Bergin Hunt and Fish Club

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The Bergin Hunt and Fish Club is a storefront in Ozone Park in Queens that was a Gambino Crime Family hangout that was notoriously attended by John Gotti. Loyal members to Gotti’s branch of the Gambino’s gained the nickname the “Bergin Crew” because of their hangout. The site was also where investigators placed surveillance to listen in on Gotti's operation in the early 1980s.

Location[edit]

The building is located at 98-04 101st Avenue in Ozone Park, which is located in Queens. South Ozone Park was a white middle-class neighborhood with many Italian-American residents.[1] The club was very close to JFK Airport, which in the 1960s handled over $200 million worth of freight.[2] This made sense for the Gambinos to move close to such cargo moving in by airplane with the decline in trucks and boats as transportation.[3] The club was not far from the notorious Mob hangout, The Sinatra Club, where many members of other Mafia Families came to gamble and socialize in the early 1970s.[4]

The Bergin Crew[edit]

Carmine Fatico wanted to move his crew out of East New York by 1972 when the area became predominately populated by Hispanics and African-Americans.[5] Fatico decided to move them to the Queens storefront, which he incorporated as a nonprofit association named the "Bergin Hunt and Fish Club." The men thought it was ironic that Bergin was a misspelling of Bergen Street in East New York, which was where the gang had its so-called roots.[6] He ran the Gambino Crime Family’s largest crew, which was home to a young John Gotti.[7] Fatico possessed much power and influence with his positioning as third in line to be boss, after underboss Neil Dellacroce.[8] His crew had a couple hundred soldiers, exemplifying his stronghold in the Gambino Family.[9] During their tenure at the Bergin Club, Fatico’s crew always seemed to have a leak to the FBI, which started in 1966 before the move to Queens.[10] Regardless of the leak, Fatico still ran one of the most powerful Gambino operations out of the Bergin Club.

Even with such influence as capo in one of the most powerful Mafia families, Fatico still served a prison sentence He was indicted in 1972 for loan-sharking and handed power over to John Gotti, who just finished a three-year prison sentence himself.[11] With Dellacroce’s blessing and Fatico ordered to stay away from the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, Gotti was promoted to acting capo, even before he was a made man.[12]

Gotti’s Rise in the Bergin Club

With John Gotti now in charge of Fatico’s crew, he was viewed as a future star in the family.[13] Gotti ran the Bergin’s activities as figurehead for Fatico, which was observed by Carlo Gambino, the family’s godfather. In 1974, Gotti was indicted on murder charges, where he still ran his Bergin operations from prison.[14] Apparently he was given up by one of the members of the Bergin Crew, who seemed to be leaking information again.[15] While Gotti was in prison, his brother Gene took care of the club.[16] Gene Gotti had been inducted into the Mafia while his brother John was away.[17]

In 1976, while Gotti was in prison, Gambino died and there was a shift in leadership, where Paul Castellano took over as boss, and Dellacroce received more power as a consolation prize.[18] In 1977 Gotti was released from prison, where he was now noticeably stronger and ready to become a made-man to add legitimacy to his power of the Bergin Crew.[19] With Dellacroce’s now second blessing, Castellano inducted Gotti into the Gambino Crime Family.[20]

While out on parole, Gotti needed a legitimate job to prove to the government that he was a changed man. In order to seem legitimate, he obtained a phantom job as a salesman for a plumbing company that was owned by a friend.[21] Instead of holding the job, Gotti set up an office in one of the two rooms that were inside the Bergin Club.[22] Now Gotti was close to his home family, while still conducting business as Mafia captain from his private office. The distance was so close that it was a six-minute drive for Gotti to get from home to work.[23] Of the businesses that Gotti’s faction was in charge of, gambling and loan-sharking were the two largest businesses he ran out of the Bergin Club.[24]

Gotti’s Tenure at the Bergin Club was highlighted by much neighborhood support. On the Fourth of July he would launch a fireworks show and hold a barbecue for the neighborhood, all at the Bergin.[25] Gotti’s men would go to many local businesses around the South Ozone Park area and provide a following that would help business.[26] To pay back the man that has been supporting them, the residents would alert men at the Bergin Club if they saw any suspicious activity that indicated law enforcement such as the FBI or undercover detectives.[27] Gotti’s brother Richard, even extended the Gotti influence, by watching over a bookmaking business and gambling den nearby the Club.[28]

Bugging

In 1977, Remo Franceschini, an NYPD detective lieutenant, was assigned to take charge of the Queens district attorney’s detective squad.[29] Franceschini was committed to going after the Mob and Gotti was his primary target.[30] Gotti had fully established that he was in charge of Ozone Park, Queens, which prodded the district attorney’s office. In 1981, the DA’s office sought out a secret court order to plant a bug in the Bergin Club and tap two of their phones.[31] The DA’s technicians were able to detect that Bergin Club’s patrons were able to rig the phones and make it so they did not have to pay to make a call.[32] The most successful outcome of the eavesdropping at the Bergin, was that the investigators could get a character description of John Gotti.[33] They concluded that he was, “a brutish, tyrannical captain of a crew that included his brothers Gene and Peter, and their constant partner in crime, Angelo Ruggiero." [34] They also taped his tirades where he would explode into profanity and disrespect to his temper’s victim.[35] Through the bugs, Franceschini was able to bust up a few high stakes card games in Little Italy where Bergin Crew members were present.[36] That gave him the evidence he needed to raid the Bergin for more evidence of gambling and bookmaking involvement.[37] Franceschini went into the Bergin Club and told Gotti that his hangout was bugged, but he was unimpressed that they had any real evidence against him.[38] One other payoffs from the raids were that they exposed a weakness in the Bergin Crew, because Gene Gotti and Angelo Ruggiero were grumbling behind their captain’s back.[39]

Ironically, Ozone Park was also the home to Diane Giacalone, the U.S. Attorney who went after Gotti in 1986, but failed to put him behind bars. She grew up walking by the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, noticing the men standing around and not working.[40]

Gotti as Boss

In 1984 Neil Dellacroce died, leaving Gotti to deal with Castellano. By 1985, Gotti orchestrated the assassination of Paul Castellano and his underboss Thomas Bilotti, which put him at the top of the Gambino Crime Family. In 1986, after Gotti was release from custody, he went about his business as a Mafia don, but now with national notoriety.[41] He would set a routine where he arrived at the Bergin Club by noon and played cards while talking with his fellow members.[42] Gotti made the back into a barbershop-type room, with several mirrors and a barber’s chair.[43] He would clean up and claim that it was all for his public.[44] After his time at the Bergin Club he would venture over to Dellacroce’s former hangout, the Ravenite in Little Italy for five o’clock to meet with other men.[45] When Gotti beat another federal case in 1990, the area near the Bergin Club in Ozone Park was decked out by the neighborhood with praises for Gotti’s victory.[46]

Gotti began to shy away from the Bergin Club and started to make the Ravenite his primary hangout once he became boss.[47] Investigators concluded that the bugs were not of much use at the Bergin anymore and no longer provided significant evidence to build a case.[48] Regardless of the lack of evidence from the Bergin, in 1992 Gotti was sentence to life in prison. In the Gotti's last trial, there were many factors that put him away, the major one being the testimony given by Gotti's underboss Sammy Gravano. After the trial things were never the same for the Gambinos.

Post-Gotti[edit]

After John Gotti went away to prison, his brother Peter Gotti, tried to stay close to Ozone Park and the Bergin Club.[49] The Bergin had fell to hard economic times, which half of the building was now a deli and butcher shop.[50] Peter Gotti’s stint as boss was short lived and he was arrested on a RICO indictment a week before his brother John died in June 2002.[51] Since then the site has changed greatly and the Gambino Crime Family no longer operates out of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club.

References[edit]

Capeci, Jerry, and Gene Mustain. Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti. ALPHA, 2002.

Polisi, Sal, and Steve Dougherty. The Sinatra Club: My Life Inside the New York Mafia. Gallery Books, 2012.

Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005.

Reppetto, Thomas. Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia. 1st ed. Holt Paperbacks, 2006.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005. p. 354.
  2. ^ Raab 2005, p. 354.
  3. ^ Raab 2005, p. 354.
  4. ^ Polisi, Sal, and Steve Dougherty. The Sinatra Club: My Life Inside the New York Mafia. Gallery Books, 2012.
  5. ^ Raab 2005, p. 354.
  6. ^ Raab 2005, p. 354.
  7. ^ Polisi, Sal, and Steve Dougherty. The Sinatra Club: My Life Inside the New York Mafia. Gallery Books, 2012, p. xxii
  8. ^ Polisi and Dougherty 2012, p.16.
  9. ^ Polisi and Dougherty 2012, p. 16.
  10. ^ Polisi and Dougherty 2012, p.11.
  11. ^ Raab 2005, p. 355.
  12. ^ Raab 2005, p. 354.
  13. ^ Raab 2005, p. 356.
  14. ^ Raab 2005, p. 354-355.
  15. ^ Raab 2005, p. 356.
  16. ^ Raab 2005, p. 357.
  17. ^ Raab 2005, p. 357.
  18. ^ Raab 2005, p. 357.
  19. ^ Raab 2005, p. 357-358.
  20. ^ Raab 2005, p. 357.
  21. ^ Raab 2005, p. 358.
  22. ^ Raab 2005, p.358.
  23. ^ Capeci, Jerry, and Gene Mustain. Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti. ALPHA, 2002.
  24. ^ Raab 2005, p.359.
  25. ^ Capeci and Mustain, 2002, p.123.
  26. ^ Capeci and Mustain, 2002, p.123.
  27. ^ Capeci and Mustain, 2002, p.123.
  28. ^ Raab 2005, p.359-360.
  29. ^ Raab 2005, p.359.
  30. ^ Raab 2005, p.359.
  31. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  32. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  33. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  34. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  35. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  36. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  37. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  38. ^ Raab 2005, p. 360.
  39. ^ Raab 2005, p. 361.
  40. ^ Reppetto, Thomas. Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia. 1st ed. Holt Paperbacks, 2006. p. 230
  41. ^ Reppetto 2006, p. 232.
  42. ^ Reppetto 2006, p. 232.
  43. ^ Reppetto 2006, p. 232.
  44. ^ Reppetto 2006, p. 232.
  45. ^ Reppetto 2006, p. 232.
  46. ^ Raab 2005, p. 414.
  47. ^ Raab 2005, p. 416-417.
  48. ^ Raab 2005, p. 416.
  49. ^ Raab 2005, p. 465.
  50. ^ Raab 2005, p. 465.
  51. ^ Raab 2005, p. 465.

Coordinates: 40°41′06″N 73°50′35″W / 40.68500°N 73.84306°W / 40.68500; -73.84306