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John Gotti Biography

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John Joseph Gotti, whom would be later nicknamed “Teflon Don” and “Dapper Don,” was born on October 27, 1940 in the Bronx, New York. Who would have thought on that cold and blustery day that the baby boy, son of a construction worker and one of six boys, would someday be considered by both the Mafia and prosecutors alike, to be the most important “godfather” in American crime through the 1990s? The “boss of bosses” so to speak. John Gotti’s parents were both poor Italian immigrants, whose only income was from his father’s laborious and unpredictable position as a construction worker. They had 13 children, of which John was the fifth. The whole family moved often and finally settled in East New York. At that time (late 40s) East New York was known for its youth gang activity. The area supported thriving Mafia activities and was a breeding ground for Mob hit squads. It was also the former stomping grounds of gangster’s such as Bugsy Siegell. At about age 12, Gotti became an errand boy for a sketchy neighborhood club ran by Carmina Fatico, who was a captain in the Gambino family. The Gambino family was the biggest of the five Mafia families in New York City. During Gotti’s activities running errands for the club, he met his life-long mentor, Aniello Dellacroce. At this same time he joined a gang called the Fulton-Rockaway Boys. This youth gang was infamous for their carjacking’s and robberies. Once, when Gotti, age 14, was trying to steal a cement mixer for the gang, his toes were crushed. From that moment on the future mobster had a trademark gait. Gotti was a tough and intelligent opponent for the gang, and fought rival gang members such as the New Lots Boys and the Liberty Park Tots. He was a bully and had major discipline problems. At age 16 he dropped out of Franklin K. Lane High School. As the parish priest in Gotti’s neighborhood said, “You had to be two-fisted in order to survive, and the younger ones always followed the older ones and that’s the way it was. It was rough and they were tough and that’s all.” That about sums it up in a nutshell….and Gotti’s path was set. By age 18, Gotti was ranked by the police department as a lower-level associate of the Fatico crew. His confident, self-assuredness made him attractive to older gangsters and Gotti was a favorite student of the local heads of the Mafia. Before he was even 20 years old he had made quite a favorable impression on the Gambino family. Between the ages of 17 – 21, John Gotti was following a full-time life of crime and at age 21 had already been arrested five times for things such as car theft, public intoxication, and street fighting. Amazingly, through all those arrests he served a very small amount of time in jail. This slipperiness may be what began earning him the nickname “Teflon Don.” On March 6, 1962, at only age 22, John Gotti married a young 17 year-old named Victoria DiGiorgio. She was the daughter of a Russian-Jewish woman and an Italian construction contractor. Her and Gotti had already had their first child, Angela, before the wedding. When they got married, Victoria was pregnant with their second child. They decided to live in Queens, NY, a blue-collar neighborhood filled with Italian-Americans. Gotti was going to attempt to try working at legitimate jobs. He wanted to do what was right for his family. He tried his hand as an assistant to a truck driver and as a coat factory presser. This crime-free life didn’t last long though. Gotti soon turned back to being a petty criminal and in 1965 was arrested for bookmarking. Two months later he was arrested again for attempted burglary. After spending a year in jail he was again arrested in 1967 for stealing clothes and a truck full of equipment from Kennedy airport, and yet again, the next month for the same offense. This time he served three years in prison, which was his first major sentence with a conviction by the FBI of hijacking. During this time in prison, the Fatico brothers stepped down as the neighborhood mob leaders and moved to a storefront in Queens. Their headquarters was under the disguise of a club named the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, a non-profit organization. In 1971, Gotti was released from prison and named the temporary leader while Fatico’s crew captain faced charges of loan-sharking. Soon Gotti was reporting to Angelo Ruggiero’s uncle, Aniello Dellacroce, a very powerful Gambino family mob boss. On May 22, 1973, John Gotti committed his first murder. He shot and killed a man named Jimmy McBratney, who was a rival gang member. McBratney had supposedly kidnapped and killed one of the Gambino family members and Gotti was sent to kill him as payback. Given this exact of revenge was Gotti’s first, he wasn’t very careful and there were several witnesses at the crime scene. After being identified in a photo line-up in 1974, Gotti was arrested yet again. He pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter in the second degree and was sentenced to four years in prison. This was in response to a deal Gotti cut with the court, otherwise it would’ve been a longer term. On top of that, “Teflon Don” only actually spent two years in prison after being paroled. On July 28, 1977, Gotti returned home from prison. A year earlier, Carlo Gambino, the Gambino family head had died. His brother in-law, Paul Castellano, was left in charge. Castellano let Dellacroce stay on as the family underboss and gave him control of 10 Gambino crews. Upon Gotti’s release from prison, Dellacroce promoted him captain to the Bergin crew. This promotion likely came about from the McBratney killing, which added to Gotti’s credence. Gotti’s formal initiation into the Mafia as captain was just the beginning of him becoming a “made man.” Gotti reported to Dellacroce, as it was no secret that Gotti was not satisfied with the chain of command and felt that Dellacroce would have made a better overall boss than Castellano. In March of 1980, Gotti was struck by personal tragedy when his 12 year-old son, Frank, was hit and killed by a car driven by Gotti’s neighbor, John Favara. Frank had steered his motorcycle into traffic and it was witnessed as purely an accident. Apparently, Favara was headed home and the sun blinded him to where he didn’t see Frank pull into the street. Favara began receiving death threats within days of the accident. He ignored them and went about his business. In May of that same year, Favara was clubbed over the head and shoved into a van after he left work one day. He was never seen again. Of course Gotti and his family were on vacation at the time, so they have “no knowledge of Favara’s whereabouts.” At that same time in the early 1980s, John Gotti had become more prominent in the Gambino family. This brought him unwanted attention from Castellano. Gotti had a $30,000 per night gambling habit, which Castellano felt was a liability. Castellano also disapproved of Gotti’s unpredictable ways. Some would say Gotti was cut from the old mold, unmatched around New York Mafia groups since the days of Gotti’s underworld idol, Albert Anastasia. This probably made Castellano somewhat uneasy. Gotti chose a life of danger and risk. He thought his reputation would flourish and life would be more fun the more risk he took on. He wasn’t exactly a discreet Mafiosi. Gotti was all about the show. He talked too much, boasted too much, and was a bit of a loose cannon. The media loved him. He was a real mobster for the public and was like the likes of Al Capone. He was brutal just for the sake of it. Nevertheless, Gotti continued to rise in the organized crime world of New York. In December of 1985, FBI agents who had been watching Gotti for years, noticed he had begun receiving more respect from other gangsters. The others approached Gotti carefully, politely, and kissed and hugged him…all a mob custom to show a leader respect. Obviously, Gotti’s Mafia status had changed. Rewind to earlier in 1985 and Gotti and Dellacroce were under indictments for racketeering. The FBI had garnered evidence to indict them on that, plus indictments of their crew members on heroin trafficking charges. Castellano was enraged over this and was known for punishing illegal drug dealing with death. Since Gotti was captain, he knew Castellano would hold him responsible. Gotti requested Dellacroce speak to his boss for him to smooth things over. Before they reached an understanding, Dellacroce died of cancer. Castellano didn’t go to the funeral and Gotti saw that as incredibly disrespectful. Interestingly enough, two weeks later on December 16, 1985, Castellano was shot and killed while eating dinner at a steakhouse. Lo and behold, Gotti was soon after made boss. Undoubtedly, Gotti was behind the killing and effortlessly stepped in to replace Castellano as the don of the nation’s biggest Mafia family. No charges were ever brought in on the murder. By this time John Gotti was now on the FBI’s most wanted list and if sentenced to an extended prison term, it would end his reign as one of the youngest mob bosses (dons) in Mafia history. But Gotti was acquitted of ALL charges in 1987. His status as a local hero and icon in his neighborhood may have helped him. It was later found out by FBI officials that the verdict was fixed by the jury foreman. Teflon Don’s charges just never seemed to stick and Gotti was a symbol of being invincible in the Mafia. That defeat hurt law enforcement and they then made it a crusade to convict John Gotti. The Justice Department was estimated to have spent $75 million to monitor Gotti’s private conversations, and in 1992 they brought forward tapes that were evidence of Gotti’s involvement in racketeering and Mafia-related murders. Additionally, the Gambino family’s new underboss, Sammy Gravano, was pressured into testifying against Gotti. It’s estimated that while Gotti was don of the Gambino family, more than $500 million was made in revenue from illegal activities. On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was finally convicted of murder and racketeering with all 13 counts sticking. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. The Teflon was gone and thanks to a sequestered jury, different lawyers, and numerous other measures to prevent trial tampering, John Gotti was covered in Velcro, everything stuck! Gotti’s oldest son, John Jr., was then named acting boss of the Gambino family and for a time John Gotti kept control in the Mafia by issuing orders through John Jr. But with the passage of time, things changed. Gotti had been in maximum security in virtual isolation and it got to him. He felt doomed and forgotten. In 1999 John Jr. pled guilty to racketeering charges and also went to prison. John Sr. was filled with self-pity and was heard saying that he takes credits for his bad deeds. On June 10, 2002, at the age of 61, John Joseph Gotti made his last escape, dying of neck and head cancer. The last of the Mohicans, as his daughter Victoria liked to refer to him, was dead. And in death as in life, he was larger than life. Who knows if the world will ever see another guy like him. He was what legends are made of. Forever known as the first media don, he never tried to hide the fact that he was a super boss. In the end, John Gotti, an emperor, a Caesar, a man obsessed with his own importance, was nothing but a man whose life dictated each course he took. Law enforcement can take satisfaction in showing Gotti as an object lesson to other mobsters of what can happen to them if they don’t cooperate. No one is ever fully immune to betrayal, which ultimately brought this powerful don down. Bibliography
(2002). In J. Capeci, Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti. ALPHA.
A Byte Out of History, John Gotti: How we Made the Charges Stick. (2007, April 02). Retrieved March 1, 2014, from FBI.gov: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2007/april/gotti040207
Montaldo, C. (n.d.). John "Dapper Don" Gotti - Former Godfather of the Powerful Gambino Family. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from About.com: http://crime.about.com/od/gangsters/a/johngotti.htm
Selwyn, R. (2002, June 11). John Gotti Dies in Prison at 61; Mafia Boss Relished the Spotlight. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/11/nyregion/john-gotti-dies-in-prison-at-61-mafia-boss-relished-the-spotlight.html

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