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Gotti Tapes Show Rift in Crime Factions

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<i> From Associated Press</i>

Prosecutors moved closer Tuesday to the centerpiece of their case against reputed mob boss John Gotti with surveillance tapes showing a rift between factions of the Gambino crime family over alleged drug dealing.

Gotti is accused, among other things, of planning and supervising the 1985 killing of Paul Castellano to gain control of the family, a crime syndicate considered the most powerful in the United States.

By 1985, law enforcement officials said, dissension was growing in the ranks of the Gambino family because of Castellano’s unyielding opposition to drug dealing, prosecutors said.

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In June, 1985, Angelo Ruggiero, a reputed mobster loyal to Gotti, and Gotti’s brother, Gene, were facing trial for heroin trafficking and Castellano wanted copies of FBI surveillance tapes made in Ruggiero’s home.

“I’ve been tryin’ to take your part with these tapes from the very, very beginning . . . that you don’t have to give them to him,” Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce told Ruggiero, according to transcripts of tapes prepared by the prosecution.

“I can’t stop the guy from always bringing it up. Unless I tell the guy: ‘Hey, why don’t you . . . stop bringing these tapes up.’ Then all we gotta do then, we go and roll it up and go to war,” Dellacroce said.

Ruggiero refused to hand the tapes over to Castellano because of Castellano’s edict that any Gambino family member involved in drug dealing would be murdered, prosecutors said.

Ruggiero and Gene Gotti were later convicted on drug charges and are serving prison sentences.

“You know who’s happy with them, absolutely nobody’s happy with them. Absolutely nobody’s happy with them,” John Gotti said of Castellano and his top assistant, Thomas Bilotti, on an August, 1985, tape.

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Gotti’s murder and racketeering trial is his fourth since 1986. The first three trials, on various charges, each ended in acquittal, earning Gotti the nickname “Teflon Don.”

Gotti, 51, faces life in prison if convicted. He is accused of Castellano’s murder and the murder of others, loan sharking and tax fraud.

A juror in Gotti’s 1987 racketeering trial was indicted Monday on obstruction of justice charges after a Gotti associate offered him a $60,000 bribe to vote for acquittal, authorities said. The jury found Gotti not guilty.

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