By Rachel Corbett The New Yorker
A slew of true-crime content hosted by former members of the Mafia has attracted a surprising set of devotees: law-enforcement agents, looking for a deeper understanding of some of the biggest cases of their careers.
To join the Mafia, one must take an oath of omertà, the code of silence that’s meant to keep information about business dealings within the family. Breaking it is a crime punishable by death, but, these days, a lot of mafiosi are speaking pretty freely. Take Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the Gambino family underboss in the late eighties, who was involved in at least nineteen murders during his tenure as John Gotti’s right-hand man. He now makes an honest living podcasting from the Phoenix suburbs, where he relocated after spending seventeen and a half years at a supermax prison. In an unhurried Bensonhurst accent, Gravano, now seventy-six years old, recounts his biggest hits (such as the one carried on the Mob boss Paul Castellano, Gotti’s predecessor), and his own infamous breach of omertà: the 1992 court testimony that sent Gotti to prison for life.
Back in New York City, another ex-hit man who worked for Gotti, John Alite, blends tales of his “six murders, more than eight shootings, and dozens of baseball battings” with inspirational advice for youth on his “Mafia Truths” podcast. Meanwhile, Jimmy Calandra, a notorious enforcer for the Bonanno family—reportedly the most brutal of the Five Families who controlled organized crime in New York—insults various “fat rat scumbags” and “stone-cold losers” on his YouTube series, “A Bath Avenue Story.” Those in search of cleaner fare might check out “The Sit Down with Michael Franzese,” an interview show in which the Colombo capo turned Orange County motivational speaker chats with celebrities and offers movie reviews and life-style tips to his viewers. (No. 1: “Fly under the radar.”)