President Barack Obama's nomination last week of respected former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission seemed designed to signal a crackdown on financial crime to Wall Street. "Don't mess with Mary Jo," Obama said.

But in listing her ample credentials, Obama appeared to exaggerate one. "In the early 1990s," he said, flanked by White, "she brought down John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime syndicate."

She did?

John Gleeson, now a federal judge, led the trial team that convicted Gotti. The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn then was Andrew Maloney who, because of the high stakes in trying to nail the "Teflon Don," helped try the case in court. Later, when Attorney General William Barr gave a Distinguished Service Award to the team responsible for the conviction, he cited Gleeson, Maloney and three other prosecutors; White wasn't even mentioned.

Maloney hired her as his top assistant in 1990. In 1992, when he departed following the Gotti case, White succeeded him. During Gotti's trial, she had a role in strategic discussions and reviewing filings, said people familiar with the history, who called it a stretch to say she "brought down" the Don.

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Responding to questions, a spokesperson for White read a statement that said while Maloney's first assistant, White "worked closely with the trial team on the investigation and prosecution." The statement noted that later, as U.S. attorney in Manhattan, she supervised the racketeering case that sent Gotti's son, John A. Gotti, to prison.

But the spokesperson said White had no direct comment on the accuracy of Obama's wording.-- John Riley