Mob scene at mobster John Gotti's wake

June 15, 2002 at 1:48 AM
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NEW YORK, June 15 (UPI) -- John Gotti, the head of the New York City Gambino crime family, was larger than life as the nation's top mobster and even in death nothing much seemed to change.

Saturday, Gotti is being interred, after two days that saw hundreds of people pack the Papavero Funeral Home in Queens to pay respect to "Dapper Don."

Outside of prison he was known for his impeccably tailored $2,000 designer suits, pinky rings, black Lincoln Continental and for "living large."

A framed picture of a smiling, tanned Gotti stood by the closed gold coffin. Gotti had worn a prison jumpsuit the last 10 years in the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill. as he served a life sentence for murder, conspiracy, racketeering and tax evasion.

In death, he was laid out in a blue suit and blue tie.

New York City police officers set up barricades to keep traffic away from the funeral home in the residential working class neighborhood in Queens and allowed in only those who lived on the street -- and flower trucks.

A steady stream of giant flower arrangements, often taking two men to carry, arrived in the funeral home in the shapes of playing cars, boxing gloves, race horses, the New York Yankees emblem, a cigar, a martini with real olives and an eight-foot arrangement of exotic flowers.

"Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep. ... Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die," prayer cards said.

Many who made their way to the Papavero Funeral Home were left standing outside in the rain because there was no room inside.

Several of Gotti's relatives were not there.

His brother, Gene, serving a 50-year sentence for heroin trafficking and his son, John A. "Junior," serving a 6-year sentence for racketeering and gambling, did not ask for permission from prison officials to attend the wake, according to Gotti's lawyer.

"Like John Gotti never asked for anything from the government, neither will his son," Bruce Cutler said of the decision of Gotti's son not to attend the final rites of this father.

Another Gotti who did not attend the wake was Gotti's brother Peter who is being held without bail after he and 16 members of the Gambino crime family were indicted last week for racketeering, extortion, wire-fraud, loan sharking, operating illegal gambling businesses, money laundering and witness tampering.

In fact, many members of the faded Gambino crime family are either in jail, dead or on parole and restricted from associating with "known criminals."

However, members of the Bonanno, Columbo and Luchese crime families of New York City are expected to send representatives.

It's not expected that members of the Genovese crime family will pay their respects to Gotti because none of them attended John A. "Junior" Gotti's wedding in 1990. Many believe the Genovese crime family has replaced the Gambino crime family as the most powerful crime organization in the country.

Traditionally, members of law enforcement observe family events of organized crime members to get a clue to "who is kissing whom" because the person being "respected" the most by being kissed on the cheek is rising to the top of the mob family.

However, some members of organized crime will not show up at Gotti's wake as a sign of "disrespect." Many have blamed Gotti's attraction to the limelight as the undoing of the Gambino crime family because it brought too much attention to their activities.

It was known, Gotti was responsible for at least five killings. Law enforcement estimated Gotti took over an empire that grossed at least $500 million a year from illegal enterprises.

The Gotti family had asked the Roman Catholic Church to say a funeral Mass for Gotti who died Monday of complications from cancer but the family was refused by the Diocese of Brooklyn.

According to Gotti associates, the hearse of the 61-year-old New York City native will drive by the modest two-story Gotti home in Howard Beach and by his headquarters at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club before taking the body to the cemetery.

Gotti had expressed the desire to be buried alongside his son in St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village where a Who's Who of mobsters are buried including Carlo Gambino, Carmine Galante, Joseph Profaci, Vito Genovese, Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Aniello Dellacroce.

The Brooklyn Diocese has allowed Gotti to be interred in the Gotti family mausoleum in St. John's Cemetery where his son, Frank, was interred. Frank Gotti was killed by a neighbor's car when he was 12 years old in 1979.

Police ruled that it was accident but the neighbor, 51-year-old John Favara, disappeared four months after Frank Gotti died and it was believed that Gotti ordered the neighbor killed. A priest is expected to say prayers at the burial at the mausoleum.

The church has said that a Mass for the Dead can be celebrated for Gotti after he is interred.

Gotti is survived by his wife Victoria, their four children and four brothers: Gene, Vincent, Peter and Richard.

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