- Last Updated: 5:21 AM, May 24, 2012
- Posted: 12:44 AM, May 24, 2012
John Gotti whacked the mob.
The publicity-loving “Dapper Don’’ — who could never keep his mouth shut — played right into the hands of law enforcement by transforming the Mafia from a secret society into a public spectacle, a fellow mobster said yesterday.
“He ruined everything,” Peter “Bud” Zuccaro lamented in Brooklyn federal court.
“He publicized everything that was going on. He brought everything that was supposed to be a secret society right out to the forefront, right into the press,” said Zuccaro, a longtime Gambino associate who flipped in 2005 to become an FBI informant.
Gotti took the helm of the Gambino family after orchestrating the very public execution of his predecessor, Paul Castellano, outside Sparks Steak House in December 1985.
And after that, nothing was the same. What had been a secret criminal culture, Zuccaro said, was transformed into a swaggering enterprise — with flashy wiseguys ignoring omerta and bragging about their exploits.
Older mob leaders had stayed under the radar, blending into the workaday world by pretending to hold legit jobs while they conducted their criminal business in quiet meetings.
But Gotti was seduced by the celebrity life — and turned into more of a diva than a don.
He loved posing for cameras and thrived in the spotlight — and soon Mafia secrets became public knowledge.
Quiet meetings in small groups at diners became a thing of the past.
Suddenly mob business was conducted by “guys reporting to the [Ravenite Social] Club while the FBI is surveilling you,” Zuccaro said, speaking of the clubhouse in Little Italy where the nattily dressed Gotti held court.
“He just brought everything into public view,” Zuccaro said.
“He let it be a known thing, you know — flash — everybody hanging out together.”
The mobsters under Gotti often took the easy way out — using violence as a quick solution to problems.
High-profile hits, as well as Gotti’s performance in the spotlight, brought more and more attention from the FBI.
And when the heat was turned up, made men began to flip to save their own hides and became turncoats, like Zuccaro himself.
Zuccaro was testifying at the trial of John Burke, a Gambino associate accused of several mob-related drug murders.
The 56-year-old, who is in the witness protection program, also admitted that in 1986 he lied on the stand as a defense witness at a Gotti trial, where the Don was acquitted.
“I testified as a defense witness for John Gotti Sr.,” Zuccaro said.
“I lied to protect the [Gambino] family. I can’t put a number on how many lies. I lied,’’ he said.
“But I told the truth, too.”
This was not the first time Gotti’s former colleagues piled on him.
Ranking mobsters from New York’s four other crime families have often cited Gotti’s larger-than-life approach to Mafia life as factors that helped authorities bring down the mob.