Mugshot of Carlo Gambino
August 24, 1902
|Died||October 15, 1976 (aged 74)
Massapequa, New York, United States
Cause of death
|Saint John's Cemetery, Queens, New York City, New York|
|Citizenship||Italy, United States|
|Occupation||Crime boss, Mafioso, Mobster, Rum runner, Businessman, Racketeer|
|Known for||Boss of the Gambino crime family|
|Spouse(s)||Catherine Castellano (1926-1971)|
Carlo Gambino (August 24, 1902 – October 15, 1976) was an Italian-born American gangster, notable for being boss of the Gambino crime family, which is still named after him. After the 1957 Apalachin Convention he unexpectedly seized control of the Commission of the American Mafia. Gambino was known for being low-key and secretive. In 1937 Gambino was convicted of tax evasion but had his sentence suspended. He lived to the age of 74, when he died of a heart attack in bed "in a state of grace", according to a priest who had given him the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He had two brothers, Gaspare Gambino, who later married and was never involved with the Mafia and is not to be confused with another Gaspare Gambino who was a mafioso in Palermo, and Paolo Gambino who, on the other hand, had a big role in his brother's family.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Immigration
- 3 Castellammarese War
- 4 The Commission
- 5 Vincent and Philip Mangano
- 6 Anastasia, Genovese, and Gambino
- 7 The Apalachin and Genovese's fall
- 8 Don Carlo (1959–76)
- 9 Constant surveillance
- 10 Gambino Family regroups
- 11 Final decision
- 12 Death and burial
- 13 Residence
- 14 Popular culture
- 15 See also
- 16 References
- 17 External links
Carlo Gambino was born in the city of Palermo, Sicily, in 1902, to a family that belonged to the Honored Society. The Honored Society was slightly more complicated than the Black Hand of America, which was often confused with the American Mafia. The Black Hand, much like the pre-1920s Mafia, was a highly disorganized version of the real European Mafia. Once Benito Mussolini chased a large number of real mafiosi out of Italy, Italian-Americans such as Gambino benefited from the new, better-organized Mafia. Gambino began carrying out murder orders for new Mob bosses in his teens. In 1921, at the age of 19, he became a "made man" and was inducted into Cosa Nostra. He was later known as an "original." He was the brother-in-law of Sicilian Gambino crime family mobster Paul Castellano.
Gambino entered the United States on December 23, 1921, at Norfolk, Virginia, the lone passenger aboard the ship SS Vincenzo Florio, and an illegal immigrant. He ate nothing but anchovies and wine during the month long trip and joined his cousins, the Castellanos, in New York City. There he joined a crime family headed by Joe "The Boss" Masseria, one of the larger crime families in the city.
Gambino also became involved with the "Young Turks", a group of Americanized Italian and Jewish mobsters in New York which included Frank "Prime Minister" Costello, Albert "The Executioner" Anastasia, Frank Scalice, Settimo Accardi, Gaetano "Tommy Three-Finger Brown" Lucchese, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Mickey Cohen, and Charles "Lucky" Luciano, one of the future's most powerful Mob bosses. The crew became involved in robbery, thefts, and illegal gambling. But with their new partner, Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein, they turned to bootlegging during Prohibition in the early 1920s. Gambino also made a sizable profit during World War II by bribing Office of Price Administration (OPA) officials for ration stamps, which he then sold on the black market.
By 1926, Luciano was considered to be a powerful gangster on the rise. His immediate superior, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, was coming into conflict with Salvatore Maranzano, a recent arrival from Palermo who was born in Castellammare del Golfo. When Maranzano arrived in New York in 1925, his access to money and manpower led him to become involved in extortion and gambling operations that directly competed with Masseria. On October 10, 1928, Masseria eliminated D'Aquila, his top rival for the coveted title of "Boss of Bosses." However, Masseria still had to deal with the powerful Maranzano and his Castellammarese Clan. Gambino was thrown right into the line of fire.
Masseria demanded absolute loyalty from the other criminals in his area, and killed anyone who failed to comply. In 1930, Masseria demanded a $10,000 tribute from Maranzano's then-boss, Nicola "Cola" Schirò, and supposedly got it. Schirò fled New York in fear, leaving Maranzano as the new leader. By 1931, a series of killings in New York involving Castellammarese Clan members caused Maranzano and his family to declare war against Masseria and his allies. D'Aquila's family, now headed by Alfred Mineo, sided with Masseria. In addition to Gambino, other prominent members of this family included Luciano associates Anastasia and Scalice. The Castellammarese Clan included Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno and Stefano Magaddino, the Profaci crime family, which included Joseph Profaci and Joseph Magliocco – Bonanno's cousin – along with former Masseria allies the Reina family, which included Gaetano "Tom" Reina, Tommaso "Tommy" Gagliano, and Lucchese.
The Castellammarese War raged on between the Masseria and Maranzano factions for almost four years, devastating the Prohibition-era operations and street rackets that the five New York families controlled along with the Irish and Jewish crime groups. The war cut into gang profits and, in some cases, completely destroyed the underworld rackets of crime family members.
Several Young Turks on both sides realized that if the war did not stop soon, the Italian families could be left on the fringe of New York's criminal underworld while the Jewish and Irish crime bosses became dominant. Additionally, they felt that Masseria, Maranzano, and other old-school mafiosi were too greedy to see the riches that could be had by working with non-Italians. With this in mind, Gambino and the other Young Turks decided to end the war and form a national syndicate. On April 15, 1931, Masseria was gunned down at Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant in Coney Island by Anastasia, Adonis, Genovese, and Siegel. Maranzano then named himself capo di tutti capi (boss of bosses). In the major reorganization of the New York Mafia that followed, Vincent Mangano took over the Mineo family, with Anastasia as his underboss and Gambino as a capo. They kept these posts after Maranzano was fatally stabbed and shot on September 10, 1931.
In 1931, after the killings of Masseria and Maranzano, Luciano created The Commission, which was supposed to avoid big conflicts like the Castellammarese War. The charter members were Luciano, Joe Bonanno, Joe Profaci, Tommy Gagliano and Mangano.
Gambino married his first cousin, Catherine Castellano, on December 5, 1926. They raised four children – sons Thomas, Joseph and Carlo, and a daughter, Phyllis Sinatra. Gambino became a major earner in the Mangano family. His activities included loansharking, illegal gambling and protection money from area merchants. Despite this, Gambino was low-key by inclination. He lived in a modest, well-kept row house in Brooklyn. The only real evidence of vanity was his license plate on his Buick, CG1.
Vincent and Philip Mangano
Mangano led his family for 20 years, even though he and Anastasia never saw eye-to-eye. Mangano was displeased with Anastasia's friendship with Luciano and Frank Costello, especially since they frequently used Anastasia's services without his permission. Anastasia had been, since the 1930s, the operating head ("Lord High Executioner") of the syndicate's most notorious death squad, Murder, Inc., which was allegedly responsible for 900-1,000 murders. Mangano and his brother, Phil, supposedly confronted Anastasia several times, in front of Gambino. Eventually, Anastasia stopped asking permission for "every little thing", further angering the Manganos.
On April 19, 1951, Philip Mangano was found murdered and Vincent Mangano himself vanished the very same day and was never found. It is widely presumed that Anastasia killed them both. Though Anastasia never admitted to having a hand in the Mangano murders, he managed to convince the heads of the other families that Vincent Mangano had been plotting to have him killed, a claim backed up by Frank Costello, the acting boss of the Luciano crime family. Anastasia was named the new boss of the family, with Gambino as his underboss. Gambino was now one of the most powerful mobsters in the business, with a crew making profit of extortion, illegal gambling, hijacking, bootlegging and murder. Shortly afterward, Gambino's cousin and brother-in-law, Paul "Big Paul" Castellano (Giuseppe's son), took over as capo of Gambino's old crew.
Anastasia, Genovese, and Gambino
While Gambino's family enjoyed increased profits, other mobsters, including Vito Genovese, grew concerned about Anastasia's violently erratic behavior. In 1952, Anastasia ordered the murder of a young Brooklyn tailor's assistant named Arnold Schuster, after watching Schuster talking on television about his role in the capture of bank robber Willie Sutton. In killing Schuster, Anastasia had violated a Mafia rule against killing outsiders. Luciano and Costello were horrified by the killing, but they could not take action against Anastasia as he was needed in their power struggle against Genovese. Genovese did not get along with Anatasia, believing he had murdered Mangano. Due to Joe Bonanno's efforts, war was avoided between the two families. However, Genovese continued to resent Anastasia.
In 1957, Genovese convinced Gambino to side with him against Anastasia, Costello, and Luciano. On Genovese's advice, Gambino told Anastasia that they were not making enough money from casinos in Cuba, which belonged to Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky. After confronting Lansky, Anastasia seemingly threw his support to the Genovese-Gambino alliance. Shortly afterward, Genovese moved against Costello by hiring Vincent "Chin" Gigante to assassinate him. While the attempt failed, it frightened Costello enough to ask the Commission for permission to retire, which they accepted. Genovese took over the family and renamed it the Genovese crime family.
With Costello gone, Genovese and Gambino elected to make a preemptive strike against Anastasia. Gambino gave the kill order to "Joe the Blonde" Biondo, who selected Stephen Armone, Arnold "Witty" Wittenberg, and Stephen "Stevie Coogin" Grammauta to carry out the hit. The gunmen allegedly shot Anastasia on October 25, 1957, in the barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City. Gambino then became the new boss of the Mangano crime family, which was renamed the Gambino crime family.
The Apalachin and Genovese's fall
Genovese now believed that with Costello and Anastasia out of the way and Gambino supposedly in his debt, the way was clear for him to become Boss of Bosses. However, Gambino had his own mind, and secretly aligned himself with Luciano, Costello and Lansky against Genovese. The Costello-Lansky-Luciano-Gambino alliance gained further strength after the Apalachin Conference, supposedly set up to formally crown Genovese as Boss of Bosses, ended in disaster with several prominent mafiosi being arrested. Soon afterward, Costello, Luciano, and Lansky met face to face in Italy.
In 1959, Genovese was heading to Atlanta where a huge shipment of heroin was arriving. But when he arrived, Genovese was surprised by local police, the FBI and the ATF. He was convicted for selling a large quantity of heroin and was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Genovese would later die in prison of a heart attack in 1969.
Don Carlo (1959–76)
Boss of Bosses
In the early 1960s, Gambino slowly moved against the prominent Anastasia loyalists, headed by caporegime Armand "Tommy" Rava. With Joseph Biondo as a solid underboss, Joseph Riccobono as Gambino's own consigliere, and with his top caporegimes, Aniello "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce, Paul Castellano, Carmine "The Doctor" Lombardozzi, Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone and Carmine "Wagon Wheels" Fatico, the remaining Anastasia loyalists could never make a move.
Gambino quickly expanded his rackets all over the country. New Gambino rackets were created in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Gambino also, to regain complete control of Manhattan, took over the New York Longshoremen Union, where more than 90 per cent of all New York City's ports were controlled. It was a great time, when the money rolled in from every Gambino racket in the U.S. and worked its way up to become America's most powerful crime family. Gambino also made his own family policy: "Deal and Die." This was Gambino's message to every Gambino family member; heroin and cocaine were highly lucrative, but were dangerous, and would also attract attention. The punishment for dealing drugs, in Gambino style, was death.
In the 1960s, the Gambino family had 500 (other sources have 700 or 800) soldiers, within 30 crews making the family a $500,000,000-a-year-enterprise. In 1962, his eldest son Thomas Gambino married the daughter of fellow mob boss Gaetano Lucchese, the new head of the Gagliano crime family, whom Gambino would become close to as a partner, friend, and relative. More than 1,000 people, relatives, friends, and "friends of ours", (amico nostro) were present during the wedding-ceremony. It has been rumored that Gambino personally gave Lucchese $30,000 as a "welcome gift" that same day. As repayment, Lucchese cut his friend into the airport rackets that were under Lucchese control, especially at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where all unions, management, and security were controlled by Lucchese himself. After Joe Bonanno was forced into retirement by The Commission, Vito Genovese died of a heart attack, and Tommy Lucchese died of a brain tumor, Gambino's status and power on The Commission was elevated almost immediately. While the Mafia had abolished the title of "boss of bosses", Gambino's position afforded him the powers such a title would have carried, as he was now the boss of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful crime family in the country and was the head of The Commission, a position only Luciano had held before Gambino.
Profaci, the Gallos, and Gambino
In February 1962, the Gallo brothers kidnapped a number of prominent members of the Profaci family including underboss Joseph Magliocco and capo Joe Colombo. In return for their release, the brothers demanded changes in the way profits were divided between crews, and at first Profaci appeared to agree, following negotiations between the captors and Profaci's consigliere, Charles Locicero, but Profaci was simply biding his time before taking revenge on the Gallos. Gallo crew member Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli was murdered by Profaci's men in September, and an attempt on Larry Gallo's life was interrupted by policemen in a Brooklyn bar. The brothers set about attacking Profaci's men wherever they saw them as all-out war erupted between the two factions. Plus, Gambino and Lucchese were putting pressure on the other bosses to convince Profaci of stepping down from his title and family, but on June 6, 1962, Profaci lost his battle against cancer. He was replaced as boss of the family by Joseph Magliocco, a man very much in the Profaci mold, much to the family. That's why Gambino and Lucchese gave their support to the Gallo crew, where Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno, the longtime "Don" of the Bonanno crime family, gave his support to Magliocco and the Profacis.
Conspiracy against the Commission
With the Gallos out of the way, Magliocco was able to consolidate his position and concentrate on the business of running the family's affairs. However, Joe Bonanno hatched a plot to murder the heads of the other three families, which Magliocco decided to go along with. The assassinations went to Profaci capo, Joseph Colombo, who realized that the plot would never amount to anything, and warned Gambino about Magliocco and Bonanno's conspiracy against the Commission. Bonanno and Magliocco were called to face the judgement of the Commission. While Bonanno went into hiding, Magliocco faced up to his crimes. Understanding that he had been following Bonanno's lead, he was let off with a $50,000 fine, and forced to retire as the head of the family, being replaced by Joseph Colombo. One month later, Magliocco died of high blood pressure, but Gambino had other plans for Bonanno
Banana War (1964–69)
After Magliocco's death, Bonanno had few allies left. Many members felt he was too power hungry, and one, a boss from Florida, Santo Trafficante, Jr., once said in anger, "He's planting flags all over the world!" Some members of his family also thought he spent too much time away from New York, and more in Canada and Tucson, where he had business interests. The Commission members decided that he no longer deserved leadership over his family and replaced him with a caporegime in his family, Gaspar DiGregorio. Bonanno, however, would not accept this result, breaking the family into two groups, the one led by DiGregorio, and the other headed by Bonanno and his son, Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno. Newspapers referred to it as "The Banana Split".
Since Bonanno refused to give up his position, the other Commission members felt it was time for drastic action.
Gambino was the one who would give the order to have Bonanno killed, but took pity on him and decided to give Bonanno one last chance to retire while he had his life. In October 1964, Bonanno was kidnapped by Buffalo crime family members, Peter and Antonino Magaddino. According to Bonanno, he was held captive in upstate New York by his cousin, Stefano "Steve the Undertaker" Magaddino. Supposedly Magaddino represented the Commission and Gambino, and told his cousin that he "took up too much space in the air", a Sicilian proverb for arrogance. After much talk, Bonanno was released and the Commission members believed he would finally retire and relinquish his power.
Eventually, DiGregorio promised a peace meeting on whatever territory Salvatore wanted. It was an ambush. DiGregorio's men opened fire with rifles and automatic weapons on Salvatore and his associates, who were armed only with pistols. The police estimated that more than 500 shots were fired but remarkably, no one was hurt. The war went on for another two more years. The Commission originally thought they could win, but when Joseph Bonanno returned, their hopes were dashed. Bonanno sent out a message to his enemies, saying that for every Bonanno loyalist killed, he would retaliate by hitting a caporegime from the other side. Just as the Bonanno loyalists were sensing victory, Bonanno suffered a heart attack; he decided that he and his son would retire to Tucson, leaving his broken family to another capo, Paul Sciacca, who had replaced DiGregorio. Gambino stood as the victorious and most powerful mob boss in the US. Having the reputation of Gambino's "mercy", made him even more respectable in front of the Commission.
Gambino and the "cement overcoat"
Even though Cosa Nostra members show utmost respect to their superiors, there have been cases of members disrespecting and/or humiliating another made man. An especially notorious case is that of Carmine "Mimi" Scialo – a feared and respected soldier of The Colombo Family who had control over the vast area of Coney Island. When under the influence of alcohol, Scialo would become very arrogant, loud and disrespectful. One day in October 1974, Scialo was at a popular Italian restaurant, he spotted Carlo Gambino and began to harass him, insulting Gambino in front of others. Gambino stayed calm, as he always was, did not retaliate and did not say a word. Scialo's body was found not long after at Otto's Social Club in South Brooklyn encased in the cement floor.
Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese led a quiet, stable life until he developed a fatal brain tumor and died at his home in Lido Beach, Long Island on July 13, 1967. His funeral at the Calvary Cemetery in Queens, was attended by more than 1,000 mourners, including politicians, judges, policemen, racketeers, drug pushers, pimps, hitmen and Gambino, who allegedly arranged the whole funeral. Lucchese was succeeded as boss by Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo.
Gambino was also the only mob boss of the Five Families who attended the burial of the longtime friend "Lucky" Luciano. On January 26, 1962, Luciano died of a heart attack at the age of 64 at Naples International Airport. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in Queens, 1972, more than ten years after his death because of the terms of his deportation in 1946. More than 2,000 mourners attended his funeral, where Gambino gave his own speech in memory of Luciano, his friend and companion.
Tommy Eboli murder
After the imprisonment of Vito "Don Vito" Genovese in 1959, Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli was made acting boss and kept his position toward 1969, when Genovese died in jail. About that time, Eboli was the only one who could re-organize the Genovese crime family, but Eboli needed money to start his reign as boss, which is why he borrowed $4,000,000 from Gambino, the richest Don of New York City. The only problem was that Eboli's crew was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison, which was allegedly arranged by Gambino because he wanted his friend Frank Tieri as boss. When Gambino came to be repaid, Eboli refused and said he didn't have enough money. Under the influence of Gambino, the selection of Frank Tieri as boss of the Genovese crime family was made, subsequently after the murder of Tommy Eboli on July 16, 1972. To this day, no one has been arrested for his murder.
In December 1972, on Ocean Parkway, a van began to park outside Gambino's home. In that car, sat the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Mob squad, with cameras, lip-readers, and audio-surveillance equipment, including microphones and wire-taps that were planted in Gambino's home. The FBI was kept on a 24-hour standby, hoping to connect Gambino to organized crime. The van was marked "Organized Crime Control Bureau."
But even though Gambino had every corner in his house recorded, he knew how to conduct business in silence. According to FBI officials, they once recorded a meeting between Gambino, Aniello "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce and Joseph Biondo, where Biondo is just to have said: "Frog legs", and Gambino simply nodded. The recording tapes came out empty.
Gambino Family regroups
Gambino was disappointed with both his own underboss, Aniello Dellacroce and Dellacroce's ambitious protege John Gotti, so Gambino reorganized. Now, with a weak heart, he decided there was to be two underbosses who both reported to him, Dellacroce and Gambino's own brother-in-law, Paul "Big Paul" Castellano. Castellano took over the white-collar crimes in Brooklyn like union racketeering, solid and toxic waste, recycling, construction, fraud and wire fraud, while Dellacroce would have free rein over those crews who carried out more traditional, 'hands-on' Mafia activities and the blue-collar crimes, such as murder for hire, loansharking, gambling, extortion, hijacking, pier thefts, fencing, and robbery. This strategic restructuring also created confusion in the FBI in the mid 1970s as to who the official underboss in the family was. In reality, the Gambino family was split into two separate factions, with two underbosses and one Don.
In his last years, Gambino still ruled his family and the other New York families with an iron fist, while keeping a low profile both from the public and law enforcement. He had to choose who he would appoint as his successor after his departure. He chose his cousin and capo, Paul Castellano, over his underboss, Neil Dellacroce.
Death and burial
Gambino died of a heart attack on October 15, 1976, while watching his beloved New York Yankees at his home in Massapequa. He was buried in Saint John's Cemetery, Queens in New York City, as was Charles Luciano, and more than ten other lifetime friends. His funeral was said to have been attended by at least 2,000 people, including police officers, judges and politicians. Gambino left behind sons Thomas, Joseph and Carlo, daughter Phyllis Sinatra, and a family with a crew of 500 soldiers, after leading the Gambino crime family for 20 years, and The Commission for more than 15.
Gambino's permanent residence was a modest house located at 2230 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. Gambino's Long Island residence, located at 34 Club Drive in Massapequa, served as his summer home. The two-story brick house, surrounded by a low fence with marble statues on the front lawn, was at the end of a cul-de-sac in Harbor Green Estates, overlooking the Great South Bay. He also maintained the house next door as a residence for his bodyguard.
- In the 1996 TV film Gotti, Carlo Gambino is portrayed by Marc Lawrence as the head of the Gambino family towards his death in 1976.
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Carlo Gambino, the pre-eminent figure in organized crime in the country died early yesterday morning in his Massapequa, L.I., home of natural causes. He was 74 years old.
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|Gambino crime family
|Gambino crime family
Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno
as chairman of the commission
|Capo di tutti capi
Boss of bosses