Wanted: One boss for notorious crime family
With the reputed acting boss and underboss
charged in a federal racketeering indictment, the
tattered remains of what was once the nation's most
glorified - and perhaps most ruthless - crime family
are up for grabs.
And when the dust settles, someone other than a
Gotti, or Gotti appointee, may run the Gambino
family for the first time since the mid-1980s,
Two reputed ranking family members, Joseph and
Nicholas Corozzo, are being talked about as the
possible next boss, said people familiar with the
inner workings of the family.
"Looks like Little Nicky and his brother JoJo are
back in the driver's seat," a onetime mob insider
said. "Power struggle begins."
Authorities created a power vacuum on Wednesday
when Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri, 69, of Englewood
Cliffs became the latest in a long line of alleged
Gambino crime family leaders slapped with
First there was John J. Gotti. Then John A.
Gotti. Then Peter Gotti.
Just how much luster the Gambino family has lost
since the mid-1980s is exemplified by the rapid
ascension of Squitieri, a Harlem-bred,
heroin-dealing tough guy, to acting boss,
Alternately known as "Zeke," "Bozey," "Sylvester"
and "The Animal," Squitieri is a veteran of the
notorious "Purple Gang," which controlled heroin
trafficking in Harlem in the 1970s. He also was a
John J. Gotti confidant who spent many late nights
partying with the Dapper Don, those familiar with
both men said.
"John loved this guy," said Bruce Mouw, a retired
FBI agent who for 18 years headed the New York
office's Gambino unit. "But he was not qualified to
be underboss, let alone acting boss of the family."
At the side of Gotti and Squitieri during those
wild nights, Mouw said, was another Englewood Cliffs
wiseguy, Alphonse "Funzi" Sisca, who also was among
those charged with racketeering in the 53-count
"Funzi and Zeke," Mouw recalled. "They are tough
guys. Street guys. Crazy. Have a wild streak.
Mouw said they were also loyal soldiers who were
among the first Gotti "straightened out" - wiseguy
slang for inducted as members - after he wrested
control of the family from Paul Castellano in a
bloody coup in 1985.
Squitieri and Sisca both emerged from federal
prison in 1999 after serving 11 years on heroin
convictions. Since then, Squitieri, 69, rose from
soldier to capo to underboss to acting boss, a rapid
ascension that insiders attribute to his close
relationship with John J. Gotti.
"When Gotti went to jail in '92, he kept the
power with the Gottis," Mouw said. "It's a good
thing that these guys don't use a talent scout to
find their best CEOs."
The vast majority of Gambino operations lies in
New York. In New Jersey, the family that once made
millions on labor racketeering has been forced out
of the union business and into relying mainly on
shakedowns of local businesses.
With recent prosecutions of other families in the
Garden State, however, the Gambinos have once again
begun to expand operations.
"Quite frankly, we've had a lot of successes with
the Genovese and DeCavalcante families that created
a vacuum that the Gambinos have tried to fill," said
James E. Furry, supervisor of the FBI's Gambino
squad in Newark. "At least until the others
Experts estimate that the Gambino family,
traditionally with its headquarters in Brooklyn, has
upward of 200 "made" members and as many as 2,000
associates. The Gambinos are active in New York, New
Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida and
"In the Twenties, gambling, extortion and labor
racketeering were their big business," Furry said.
"In the Forties, it was gambling, extortion and
labor racketeering. In the Seventies, it was
gambling, extortion and labor racketeering.
"In the Nineties they spread out ... but still
their bread and butter is gambling, extortion and
The Gambino hierarchy will likely quickly appoint
a capo to oversee New Jersey operations, and that
person will travel to see Squitieri and the new
bosses for guidance, Furry and others said.
Squitieri's arrest nonetheless could mark the end
of the Gotti reign over the family, they said.
John J. Gotti's son, John A. Gotti, and then his
brother Peter, a former sanitation worker, ran the
family after the Dapper Don's conviction.
Some authorities viewed Squitieri as a "seat
warmer" for one of the Corozzo brothers.
"Little Nick" Corozzo was once slated to succeed
Gotti as boss, but a guilty plea to a 1996
racketeering indictment sent him to prison and left
control of the family with the Gotti clan,
Nicholas Corozzo, who was released from prison in
June 2004, remains on federal parole.
But according to published reports, Nicholas
Corozzo is the target of a federal grand jury
probing two murders as well as the 1992 shooting of
radio host Curtis Sliwa.
Peter Gotti, who is in prison, remains the
"official" boss, according to authorities.
Mouw said the Gambino family remains a force in
organized crime despite a repeated assault over the
years by the government.
"Still the most powerful and influential is the
Genovese family," he said. "The Gambinos are
probably No. 2 ... There's a lot of young guys
"The FBI and the DOJ [Department of Justice]
can't just say we've won our war on organized crime
or in five years, they'll be back."
Federal authorities in New Jersey are already
setting their sights on the next generation of
"It doesn't mean that they've gone away. They
regenerate. We're working guys right now that are
the sons of guys that are prison for life." Furry
The most important conversations for the family's
future may be taking place inside the Metropolitan
Corrections Center in Manhattan.
"Believe me, a lot of politics is taking place in
MCC," said one former mob associate. "A lot of
messages are being sent to the streets through
lawyers and girlfriends.
"For sure, if 32 were indicted, you can bet a
half-dozen are trying to make deals [with the
government] right now."