An ageing hit man once used as an enforcer by US mafia boss John Gotti was convicted yesterday for the cold-blooded killings of four people, including a security guard gunned down during an armoured car heist in 1990.
A federal jury deliberated for four days in Brooklyn before reaching the guilty verdicts against 62-year-old Charles Carneglia. The decision followed a six-week trial that debuted a key Mafia turncoat also expected to testify against Gotti's son.
Jurors acquitted Carneglia of conspiracy in a fifth slaying, which claimed a court officer in 1976. They said they ended their deliberations undecided about a related murder count.
Prosecutors portrayed Carneglia as a feared Gambino organised crime family soldier who was eager to please his superiors. In one instance - an ambush in the World Trade Centre car park - he shot four bullets into a man who ignored an invitation by the elder Gotti to a social club in 1990.
"The defendant's value to the Gambino family is he's a killer," Assistant US Attorney Evan Norris said during closing arguments. "He excelled at intimidation and violence."
Defence lawyers insisted their client was a mob misfit who drank too much to ever be a reliable assassin. He even broke the rules by growing a bushy beard - his "personal way of defying the mob," said attorney Curtis Farber.
Carneglia was arrested last year in what authorities described as one of the largest roundups ever of suspected members and associates of a New York organised crime family. Since then, 60 of the defendants have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and one case was dropped.
In a separate case in Manhattan, John 'Junior' Gotti has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he was involved in three slayings in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also is charged with possessing and trafficking cocaine.
Gotti's childhood friend and self-described 'rat,' John Alite, has been cooperating as part of a plea deal and is expected to testify against the Gambino scion later this year.
He testified at Carneglia's trial that the younger Gotti - who rose through the ranks while his famous father ruled the New York mob in the 1980s and '90s - organised the World Trade Centre hit.
"It was his first job as a captain, and he wanted to get it right," the witness said. The result left Gotti "elated," he added.
Besides the car park ambush, Carneglia was convicted in the killing of Jose Delgado Rivera, a 57-year-old security guard who was shot in the back during the armoured car holdup at John F. Kennedy International airport in 1990. The two other murder convictions involved a rival mobster stabbed in 1977 during a fight outside a diner and a Gambino associate killed in 1983 during an argument with Carneglia over money.
The case produced one of the gorier allegations to emerge recently in mob lore: that the body of John Favara - a neighbour killed for accidentally running over the elder Gotti's 12-year-old son - was dissolved in a vat of acid. Carneglia wasn't charged in the killing, but jurors were allowed to hear testimony that he was involved in disposing of bodies.
Carneglia faces a possible life term at his June sentencing.
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