By Geoff Schumacher
John Alite was a small-time drug dealer when, in 1983, he started doing business with John A. Gotti, son of Gambino crime family boss John J. Gotti. Alite quickly rose from small time to big time through his association with New York’s largest Mafia outfit.
For several years, Alite was a significant figure in Gambino crime circles. He was an enforcer with a nasty temper, and he helped the family make millions of dollars through an array of illegal schemes. But Alite, with his Albanian ancestry, could never be a made man. Despite his close relationship with “Junior” Gotti, he never would ascend to the organization’s top rungs.
Instead, everything went south. Facing prosecution in 2003, Alite fled the country, was caught in Brazil, went to prison and ultimately became a government witness in several federal trials in exchange for a reduced sentence.
He was released from prison in 2012, and today he’s striving to put his criminal past behind him. He chose not to enter the Witness Protection Program or live outside his home turf of New York and New Jersey.
“I wanted to live my life on my terms,” Alite says. “Knowing I could be killed any minute is normal. I’m used to it. It doesn’t affect the way I live.”
He now speaks publicly about what he did wrong and how others should avoid the temptations that drew him into a twenty-five-year career in organized crime. He will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 10, at The Mob Museum.
Alite collaborated with veteran Mob author George Anastasia on a book called Gotti’s Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia, which was released earlier this year.
The book details Alite’s life, from a lower-middle-class youth in Queens to his bleakest moments surviving in the filthiest, most corrupt prison in Brazil. But the book’s primary goal is to provide an inside look at the Gotti family and how it operated. Alite, a brutal brawler in his Mob days, does not pull any punches in the book either.
“The Gottis . . . were a dysfunctional group of Mafia misfits who wrested control of one of the biggest crime syndicates in America and tore it apart,” Alite contends. “Nepotism, greed, and treachery replaced honor and loyalty when John J. Gotti took over.”
Although Alite takes issue with Senior Gotti, he is particularly tough on Junior. They were friends until Alite saw his true colors.
“With Junior, it was always about money,” he says. “Friendship didn’t matter. You could have been his friend for a dozen years and he’d still rip you off. He didn’t care. That’s just the way it was. Him and his father, both the same.”
Geoff Schumacher is the director of content for The Mob Museum. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.