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Gambino crime family

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Gambino crime family
Carlo Gambino.jpg
Carlo Gambino, head of the Gambino crime family
Founded by Salvatore D'Aquila
Named after Carlo Gambino
Founding location New York City, New York
Years active 1910s–present
Territory Various neighborhoods in New York City, New York. Territory in Long Island, New Jersey, Tampa, South Florida, Ohio, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles (as well as Palermo, Sicily)
Ethnicity Men of Italian descent, and other ethnicities as "associates"
Membership 150-200 made members approx, 1,500–2,000 associates approx. (2004 estimates)[1]
Leader(s) Frank Cali[2]
Criminal activities Racketeering, extortion, fraud, illegal gambling, money laundering, murder, robbery, drug trafficking, and fencing[3]
Allies Bonanno, Colombo, Lucchese, Genovese, DeCavalcante, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Velentzas crime families. Aryan Brotherhood
Rivals Various gangs over New York City, including their allies

The Gambino crime family (pronounced [ɡamˈbiːno]) is one of the "Five Families" that dominate organized crime activities in New York City, United States, within the nationwide criminal phenomenon known as the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra). The group, which went through three bosses between 1910 and 1957, is named after Carlo Gambino, boss of the family at the time of the McClellan hearings in 1963, when the structure of organized crime first gained public attention. The group's operations extend from New York and the eastern seaboard to California. Its illicit activities include labor and construction racketeering, gambling, loansharking, extortion, money laundering, prostitution,[3] fraud, hijacking, pier thefts[clarification needed], and fencing.

The family was one of the five families that were founded in New York after the Castellammarese War of 1931. For most of the next quarter-century, it was a minor player in organized crime. Its most prominent member during this time was its underboss Albert Anastasia, who rose to infamy as the operating head of the underworld's enforcement arm, Murder, Inc. He remained a power even after Murder, Inc. was smashed in the late 1940s, and took over his family in 1951—by all accounts, after murdering the family's founder Vincent Mangano.

The rise began in 1957 of what was the most powerful crime family in America for a time, when Anastasia was assassinated while sitting in a barber chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan. Experts believe that Anastasia's underboss Carlo Gambino helped orchestrate the hit to take over the family. Gambino partnered with Meyer Lansky to control gambling interests in Cuba. The family's fortunes grew through 1976, when Gambino appointed his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as boss upon his death. Castellano infuriated upstart capo John Gotti, who orchestrated Castellano's murder in 1985. Gotti's downfall came in 1992, when his underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano decided to cooperate with the FBI. Gravano's cooperation brought down Gotti, along with most of the top members of the Gambino family. The family is currently headed by Frank Cali.[2]



D'Aquila gang

The origins of the Gambino crime family can be traced back to the faction of newly transplanted mafiosi from Palermo, Sicily who were originally led by Ignazio Lupo. When he and his partner by business and marriage, Giuseppe Morello, were sent to prison for counterfeiting in 1910, Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila, one of Lupo's chief captains, took over. D'Aquila was an influential emigrant from Palermo who joined the Lupo gang based in East Harlem. Founded in the 1900s, the Lupo Mano Nera gang was one of the first Italian criminal groups in New York.[4][5] Lupo was partner in many ventures with Morello, who was the original capo di tutti capi (boss of bosses), a title that would later be coveted by D'Aquila. As other gangs formed in New York, they acknowledged Morello as their boss of bosses.[6] In 1906, D'Aquila's name first appeared on police records for running a confidence scam.

In 1910, Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo, were sentenced to 30 years in prison for counterfeiting. With the Morello family weakened, D'Aquila used the opportunity to establish the dominance of what was now his own Palermitani family in East Harlem. D'Aquila quickly used his ties to other Mafia leaders in the United States to create a network of influence and connections and was soon a powerful force in New York.[6]

New York gangs

By 1910, more Italian gangs had formed in New York City. In addition to the original Morello gang in East Harlem and D'Aquila's own, now growing gang, also in East Harlem (but expanding into Little Italy in Manhattan's Lower East Side), there were others organizations forming. In Brooklyn, Nicolo "Cola" Schirò established a second gang of Sicilian mafiosi from Castellammare del Golfo, west of Palermo, in Sicily. A third Sicilian gang was formed by Alfred Mineo in Brooklyn.[7] Another Morello captain, Gaetano Reina, had also broken away in the Bronx, ruling that area with impunity. In south Brooklyn, first Johnny Torrio, then Frankie Yale were leading a new and rising organization. Finally, there were two allied Neapolitan Camorra gangs, one on Coney Island and one on Navy Street in Brooklyn, that were run by Pellegrino Morano and Alessandro Vollero.[8]

In 1916 the Camorra had assassinated Nicholas Morello, head of the Morello gang. In response, D'Aquila allied with the Morellos to fight the Camorra. In 1917, both Morano and Vollero were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. With their leadership gone, the two Camorra gangs disappeared and D'Aquila and the Schiro family in Brooklyn took over many of their rackets in Brooklyn.[9] Soon after, D'Aquila absorbed the Mineo gang, making Mineo his first lieutenant. D'Aquila now controlled the largest and most influential Italian gang in New York City. It was about this time that Joe Masseria, another former Morello captain, began asserting his influence over the Lower East Side's Little Italy and began to come into conflict with D'Aquila's operations there, as Prohibition approached.


In 1920, the United States outlawed the production and sale of alcoholic beverages (Prohibition), creating the opportunity for an extremely lucrative illegal racket for the New York gangs.

By 1920, D'Aquila's only significant rival was Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Masseria had taken over the Morello family interests, and by the mid-1920s, had begun to amass power and influence to rival that of D'Aquila. By the late 1920s, D'Aquila and Masseria were headed for a showdown.

On October 10, 1928, Masseria gunmen assassinated Salvatore D'Aquila outside his home.[10] D'Aquila's second-in-command, Alfred Mineo, and his right-hand man, Steve Ferrigno, now commanded the largest and most influential Sicilian gang in New York City.

Castellammarese War

In 1930, the Castellammarese War started between Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, the new leader of Cola Schirò's Castellammarese gang, for control of Italian-American organized crime in New York.[11] Mineo was a casualty; he and Ferrigno were shot dead during an assassination attempt on Masseria on November 5, 1930.[12] In April 1931, Masseria was murdered in a restaurant by several of his gang members who had defected to Maranzano.[13] Maranzano declared himself the boss of all bosses and reorganized all the New York gangs into five crime families. Maranzano appointed Frank Scalise as head of the old D'Aquila/Mineo gang, now designated as one of New York's new five families.[14]

In September 1931, Maranzano was himself assassinated in his office by a squad of contract killers.[15] The main beneficiary (and organizer of both hits) was Charlie "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano kept Maranzano's five families and added a Commission to mediate disputes and prevent more gang warfare.[16]

Also in 1931, Luciano replaced Scalise with Vincent Mangano as head of the D'Aquila/Mineo gang, now the Mangano crime family. Mangano also received a seat on the new Commission.[17] The modern era of the Cosa Nostra had begun.

Mangano era

Vincent Mangano now took over the family, with his brother Philip as consigliere and Albert Anastasia as underboss. Vincent Mangano still believed in the Old World mob traditions of "honor", "tradition", "respect" and "dignity." However, he was somewhat more forward-looking than either Masseria and Maranzano. To compensate for loss of massive revenues with the end of Prohibition in 1933, Vincent Mangano moved his family into extortion, union racketeering, and illegal gambling operations including horse betting, running numbers and lotteries.

Vincent Mangano also established the City Democratic Club, ostensibly to promote American values. In reality, the Club was a cover for Murder, Inc., the notorious band of mainly Jewish hitmen who performed contract murders for the Cosa Nostra nationwide. Anastasia was the operating head of Murder, Inc.; he was popularly known as the "Lord High Executioner".

Vincent Mangano also had close ties with Emil Camarda, a vice-president of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). Through the ILA, Mangano and the family completely controlled the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts. From 1932 onward, the president of ILA Local 1814 was Anthony "Tough Tony" Anastasio, Albert Anastasia's younger brother (Anthony kept the original spelling of their last name). Anastasio was one of the family's biggest earners, steering millions of dollars in kickbacks and payoffs into the family's coffers. Anastasio made no secret of his ties to the mob; he only had to say "my brother Albert" to get his point across. With the family's backing, the Brooklyn waterfront was Anastasio's bailiwick for 30 years.

Around this time, Carlo Gambino was promoted within the Mangano family, along with another future boss, Gambino's cousin Paul Castellano.[18]

Anastasia and the Mangano brothers were usually in conflict, even though they worked together for 20 years. On numerous occasions, Anastasia and Vincent Mangano came close to physical conflict. Vincent Mangano felt uncomfortable with Anastasia's close ties to Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Joseph Bonanno and other top mobsters outside his family. Mangano was also jealous of Anastasia's strong power base in Murder Inc. and the waterfront unions. In April 1951, Vincent Mangano disappeared without a trace, while his brother Philip was found dead.[19] No one was ever charged in the Mangano brothers' deaths, and Vincent's body was never found. However, it is generally believed that Anastasia murdered both of them.

Anastasia regime

Called to face the Commission, Anastasia refused to accept guilt for the Mangano murders. However, Anastasia did claim that Vincent Mangano had been planning to kill him. Anastasia was already running the family in Vincent Mangano's "absence", and the Commission members were intimidated by Anastasia. With the support of Frank Costello, boss of the Luciano crime family, the Commission confirmed Anastasia's ascension as boss of what was now the Anastasia crime family. Carlo Gambino, a wily character with designs on the leadership himself, maneuvered himself into position as underboss.[18]

The former boss of Murder, Inc., Anastasia was a vicious murderer who inspired fear throughout the New York families. With Costello as an ally, Anastasia came to control the Commission. Costello's bitter rival was Vito Genovese, a former underboss for Lucky Luciano. Since 1946, Genovese had been scheming to remove Costello from power, but was not powerful enough to face Anastasia.

Plot against Anastasia

Anastasia's own brutal actions soon created a favorable climate in New York for his removal. In 1952, Anastasia ordered the murder of a Brooklyn man Arnold Schuster who had aided in the capture of bank robber Willie Sutton. Anastasia did not like the fact that Schuster had helped the police. The New York families were outraged by this gratuitous killing that raised a large amount of public furor.[20][21] Anastasia also alienated one of Luciano's powerful associates, Meyer Lansky, by opening casinos in Cuba to compete with Lansky's. Genovese and Lansky soon recruited Carlo Gambino to the conspiracy by offering him the chance to replace Anastasia and become boss himself.

In May 1957, Frank Costello escaped a Genovese-organized murder attempt with a minor injury and decided to resign as boss.[22] However, Genovese and Gambino soon learned that Costello was conspiring with Anastasia to regain power. They decided to kill Anastasia.

On October 25, 1957, several masked gunmen murdered Anastasia while he was sitting in the barber shop at the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan. As Anastasia sat in the barber's chair, the three assailants rushed in, shoved the barber out of the way, and started shooting. The wounded Anastasia allegedly lunged at his killers, but only hit their reflections in the wall mirror. Anastasia died at the scene.[23] Many historians believe that Gambino ordered caporegime Joseph Biondo to kill Anastasia and Biondo gave the contract to a squad of Gambino drug dealers led by Stephen Armone and Steven Grammauta.[24]

Gambino era

With Anastasia's death, Carlo Gambino became boss of what was now called the Gambino crime family. Joseph Biondo became underboss, supposedly as a reward for the Anastasia killing. However, Gambino was upset by Biondo's misbehavior and replaced him with Aniello Dellacroce in 1965.[25]

By all accounts, Vito Genovese was angling to become boss of all bosses, and believed that Gambino would support him. Gambino, however, had his own mind. He secretly joined forces with Charles Luciano and Frank Costello to get Genovese out of the way as well. Gambino helped trick Genovese into a lucrative drug deal, then paid a small-time Puerto Rican dealer to testify against him. In April 1959, Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, where he died in 1969.[26]

Gambino quickly built the family into the most powerful crime family in the United States. He was helped by Meyer Lansky's offshore gaming houses in Cuba and the Bahamas, a lucrative business for the Cosa Nostra.[27]

Control of other crime families

In 1964, Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno, the head of the Bonanno crime family, and Joseph Magliocco, the new boss of the Profaci crime family, conspired to kill Gambino and his allies on the Commission. However, the man entrusted with the job, Joseph Colombo, instead revealed the plot to Gambino. The Commission, led by Gambino, forced Magliocco to resign and hand over his family to Colombo, while Bonanno fled New York.[28] Gambino then became the most powerful leader of the "Five Families".[29]

In 1971, Gambino allegedly used his power to orchestrate the shooting of Colombo. Gambino and his allies were unhappy about Colombo's high public profile. Jerome Johnson shot Colombo on June 28, 1971 at the second "Italian-American Unity Day" rally. Johnson was tentatively linked to the Gambino family, but no one else was charged in the shooting.[30] Colombo survived the shooting, but remained paralyzed until his death in 1978.[31]

Gambino's influence also stretched into behind-the-scenes control of the Lucchese crime family, led by Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti.

In 1972, Gambino allegedly picked Frank "Funzi" Tieri to be front boss of the Genovese crime family. Gambino had allegedly ordered the murder of Tieri's predecessor Thomas Eboli after Eboli failed to repay a $3 million loan to Gambino.[32][33] It is also believed that Eboli was killed by his own crime family for his erratic ways.

Under Gambino, the family gained particularly strong influence in the construction industry. It acquired behind-the-scenes control of Teamsters Local 282, which controlled access to most building materials in the New York area and could literally bring most construction jobs in New York City to a halt.

On October 15, 1976, Gambino died of a heart attack.[34] Following Gambino's wishes, control of the family passed to Paul Castellano, whose sister was married to Gambino. Castellano kept longtime underboss Aniello Dellacroce in his position. Many Dellacroce allies were bitterly disappointed by Castellano's ascension, but Dellacroce insisted that they obey Gambino's instructions.[29]

Castellano regime

When Castellano became boss, he negotiated a division of responsibilities between himself and Dellacroce. Castellano took control of the so-called "white collar crimes" that included stock embezzlement and other big money rackets. Dellacroce retained control of the traditional Cosa Nostra activities.[35] To maintain control over the Dellacroce faction, Castellano relied on the crew run by Anthony "Nino" Gaggi and Roy DeMeo. The DeMeo crew allegedly committed from 74 to 200 murders during the late 1970s and mid-1980s.[36]

During his regime, Castellano vastly expanded the family's influence in the construction industry. His new alliance with the Irish-American Westside Gang made millions of dollars for the family in construction rackets. For all intents and purposes, the Gambinos held veto power over all construction projects worth over $2 million in New York City. The DeMeo gang also ran a very lucrative car theft ring. Castellano relied on a four-man ruling panel to supervise family operations. This panel consisted of powerful Garment District leader Thomas Gambino, bodyguard and later underboss Thomas Bilotti, and powerful Queens faction-leaders Daniel Marino and James Failla.

Gambino family case

In response to the Gambino rise, federal prosecutors targeted the family leadership. On March 31, 1984 a federal grand jury indicted Castellano and 20 other Gambino members and associates with charges of drug trafficking, murder, theft, and prostitution.[37] This group included John Gotti's brother Gene Gotti and his best friend Angelo Ruggiero.[38] In early 1985, Castellano was indicted along with other Cosa Nostra leaders in the Mafia Commission case. Facing the possibility of time in prison, Castellano announced that Thomas Gambino would become acting boss in Castellano's absence, with Bilotti as acting underboss to replace the ailing Dellacroce.[38]

The Gambino family was making more money, but the internal strife continued to grow. The Dellacroce faction considered Castellano a businessman, not a mob boss. They grew infuriated when Castellano increased their tribute requirements while building himself a grand mansion in Staten Island. Castellano became increasingly detached from family members, conducting all family business at his mansion. Castellano's announcement about Gambino and Bilotti further enraged the Dellacroce partisans.

Conflict with Gotti

Castellano's most vocal critic was John Gotti, a Queens-based capo and Dellacroce protégé. Gotti was ambitious and wanted to be boss himself. He was also angry that Castellano allowed the DeMeo crew to deal in narcotics while forbidding him from doing it. Gotti and his men conducted their drug trade in secret. The 1983 Ruggiero indictment came from phone conversations that Federal agents had recorded on Gotti's phone. The taped conversations included Ruggiero discussing drug deals and expressing his contempt for Castellano.[39] By law, the defendants were allowed transcripts of these wiretap conversations to aid their defense. Castellano immediately demanded copies for himself. Dellacroce kept the transcripts from Castellano – the drug dealing and disrespectful language on the transcripts would have given Castellano cause to kill both Ruggiero and John Gotti.[40] In turn, Dellacroce prevented Gotti from deposing Castellano, citing his promise to Carlo Gambino.

On December 2, 1985, Dellacroce died of cancer.[41] With Dellacroce gone, Ruggiero could no longer keep the incriminating transcripts away from Castellano. Gotti quickly realized that now was the best time to murder Castellano and seize power. He recruited three major earners from his generation into the plot along with Ruggiero: capo Frank DeCicco and soldiers Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano and Robert "DiB" DiBernardo. To win the support of family old-timers, he recruited longtime capo Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone into the conspiracy, who dated back in the family's history to the Mangano brothers.

On December 16, 1985, Bilotti and Castellano arrived at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan for a dinner meeting with capo Frank DeCicco. As the two men were exiting their car, four unidentified men shot them to death.[42]

Gotti regime

In January 1986, John Gotti was acclaimed as the new boss of the family. Gotti appointed Frank DeCicco as underboss and promoted Angelo Ruggiero and Sammy Gravano to capo. Gotti was known as "The Dapper Don", renowned for his hand-tailored suits and silk ties. Unlike his colleagues, Gotti made little effort to hide his mob connections and was very willing to provide interesting sound bites to the media. His home in Howard Beach, Queens was frequently seen on television. He liked to hold meetings with family members while walking in public places so that law enforcement agents could not record the conversations. One of Gotti's neighbors in Howard Beach was Joseph Massino, underboss of the Bonanno crime family. Gotti and Massino had a longstanding friendship dating back to the 1970s, when they were known as two of the most proficient truck hijackers in New York.

Mob leaders from the other families were enraged at the Castellano murder and disapproved of Gotti's high-profile style. Gotti's strongest enemy was Genovese crime family boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, a former Castellano ally. Gigante conspired with Lucchese boss Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo to have Gotti killed. Corallo gave the contract to two top members of his family, Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. On April 13, 1986, they killed DeCicco with a remote-controlled bomb while he was attending a meeting with other capos. The bomb had been meant for Gotti as well, but he skipped the meeting at the last minute.[43] DeCicco was succeeded by Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone, but only a year later he was convicted on racketeering charges alongside longtime consigliere Joseph N. Gallo.[44]

Gotti was tried three times by federal and state officials, but was acquitted each time, earning him the nickname "The Teflon Don." It turned out that the trials had been compromised by witness intimidation, juror misconduct, and jury tampering. Gotti's flamboyance, however, proved to be his undoing. The FBI had managed to bug an apartment above his headquarters in the Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy, where an elderly widow let mobsters hold top-level meetings. Gotti was heard planning criminal activities and complaining about his underlings. In particular, he complained about Gravano, portraying him as a "mad dog" killer. Gravano responded by turning state's evidence and testifying against Gotti and other members of the family. Gotti and consigliere Frank "Frankie Loc" LoCascio were convicted on all charges on April 2, 1992, largely on the strength of Gravano's testimony, and sentenced to life without parole.[45]

Family decline

Gotti continued to rule the family from prison, while day-to-day operation of the family shifted to capos John "Jackie Nose" D'Amico and Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo. The latter was due to take over as acting boss but was himself sentenced to eight years in prison on racketeering charges. Gotti's son John "Junior" Gotti took over as head of the family, but he pleaded guilty to racketeering in 1999 and was sentenced to 77 months in jail.[46]

John Gotti, Sr. died in prison in 2002, and his brother Peter Gotti took over as boss. The family's fortunes have dwindled to a remarkable extent, given their power a few decades ago when they were considered the most powerful criminal organization on earth. Peter Gotti was imprisoned as well in 2003, and the leadership allegedly went to administration members Nicholas Corozzo, Jackie D'Amico, and Joseph Corozzo.[43] Peter Gotti remained the official boss while in prison.

Gotti's rivals regained control of the family, mostly because the rest of Gotti's loyalists were either jailed or under indictments. Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, the former head of the family's white collar operations and one of the last Gotti supporters, turned state's evidence due to increased law enforcement and credible evidence to be presented in his racketeering trial. He chose to testify against mobsters from all of the Five Families. DiLeonardo testified against Peter Gotti and Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone, among others, from 2003 to 2005, and then disappeared into the Witness Protection Program.

In 2005, Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo and his longtime underling Leonard "Lenny" DiMaria were released from prison after serving ten years for racketeering and loansharking charges in New York and Florida. That same year, US law enforcement recognized Corozzo as the boss of the Gambino crime family, with his brother Joseph Corozzo as the family consigliere, Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri as the acting underboss, and Jackie D'Amico as a highly regarded member with the Corozzo brothers.

On Thursday, February 7, 2008, a federal grand jury issued an indictment which led to the arrest of 54 Gambino family members and associates in New York City, its suburbs, New Jersey, and Long Island. This indictment was the culmination of a four-year FBI investigation known as Operation Old Bridge. It accused 62 people of murder, conspiracy, drug trafficking, robberies, extortion, and other crimes. The FBI used informant Joseph Vollaro as a government witness.

Operation Old Bridge broke up a growing alliance between the Gambinos and the Sicilian Mafia, which wanted to get further into the drug trade. One of those arrested in the raids in the US was Frank Cali, future boss of the Gambino family. He is allegedly the "ambassador" in the US for the Inzerillo crime family.[47] Most of those arrested ended up getting sentenced to less than three years in prison.

Current position and leadership

Since both federal and New York State authorities rounded up the entire Gambino family hierarchy in early 2008, a three-man panel of street bosses Daniel "Danny" Marino, John Gambino and Bartolomeo Vernace was running the Gambino family while the administration members were in prison. In July 2011, it was reported that Domenico Cefalù had been promoted to official boss of the crime family, putting an end to the Gotti regime. For a brief time, Cefalù's reign saw the Sicilians, better known as "Zips", regain control of the Gambino crime family since 1976.[48] Cefalù stepped down in 2015 and his underboss, Frank Cali, took full control. It was alleged by crime reporter Jerry Capeci that Cali previously turned down the position of boss in July 2013. The current family is believed to have between 150 and 200 members as well as over 1100 associates.

The family continues to be active in a variety of criminal enterprises including gambling, loan sharking, extortion, labor racketeering, fraud, money laundering and narcotic trafficking. Today the Gambino family still has some control on piers in Brooklyn and Staten Island through infiltrated labor unions.[49] Indictments from 2008 to 2014 show that the family is still very active in New York City. During 2009, the Gambino family saw many important members released from prison.[50] On November 18, 2009, the NYPD arrested 22 members and associates of the Lucchese and Gambino crime families as part of "Operation Pure Luck".[51] The raid was a result of cases involving loan sharking and sports gambling on Staten Island. There were also charges of bribing New York City court officers and Sanitation Department officials.[52]

In 2014, FBI and Italian police arrested altogether 17 members and associates of the 'Ndrangheta Mafia, in particular the Ursino clan, and 7 members and associates of the Gambino and Bonanno families. The arrested have been accused by prosecutors and law enforcement officials of organizing a transatlantic drug ring with aim of shipping 500 kg of pure cocaine from Guyana in South America to the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria.[53][54] US Attorney Loretta Lynch singled out Gambino family associate Franco Lupoi as the linchpin of the operation, accusing him of conspiring with his father in law to set up the network, Nicola Antonio Simonetta, a member of the Ursino clan.[55][56]

On December 12, 2017, five associates of the Gambino family; Thomas Anzaone, Alessandro “Sandro” Damelio, Joseph Durso, Anthony Rodolico, Anthony Saladino and 74-year old captain John "Johnny Boy" Ambrosio, were arrested and accused of operating an illegal empire from January 2014 to December 2017, on charges of racketeering, extortion, drug trafficking, loansharking and illegal gambling. Bonanno crime family soldier, Frank "Frankie Boy" Salerno, was also arrested and has been accused of conspiring with the Gambino crime family.[57] Associates Anzaone, Damelio and Durso together with Bonanno soldier Saladino, were alleged to have sold cocaine, marijuana and Xanax in large quantities. Prosecutors said Salerno and Saladino sourced the drugs in kilograms then sold it to the others to be distributed, both face a minimum of 10 years in prison. An undercover agent alleged that he paid $1,250 for an ounce of cocaine and also bought nearly a kilogram in 12 different sales between February and June in 2016. Ambrosio was said to have been the head of a very profitable loansharking and illegal gambling operation, including unlicensed gambling parlors, electronic gaming machines and internet sports betting. Prosecutors said that he and Rodolico attempted to obstruct the federal grand jury proceeding into their criminal activities by intimidating a loan shark victim into lying to law enforcement.[58]

Historical leadership

Boss (official and acting)

Street boss/Committee

From Gotti's imprisonment in 1990, several capo committees have periodically replaced the underboss and consigliere positions, allowing an imprisoned boss better control of the family. Street boss is a position created in 2005. It was the second most powerful position in the organization.

Underboss (official and acting)



  • Boss Francesco "Frank" Cali – Like Cefalù, Cali has strong ties to Sicily, in particular those close to his relative, John Gambino. Though he maintains association with the Sicilian faction, Cali was born and raised in New York City and eventually rose in stature within the regime of Jackie D'Amico. Cali was later identified as acting captain of this crew, though in 2012 he has been identified as Cefalù's new underboss.[68] He refused to become the Boss of the Gambino family in 2013 while serving as Underboss.[69] In 2015, Cali took over the Gambino crime family.[70]
  • Underboss Francesco Palmeri – born in Sicily. He has ties to the N'drangheta Mafia. He was involved in extorting the chief executive officer of a major electric company in Italy who borrowed $1 million from Bonanno crime family captain Cesare Bonventre in the early 1980s,[71][72] and was arrested in December 2014 for blackmail conspiracy alongside 7 other Italian and American mafia members, including John Grillo who has ties to the Sicilian and Calabrian crime families, he was extradited to Italy in 2015 to face extortion and robbery charges.[73] Palmeri a became a naturalized U.S. citizen in May 2014.[74]
  • Consigliere Joseph "Jo Jo" Corozzo – A former capo, Joseph and his brother Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo control the Queens-based Corozzo faction. In 1992, Joseph became consigliere after Gotti's imprisonment. On February 8, 2008, Joseph and Nicholas were indicted during Operation Old Bridge. In June 2008, Joseph pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge concerning the extortion of a Staten Island concrete firm and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. In 2011, Corozzo was indicted on new federal racketeering charges. He was released on January 5, 2016.[75]

Current family capos

During the 1980s and 90s, the Gambino crime family had 24 active crews operating in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, South Florida, and Connecticut. By 2000, the family had approximately 20 crews. However, according to a 2004 New Jersey Organized Crime Report, the Gambino family had only ten active crews.[76]

New York

Brooklyn/Staten Island faction

  • Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone – Capo of the Gambino crew on the Brooklyn waterfront. Ciccone was convicted on extortion charges in 2003.[77] He was released from prison on April 24, 2013.[78]
  • Joseph "Sonny" Juliano – Capo of a Brooklyn crew that operates illegal gambling, loansharking, fraud and wire fraud activities. Juliano previously managed a multimillion-dollar illegal gambling ring in 30 New York City locations.[79][80]
  • Carmine Sciandra – Capo of a crew in Staten Island who also co-owns three "Top Tomato" vegetable and fruit markets. In December 2005, Sciandra was shot and wounded by a retired policeman while working at his Staten Island market. On March 25, 2010, Sciandra plead guilty to state charges of enterprise corruption and grand larceny for running a massive sports betting and loan shark operation and was sentenced to serve between 1½ to 4½ years in prison.[81] He was released on January 5, 2012.
  • Louis "Big Lou" Vallario – Capo of a crew in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn since the 1980s. From 1996 to 2002, Vallario served as acting boss in the family's Ruling Committee/Panel. One of the last aides to John Gotti.[82] He was released on October 15, 2013.[83]

Queens faction

Manhattan faction

Bronx faction

Sicilian faction

The Sicilian faction of the Gambino crime family is known as the Cherry Hill Gambinos. Gambino boss Carlo Gambino created an alliance between the Gambino family and three Sicilian clans: the Inzerillos, the Spatolas and the Di Maggios. Carlo Gambino's relatives controlled the Inzerillo clan under Salvatore Inzerillo in Passo di Ragano, a neighborhood in Palermo, Sicily. Salvatore Inzerillo coordinated the major heroin trafficking from Sicily to the US, bringing his cousins John, Giuseppe and Rosario Gambino to the US to supervise the operation. The Gambino brothers ran a Cafe on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst and took their name Cherry Hill Gambinos from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The Gambino family in America began increasing in size with more Sicilian members.[99][100][101][102]

New Jersey

In Northern New Jersey, the Gambino family operates crews in Bergen, Passaic, and Essex Counties. In Southern New Jersey, the family operates crews in South Trenton,[103] and Atlantic City. The two Gambino crews operating in New Jersey are the Mitarotonda crew and the Sisca crew.[76]

  • Alphonse "Funzi" Sisca – Capo of a crew in New Jersey. He was a John Gotti ally and a former drug dealing partner of Angelo Ruggiero and Arnold Squitieri. Prior to being convicted in 2006, Sisca had spent 20 of the past 30 years in prison.[104] He was released from prison on September 27, 2010.
  • Nicholas "Nicky Mita" Mitarotonda – Capo of a crew in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In August 1996, he was sentenced to almost 7 years in prison for running a loan sharking operation and fined $40,000.[105] Mitarotonda was also convicted of running an illegal gambling business worth $5 million however the charges were dropped as he agreed to a plea agreement. He was released in 2002.[106] He was released from federal prison on March 1, 2011.


The Gambino family's Florida faction operates in Tampa and the South Florida counties of Broward, Palm Beach and Dade.

Atlanta, Georgia

  • Steven Kaplan – A family associate was the manager of the Gold Club a strip club in Atlanta, he employed women to provide sexual services in his club.[109]


  • Blaise Corozzo – Soldier and another of the Corozzo brothers. He is serving a one to three-year sentence in state prison for a 2008 illegal gambling operation. His son Nicholas Corozzo, also involved with the Gambino family, was arrested in 2004.[110] In 2009, Blaise Corozzo was released from prison.[111]
  • Andrew "Andy Campo" Campos – Soldier and former acting capo of the Bronx-based LoCascio crew. Campos supervised Tore LoCascio's crew while he was in prison.[112]
  • Michael Murdocco – Soldier in Carmine Sciandra's crew. Murdocco and his son-in-law Sanitation Deputy Chief Frederick Grimaldi, rigged bids to help a New Jersey firm win a sanitation contract. In exchange for kickbacks, Grimaldi allegedly leaked bid information to Murdocco in May 2009. Currently serving two to six years in state prison after pleading guilty in March 2010 to enterprise corruption, grand larceny and receiving bribes.[113] Murdocco was paroled on July 7, 2012.[114]
  • Rosario Spatola – Member of the Cherry Hill Gambinos. His cousin is John Gambino and his brother-in-law was Salvatore Inzerillo.
  • Louis Vallario – current Gambino family soldier and influential member during the 1980s. He was a close and trusted friend of John Gotti. Due to Gotti's incarceration, he led the family as a member of the Ruling Panel which consisted of other Gambino family members, until 2002. Vallario was most recently released from prison in 2013.

Imprisoned members

  • Andrew Merola – Former acting capo of the Mitarotonda crew. Merola is connected to Lucchese crime family Jersey faction leader Martin Taccetta. Merola's crew operates illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion and labor racketeering.[115][116] Pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.[117] His projected release date is June 5, 2020.
  • Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo – Brother of consigliere Joseph Corozzo, uncle of Joseph, Jr. and currently the most influential caporegime in the crime family. Became a fugitive for almost four months, currently incarcerated on a 13-year sentence. His projected release date is March 2, 2020.[118][119]
  • Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia – Capo of a crew in Queens. An enforcer and hitman with John Gotti, Pizzonia is currently serving a 15-year-sentence for gambling and loansharking conspiracy.[120][121] His projected release date is on February 28, 2020.[122]
  • Joseph Sclafani – current soldier who used to operate in Staten Island. Before his 2013 sentence of cocaine and marijuana trafficking, he was planning on marrying Ramona Rizzo, a star on Mob Wives. Rizzo is also the granddaughter of deceased Bonanno crime family soldier Benjamin Ruggiero. Sclafani was a friend and drug partner of Bonanno family associate Costabile Farace and was also alongside him when he was murdered in 1989, having been seriously wounded himself. He is the son of recently deceased Gambino captain Augustus Sclafani.[123][124] He is scheduled to be released on August 4, 2019.
  • Michael Roccaforte – a reputed rising star in the Gambino family. He was reported to be the only member from the Gambino family under the rank of Captain to attend the 2010 conference consisting of members from the New York crime families and the Philadelphia crime family. He served under capo Alphonse Trucchio, son of Ronnie Trucchio. Roccaforte was sentenced alongside Anthony Moscatiello for racketeering, selling narcotics, gambling, loansharking and numerous other offenses. He is scheduled to be released in December 2018.[125][126]
  • Gennaro "Jerry" Bruno - currently serving a 21-year prison sentence for shooting drug dealer Martin Bosshart in the back of his head over a marijuana dispute in 2002 in Queens; convicted for the crime in May 2017. Gambino associate Todd LaBarca was convicted for his role in the murder in 2012 and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.[127] The 82nd Attorney General Eric Holder refused to seek the death penalty for Bruno. He held a top ranking position within the official Gambino crime family crew the Ozone Park Boys. He is a close ally of consigliere Joseph Corozzo and previously sided with his faction in the family.[128]



Alliances with other criminal groups

The Gambino-Lucchese-Genovese

(1953–1985) between Carlo Gambino, Tommy Lucchese, and Vito Genovese began with a plot to take over the Mafia Commission by murdering family bosses Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia. At that time, Gambino was Anastasia's new underboss and Vito Genovese was the underboss for Costello. Their first target was Costello on May 2, 1957. Costello survived the assassination attempt, but immediately decided to retire as boss in favor of Genovese. Their second target was Anastasia on October 25, 1957. The Gallo brothers (from the Colombo family) murdered Anastasia in a Manhattan barber shop, opening the war for Gambino to become the new boss of the now-Gambino crime family. After assuming power, Gambino started conspiring with Lucchese to remove their former ally Genovese. In 1959, with the assistance of Lucky Luciano, Costello, and Meyer Lansky, Genovese was arrested and Gambino assumed full control with Lucchese of the Mafia Commission. Under Gambino and Lucchese, the Commission pushed Bonanno boss Joseph Bonanno out of power, triggering an internal war in that family. In the 1960s, the Commission backed the Gallo brothers in their rebellion against Profaci family boss Joe Profaci. In 1962, Gambino's oldest son Thomas married Lucchese's daughter, strengthening the Gambino and Lucchese family alliance. Lucchese gave Gambino access into the New York airports rackets he controlled, and Gambino allowed Lucchese into some of their rackets. After Lucchese death in July 1967, Gambino used his power over the Commission to appoint Carmine Tramunti as the new Lucchese family leader. Gambino later continued the alliance with Tramunti's successor, Anthony Corallo. After Gambino's death, new Gambino boss Paul Castellano continued the Lucchese alliance. In 1985, the original Gambino-Lucchese alliance dissolved when John Gotti ordered Castellano's assassination and took power in the Gambino family without Commission approval.

The Gambino-Lucchese

(1999–present) was initiated by acting Lucchese boss Steven Crea in 1999. The two families extorted the construction industry and made millions of dollars in bid-rigging.[130] In early 2002, Lucchese capo John Capra worked with Gambino acting boss Arnold Squitieri, acting underboss Anthony Megale, and Bronx-based acting capo Gregory DePalma. The group was involved in illegal gambling and extortion activities in Westchester County, New York. The members were arrested in 2005 leading to the revelation that Gambino acting capo DePalma had allowed an FBI agent Joaquín García (known as Jack Falcone) work undercover with his crew since 2002.[131][132] In late 2008, Gambino family acting capo Andrew Merola teamed with Lucchese Jersey faction acting boss Martin Taccetta in an illegal gambling ring, shaking down unions, and extorting car dealerships. Merola was indicted in 2008 and Taccetta was returned to prison in 2009.[115][116]

The Gambino-Genovese

(1962–1972) was between Carlo Gambino and Genovese family acting boss/front boss Thomas Eboli. The alliance was short-lived because Eboli was unable or unwilling to repay Gambino money from a bad narcotics deal. The alliance ended when Gambino ordered Eboli's murder on July 16, 1972.

The Gambino-Bonanno

(1991–2004) started with John Gotti and new Bonanno boss Joseph Massino. As a member of the Mafia Commission, Gotti helped Massino regain the Bonanno commission seat that was lost in the early 1970s. The Gambino family influenced the Bonanno family to give up narcotics trafficking and return to more traditional Cosa Nostra crimes (loan sharking, gambling, stock fraud, etc.) By the late 1990s, the Bonannos had become almost as strong as the Gambinos.[133]

The Gambino-Westies

(1970s–1990s) this alliance resulted from an ongoing war between the Genovese family and the Westies, an Irish-American street gang in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan. Genovese front boss Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno wanted to seize control of lucrative construction rackets at the new Jacob Javits Convention Center from the Westies. When the Westies balked, Salerno ordered the murder of the top gang leaders. Eventually, the Genovese family invited the Gambinos to broker a peace agreement with the Westside Gang. As part of this agreement, the Westies formed an alliance with Gambino capo Roy DeMeo.[134][135]

Government informants and witnesses

Name Rank and Year
Alphonse "The Peacemaker" Attardi Soldier (1952/1953)
Alfredo "Freddie the Sidge" Santantonio Soldier (1961-1963)
Willie Boy Johnson Associate (1966/1967)
Dominick "Big Dom" LoFaro Associate (1984)
Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano Underboss (1991)
Dominic "Fat Dom" Borghese Soldier (1995)[136]
Andrew DiDonato Associate (1997)
Craig DePalma Soldier (2000)[137]
Michael "Mickey Scars" DiLeonardo Capo (2002)
Frank "Frankie Fapp" Fappiano Soldier (2002)
Primo Cassarino Soldier (2004/2005)
Joseph "Little Joe" D'Angelo Soldier (2005)[138]
Lewis Kasman Associate (2005)
Robert Mormando Soldier (2009)
Nicholas "Nicky Skins" Stefanelli Soldier (2010)

Gambino family mobsters

Trials involving Gambino family

In popular culture

  • 1994 film Getting Gotti showcasing a 1980s prosecution of Gambino boss John Gotti (portrayed by Tony Denison)
  • Witness to the Mob – A made-for-television movie about the life of Gambino underboss turned FBI informant Sammy Gravano.
  • In the 2001 TV movie, Boss of Bosses, actor Chazz Palminteri portrays Gambino boss Paul Castellano.
  • In the 1996 TV movie Gotti, actor Armand Assante portrays Gambino boss John Gotti.
  • In the movie Goodfellas, Gambino family made member William "Billy Batts" DeVino (played by Frank Vincent) is killed in a fight with Thomas DeSimone (portrayed as "Tommy DeVito" by Joe Pesci) a Lucchese crime family associate.
  • In the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV, in which the setting is based on New York and New Jersey, the Gambetti family is a reference to the Gambinos. Also during the mission "Waste not Want Knots" en route to a Mafia controlled waste management plant Michael Keane (a character) mentions the Gambinos while reciting numerous fictional and real Mafia families.
  • Law & Order commonly references the Gambinos as a literary flourish but does not involve actual persons except to allude to them by the court cases that were inspired by actual events, commonly 'Ripped from the headlines'. The character of Frank Masucci and the Masucci crime family were based on John Gotti and the Gambino crime family.
  • In Frasier season 4 episode 23, Frasier tells Daphne and Martin "It's like Christmas morning in the Gambino's household", at the end of their argument regarding their exchange of gifts.
  • In Gilmore Girls season 5 episode 19, Lorelai asks Rory, "Who are they, the Gambino's?"
  • In the 2016 film The Accountant, Christian Wolff kills ten members of the Gambino crime family as revenge for their killing and torture of his mentor

See also

  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-02-864225-3
  • Davis, John H. (1993). Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-016357-0. 
  • Jacobs, James B., Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington. Busting the Mob: The United States Vs. Cosa Nostra. New York: NYU Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-8147-4230-3
  • Maas, Peter. Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997. ISBN 978-0-06-093096-7
  • Raab, Selwyn (2005). Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: St. Martin Press. ISBN 978-0-312-30094-4. 


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External links

  • Seize The Night: Gambino Crime Family
  • Gambino Mafia Leadership 2009
  • Gambino Mafia News
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