Gotti, John J. (1940-2002)

Born South Bronx, NY, Oct. 27, 1940

Died Springfield, MO, June 10, 2002.

Known as "Dapper Don" and "Teflon Don," Gotti was a member of a Gambino Crime Family faction intensely loyal to underboss Aniello Dellacroce. He became boss of the family after the assassination of Paul Castellano in 1985 and established a reputation for frustrating federal prosecutors.

John J. Gotti was one of 13 children born to John and Fannie Gotti. The family moved often. John J. Gotti spent his earliest years in the South Bronx. Before reaching his teens, his family had settled in East New York, Brooklyn. Young Gotti, who considered Albert Anastasia his role model, reportedly became leader of the Fulton-Rockaway Boys street gang and worked to win the favor of Mafiosi in Carmine Fatico's underworld crew. He became a close friend of Angelo Ruggiero, nephew of Aniello Dellacroce.

The Dellacroce faction had its roots in the formative years of the crime family. By the 1950s, Sicilian and non-Sicilian divisions within the clan were evident. At that time, the family was led by the Sicilian Vincent Mangano and his Calabrian underboss Albert Anastasia. Anastasia took control of the organization after the disappearance of Mangano and the murder of Mangano's brother Philip. Anastasia was assassinated in 1957, as the Sicilian Gambino-Castellano faction grabbed the reins and Carlo Gambino became boss. Gambino put down a potential rebellion by the old Anastasia wing. Faction leader Armand Rava disappeared and Rava's close friend Dellacroce agreed to become Gambino's underboss.

Young Mafioso Gotti served three years in prison after being caught stealing cargo from the area of Kennedy International Airport in 1968. When he emerged from prison, he found that the Fatico crew had moved into the quarters of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens (below). When Fatico, facing loan-sharking charges, decided to retire, he named Gotti an acting capodecina.

Upon Gambino's 1976 death, Dellacroce was passed over, and Gambino relative Paul Castellano was installed as boss instead. Gotti and the rest of the Dellacroce faction was enraged, but Dellacroce kept it loyal to Castellano.

In the mid-1970s, Gotti and Ruggiero pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of James McBratney, believed responsible for kidnapping and killing a nephew of Carlo Gambino. Gotti was paroled from prison in 1977.

From the group's main headquarters at the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street in Manhattan, Gotti quietly plotted against Castellano. Gotti felt free to act when Dellacroce died on Dec. 2, 1985. Gotti organized the successful hit on Castellano and his driver Thomas Bilotti outside of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan on Dec. 16, 1985. The murder has been explained as a revenge for the injustice suffered by Dellacroce, as a preemptive strike against the boss who allegedly planned to break up Gotti's crew, and as a disciplinary measure for Castellano's incautious remarks in a home bugged by federal agents.

As boss of the Gambino Family, Gotti became a publicity-seeking celebrity. He was constantly in trouble with the law. But he earned his "Teflon Don" nickname because early charges would not stick.

The early 1990s betrayal of a figure high in the Gambino Family helped prosecutors finally put Gotti behind bars. Prosecutors were also aided by Gotti's own statements overheard by FBI electronic surveillance devices in an apartment over the Ravenite Social Club. He and his close associate Frank Locascio were convicted of racketeering on April 2, 1992. Gotti was found guilty of 13 offenses, including murder, gambling, obstruction of justice and tax fraud.

While serving a life sentence in federal prison, Gotti was diagnosed with cancer of the throat in 1998. He underwent surgery and treatment, but the cancer returned. He died in a prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, in 2002.

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