Castellano's March 1984 mugshot
Constantino Paul Castellano
June 26, 1915
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||December 16, 1985 (aged 70)|
|Cause of death||Multiple gunshot wounds|
|Resting place||Moravian Cemetery|
New Dorp, Staten Island, New York
|Residence||177 Benedict Road,|
Staten Island, New York
|Other names||"The Howard Hughes of the Mob", "Big Paul", "PC", "The Pope", "The Chicken Man"|
|Occupation||Crime boss, mobster, businessman, wholesale meat merchant, New York City construction tycoon|
|Known for||Boss of the Gambino crime family|
|Spouse(s)||Nina Manno (d. 1999)|
(m. 1937–1985, his death)
|Relatives||Richard S. Castellano (nephew)|
Constantino Paul "Big Paul" Castellano (Italian: [kastelˈlaːno]; June 26, 1915 – December 16, 1985), also known as "The Howard Hughes of the Mob" and "Big Paulie" (or "PC" to his family), was an American mafia boss who succeeded Carlo Gambino as head of the Gambino crime family in New York, the nation's largest Cosa Nostra family at the time. Noted for his business abilities, the unsanctioned assassination of Castellano in 1985 by John Gotti sparked years of instability and decline for the Gambino family.
Constantino Paul Castellano was born in Brooklyn in 1915, to Giuseppe Castellano and Concetta (née Casatu). Giuseppe was a butcher and an early member of the Mangano crime family, the forerunner of the Gambino family. Paul Castellano dropped out of school in the eighth grade to learn butchering and collecting numbers game receipts, both from his father.
In July 1934, Castellano was arrested for the first time in Hartford, Connecticut for robbing a haberdasher. The 19-year-old Castellano refused to identify his two accomplices to the police and served a three-month prison sentence. By refusing to cooperate with authorities, Castellano enhanced his reputation for mob loyalty.
Castellano's sister Catherine had married one of their cousins, Carlo Gambino, in 1926; he was a future boss of the Gambino crime family. In 1937 Castellano married his childhood sweetheart Nina Manno; the couple had three sons (Paul, Philip, and Joseph Castellano) and a daughter, Constance Castellano. His nephew was actor Richard S. Castellano from The Godfather.
(Note: Many sources[example needed] state that Paul was married to Carlo Gambino's sister-in-law. While this statement is technically true, it is also misleading. Any woman married to Paul would be Gambino's sister-in-law, as Paul's sister Catherine had married Carlo Gambino in 1926. Nina Manno was not related to Gambino prior to her marriage to Paul.)
Castellano often signed his name as "C. Paul Castellano" because he hated his first name, Constantino. Eventually he became known as “Big” Paul. At 6 ft 2 1⁄2 in (1.89 m) barefoot and 270 pounds (120 kg), Castellano intimidated other mobsters with his size.
In 1957, after Anastasia's homicide and Carlo Gambino's elevation to boss, Castellano attended the abortive Apalachin Conference in Apalachin, New York. When New York State Police raided the meeting, Castellano was one of 61 high-ranking mobsters arrested. Refusing to answer grand jury questions about the meeting, Castellano spent a year in prison on contempt charges. On January 13, 1960, Castellano was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to withhold information. However, in November 1960, Castellano's conviction was reversed by an Appeals Court.
In 1975, Castellano allegedly had Vito Borelli, the boyfriend of his daughter Constance, murdered because he heard Borelli had compared him to Frank Perdue, the owner and commercial spokesman for Perdue Farms. Castellano was so insulted, he personally ordered the killing. In 2004, court documents revealed that Joseph Massino, a government witness and former Bonanno crime family boss, admitted murdering Borelli as a favor to Castellano.
In 1975, Castellano became acting boss for the aging Gambino.
On July 1, 1985, Castellano was indicted on loansharking charges and with tax evasion for not reporting the profits from his illegal racket.
Castellano identified more as a businessman than a hoodlum; he took over non-legitimate businesses and converted them to legitimate enterprises. But Castellano's businesses, and those of his sons, thrived from their mob ties.
In his early years, Castellano used his butcher's training to launch Dial Poultry, a poultry distribution business that once supplied 300 butchers in New York City. Dial's customers also included supermarket chains Key Food and Waldbaum's. Castellano used intimidation tactics to force his customers to buy Dial's products.
As Castellano became more powerful in the Gambino family, he started to make large amounts of money from construction concrete. Castellano's son Philip was the president of Scara-Mix Concrete Corporation, which exercised a near monopoly on Staten Island on construction concrete. Castellano also handled the Gambino interests in the "Concrete Club," a consortium of mob families that divided revenue from New York developers. No one could pour concrete for a project worth more than $2 million without the approval from the Concrete Club. Finally, Castellano supervised Gambino control of Teamsters Union Local Chapter 282, which provided workers to pour concrete at all major building projects in New York and Long Island.
On October 15, 1976, Carlo Gambino died at home of natural causes. Against expectations, he had appointed Castellano to succeed him over his underboss Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce. Gambino appeared to believe that his crime family would benefit from Castellano's focus on white collar businesses. Dellacroce, at the time, was imprisoned for tax evasion and was unable to contest Castellano's succession.
Castellano's succession was confirmed at a meeting on November 24, with Dellacroce present. Castellano arranged for Dellacroce to remain as underboss while directly running traditional Cosa Nostra activities such as extortion, robbery, and loansharking. While Dellacroce accepted Castellano's succession, the deal effectively split the Gambino family into two rival factions.
In 1978, Castellano allegedly ordered the murder of Gambino associate Nicholas Scibetta. A cocaine and alcohol user, Scibetta participated in several public fights and insulted a female cousin of Frank DeCicco. Since Scibetta was Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano's brother-in-law, Castellano asked DeCicco to first notify Gravano of the impending hit. When advised of Scibetta's fate, a furious Gravano said he would kill Castellano first. However, Gravano was eventually calmed by DeCicco and accepted Scibetta's death as the punishment earned by his behavior.
In 1978, Castellano allegedly ordered the murders of Gambino capo James Eppolito and his son, mobster James Eppolito, Jr. Eppolito, Sr. had complained to Castellano that Anthony Gaggi was infringing on his territory and asked permission to kill him. Castellano gave Eppolitto a noncommittal answer, but later warned Gaggi about Eppolito's intentions. In response, Gaggi and soldier Roy DeMeo murdered Eppolito senior and junior.
In February 1978, Castellano made an agreement between the Gambino family and the Westies, an Irish-American gang from Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. Castellano wanted hitmen that law enforcement could not tie directly to the Gambino family. The Westies wanted Gambino protection from the other Cosa Nostra families. The Gambino-Westie alliance was set in a meeting between Westies leader James Coonan and Castellano. According to Westies gangster Mickey Featherstone, Castellano gave them the following directive:
You guys got to stop acting like cowboys - acting wild. You're going to be with us now. If anyone is going to get killed, you have to clear it with us. 
Castellano also created an alliance with the Cherry Hill Gambinos, a group of Sicilian heroin importers and distributors in New Jersey, also for use as gunmen. With the Westies and the Cherry Hill Gambinos, Castellano commanded a small army of capable killers.
In September 1980, Castellano allegedly ordered the murder of his former son-in-law Frank Amato. A hijacker and minor criminal, Amato had physically abused his wife Connie Castellano (Paul's daughter) when they were married. According to FBI documents, Gambino soldier Roy DeMeo murdered Amato, cut up his body, and disposed of the remains at sea.
In 1981, Castellano met twice with businessman Frank Perdue, the alleged cause of the 1975 Borelli murder. Perdue wanted Castellano's help in thwarting a unionization drive at a Perdue facility in Virginia. However, according to Perdue, the two men talked, but never agreed to anything.
Wealth and power
In 1981, at the height of his power, Castellano built a lavish 17-room mansion on a ridgeline in Todt Hill on Staten Island. Designed to resemble the White House in Washington, D.C., Castellano's house featured Carrara marble, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and an English garden. He started a love affair with his live-in maid, Gloria Olarte, even though his wife Nina was living with him. FBI surveillance tapes recorded Castellano telling Olarte that he was going to undergo penile implant surgery to remedy his impotence. Castellano became a recluse, rarely venturing outside the mansion. Capos such as Daniel Marino, Thomas Gambino, and James Failla visited Castellano at Todt Hill to provide information and receive orders. When not entertaining guests, Castellano wore satin and silk dressing gowns and velvet slippers around the house.
The extravagance of Castellano's mansion and lifestyle aroused resentment and envy within the Gambino family. This disaffection was concentrated among Dellacroce supporters, who were struggling to make money in the traditional family rackets. Typically, mob capos give ten percent of their earnings to the boss. However, Castellano began to demand fifteen percent or more in some cases. In addition, Castellano banned family members from running lucrative drug trafficking rackets, while personally accepting large drug payoffs from the Cherry Hill Gambinos and the DeMeo crew.
Many complaints originated from capo John Gotti, a prominent Dellacroce supporter. In addition, Gotti defied Castellano by secretly distributing drugs, although the boss learned of his actions. Gotti was ambitious and saw himself as a future family boss. However, as long as Dellacroce was alive, Gotti would not try to overthrow Castellano.
At some point, Castellano dropped the contract of $500,000 that was on Donnie Brasco after he infiltrated the Bonanno crime family when Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno insisted that "we don't kill cops, we don't kill agents, we kill each other."
In 1983, Castellano allegedly ordered Roy DeMeo's murder. He knew that DeMeo was unpredictable and doubted his loyalty in an upcoming car theft trial. DeMeo was found shot to death in the trunk of his Cadillac automobile.
In March 1983, the FBI obtained a warrant to install secret listening devices in Castellano's house. Waiting until Castellano went on vacation to Florida, agents drugged his watch dogs, disabled his security system, and planted devices in the dining and living rooms. These devices provided law enforcement with a wealth of incriminating information on Castellano.
On March 30, 1984, Castellano was indicted on federal racketeering charges in the Gambino case, including the Eppolitto murders. Other charges were extortion, narcotics trafficking, theft, and prostitution. Castellano was released on $2 million bail.
Although Castellano considered himself a businessman first, he did not forsake murder, as seen from the events above. According to the book Murder Machine by Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci, Castellano got offended when he thought that a police officer had implied that he was less than a gentleman. When Detective Kenneth McCabe placed him under arrest, he did not protest. But when McCabe mentioned to Castellano that his late cousin, Carlo Gambino, had been a "real gentleman", Castellano looked hurt and then responded, "What? I'm not a gentleman?"
Dellacroce died of cancer (and heart disease) on December 2, which started a chain of events that led to Castellano's murder two weeks later. Several factors contributed to the conspiracy to kill Castellano; his failure to attend Dellacroce's wake was an insult to the Dellacroce family and his followers. Secondly, Castellano named his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti as the new underboss. A Castellano loyalist, Bilotti was a brutish loanshark with little of the diplomatic skill required as underboss. Castellano also hinted that he was breaking up Gotti's crew.
However, the most immediate concern was a set of government surveillance tapes that featured mobster Angelo Ruggiero discussing heroin trafficking. When the government released a set of these tapes to Ruggiero's attorney, Castellano demanded that Ruggiero provide him with copies. By gaining the tapes documenting that Gotti was involved in narcotics trafficking, Castellano would have enough proof to murder Gotti.
Gotti never felt that Castellano was an adequate gangster, nor fit for the role of Don. He assembled a group of high-level conspirators that included Gravano, DeCicco, Leonard DiMaria, and Joseph Armone. An initial plan was to kill Castellano outside his house, but Gotti was afraid of encountering federal agents there. Gravano suggested killing both Castellano and Billotti while they were eating breakfast at a diner. However, when Castellano announced a dinner meeting on December 16, Gotti and the other conspirators decided to kill him then. As of 2016[update], DiMaria is the only alleged conspirator who is not dead or in prison.
On Monday, December 16,1985, Bilotti drove Castellano to the prearranged early evening meeting at Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan, on East 46th Street near Third Avenue. A hit team waited near the restaurant entrance; positioned down the street were backup shooters Dominick Pizzonia, Angelo Ruggiero, and Anthony Rampino. Gotti observed the scene from a car across the street.
As Castellano was exiting the car at the front of the restaurant at around 5:26 pm EST, the gunmen ran up and shot him several times. Allegedly, John Carneglia was the gunman who shot Castellano in the head. Bilotti was shot as he exited from the driver's door; before leaving the murder scene, Gotti drove over to view the bodies.
Castellano was buried in the Moravian Cemetery in the New Dorp section of Staten Island. The Archdiocese of New York refused to grant Castellano a Catholic funeral, citing his notorious life and death.
Two weeks after Castellano's murder, a meeting of capos in a Manhattan basement elected Gotti, age 45, as the new Gambino boss. The Castellano murder enraged Vincent Gigante, boss of the Genovese crime family, because Gotti never received permission for the act from the Commission. Gigante solicited the help of Lucchese crime family boss Anthony Corallo to kill Gotti. On April 13, 1986, a car bomb meant for Gotti exploded outside a Bensonhurst social club, however, the only casualty was Frank DeCicco. Afterward, Gotti and Gigante called a truce.
Five years after Castellano's murder, Gotti was arrested by the FBI in late 1990 on racketeering charges, and denied bail ten days later. On April 2, 1992, with the help of Gravano becoming a government witness, Gotti was convicted of numerous racketeering charges, including the 1985 Castellano murder. On June 23, Gotti was sentenced to life in federal prison, where he died of throat cancer a decade later in 2002. No one else was ever charged in the Castellano murder.
In popular culture
Castellano has been portrayed in several movies and song lyrics, including the following:
- Richard C. Sarafian plays him in the 1996 HBO network original film Gotti.
- Abe Vigoda plays him in the NBC network TV movie Witness to the Mob (1998).
- Sam Coppola plays Paul in the 2001 Canadian-American TV movie The Big Heist.
- Chazz Palminteri plays him in Boss of Bosses, a 2001 film on the TNT network.
- Donald John Volpenhein starred as Castellano in the biopic Gotti based on John Gotti, Jr.'s 2015 book Gotti: In The Shadow Of My Father.
- In the episode "Bust Out" of The Sopranos, Richie Aprile tells his fiancee Janice Soprano that Mafia rules dictate an underling can't kill a boss. She responds, "Tell that to Paul Castellano", referring to the assassination of Castellano by John Gotti.
- In the Season 4 premiere of Billions ("Chucky Rhoades's Greatest Game"), Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and Richie Sansome (Michael Rispoli) discuss the details of the Castellano assassination, then re-enact the event (without guns), ending the episode lying in the wells of the front seat of their car with the doors open.
- Dubé, Brian. "White House of Ill Repute". Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Lou Lumenick (March 15, 2012). "Leave the gun-Take my career". New York Post.
- Maas, Peter. Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia. New York City: HarperCollins, 1996. ISBN 978-0-06-093096-7.
- Raab, p. 248
- Feinberg, Alexander (December 15, 1957). "Miranda Balks at Gang Inquiry" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- "Nina Castellano, Mob Widow, Dies". New York Daily News. 1999-02-27. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
- Perlmutter, Emanuel (January 14, 1960). "Apalachin Men Sentenced; 15 Get Maximum 5 Years". New York Times.
- "Texts of Opinions Reversing Conspiracy Conviction of 20 at Apalachin Meeting". New York Times. November 29, 1060. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Marzulli, John (May 12, 2004). "Bonanno Boss Linked To Old Gangland Slays". New York Daily News. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
- Seigel, Max H. (July 2, 1975). "Gambino Brother In Law Cited on Usuary and Evasion of Taxes" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Raab, Selwyn (September 14, 1986). "SUPPLIER OF CONCRETE TO CITY HAD LINK TO A CRIME FIGURE". New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- McFadden, Robert D. (December 22, 1991). "2 IN UNION CHARGED WITH TIES TO MOB". New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Gage, Nicholas (October 16, 1976). "Carlo Gambino, a Mafia Leader, Dies in His Long Island Home at 74". New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- O'Brien, Kurins, pp. 104-105
- Davis, p. 176
- O'Brien, Kurins, pp. 106-108
- May, Allan. "Living by the Rules". Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Crime Library. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
- Eppolitto, Lou (August 15, 2005). Mafia Cop. Simon & Schuster. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-4165-2399-4.
- Lubasch, Arnold H. (November 6, 1987). "Westies Informer Tells of Links to Gambino Mob". New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Raab, p. 251
- Raab, p. 252
- Noble, Kenneth B. (March 8, 1986). "KIRKLAND FAULTS JUSTICE DEPT. ON UNION CRIME". New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- Blum p. 107
- Raab, p. 271
- Boss of Bosses: The Fall of the Godfather- The FBI and Paul Castellano (May 1, 1992). "Boss of Bosses". Andris Kurins and Joseph F. O'Brien. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
- Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires (September 11, 2005). "Five Families". Selwyn Raab. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
- Blum p. 99
- Lubasch, Arnold H. (March 31, 1984). "REPUTED LEADER OF A CRIME FAMILY IS INDICTED BY U.S." New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Paul Castellano's life of crime (February 26, 1985). "Paul Castellano's life of crime: Daily News". Nydailynews.com. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
- Murder Machine: A True Story of Murder, Madness, and the Mafia (July 1, 1993). "Murder Machine". Gene Mustain, Jerry Capeci. Retrieved April 22, 2016.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- "'Top level hoodlum' dies of cancer". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 4, 1985. p. 12A.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (December 4, 1985). "ANIELLO DELLACROCE DIES AG 71; REPUTED CRIME-GROUP FIGURE". New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Blum, p. 107
- Blum p. 112
- Blum p. 105
- Blum p. 115
- Blum p. 128
- "FBI fears murder of Castellano may ignite war for mob control". The Day. (New London, Connecticut). Associated Press. December 17, 1985. p. A1.
- Capeci, Jerry (October 2, 2008). "Answers About the New York Mafia, Part 2". New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
- Lubasch, Arnold H. (March 4, 1992). "Shot by Shot, an Ex-Aide to Gotti Describes the Killing of Castellano". New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- "Reputed Mafia boss murdered". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 17, 1985. p. 3A.
- "Crime boss, bodyguard murdered in Manhattan". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (New York Daily News). December 17, 1985. p. A1.
- "Mob boss murder leads to bulletin for Lincoln car". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. December 17, 1985. p. D4.
- "Mobster denied public burial mass". Pittsburgh Press. Associated Press. December 20, 1985. p. A19.
- Pessin, Esther (December 20, 1985). "Mourners of godfather Paul 'Big Paul' Castellano slipped off..." United Press International. (archives). Retrieved January 16, 2019.
- Feuer, Alan (July 22, 2001). "Middle Village Journal; Sleeping With the Giants of the Mob". New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Raab, Selwyn (January 24, 1995). "Defector Says Bomb That Killed Underboss Was Meant for Gotti". New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Andrew, Dan (April 17, 1986). "Scores of tearful friends and reputed mobsters mourned the death of Frank DeCicco". United Press International. (archives). Retrieved January 17, 2019.
- "Gotti arrested again on rackets charges". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). (New York Times). December 12, 1990. p. 7A.
- "Mob boss Gotti nabbed by FBI". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. wire dispatches. December 12, 1990. p. 2.
- "Gotti to spend holidays in jail". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). wire reports. December 22, 1990. p. A4.
- "Judge refuses to grant bail for reputed mob boss Gotti". Pittsburgh Press. Associated Press. December 22, 1990. p. A8.
- "Gotti guilty of murder, racketeering". Spokane Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. April 2, 1992. p. A1.
- Lubasch, Arnold H. (April 3, 1992). "Mob takes a hit: Gotti convicted". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (New York Times). p. A1.
- "John Gotti, Guilty at Last". New York Times. April 3, 1992. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Teflon no more". Milwaukee Sentinel. news services. April 3, 1992. p. 3A.
- "Gotti verdict opens door to rival mob". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). April 3, 1992. p. 1.
- "Gotti gets life prison sentence". Spokane Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. June 23, 1992. p. A1.
- "Mob chief Gotti gets life sentence". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (Washington Post). June 24, 1992. p. A3.
- Lubasch, Arnold H (June 24, 1992). "Gotti Sentenced to Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole". New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Former Mafia boss dies inside prison". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). news services. June 11, 2002. p. 4A.
- "Ex-crime boss John Gotti dies". Spokesman-Review. (Spkane, Washington). wire reports. June 11, 2002. p. A1.
- Blum, Howard (1995). Gangland: How the FBI Broke the Mob. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-90015-3.
- Davis, John H. (1993). Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family (1994 paperback ed.). New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0061091847.
- O'Brien, Joseph F.; Kurins, Andris (1991). Boss of Bosses: The FBI and Paul Castellano (1992 ed.). New York: Island Books. ISBN 0-440-21229-4.
- Raab, Selwyn (2006). Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires (1st St. Martin's Griffin ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-36181-5.
| Gambino crime family
Co-Underboss with Neil Dellacroce
| Gambino crime family
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Boss of bosses