Bilotti, Thomas (1940-1985)

Born Staten Island, NY, March 23, 1940.
Killed Manhattan, NY, Dec. 16, 1985.

An intensely loyal lieutenant of Gambino Crime Family boss Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, Thomas Bilotti was murdered Dec. 16, 1985, along with Castellano in front of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan.

Bilotti was born to Anthony and Lillian Rosso Bilotti in Staten Island in 1940. He was raised in Staten Island and was a resident there early in 1970, when he received his first serious notice from the police and the press.

Thirty-year-old Bilotti, resident of 33 Kensington Avenue, Staten Island, was arrested with Thomas Papanier, 25, of Villa Avenue, Staten Island, after a shooting in Jamesburg, New Jersey. African-American teenager Emory Parks of Sheridan Street suffered superficial injuries when he was struck in the back of his head by bird-shot pellets. Bilotti and Papanier were arrested as they ran from the scene of the shooting and were observed discarding firearms.

It was a time of significant racial tension in the Jamesburg area, after riots at the local high school. Police from Spotswood and Monroe Township were on alert, permitting the quick arrest of Bilotti and Papanier. While police believed the two men were responsible for the injuries to Emory Parks, they were initially charged with carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a pistol without a permit and failing to secure a permit to purchase a pistol. A Middlesex County grand jury indicted the duo only for illegal possession of concealed weapons.

Bilotti became a fierce enforcer for Paul Castellano and the Gambino-Castellano faction of the crime family. He was understandably unpopular with a lingering faction that had been forced from power with Albert Anastasia's 1957 assassination. It appears that the Anastasia wing supported boss Carlo Gambino with the understanding that one of their own would succeed Gambino. Their hopes were dashed when Paul Castellano took over the crime family following the 1976 death of his brother-in-law Gambino. Peace within the family was preserved as Aniello Dellacroce, leader of the opposition and an underworld powerhouse in Manhattan, was selected as Castellano's underboss. Dellacroce kept his followers loyal to the Castellano regime for nine years.

During that time, Bilotti served as Castellano's primary driver, bodyguard and most trusted lieutenant. In 1980, Castellano build a palatial mansion for himself at 177 Benedict Road atop Todt Hill in Staten Island. Bilotti moved into a less ostentatious home just a few minutes away. Bilotti worked closely with Salvatore Barbato in providing security for Castellano and his estate. Bilotti and Castellano both regularly vacationed at Pompano Beach, Florida.

Dellacroce's death on Dec. 2, 1985, was followed by two major Castellano missteps. The crime family boss did not attend Dellacroce's funeral, a decision viewed as profoundly disrespectful. And he quickly and unilaterally elevated his aide Bilotti to the position of underboss. Castellano was getting on in years and faced a number of serious federal charges. Dellacroce followers, then led by John J. Gotti, understood that either death or prison would soon remove the boss. But Bilotti's presence as heir apparent would shut their faction out of the crime family leadership for yet another generation.

Castellano had lost much of his underworld prestige as the long-term bugging of his home office by the FBI had recently been revealed. Bilotti was still widely feared but many saw him as lacking in leadership qualities. Gotti found extensive support for his plan to remove both men from administration of the crime family. He appears to have arranged with Salvatore Gravano and Frank DeCicco for the Dec. 16 hit outside of Sparks.

Bilotti's life ended Dec. 16, 1985,
on New York's 46th Street

At about 5:30 p.m., Castellano's black Lincoln, with Bilotti driving, stopped in a no parking zone on 46th Street in front of the restaurant. As Bilotti and Castellano emerged from opposite sides of the car, three men in trenchcoats quickly approached on foot and opened fire at close range with semiautomatic pistols. Both targets were hit repeatedly in their heads and torsos. Castellano collapsed on the sidewalk behind the open passenger-side car door. Bilotti sprawled into the street. The gunmen jogged away on 46th Street, climbing into a waiting getaway car at Second Avenue.

With boss and underboss eliminated, John Gotti seized for himself the top spot in the Gambino Crime Family and selected Frank DeCicco as his second in command. Bilotti and Castellano were buried in Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp, Staten Island.


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