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Daily Archives: October 27th, 2009

alite  Cherry Hill house

John Alite, formerly of Cherry Hill, is providing insight on individuals, including a hit victim.

By George Anastasia

Inquirer Staff Writer

South Philadelphia mob associate John “Johnny Gongs” Casasanto was angling to join New York’s Gambino crime family in 2002, but a bullet to the back of the head short-circuited that career move.

None other than John Gotti Jr. backed Casasanto, 35, who hoped to get “straightened out” – formally initiated – after befriending the mob boss while they were inmates in a federal detention center in New York state, according to a key government witness.

The Casasanto-Gotti connection has been described by mob informant John Alite, the prosecution’s star witness in the ongoing racketeering trial of Gotti Jr. in federal court in New York City.

Alite, 47, lived in Cherry Hill for several years before moving to Florida about six years ago. He has told authorities that he met with Casasanto several times in 2002.

The tattooed and muscular mob informant said he met with various leaders of the Philadelphia mob during his stay in South Jersey, including those suspected of ordering Casasanto’s murder in November 2003.

The Casasanto hit remains a front-burner issue for federal authorities, who hope to include it in a racketeering case aimed at reputed mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and his top associates.

Whether Alite could provide information that would help authorities wrap up that case is uncertain. But his testimony has provided a candid look at the treacherous world of organized crime and has included a less-than-flattering picture of Gotti Jr., his onetime close friend.

Alite has known Gotti for nearly 20 years. While he could never become a “made” member of the Gambino organization – his parents were from Albania – Alite was a high-level Gotti confidant.

From the witness stand, he described Gotti as a thin-skinned hothead, recalling how Gotti once stabbed a friend who made fun of him after Gotti went to the bathroom to vomit during a shot-drinking game.

On another occasion, after an associate joked about the small handgun Gotti carried, Alite said, Gotti grabbed a rifle, asked the man, “Is this big enough?”, and then shot him in the hip.

Alite became a cooperating witness last year after pleading guilty to racketeering in Tampa, Fla. He admitted involvement in two murders, four murder conspiracies, and eight shootings.

From the witness stand, he has tied Gotti Jr. to several of those acts of violence and to extortion and drug-dealing..