Another mob figure turned informant took the stand in federal court Monday to link Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan to the Gambino crime family.

Joey "Little Joey" Gross, 32, said he met Kaplan in the mid-1980s and knew of his dealings with "made guys" in the Gambino organization and his association with crime boss John J. Gotti.

Federal prosecutors are using Gross and other former mob figures to link Kaplan to the Gambino syndicate as they try to prove that he and six co-defendants funneled money to organized crime, cheated customers by overcharging their credit cards and engaged in loan sharking.

Kaplan also is charged with pimping the Atlanta strip club's dancers to celebrities and professional athletes and ordering the beatings of about 20 people who owed him money.

Gross, who has served time for crimes ranging from drug dealing to burglarizing bank night-deposit boxes, has testified against other organized-crime figures and has been in the FBI's witness protection program since early last year.

He said he met Kaplan in the mid-'80s in New York City and was close to him until about 1991, running errands occasionally for Kaplan's businesses.

"I idolized him," Gross said. "I really loved the man. It's a little tough to be here."

During cross-examination, defense attorney Steve Sadow attacked the credibility of Gross, who admitted lying during earlier cases against him in New York. The witness also conceded he could not link Kaplan to any criminal activity besides the alleged credit card fraud.

"People like ... these guys have lied and done nothing but lie all their lives," Sadow said after Monday's session. He said he expects the jury "to call this as they see it. I think this jury will separate mere contact with criminal conduct."

Gross became the third witness in the trial to link Kaplan to Gambino associates Frank Morano and Anthony "Shorty" Mascuzzio, who was slain in Kaplan's New York nightclub in 1987. Gross described Kaplan as a Morano "puppet" during that time.

Last week, another mob figure turned informant, Dino Basciano, testified that Kaplan was an "earner associate" for the Gambinos, paying off a number of mob bosses in the 1980s.

Also Monday, U.S. District Judge Willis B. Hunt ordered the media to stop publishing artists' drawings of witnesses who are in the federal witness protection program. Cameras are prohibited in the courtroom.