Self-Made Man

updated 06/25/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The old joke about why the Mob supposedly killed Einstein—because he knew too much—doesn't apply to Jerry Capeci. Those who take a personal interest in organized crime love Capeci's Mafia Web site,, so much that they treat him like family. In December the mother of imprisoned gangster James "Froggy" Galione made a panicked phone call begging Capeci to put out the word "that he wasn't a rat," the reporter says.

The site is such required reading that the nephew of former Bonanno family boss Carmine Galante logged on every week at a public library during the two years he spent on the lam. "Everybody in the Mafia," says Ron Kuby, a former lawyer for John Gotti, "reads his Web site." Agrees Henry Hill, whose story inspired GoodFellas and who is still in hiding after testifying against the Mob: "Jerry's got his finger on the pulse."

Capeci, 56, who has three children—Matthew, 26, a chemical engineer; Jenna, 24, a human-rights worker; and Craig, 21, a college student—with wife Barbara, 59, a health educator, credits his three decades of reporting experience, including six years writing the Gang Land column for New York's Daily News, for the Web site's success. Now director of communications for Manhattan's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Capeci runs the site out of his two-bedroom New York City apartment.

He certainly has a captive audience. Mobsters who have been sent up the river—tempted by such tidbits as Capeci's recent revelation that Joseph "Joey Flowers" Tangorra, a captain in the Lucchese crime family, is seeing a shrink after suffering Tony Soprano-like panic disorders—beg for paper printouts of the column. "There are," Capeci notes, "no computers in jail."

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