Mary Altaffer  /  AP
New York City police officers and FBI investigators dig in a vacant lot in Queens, N.Y., on Thursday. Federal authorities believe the site could be a graveyard for targets of hits ordered by former mob boss John Gotti and other gangsters more than two decades ago.
updated 10/9/2004 10:10:44 AM ET 2004-10-09T14:10:44

It’s no place to rest in peace: a vacant lot covered with reeds, slabs of concrete and trash.

But federal authorities believe the site in a remote section of Queens could be a graveyard for targets of hits ordered by John Gotti and other mobsters more than two decades ago.

Acting on a tip from an underworld informant, a team of FBI agents has begun digging for the remains of a half-dozen or more victims. They include a man whose epitaph could read, “Made the mistake of killing the Dapper Don’s son in a traffic accident.” Another was nicknamed “Lucky.”

No findings were reported during the first four days of digging this week. The job was expected to continue beyond Friday.

Quiet enough to sleep (with the fishes)
The suspected burial ground is on Ruby Street, just west of John F. Kennedy Airport. Dilapidated homes, abandoned cars and other empty lots, some baited with rat poison, dot the marshy landscape.

On a recent day, traffic was almost nonexistent. Breezes off Jamaica Bay were steady.

The desolation suited the Gambino crime family.

“They picked it because it wasn’t far from their stomping grounds and it was secluded,” said Jerry Capeci, a former newspaper columnist and expert on the Mafia. “But the key thing was that they thought it would never be looked at.”

While no one was looking, Gotti’s crew allegedly used the lot to make the bodies of traitors and enemies — whacked by both their crime family and others — disappear. Two of the dead are believed to be former captains of the Bonanno family, Dominick “Big Trin” Trinchera and Philip “Philly Lucky” Giaccone.

Trinchera, Giaccone and another Bonanno captain, Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato, were shotgunned to death at a Brooklyn social club in 1981 amid an internal struggle for control of the family. Joseph Massino, who later became boss, was convicted this year in the slayings based on the testimony of turncoat mobsters.

A job for a professional
After the social club slaughter, the Gambinos agreed to help the Bonannos clean up the mess — although not well enough.

Indelicato’s body was discovered three weeks later by children who spotted his arm poking through the soil. A witness at the Massino trial recounted the mob’s horror.

“We might have a problem,” a soldier said at the time. “The body is rising.”

Authorities retrieved Indelicato’s body at the time and found no others.

But investigators suspect that the burials resumed and that Ruby Street was also the last stop for a neighbor of Gotti’s who disappeared 24 years ago.

John Favara, 51, accidentally struck and killed Gotti’s 12-year-old son with his car in 1980 while the boy was riding a minibike near his home. About four months later, after receiving death threats, Favara was abducted outside a Long Island diner and vanished; Gotti was in Florida at the time.

Gotti — once the nation’s most feared gangster as head of the Gambinos — denied any involvement. But he never hid his rage toward Favara.

“I wouldn’t be sorry if the guy turned up dead,” he told the FBI at the time.

Gotti was sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and murder in 1992 and died behind bars in 2002. By then, Favara was a forgotten footnote in Mafia lore.

But a recent case against the Bonannos produced the fresh tip about Favara’s whereabouts, and the digging began.

Each day, two backhoes claw at the earth, while FBI agents wearing yellow rubber boots pick through the soil with rakes and cadaver-sniffing dogs roam the ground. The discovery of a bone earlier this week caused a brief stir.

A closer examination revealed that it came from a dead dog.

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