Women as Mafia Victims

Women as Mafia Victims
Women as Mafia Victims

Part of John Gotti's self-portrait was that he brooked no mistreatment of women, and the same has been said of other mob leaders. Gotti was famous for holding doors open for women reporters and making comments about how he was brought up to be nice to the weaker sex.

In the first of his three important trials in the 1980s and 1990s, James Sanetore, a turncoat witness against Gotti, was asked by the defense during cross-examination: "Mr. Sanetore, didn't you burn a woman's breasts with cigarettes?" The criminal witness was irate: "Absolutely not. All we did was tie her on the bed and throw burning matches on her breasts. That's all we did."

Left unanswered was how the Gotti side knew about the witness's transgressions.


The mistreatment of women is a staple of forcing loan shark victims to cough up the money they owe at exorbitant interest charges. One common method is to threaten violent punishment of the wife.

Clearly, the mob tolerates the murder of women, many of whom are innocently under the gun in gangland affairs. All it takes is the feeling that she knows too much about criminal activities and is likely to cave in under scrutiny by prosecutors.

Such was the fate of Cherie Golden, a 19-year-old brown-haired beauty with brown eyes and a cherubic smile who had won a Twiggy look-alike contest. She was wooed by John Quinn, a married mobster with six kids on Long Island, who showed Cherie off in Little Italy restaurants.

Unfortunately, he also took Cherie along while negotiating the purchase of hot cars and to a number of chop shops he ran. His superiors in the mob did not like that and warned Quinn to dump Cherie. He refused and then got in severe legal trouble. Suddenly he looked like a prime candidate for becoming a turncoat, and that made Quinn an obvious hit candidate.

Quinn was invited to a mob meeting in a Brooklyn tavern with Roy DeMeo, his boss in the car racket and the Gambino family's ace killer. Quinn brought Cherie along and left her outside in his car. He went inside and was promptly put to sleep with a silencer equipped gun.

Cherie did not hear the shot. Two of the mob's members came to the car and started flirting with her, one on each side of the vehicle. As one of the men distracted the young girl, she turned her head toward him and the other one drew a gun and shot her in the brain. As her head whipped around, she took another bullet in the face. The killers disposed of her body, removing her halter top just to give the police a possible sexual angle to investigate.

DeMeo made the hit on his own without getting higher approval, which upset the recently installed new boss, Paul Castellano. Big Paul recognized the murder as one that could produce very bad press. He wanted to know why the girl was killed.

DeMeo's direct superior, capo Nino Gaggi, was also angered but had to put the best face on the situation and explained she knew too much about the stolen car operations. Castellano was not convinced but could do nothing. He ordered that DeMeo not do any hits without prior approval. "Just talk to Roy," Castellano said. "Make sure people just don't start going who don't have to go."

No punishment was exacted for Cherie's murder, and none seemed to have ever been meted out for other Mafia killings of women. Often a woman is killed simply as an object lesson to her husband or boyfriend to keep his silence.

While Hollywood extortionist Nick Circella was doing time, the Chicago mob worried he might flip to gain his freedom. A mob enforcer visited Circella's lady friend, Estelle Carey, a Chicago cocktail waitress. The mob also feared Estelle might talk to help her man, an action that could inspire other women to talk. They decided Estelle had to die and that she had to be killed in grisly fashion to make a vivid point.

They tied her to a chair, tortured her, broke her nose, battered her face, stabbed her several times and cut her throat. Weapons used on her included a flatiron, a blackjack and a rolling pin. Then she was doused with gasoline and set on fire. The only witness to the horrid homicide was Estelle's pet poodle cowering in a corner. But when her body was found, the torture hit had a most salutary effect. Nick's lips—and those of several females who were thought likely to gab—stayed very zipped.

When Gus Greenbaum, a leading casino operator in Las Vegas, was marked for execution for skimming the mob's skim money, it was decided his wife should die with him. Meyer Lansky ordered the killings and handed the contract to the Chicago mob, an outfit known, as in the case of Estelle Carey, for a passion for brutality.

Greenbaum and his wife were found dead in their home in Phoenix, their throats cut. After the killings Lansky supposedly spread word that he had merely ordered straight hits. But this was doubtful since the killings were meant to encourage other Vegas employees to see the wisdom of playing fair with the mob.