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Mob bosses took a beating last year

hit January 3, 1997
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Peg Tyre

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Being a Mafia boss just isn't what it used to be.

Sure, the old-line Mafia families in the United States have been on a steady decline for a while, but things took a sharp turn for the worse in 1996.


Indeed, some of the biggest names in U.S. organized crime -- tough guys accustomed to going about their rough and tumble business with impunity -- have suffered indignities that would have been unthinkable during the Mafia's halcyon days.

For example, the gig is up for Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, alleged head of the once-mighty Genovese crime family.

Gigante distinguished himself in recent years by walking around New York's Greenwich Village in his pajamas while muttering to himself. He once wore a bathrobe to an arraignment in 1990.

Gigante takes it on the chin

But authorities contended this was all a ruse, and a federal judge in August agreed, finding Gigante competent to stand trial on six counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murders, various crimes related to labor payoffs, extortion and mail fraud. His trial starts this spring.

Last year was also rough for John Gotti, once known as "Dapper Don" and now serving a life sentence. Pressured to give up control of the Gambino crime family, he named Nicholas Corrozo as a successor.


But shortly afterwards, Corrozo was busted as he climbed out of the Miami surf. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit murder, arson, loansharking and extortion.

Not even the old line bosses in Sicily were immune to setbacks in 1996. Italian police said last month they dealt a punishing blow to a gang allied with jailed Mafia boss Benedetto "Nitto" Santapaola by arresting 22 alleged mobsters.

These may be hard times for the Mafia, but nobody is venturing to give a kiss of death to organized crime. Although the so called "Russian Godfather," Vyacheslav Ivankov was convicted of extortion last July, other lesser- known thieves-in-law, as they call themselves, are poised to take his place.

New mobs elbow aside the old

It's the new ethnic organized crime -- mobs from more recently arrived immigrant groups -- that experts like Bill Kleinknecht say are the ones to watch.

"Russian groups are very active since the crumbling of the old Soviet Union," said Kleinknecht, author of "The New Ethnic Mobs." "There have been just hordes of Russian mobsters coming to this country, and they've been really active."

Dominican mobsters have maintained their cocaine franchise and even spread out to heroin. Chinese gangsters continue with drugs, racketeering and human smuggling. And law enforcement is struggling to penetrate these subcultures.

"It was quite a few years before they were able to crack Italian organized crime and they are starting at square one with these new groups," said Kleinknecht.

Reputed mobster one of Miami's wealthiest


And there are innumerable underworld characters who are little known. Jose Miguel Battle, for instance is the reputed head of the Cuban-American syndicate known as "the Corporation." Authorities say he controls numbers rackets from New York to Florida.

He owns a 30 acre ranch and was listed 10 years ago as one of Dade County's wealthiest men with a net worth of $175 million.

To stay ahead of the Mafia, law enforcement is moving from La Cosa Nostra to new organized crime groups taking hold all over the country.


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