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Strip Club Tied to Mob in Testimony

May 17, 2001

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ATLANTA (AP) _ A former mob insider testified Thursday that the owner of a profitable Atlanta strip club funneled money to the Gambino crime family of New York and had ties to the mob dating at least to the 1980s.

Dino Basciano, who has testified in other federal trials since he began to cooperate with authorities in 1994, said Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan was an ``earner associate″ for the Gambinos.

He said Kaplan answered to and paid off a number of mob bosses in the 1980s, including Anthony ``Shorty″ Mascuzzio, who was slain in Kaplan’s New York nightclub in 1987.

Mascuzzio took $700 a week from Kaplan in protection money, Basciano said. Asked to explain ``earner associate,″ Basciano said ″(Kaplan) makes the money, like for Shorty, and any protection he needs, they send somebody like me.″

Basciano also said that Michael DiLeonardo, one of Kaplan’s co-defendants, is a captain in the Gambino family known as ``Mikey Scars.″

Prosecutors in the high-profile racketeering case have charged Kaplan and six others with money laundering, credit card fraud, loan sharking and obstruction of justice. Kaplan also is charged with pimping club dancers to celebrities and professional athletes.

Kaplan’s attorney, Steve Sadow, argued that his client was forced to pay off mobsters but was never involved in a criminal conspiracy.

``He was being extorted for money,″ Sadow said. ``How can you be a co-conspirator when you’re being extorted?″

Sadow also tried to use Basciano’s multiple appearances on the witness stand to discredit him.

``You’re a bit of a professional, right?″ Sadow said.

The 45-year-old New Yorker admitted to committing a litany of crimes between 1974 and 1994, including murder, attempted murder, arson, robbery, drug and gun trafficking, illegal gambling and truck hijacking.

``You name it, we did it,″ he said, adding later that some of his crimes were ordered by members of the Gambino and later the Luchese crime families.

Basciano testified that after Mascuzzio’s death, Kaplan came under the protection of Bobby Borriello, a high-ranking Gambino associate who was chauffeur to family boss John Gotti Sr.

``Steve was in his glories ... because he was going to meet the guy who’s closest to John Gotti,″ Basciano said. ``He’s got the power of New York in his hands.″

Basciano’s testimony was a lesson in mob lingo for the jury, as prosecutor Art Leach asked the witness to explain the hierarchy of organized crime and define terms such as ``made guy″ and ``whack.″

A ``made guy″ has been accepted as a trusted member of a crime family, Basciano said. To ``whack″ someone is to kill him.

Basciano said he entered an FBI protection program in 1994 after he agreed to cooperate with the government in exchange for lesser charges in an attempted murder case.

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