Mob boss John Gotti convicted of murder

Mob boss John Gotti convicted of murder

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A jury in New York finds mobster John Gotti, nicknamed the Teflon Don for his ability to elude conviction, guilty on 13 counts, including murder and racketeering. In the wake of the conviction, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, James Fox, was quoted as saying, “The don is covered in Velcro, and every charge stuck.” On June 23 of that year, Gotti was sentenced to life in prison, dealing a significant blow to organized crime.

John Joseph Gotti, Jr., was born in the Bronx, New York, on October 27, 1940. He rose through the ranks of the Gambino crime family and seized power after ordering the December 1985 murder of then-boss Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steakhouse. Behind closed doors, Gotti was a ruthless, controlling figure. Publicly, he became a tabloid celebrity, famous for his swagger and expensive suits, which earned him another nickname, the Dapper Don.

READ MORE: 10 of the Most Powerful Mob Bosses of All Time

During the 1980s, Gotti’s lawyer Bruce Cutler won him acquittals three times. A jury member in one of those trials was later convicted of accepting a bribe to acquit the mob boss. In December 1990, Gotti was arrested at the Ravenite Social Club, his headquarters in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood. The ensuing trial, which started in January 1992, created a media frenzy. Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, one of Gotti’s top soldiers, made a deal with the government and testified in court against his boss. Gravano admitted to committing 19 murders, 10 of them sanctioned by Gotti.

In addition, prosecutors presented secret taped conversations that incriminated Gotti. After deliberating for 13 hours, the jury, which had been kept anonymous and sequestered during the trial, came back with a verdict on April 2, 1992, finding Gotti guilty on all counts. The mob boss was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was held in virtual solitary confinement. On June 10, 2002, Gotti died of throat cancer at age 61 at a Springfield, Missouri, medical center for federal prisoners.

READ MORE: The Mafia in the United States

John Gotti

He was slippery, yes, but even the “Teflon Don” couldn’t escape justice forever.

Despite the future nickname, John Gotti—a violent, ruthless mobster who’d grown up on the streets of New York—had been in and out of prison several times in his early career. In 1968, for example, we arrested him for his role in a plot to steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. Gotti was sent to prison, but was released in 1972.

And quickly made more trouble. Within two years, we’d arrested him again for murder. Same story: he went to prison and was out in a few years. Soon after, he became a “made man” for the Gambino family, one of the five most powerful syndicates in the Big Apple. Gambling, loansharking, and narcotics trafficking were his stocks in trade.

By the early 80s, using Title III wiretaps, mob informants, and undercover agents, we were beginning to get clear insights into the Gambino family’s hierarchy and activities (and into the other families as well) and were building strong cases against them as criminal enterprises. A break against Gotti came in late 1985, when mob violence spilled out on to the streets of Manhattan.

The scene of the crime? Sparks’ Steak House, a popular hangout for major criminals. On the evening of December 16, 1985, 70-year-old-mafioso Paul Castellano—the apparent successor of recently deceased Gambino boss Aniello Dellacroce—was gunned down along with his number two in command, Thomas Bilotti, in front of the restaurant. Gotti, who’d been watching from a car at a safe distance, had one of his men drive him by the scene to make sure his deadly orders had been carried out.

Having eliminated the competition, Gotti took over as head of the Gambino family. With his expensive suits, lavish parties, and illegal dealings, he quickly became something of a media celebrity, and the press dubbed him “The Dapper Don.” Following a string of highly-publicized acquittals—helped in large part by witness intimidation and jury tampering—Gotti also earned the “Teflon Don” nickname.

Our New York agents and their colleagues in the New York Police Department, though, refused to give up. With extensive court-authorized electronic surveillance, diligent detective work, and the eventual cooperation of Gotti’s henchman—“Sammy the Bull” Gravano—the Bureau and the NYPD built a strong case against him.

In December 1990, our agents and NYPD detectives arrested Gotti, and he was charged with multiple counts of racketeering, extortion, jury tampering, and other crimes. This time, the judge ordered that the jurors remain anonymous, identified only by number, so no one could pressure them. And the case was airtight.

The combination worked. On April 2, 1992, 15 years ago Monday, Gotti was convicted on 13 counts, including for ordering the murders of Castellano and Bilotti. The head of our New York office famously remarked, “The don is covered with Velcro, and every charge stuck.”

Indeed. Gotti had evaded the law for the last time. He died in prison in June 2002.

Frank DeCicco’s Rise

New York Police Department/Wikimedia Commons Carlo Gambino, the head of the Gambino crime family in New York until his death in 1972.

Frank DeCicco, also known as Frankie Cheech, was born on Nov. 5, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York. His father and uncle were members of the Gambino crime family, one of the most powerful New York mobs of the time under godfather Carlo Gambino.

As he grew up, DeCicco became known for his brain. He too took to a life of crime, joining the Gambino crime family like his father and making a name for himself there. He was well respected by his fellow mobsters thanks to his level head.

Frankie Cheech always knew how to execute a plan.

This was how he caught the eye of Paul Castellano, the so-called “Boss of Bosses.”

Also known as Big Paul, Castellano was Carlo Gambino’s cousin, and in 1976 he became the new crime boss of the Gambino family when Gambino died.

Getty Images Paul Castellano.

Castellano liked DeCicco and as the young mobster moved up the ranks the feeling became mutual. DeCicco has been described as something of a messy and erratic man, whose car was usually in a state of disarray.

Nonetheless, Castellano brought DeCicco into his labor racketeering, giving him a spot in the Teamsters Union Local 282.

By 1985, Castellano was making big money. Not only had he infiltrated the labor unions, but he had also gotten involved with local gambling and loan-sharking rackets. However, most of this money went straight into his own pockets which didn’t sit well with other members of the family.

One of these members was hotheaded up-and-comer John Gotti.

Gotti, looking for a little extra cash, and a lot more power, started dealing heroin on the side, despite knowing that Castellano was strictly anti-drugs. When the federal government cracked down on Gotti’s dealings, the mobster knew his days were numbered in the crime world.

That is unless he took out Castellano before the mob boss took him out first.

This Day In History: The Mafia Boss John Gotti Was Born (1940).

On this day John Joseph Gotti, Jr., the future head of the Mafia Gambino crime family was born in 1940. He was born into a large and poor family in the Bronx. As a child, he was so poor that he was usually dressed in rags, although in later life he became known for his dress sense and became known as the Dapper Don. John was not interested in school and he had to earn money for his family and so he started to run errands for local gangsters. The young Gotti also joined a notorious street gang that would torture members of rival gangs. Gotti soon became a full-time criminal and in 1960 he was arrested for hijacking trucks leaving JFK airport in New York. He was sentenced to three years in prison. In the 1960s he joined the Mafia. In 1974 he was complicit in the killing of a mobster who had killed the nephew of his own boss. Gotti was only sentenced to four years but he was regularly allowed day release and would visit family and friends. After his release in 1977, he headed his own crew in the Gambino family the most powerful of New York&rsquos Mafia families. In total, there were five Mafia families who dominated the Big Apple&rsquos criminal underworld. John Gotti soon began to gain more power in the Gambino family. The ordinary members of the Gambino family had become disenchanted with the boss Paul Castellano, who they believed was too cautious. Gotti seized control of the Gambino Crime family in 1985 when he assassinated Castellano and the ‘under-boss&rsquo.

Marion Penitentiary Illinois, where Gotti was incarcerated after 1992.

John Gotti soon became known as the ‘Teflon Don&rsquo because of his uncanny ability to evade justice. The FBI caught him on tape admitting his part in racketeering but he beat the charge after he bribed and intimidated the jury. The foreman of the jury was later convicted for accepting a bribe from the Mafia and sent to jail. Gotti was ruthless and he ordered the murder of anyone who got in his way. He was very much feared. He also unlike his predecessor was not afraid of publicity and soon he became something of a celebrity. He was the public face of the Mafia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, his luck ran out in 1990 and he and several other Mafia members were arrested at a club in Little Italy, New York. One of his most trusted associates Sammy &lsquothe Bull&rsquo Gravano became a state witness and testified in court against him. In 1992 a jury found him guilty of thirteen charges including several murders. Gotti was incarcerated in the US Penitentiary in Illinois. Here he could not bribe the warders or prison officials and he had to endure the harsh conditions of an ordinary convict. Gotti, formerly, the most powerful criminal in New York if not America was locked in his cell for twenty-three hours a day.

In 2002, John Gotti died of throat cancer at the age sixty-one at a hospital for federal prisoners in Missouri.

This Day In History: John Gotti The Mafia Don Was Sentenced (1992)

One of the most famous gangsters in modern American history was convicted by a New York Court in today in 1992. The Mafia boss, John Gotti was convicted of a series of times. It was the first time that Gotti was convicted of serious crimes in relation to his criminal empire. The New York authorities had tried several times to convicted the gangland boss, but he had always been able to get off. He was able to intimidate witnesses or bribe the jury. This earned him the name the ‘Teflon Don because nothing would stick to him.

However, on this day, he was brought to justice. He was convicted of murders and other serious crimes. The authorities were able to secure convictions because they had secured the testimony of Gotti&rsquos main lieutenant, Sammy Graviano. He agreed to turn state witness in return for a reduced sentence. When the sentence was read out in court, Gotti&rsquos supporters tried to storm the building. This forced the police to seek reinforcements.

New York Court that sentenced Gotti (1992)

Gotti was born and bred in the slums of New York. He came from a large Italian family and he experienced grinding poverty as a youth. He was a lifelong criminal. Eventually, the young John Gotti, became an associate of the Mafia and then a full member. Gotti became head of the Gambino family after his boss Paul Castellano was shot dead outside a restaurant in Manhattan in December 1985, along with his lieutenant. This ‘hit&rsquo was organized by Gotti and his associates. After this, he became the head of the Gambino Family and one of the most powerful men in the American underworld. The Gambino Family was the most powerful in New York. Gotti enriched himself and his associates through illegal operations, such as drug dealing and extortion. Gotti unlike other Mafia Dons&rsquo was keen to have a high public profile. Gotti actively courted the media and he became something of a celebrity. He became a well-known figure. The smartly dressed Gotti was a well-known figure in and around New York. Many older Mafia members disapproved of his activities and his publicity seeking.

On this day in 1992, John Gotti was sentenced to several life terms without the possibility of parole. He had tried to direct his criminal empire from prison, but he was obstructed by the authorities and while still imprisoned, Gotti died from throat cancer in, 2002.

Gotti is widely regarded as the Last Don. He was the last truly powerful Mafia leader in New York. Mass arrests and the rise of other criminal organizations such as the Russian Mafia and the Jamaican Yardies, meant that the Italian-American Mafia is only a shadow of its former self.

Gotti guilty of mob murders and more

NEW YORK -- After years of dodging the law, John Gotti was convicted Thursday of being the boss of the nation's richest and most powerful organized crime family -- a verdict that will put him behind bars for life.

Gotti, 51, dubbed the 'Teflon Don' for his past success in sidestepping conviction, was found guilty of five murders, including the gangland rubout of his predecessor as head of the Gambino organized crime family, Paul Castellano, whose slaying lay at the heart of the prosecution's case.

Prosecutors won convictions on all 13 counts contained in the racketeering indictment, including the five murders, murder conspiracy, gambling, loan-sharking and obstruction of justice.

Gotti's co-defendant, Frank Locascio, was found guilty of one of the murders and most of the other charges.

'Justice has been served and it feels great,' said U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, who personally delivered the government's opening and closing remarks during the trial.

'The Teflon don is gone and the don is covered in Velcro and every charge in the indictment stuck,' said James Fox, assistant FBI director in New York.

'We can call him the boss of the Gambino crime family -- not the 'alleged' boss of the Gambino crime family,' he said.

Fox called the trial 'the most important crossroads we have faced in the fight against organized crime in New York City.'

'If John Gotti was acquitted, I thought it would give a shot in the arm to organized crime in the United States and John Gotti would achieve a status that not even Al Capone or others in the past had achieved,' he said.

His conviction signals 'the death knell of organized crime,' Fox said, adding, 'The mob is on the way out.'

The five women and seven men on the jury in federal court in Brooklyn deliberated only a day and a half before reaching a verdict.

As it was read, Gotti leaned over and whispered to one of the three lawyers who formed the defense team.

Afterward, the attorney, John Mitchell, said, 'Mr. Gotti took the opportunity to console me. He said, 'Don't worry. The fight's not over. ''

'Mr. Gotti is one of the most extraordinary persons I've ever met,' said the mob boss's lawyer, Albert Krieger. 'He was and is a pillar of support to three lawyers here. He's an inspiration.'

Krieger said he would appeal the conviction. 'I think if he got a fair trial, he would have been acquited,' he said.

Gotti and Locascio went on trial Feb. 12.

Prosecutors were confident that the case was strong enough to finally nail Gotti, who won acquittals in three previous case, including a 1987 federal racketeering case in the same Brooklyn courthouse.

He and Locascio now face life in prison when they are sentenced, scheduled for June 23.

Security was tight in the courtroom, and jurors had been sequestered in an undisclosed hotel and identified only by number since being chosen from an original pool of more than 500.

As the forewoman repeated the word 'guilty,' Gotti put his finger to his lips to silence friends and cohorts sitting in the courtroom's spectator benches.

'Real strong, proud Americans, those jurors,' said FBI agent Bill Doran.

The government's star witness in the case was Salvatore 'Sammy the Bull' Gravano, Gotti's right-hand-man turned informant, who spent days on the stand describing mob murders and betrayals.

The jury also heard hours of FBI tapes made from bugs of Gotti's Little Italy headquarters in which his voice was heard discussing Mafia rubouts and mob business.

In his first day on the stand, Gravano identified Gotti as the head of the Gambino crime family, himself as its underboss, and Locascio as the family's 'consigiliere,' or counselor.

The mob turncoat also testified how he and Gotti were parked down the block from the Manhattan steakhouse on Dec. 16, 1985, where Castellano and his driver were gunned down by four mobsters Gravano said were dressed in white trenchcoats and black Russian hats.

Gravano said he and Gotti then drove by the scene, peering through their car windows at the bullet-riddled bodies before driving off. Within days, Gotti took over as family boss.

The barrel-chested, gravel-voiced Gravano confessed to 19 murders in exchange for a sentence of 20 years in prison and his testimony against his former colleagues. This was the first of several trials in which Gravano was expected to appear as a witness.

Through days of tenacious defense cross-examination, in which defense lawyers ridiculed Gravano's version of the Castellano slaying and his plea agreement with the government, Gravano stuck to his story, blaming his life as a cold-blooded killer on a bad environment in his childhood.

In their brief deliberations, the jurors only listened to four tapes played during the trial.

One tape from 1989 revealed why Gambino members decided Castellano had to be killed.

Said Gotti of Castellano: 'He felt he had to hit me first.'

The government maintained, and the jury believed, that Gotti moved first.

Gotti was found guilty of 11 racketeering acts, including the gangland rubout of Castellano, four other murders, murder conspiracy, gambling, loan-sharking and obstruction of justice.

His co-defendant, Frank Locascio, was found guilty on one of the murders and most of the same acts.

The five women and five men deliberated only 1 days before bringing in their verdict during the lunch hour, causing a mad scramble of lawyers and reporters back to the courtroom.

When he heard the verdict, Gotti stood and smiled, shot his cuffs, spread his hands and smiled, as if to say, 'That's it.'NEWLN: more

Gotti and Locascio went on trial Feb. 12 in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn in a case prosecutors said was good enough to put the 'Teflon Don' behind bars for life.

In three previous trials, Gotti was acquitted, including another federal racketeering case in 1987 in the same Brooklyn courthouse, earning him the nickname 'Teflon Don.' He and Locascio now face life in prison when they are sentenced, scheduled for June 23.

Security was tight in the courtroom, and jurors had been sequestered in an undisclosed hotel and identified only by number since being chosen from an original pool of more than 500.

After U.S. District Court Judge I. Leo Glasser announced the jury had a decision, the forewoman stood and answered questions put to her by the deputy, who read the verdict sheet.

'Proved, proved, proved, proved,' she repeated as the deputy read through the 13-count indictment. For the racketeering counts, she said, 'Guilty, guilty, guilty.'

Albert Krieger, Gotti's attorney, sat with his head down, eyes fixed on the verdict sheet. Gotti turned and made a remark to John Mitchell, an attorney for Locascio, who sat back in his chair with his hands folded.

There was no reaction from the team of three defense lawyers when the verdict was read. Said Anthony Cardinale, Locascio's co-counsel, 'What can you do?'

'Real strong, proud Americans, those jurors,' said FBI agent Bill Doran, who added that he felt 'wonderful' finally winning a conviction against Gotti.

The government's star witness in the case was Salvatore 'Sammy the Bull' Gravano, Gotti's right-hand-man turned informant, who spent days on the stand describing mob murders and betrayals.NEWLN: The jury also heard hours of FBI tapes made from bugs of Mafia headquarters in which Gotti's voice could be heard discussing Mafia rubouts and mob business. more

In his first day on the stand, Gravano identified Gotti as the head of the nation's most powerful organized crime family, himself as his underboss, and Locascio as the family's 'consigiliere,' or counselor.

The mob turncoat also testified how he and Gotti were parked down the block from the Manhattan steakhouse on Dec. 16, 1985, where Castellano and his driver were gunned down by four mobsters Gravano said were dressed in white trenchcoats and black Russian hats.

Gravano said he and Gotti then drove by the scene, peering through their car windows at the bullet-riddled bodies before driving off. Within days, Gotti took over as boss of the crime family, the nation's richest and most powerful.

The barrel-chested, gravel-voiced Gravano confessed to 19 murders in exchange for a sentence of 20 years in prison and his testimony against his former colleagues. This was the first of several trials in which Gravano was expected to appear as a witness.

Through days of tenacious defense cross-examination, Gravano stuck to his story, blaming his life as a cold-blooded killer on a bad environment during his childhood.

In their brief deliberations, the jurors only listened to four tapes played during the trial.

One tape from 1989 revealed why Gambino members decided Castellano had to be killed.

Gotti's Prison Years

  • His time in prison was not easy. He was sent to an older federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was kept in a solitary-confinement cell 23 hours a day for nine years.
  • June 10, 2002, after battling cancer for several years, John Gotti died at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.
  • A large funeral was held in New York City, where many members of the Gambino Crime Family came to pay their final respects to their fallen leader.


Gotti was born in the Bronx borough of New York City, on October 27, 1940. He was the fifth of the 13 children (two had died at birth) of John Joseph Gotti Sr. and Philomena "Fannie" DeCarlo. [6] [1] [7] His parents were born in New York City, but it is presumed that his grandparents were from San Giuseppe Vesuviano, in the province of Naples, Italy, because his parents were married and lived there for some time. [6] [8] [9] Gotti was one of five brothers who became made men in the Gambino crime family: [10] Eugene "Gene" Gotti was initiated before John due to his incarceration, [11] Peter Gotti was initiated under John's leadership in 1988, [12] and Richard V. Gotti was identified as a caporegime (made member who heads a "crew" of soldiers and has major social status) by 2002. [10] The fifth, Vincent, was initiated in 2002. [13]

By the age of 12, the Gottis settled in East New York, Brooklyn, where he grew up in poverty alongside his brothers. [14] His father worked irregularly as a day laborer. [6] As an adult, Gotti came to resent his father for being unable to provide for his family. [1] In school, he had a history of truancy and bullying other students, and ultimately dropped out of Franklin K. Lane High School at the age of 16. [15] [16]

Gotti was involved in street gangs associated with New York City mafiosi from the age of 12. [15] When he was 14, he was attempting to steal a cement mixer from a construction site when it fell, crushing his toes this injury left him with a permanent limp. [15] After leaving school, he devoted himself to working with the Mafia-associated Fulton-Rockaway Boys gang, where he met and befriended fellow future Gambino mobsters Angelo Ruggiero and Wilfred "Willie Boy" Johnson. [15] [17]

Gotti met his future wife, Victoria DiGiorgio, who was of half Italian and half Russian descent, at a bar in 1958. [18] The couple were married on March 6, 1962. [19] According to FBI documents, DiGiorgio was married previously and had one child by the previous marriage. [20] They had five children Angela, Victoria, John Jr., Frank (d. 1980), and Peter. Gotti attempted to work legitimately in 1962 as a presser in a coat factory and as an assistant truck driver. However, he could not stay crime-free and, by 1966, had been jailed twice. [21]

Associate Edit

As early as his teens, Gotti was running errands for Carmine Fatico, a capo in the Gambino family, then known as the Anastasia family under the leadership of boss Albert Anastasia. [22] Gotti carried out truck hijackings at Idlewild Airport (subsequently renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) together with his brother Gene and friend Ruggiero. [23] During this time, Gotti befriended fellow mob hijacker and future Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino, and he was given the nicknames "Black John" and "Crazy Horse". [23] [24] It was around this time that Gotti met his mentor and Gambino underboss Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce. [25]

In February 1968, United Airlines employees identified Gotti as the man who had signed for stolen merchandise the FBI arrested him for that hijacking soon after. Gotti was arrested a third time for hijacking while out on bail two months later, this time for stealing a load of cigarettes worth $50,000 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Later that year, Gotti pleaded guilty to the Northwest Airlines hijacking and was sentenced to three years at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. [23]

Gotti and Ruggiero were paroled in 1972 and returned to their old crew at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, still working under Fatico. Gotti was transferred to management of the Bergin crew's illegal gambling, where he proved himself to be an effective enforcer. [26] Fatico was indicted on loansharking charges in 1972. As a condition of his release, he could not associate with known felons. Gotti was not yet a made man in the Mafia due to the membership books' having been closed since 1957 due to the Apalachin meeting, but Fatico named him acting capo of the Bergin crew soon after he was paroled. [27] In this new role, Gotti frequently traveled to Dellacroce's headquarters at the Ravenite Social Club to brief the underboss on the crew's activities. Dellacroce had already taken a liking to Gotti, and the two became even closer during this time. The two were very similar—both had strong violent streaks, cursed a lot, and were heavy gamblers. [28]

After Emanuel Gambino, nephew to boss Carlo Gambino, was kidnapped and murdered in 1973, Gotti was assigned to the hit team alongside Ruggiero and Ralph Galione in search for the main suspect, gangster James McBratney. [19] The team botched their attempt to abduct McBratney at a Staten Island bar when they attempted to arrest him while posing as detectives, [29] and Galione shot McBratney dead when his accomplices managed to restrain him. Gotti was identified by eyewitnesses and by a police insider, and was arrested for the killing in June 1974. [30] He was able to strike a plea bargain, however, with the help of attorney Roy Cohn, and was sentenced to four years in prison for attempted manslaughter for his part in the hit. [11]

After Gotti's death, he was also identified by Massino as the killer of Vito Borelli, a Gambino associate killed in 1975 for insulting then-acting boss Paul Castellano. [31] [32]

Captain Edit

On October 15, 1976, Carlo Gambino died at home of natural causes. [33] Against expectations, he had appointed Castellano to succeed him over his underboss Dellacroce. Gambino appeared to believe that his crime family would benefit from Castellano's focus on white collar businesses. [34] Dellacroce, at the time, was imprisoned for tax evasion and was unable to contest Castellano's succession. [35] Castellano's succession was confirmed at a meeting on November 24, with Dellacroce present. Castellano arranged for Dellacroce to remain as underboss while directly running traditional Cosa Nostra activities such as extortion, robbery, and loansharking. [36] While Dellacroce accepted Castellano's succession, the deal effectively split the Gambino family into two rival factions. [36]

In 1976, the membership books were reportedly reopened. [37] Gotti was released in July 1977, after two years' imprisonment he was subsequently initiated as a made man into the Gambino family, now under the command of Castellano, and immediately promoted to replace Fatico as capo of the Bergin crew. [11] He and his crew reported directly to Dellacroce as part of the concessions given by Castellano to keep Dellacroce as underboss, [38] and Gotti was regarded as Dellacroce's protégé. [39] Under Gotti, the crew were Dellacroce's biggest earners. [11] Besides his cut of his subordinates' earnings, Gotti ran his own loansharking operation and held a no-show job as a plumbing supply salesman. [40] Unconfirmed allegations by FBI informants in the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club claimed that Gotti also financed drug deals. [39] [41]

Gotti tried to keep most of his family uninvolved with his life of crime, with the exception of his son John Angelo Gotti, who was a mob associate by 1982. [2]

In December 1978, Gotti assisted in the largest unrecovered cash robbery in history, the infamous Lufthansa Heist at Kennedy Airport. [42] Gotti had made arrangements for the getaway van to be crushed and baled at a scrapyard in Brooklyn. Gotti's cut of the heist was a reported $200,000. [42] The driver of the van, Parnell "Stacks" Edwards, failed to follow orders rather than driving the vehicle to the scrapyard, he parked it near a fire hydrant and went to sleep at his girlfriend's apartment. The NYPD recovered the van and lifted the fingerprints of several perpetrators of the robbery, helping to unravel the heist. [43]

On March 18, 1980, Gotti's youngest son, 12-year-old Frank Gotti, was run over and killed on a family friend's minibike by a neighbor named John Favara. [44] Frank's death was ruled an accident, but Favara subsequently received death threats and was attacked by Victoria with a baseball bat when he visited the Gottis to apologize. [45] [46] On July 28, 1980, Favara was abducted and disappeared, presumed murdered. [44] Gotti is widely assumed to have ordered the murder despite him and his family leaving on vacation for Florida three days before the murder. [47]

Gotti was indicted on two occasions in his last two years as the Bergin capo, with both cases coming to trial after his ascension to boss of the Gambinos. In September 1984, Gotti had an altercation with refrigerator mechanic Romual Piecyk, and was subsequently charged with assault and robbery. [48] [49] In 1985, he was indicted alongside Dellacroce and several Bergin crew members in a racketeering case by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Giacalone. [16] [50] The indictment revealed that Gotti's friend and codefendant Wilfred "Willie Boy" Johnson had been an FBI informant. [50]

Taking over the Gambino family Edit

Gotti rapidly became dissatisfied with Castellano's leadership, regarding the new boss as being too isolated and greedy. [51] [52] Like other members of the family, Gotti also personally disliked Castellano. The boss lacked street credibility, and those who had paid their dues running street level jobs did not respect him. Gotti also had an economic interest: he had a running dispute with Castellano on the split Gotti took from hijackings at Kennedy Airport. Gotti was also rumored to be expanding into drug dealing, a lucrative trade Castellano had banned. [51] [52]

In August 1983, Ruggiero and Gene Gotti were arrested for dealing heroin, based primarily on recordings from a bug in Ruggiero's house. [53] [54] Castellano, who had banned made men from his family from dealing drugs under threat of death, demanded transcripts of the tapes, [53] [55] and, when Ruggiero refused, threatened to demote Gotti. [56]

In 1984, Castellano was arrested and indicted in a RICO case for the crimes of Gambino hitman Roy DeMeo's crew. [57] [58] The following year, he received a second indictment for his role in the Mafia's Commission. [56] Facing life imprisonment for either case, Castellano arranged for Gotti to serve as an acting boss alongside Thomas Bilotti, Castellano's favorite capo, and Thomas Gambino in his absence. [59] [60] Gotti, meanwhile, began conspiring with fellow disgruntled capos Frank DeCicco and Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone and soldiers Sammy Gravano and Robert "DiB" DiBernardo (collectively dubbed "the Fist" by themselves) to overthrow Castellano, insisting despite the boss' inaction that Castellano would eventually try to kill him. [61] Armone's support was critical as a respected old-timer who dated back to the family's founder, Vincent Mangano, he would lend needed credibility to the conspirators' cause. [62]

It has long been a rule in the Mafia that a boss could only be killed with the approval of a majority of the Commission. Indeed, Gotti's planned hit would have been the first unsanctioned hit on a boss since Frank Costello was nearly killed in 1957. Gotti knew that it would be too risky to solicit support from the other four bosses, since they had longstanding ties to Castellano. To get around this, he got the support of several important figures of his generation in the Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno families. He did not consider approaching the Genovese family Castellano's ties with Genovese boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante were so close that any overture to a Genovese soldier would have been a tipoff. [62] However, Gotti could also count on the complicity of Gambino consigliere Joseph N. Gallo. [61] [63]

After Dellacroce died of cancer on December 2, 1985, Castellano revised his succession plan: appointing Bilotti as underboss to Thomas Gambino as the sole acting boss, while making plans to break up Gotti's crew. [64] [65] Infuriated by this, and Castellano's refusal to attend Dellacroce's wake, [64] [65] Gotti resolved to kill his boss. When DeCicco tipped Gotti off that he would be having a meeting with Castellano and several other Gambino mobsters at Sparks Steak House on December 16, 1985, Gotti chose to take the opportunity. [66] Both the boss and underboss were ambushed and shot dead by assassins under Gotti's command when they arrived at the meeting in the evening. [67] Gotti watched the hit from his car with Gravano. [68]

Several days after the murder, Gotti was named to a three-man committee to temporarily run the family pending the election of a new boss, along with Gallo and DeCicco. It was also announced that an internal investigation into Castellano's murder was underway. However, it was an open secret that Gotti was acting boss in all but name, and nearly all of the family's capos knew he had been the one behind the hit. He was formally acclaimed as the new boss of the Gambino family at a meeting of 20 capos held on January 15, 1986. [69] He appointed DeCicco as the new underboss while retaining Gallo as consigliere. [70] [71]

Identified as both Castellano's likely murderer and his successor, Gotti rose to fame throughout 1986. [72] [73] At the time of his takeover, the Gambino family was regarded as the most powerful American mafia family, [74] with an annual income of $500 million. [75] In the book Underboss, Gravano estimated that Gotti himself had an annual income of not less than $5 million during his years as boss, and more likely between $10 and $12 million. [4] To protect himself legally, Gotti banned members of the Gambino family from accepting plea bargains that acknowledged the existence of the organization. [76]

"The Teflon Don" Edit

Gotti often smiled and waved at television cameras at his trials, which gained him favor with some of the general public. [29] Gotti's newfound fame had at least one positive effect upon the revelation of his attacker's occupation, and amid reports of intimidation by the Gambinos, Romual Piecyk decided not to testify against Gotti thanks to Boško "The Yugo" Radonjić, the head of the Westies in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. When the trial began in March 1986, Piecyk testified he was unable to remember who attacked him. The case was promptly dismissed, with the New York Post summarizing the proceedings with the headline "I Forgotti!" [49] [77] It was later revealed that Gambino thugs had severed Piecyk's brake lines, made threatening phone calls and stalked him before the trial. [78]

On April 13, 1986, DeCicco was killed when his car was bombed following a visit to Castellano loyalist James Failla. The bombing was carried out by Victor Amuso and Anthony Casso of the Lucchese family, under orders of Gigante and Lucchese boss Anthony Corallo, to avenge Castellano and Bilotti by killing their successors Gotti also planned to visit Failla that day, but canceled, and the bomb was detonated after a soldier who rode with DeCicco was mistaken for the boss. [79] Bombs had long been banned by the Mafia out of concern that it would put innocent people in harm's way, leading the Gambinos to initially suspect that "zips"—Sicilian mafiosi working in the U.S.—were behind it zips were well known for using bombs. [80]

Following the bombing, Judge Eugene Nickerson, presiding over Gotti's racketeering trial, rescheduled to avoid a jury tainted by the resulting publicity, while Giacalone had Gotti's bail revoked due to evidence of witness intimidation in the Piecyk case. [81] [82] From jail, Gotti ordered the murder of Robert DiBernardo by Gravano both DiBernardo and Ruggiero had been vying to succeed DeCicco until Ruggiero accused DiBernardo of challenging Gotti's leadership. [83] When Ruggiero, also under indictment, had his bail revoked for his abrasive behavior in preliminary hearings, a frustrated Gotti instead promoted Armone to underboss. [84]

Jury selection for the racketeering case began again in August 1986, [85] with Gotti standing trial alongside his ex-companion William "Willie Boy" Johnson (who, despite being exposed as an informant, refused to turn state's evidence [86] ), Leonard DiMaria, Tony Rampino, Nicholas Corozzo and John Carneglia. [87] At this point, the Gambinos were able to compromise the case when George Pape hid his friendship with Radonjić and was empaneled as juror No. 11. [88] Through Radonjić, Pape contacted Gravano and agreed to sell his vote on the jury for $60,000. [89]

In the trial's opening statements on September 25, Gotti's defense attorney Bruce Cutler denied the existence of the Gambino family and framed the government's entire effort as a personal vendetta. [90] His main defense strategy during the prosecution was to attack the credibility of prosecutor Diane Giacalone's witnesses by discussing their crimes committed before their turning state's evidence. [91] During Gotti's defense, Cutler called bank robber Matthew Traynor, a would-be prosecution witness dropped for unreliability, who testified that Giacalone offered him drugs and her underwear as a masturbation aid in exchange for his testimony Traynor's allegations would be dismissed by Judge Nickerson as "wholly unbelievable" after the trial, and he was subsequently convicted of perjury. [91] [92]

Despite Cutler's defense and critiques about the prosecution's performance, according to mob writers Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain, when the jury's deliberations began, a majority were in favor of convicting Gotti. However, due to Pape's misconduct, Gotti knew from the beginning of the trial that he could do no worse than a hung jury. During deliberations, Pape held out for acquittal until the rest of the jury began to fear their own safety would be compromised. [89] On March 13, 1987, they acquitted Gotti and his codefendants of all charges including loansharking, illegal gambling, murder, and armed hijackings. [87] Five years later, Pape was convicted of obstruction of justice for his part in the fix [88] and sentenced to three years in prison. [93]

In the face of previous Mafia convictions, particularly the success of the Mafia Commission Trial, Gotti's acquittal was a major upset that further added to his reputation. [94] The American media dubbed Gotti "The Teflon Don" in reference to the failure of any charges to "stick". [95]

Reorganization Edit

While Gotti himself had escaped conviction, his associates were not as fortunate. The other two men in the Gambino administration, underboss Armone and consigliere Gallo, had been indicted on racketeering charges in 1986 and were both convicted in December 1987. [96] The heroin trial of Gotti's former fellow Bergin crewmembers Ruggiero and Gene Gotti also commenced in June of that year. [97]

Prior to their convictions, Gotti allowed Gallo to retire and promoted Gravano in his place while slating Frank Locascio to serve as acting underboss in the event of Armone's imprisonment. [98] The Gambinos also worked to compromise the heroin trial's jury, resulting in two mistrials. [99] When the terminally ill Ruggiero was severed and released in 1989, Gotti refused to contact him, blaming him for the Gambinos' misfortunes. According to Gravano, Gotti also considered murdering Ruggiero and when he finally died, "I literally had to drag him to the funeral." [100]

Beginning in January 1988, Gotti, against Gravano's advice, [101] required his capos to meet with him at the Ravenite Social Club once a week. [102] Regarded by Gene as an unnecessary vanity-inspired risk, [103] and by FBI Gambino squad leader Bruce Mouw as antithetical to the "secret society", [104] this move allowed FBI surveillance to record and identify much of the Gambino hierarchy. It also provided strong circumstantial evidence that Gotti was a boss long-standing protocol in the Mafia requires public demonstrations of loyalty to the boss. [104] The FBI also bugged the Ravenite, but failed to produce any high-quality incriminating recordings. [104]

Later in 1988, Gotti, Gigante and new Lucchese boss Victor Amuso attended the first Commission meeting since the Commission trial. [105] In 1986, future Lucchese underboss Anthony Casso had been injured in an unauthorized hit by Gambino capo Mickey Paradiso. [79] [106] The following year, the FBI warned Gotti they had recorded Genovese consigliere Louis Manna discussing another hit on Gotti and his brother. [105] In order to avoid a war, the leaders of the three families met, denied knowledge of their violence against one another, and agreed to "communicate better." [107] The bosses also agreed to allow Colombo acting boss Victor Orena to join the Commission, but Gigante, wary of giving Gotti a majority by admitting another ally, blocked the reentry of Massino and the Bonannos. [105] [108]

Gotti was also able to influence the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante crime family in 1988. According to the DeCavalcante capo-turned-informant Anthony Rotondo, Gotti attended his father's wake with numerous other Gambino mobsters in a "show of force" and forced boss John Riggi to agree to run his family on the Gambinos' behalf. [109] The DeCavalcantes remained in the Gambinos' sphere of influence until Gotti's imprisonment. [110]

Gotti's son, John Gotti Jr., was initiated into the Gambino family on Christmas Eve 1988. [111] According to fellow mobster Michael DiLeonardo, initiated on the same night, Gravano held the ceremony to keep Gotti from being accused of nepotism. [111] John Jr. was promptly promoted to capo. [2]

Assault acquittal Edit

On the evening of January 23, 1989, Gotti was arrested outside the Ravenite and charged with ordering the 1986 assault of labor union official John O'Connor. [112] [113] In the back of the police car, Gotti remarked, "Three to one I beat this charge". [114] O'Connor, a leader in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 608 who was later convicted of racketeering himself, [115] was believed to have ordered an attack on a Gambino-associated restaurant that had snubbed the union and was subsequently shot and wounded by the Westies. [112] After one night in prison, Gotti was released on $100,000 bail. [116] Gotti had his occupation listed as a salesman for a plumbing contracting company. [16]

By this time, the FBI had cultivated new informants and learned part of the reason the Ravenite bug failed was that Gotti would hold sensitive conversations in a rear hallway in the building the club occupied or in an apartment in its upper floors where a friendly widow of a Gambino soldier lived, and by November 1989, both locations were bugged. [104] [117] The apartment bug was particularly fruitful due to Gotti's frankness as he discussed his position as family boss in meetings there. In a December 12 conversation with Frank Locascio, Gotti plainly acknowledged ordering the murders of DiBernardo and Liborio Milito — the latter being one of Gravano's partners killed for insubordination. [118] He also announced his intention to kill soldier Louis DiBono, who had ignored a summons to meet with Gotti to discuss his mismanagement of a drywall business he held with Gotti and Gravano. The FBI, however, misheard the namedrop and failed to warn DiBono, who was killed on October 4, 1990. [119] In another taped meeting on January 4, 1990, Gotti promoted Gravano to underboss, preferring Gravano to lead the family if he was convicted in the assault case. [120]

State prosecutors linked Gotti to the case with a recording of him discussing O'Connor and announcing his intention to "bust him up," and the testimony of Westies gangster James McElroy, [121] however Gotti was acquitted of all six assault and conspiracy charges at trial on February 9, 1990. [122] [114] After the trial, there were firework displays by locals. Jules J. Bonavolonta, director of the FBI's organized-crime division in New York stated, "With all this media coverage he's beginning to look like a folk hero. What the public should realize is that he is the boss of the largest Cosa Nostra family, that he surrounds himself with ruthless killers and that he is flat out a criminal." [29] It later emerged, however, that FBI bugs had apparently caught Gotti discussing plans to fix the jury as he had in the 1986–87 racketeering case. However, to the outrage of Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau and state organized crime task force chief Ronald Goldstock, the FBI and federal prosecutors chose not to reveal this information to them. Morgenthau later said that had he known about these bugged conversations, he would have asked for a mistrial. [123]

Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, were often recorded by the bugs placed throughout the Ravenite (concealed in the main room, the first-floor hallway and the upstairs apartment of the building) discussing incriminating events. [124] On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and NYPD detectives raided the Ravenite, arresting Gotti, Gravano and Frank Locascio. [125] Federal prosecutors charged Gotti, in this new racketeering case, with five murders (Castellano, Bilotti, DiBernardo, Liborio Milito and, after review of the apartment tapes, Louis Dibono [126] [127] ), conspiracy to murder Gaetano "Corky" Vastola, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. [128] [129] Based on tapes from FBI bugs played at pretrial hearings, the Gambino administration was denied bail. At the same time, attorneys Cutler and Gerald Shargel were disqualified from defending Gotti and Gravano after prosecutors successfully contended they were "part of the evidence" and thus liable to be called as witnesses. Prosecutors argued that Cutler and Shargel not only knew about potential criminal activity, but had worked as "in-house counsel" for the Gambino family. [130] [131] Gotti subsequently hired Albert Krieger, a Miami attorney who had worked with Joseph Bonanno, to replace Cutler. [132] [133]

The tapes also created a rift between Gotti and Gravano, where the Gambino boss described his newly appointed underboss as too greedy and attempted to frame Gravano as the main force behind the murders of DiBernardo, Milito and Dibono. [134] [135] Gotti's attempt at reconciliation failed, [136] leaving Gravano disillusioned with the mob and doubtful on his chances of winning his case without Shargel, his former attorney. [137] [138] Gravano ultimately opted to turn state's evidence, formally agreeing to testify on November 13, 1991. [139] He was the highest-ranking member of a New York crime family to turn informer.

Gotti and Locascio were tried in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York before District Judge I. Leo Glasser. Jury selection began in January 1992 with an anonymous jury and, for the first time in a Brooklyn federal case, fully sequestered during the trial due to Gotti's reputation for jury tampering. [140] [141] The trial commenced with the prosecution's opening statements on February 12 [142] [143] prosecutors Andrew Maloney and John Gleeson began their case by playing tapes showing Gotti discussing Gambino family business, including murders he approved, and confirming the animosity between Gotti and Castellano to establish the former's motive to kill his boss. [144] After calling an eyewitness of the Sparks hit who identified Carneglia as one of the men who shot Bilotti, they then brought Gravano to testify on March 2. [145] [146] [147]

On the stand, Gravano confirmed Gotti's place in the structure of the Gambino family and described in detail the conspiracy to assassinate Castellano, giving a full description of the hit and its aftermath. [148] Gravano confessed to 19 murders, implicating Gotti in four of them. [149] Krieger, and Locascio's attorney, Anthony Cardinale, proved unable to shake Gravano during cross-examination. [150] [151] After additional testimony and tapes, the government rested its case on March 24. [152]

Five of Krieger and Cardinale's intended six witnesses were ruled irrelevant or extraneous, leaving only Gotti's tax attorney Murray Appleman to testify on his behalf. [152] [153] The defense also attempted unsuccessfully to have a mistrial declared based on Maloney's closing remarks. [154] [155] Gotti himself became increasingly hostile during the trial, [156] and at one point, Glasser threatened to remove him from the courtroom. [152] [157] Among other outbursts, Gotti called Gravano a junkie while his attorneys sought to discuss his past steroid use, [158] [159] and equated the dismissal of a juror to the fixing of the 1919 World Series. [141] [154]

On April 2, 1992, after only 14 hours of deliberation, the jury found Gotti guilty on all charges of the indictment (Locascio was found guilty on all but one). James Fox, Assistant Director in Charge or "ADIC" of the FBI's New York Field Office, announced at a press conference, "The Teflon is gone. The don is covered with Velcro, and all the charges stuck." [160] [161] On June 23, 1992, Glasser sentenced both defendants to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and a $250,000 fine. [129] [161] [162] [note 2]

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. He spent the majority of his sentence in effective solitary confinement, allowed out of his cell for only one hour a day. [6] [165] His final appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994. [166]

On July 18, 1996, a fellow inmate named Walter Johnson punched Gotti in the prison recreation room, leaving him bruised and bleeding, because according to New York's Daily News, Gotti had disrespected him with a racial slur. Gotti, desiring revenge, offered Aryan Brotherhood chieftains David Sahakian and Michael McElhiney somewhere between $40,000 and $400,000 USD to have Johnson killed. In August, McElhiney told two Brotherhood underlings to kill Johnson "if given the opportunity," according to a federal indictment charging him and 39 other gang members with murder, attempted murder and racketeering. Johnson, however, was transferred to Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. [167]

Despite his imprisonment and pressure from the Commission to stand down, [168] Gotti asserted his prerogative to retain his title as boss until his death or retirement, with his brother Peter and his son John Jr. relaying orders on his behalf. [169] By 1998, when he was indicted on racketeering, John Jr. was believed to be the acting boss of the family. [170] Against his father's wishes, John Jr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years and five months' imprisonment in 1999. [2] [171] He maintains he has since left the Gambino family. [172] Peter Gotti subsequently became acting boss [173] and is believed to have formally succeeded his brother shortly before Gotti's death. [174]

John Jr.'s indictment brought further stress to Gotti's marriage. Victoria DiGiorgio Gotti, up to that point unaware of her son's involvement in the Mafia, blamed her husband for ruining her son's life and threatened to leave him unless he allowed John Jr. to leave the mob. [18]

In 1998, Gotti was diagnosed with throat cancer and sent to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, for surgery. [175] Though the tumor was removed, the cancer was discovered to have returned two years later and Gotti was transferred back to Springfield, where he spent the rest of his life. [176] [177]

Gotti's condition rapidly declined and he died on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61. [6] [178] The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced that Gotti's family would not be permitted to have a Requiem Mass, but allowed a memorial Mass after the burial. [179]

Gotti's funeral was held in a non-church facility. After the funeral, an estimated 300 onlookers followed the procession, which passed Gotti's Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, to the gravesite. Gotti's body was interred in a crypt next to his son, Frank, who was struck and killed by a car when he was 12 years old in 1980. Gotti's brother, Peter, was unable to attend because of his incarceration. [180] In an apparent repudiation of Gotti's leadership and legacy, the other New York City families sent no representatives to the funeral. Numerous prosecutions triggered by Gotti's tactics left the Gambinos decimated. By the turn of the century, half of the family's made men were in prison. [75]

Since his conviction, Gotti has been portrayed in five TV movies, two documentary series and three theatrical films:


Ruggiero's father was a first-generation immigrant from Naples, Italy who was not involved in organized crime. Ruggiero's mother was Emma Campasano. Ruggiero's brothers were Gambino associate Salvatore Ruggiero, Sr., John Ruggiero (born June 9, 1946), and Francis A. "Little Frankie" Ruggiero (born c.a. 1964). Ruggiero's nephew is mob associate Salvatore Ruggiero, Jr. Ruggiero's cousins include Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce, and Sean and Shannon Connelly. Ruggiero is also a distant relative of John Gotti's, through John and Aniello's shared mistress, Shannon Connelly.

Angelo Salvatore Ruggiero, Sr. was born at Lutheran Hospital and raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn. A high school dropout, Ruggiero grew up with future Gambino boss John Gotti and underboss Sammy Gravano. In the 1950s, Ruggiero was arrested for street fighting, public intoxication, car theft, bookmaking, possession of an illegal firearm, and burglary. Several of his recorded arrests as a juvenile delinquent were in the company of John Gotti. In 1966, Ruggiero and Gotti were arrested for attempting to steal a cement mixer truck.

On May 22, 1973, Ruggiero, Gotti, and a Gambino gunman, Ralph Galione, killed mobster James McBratney in a Staten Island bar. McBratney had recently tried to kidnap a Gambino loanshark for ransom, and the Gambino family leadership wanted him dead. The plan was to lure McBratney out of the bar before shooting him, but McBratney refused to cooperate, and the gunmen shot him there. Gotti and Ruggiero were later convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison. In July 1977, both men were released on parole. Soon after their release, Ruggiero and Gotti were inducted into the Gambino family as made men in a ceremony officiated by the family boss Paul Castellano, consigliere Joseph N. Gallo, and underboss Dellacroce. It is suggested by law enforcement that Dellacroce's role as underboss and fondness for John Gotti and his nephew were the reasons they were promoted to "made men".

From 1977 to 1984, to satisfy his parole conditions, Ruggiero took a no-show job as a salesman for Arc Plumbing and Heating Corporation, which was owned by Gambino associates Anthony and Caesar Gurino. After his brother Salvatore became a wanted fugitive, Ruggiero and Gene Gotti kept in touch by calling Salvatore "just about every night from various public phone booths."

Ruggiero was involved in the 1973 murder of James McBratney, with Gotti and Ralph Galione. Ruggiero also participated in the 1985 slaying of Gambino leader Paul Castellano. Finally, Ruggiero was suspected in the 1980 disappearance of John Favara, a neighbor of Gotti's who had killed Gotti's 12-year-old son Frank in a car accident.

Ruggiero was later the subject of a government undercover investigation. Mobster turned government informant Wilfred Johnson provided investigators with the layout of Ruggerio's home so that they could install four bugs and wire taps. Investigators monitored Ruggiero's activities in narcotics. [1] Investigators later recorded conversations between Ruggiero and Gene Gotti that implicated the two men in Castellano's murder.

Ruggiero's uncle, Aniello Dellacroce, was an original supporter of Gambino boss Albert Anastasia's who became underboss under Anastasia's successor, Carlo Gambino. Before Gambino died, he named Paul Castellano as boss with Dellacroce remaining as underboss. Although Dellacroce was unhappy with Gambino's decision, he supported Castellano in the name of family unity.

Although Dellacroce helped Ruggiero during his early years with the family, many observers felt that Dellacroce was actually much closer to Gotti. Dellacroce's relationship with Ruggiero was tested when Peter Tambone, a Ruggiero associate, was arrested for narcotics trafficking. Dellacroce made it clear that he would kill Ruggiero, Gotti, or anyone else he discovered dealing in narcotics. To save Tambone's life, Ruggiero instructed Tambone to claim that he was never involved with the heroin, only the laundering of the drug money.

I don't think if he lived (Dellacroce), he would've let Angelo get murdered. He would have probably put him on a shelf somewhere and appease Paul that way. If he let Paul kill him, there would have been a war. I think he felt, Paul's the boss, so let's 'fess up, this is the truth, this is what happened, here are the tapes. Then, if Paul followed up and said, "Well, I want him dead", Neil would have fought tooth and nail to save him. And if he couldn't, who knows what the fuck would've happened? [2]

Gravano also later stated:

I don't think John (Gotti) gave a fuck about Angelo or the tapes. I think he was looking to create a situation to capitalize on our other grievances about Paul. There was tension between Aniello Dellacroce and his followers and Paul Castellano, and Frank DeCicco enjoyed their mutual respect. But when Ruggiero tried to convince DeCicco that Dellacroce had real disputes against Castellano, he did not believe him. To Ruggiero's unhappiness, DeCicco said that as far as he was concerned, his uncle was a faithful underboss to Paul Castellano. Angelo would also listen to his uncle's protege and childhood friend, John Gotti, insult Dellacroce about his "La Cosa Nostra bullshit".

When Dellacroce was dying, Ruggiero was a constant visitor to his bedside until his death on December 2, 1985.

Following the diagnosis of his uncle's terminal cancer, Paul Castellano issued an even stronger edict on narcotics, ruling that any member of the family made after 1962 was strictly prohibited from any involvement in narcotics under pain of death. He followed up by pressuring the National Commission to issue a firm Mafia-wide ban that would also carry an instant death penalty. This new edict was aimed directly at John Gotti, Ruggiero, and Dellacroce, whom Castellano began to suspect had been secretly sanctioning (and profiting from) Gotti's narcotics operation. Castellano hoped that these and a number of other politically motivated moves in the crime family would brake the sudden, ambitious ascent of Ruggiero and John Gotti.

Ruggiero frequently complained about the lack of money that he was earning through his illicit criminal enterprises. Authorities later commented that, judging by appearances, however, both Ruggiero and John Gotti seemed blithely unconcerned by a second consequence of the Ravenite social club wire tapping operation, a grand jury subpoena calling forth Ruggiero, John Gotti, and ten other habitués of the Ravenite to discuss certain aspects of organized crime, as revealed by the successful Operation Acorn.

Gambino crime family capo John Carneglia often complained about Ruggiero to fellow criminals stating, "Dial any seven numbers, and there's a fifty-fifty chance that Angelo will answer the phone." Every other Sunday, Ruggiero drove to Castellano's house in Todt Hill, Staten Island to report to Castellano about the activities of the Bergin crew and the profits he could expect from the crew's hijacking and gambling operations. At home, Ruggiero would complain about Castellano's high-handed manner. He sneered that Castellano was a "milk drinker" and a "pansy". He put down Castellano's two sons, who were running Dial Poultry, as "the chicken men", and called business advisers that Castellano had around him as "the Jew club." He referred to Thomas Gambino, who oversaw the family's interests in the garment center as a "sissy dressmaker". He also conjured up images of Castellano and Bilotti spending evenings together at Todt Hill, "whacking off."

On December 16, 1985, only two weeks after Dellacroce's death, Castellano and his new underboss Thomas Bilotti were murdered outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. John Gotti now assumed the role of Gambino family boss.

Given John Gotti's new position as Gambino crime family boss in 1985, Gotti no longer handled the actual specifics of contract killings and assigned the job to Ruggiero.

Ruggiero frequently insulted Gotti behind his back, which was recorded on FBI wiretaps. He considered Gotti a "sick motherfucker" whose "fucking mouth goes a mile a minute." He also complained that Gotti was always "abusing" and "talking about people", and was "wrong on a lot of things." Even so, he spoke of a love for Gotti, whom he equated to a "brother".

Ruggiero was considered John Gotti's biggest ego booster among his close associates, despite the behind-the-back barbs. He later became a father figure to John Gotti Jr., who considered him an "uncle" although they were not related by marriage or blood.

Although the Ruggiero and Gotti families have close, long-lasting ties, when Peter Gotti and Gotti Jr. were promoted to boss of the Gambino crime family, Ruggiero's son, Angelo Ruggiero Jr., and nephew, Salvatore Ruggiero Jr., were not promoted to the ranks of made men, as Ruggiero's uncle Dellacroce had done for Junior's father, John Gotti. This might be due to the legal troubles Angelo Ruggiero Sr. brought upon John Gotti and the Gambino crime family after having his house tapped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Justice.

For reasons which have never been made entirely clear, mob associate Wilfred Johnson hated Ruggiero. Out of all the members of the Bergin crew he seemed most intent as an informant on hurting Ruggiero, whom he referred to as "that fat fuck". However, Johnson pointedly did not include John Gotti in his discussion of the Bergin narcotics operation, insisting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he didn't know too much about that subject. The FBI suspected this was a lie, but Johnson nevertheless provided them with precise sketches of the interior of the Ruggiero home in Cedarhurst, New York, accompanied by recommendations on the best places to plant a wire transmitter. When the bug was planted in 1982, the FBI was provided with what is now considered by many in law enforcement to be one of the most remarkable oral histories ever recorded on the progress of a major criminal conspiracy.

Ruggiero later helped murder Gambino crime family street soldier Anthony Plate, with John Gotti and Wilfred Johnson, for his uncle Dellacroce in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Citing Wilfred Johnson, James Cardinali, Mark Reiter, and George Yudzevich, FBI informants, the FBI's "Gambino Squad" in Queens, New York, received permission from the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., to seek a wiretap order on Ruggiero's home phone, which was granted November 9, 1981. They were investigating loansharking and illegal gambling, but soon turned their attention towards the trafficking of heroin. The tapped telephone in Ruggiero's home was listed in his daughter Princess Ruggiero's name. It was singled out because he had told informants it was "safe". They said that Ruggiero, only a few months after the Bergin wiretapping from Queens officials, was openly discussing on the phone the loansharking and gambling rackets that he, John Gotti, and Gene Gotti operated.

In its initial request to wiretap the telephone, the FBI listed Peter Gotti and Richard Gotti as loanshark collectors, and stated that Ruggiero was a "known murderer who would, without question, seek physical retribution and possibly murder a shylock victim who is unable to pay his debts." Somehow Ruggiero found out that agents had been listening to him and went into hiding. The affidavit caused panic and deception within the Dellacroce–Gotti faction regime and the Paul Castellano loyalists in the Gambino crime family, whose titular boss had imposed a death penalty on family members engaged in drug dealing.

Somehow, sometime in late June 1985, the Bergin crew finally demonstrated it could get accurate information. Ruggiero obtained a pasted-together version of the last of the FBI's six Ruggiero electronic-surveillance affidavits. The notes told him that FBI Agent John Conroy was not all he cracked himself up to be and that attorney Michael Coiro was not wired into the Eastern District as he [ who? ] imagined. Critically, the FBI working papers confirmed the depth of the probe and the fact that it was supported by a three-bug invasion of Ruggiero's home. Sources advised Ruggiero became scared to death because he had been lying systematically to Paul Castellano and his uncle Aniello Dellacroce, insofar as he had constantly told them that he had not been dealing in drugs by himself, but merely cleaning up loose ends of his brother Salvatore's narcotics operation.

On December 1, 1984, the Ruggiero wiretap was removed because he moved from Howard Beach, Queens to Cedarhurst, New York, to a house he was having renovated. Ruggiero told informants it was a good move for him and that the FBI would not know where he lived. In fact, pen registers at the Our Friends Social Club had disclosed several calls to his home in Cedarhurst, and FBI agents were watching on the day Ruggiero moved in. The agents had increased physical surveillance of Ruggiero and John Gotti, suspecting they might be dealing drugs. Despite Ruggiero's growing uneasiness and his efforts to discuss matters in code, evidence of narcotics trafficking began to grow around him mostly from his tape recorded telephone conversations with drug traffickers Alphonse Sisca and Arnold Squitieri.

On April 17, 1984, Ruggiero met with Jack Conroy. Conroy was an associate who said he had a source who worked at the telephone company, which is notified when phones are being legally tapped, and he could find out who authorized the taps. A week later, he told Ruggiero this would cost $800- $1,000 for his telephone company source and $200 each for his partner and him. Ruggiero agreed.

In a few days, Conroy delivered a bill of goods. He said the taps were legal because of a March 18 federal court order in the Southern District of New York, which is Manhattan and the Bronx. This invention caused Ruggiero to speculate that he was only peripherally involved in an investigation aimed at someone else. Just in case, however, he told Conroy, who had just suckered Ruggiero out of $1,000, that he would get some other telephone numbers for him to check. No problem, Conroy told Ruggiero. Jack Conroy was really an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a telephone repairman.

Ruggiero at the time the indictments were being prepared seemed to not be worried about the outcome of the trial. He spent $40,000 on remodeling his home in Cedarhurst and was overheard saying, "the bugs in this house were a bunch of bullshit, and nothing is coming." His confidence later seemed ridiculous, even to his confederates.

After Castellano was arrested for racketeering and other crimes, he learned for the first time that his home had been bugged by the FBI, and that the Ruggiero tapes were the legal basis for it. Castellano went to Ruggiero's uncle, Aniello Dellacroce, and demanded he give over the tapes. Dellacroce tried to placate Castellano, saying that there were many personally embarrassing moments on the tapes that Ruggiero did not want anyone to hear. He said that he wanted the tapes not to justify murdering him, but for his lawyers who were trying to suppress the introduction of his own tapes in the upcoming 1985 Mafia Commission Trial. In ensuing sessions between Ruggiero, Gotti and Dellacroce, Ruggiero remained adamant about not giving up the tapes. He accused his uncle of betrayal for even entertaining the thought. He told his lawyers he would kill them if they gave up the tapes.

Sammy Gravano stated, "I didn't know till later that the bug on him gave the government the OK, the right legally, to bug Paul (Paul Castellano)'s house. It was Angie's big mouth. I mean, he's caught on tape all over the fucking place. His tapes, the tape with Gerry Lang (Gennaro Langella) and Donnie Shacks (Dominick Martomorano). You name it and Angie's on tape. And always talking about stuff that he ain't supposed to be even mentioning to anybody. We find out about the tapes on Angie when he was arrested. And they eventually would become a major fucking problem. Ultimately, people would say these tapes and what was on them probably led to Paul's downfall. But what really led to it was also a lot of things he was doing that people in the family were against, and when the time came, when it came down the wire, this was why me and Frank DeCicco and the other guys went along with it. Right then though, Angie's tapes had nothing to do with me whatsoever. I was never at Angie's house. I'm not on any of his tapes in any way, shape or form. That was all Angie's problem. John Gotti's problem. And Paul's." [2]

In June 1986 Ruggiero successfully arranged the murder of Gambino crime family capo, Robert DiBernardo. Ruggiero started talking subversively about DiBernardo. Sammy Gravano later said,

I said to Angie that if DiB said anything, it didn't mean nothing. Just talk. DiB wasn't dangerous. I asked Angie to reach John [ ⁠⁠in jail ⁠] and see if we couldn't hold up on this, and when John came out, we would discuss it. It was something we could hold up on. But Angie immediately responded that it had to be done. John was steaming. John's brother Genie, and Genie's crew would do the hit at this house of the mother of one of the soldiers. I was to get DiB there for a meeting, and whoever was sitting behind DiB would shoot him. But the house wasn't available. Angie came back to me. He said John was really hot. He wanted it done right, he wanted it done right, and he wanted me to do it. I didn't know what Angie was telling John about my reservations. I knew Angie was into DiB for $250,000. I would imagine that this could've played a part in everything. But I don't know if John knew that. Maybe John had some other motives, some hidden resentment in the past. Frankie (Frank DeCicco) and me had a tough time even getting John to elevate DiB to captain after Paul (Paul Castellano) got hit. But I never questioned that he gave the order.

After the botched murder of Lucchese crime family mobster Anthony Casso, who was a "soldier" at the time, Casso openly called Ruggiero an "idiot". Insulted, Ruggiero decided to have Casso murdered, a task entrusted to Michael Paradiso, one of John Gotti's oldest friends. Paradiso, in turn, assigned the actual task of killing to three hoodlums, including a Staten Island thug named James Hydell, a nephew of Gambino crime family capo Daniel Marino. Hydell shot Casso five times, but failed to kill him, a mistake that proved costly: kidnapped by Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, Hydell was hideously tortured by Anthony Casso for twelve hours, then killed, all as a warning to Ruggiero.

The incident further rattled Gotti's faith in Ruggiero's abilities as a capo, and created a major managerial problem: as family boss, Gotti was being ushered into the great riches of the upper-level rackets, ones that required captains with some intelligence and business sense who could help him run the organization. Ruggiero proved to have none of these attributes. After the attempted shooting of Anthony Casso, John Gotti Jr. later stated that Ruggiero was placed on the "shelf" for ordering the attack. Despite orders from his father, John Jr. continued his friendship with his father's old friend and spoke to him regularly.

After Ruggiero was notified of his brother, Salvatore's death in a plane crash, he, along with Gene Gotti and John Carneglia, went to Salvatore's hideout in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, searching for a yet-to-be-sold shipment of heroin and cash. A few months earlier however, hoping to catch up with his elusive brother and to gain evidence to indict John Gotti, the FBI's Gambino Squad had thoroughly wired Ruggiero's home. Not only was his telephone line bugged, but microphones were placed in his kitchen, den and dining room. Federal agents were able to record Ruggiero's attorney Micheal Coiro, offering condolences to Ruggiero on the death of his brother, and then saying, "Gene found the heroin." The talk of heroin in the wake of Salvatore's death and the connection to a Gotti family relative seized the attention of the investigating FBI agents. The investigation into Ruggiero suddenly held promise in leading to indictments of major family operatives.

Ruggiero was known as a constant chatter-box, given his nick name "quack quack", providing a running commentary on everything going on around him. Everyone who visited him had to endure endless gossip, complaints and general indiscretions. The death of his brother Salvatore hit Ruggiero hard, and he was often overheard on FBI wiretaps in his Cedarhurst, New York, home wistfully speaking of his brother to Gerlando Sciascia and Joseph LoPresti, his two drug trafficking partners. Unlike his brother Salvatore who became a multi-millionaire from his successful large scale drug trafficking operation, Ruggiero would never rise above a wealthy street-level mobster. He later told Joseph LoPresti, "You know I lost my brother. I said to myself: "I'll have to get drunk". I had two vodkas . I went in my room, I closed the door and I cried . " The bugs also overheard Angelo saying how difficult it was accepting his brother's death because the body was in "fuckin pieces." He added: "If he would have been shot in the head and [they] found him in the streets- that's part of our life, I could accept that.".

From jail, Gotti ordered the murder of Robert DiBernardo by Gravano both DiBernardo and Ruggiero had been vying to succeed DeCicco as underboss until Ruggiero accused DiBernardo of challenging Gotti's leadership. [3] When Ruggiero, also under indictment, had his bail revoked for his abrasive behavior in preliminary hearings, a frustrated Gotti instead promoted Armone to underboss. [4]

After the first heroin trafficking case against Ruggiero, Gene Gotti and John Carneglia ended in a mistrial, because of jury tampering, Ruggiero remained in federal detention, his bail still revoked, for the second trial. This also resulted in a mistrial, again for suspected jury tampering. For the third trial, in 1989, Ruggiero was finally released on bail and served as a defendant in the case. He had terminal lung cancer. Later, his drug trafficking partners Gene Gotti and John Carneglia were both convicted and sentenced to 50 years. Sammy Gravano then heard that John wanted to have Ruggiero murdered for allowing himself to be recorded by the FBI. Gravano convinced Gotti that because Ruggiero was dying of cancer that it was not even worth it to carry out the execution. Instead, John stripped Ruggiero of his rank as caporegime of the Bergin crew and severed him from all criminal activities.

After turning state's evidence to avoid prosecution, former underboss Gravano reported that during the last months of Ruggiero's life both he and Gene Gotti urged John to visit his near death childhood friend. Gotti refused to see his once loyal soldier and friend because he was still angry over Ruggiero's criminal activities being recorded on wire taps.

In 1989, Angelo Ruggiero died of cancer in Howard Beach, Queens, at the age of 49 years.

His son and namesake, Angelo Ruggiero Jr., and Ruggiero Sr.'s, paternal nephew Salvatore Ruggiero Jr. would later follow their fathers into an organized crime "career". Angelo Jr. was convicted of grand larceny in May, 1998, and sent to prison for one to three years.

This Week in Crime History

On this date in 1992, a jury in New York finds mobster John Gotti, nicknamed the Teflon Don for his ability to elude conviction, guilty on 13 counts, including murder and racketeering. In the wake of the conviction, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, James Fox, was quoted as saying, “The don is covered in Velcro, and every charge stuck.” On June 23 of that year, Gotti was sentenced to life in prison, dealing a significant blow to organized crime.

John Joseph Gotti, Jr., was born in the Bronx, New York, on October 27, 1940. He rose through the ranks of the Gambino crime family and seized power after ordering the December 1985 murder of then-boss Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steakhouse. Behind closed doors, Gotti was a ruthless, controlling figure. Publicly, he became a tabloid celebrity, famous for his swagger and expensive suits, which earned him another nickname, the Dapper Don.

John Gotti, the Gambino crime boss, is convicted in 1992

With stunning swiftness, a jury brought down the curtain on Godfather-Part IV yesterday.

After three courtroom victories in six years, John Gotti's swaggering reign as the so-called Teflon Don came to a crushing end in an electrified Brooklyn courtroom.

"The Teflon is gone," said the exultant New York FBI boss, Jim Fox. "The Don is covered with Velcro."

After deliberating only 14 hours over a day and a half, the seven-man, five-woman jury found Gotti guilty on all 13 counts in the indictment and on each of 12 crimes recharged under the two racketeering counts.

The verdict means that barring a successful appeal, the 51-year-old boss of the nation's largest Mafia family will die in prison.

Gotti will remain in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan until sentencing June 23.

When the jury forewoman announced that the government had "proven" the first racketeering crime, the man who became the most infamous gangster since Al Capone rocked slightly back in his chair with a taut smile of resignation.

Rise and fall

The first "proven" crime was the 1985 murder of former Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan, meaning that the jury had decided that just as Gotti rose to power with Castellano's murder he should now fall because of it.

As the forewoman continued to call out the verdicts that would be the nails for Gotti's coffin, Gotti turned to a defense attorney, rubbed his back affectionately and said, "Don't worry, the fight's not over."

In the front row of spectators, Gotti's supporters shook their heads with disbelief as it became apparent the jury had completely lowered the boom on their leader.

Besides racketeering, Gotti and top lieutenant Frank (Frankie Loc) LoCascio, 59, were charged with murder conspiracy, illegal gambling, loansharking, obstruction of justice, bribery of a public official and tax fraud.

When it became clear that LoCascio was going down on all but the gambling count, his son Salvatore said loudly enough for the jury to hear, "Where's the evidence? Didn't you listen to the case? It's a fix."

As Salvatore LoCascio and other Gotti stalwarts squirmed in their seats, Gotti looked at them and gestured, putting his right forefinger to his mouth and wagging it.

At the prosecution table, lead Prosecutor John Gleeson - the subject of much Gotti vilification throughout the dramatic seven week trial - remained impassive.

Gleeson was co-prosecutor when Gotti won a racketeering case in the same courthouse in 1987. At a news conference with Fox and Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, he said, "At that moment, we said the jury had spoken. We say it again today."

Fox said that as a result of yesterday's verdicts, the government has quickened organized crime's decline.

Fox added: "Gotti was acquitted, it would have given a shot in the arm to organized crime throughout the U.S. and he would have achieved the status that not even Al Capone had achieved."

Gotti and the defense attorneys were stunned when the jurors sent word out at 1 p.m. that they had reached a verdict.

"We were anticipating they would take more time, based, on the issues we presented that they appeared to understand during our summations," said Gotti's crestfallen lead attorney, Albert Krieger, who plans an appeal.

After Brooklyn Federal Judge I. Leo Glasser polled the jurors, he excused them.

Gotti dressed in a charcoal, double-breasted suit white-on-white shirt and floral tie, rose and shook his hands with his attorneys. He kissed Krieger's wife, Irene, and waved and smiled at supporters - who for the first time, did not include his brother Peter.

Peter Gotti, after learning the jury had reached a verdict so quickly, left the courthouse. "That told him he didn't have to be here," said Jack D'Amico, a Gambino capo who stayed for the verdict.

"John was classy to the end," D'Amico added. "When you're born round, you don't come out square."

Watch the video: Heres What Life Is Like For The Infamous Gotti Family Now