(CN) – A senior mob member pleaded guilty on Thursday for playing a role in a murder ordered by John Gotti, an acting boss of the Gambino crime family, federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced.
Joseph Watts was never formally inducted into the notorious Gambino family because he is not of Italian descent, but he worked closely with Gotti and others as the family capo, short for caporegime, which translates roughly to captain.
Authorities say Watts helped put together a murder team to execute Fredrick Weiss, a former gangster whom the mob suspected of cooperating with the government, and dig the grave where Weiss was to be buried.
Weiss was shot to death outside his apartment in 1989. Gotti died in prison in 2002 after he received a life sentence for his role in 13 murders and a number of other mob-related charges.
Prosecutors offered Watts a plea deal to admit to his role in Weiss’ murder as well as an assault charge against an investor who allegedly refused to return laundered money.
The guilty plea was announced the same day local and federal law enforcement charged 127 people, 110 of whom were arrested, with mob-related crimes on the East Coast. Members of New York’s “five families” (Genovese, Gambino, Colombo, Luchese and Bonanno), as well as members of New Jersey’s DeCavalcante family were arrested, according to the FBI.
Authorities have reportedly feared a resurgence in organized crime activities after a notable two-decade decline.
Members of the Gambino family – or La Cosa Nostra, Italian for “this thing of ours” – have been investigated for dozens of murder, extortion, money laundering and other charges over the past three decades.
Watts pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and assault in aid of racketeering, and will forfeit any proceeds from his crimes, which authorities believe to be at least $250,000 dollars.
He faces 13 years in prison when he is scheduled for sentencing on April 20.