part of the normal evolution of organized crime groups.”rnMeanwhile, several of La Cosa Nostra’s old haunts, mainly thernsocial clubs along the infamous Mulberry Street in Little Italy,rnhave shut down or become trendy shops and restaurants.rnDespite the decline of the old-line guard and the rise of newrnMob bosses and underlings more committed to self-interestrnthan to old values of loyalty, the crime organizations’ often-profitablerncriminal ventures persist in several areas of the country.rnAnd while their numbers have dwindled, they shll are activernplayers in a number of dangerous criminal ventures, includingrnmurder, drugs, money laundering, weapons sales, labor racketeering,rnextortion, burglary, loan sharking, arson, immigrationrnfraud, and auto theft. However, according to federal law enforcementrnauthorities, a significant amount of the drug trade —rnthat lucrative business that netted the Mob millions of dollarsrnannually—has been lost to other crime syndicates, includingrnthe Colombian and Mexican gangs who bypass the same LarnCosa Nostra bosses who once demanded a piece of the action.rnHistorically, La Cosa Nostra, by necessity, has operated onrnat least two levels, one more secretive than the other. Everydayrncrime —gambling, loansharking, and drugs —requirerncontact with an often eager consumer. But the infiltration ofrnlegitimate businesses and labor unions is an invisible foray—rndeeply hidden from law enforcement scrutiny.rnOne sign that the Mob’s influence—particularly in NewrnYork—is on the wane is a decline of meetings by the bosses ofrnthe five La Costa Nostra families. Calling themselves the Commission,rnthe bosses met often to discuss internal problems andrnto coordinate their various criminal enterprises. Law enforcementrnauthorities believe the Commission —established inrn1931 by Mob boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano—has gone out ofrnbusiness.rn”It’s too early to tell if the Commission is permanently dead,”rnDaniel ]. Castleman, chief of investigations for the ManhattanrnDistrict Attorney’s Office, told the New York Times. Prosecutorsrnbelieve the Commission has not met since 1996, crippled by arnlack of leadership from the five families. “Without a Commissionrnthere will be significant disruption in the ability of organizedrncrime to victimize people and to make a comeback in thernindustries they once dominated,” Mr. Castieman said.rnMuch of the decline of the Mob relates to decisions by keyrnLa Cosa Nostra figures to violate the syndicate’s code of silence,rnthe omerta. One high-profile defection was Salvatore “Sammyrnthe Bull” Gravano, one-time Gambino consigliere, who brokernthe code to testify against his former boss, John Gotti. Gotti, thern55-year-old, brash-talking Mob boss known as the “DapperrnDon,” was convicted in l992 on racketeering charges, includingrnordering the 1985 murder of former Gambino boss PaulrnCastellano. The conviction, in the government’s fourth attempt,rnwas based largely on Gravano’s testimony.rnThe guilty verdict, coming after just 13 hours of deliberationrnby a sequestered and anonymous jury in Brooklyn, was the climaxrnof a six-year effort by federal prosecutors to put Gotti away.rnThree previous trials (in 1986, 1987, and 1989) ended in acquittal,rnearning him the nickname “Teflon Don” when therncharges did not stick. Gotti and co-defendant Frank “Locks”rnLocascio, 59, a Gambino underboss, were found guilty of murder,rnconspiracy, racketeering, gambling, loansharking, obstructionrnof justice, bribery, and tax fraud. He was sentenced in Junern1992 by U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser in Brooklyn to life inrnprison.rnAt the time, the Gambino family was considered the largestrnand most active La Cosa Nostia operation in the country, withrn200 members and more than 2,000 associates. Named afterrnCarlo Gambino, the late boss of bosses, the organization operatedrnthroughout New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, andrnFlorida and was involved in murder, drug smuggling, moneyrnlaundering, gambling, embezzlement, extortion, labor racketeering,rnloansharking, hijacking, airport thefts, and pornography.rnCrime profits, estimated at $500 million a year, had beenrnused to infiltrate several legitimate businesses, including therngarment industry, banking and finance, construction, entertainment,rnrestaurants, food products, liquor sales, manufacturing,rnand medical services.rn”The Teflon is gone. The don is covered with Velcro, andrnall the charges stuck,” said James Fox, special agent in charge ofrnthe FBI’s New York office. Attorney General William P. Barrrncalled Gotti’s conviction “a major victory in the department’srncontinuing assault on organized crime.” He said, “Althoughrnmore remains to be done, we are making substantial progress inrndismantiing these organizations.”rnMr. Barr, now in private law practice, told the WashingtonrnTimes that federal prosecutors have made deals with “unsavoryrncharacters” in high-profile drug and racketeering cases in orderrnto win convictions. And, he argued, that policy should continue.rn”There are no swans in sewers,” he said. “When you’rerndealing with criminal organizations, including governmentsrnthat have been corrupted, there’s only one way to get to thernleadership—and that’s through the people who are subordinate.rnOur capacity to use informants and to turn people withinrnorganizations against the leadership, that’s why we’re seeing arnlot of progress.” Mr. Barr said that while defense counsel andrnothers have characterized the plea agreements with criminalsrnas “sweetheart deals,” he would prefer to describe them as “appropriate.”rnPart of the government’s case against Gotti was based onrntapes secretly recorded by the FBI at the Ravenite social club inrnBrooklyn, which served as Gotti’s headquarters. The Mob bossrnwas heard on the tapes giving orders and describing the organization’srnbusiness. On one tape, Gotti bragged about his “greatestrnhits”—and included a reference to the Castellano slaying.rnIn all, Gotti discussed more than a dozen murders and talkedrnabout several Mob hits that were considered, and he also discussedrnthe organization’s secret business dealings and namedrnseveral associates.rn”Some people believe he failed to take the necessary precautionsrnto protect the family,” said a New York police detective.rn”Wiseguys generally walk on the street or on the boardwalk orrnat a park when they talk about the business—somewhere theyrnfeel safe. Gotti’s on more tape than most disc jockeys.”rnWhat ultimately sealed Gotti’s fate was the willingness ofrn”Sammy the Bull” Gravano to testify against his former boss.rnThe agreement, according to authorities, was worked out withrnfederal prosecutors after Gravano had spent 11 months in thernsame jail cell with Gotti awaiting trial. Gravano’s wife, theyrnsaid, begged her husband not to testify.rnHis testimony sent shockwaves throughout the hierarchies ofrnthe city’s other crime families—two of whom, the Genovesernand Bonanno organizations, are now so leery of Mob meetingsrnthat they refuse to attend them, including the Commission sessions.rnThe Genovese family is considered by law enforcementrnauthorities the most active crime syndicate today, with 250rnmade members, followed by the Gambino family with aboutrn22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn