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Authors: Scott M Dietche

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BOOK: The Everything Mafia Book
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Gambino underboss Dellacroce took a liking to Gotti and promoted him to capo. When Dellacroce went to prison, Gotti’s star rose even further. His leadership enamored him to his crew, and they became as close-knit as a mob crew can get, with little of the petty bickering that plague the Mafia at every level.

Irish Need Not Apply

Kidnapping was a common means of intimidation among Mafia families in the 1970s. Members of one family would snatch someone from a rival family and demand ransom in the form of loot or other conditions. Often the kidnapped hood was released intact; on other occasions he was sent home on an installment plan, one piece at a time. Carlo Gambino’s nephew was kidnapped and killed, and the old don wanted to put an end to the practice. An Irish gangster with the pugnacious sounding name of Jimmy McBratney was believed to be the killer. Gotti curried favor with his boss Gambino by sending the errant Irishman to meet his maker. It turned out that McBratney was less of a brat than that. He was not the killer. Gotti got the wrong guy and did two more years in the slammer, but he got in good with his boss. That is an example of upward mobility, Mafia-style.

Clawing Up Through the Ranks

Carlo Gambino died of a heart attack in October of 1976, while watching the New York Yankees in the World Series. He had named Paul Castellano to succeed him. Castellano was adept at managing the family’s white-collar crimes, which Gambino realized were the wave of the future. Aniello Del-lacroce’s feelings were hurt. And when a sensitive mobster’s feathers are ruffled, the fur usually flies.

Boss in Training

Gotti had been consolidating his power base and rising within the ranks. The McBratney murder had granted him the exalted position of “made” man. The heists crew that operated out of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club were his guys now, loyal to the up-and-coming capo. The boss, Paul Castel-lano, did not have as high an opinion of Gotti. That in itself thwarted Gotti’s ambitions. Gotti in turn did not like or respect Castellano.

A week before John Gotti’s death, his brother, Peter, acting head of the Gambino crime family, and several others were indicted on sixty-eight counts of racketeering, including another brother and a nephew, both named Richard. It was yet another blow to the Gotti era of the Gambino crime family.

Much of Gotti’s success occurred because he violated an old Mafia rule: no involvement in drugs. Castellano eschewed the drug scene and ordered his men to stop. But there was a lot of money to be made in the drug trade.

Paul Castellano

Courtesy of AP Images/Mario Suriani

Paul Castellano, known as “Big Paul,” sixty-nine, arrives at federal court in Manhattan for his arraignment on Feb. 28, 1985. Castellano is the reputed head of the Gambino crime family and described by law enforcement officials as the most powerful man in organized crime.

Other criminal organizations were deeply involved in drug trafficking, and the Mafia was notorious for wanting a cut of someone else’s profits.

The rules were bending in that it eventually came down from Castellano that anyone caught dealing in drugs would be killed, emphasis on the “if they were caught” loophole. Eventually the old dons turned a blind eye to drug dealing when they saw the vast wealth that filled the family coffers.

Shooting at Sparks

Paul Castellano was in hot water. In the early 1980s the government was aggressively going after the heads of the five New York families, including Genovese boss Fat Tony Salerno, Lucchese boss Tony “Ducks” Corallo, Colombo boss Carmine “the Snake” Persico, and Bonanno boss Phil Ras-telli. They were being prosecuted under RICO charges.

Family Troubles

Castellano was also losing respect in his own family. His insistence on white-collar crimes was not going over well with the blue-collar crews, who were aligning behind Gotti. The street tough seized upon the old don’s vulnerability and began planning his demise.

It was December 1985, and Christmas shoppers crowded the busy city sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. Paul Castellano and his driver Thomas Bilotti pulled up in front of Sparks Steak House in midtown Manhattan. The venerated restaurant was a favorite dining place of Castellano’s. No sooner did he exit his car then he was ambushed by assassins-in-waiting. Four gunmen administered six bullets to Castellano’s head. John Gotti cruised by in a passing car and surveyed the carnage. Another Mafia transfer of power had been successfully staged. Gotti was the Big Boy now.

The New York media covered John Gotti’s death and funeral for days, focusing on everything from the dapper suit he donned in death to man-and-woman-on-the-street interviews where naive New Yorkers came to praise the murderer, not to bury him. The extensive news coverage drew some criticism, but it sold papers.

Castellano had not been respected as a don, and Mafia experts believe that the fact that he did not see this hit coming and take precautions was an indication of his lack of competence.

Paul Castellano is assassinated

Courtesy of AP Images/Mario Suriani

The body of mafia crime boss Paul Castellano lies on a stretcher outside the Sparks Steak House in New York after he and his bodyguards were gunned down, Dec. 16, 1985. At the mob’s peak, when dozens of top-echelon mobsters from around the country assembled in 1957 for the infamous Apalachin meeting, more than two dozen families operated nationwide. Disputes were settled by the Commission, a sort of gangland Supreme Court. Corporate change came in a spray of gunfire. Mob executions are a blast from the past; the last boss executed was Castellano.

Little Boy Lost

The tragic story of the death of Gotti’s son, Frank, epitomizes Mafia justice. John Gotti’s twelve-year-old son, Frank, was puttering around their Howard Beach, Queens, neighborhood when he was struck and killed by a car. The driver, John Favara, was a neighbor of the Gottis. Favara’s son and little Frank Gotti were friends. They even had overnights in each other’s homes. Favara had been blinded by the setting sun and had not seen Frank pull in front of his car. Shortly thereafter, Favara began receiving death threats. The local police suggested that he move. He did not take these threats seriously at first. After all, it had been an accident.

John Gotti was a rebel and a hero to many a misguided citizen. He thumbed his nose at the New York City ban on fireworks with a lavish pyrotechnic display every Fourth of July. He was greeted on the street like a movie star, kissing women and babies on their cheeks and shaking the hands of star-struck gawkers.

The word
was spray-painted on Favara’s car, and one of his friends, the son of an old mobster, urged him “to take a powder,” slang for hastily leaving the scene. After Gotti’s wife, Victoria, attacked Favara with a baseball bat, he changed his mind. He put his house up for sale and decided to get out of town.

He did not get very far. He simply disappeared one morning, never to be heard from again. Veteran crime reporter Jerry Capeci pieced the story together years after the fact. Witnesses saw Favara get clubbed and thrown into a van. The witnesses were intimidated and remained silent. It is believed that his body was dumped in a barrel that was filled with cement and ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic. The offending automobile was turned into scrap metal.

BOOK: The Everything Mafia Book
3.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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