NEW YORK – A Gambino family captain done in by the testimony of an undercover FBI agent and hours of government tapes was convicted Tuesday of racketeering — a verdict his lawyer said almost guarantees he will die in prison.
Gregory DePalma, 74, had an oxygen tube in his nose and gauze on his face because of a weekend biopsy as the verdict was read in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The verdict resulted from a government assault on what remains of the Gambino crime family after the Gotti era appeared to end with the death of John Gotti in 2002 and prosecutions of his brother, Peter Gotti, and son, John "Junior" Gotti.
Joaquin Garcia, an FBI agent who posed as "Big Jack" Falcone, had cozied up to DePalma and recorded thousands of hours of conversations that helped land the mobster.
The FBI planted a cell phone on DePalma that picked up conversations even when it was off. Defense lawyer Martin Geduldig said after the verdict that it "was just too difficult to overcome all of these tapes."
Sentencing was set for Aug. 29. Geduldig said he doubted DePalma would live beyond five years, so anything more would be a life sentence.
Prosecutors depicted DePalma as an energetic hustler from 2003 to 2005, when he extorted restaurants, construction companies and a topless nightclub where he was introduced to the undercover agent.
DePalma called in favors from anyone who feared his mob muscle. He described getting a former manager for Liza Minnelli to finance a $12,000 trip for mob wives to Las Vegas.
The jury also heard him boast that he made a restaurant owner get an $11,000 bottle of wine and provide as much as $4,000 in free food for two dozen Gambino guests.
U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein had rejected defense requests that DePalma rest at trial on a gurney or wheelchair because of his missing lung, heart problems, cancer and diabetes.
Prosecutors told jurors he had boasted after a 1999 racketeering guilty plea that he had duped the judge with an illness act worthy of an Academy Award.
They played tapes of him bragging that he wore an oxygen mask and did not shave for a week before sentencing, leading the judge to say he had never sentenced a man so sick.