised release and who, like Alite, took part in murders and home invasions. Prosecutors also noted, when trying to get Russo out of prison early, that he once helped cut off a man’s penis. So why was Russo allowed to hang out with Alite?

Well, one reason Alite gets away with it is because he is working with the Feds again, this time informing on Albanian criminals, according to his relatives, including his brother. Another reason: In their efforts to convict me, the Feds covered up the fact that Alite was a confidential informant during the 1990s, a time when he allegedly took part in a murder. If that came to light, it would have shattered Alite’s credibility as a trial witness, and it could spark a major scandal.

Read a longer version of this story at WITSEC Mafia