In a compelling account of his 14 years as a wannabe wiseguy, a reformed Brooklyn gangster claims that as a teenager he was recruited by a powerful Gambino capo who once plotted to whack John (Junior) Gotti because the Junior Don had the audacity to cheat him out of money.
Andrew DiDonato, now 45, asserts that the plot took place in late 1996, at a time when Nicholas (Little Nick) Corozzo was expecting to be anointed as the crime family's new leader once all appeals of John Gotti's 1992 conviction were exhausted.
As you might expect, the account by DiDonato, who testified at Junior Gotti's first trial in 2005 without ever mentioning the alleged murder plot, was panned by lawyers for both mobsters, who questioned the turncoat's facts, as well as his motives.
DiDonato states in Surviving The Mob, a full-size, soft-cover book written with Las Vegas-based author Dennis Griffin, that Corozzo revealed the plot on the day he was spelling out his leadership plans to crew members who included his longtime partner-in-crime, Leonard DiMaria and wiseguy Michael (Mikey Y) Yannotti.
Little Nick (left) explained that even though "the feds were after him and his taking over the family would double the speed of their investigation" and "he expected to be arrested at anytime...he had to grab the opportunity. After all, that was what every gangster who came up from the streets dreamed of being some day: the boss of the family.
"Nicky turned to me and made the sign of a gun with his thumb and finger. He said if he did get arrested, there'd be a lot of work (killing) to do. Then he looked around at everybody and he said, 'Do you hear me? I said if I get arrested there's gonna be a lot of fuckin' work to do.
"Nicky grabbed my hand and said, 'And we're gonna start with that fucking Baby Huey in Queens.' Baby Huey was what we called Junior Gotti. Nicky looked at me and Mike Yannotti. He said, 'Okay. Start gettin' familiar with this guy.' Mike nodded. I said sure, whatever had to be done, would be done."
In an interview with Gang Land, DiDonato said Corozzo didn't spell out any particular reason why Gotti might have to be dispatched. But in prior months Nicky had voiced anger with Junior "about the phone card business that they were involved in. He felt he was partners with Junior and Jackie D'Amico and Joe Watts and he believed there was supposed to be some money coming to him. He wasn't getting the share that he deserved and he wasn't happy about that."
Joseph Corozzo, Nicky's nephew and a leading attorney, dismissed the story as make-believe: "It's completely untrue, but unfortunately anyone can write a book these days in an attempt to cash in on his criminal activity," said Corozzo, who represents his uncle. "I also question the editors of the book for not doing their job to check the unlikely facts that he laid out. Any links that he may have had to my uncle ended in the 1980s."
"The allegation makes no sense," added Gotti's attorney, Charles Carnesi. "The guy's trying to rewrite history. John has never been involved in any phone card operations with Joe Watts or Jack D'Amico, and most importantly, John and Nicky have had no disagreements to speak of."
Carnesi's point is well taken. According to testimony at Gotti's first three trials, Nick Corozzo and Junior both approved the 1992 assault of Curtis Sliwa, who was shot three times by Yannotti as the radio shock jock scrambled for his life in the back seat of a cab.
DiDonato's got a long record: He's dealt drugs and committed most of the wiseguy crimes you can name except murder - he only wounded the guys he shot. DiDonato got out of prison in 2001. Four years earlier, he had been nailed for a slew of crimes and agreed to spill his guts in return for leniency and a fresh start in life. In 2005, he testified at Gotti I against Mikey Y, who was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 20 years.
In Surviving The Mob, DiDonato claims to have testified about "Nicky's plot to kill Junior" at the 2005 trial, and pontificates that "moments like that reveal the treachery behind the scenes" between supposed mob allies who in reality would kill each other if ordered to.
That's the only part of his story that's fact checkable, and - unfortunately for DiDonato - it doesn't stand up. The trial transcript of his two days on the witness stand shows that he never mentioned the alleged plot. When we asked him about the missing testimony, DiDonato - after a few heated exchanges - finally conceded defeat: "It was a mistake," he told us.
His initial excuse for this error was that his co-author had taken the account from FBI debriefings called 302s and mistakenly written it up as DiDonato's testimony. "Most of my book was written from memory," he said. "Mistakes happen and I am man enough to admit mine."
Well, almost man enough. He later changed his tune. Probably after chatting with someone who reminded him that he was not supposed to have any FBI 302s, DiDonato amended his confession: "As a witness I have never been given or been in possession of any 302 information. I was never given 302 info pertaining to my cooperation. I admit my mistake in that part of the book that it should have been described as information, and not testimony. It was just a very bad miscommunication."
That follow-up apology sounded more like a politician than a wiseguy, but Gang Land - which accepts 302s anytime they're offered - accepts it as offered. Through Gang Land's own channels, we have confirmed that DiDonato reported the alleged plot during his FBI debriefings, and have no qualms about reporting it as stated in Surviving The Mob.
In his talk with Gang Land, DiDonato insisted that "The plot was real!" He and at least five other then-crew members heard and witnessed Nicky voice his plan to whack Junior. "There may have been a lot of underlying reasons (other than the phone card dispute) but guys like us, they never tell us the reasons. We just followed instructions."
According to the book, the meeting was held at a Brooklyn diner on Flatbush Avenue near Kings Plaza. The purpose was for DiDonato to report on the status of several ongoing disputes he was having with rival Brooklyn-based wiseguys - Colombo and Luchese family capos William (Wild Bill) Cutolo and Domenico (Danny) Cutaia - and to fork over money that was coming to Corozzo for a few bank robberies that DiDonato had pulled off.
Little Nick discussed his view of how things would shake out when he took over as family boss, after resolving all of DiDonato's personal issues.
But within weeks, Corozzo was nailed on racketeering charges, first in Florida, then in Brooklyn, and spent the next eight years behind bars. By time he got out of prison, Peter Gotti had taken over as official boss.
"It all unraveled after Nicky went to prison," said DiDonato, who was arrested soon after, and began cooperating in May, 1997.