Robert DiBernardo (May 31, 1937 - June 5, 1986) also known as "DB", was a captain in the Gambino crime family who ran the Gambino crime family's pornography racket and at the time of his death was reported to be one of the biggest pornographers in the United States. DiBernardo lived a hidden life. His suburban neighbors on Long Island knew only that this "real estate investor" who worked in Manhattan could afford a sprawling ranch home and white Mercedes. DiBi seemed a family man and a friendly man - he even coached Little League baseball. He gained notoriety when he was involved in a real estate business deal with John Zaccaro, the husband of Geraldine Anne Ferraro, a Democratic politician and a former member of the United States House of Representatives who at the time was 1984 Vice Presidential candidate for Walter Mondale. For over two decades, DiBernardo made an estimated $250 million a year thru Labor Racketeering, Labor Unions, Extortion, Pornography and Prostitutuion for the Gambino Crime Family. For over 20 years, DiBernardo was one of the Gambino crime family's biggest money-makers.
Robert DiBernando was born in Hewlett, New York. His early life is a mystery. He was first associated with the DeCavalcante crime family of New Jersey but was later transferred to the Gambino family and put in the crew of Ettore Zappi in the 1960s.
Ferraro Scandal Edit
Shortly after the 1984 Democratic National Convention, during the last week of July, questions were circulating about Geraldine's personal finances, those of her husband real estate developer John Zaccaro, and their separately filed tax returns. (While the Mondale campaign had anticipated some questions, the drawn-out vice-presidential selection process had not fully vetted her on this aspect.) Ferraro said that she would release both their returns within a month, but maintained that she was correct not to have included her husband's financial holdings on her past annual Congressional disclosure statements. Notice of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's past investigation into Ferraro's 1978 campaign funds were exposed.
On August 12, Geraldine announced that her husband, John Zaccaro would not in fact be releasing his tax returns, on the grounds that to do so would disadvantage his real estate business and that such a disclosure was voluntary and not part of election law; she then quipped, "You people who are married to Italian men, you know what it's like." No campaign issue during the entire 1984 presidential campaign received more media attention than Ferraro's finances. The exposure would have the effect of diminishing Ferraro's rising stardom, removing whatever momentum the Mondale–Ferraro ticket gained out of the convention, and delaying the formation of a coherent message for the fall campaign. Her husband's business relationship with the notorious pornographer and organized crime figure DiBernardo ended the debate during the 1984 vice-presidential debate.
On November 6, Mondale and Ferraro lost the general election in a landslide. They received only 41 percent of the popular vote compared to Reagan and Bush's 59 percent, and in the Electoral College won only Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Ferraro failed to carry her own congressional district, which always tended to vote Republican in presidential races. Ferraro's presence on the ticket had little measurable effect overall. Geraldine was later replaced by Democratic politician Mary Rose Oakar.
DiBi met frequently with Gambino godfather Paul Castellano at his Todd Hill mansion - the highest location in New York City - on Staten Island. While friendly with Paul to his face, behind his back, DiBernardo supported the ambitious mobster John Gotti.
"He [Castellano] uses me," DiBi said in a conversation bugged by the FBI. "He makes me look bad. 'Look at DiBi. He created a pornography empire.' Like he's some kind of high-and-mighty. Mr. f---ing Clean. Does it stop him from taking his cut? 'Sorry, Paul, you don't wanna touch those dollars - there's pussy on 'em.' Ha! He'll take 'em anyway. He wants it both ways. Get paid. Act clean. My ass."
However, after Castellano was killed and Gotti became the new boss, Salvatore Gravano had a sitdown with boss John Gotti, telling him that he learned from capo Angelo Ruggiero that DiBernardo was being subversive. Gravano pleaded to have DiBernardo whacked, which a reluctant Gotti sanctioned. On June 5, 1986, Robert DiBernardo was lured to the basement offices of Sammy Gravano's drywall company on Stillwell Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Acting as if it were a regular business meeting, Salvatore Gravano told Joseph Paruta to get DiBernardo a cup of coffee. Paruta got up, but instead of getting the coffee, Paruta took a .357 magnum revolver from a cabinet behind DiBernardo and shot him in the back of the head. Gravano claimed that he later learned that Ruggiero was $250,000 in debt to DiBernardo and realized Ruggiero may have fabricated the orders from Gotti or simply lied to Gotti about what DiBernardo was accused of saying in order to avoid paying off the debt and improve his reputation and respect further in the family. In any event, DiBernardo's death proved profitable for Gravano, as he took over the deceased man's control of Teamsters Local 282, speculating to many, particularly Gotti, that Gravano fabricated the situation for his own profit.
Popular culture Edit
In the 1996 HBO original movie Gotti made for television, actor Frank Vincent portrays DiBernardo.
In Witness to the Mob, actor Tony Kruck portrays him simply as "Di Bernardo".