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Gotti friend with Tampa ties admits role in killings, feds say

TAMPA — A suspected mobster with ties to Tampa has pleaded guilty to a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act conspiracy charge that links him to John Gotti Jr., the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

John E. Alite, 46, entered a plea Jan. 16 but it was kept secret until this week, its release triggered by another mob trial set for January in New York.

As part of the racketeering plea, prosecutors say Alite admitted involvement in two murders, four murder conspiracies, at least eight shootings and two attempted shootings — including one in which the intended victim was his former roommate at the University of Tampa, Tim Donovan.

He also acknowledged participation in armed home invasions and armed robberies in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, the government said.

Alite figured prominently in the trial of Ronald "Ronnie One Arm" Trucchio and three co-defendants found guilty of conspiracy and racketeering by a federal jury in Tampa in 2006. Alite and Trucchio, a captain in the Gambino crime family, were business partners, federal prosecutors said.

At the time, prosecutors accused Alite of controlling illegal businesses, illegal gambling, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and murder.

They said he used Prestige Valet, a Tampa company, to infiltrate the local valet business.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Alite has acknowledged his role as a top associate in the crime family and specifically admitted to participating in the murder of George Grosso on Dec. 20, 1998, and in the murder of Bruce John Gotterup on Nov. 20, 1991. Prosecutors said Alite also admitted to participating in four murder conspiracies, including conspiracy in 1990 to kill Louis DiBono.

All three New York-related murder charges were included in a Tampa indictment handed up against Gotti earlier this year.

Charles Carnesi, Gotti's defense attorney, said he doesn't see how Alite's plea will affect Gotti's case "one way or the other."

Carnesi said he did his own investigative work into Alite.

"It was clear to us he was going to claim he was involved," Carnesi said of Alite's confession to participating in the murders of Grosso and Gotterup.

"DiBono is a new one," Carnesi said. "I don't ever remember reading anything about that."

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday recently granted a defense motion to transfer Gotti's federal racketeering and murder charges from Tampa to New York, where Gotti's attorneys argued the bulk of the alleged activity took place.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant has said that Alite and Gotti knew each other from Queens, N.Y. Gotti signed as a witness on Alite's marriage licence in 1989, records show.

During a court hearing in Tampa last month, Trezevant disclosed that Alite went to Gotti some time that same year with an idea to expand the Gambino crime family's reach into Tampa through the valet parking business. While he honeymooned in Hawaii, Alite reconnected with Donovan, the UT roommate, and learned of Donovan's booming valet operation, Trezevant said.

"Timmy Donovan is fascinated by this whole John Gotti organized crime thing," Trezevant said in court last month. "John Alite is interested in the fact that Timmy Donovan is a successful valet parking businessman in Tampa making a bunch of money for a young guy. And it's a cash-based business."

Donovan testified as a government witness during the 2006 Trucchio trial. At the time, he said he helped Alite set up his own valet business in New Jersey, though they were never partners. When Alite ran into money problems, he came to Donovan. But Donovan testified that he didn't have the $10,000 Alite wanted.

Federal prosecutors said Alite also admitted to extortion in the valet parking businesses and the businesses of bar and lounge security as well as trafficking in cocaine.

Alite's case remains before Senior U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew in Tampa. The conspiracy charge to which Alite pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He is currently in federal custody.

A federal judge in New York ordered prosecutors to turn over Alite's plea to defense lawyers for Charles "Charlie Canig" Carneglia, who is charged with conspiracy and murder under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and set to go on trial in January. Alite is a potential government witness in that trial.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Gotti friend with Tampa ties admits role in killings, feds say 12/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 1:36pm]
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