The Gambino crime family is the most publicized family of the American Mafia. It’s one of “Five Families” based out of New York that dominates organized crime in the United States. The Gambino family got its name from previous boss Carlo Gambino who controlled the family from 1959 until his death in October 1976.
The family got its start in the late 1800’s as the Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila gang of Manhattan who joined the established Morello gang. They were the first Italian American gang in New York, and possibly the entire United States. Their reign lasted for twenty years until the matriarch of the family, Giuseppe Morello and his underboss, Ignazio Saietta, were sent to prison after a counterfeiting conviction. Realizing the gang was in rough shape; D’Aquila split away from the remaining members and formed his own gang in East Harlem. Using his established connections with other Mafia leaders, D’Aquila’s gang quickly became a powerful influence in New York.
Through a series of shifts of power from one gang to another, Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila formed alliances with other Mafia bosses and took down the weaker gangs absorbing their rackets. From 1910-1917 D’Aguila established and reestablished the largest Italian gang in New York. They controlled more rackets than any other gang in the area.
Nineteen-twenty brought prohibition outlawing the sale and distribution of alcohol, and a well-paid illegal racket for the New York gangs. During this time more gangs emerged with the first gang being a spinoff of the ailing Morello gang based in the Bronx and East Harlem. It was led by Gaetano Reina, an intelligent businessman who not only went after the unlawful sale and distribution of alcohol, but had complete control over icebox distribution in the city. His gang would later become the Lucchese Crime family one of the “Five Families” of New York.
The second gang to emerge in the 1920’s was led by a fierce and powerful mobster name Joe Profaci. His gang would later become the final of the “Five Families” to be established named the Colombo crime family.
In 1920, the Morello gang had disbanded with its members leaving or joining other gangs around New York. This left D’Aquilla and his only real rival Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria in control of New York. Masseria had taken over the interests of the Morello family and by late 1920 he was looking for further expansion, but D’Aquilla was standing in his way.
In 1928 D’Aquilla, was gunned down by Masseria murderer’s leaving D’Aquilla’s second in command Alfred Mineo in charge of the family. It wouldn’t last. In late 1930 Masseria murderers gunned down Mineo and his top lieutenant Steve Ferrigno, and seized control of the Mineo family and their assets. With the assassination, Masseria became the most powerful boss in New York.
Nineteen-thirty-one brought about more change for the Masseria family. Joe Masseria had a fight on his hands and his name was Salvatore Maranzano. His family had quietly taken uproots in New York and with his leadership had taken a large chunk of Masseria’s business. In April of 1931 seeing the shift in power, some of Masseria’s own members murdered Masseria in a restaurant allowing Maranzano to take control of his family. Maranzano declared himself the Capo D tutti Capi (boss of bosses) of all New York. Maranzano was no idiot. He knew one man would not reign supreme for long, so he divided the New York gangs into “Five Families” and kept the top seat for himself.
In September 1931, just five months after creating the five families, Lucky Luciano called on a small team of assassins to murder Maranzano. Once completed, Lucky and his family (later known as Genovese) further organized the five families creating “The Commission” where each boss of the five families would hold a seat. This Commission would reign as the supreme leader of New York for generations arbitrating disputes between families and preventing gang warfare.
In the same month, Luciano replaced the acting boss of the D’Aquila/Mineo gang, with mobster Vincent Mangano calling them the Mangano family. Mangano was given a seat on the commission. Mangano led the family with old mob traditions teaching the members honor, tradition, and respect above all else. He also led his family into extortion, horse betting, union racketeering, and murder. He’s credited with starting the most feared group of hired killers ever known to the mafia, Murder Incorporated. This group of mainly Jewish Americans was hired by several of the five families to do their dirty work. The most feared of the group was Mangano family underboss Albert Anastasia.
Mangano and his brother Philip didn’t mesh well with Anastasia although they worked with each other for several years; they were not close and rarely agreed. Mangano didn’t trust Anastasia and as Albert’s power within Murder Incorporated grew, so did Mangano’s distrust. In April 1951, 20 years after appointment by Luciano as boss of the Mangano crime family, Vincent Mangano was found murdered, and his brother disappeared.
The Commission condemned Anastasia for the murders, and although he denied involvement, they had no choice but to put him in control of the Mangano family. Thus the Anastasia family was born with Albert firmly in control and an up-and-coming member named Carlo Gambino as his second in command. In 1952 with help from Frank Costello boss of the Luciano crime family Anastasia had gained control over the commission.
As a feared gun, Anastasia’scontrol was short lived. He made a series of mistakes in the eyes of the
Commission. He ordered the murder of a man who aided in the capture of a notorious bank robber Willie Sutton. He also opened competition casinos in Cuba enraging Meyer Lansky who opened casino’s years earlier. It was the final act of disobedience, Anastasia had to go.
In 1957 Genovese and Meyer Lansky called on Anastasia’s underboss Carlo Gambino to aid with the take down of Anastasia. With the backing of the Commission, they offered Gambino the top spot in the Anastasia family. In May of the same year Costello escaped a Genovese-organized assassination attempt and quickly resigned as boss. Shortly after, Gambino learned Costello and Anastasia were working on their own plot to take down Genovese.
In October of 1957 while Anastasia was sitting in the barbershop at Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, several masked assassins entered and fired several rounds into Anastasia killing him instantly. With Anastasia’s death, Gambino was promoted by the Commission as boss of the Anastasia family, what is now the Gambino crime family. He appointed Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce in 1965 as underboss.
Over his reign the Gambino crime family gained a strong influence over the construction industry. They influenced the teamsters and unions that controlled the building materials coming into New York. At any given time the Gambino’s could bring the entire construction industry to a stop if they chose.
October 15, 1976 Carlo Gambino’s 19-year rule ended after he suffered a heart attack and died. As he directed before his death, Paul Castellano an up-and-coming Mafioso and keen business leader took over the Gambino family. Neil Dellacroce remained in the underboss position and was instructed by Castellano to control the traditional Cosa Nostra activities while he worked the more white- collar activities involving embezzlement and construction schemes.By the early 1980’s Castellano created a barrier from the family and him. Dellacroce was the only person allowed to speak with the boss and deliver his messages and actions to the family. Several made members found this alienation to be a slap in the face. One of Castellano’s biggest critics was a tough Italian with a large following within the family named John Gotti.
Gotti followed the old school Mafioso traditions closely. He felt the boss of the family needed to show respect to the made members and Castellano was doing anything but. Gotti admired and respected Dellacroce who also followed old school rules. Dellacroce who was in failing health, kept Gotti and the defectors at ease with Castellano until Delacroce’s death on December 2, 1985. Two weeks later, Gotti seized power having Castellano and his underboss Tommy Bilotti murdered outside the Sparks Steak House on December 16, 1985.
Gotti’s control over the Gambino crime family lasted for 7 years. Many of them spent in the court room as Gotti was tried over and over. He earned the nickname “Teflon Don” for earning acquittals in each case. Finally on April 2, 1992 Gotti and his Consigliere Frank LoCascio were convicted and received life sentences without the possibility of parole. Gotti continued to rule the family from prison and left the day-to-day to capo’s John D’Amico, and Nicholas Corozzo. Gotti died in prison in 2002. Since Gotti’s death, several men have taken control of the family including Gotti’s son John “Junior” Gotti who is now considered to be boss of the family.