Born Oct. 27, 1940 - South Bronx, New York. Died June 10, 2002 - Springfield, MO.
Gotti, a dyed-in-the-wool gangster, is famous for taking control of the Gambino crime family in 1985 by assassinating then-godfather Paul Castellano. He became known as The Dapper Don for his flashy clothes and swaggering public persona, much like a modern-day Al Capone. With the help of uberlawyer Bruce Cutler, Gotti beat many cases against him, and just flat out bought his way out of others. Eventually, Gotti's impressive ability to escape conviction earned him a second nickname, The Teflon Don.

Castellano's rule over the Gambino family from 1976-1985 was cold and businesslike, so gangsters and civilians alike warmed up to Gotti's traditional, grinning wiseguy demeanor when he took over. Public support for Gotti was so great that entire neighborhoods in Little Italy would throw block parties with fireworks when he would win a trial. Gotti possessed the legendary gangster charm that made citizens temporarily forget that the same guy who was handing them a Thanksgiving turkey was also selling heroin to their children.

With loyal soldiers and a pit-bull lawyer, it seemed nearly impossible to convict The Teflon Don for anything significant until Gambino underboss Salvatore Gravano flipped and became a federal witness in a sweeping RICO trial against Gotti. The news of "Sammy The Bull" Gravano testifying against his own boss rocked the world of organized crime, leading to an immense public backlash against Gravano, as well as a price on Sammy's head.

Because of Gravano's betrayal, Gotti basically achieved martyr status among his supporters when he was sentenced to life without parole at maximum security Marion Federal Penitentiary on 6/23/1992. In 2000, Gotti was transferred out of Marion and into the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, MO for cancer treatment, where he ultimately died.

My Dad used to talk about John Gotti. He had dinner several times over at Gotti's house. Dad never said if he was into the mafioso thing or not, but he always seemed to have money even when unemployed.

Dad said that Gotti was very charismatic. He donated a lot of money to the local churches and supported whole neighborhoods. Was he a nice guy? No, since he had folks killed and (as noted in the writeup by Hesby) he was selling dope to kids. Perhaps he was trying to buy himself absolution. He did, however, make some positive impacts on down-and-out neighborhoods. John owned a few stores, including a plumbing supply store. When he was asked at one of his trials how he could afford to wear a different Armani suit every day of the trial, he said business was good that week.

If he wasn't such a public mafia figure, he would've been elected Governor of New York or New Jersey years ago.

perdedor says: little extra fodder for your node: gotti also owned the ravenites social club and in addition to Armani suits, he ALWAYS was seen driving his mercedes benz

People idolize creeps like this. You can see it when a series like The Sopranos becomes the top draw for a network. You can see it when folks cheer in the theater as Al Pacino snorts one more rail and gets medieval on some bastard. I don't get it. These hoodlums (we called the bad boys "hoods" when I was a kid) are just overgrown playground bullies who've hit the big time. Their behavior is as predictable and as common as any common thug. There is no glory in gangster land, no matter what sort of noble fantasies Scorsese and Godfatherdude want to spin. And sell.

If you don't believe me, listen to this story about an unfortunate guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time:

John Gotti and his wife Victoria had five kids. The fourth was named Frank. Frank was a pretty good student. He enjoyed sports. His life was probably going as well as it could, given the parents to whom he was birthed.

One spring afternoon in 1980, when Frank was twelve years old, he borrowed a little mini-bike with a motor and went for a spin around his neighborhood. We called those Mopeds when I was a kid, but I'm not sure what the brand name is these days. Anyway, it was a very bad choice of entertainment, both for little Frank and for one John Favara.

John Favara was 51 years old. He lived just behind the Gotti family in the Howard Beach neighborhood. He lived on 86th Street. The Gotti home was on 85th street. Mr. Favara had an adopted son, Scott, who was a friend of one of the other Gotti man children, John Jr. He'd even been over to the Gotti's house for sleepovers. But this didn't mean a whole lot after what happened on March 18, 1980.

It was late in the afternoon. Mr. Favara was coming home. Have you ever seen those big dumpsters they put out in the street when a building is being remodeled? There was one of those at 157th Avenue. It was on Mr. Favara's right. Out from behind that dumpster suddenly appeared Frank Gotti on his friend's mini-bike. He died at the scene.

Is a mobster more vicious than the woman who lives with him every day, knowing every secret of every horrible crime and degradation? I'd say, "Probably not." In this case, Victoria Gotti seems to be the one who instigated pretty much all that happened next. No doubt she was crushed by the death of her child. Who wouldn't be? But if the law said that it was an accident, and there is no real evidence that it was not, a normal person would grieve and then go on with their lives, eh? Not Victoria Gotti.

On March 20, two days after the accident, a woman called the 106th Precinct and said, "The driver of the car that killed Frank Gotti will be eliminated." Mr. Favara received a death threat in the mail that very same day. When the police went to Mr. Favara and told him about the phone call, he told the policeman, "Stuff like that only happens in the movies."

Apparently, like most sane folks, Mr. Favara thought that this was a tragic accident and couldn't understand why the Gotti family could imagine that it was anything else. Four days later, he got another death threat on the phone. Again, it was a woman's voice.

There is no evidence that any of these calls came from Victoria Gotti, but I think we all know mobsters well enough to know that they don't usually let their women do the talking for them. Apparently, one of the biggest issues Mrs. Gotti had with Mr. Favara was that he had not gone to the trouble to take the dent out of his car which killed her son. She wanted the car repaired so that when she saw it in the neighborhood, it would not remind her of the exact spot where it hit her little boy and took his life. This doesn't seem like an unreasonable request, does it? But did she say, "Fix your fucking car, asshole!"? No. He got vague death threats instead. Do you remember the bully telling you in elementary school, "I'm going to kick your butt good tomorrow?" This would give him the satisfaction of knowing that, not only was he going to hurt you the following day, but he was also going to ruin your sleepless night prior to the ass kicking. Only cowards act in this manner. That's why when you finally stand up to the bully and show him you're not afraid, even though it might cost you a couple of teeth, he'll never bother you again. Standing up to a man who owns hired help who kill folks for a living is a bit of a different matter.

On April 13, Mr. Favara had his car stolen. It was found less than a mile from where it was stolen at the end of April. On April 20, a card from the funeral of Frank Gotti was placed in Mr. Favara's mailbox. On April 21, a picture of the kid was put in the same spot. On April 22, someone spray painted "murderer" on the side of the still unrepaired automobile.

Living where he did, it's not surprising that Mr. Favara had some ties to the crime families all around him. So he went to Anthony Zappi, a childhood friend whose father had been a big shot in the Gambino Family, for some advice. Zappi, wisely, told him to get the hell out of the area and, in the meantime, to get rid of that car which pissed Victoria Gotti off so badly every time she saw it.

While Mr. Favara was mulling all this over, Victoria Gotti came out of hiding and beat the shit out of him with an aluminum baseball bat on May 28th. I guess she'd gotten tired of the anonymity of nameless phone calls. He refused to file charges, but he did put his house up for sale. He almost closed the deal and made it out of town. Who knows if this would have really helped? We'll never know, because on July 28 (three days before he was to close on his house) a bunch of folks watched as Mr. Favara was hit on the head as he was leaving work. He was smacked by one of three guys who'd been hanging around the area for a while. He was tossed into a van and neither Mr. Favara nor his much-detested automobile were ever seen again.

The person who reported this to the police, the owner of a small diner in the area, sold his business and moved far away soon after giving his report.

Later reports from gangland sources say that at least eight folks were involved in the abduction and murder of Mr. Favara. Mr. and Mrs. Gotti, of course, were out of town (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) when the deed went down. But Mr. Favara was apparently popped with two slugs from a little .22 pistol with a silencer. He apparently said something along the lines of, "Please. No. My wife," as he made an attempt to get up off the ground. You really don't kill folks with a .22, you know. You just maim them enough to convince them to comply with whatever you have in mind next. What these goons had in mind was cracking him over the head with a 2x4 and throwing him in their van.

Who can imagine what happened to this guy on the way to the salvage yard? One can guess that death was neither quick nor painless. One of the hoods drove Mr. Favara's car behind the van. Mr. Favara was stuffed into a barrel (still living?) which was filled with cement. That barrel was tossed into the ocean nearest Brooklyn. The offending automobile was crushed at the salvage yard.

No arrests were made. Mrs. Favara had her husband declared officially dead in 1983 after he didn't come home for quite a while.

Some of these facts were gathered from John Gotti: The Last Mafia Icon by Allen May.

The Powerful Man-eating Fish that Did Not Get Away

Vomini di Rispettu
(Men of Respect): Sicilian Family Mafia Bosses

Sangu di me Sangu
(Blood of My Blood): Families' Loyalty oath



Men do not become tyrants in order to keep out the cold. ---Aristotle


Background History

Cosa Nostra

It was the Kefauver Committee that warned about an international (therefore national) secret conspiratorial organization called the Mafia, the Black Hand, Camorra, or the Unione Siciliano. The word mafia probably has some Arabic lineage. But everyone for the last half century knew where their numbers games, drugs and "protection" came from. John Gotti was 11 and could have watched the televised Senate hearing which concluded:

There is a sinister criminal organization known as the Mafia operating throughout the country with ties to other nations.

The power of the Mafia is based on a ruthless enforcement of its edicts and its own law of vengeance to which have been credibly attributed literally hundreds of murders throughout the country.

Were these groups strongly tied together in some vast organization with defining structure? They did have the Commissione created in the 1930's and used to settle various national disputes They were kind of like an army with soldiers ("button-men"), captains and even capo di capos, headed by no one called the Godfather, but the boss of the family was the father or Padrone, kind of like a general or CEO; carefully insulated from those below. The number two was the underboss, and there were other underbosses, the capiregime. and the now familiar consiglieri. They have no Commander-in-Chief.


They were not all Sicilians. There was a Jewish contingent, and "Hell's Kitchen" provided Irish immigrants to the mix, but they could only ever be considered "associates", (remember Goodfellows?) and would never become official family members or "made men." Then there were those like John Gotti's father, John Senior, who hailed from other parts of Italy, he being from Naples. The chief reason there were any cooperation between the many families, gangs and mobsters, that often competed to the point of death, was the bottom line -- making more money. These bonds allowed the Italian-American "outfits" to succeed way more than the Irish and Jewish organizations that preceded them. Also, a new breed of Mafioso was emerging, the more profit-oriented and independent, like Lucky Luciano, who paralleled the corporate wanna-be techniques of his old friend Meyer Lansky. (The Jews and the Italians formed links partly to offset the Irish opposition (abetted by the Irish-dominated police) that was infused with racial hatred.)

Part of the problem with understanding the reality of the criminal underworld is the exaggerated and fictionalization of the phenomenon, which ironically caused gangland protegés to follow the reports, books and movies as inspiration for their "style." They normally were not as creative or as glamorous as made out to be, though the blood-letting initiation processes were ancient, including the code of silence, omerta. While some Sicilians, "Moustache Petes," criticized the Jewish illicit entrepreneurs because they were not following tradition, they meanwhile thought that Neapolitans, though fellow Italians, were too showy, short-tempered, brash, and eager for brutality and mayhem.

John Gotti was destined to take Mobster Fashion and its notoriety to its Nth degree.

From Gumbah to Gambino

The October 1957 demise of Albert Anastasia precipitated by the Genovese family, (famous by The Valachi Papers,) in part because they feared the instability of the "Mad Hatter," was helped by Murder, Inc's number two. Carlo Gambino, another Sicilian who came to New York as a 19 year old in 1921 was the inside help they needed to get Anastasia as he lived literally like a king in his castle, although a paranoid one. Subsequently, Carlo ruled the Gambino family for a little more than two decades, and his brother-in-law Paul Castellano took over the family, and out of traditional respect kept the father-in-law's name. In the wings, however, was an old Anastasia loyalist, and underboss, Neil Dellacroce, and to keep harmony, he not only could continue as underboss, but was given control over the more crews involved in street-wise ops, creating basically the beforehand unheard-of Family within a Family. It was in a crew under one of their lieutenants, Carmine Fatico that John went from gang member to gangster. He had been schooled in that School of Hard Knocks for much of his last two decades.

New Worm in the Big Apple's Eye

Born in the USA

Only in America,
land of opportunity,
                                      can a poor boy like me....
----Jay (Black) and the Americans

John Joseph Gotti, Sr. was a hardworking man, whether at the (low-paying) construction job or at home with his wife. When his fifth child, and third boy was born October 27, 1940, he was named after him. However in spite of a couple of children dying at birth, John was joined by four male and two female siblings -- all in the space of just less than a dozen years. Additionally the surroundings of the South Bronx matched the poverty of this large struggling family, and is perhaps one reason that later John Jr. would counteract against his humble upbringings and become the "Dapper Don."

They would cross the Harlem River to visit the streets of Italian Harlem, and young John was not only immersed in the cultural sights, smells and sounds, but also witnessed the illicit money changing hands. This ethnicity (and safety) of the neighborhood eventually became too disrupted by the time Junior was eight, and because it happened similarly in the Bronx, John Sr. moved his family to the Brooklyn, NY area near the Atlantic known as Sheepshead Bay.

The Real Lessons from School

A seething attitude of defensiveness started to manifest itself in a swagger due John's father's lack of affluence compared to his schoolmates, but his relative deprivation was short, as his father had to find a new home to rent, and they settled in another part of Brooklyn known as Brownsville-East. This was Anastasia's turf, and to find fellowship, one joined a gang, because to be success in school would be a loser on the streets. Solace was rarely found at home where poverty was the norm, at least John was not in the minority, here. During his summer of 1954 before entering High School, John's horseplay with his buddies left him with out his left foot's second toe after a cement mixer ran over it. He proved tough enough, and joined his brother's gang, the Rockaway Boys, he went full-time when he was sixteen: school, as they say, "Forget-about-it!". His street smarts took his IQ measured then at 110 to 140 as supposedly taken later in prison.

Worming His Way Up


Though only 16, and 5 foot 7, he was a muscle-laden 150 pounds, and he used his talents to do battle with his fellow members and other gang alliances such as the Fulton-Pitkin gang against enemies such as the Mau Mau Chaplins or the Brownsville Stompers. As a matter-of-fact he had his first arrest in the spring of 1957, but as a harbinger of the future, the case was dismissed. Also John, though violent, was more level-headed than his peers; while fearing no one, he could also play the role of the diplomat. His and some of his friends' exploits got the attention of the Fatica brothers, who were now going through the aforementioned regime change.

Gambler, Winner, Breadwinner, Loser

He was arrested again for stealing copper material from a construction site. Receiving probation, he could not help but break the rule of fraternizing with unsavory characters while hanging around pool halls, the track, bookies and bars. The system proved soft again in 1959 the now "adult" John Gotti was busted for being in an unlawful assembly of gamblers, instead of throwing the book at the probation violator, he was released after a $200 fine, and about a year later he was given a 60 day suspended sentence a couple of months before his probation expired.

John now had an extra incentive to succeed financially, he loved to bet. To supplant this costly habit he actually humbled himself and got a job at a coat factory. It was a nice front for his parents as well, but his some of his old ways came back to haunt him when he was stopped with a billy club in his car.

In 1960, the 5 foot 8 170 pound 20 year old was enough of a gentleman and a lure to Victoria L. DiGiorgio to compel her to drop out of High School and marry like one of Dion's "Teenager in Love." They had their first child, Angela, in April the next year. Gotti recalled safely some years later that he had actually surreptitiously took the mother and child home, too broke to pay the medical bills. Some records state that they were actually married on March 6, 1962.

Right after their blessed event, John made a providential career move at the Barnes Express Company where he learned practical knowledge of warehousing and shipping, goods and their value. But as he had another daughter, Victoria, and son John money was tight, so in addition to leaving the house separated because of fights, he also found himself separated from her for 20 days, his first incarceration for getting caught in a "hot" car with one his old friends, Salvatore of the Ruggieros (the other Angelo). His criminal activity causing him to lose his job with Barnes, and creating more domestic hassles seemed to insidiously draw him more into it. In 1966 the 26 year old started to work for crew leader, or caporegime Carmine Fatico who hung out at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, a social organization for the "connected." John's past expertise in trucking would come in handy for hijacking merchandise coming out of JFK airport. We know much of what went on during this time because of a Gambino muscleman turned informant. Wiretaps and other "bugs" obtained much data on all their sordid (and sometimes banal) activities throughout their careers.

Education at the State Pen

In 1967, Frank became the Gotti's fourth child, but instead of bringing home (a new Brooklyn apartment) the bacon, and enjoying being the part owner (due to a loan reneging) of the Colony lounge, he was arrested at the end of that year amongst the would-be stolen cigarettes in the back of their rented truck, driven by Angelo Ruggiero. His brother Gene failed in his role in the lookout Cadillac, and was brought in too. He would go join the 2000 inmates at the Federal prison at Lewisburg, he would get out two years later a 31 year old man, older and wiser. He, with pal Angelo, had found education and protection in Carmine Galante's Club Lewisburg, housing most of the nation's notorious crime lords. (and also known as Hoffa's Teamsters Local 865).

He had also gotten some breaks in court thanks to "Mob Lawyer" 39 year-old Michael Coiro that kept him from doing many more years in a post-Valachi era (Joseph sang like the provoibial {sic} canawee {sic}) where the pressure was mounting on organized crime (i.e. the 1970 era RICO laws).

Bigger Bite of the Apple

1972 was also the year John became unofficial acting crew captain because of Carmine Fatico's indictment. Bringing the hijacking profits helped by the Ruggiero brothers to underboss Neil Dellacroce at the Ravenite Social Club. Dellacroce was bemoaned, slightly incorrect, by the Senate the year before as "the most powerful boss in New York today." He unfortunately had a high profile, the undue attention leading to his arrest, but fortuitously allowed John to see Carlo Gambino directly for orders.

Stomping on Worms

While John's family was living in a nice house in Howard Beach, a Gambino nephew, Emanuel Gambino was kidnapped and killed even though a hundred grand was paid. Eventually, John wound up on the three man vengeance squad consisting of buddy Angelo Ruggerio and another Gambino newcomer, Ralph Galione. They had the name (incorrectly it turned out) of a certain James McBratney as one of the kidnappers, and they found out on the night of May 22, 1973 what bar he was hanging out in. Pretending to be cops, (a shot fired into the ceiling their only ID) they stopped everybody in the place from interfering, and after two got a struggling James in their grasp, Galione shot him thrice at close-range. John had now finished the key initiation-- helping in killing someone -- (prevents undercover agents from infiltration) "making your bones." They got away in a speeding limo, but eventually all three were arrested, John a bit later due to an informant's tip. Gotti went on the lam, and actually was not apprehended until a little more than a year after the hit. His $100,000 bail came from relatives' second mortgaging their homes.

Wriggling Out

While adding some unsanctioned drug-dealing of babania to their continuing exploits of gambling, loan-sharking, hijacking and enforcement, (like giving Foxy his "deserved funeral" for skimming funds) Gotti is defended by Roy M. Cohen, financed by Carlo and the capos. Getting a plea bargain for manslaughter in 1975, he gets four years, but gets released in 1977, bulked and smarted up. Of course he had a "front" job at Arc Plumbing waiting for him as usual, near the Bergin. He was lucky he did not get sent up for life -- or more. He had visions, big plans, and many who backed him up, and with some leadership indisposed, in legal trouble or dead, like Carlo Gambino, opportunities.

In a side-note, Tommy DiSimone, Foxy's murderer, received justice when he wound up with his brother-in-law, Joseph Spione "swimming with the fishes" in Jamaica Bay.

Made Man


You come in alive and go out dead.
---Family membership instructions



With Dellacroce and Gotti both out of prison, the new boss since 1976, Costellano, could now concentrate on other business like receiving new blood. John Gotti, who would shortly become official crew captain, was going to get his chance to be "straightened out," also known as "becoming a made man," or a "goodfellow, " and subsequently "Johnny Boy" went through the secret ceremony with its blood oaths. In the next years Family life would involve the tension and member alliances between Castellano, Dellacroce, the latter underboss who should of been next-in-line (hey, he was in jail!), vaulted over instead by Carlo's brother. Ironically, the law enforcement community only knew of Dellacroce, and basically nothing about Gotti or the new head of the family.

In a "That's Entertainment" side-note, just months before, Paul and Carlo and friends got their picture taken with Frank Sinatra after a concert.

John Gotti in the late 70's tried to keep out of relative trouble by having his crew, that was his in all but name, from doing more than just gambling and loan sharking. But the terrorizing of people around and under him never ended. Just ask Jamesy Cardinale and Michael Franzese, the latter an educated mobster on screen and off, who was overheard saying "F--k John Gotti!" and the former who witnessed John just asking the terrified Franzese a question.  

There's a guy running around the city saying, "F--k John Gotti." What do we do with a piece of shit like that? should we beat him up? Kill him? He's a dog, right?"
Needless to say, Michael agreed with the canine assessment as he exited stage left, even.


Gotti was powerful enough now to be hypocritical enough to have a no-drugs policy (following the bosses' wishes) but at the same time child-hood pal Angelo was heavily into it, and that would come into the open a few years down the road with associates' busts. Pieces of a puzzle reflecting their activities were gathered by various "bugs" and those squealing to the police and Feds as insiders keeping out of doing hard time. Most of the phone bugs heard John making bets with bookies. The latter job illegal, but it was not against the law to place wagers. Interestingly, sometimes the information did not jibe. Lot of folks were interested where John got all his money with all his debts. Gotti also had his brother Gene right there with him as a loyal and tough right hand man.

Family Business


Musta been the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time

It was the early spring of 1980 when the infamous incident occurred whereby 51 year -old John Favara, father to two adopted kids that actually had visits from the 12 year old Frankie Gotti to his nearby house as he was friends with his son Scott. Favaro was coming up his street, blinded by the sun, and did not see the Frankie dart out from behind the construction dumpster whereby he hit and killed Gotti's son.

Bavaro, not believing Gotti et al thought any differently than the NYPD did of the accident as being no-fault, did not even press charges when a few months later the very distraught Victoria Gotti sent him to the hospital via baseball bat.

In late July, a few days after John Gotti and family left for Florida, John Favaro was abducted in front of witnesses and never seen again.

Unwelcome Attention

As 1981 got underway, so did the, NYPD, DEA, the U.S. Attorney, and the FBI's interest in investigating an organization that, thanks to the latter's work, they now knew was headed by Paul Castellano. Diane Giacolone especially wanted Dellacroce and his underling, Gotti checked thoroughly and by next year she was working without the help of the other agencies, and without the bureaucratic obstacles. A new president, Reagan, also put his weight behind rooting out organized crime.

After heroin deal screw-ups, Paul Castellano had to call Gotti to his house to discuss their breaking the rules. Castellano, whose house was also "bugged, was also more comfortable with legitimate businessmen, and was disdain of the more street-wise soldiers under him like Gotti (though was really happy at his aggressive efficiency); but had to address his flagrance. Meanwhile they discover that Angelo's house had been wired, too. Gotti was the de facto underboss while Neil Dellacroce was extremely ill with cancer.

By summer of 1983, John Gotti is arrested with pal Angelo Ruggiero with a lot of help of "turned" insider, James Cardinale.

Domino Theory

Law enforcement had enough to indict late sixty-year-old boss Castellano in 1984, and naturally, there was no sympathy in the Gotti camp. Even Neil joined the next year the ranks of the connected "busted." That left the headlines to proclaim the results of this process:


Boss Gotti would join the RICO indicted list in the spring of 1985. Even their lawyer defending them was under indictment, Michael Coiro.


When rumor reached John's ears that Paul was going to place William Battista in the driver's seat, he subsequently disappeared. The day Dellacroce was supposed to appear in court, December 2, 1985 he died. Castellano did not go to the wake, and he named Thomas Bilotti underboss. They go to dinner on the 16th, and it becomes their last supper. Who's the new boss? Forgetaboutit!

Now, the rest is history, how the "Teflon Don" beat this last rap, but after relentless pursuit in 1992 aided by Sammy "the Bull" Gravano's "rattin' 'em out", they finally put John away for life. His trial had his friends and fans speaking out for him. Such a great guy in the community. Jay Black of Jay and the Americans lamented how they should leave such a wonderful man alone.


Free at Last

He finally followed and joined his mentor Dellacroce a little too closely as he died of cancer in prison on June 10, 2002.

Who's on First?

John Gotti, Jr. supposedly runs the family, but John J. Amico might be favored as membership has dropped from 250 to 150 due to the strong publicity and lack of discretion that part of the family garnered.

I can't wait to see Travolta in the movie.

(Victoria Gotti was a Celebrity Apprentice in the 2012 Season.)

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