He grew up in the Howard Beach section of Queens, N.Y., and by the time he was a strapping young man, Nick DiMaggio was well into “the life.’’
Between 1970 and 2003, he admits, he had hijacked dozens of trucks, trafficked in kilos of heroin and cocaine and stabbed, murdered or broken the legs of more people than he can remember.
“I was a killer, I was a drug dealer, I was a hijacker, I beat people half to death,’’ DiMaggio admitted. “I did a lot of bad things. Very bad things.’’
But in Broward County Court Wednesday, the New York hoodlum, a former member of the Gambino crime family, said that despite his brutal 40-year underworld career, he still had a “code.”
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Where he came from, he told the jury, you didn’t kill people for money — you whacked them on “principle.”
So when Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello offered him $100,000 to execute Miami Subs mogul Gus Boulis, DiMaggio said he was insulted — and turned him down.
“Where I come from you don’t do that,’’ DiMaggio said proudly.
DiMaggio, now in the federal witness protection program, has changed his name to protect his true identity and shield him from organized crime’s wrath.
He was brought into the courtroom under the cloak of dark-suited federal agents and, during breaks in the trial, happily flirted with the redhead with handcuffs who was assigned to guard the 5-foot-11, broad-shouldered, swaggering witness.
It was hard to tell whether DiMaggio, who was called by the prosecution, helped or harmed the case, which has taken 12 years to come to trial. Moscatiello, 75, a reputed captain in the Gambino crime family, and his alleged underling, Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari, are charged with arranging Boulis’ Feb. 6, 2001, execution. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
DiMaggio testified that the man prosecutors allege was the triggerman, John “J.J.” Gurino, was his best friend. Gurino was killed in an unrelated mob hit two years after Boulis’ slaying.
Curiously, DiMaggio said Gurino never told him he killed Boulis, even though the two were as close as brothers, raising yet another question about both DiMaggio’s credibility and prosecutors’ theory of who was behind the hit.
DiMaggio said that a few months before Boulis was killed, Moscatiello tried to hire him to kill Boulis, telling him that the money for the hit was being paid by Adam Kidan, a Boulis business associate with whom Boulis had been feuding.
Kidan and corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff were in the midst of buying Boulis’ SunCruz gambling fleet, and Boulis threatened to expose Kidan and Abramoff for what he began to see as a fraudulent deal. In one fit of rage, Boulis allegedly stabbed Kidan in the neck with a pen, prompting Kidan to take out a restraining order against the self-made millionaire.
Both Kidan and Abramoff were later prosecuted and served jail time for fraud in connection with the SunCruz deal. Neither of them was charged in connection with Boulis’ murder, and prosecutors say they had nothing to do with the hit.
Defense attorneys, however, are trying to show that it was indeed Kidan who was behind the bloody slaying, which happened as Boulis was headed home from the mogul’s Fort Lauderdale office about 9:30 p.m.
As he drove along a dimly lit street, a car stopped suddenly in front of his BMW, and another car, a black Mustang, pulled up beside him and emptied four shots into Boulis, one of them piercing his hand as he tried to shield himself, authorities said.
Boulis, 51, died shortly thereafter, in the hospital.
DiMaggio is one of a cast of crooks, admitted liars and thugs who have testified thus far against the two reputed gangsters. Moscatiello’s lawyer, David Bogenshutz, has carefully tried to pick apart the credibility of each witness, underscoring that they are career criminals who have managed to wriggle out of long prison terms by turning into snitches.
Bogenshutz hammered DiMaggio on his criminal history. The witness was also tripped up a couple of time on his recollection of what he told federal agents and when. At one point, DiMaggio admitted that the veteran criminal attorney had won a point.
“Ok, I made a mistake,’’ DiMaggio said. “Whatta ya gonna do ’bout it? Kill me? Let’s do it.’’
Like other witnesses, DiMaggio has so far escaped serving any appreciable prison time.
The trial continues Thursday.