Peter Gotti (in photo) may not get the press enjoyed by his late younger brother, Gambino crime boss John Gotti. But as his successor to the family business, even if from a federal prison cell following racketeering and money-laundering convictions, Peter Gotti is every bit as versed in the art of putting the fear of God in a witness. A convicted Gambino family soldier, Primo Cassarino, personally can vouch for that. Another mobster, Genovese family capo Lawrence Ricci, isn’t talking – he recently “disappeared.”
Cassarino, 49, was convicted along with Gotti, and Gambino family captain Anthony “Sonny” Ciccone, back in March 2003 for shaking down action-film star Steven Seagal, among other offenses. Now serving a 135-month sentence for racketeering and money-laundering, Cassarino has decided to play for the Justice Department’s team. His October 18 testimony in a Brooklyn federal court in the trial of two ranking International Longshoremen Association (ILA) officials, Harold Daggett and Arthur Coffey, revealed the extent to which the family still operates under a code of primitive retribution, Gotti-style.
Explaining why he went on trial in the earlier case, Cassarino explained that it was a matter of life or death. “I didn’t have a choice,” he said. “If I didn’t go to trial, I’d have been killed by Peter Gotti. Gotti told his brother Richard, ‘If anybody cooperates, kill them and their families.’” Yet unknown to the Gottis, Cassarino already had begun talking to the FBI. As the government’s star witness, he’s revealing all kinds of details about his role as a bagman for Vincent Nasso, head of VIP/GPP, a firm prosecutors are alleging used mob influence to land an ILA pharmaceutical benefits contract. Cassarino reportedly carried money and drove a car for Ciccone, who controlled Gambino dock operations in Brooklyn and Staten Island. It was Ciccone, testified Cassarino, who arranged the Gambino-Genovese sweetheart deal that made Daggett assistant general organizer for the union. Cassarino’s testimony corroborated a wiretap that caught Ciccone saying that Daggett’s position would revert to the Gambinos after Daggett became ILA president. Daggett and Coffey, the latter an ILA vice-president and its Miami chieftain, each have been charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and extortion conspiracy.
Cassarino is one lucky man. Another defendant set to take the witness stand, Lawrence Ricci, recently disappeared. In testimony given on October 17, a mobster in the federal witness protection program, Peter “the Crumb” Caprio, 76, testified that Ricci was a Genovese crime family soldier. Unfortunately, this soldier isn’t so much marching as fleeing – assuming he’s still alive. Ricci has not been present in court since October 11. A lot of people want to know his whereabouts. U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser has issued an arrest warrant. The FBI is looking for him. The prosecution plans to try Ricci in absentia, but fears he may have been murdered. Martin Schmuckler, Ricci’s lawyer, put it simply: “All I know is he’s not here.”
The criminal trial, which began on September 19, is separate from a civil RICO suit the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed in July for the purpose of removing four ILA senior officers, including Daggett and International President John Bowers. The Justice Department wants to place the union under federal supervision until it proves itself crime-free. Union officials deny involvement in corruption, and plan to fight the suit. (Journal of Commerce, 10/18, 10/19; New York Newsday, 10/19; New York Post, 10/19).