How could I have missed such a huge mob story? But there it was on the radio over last weekend: During the height of John Gotti's popularity and notoriety, the swashbuckling Dapper Don was also a Dashing Don, commuting by public transportation from Howard Beach to Manhattan each week.
"John's thrill of a day was to take the Long Island Railroad, go through Penn Station and come to work, and he used to do that three days or four days a week, with Jackie Nose (D'Amico) in tow," said the familiar, very authoritative-sounding voice.
He may have been the boss of the Gambino crime family, but Gotti's usual work day included a trip to a Garment Center trimming company that he and his pals created to enable him to show some legitimate income on his tax returns, the voice continued.
When I heard this news, I wanted to hit myself over the head. "How the hell did I miss this," I said. Think of the missed photo opportunities! The missed interviews! I could have boarded the LIRR and sat right next to him. Where was he going to go on a moving train?
Even more amazing was that Page Six, John Miller, the FBI, and half a million New Yorkers who pass through Penn Station each day also missed that tell-tale silver crown of hair and that famous big grin as he commuted among us. John Gotti slipped right through our hands - not just once, but three or four days every week!
Well, here's how we all missed it: It never happened. The ridiculous story was the latest foolishness to flow from Lewis Kasman, the self-described "adopted son" of the late Mafia boss who made this claim and other nonsense during a free-flowing discussion with Curtis Sliwa on WNYM (970AM) The Apple.
Kasman, who became a paid FBI informer against the imprisoned-for-life mob boss in 1997, took a few gentle swipes at the man he eulogized at his 2002 funeral. But he also added some good hard shots at other family members, including Gotti's brother Richard, a family capo.
Richard, he said, kept $50,000 that his brother Peter gave him to pay for the Dapper Don's funeral, and hurled anti-semitic epithets at Kasman when he questioned it. Then, after Kasman paid the bill, Richard reneged on a pledge to pay $5,000 in tips to the funeral workers, he said.
Alright, there were also a few broadsides leveled against this reporter during the 30 minute rant on Sliwa's show. Kasman also repeated charges he made against John (Junior) Gotti and Garden City attorney Barry Levin that we reported in last week's column. If your computer or online device has the capability, you can use this link to listen to the entire segment.
Contacted by Gang Land, Angel Gotti, daughter of the late Don and certainly the least controversial member of the Gotti family, took issue with everything Kasman told Sliwa Saturday morning.
"Everything he said on that Sliwa show is a lie," she said. "Do you really think my Dad rode the LIRR? He never rode that train. In Marion he got upset with me because I told him instead of driving to work, I was thinking of taking the train, and he panicked."
She said that Kasman told another colossal whopper when he claimed to have climbed into Gotti's crypt to make sure that her father and deceased brother Frank were laid to rest head to head. She said the tale about paying for the funeral was another phony. Her own version is that her father gave Kasman $50,000 to cover his funeral, it cost $40,000, and "Kasman kept the change as a tip!"
Further checking with the usual sources on both sides of the law confirms that, as Angel Gotti says, Kasman's anecdote about Gotti being a Dashing Don is clearly false. But while it may be silly, it was not a flip, off-hand remark. As he often does, Kasman fleshed out the story with many real details to make it seem believable: Gotti's weekly salary was, as he said, $1,500. The company name was Scorpio Marketing. It was located on 36th Street and Seventh Avenue. Even so, the Dashing Don story is so preposterous that it's surprising that the savvy Sliwa didn't call Kasman on it.
Sliwa, who usually has a pretty well-tuned B.S. detector, might well have responded along these lines: "Wait a minute, Lewis, you mean to say that John Gotti and Jackie Nose strolled through Penn Station three days a week in 1990. And this is the first I'm hearing about it! Have I been on Mars since then!"
Maybe Kasman was spouting this nonsense because he was nervous. Gang Land has learned that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, which prosecuted Kasman for racketeering after he admitted stealing $80,000 while working as a cooperating witness, began looking at the extortion allegations that Levin publicly lodged against Kasman in this column last week.
Assistant U.S. attorney Evan Norris contacted Levin, and got an earful from the attorney about the telephone threat he received three weeks ago from an anonymous caller who demanded that Levin return a $50,000 fee he received from Kasman's ex-wife Eileen after she retained him in 2008. (Sources say that around the same time that Levin received the threatening phone call, Kasman and his father-in-law Albert Kula, also complained about Levin to the U.S. Attorney's office.)
Here's what Levin said about the phone call he got from Norris: "I gave him the phone number the call came into, told him when I got it, and asked him to trace the call and get to the bottom of it. I also told him that Kasman had pulled the same stunts on the Florida law firm that represented his ex-wife and that this crap has got to stop."
Last we checked, Norris hadn't called Weiss, Handler, Angelos & Cornwell of Boca Raton. But according to a spokeswoman, members of the firm, including a forensic accountant, a vocational consultant, and an attorney, have received numerous threats in phone calls, emails and faxes "purporting to come from others that we believe originated with Kasman."
The spokeswoman charged that Kasman, who has admitted he "forged his wife's name to remove money from the children's custodial accounts," recently forged his ex-wife's name in faxes that were sent to the firm demanding that fees and other expenses be returned to Kasman's ex-wife.
On February 22, the spokeswoman said, the firm's vocational consultant, who had previously spoken to Lewis Kasman and his ex-father-in-law, Albert Kula, "received a call from a man identifying himself as Eileen's father. After a few minutes, he believed the caller was Lewis Kasman. The man on the phone threatened to add the expert to a lawsuit he was planning to file against our firm and said, 'Why don't you do the right thing and return the money.'"
Kasman's own version of all this is that everyone else is off-base. In a discussion with Gang Land this week, Kasman denied any wrongdoing. He described the entire controversy as "hocus pocus orchestrated by Levin," and said he would take a lie detector test about the matter. He also challenged Levin to agree to do the same. At the end of a long diatribe against the attorney, Kasman said, "He did the wrong thing, and now he should do the right thing."
After thinking a moment about Kasman's challenge, Levin accepted it. But the lawyer obviously preferred the dispute resolution method he proposed here last week. "I'll take a lie detector test, but I would much prefer to settle it in the ring," he said.