What to Know
- Vinny Asaro allegedly asked John J. Gotti to help him firebomb a man's car after a traffic dispute in 2012
- Asaro is perhaps best known for being acquitted of racketeering charges in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa case at Kennedy airport
- John J. Gotti was recently convicted on state drug charges
John J. Gotti, the 23-year-old grandson of the late Gambino crime boss for whom he is named, has been arrested in an arson case, along with reputed mobster Vincent Asaro, who investigators allege solicited the younger man to commit the crime.
Gotti was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of conspiracy to commit bank robbery.
Asaro and two other men pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys said they were blindsided, and that the statute of limitations on these crimes would have expired in two weeks.
The arson dates to 2012 in Howard Beach, authorities said. According to the FBI, Asaro, 82, was angry about a traffic dispute and wanted the man's car firebombed. He allegedly turned to Gotti for help.
Gotti and two associates allegedly robbed the Maspeth Federal Savings and Loan Association for nearly $5,500 two weeks after the arson.
Asaro is perhaps best known for being acquitted of racketeering and other charges in 2015 in connection with the notorious Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where more than $6 million in cash and jewels were stolen.
He was inducted into the Bonanno family more than 30 years ago and has previously held the position of captain.
In total, seven reputed members and associates of the Bonnano crime family were arrested Wednesday on a range of charges, including arson, bank robbery and home invasion.
Four of the seven men signed orders of executable delay. Their next court date is May 1. None of them made bail.
Outside court, Asaro's lawyer questioned the timing and the point of the government's decision to again go after her client, who was leading a quiet life until FBI agents came to his door Wednesday.
"We have encountered unfounded charges brought by the United States attorney's office before, and we're confident that we'll be able to refute these unfounded charges as well," said the attorney, Elizabeth Macedonio.
Gotti was recently sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this month after pleading guilty to selling drugs in his Queens neighborhood, and was preparing to head to prison in the case.
"He pleaded guilty to the state case, he turned his life around, he took full responsibility, he beat his drug habit," said Gerard Marrone. "He's doing excellent and now this is something else he has to deal with."
Marrone said the case blindsided Gotti.
"We didn't even know this case was happening," said Marrone. "He was actually told he was going to be moved to another state facility upstate today, and the FBI met him and put him in federal custody. So this really was a shock to us."
Gotti had been arrested in early August in the home where his grandfather, dubbed the "Teflon Don" once lived, and had faced up to life in prison if the case had gone to trial.
Like his grandfather, Gotti was brought down by covert listening devices. In recorded conversations, Gotti said he sold more than 4,200 pills every month, netting about $100,000 a month in drug sales, and once calculated that his trafficking business generated roughly $1.6 million annually.
Gotti is the grandson of John Gotti, who died in federal prison in 2002 following his 1992 conviction on federal racketeering and murder charges.
All of the suspects in the arson case face up to 20 years in prison on the charges, three of whom each face a mandatory five-year prison sentence if convicted of arson. Two associates face a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years if convicted on gun charges.
During a 2014 home invasion, one of the suspects served as a lookout while another tied up the homeowner's girlfriend and plucked a Cartier ring from her finger. The thieves made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, including designer watches, and $50,000 in cash.
Two of the men allegedly robbed a Franklin Square, Long Island jewelry store at gunpoint for $250,000 and attempted to rob two others in the same area between 2011 and 2012.