Castellano, Paul (1915-1985)

Born June 26, 1915.

Killed New York, NY, Dec. 15, 1985.

"Big Paul" Castellano was born in 1915 into one of the older Mafia clans in the U.S. His family, believed to have been part of the Toto D'Aquila organization, was already working the rackets in New York when a wave of Sicilian Mafiosi arrived fleeing from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the early 1920s.

The Castellanos sponsored new arrival Carlo Gambino in 1921 (and Gambino eventually rose to lead the criminal organization). Paul Castellano grew up as an apprentice to Gambino and took over the powerful Gambino Family upon Carlo's death in 1976.

Castellano was a butcher by trade and built a legitimate meat distribution empire around the city of New York.

Castellano, who moved into a replica of the White House at 177 Benedict Road on Staten Island, became an important figure on the Commission and is thought to have held the clout of the traditional boss of bosses in the early 1980s. Castellano's rise to power (and his insistence that New York Mafiosi give up direct involvement in drug trafficking) displeased those in the crime group who had hoped Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce would lead the family.

Castellano was repeatedly targeted by FBI electronic surveillance. He discovered and destroyed FBI eavesdropping equipment at a Brooklyn industrial site in 1974. However, he did not learn until much too late that the FBI had also bugged his personal office within his home.
In 1975, he was arrested with eight other men on loansharking charges.

Evidence obtained by the FBI aided the federal prosecution of New York Mafia bosses in the 1985 Mafia Commission case.

John Gotti, later known as the "Dapper Don" and the "Teflon Don," was part of the unhappy Dellacroce faction. While Dellacroce was alive, he was able to keep the Gotti wing loyal to Castellano. But when Dellacroce passed away, Gotti set up the assassination of Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti in front of Sparks Steak House, 210 East 46th Street in Manhattan on Dec. 15, 1985. Castellano died instantly of gunshot wounds to his head, chest and abdomen. Gotti then grabbed the leadership of the Gambino Family for himself.

The hit on Castellano, while personally motivated on Gotti's part, also served the interests of the Mafia as a whole. Castellano had inadvertently supplied federal agents with a wealth of information about the inner workings of the Syndicate and the Commission by speaking openly about such things in front of FBI bugs. Mafiosi also reportedly feared that Castellano, who last served time after a 1934 robbery conviction, wouldn't be able to stomach a long haul behind bars.

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