The Gambino Family

The Gambino family became the most famous and successful family in America under the leadership of Carlo Gambino and later the “Dapper Don,” John Gotti. From 1957 until his death in 1976, Gambino made the family more powerful than the formidable empires of Lucky Luciano and Al Capone. It also suffered its greatest setbacks under the egotistical Gotti's flamboyant stewardship. Most recently the family let in an undercover FBI agent, Jack Garcia, known on the street as Jack Falcone. Garcia so ingrained himself into the family's structure that capo Greg DePalma was going to propose him for membership. But before that could happen the feds closed the operation and took down a sizable chunk of the upper echelon.

The Beginnings

The earliest incarnation of what was to become the Gambino family began in New York in the 1920s during the days of the Castellammarese War. Alfred Mineo and Steve Ferrigno were bosses of the Brooklyn crime outfit. They were taken out of the picture in 1930, more victims of the mob war. Frank Scalise took over briefly, before Vincent Mangano took control. Along with his brother Phil they ruled the roost until they were killed by their ambitious and psychotic henchman Albert Anastasia, who remained boss until his famous barbershop murder in 1957.

Under Anastasia's watch, which in turn was under the watchful eye of Frank Costello, the crime family grew in power and stature. But Anastasia was not nicknamed the “Mad Hatter” for nothing. Being a don required more subtlety and diplomacy, things Anastasia did not have in abundance. He was a loose cannon who brought unwanted publicity to the Mafia, not to mention his penchant for stepping on other mobster's shoes, especially in trying to muscle in on the Cuban rackets.

Anastasia's henchman Carlo Gambino was a collaborator in Anastasia's murder, and Gambino assumed control of the family as a reward for a job well done.

Changing Leadership

With Vito Genovese in jail and Frank Costello in retirement, Carlo Gam-bino became the unofficial Boss of Bosses. It was unofficial because the structure of the Commission was just that, a committee with no one boss. But Gambino's family was the strongest; he ran a tight ship. Their reach extended across the Northeast and south into Florida and Louisiana.

When Carlo Gambino became ill in the 1970s, his underlings were jockeying for position as his heir apparent. Gambino did not choose his underboss, Aniello Dellacroce, who would have been next in the chain of command. Instead he made a rare strategic mistake and chose his brother-in-law Paul Castellano. He gave Dellacroce the consolation prize of control of the family's Manhattan rackets. Carlo Gambino died in 1976, immortalized by the Daily News headline, “Carlo Gambino Dies in Bed.”

Carlo Gambino

Courtesy of AP Images

Carlo Gambino, Cosa Nostra organized crime leader, is shown circa 1930s.

Young Punks

The Castellano-Dellacroce leadership was uninspired, and the Young Turk John Gotti was plotting and planning as he waited in the wings. The young soldiers and capos respected Dellacroce; they did not respect Castel-lano. When they learned that Dellacroce was dying of cancer, they waited. In the most famous modern mob murder, Paul Castellano was killed in front of Sparks Steak House during rush hour in December of 1985.

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