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GOTTI JR. WITNESS HAS LINK TO TAMPA

The linchpin of the government's case is expected to show the New York mob was infiltrating the area.

NEW YORK - It was organized crime's version of a heart-to-heart talk: Jailed mob boss John Gotti warned his son that authorities would someday try to "lock you up for nothing."

"I hope that's not their intentions," the son, John "Junior" Gotti, responded during the tape-recorded conversation. "But if it is ... then I'm ready."

Nearly 15 years later, the Gambino crime family scion is facing a federal trial on racketeering murder and drug charges backed up by a self-described "rat" - former University of Tampa student John Alite, Gotti Jr.'s onetime best friend.

Tampa had Gotti in its grips until December, when a federal judge tossed the case to the Southern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant, from the Tampa office, is part of the New York prosecution team.

Gotti, 45, has been tried three times in the same Manhattan court in 2005 and 2006 on charges he plotted to kidnap Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group and outspoken Gambino gadfly.

All the trials ended in hung juries and mistrials after Gotti used the defense that he had quit the mob for good in the 1990s.

This time, along with the Sliwa plot, Gotti has pleaded not guilty to charges that he was involved in three gangland slayings and cocaine trafficking. Opening statements began Monday.

Prosecutors will roll out Alite, 46, as a new star witness. They have called Alite the bridge between the New York mob and its attempts to expand into Tampa through bars, clubs and the valet parking business.

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 mob, were business partners, prosecutors said.

At the time, prosecutors said, Alite ran 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.

Alite pleaded guilty last year to a racketeering conspiracy charge, admitting involvement in three New York-area murders included in the indictment against Gotti Jr.

Alite previewed his testimony in another mob trial this year, saying he won Gotti's trust by dealing cocaine and kicking up a cut of the profits to Gotti.

Alite said Gotti drafted him for a hit on an associate who had ignored one of his father's orders. He said he tried to track the target down, but was pulled off the job when Gotti changed plans.

Prosecutors say another mobster gunned down the victim.

Alite also implicated Gotti in the other two killings prosecutors have charged he was involved in. They were carried out on Gotti's say-so, he said.

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