The Dom: John Gotti

October 6, 2003

Both the Mafia and prosecutors agreed that the most important “godfather” in American crime through the 1990 would be John Gotti. Gotti was cut from the old mold, a type some law enforcement officials say hasn’t been matched around New York Mafia circles since the demise of Albert Anastasia, the chief executioner of Murder, Inc., and reportedly Gotti’s underworld idol.

By 1985, Gotti was considered the top capo in the Gambino crime family, the most powerful Mafia Organization in the nation. At the time, he was running rackets- at JFK airport as well as other Gambino operations throughout the New York Metropolitan area and was a particular favorite of the under boss of the group Aniello Dellacroce, an again but still brutal Mafioso. As much as Dellacroce liked Gotti, boss Paul Castellano hate him, or more accurately feared him, which in the mafia automatically breeds hatred.

In 1985, both Castellano and Dellacroce were indicted on a number of charges. Both in the late 60’s, long prison terms would effectively end their reigns in the mob. It looked like just a simple waiting period for Gotti. He waited in style, brutal perhaps, but suave. “Gotti looks like a movie star,” said a detective who knew him quite well. “He wears hand tailored clothes, drives a big black Lincoln and likes good restaurants.” One of five brothers, Gotti worked his way up through the mafia ranks. He became a capo as a reward for “good works” he did for the late family chief, Carlo Gambino. In 1972 Gambino’s nephew, Manny Gambino, was kidnapped by other underworld characters who demanded a $350,000 ransom. After part of the ransom was paid, the kidnappers murder many and buried the corpse in a New Jersey dump. The FBI arrested two suspects while Carlo Gambino put out a contract on a third, Irish mobster James McBratney. McBratney was soon murder in a Staten Island bar by a three-man execution squad. Gotti, convicted as one of the death squad, served a portion of seven-year sentence in a Greenhaven State Prison in New York. He was no stranger to iron bars, having previously done time for hijacking.

On his release, Gotti was welcomed back by Gambino who saw to it that he moved up rapidly for services rendered. In 1978, Gotti was named a capo and became a top associate of Dellacroce. Gotti and many other Mafiosi felt that Dellacroce deserved to be the head of the family instead of Castellano. But Dellacroce kept Gotti in line.

Trouble was brewing up in the Gambino Family. But Gotti didn’t seem worried, and then Castellano named a mobster close to him, Thomas Bilotti, to the position of capo, the equal of Gotti. If Dellacroce died, Castellano was going to name Bilotti underboss, and if he, Castellano went to prison, Bilotti would take over as godfather. And Gotti would be out cold.

Dellacroce died on December 2, 1985. Two weeks later Paul Castellano and his protégé Bilotti was shot to death outside a Manhattan steak house. And within 8 days it seemed Gotti was in charge of the biggest mafia family in the nation. He was the center of attention at a party in a reputed meeting place of the Gambino family, the Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy. “All the big shots from the family were there,” and investigator quoted, “and Gotti walked in like he owned the joint. He obviously had no fear of anyone.”