Born Bronx, NY, March 29, 1928.
Died Springfield, MO, Dec. 19, 2005.
Gigante died Monday, Dec. 19, 2005, at the federal prison in Springfield, Mo. He was 77 years old. Born in the Bronx in 1928, Gigante's "Chin" nickname was adapted from his given name of "Vincenzo."
He had a brief career as a prizefighter, beginning in 1946. His criminal career was considerably longer, spanning half a century. He entered the underworld as a protege of New York Mafia bigshot Vito Genovese. He first became known to the American public as the prime suspect in the May 1957 assassination attempt against Mafia leader Frank Costello. It is believed that Gigante, working under orders from Costello rival Vito Genovese (orders that were transmitted through group leader Tommy Eboli) cornered Costello in the lobby of his apartment house and shot him in the head at close range.
The bullet only grazed Costello, however. Costello's refusal to testify against Gigante, a man Costello insisted was "a friend," led to Gigante's acquittal. Costello retired as boss of the Luciano family, leaving the operation to Genovese.
Gigante was convicted of drug trafficking in 1959 and was sentenced to five years in prison. His Mafia credentials were greatly enhanced by his prison term. After his release, Gigante served in leadership roles in the Genovese family. Genovese, himself, was in prison and controlled the family through acting bosses such as Gerardo Catena and Tommy Eboli.
Gigante eventually became boss of the family, though the date of his accession is uncertain. Most likely it did not occur until the early 1980s.
Gigante screened his involvement in the Mafia clan by having Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno (who died in 1992) pass himself off as the family boss. Gigante also did his best to portray himself as a helpless paranoid schizophrenic. He wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in his pajamas, often conducted public conversations with himself and was once found hiding under an umbrella in his shower.
Prosecutors had success against Salerno but could not score a conviction against Gigante until 1997 (his feigned mental illness delayed proceedings on that matter by seven years). By then, the boss's mental illness act had earned him a new nickname, "the Oddfather."
Gigante was sentenced to a dozen years for racketeering in 1997. Additional charges were brought against him after that.