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Gambino operatives plead guilty; could pave way for ascent of Gotti Jr.

August 22, 1997

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Alleged mobster Nicholas ``The Little Guy″ Corozzo, once the reputed heir-apparent to John Gotti, and five associates pleaded guilty today to federal racketeering conspiracy charges.

The plea deal may mean control of the Gambino crime family’s operations will fall to John Gotti Jr. The 33-year-old son of the jailed mobster hasn’t yet been named Gambino boss, but published reports in New York said that with Corozzo out of the running, the younger Gotti is in firm control of the crime family’s affairs.

Corozzo, 57, and the others pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate racketeering laws, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The agreement calls for Corozzo to serve nearly seven years and the others to get five years, but U.S. District Judge Norman C. Roettger is not bound by those limits. He set sentencing for Oct. 31.

The defendants admitted to extensive loansharking operations that charged interest of 3 percent to 5 percent a week. They also admitted to extortion and to threatening to harm people who were late with their loan payments.

But they didn’t agree to cooperate with the government in continuing investigations of the Gotti mob.

``It’s a straight-up plea _ no snitching involved,″ said Frank Rubino, attorney for Sydney Alwais, who ran a check-cashing store suspected to be a front for Gambino loansharking. The agreement forfeits the store and $130,000 in cash seized during the arrests.

Joining Corozzo and Alwais before Roettger were Corozzo associate Ralph ``Fly″ Davino; reputed capo Leonard DiMaria; Anthony Ruggiano Jr.; and Salvatore Pecchio.

Federal authorities picked up Corozzo and Davino on the beach at Key Biscayne just before Christmas. They and seven others were accused of running a loan-sharking operation and were charged with a laundry list of offenses, including conspiracy to commit murder, arson and extortion.

Three of the nine men are not part of the plea deal, one because he is already in prison on unrelated charges, and two others because they decided to go to trial.

The elder Gotti was once famous as the ``Dapper Don″ for his tailored suits and the ``Teflon Don″ for his ability to win acquittals at trial. But he was convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992 and now is serving a life sentence.

Defense attorneys who struck a deal with federal prosecutors did so despite embarrassing allegations about the FBI squad that worked the case.

In June, an agent who oversaw parts of the investigation was arrested and charged with stealing $400,000 in cash from active investigations, including $100,000 of the money seized during the arrests. He pleaded innocent.

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