Before his arrest, Dominick Curra walked through the country peacefully. He went completely unnoticed, perhaps because he kept a low profile and because those who knew of his presence here protected him.
Curra, an Italian born in Calabria, was considered a magician to make mafia money grow.
There was a reason he was John Gotti’s personal bookie, a “working” relationship had already cost him several years in prison in the United States. Curra had been imprisoned in 1986 for credit card fraud and in 1998 for gambling.
Then, back in 2002, the FBI was looking for him for electronic scams and for trying to sell fake artwork by painters such as Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. The scams amounted to US$30 million.
The scams with the paintings came to light because the FBI sent an undercover agent to buy one.
When US authorities put Curra against the wall, he accepted the charges for that crime.
Gotti was considered the boss of bossed, commanding one of the five most powerful New York mafia families that ever existed, the Gambino family.
His fame even reached the big screen, portrayed by John Travolta in the movie “Gotti: The Mafia Boss,” which premiered on May 15, 2018.
Gotti was sentenced in 1992 to 77 years in prison. He died in prison on June 10, 2002, from throat cancer. They buried him in the best mafia style.
The FBI recorded several videos in the United States that proved that Curra was visiting Gotti in prison to give him an account of his business.
In 1998, the New York authorities had reported that four families linked to organized crime operated illegal bets in Costa Rica; they were the Gambino family (to which Gotti belonged), the Bonnano, the Lucchese and the Genovese.
Four years later, little had happened.
An officer from the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional (DIS) – Costa Rica’s intelligence and national security agency – when they caught Curra and who still works in police in the country told about the capture and the uproar that it caused in 2002.
The officer, with a 22-year record of police work, identified only as Castro, said “The FBI had warned at that time of the entry into the country of the bookie and the business connection to the Italian mafia that was established in New York and (alerted) that they were moving millions through internet gambling, using Costa Rica to multiply their millions.”
Castro describes Gotti as “They were people who controlled New York, they were many Italians and they were all very powerful and violent. They paid for things to be done their way, it was an organized mafia.”
Although Gotti, also known as “the Teflon Don” was imprisoned and sentenced to life imprisonment, all of his businesses continued in the hands of his successors.
That is why Curra, 57, was in our country, but his luck ran out one day.
“We received a call that alerted us to where the Italian was, the hours at which he left and detailed the businesses that he handled here,” explains Castro.
“It was a call with the intention that he would be captured, but also with the intention that he knew he had been betrayed for payback for an error or to definitively remove him from the business,” said Castro.
For the country, it was a very important capture and the DIS coordinated all the details.
According to Castro, there was already an FBI agent in our country on Curra’s trail.
The Italian was detained at 8 am near the ICE main building in Sabana Norte. He was staying at the Aparthotel Cristina, 100 meters north from the main road.
He was going to an internet betting company that was in an office two kilometers from where he was staying, spending hours there.
18 years have passed since the capture
Curra had arrived in the country as a tourist on December 24, 2001. On February 1, 2002, he left the country and returned as Pedro, there was no immigration record of the day he entered Costa Rica again.
He claimed to feel persecuted by the United States and always complained that despite having a rank in the organization, he never got the respect.
“Italian mafiosi are characterized by their good taste for expensive clothing, they do not go unnoticed because their appearance is faultless, but in this case, Dominick Curra dressed normal, had a low profile, interactive little with people,” recalls Castro.
Curra spoke and greeted the necessary, no more.
“To buy food from a nearby supermarket he moved on foot, he had a reliable driver, and stayed in a modest place,” added the agent, who recalled that when Cura was arrested he did not say a word.
“You could see he was a very quick and intelligent man, at one point he denied the charges for which he was accused in the United States and if I remember correctly because it was a long time ago, he told us that he was a gambler and that from this he earned and supported his family with a good standard of living,” he said.
Curra was held in the San Sebastián jail while waiting for extradition and the arrival of U.S. authorities.
In an interview he gave to the La Nación newspaper while he was awaiting extradition, Curra confirmed that he was a friend of Gotti but denied being his bookie.
He also said he knew Joseph Caridi, another Italian mafia boss in New York and accused in the United States of running an Internet gambling ring, extortion and cocaine trafficking in Costa Rica.
Caridi and Curra were neighbors.
“People love gambling, for that reason no government is going to stop the game. It is much easier to control and regulate this business than to destroy it, because everyone likes to gamble,” the Italian told La Nación in 2002.
“With the technological resources we have right now, the capture would have unleashed more investigations in gambling,” said Castro.
Castro assures that Curra made movements of cash to mislead the authorities. Those movements then exceeded ¢5 million colones.
Curra was extradited by order of the First Judicial Circuit on February 27, 2003, under strict security measures. He spent a year in prison in Costa Rica because he fought extradition to the United States.
“A major operation was carried out to transfer him to the airport, the FBI asked that the low-profile operation be carried out because he was a highly dangerous detainee,” says Castro.
Curra, who is now 75 years old, was sentenced by an American court. Nothing more is known of him, legally.
“He received a sentence of not less than ten years and along with him were several other Italians linked to the mafia.
“Here in the country, there was a problem about internet gambling that was already being analyzed, if we had had the technology right now and the resources, who knows how much more would have been detected about the mafia movement of money,” Castro concluded.