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Dominick Montiglio (born July 17, 1947) is a former associate of the Gambino crime family. The nephew of Anthony 'Nino' Gaggi, who was a powerful and respected captain in the Gambino family, Dominick became a government witness in 1983 after being arrested for extortion and went on to testify in two Federal trials aimed towards his uncle Nino and the violent DeMeo crew headed by Gaggi's subordinate Roy DeMeo.
Montiglio entered into the Witness Protection Program and was moved to 12 different locations, kicked out and reinstated four times. He had 21 different names in that time and testified in three federal trials. He left the Witness Protection Program over 15 years ago and returned to Brooklyn to become an artist.
He was born Dominick Angelo Santamaria in 1947 Brooklyn, New York. From childhood to early adolescence, he grew up in the same three-story red-brick home as his uncle Anthony Gaggi, who served as his father figure and who Montiglio would end up working for as an adult. During these early years, Montiglio was witness to a number of incidents that would cause him to realize that his uncle's occupation was different from the other adults in the household. He was a second cousin to Frank Scalise.
Dominick says that, as early as he can remember, his uncle Nino's way of life was pressed on him. When he was in 1st grade, Dominick told his uncle that he wanted to be a cop. Nino's response was that he hated cops and no one in the Gaggi family had ever been, or would ever be, a police officer. Later, during the outbreak of the Vietnam War, young Dominick expressed interest in becoming a soldier. Gaggi's response was that people were fools to die for anyone or anything but their family.
Years later at age 10, Dominick had been selected to become the class president. Upon telling his uncle about his newly acquired duties, which included writing down the names of troublemakers when the teacher was out of class, Nino allegedly ordered the boy to go back to his teacher and tell her that he could not accept the position. Montiglio says his uncle told him, “No one in our family can be a rat”.
In 1954, 7-year old Dominick was present at the house when Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents forced their way in and arrested Gaggi. It was the first FBI arrest for Nino, and like his final arrest by the FBI in 1984, it accused him of being part of an auto-theft ring. In the case of this first arrest however, he was acquitted of his role and served no jail time for the alleged crime. Despite this incident, Dominick says he still had not grasped the truth about Nino's occupation.
Dominick’s relationship with his uncle continued throughout his adolescence, culminating at his confirmation ceremony in May 1957, when Anthony Gaggi became Dominick’s religious Godfather.
Shortly after, in June 1957, Gaggi's mentor in the Gambino family, Frank Scalise, was murdered in the Bronx by an unknown assassin. The Gaggi family, including 10-year old Dominick, attended the wake, where Frank’s brother Joseph was allegedly heard swearing revenge for his brother’s murder. Joseph Scalise disappeared shortly after, and the Gaggi family found themselves at another Scalise wake. Montiglio recalls seeing his uncle Nino huddling with a group of associates for most of the duration of the wake, describing the men as a group of very "grave-looking individuals".
A couple of months later on October 25, 1957, Gambino family boss Albert Anastasia was shot to death as he sat in a barber’s chair at a Manhattan hotel. It was the resulting publicity on both television and radio, as well as the reactions of his own family members to the murder, that Dominick Montiglio says had finally made him realize what kind of people his uncle was involved with, as well as what kind of person Anthony Gaggi was himself. The entire Gaggi family all stayed within their house, termed “the bunker” by Montiglio, for a number of days after Anastasia’s murder in case any further violence were to occur in retaliation to Anastasia's slaying.
After the events immediately proceeding the murder of Albert Anastasia, Dominick says his life reverted to that of a normal adolescent, absent of any further views into the lifestyle of his uncle. He got involved with typical teenage activities such as playing baseball on a Bath Beach-Bensonhurst team, and also joined a singing group dubbed "The Tuneups".
In 1959, at age 12, Dominick Santamaria became Dominick Montiglio when his mother married an Army Air Corps veteran by the name of Anthony Montiglio. After the wedding, in the summer of 1960, Dominick and his family then moved out of the Gaggi's Brooklyn home and east of Long Island to Levittown, which during the 1950s had become one of the first suburbs for post-World War II families.
Teenage years and the music business
Once living in Levittown, and free of his uncle Nino's constant influence, Dominick's life became like that of an average American teenager of the period. He took on a variety of jobs, including delivering newspapers and working in a fast-food restaurant and also played football at the school he attended. He also became a brother to both a younger brother and sister. His primary focus however was on music, specifically a vocal group he joined when he was 14 that called themselves “The Four Directions”. The group met with limited success, performing in nightclubs around Long Island and opening for local acts.
Despite living in Levittown, the Montiglios still kept in constant touch with the Gaggi side of the family at both family reunions as well as regular Sunday get-togethers in Brooklyn. It was at one of these family reunions that Dominick’s uncle Nino had warned him of the music industry, allegedly describing it to his nephew as a “... rotten, dirty business”. Gaggi did not agree with Dominick’s aspirations to become successful in show business through “The Four Directions”. Despite this warning, Dominick continued performing with the group, which was granted the opportunity to release a record of their own, which sold modestly.
After a drunken night where Dominick and the other Four Directions members stood outside of Carnegie Hall and began to sing for a crowd that was leaving after a performance inside, the group was contacted by the host of a variety show. The group performed on that show and then on others, including one in Cleveland where Dominick got to meet Sonny and Cher, the couple just beginning their rise to fame. After more performances in nightclubs and theaters, "The Four Directions" sought to record a completely original song and use its expected success to gain a foothold in the business.
The record company who had recorded their previous song was not interested however. Dominick then went to Nino to get assistance, as it was widely known at the time that there were higher-ups in the music business who were involved, in one way or another, with the Mafia. In fact, it was reported in newspapers at the time that Carlo Gambino himself controlled a record company located in New Jersey. Despite these alleged connections, Nino refused to help Dominick, reportedly saying that the music business was not a business he wanted his nephew to be involved with.
It was at this time that Dominick Montiglio heard about the Green Berets through a friend who had joined the military. On February 14, 1966 he quit an assembly-line job at Grumman Aircraft Corporation and he immediately located a recruitment center for the Army and joined. After informing his family, and getting in another argument with his uncle Nino who allegedly told him, “Don’t fight for generals, fight for us. If you want to die, die for your family”, Dominick left New York for Vietnam.
Since Montiglio later became a cooperating witness for the government, records of his military involvement have been sealed and are no longer able to be accessed.
Career in the Gambino family
After suffering a knee injury in combat, Montiglio was told that he was ineligible from further parachuting. After returning from Vietnam he left the Army and served out the rest of his enlistment period assigned to the Military Police Corps at Fort Bragg. While still serving out his enlistment, Montiglio took his first step towards organized crime when he helped Nino use dynamite to blow up the porch of a dentist who had insulted Nino's wife. He was honorably discharged from the Army in December 1968 and spent a short time at Dade County College in Miami before temporarily moving back to New York to work a series of jobs provided by his uncle. In December 1971, he got married and moved to San Francisco with his wife. The couple settled in Berkeley, where Dominick again dabbled in the music business with little success.
In 1972, Montiglio and his wife went to see Francis Ford Coppola's film The Godfather, a movie that Montiglio has said changed his entire outlook on life. The couple moved back to New York and moved in with Nino; Montiglio started working for a car service Nino was starting up. It was there that Montiglio was introduced to Roy DeMeo, an associate of Nino's, in 1973. Several weeks later, Dominick accompanied Nino to the Gemini Lounge, where he was introduced to Chris Rosenberg, one of DeMeo's closest associates. By 1974, Nino closed his car service and put Montiglio in charge of collecting payments from loanshark customers. Nino also put Montiglio in charge of collecting the weekly tributes from DeMeo's crew, ordering his association with the crew be restricted to business.
In March 1975, Montiglio showcased his willingness to murder for his uncle when he assisted Nino and Roy DeMeo in an attempted hit on Vincent Governara, a childhood friend of Montiglio's who had feuded with Nino over a decade earlier. Dominick planted a concussion grenade in Governara's car, which ended up propelling him onto the marquee of a movie theater. Governara fled to California for a time while Montiglio's efforts cemented his bond with Nino.
His next endeavor for the Gambino family was assisting Nino in intimidating a witness set to testify against Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino's brother-in-law and a Captain in the family. The witness was persuaded not to testify, securing Castellano's acquittal for extortion. Montiglio also served as DeMeo's chauffeur, a job that provided him insight into the relationship between DeMeo and his uncle; Nino readily accepted money from activities DeMeo was involved in that were considered off-limits to members of the Gambino family, namely drugs and taboo pornography. In January 1976, Montiglio befriended Henry Borelli, a DeMeo crew member, despite Nino's warning that he was only supposed to interact with DeMeo and his crew for business purposes.
Montiglio's position as liaison between Nino and DeMeo provided him a unique position, allowing him access to various events that few others in the underworld were privy to; he witnessed the murder of Joseph Brocchini, a made man who was killed without permission, in a potentially fatal violation of Mafia code. Montiglio has said that Nino and DeMeo's repeated flouting of Mafia rules showed him the rules weren't taken as seriously as they were supposed to be.
In June 1976, in the middle of a birthday party for Montiglio's wife, DeMeo reported that he had spotted Vincent Governara in New York. Nino and DeMeo subsequently set out to hunt down and kill Governara, accompanied by Montiglio. The second hit was successful, with Governara being shot and killed by Nino and DeMeo as Montiglio watched; Montiglio later claimed although he had a firearm and was originally ordered by Nino to perform the hit, his uncle instead decided at the last minute that he and DeMeo would handle the murder of Governara. Witness testimony from those present at the Bensonhurst crime scene corroborated Montiglio's claims, as all interviewed who witnessed the shooting said that they did not see the youngest man fire his weapon.
Montiglio found himself put in charge of more of Nino's loanshark collections through which he met and befriended Matthew Rega, the relative of a Genovese mobster and associate of the DeMeo crew. Montiglio also befriended Danny Grillo, a new DeMeo crew member who was primarily involved in hijacking trucks delivering shipments to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport. As with Borelli, Montiglio began meeting with Grillo socially and their families became close friends.
In late 1976 Carlo Gambino died of a heart attack causing a succession crisis within the Gambino family. Paul Castellano, Gambino's handpicked successor, became entangled in a leadership dispute with Aniello Dellacroce, a longtime Gambino underboss who oversaw the family's concerns in Manhattan. A meeting between Castellano and Dellacroce was arranged at Nino Gaggi's residence, where Montiglio was stationed as a sniper in an upstairs window; Montiglio was ordered to shoot down Dellacroce's group – which included Dellacroce, John Gotti, Gene Gotti, and Tony Roach – if the meeting devolved to violence. Castellano was quickly accepted as boss, however, and hostilities were avoided. Nino was promoted to Captain, heading Castellano's former crew.
In 1977 he was working as an insurance agent and appraiser for an insurance firm that was secretly managed by Anthony Gaggi in New York City. As an insurance salesman and appraiser Dominick was involved in fraud. During this time he continued to associate with the DeMeo crew, although by 1977 it was not entirely on a business level. He was involved in a large brawl that took place at a catering hall that summer when Roy got in an argument with a waiter and struck him in the face for showing disrespect. Dominick was also regularly meeting with Henry Borelli and Danny Grillo for drinks at Manhattan bars.
His close association with these crew members gave him insight into Roy and crew's activities, such as their by now infamous reputation for violence and murder. Because he was the go-between with Nino and Roy, he was also witness to Nino's aggravation at being unable to control Roy, who had been made earlier that year for organizing an alliance between the Gambino family and the Westies, a predominantly Irish-American gang that dominated the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City. Nino had promised the new boss Paul Castellano, who had previously opposed the idea of inducting Roy into the crime family, that he would control Roy and put a stop to his wanton murdering and uncontrollable behavior.
Nino's efforts were ultimately ineffectual, as Roy's crew continued to kill indiscriminately, even murdering a teenage girl whose only crime was being involved romantically with a man Roy learned was going to testify against the DeMeo crew. This murder in particular reportedly enraged Nino and strained his relationship with Castellano, who already had a strong dislike of Roy and his methods.
The situation intensified when the Westie/Gambino alliance nearly fell through after yet more killing on behalf of the Westies and a DeMeo crew member threatened a conflict between the Gambino Family and the Genovese family. Dominick says that he was usually present at the sitdowns and clandestine meetings resulting from these situations, where Roy continually escaped any real punishment due to his tremendous earning ability, which served to placate Castellano and Gaggi's anger.
By 1978 Dominick Montiglio was becoming disillusioned with his position as his uncle Nino's errand boy and was constantly refused a raise in pay for his services, which included collecting Nino's loan shark payments, his tributes from the DeMeo Crew and running Nino's food sales company when he was in Florida for months at a time. Roy offered Dominick a role in his crew's many drug activities but Dominick says Nino vehemently shut down that possibility immediately upon hearing about it.
Dominick did not violate Nino's order to stay away from the drug business but did begin increasingly hanging out with the DeMeo Crew. This association soon ended as the DeMeo Crew's murderous activities continued to increase even further, with Roy now openly offering his crew's services to all of the Five Families as well as to others willing to pay.
Dominick says that he was disgusted by the constant killing as well as by the crew's method of dismembering the majority of their victims. He says that one night at a bar, Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter were taunting Henry Borelli due to his inability to stomach the dismembering that by now nearly always followed the murders. Hearing this, Dominick says he openly voiced his disgust with the crew's methods, declaring their actions worse than any atrocity he allegedly witnessed in Vietnam. This comment, as well as an earlier conflict he had with Chris Rosenberg, Roy's second-in-command, damaged his relationship with the crew and led to him dreading every visit to the Gemini Lounge to collect Nino's weekly payments.
By 1979, Dominick was heavily addicted to cocaine and also suffered from a drinking problem. He was accused by an associate of stealing money from his uncle and was also openly accused of dealing in and being addicted to heroin. These accusations were brought to Paul Castellano, still the boss of the Gambino family at this time. The penalty for dealing drugs, particularly heroin, was death under Castellano's rule.
After a meeting between Paul Castellano and the accuser's father, a made member of another Mafia family, Dominick was informed by his uncle Nino that Castellano had taken his side for the time being and had not believed the claims that Dominick sold heroin. A second meeting, where Dominick and his accuser would be present, was scheduled for a day in December 1979. Dominick's uncle Nino and Roy DeMeo were going to drive him to the location.
By the time the day for the meeting arrived, Dominick's paranoia and drug/alcohol abuse had led him to believe his death had already been ordered and that his uncle and Roy were planning to kill him if he were to drive with them to the meeting. He decided to flee to California with his wife and children, where he would stay until 1983.
While away in California, his uncle Nino falsely claimed to his associates that Dominick had robbed him of a large sum of money and then fled, presumably out of embarrassment for his nephew's actions. Dominick bought an expensive house in an upscale California neighborhood and supported himself and his family through drug deals and at times serving as a bodyguard and enforcer for other drug dealers. He was arrested after a botched armed robbery attempt but was released after his wife provided him with an alibi.
Arrest and cooperation
By 1983, Dominick's continuous scheming to pay his rent led to him agreeing to fly back to New York City for a drug deal with an old associate. After arriving and being informed by the associate that the drug deal had fallen through, he attempted to collect on an old loan he was owed. He had his associate meet with the man who owed the money and told the associate to use Roy DeMeo's name to scare the man into paying, not knowing that Roy had been murdered in January of that year. The extortion victim immediately went to the police and offered to wear a wire, then met with Dominick to pay some of his loan back.
Dominick was arrested on the scene by officers working with a combined Federal and State Task Force that had been investigating his uncle Anthony 'Nino' Gaggi and Roy DeMeo's crew since 1981. Facing a minimum of 20 years imprisonment for his extortion arrest and additional crimes he had been accused of by associates of the DeMeo crew that had already become cooperating witnesses for the government, including the man whose accusations of drug dealing had originally led to Dominick fleeing New York, he became a cooperator as well in hopes of drastically reducing his sentence.
Dominick provided a great deal of information to the Task Force, including details of his uncle paying tribute to Gambino Boss Paul Castellano with portions of the earnings given to him by Roy DeMeo. He also provided the Task Force with information on a number of murders committed by Roy DeMeo and his followers. This gave the authorities evidence linking Castellano to the DeMeo Crew enterprise. The Gaggi Task Force was subsequently upgraded to the Castellano Task Force. By early 1984 the indictment was ready and the 24 members or associates of the Gambino family and DeMeo Crew, including the reigning boss Paul Castellano and his uncle Nino, were arrested.
Dominick testified in both of the trials against the DeMeo Crew, and it was reportedly his sole testimony that compelled jurors to find his uncle Nino Gaggi guilty in the first of the two. Gaggi was sentenced to five years after the first trial but died early on in the second, in April 1988. His testimony helped lead to the guilty verdicts of every single defendant in the second trial.
After the trials were over he was sentenced for his crime and given five years probation instead of time in prison due to his cooperation with the government. Shortly after the 1989 conclusion of the DeMeo Crew trials, he worked with crime reporters and authors Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain on their book Murder Machine, which focused primarily on the reign of the DeMeo Crew.
Montiglio entered into the Witness Protection Program and was moved to 12 different locations, kicked off and reinstated four times. He had 21 different names in that time and testified in three federal trials. One of those trials was the longest in US history where he was on the stand for 13 days. He had to confess to his own crimes leading one homicide detective to say; "This guy was a one man crime wave!" He left the Witness Protection Program over 15 years ago and returned to Brooklyn to become an artist.
In the years following the publishing of Murder Machine, Dominick Montiglio appeared on television documentaries on organized crime, including National Geographic's Inside The Mafia series that premiered in 2005. On the program, he spoke of his uncle Nino and the DeMeo Crew as well as his experience testifying in the trials against them. He has also appeared on documentaries on the Discovery Channel, such as Outlaw Empires, and in interviews with various websites and news programs.
In the program Mafia aired on Channel 5 in the UK in early 2006 Montiglio spoke of a recurring dream in which he left Gaggi's house and from underneath his Cadillac emerged the members of the DeMeo crew and Roy says, "Hey Dominick, come to hell with us".
- Capeci, Jerry and Mustain, Gene, Murder Machine: A True Story of Murder, Madness, and the Mafia; Onyx Books, 1993. ISBN 0-451-40387-8.