When John Gotti succumbed to throat cancer in September 2002, his realities at the time were a far cry from the luxurious life he’d enjoyed back in the eighties and early nineties. For one thing, Gotti had exchanged his high class, double-breasted Italian suits from Brioni and hand-painted silk ties for prison jumpers. Also, he no longer enjoyed the luxury of a well-conditioned room and being driven around in a limo. Rather, he stayed in a cement cell in a Missouri prison and when the need arose, he was driven in a state-owned prison van.
In his heydays, John Gotti was regarded as one of the most powerful and dangerous crime lords in the United States. More so, he wasn’t the lie-low type. Gotti was popular for being outspoken and flamboyant. Quite the opposite of what one would expect from a drug lord. This article trails Gotti’s life, unraveling the stories, the fault lines, and the untold truth behind the rise and fall of a notorious drug lord.
His Background in Gambino Mafia Family
John Gotti was officially initiated into the Gambino Mafia Family in 1977, although he’d been an associate since the late 60s. At the time, he’d just been released from prison where he served a two-year term. With Paul Castellano in control, Gotti was quickly promoted to replace Carmen Fatico as capo of the Bergin crew. As captain, he was accountable to Dellacroce and was considered his protégé. However, as Gotti grew, he increasingly got discontented with Paul Castellano’s leadership. As sources put it, Gotti accused Castellano of being too greedy, aloof, and inaccessible. However, it wasn’t only Gotti who shared that belief, other members of the Gambino family also shared the same sentiment. Also, Gotti saw a huge opportunity to make money from drug dealing; a trade Castellano had banned earlier.
John Gotti began conspiring with fellow disgruntled capos such as Frank DeCicco and Joseph “Joe Piney” Armone and others to overthrow Castellano. Although there was no apparent evidence to prove it, Gotti insisted that Castellano would eventually kill him. And so attack becomes the best form of defense. Another factor that fuelled the plot to kill Castellano was the sudden change of succession plan following the death of former boss Dellacroce on December 2, 1985. Castellano not only appointed Bilotti as underboss to Thomas Gambino (who was now acting boss) he also planned to dissolve the crew John Gotti was heading at the time. Gotti was reportedly enraged by this, and Castellano’s dishonor to Dellacroce, not attending his wake. Thus, Gotti made up his mind to kill his boss.
How He Became the Gambino Crime Family Boss
The time came on the evening of December 16, 1985, when Castellano was to have a meeting with several Gambino mobsters at Sparks Steak House. Castellano was waylaid and shot dead by men loyal to John Gotti. A few days after the murder, Gotti, alongside Joseph N. Gallo and Frank DeCicco was selected to be on a three-man committee to temporarily run the affairs of the family before a new boss gets elected. Although an investigation into Castellano’s murder was announced, it was an open secret that Gotti was behind the plot and operation. On January 15, 1986, Gotti was formally installed as the new boss of the Gambino family. He immediately appointed DeCicco (his accomplice in crime) as underboss and kept Gallo as consigliere.
As the new boss, Castellano shot to nationwide fame in 1986. With annual revenue of $500 million, the Gambinos soon became the most powerful American mafia family. As sources reveal, John Gotti himself had earned no less than $5 million yearly. More so, Gotti was a cunning boss who oversaw the legal welfare of the family. He’d banned Gambino members from conceding to plea bargains that recognized the existence of the organization. On the outside, Gotti kept a more sociable image to undermine media platforms that portrayed him as a ruthless gangster. He would even offer coffee to FBI agents that had been sent to trail him.
In the years that followed, Gotti used his influence to parlay his way out of several faceoffs with the law, which earned him another name, The Teflon Don.
He Escaped Justice For a Long Time
Despite previous Mafia convictions, John Gotti always slipped off the hands of the law. This continued for years until he was eventually brought to justice in 1991 when underboss Sammy Gravano helped the FBI in nailing Gotti. According to sources, Gravano decided to turn state’s evidence and to testify against Gotti. By the following year, 1992, a US court convicted John Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion, illegal gambling, extortion, and loansharking. The crime boss was then sentenced to life in prison without parole and was later transferred to United States Penitentiary, Marion located in southern Illinois.
The Death Of John Gotti
Gotti spent most of his prison period in solitary confinement and was allowed to move out of his cell for only one hour a day. Also, his health declined quickly, leading to his death on June 10, 2002; from throat cancer. He was aged 61.
His funeral was held in a non-church facility. In a feat of denial of Gotti’s leadership in the mafia, none of the other mafia files sent a representative.