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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Interview with Jerry Capeci, Organized Crime Expert

Aired June 5, 2002 - 07:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Prosecutors say they have taken a huge bite out of organized crime with a sting that netted more than a dozen alleged members of a New York City mob family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN VINEGRAD, U.S. ATTORNEY: Today, we announced that the leaders and members of the Gambino family will be brought to justice as well for their unlawful control of the New York Waterfront.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Among those rounded up is Peter Gotti, said to be the acting boss of the Gambino crime family. He is the brother of former Teflon Don, John Gotti. And Jerry Capeci is an expert on organized crime. He teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He joins us this morning. He has just written a book called, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia." How are you this morning?

JERRY CAPECI, "THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO THE MAFIA": OK, Paula -- good morning. How are you?

ZAHN: Well, I am fine, thanks.

CAPECI: Good.

ZAHN: We would love for you to give us sort of the big view of what has transpired here. You have 17 alleged Gambino family...

CAPECI: Members and associates.

ZAHN: ... indicated on, what, 68 different counts of racketeering and extortion. And you have prosecutors actually comparing this to the Marlon Brando movie back in 1954, "On the Waterfront."

CAPECI: Right. Well, what they have done is they have basically indicted the hierarchy right now of the Gambino crime family and charged them with labor racketeering on the Brooklyn docks. Earlier this year and late last year, they charged another crime family with labor racketeering on the Manhattan, New Jersey and Miami docks.

Now, this is important, because it basically raises the cost of goods and services across the country for anything that may come into the United States via cargo. And there is quite a bit of stuff that does come in that way.

Labor racketeering is one of the key ways that the mob makes money. They shake down people to, you know, for money to give them the opportunity to run their business wherever it may be. They have also charged them with extortion. There is also some gambling charges. There are a lot of staples of organized crime that are included in this massive indictment.

ZAHN: So now that Peter Gotti is in jail, what happens next? Do you want to talk about a couple of people who might fill the void of leadership here?

CAPECI: Well, right now, the underboss of the Gambino crime family is a guy named Arnold Squitieri. His nickname is Zeke. He was put into place by John Gotti, the boss of the crime family until very recently when Peter took over because John Gotti is in jail and dying of cancer. Another important member of the Gambino crime family is Joe-Joe Corrozo. He is a consigliere of the crime family, and he is a close friend of John Gotti's and the Gotti family itself.

ZAHN: We would be hard pressed to tell what this guy looks like. Does he look like any of the other two guys we have talked about this morning?

CAPECI: Not really. Joe Corrozo is a handsome -- he is a handsome dude and had been pictured many times with John Gotti in John Gotti's heyday back 10, 12 years ago.

ZAHN: So why should anybody care about this this morning? I know you have made the point, which is a valid point, that this type of activity does affect the costs of goods and services all over the country.

CAPECI: Well, it certainly does. I mean, separate and apart from that, this is a difficult case to make. Murders are much easier cases to prosecute. You've got bodies. This is the kind of case that takes a lot of time. It took a huge cooperative effort by half a dozen agencies and state, local and federal agencies, and I think it says a lot about the status of the Gambino crime family in the wake of John Gotti's takeover back in the late 1980s.

Right now, his brother, who probably would not have even been a made guy, is the head of the crime family. Another brother, who definitely would not have been a made guy, this is Richard Gotti, is a captain in the crime family. I think the feds have weakened the influence of the Gambino crime family, and I think the indictment of Peter Gotti as boss, Richard Gotti as a capo, and a nephew as a soldier basically underscores that point.

ZAHN: Aside from what is happening -- allegedly happening at these docks all over the country, you also have a report of Steven Seagal, the actor, being basically shaken down by the mob. What's that all about?

CAPECI: Well, the claim is that his former partner was part of the Gambino crime family's effort to shake him down for money. And I don't know if it's true. Obviously it remains to be seen if he is convicted of it, but it would not surprise me at all. I mean, the mob is out there to make money. They shake down whoever they can to make whatever money they can whenever they can for whatever reason they feel like.

ZAHN: I'm still unclear what the allegation was? They were trying to extort money from Steven Seagal on a per-film basis?

CAPECI: Right. Per-film basis. The allegations -- it was not specifically alleged in the indictment that Seagal was the victim, but the allegations that have come out from Reuters (ph) is that they were trying to get $150,000 to $200,000 a picture just to allow him the privilege of being in a film.

ZAHN: But in spite of these arrests and the announcement of them yesterday, the fact is the Gambino crime family is up and running.

CAPECI: Oh, it's still alive and well, not quite as influential and powerful as it once was, but it's still a force in New York City with over 175 made guys and maybe 1,000 associates who work for them.

ZAHN: Jerry Capeci, good of you to drop by...

CAPECI: Pleasure, Paula.

ZAHN: ... author of "The Idiot's Guide -- "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia." Again, appreciate your time this morning.

CAPECI: It's a pleasure.

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