Desperate (Mob) Housewife

Toni Marie Ricci at home in Staten Island, where she lives with her new husband.Photo: Gillian Laub/Corbis

Looking back, Toni Marie Ricci says she should have realized early on that her first husband, Michael “Mikey Scars” DiLeonardo, was a “rat” in the making. Wed at 19—he was 29—she was easily seduced by his flashy social calendar: July 4 parties at Sammy the Bull’s house, Junior Gotti’s wedding at the Helmsley Palace, champagne-fueled nights with the boys in Bensonhurst.

“When I used to go out and meet Michael, I would see the girls flock to these guys,” recalls Toni Marie, now 41. “It was champagne all night long, and they were good-looking guys. Sharp dressers. I guess I saw the glamour and I didn’t see the bad part of it.”

The bad part didn’t take long to find her. The secrets. The fights. The other woman. And now that her ex-husband is a turncoat, the bitterness and angst. Last week, DiLeonardo told prosecutors how his old friend Junior Gotti, enraged by Curtis Sliwa’s on-air rants about his family, plotted the 1992 kidnapping of the Guardian Angel and radio personality. Junior Gotti, who’d reportedly refused to snitch on DiLeonardo in a previous trial, glowered as the former capo pointed a damning finger at him while talking about their friendship. “Nobody was closer to John than me,” DiLeonardo said.

What bothers Toni Marie most is that her son, Michael Jr., a student at the College of Staten Island, got caught up in the mess. I first spoke to her in August 2004, after she called to complain about an item in my “Gang Land” column in the New York Sun about a jailhouse visit her son had paid to Junior Gotti a year earlier. An FBI affidavit alleged that Junior had summoned Michael Jr. to ask him to talk his father out of becoming a stool pigeon. That visit had the opposite effect on DiLeonardo, who claims that he thought Junior Gotti was trying to manipulate his son. He says he decided to testify as a result.

Toni Marie blames her ex-husband, not Junior Gotti, for dragging her son into the trial. She blames Scars for a lot of things. Remarried a year ago, she may no longer be a Mafia wife. But she’ll always be the ex-wife of a “rat.”

We met in 1984, in May, at the Players Club on Bay Parkway. He sent over a friend to buy me a drink. I knew who he was. About a month later, a mutual friend got us together. Our first date was dinner at Tommaso’s in Bensonhurst. I had mentioned it to my brother, but it didn’t go over too well—also with my father. “We know the guy, he’s not for you.” I was the type of person, the more you told me not to do something, the more I did it. My brother met him and said, “My sister is so much younger than you.” He said, “What, you don’t like me? You think I’m a bad guy? I just want to take her to dinner.” He had a charisma about him. He was always happy-go-lucky. Took me out to the best of places. I never asked him for anything. I didn’t have to. He would buy me anything.

I wanted to get married right away, do the wife thing, have children. We got married at City Hall in May 1985. My father wanted us to get married in a church, so come September we got married in St. Finbars and had a reception. For our honeymoon, we went to Sicily—his heritage—Taormina. It was very nice .

Michael was my life. He walked in a room and my face lit up. I did anything and everything possible to make the man happy. I never stopped and said to myself, You know, my husband is a gangster. I just thought that maybe he was hanging around more with different types of guys. Did I think anything? Yeah, I did. But did I talk to him about it? No. I guess I blocked it out. I didn’t want that life—to me nothing good could come of it except going to jail and dying—yet I was intrigued by it.

On December 16, 1985, Toni Marie’s cousin Frank DeCicco, a tough mob capo under Gambino boss Paul Castellano, helped John Gotti Sr. orchestrate Castellano’s assassination outside Sparks steakhouse, paving the way for Gotti to take his place. Four months later, DeCicco was blown up as he got into a car across the street from Tommaso’s.

I was pregnant when we got the call. My Uncle Joe was there and helped pull him out of the car. It was a horrible thing. My father was very upset because he was very close to his cousin. I just remember going to the funeral and the wake. It was a terrible thing. Nobody talked about that afterward. Michael seemed to be upset, like everybody else. Maybe it was an act. Later on, I found out that my cousin didn’t like him.

Michael was born June 18, 1986—the same birthday as his father. Our fighting started when Michael was 2 or 3 months old. My husband started staying out late—I think he was already starting to fool around—coming home at three in the morning, waking up my son in the middle of the night and playing with him. Twice a week, then three times a week. He loved his son to death. He was very good to him, buying him things—different toys and animals. He would take him out during the day but not in normal situations. My son didn’t want to go with him. My son said, “I don’t want to sit in the car while he is talking to this guy or that.”

We were very close to Junior Gotti. Michael baptized his second son. My brother [Frank, also a Gambino mobster] was in a bad car accident in 1991 and almost died, and John went in the ambulance with him and moved him to Manhattan so he could get better treatment. John was like an uncle to my son. He would buy him baseball cards.

I never had proof he was cheating, but I knew. The first confrontation occurred in ’95, ’96. I got a job in a school in Mill Basin as an aide. I wanted to go to work; he never wanted me to. “Stay home. Take care of Michael.” I came home one day and heard him upstairs on the phone in the bedroom, saying, “I’ll pick you up tonight. Just get dressed.” I ran up. “Who were you talking to?” “Louie.” “Louie? Why’d you hang up the phone?” “It’s none of your business.” He would curse like a maniac and go crazy. I called my brother. “I can’t take this no more. If you know something, you better tell me.” He said, “I don’t know nothing. If you’re unhappy, then leave.” Even my brother would never tell me.

For twelve years, I tried to have another child with him. He did not want to. I thought, If we have another baby, everything will be all right. One time he said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll go out and have a baby for you.” “What did you say? What are you, sick?” The problem is that I can’t conceive naturally—I have only one tube—so I did artificial insemination three times and in vitro. It didn’t work, and right after that he took the girl [his then-mistress Madelina Fischetti] to get pregnant with the same procedures.

In September 2000, Mikey Scars was indicted on federal extortion charges stemming from the Gambino family’s control of a topless joint in Atlanta, Georgia—and released under house-arrest conditions. He was acquitted the following year.

In December, we get a Christmas card: “Congratulations to Michael and Madelina on their new baby boy—more to come.” I read this not even realizing what I am reading. Two seconds later, it hits me and I fell on the floor. This is a year after I tried to have another child with him. And I learn that he has a 6-month-old son. He turned beet red: “Someone’s making up lies.” But I knew it was true as soon as I looked in his face.

My mother and sister came. My son is in the basement and they’re trying to control him. He punches the wall and breaks his hand. A big commotion. It was worse than somebody dying. About a half-hour later, he sits me down in the den—my mother and sister had me on both sides; I was like a rag doll—and says, “I can’t lie to you anymore.” That had to be the worst day of my life.

I made him call her. He had an apartment he put her in on Shore Road in Brooklyn. He handed me the phone, and I said to her, “Where do you come off having this child? I’m married to this guy for seventeen years.” She didn’t answer. I said, “What’s the matter? You’re not woman enough to answer?” He took the phone and hung it up. So I took the phone and hit him over the head with it.

I let him stay. I was out of my mind. I couldn’t make a decision. He stayed five months. My poor son would try to console me, a 14-year-old boy. Finally, one day I said, “You got to get out of here.” He said, “Well, I’m on house arrest.” I said, “I don’t care.”

In early 2003, Mikey Scars was having second thoughts about turning against Junior Gotti because his son, Michael, did not want to relocate with him under the witness protection program. Around that time, young Michael visited Junior in upstate New York, where he was serving a 77-month sentence for a 1999 racketeering charge. Scars contends Junior sent Michael Jr. home with a message for Scars: that all would be forgiven if he changed his mind about becoming a rat.

John did ask to see my son, but John never said a bad word about my ex-husband. John was concerned for my son’s well-being. He told him to keep his head up, stay in school. Michael is a liar. I’d like to tell my ex-husband, “What kind of a sick person are you to turn around and put your son in the middle of this trial? You say you became a rat because John asked to see your son and you believed that John would influence your son to tell you not to do what you were going to do? What kind of man are you to say that about your son? Don’t you think of the consequences? It’s bad enough that you left him out here with your same name—first, middle, last name—on the streets.”

I’m tired of people bad-mouthing my son. Just because he doesn’t accept what his father did, that doesn’t mean that he is involved in “the life.” They say he is a wannabe gangster. My son is not a wannabe gangster. My son was brought up that you don’t rat on your friends. If you get into a fight, you don’t tell the teacher. You take care of it yourself. Children and spouses should not suffer for the sins of their fathers or husbands. But I received letters cursing me: “How do you people show your faces? Your families are rats.”

Last summer, after Scars and her brother took the stand against Junior Gotti during his first trial (the jury hung 11-1 on a conviction for racketeering), Toni Marie grew increasingly isolated and depressed. She started seeing a therapist and decided to investigate her ex-husband’s fascination with A Clockwork Orange, his favorite movie.

He rented it one night when my son was 2. He told me, “This is a great movie. I had to watch it in college for psychology. I’ll explain it to you because it’s pretty deep.” I watched it about three times with him over the years. I knew that there was sex and violence, rape and murder—these weird kids doing this crazy stuff.

Recently I said I have to find out why was he so intrigued. So I went online, typed in “clockwork orange,” and sure enough, it comes up about a young, charming criminal who volunteers to be brainwashed to reform criminals in exchange for a shorter sentence. The lightbulb goes off. Oh, my God, this movie is about this man. A clockwork means an artificial mechanical human being and orange is similar to orangutan, a hairy apelike creature indicating something bizarre internally but appearing natural, normal on the surface. And that’s Michael. He was charming, nothing ever bothered him. But in the end, this was all planned. He did exactly what this person did.

Michael DiLeonardo’s views about A Clockwork Orange could not be obtained for this story. After spending three years in prison for murder, he was released and now lives in an undisclosed location with his new wife, Madelina, and their 6-year-old son, Anthony.

Toni Marie didn’t attend her ex-husband’s court appearance last week—but she was sure Scars would be as cocky on the stand as he was that first night at the Players Club, when she refused to give him her phone number and he handed her a slip of paper with three numbers she could use to reach him. “All three were wrong,” she says. “I should have known then. Three wrong numbers! That goes to show you what a sicko he was.”

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Desperate (Mob) Housewife