Andrew DiDonato: Life in a Gambino Crew
So, what was it really like in a Gambino Crew during the Gotti Reign?
My friend Andrew DiDonato was (actually) there and lived it. Andrew was a wild kid who knew what he wanted to do in life. He was a second generation Wiseguy, it ran in his family.
Andrew became a street guy by the time he was 17 years old. He was with Nicky Corozzo who was a member of the Gambino Family. It was a different time and Nicky ran his crew from a Social Club with the Knights of Columbus off Pacific Street.
When Andrew and his friends first started hanging around they did not kick money to Nicky every month. It was in the form of a gift, they would kick him money on special occasions, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Thanks etc.
He was soon working for Nicky at one of his betting parlours and then he found cars. Andrew, like a lot of the kids who grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, knew guys who chopped cars. He partnered up with a Master Car thief who could steal anything in seconds. Some cars they would just steal and drop, pick up 300.00 and get another. Others were exotics like Porsche, Ferrari or Maserati's and these they would get 3,000 or more for each. Then they got their own spot and they would steal cars and chop them and sell the parts. They stole everyday of the week so the money was steady and good.
One night they had just finished chopping a car and all that was left was a frame, wheels and an engine. Andrew drove it out of their spot and just when he came to an intersection what was in front of him? A NYPD Patrol car. Andrew was sitting on a box driving a car with a pair of vise grips and a screw driver. He blew past them and they turned around and gave chase but he was not stopping. He blew through two red lights and lost them, leaving the used-to-be car on the side of the road and taking off on foot.
They were soon dropping off envelopes monthly to Nicky's new Social Club off 51st and Ave M. It was known as the Dugout because you had to step down three steps and it was in a basement with one window.
Andrew found himself in prison and this is where the story will deviate from what Hollywood and people like to portray.
Nobody from the crew helped him. Some real long time friends helped but none of his so-called “brothers.” Why? Greed. He was going away and could not bring in any cash so why help him. Some guys in the crew even promised to help out but as soon as he was away they did nothing. "It opened my eyes. I started to see them for what they were." This is what Andrew explained. He was angry, pissed off at all the guys, so when he saw Nicky after getting out of jail, he brought it up. Nicky told him to forget about it that he told the guys to back off because they had other things to do. That is when he saw Nicky in a new light.
He wanted to get released from Nicky and the Gambino's and go instead to Wild Bill Cutolo's crew in the Colombo Family. Nicky told him "You were born here, you will die here." Andrew was never Nicky’s favorite and he knew that this crew was a dead end for him.
Nicky had his favorite and that was Michael (Mikey Y) Yannotti so Andrew knew he was on the shit list.
The movies and TV shows like to portray a Mob Boss as an angry screaming guy. This is the farthest from the truth. Any street guy worth anything cannot be degraded or made to look like a pussy. He is a man and no matter who is disrespectful you must deal with it. I’ve talked before about how noone raises their voice to a boss, but it goes both ways. There are a lot of egos in the mob, and there is mutual respect required from all. A Boss cannot act like they do in the movies or he will not be long for this world, not when you are among seasoned killers and thieves.
Andrew started hanging out with Wild Bill’s crew more and more, because he felt he fit in more there than with Nicky. However, he then had a falling out with Wild Bill over some issues with his son Billy who was one of Andrew’s best friends. Wild Bill told Andrew he better hope his friend (Nicky) would stand for him in a sit down. Nicky did stand for him in the sit down, and the drama calmed down for the time.
Meanwhile, Andrew had other problems on the horizon. He was trying to get back on his feet financially by pulling armed robberies of drug dealers and shaking other dealers down wiith his friend Robert Arena. In the midst of these robberies they crossed paths with some of Danny Cutia’s people. Danny was a Luchese Capo who sat on the Ruling panel of that family. Andrew was working with people he knew all his life, he didnt care that someone was with someone else he needed to pay his bills.
This did not sit well with Nicky. Nicky began to worry that he wasn’t seeing his proper share of Andrew’s dealings. Andrew and Robert Arena hit a big weed dealer and ran into problems. This is where it gets real and you can understand how the family works. Nicky was only too happy to get cash from Andrew, then he would go to the dealers or the guys they were with who Andrew had robbed and broker a deal where Andrew would give back what he had left. So Nicky made money on both ends and Andrew was left with little. The Rules! They only apply when it is in a top guy like Nicky's best interest. Andrew and Robert had just pulled off one of their drug robberies. This time they had jacked a really connected person without realizing it. Andrew was called in to talk to Nicky. Nicky was upset and wanted them to return everything to the person they had robbed. Andrew went in to the meeting not intending to listen. Then Nicky told Andrew that he believed his best friend and partner, Robert was responsible for the murder of a Gambino crew member named Tough Tony. Not long after that meeting, Andrew was called in by Mikey Y. Mikey Y told him to be on stand by because they had to do a “piece of work.” Meanwhile, Robert Arena had been called by Danny Cutelo’s son-in-law Jon Baudanza for a Luchese crew street meeting. Jon told him to stay away from Andrew because Andrew was going to be “whacked.” Of course, Robert, as any good best friend would do, went straight to Andrew and told him the news. Andrew’s reply was, “That mutt Jon Baudanza couldn’t fucking touch me.”
The next night in the Mill Basin area of Brooklyn, Robert Arena and a friend Thomas Maranga were in Robert’s car stopped at an intersection when they were ambushed by Mikey Y and company (sans Andrew). Both Robert and Thomas were killed. Thomas was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was Robert the guys were after. Later, Andrew was informed that Robert was whacked. Because of the way “the rules” are, there was nothing Andrew could do about the murder of his best friend. This really turned the police heat up on Andrew, because it was known they had been best friends. The police wanted to question Andrew, and at this point he was still on parole.
One Monday morning his parole officer called him down to the parole office. When ANdrew arrived, he saw two FBI agents and he followed them in the building where they stopped at the front desk in front of him. They informed the receptionist that they were there to see Andrew’s very own parole officer. Andrew then knew he was about to be arrested. So he fled the parole offices and became a fugitive. This brings us to Andrew’s new career of being a bank robber with the Genovese crew. He had to go on the lam since everyone knew who his crew was, so instead he reconnected with some old prison buddies who happened to be in the Genovese crew.
Now most people think that bank robbery is as simple as walking into a bank with a gun and asking for money. To be done right, it became a full-time job for Andrew and his new crew. Stay tuned for more next week.
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