The grisly murder of Gambino crime family boss Frank Cali has stoked fears that the Mafia may be returning to the streets of New York City after more than three decades of peace.
Cali, 53, was shot six times and run over by a pickup truck outside his redbrick house in the upscale Todt Hill neigborhood of Staten Island just after 9.15pm on Wednesday evening, sending shockwaves throughout the community.
Authorities, including the FBI, are looking into whether the hit was authorized by one of New York’s five Mafia families, or whether it was carried out by a ‘cowboy’ gunman.
One former NYPD detective who investigated the mafia for years, Tommy Hyland, told Inside Edition that this murder feels personal.
Cali’s murder is the first hit on a Mafia boss since John Gotti arranged the assassination of then-Gambino head Paul Castellano in 1985.
‘We thought those days were over,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the slaying. ‘Very surprising, but I guess old habits die hard.’
The murder of Gambino crime family boss Frank Cali has stoked fears that the Mafia may be returning to New York City after more than three decades of peace. Cali, 53, was shot six times and run over by a pickup truck outside his house in the upscale Todt Hill neigborhood of Staten Island just after 9.15pm on Wednesday evening, sending shockwaves through the community
Authorities, including the FBI, are looking into whether the hit was authorized by one of New York’s five Mafia families, or whether it was carried out by a ‘cowboy’ gunman
Cali’s murder is the first hit on a Mafia boss since John Gotti arranged the assassination of then-Gambino head Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985
Aggressive federal prosecutions in the past 25 years decimated the ranks of New York’s five Mafia families.
The cases resulted in long prison terms for their bosses – Gotti included – and encouraged their successors to keep a lower profile.
But the new generation still engages in old-school crimes – loansharking, gambling, extortion – that can make enemies and spark violence.
This week, prosecutors in Brooklyn announced a case against a long-time Gambino associate accused of killing a suspected loanshark affiliated with the Lucchese crime family.
THE GAMBINO CRIME FAMILY
The Gambino crime family is one of what is widely referred to as ‘The Five Families’ of Italian organized crime operations in New York City and other parts of the United States.
The Gambinos’ rise to become one of the most powerful mafia families in America started in 1957, when the family’s namesake, Carlos Gambino – an Italian immigrant – orchestrated the murder of Albert Anastasia, who had organized a collection of Italian gangs into what now would be considered a ‘crime family.’
Gambino headed the organization until 1976, when he handed power over to his brother-in-law Paul Castellano.
Like other mafia families, the Gambinos took their methods from the crime families in Italy – La Cosa Nostra – and were involved in illegal activities like loan-sharking, extortion, prostitution, gambling and money laundering – as well as the frequent assaults and murders associated with those types of business ventures.
In 1985, Gambino ‘capo’ John Gotti orchestrated the murder of Castellano to become the most publicized boss of the family.
Gotti’s reign came to an end when his underboss, Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano agreed to testify against him and other members of the family in a 1992 RICO trial.
Since Gotti’s downfall, the Gambinos – and other mafia families – have lost much of the power they once had over politicians, judges and labor unions.
The family was headed by Domenico Cefalu until 2015, when Frank Cali took over as capo.
Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said on Thursday there has been a slight uptick in alleged mob-related violence in New York within the last year. But he said it is too soon to say whether that had anything to do with Cali’s slaying.
Shea said the mob boss emerged from his home around 9.15pm after the gunman backed his pickup into Cali’s Cadillac SUV, damaging it. ‘With what we know at this point in time, it’s quite possible that was part of a plan,’ Shea said.
Video showed the assailant pulling a 9mm handgun and opening fire on Cali about a minute after they started talking, according to Shea. At least 12 shots were fired. After getting shot several times, Cali tried to crawl under his SUV to hide, Shea said.
Federal prosecutors referred to Cali in court filings in recent years as the quiet underboss of the Mafia’s Gambino family, once one of the most powerful and feared crime organizations in the country. News accounts since 2015 said he had ascended to the top spot.
Among law enforcement officials, Cali was known as a ‘real quiet old-school boss’ – one police source told the New York Post.
He was considered to be a foil of his former boss John Gotti because ‘no one ever sees him’.
The organization reportedly focused its efforts on heroin and Oxycontin trafficking under his leadership.
Cali only had one criminal conviction, having spent 16 months for a 2008 federal extortion charge in connection with a failed bit to build a NASCAR race track in Staten Island.
The hit on Cali comes just six months after John Gotti’s brother Gene, 71, was released after spending 29 years in prison for dealing heroin.
It was reported that mob bosses have been ‘living in fear’ since his release, wondering whether the heir apparent would ‘demand that he resume his role or even insist on a higher rank’.
A source told the New York Daily News on Thursday that cops were eyeing ties to Gene Gotti for Cali’s murder, saying he may have orchestrated the hit to get back some the clout in the family business.
The source admitted the claims could be ‘total speculation’, but is ‘something to look out for’.
Investigators are seen with forensic equipment outside the Cali’s home on Thursday
Cali’s home in the Todt Hill neighborhood of Staten Island is pictured
Mayor Bill de Blasio (center) told reporters of Cali’s slaying: ‘We thought those days were over. Very surprising, but I guess old habits die hard’
Jerry Capeci, a mob expert who writes for the ganglandnews.com website, said Thursday that Cali is part of a Siclian faction now in control of the Gambino family.
Capeci said the killing ‘doesn’t have the feel’ of a Mafia-sanctioned hit.
‘Frank Cali was a pretty likable guy, and also this is not a way the mob would kill one of their own,’ he said. ‘There are exceptions, but that’s not the case with his guy.’
Cali kept a much lower profile than Gotti and was killed in far less spectacular fashion than Castellano. He was shot on a tree-lined street in one of New York City’s less-glamorous outer boroughs, a short walk from ball fields, a country club and a day camp.
Gotti, with his expensive double-breasted suits and overcoats and silvery swept-back hair, became known as the Dapper Don, his smiling face all over the tabloids. As prosecutors tried and failed to bring him down, he came to be called the Teflon Don.
Cali kept a much lower profile than John Gotti (above) and was killed in far less spectacular fashion than Paul Castellano, who was gunned down outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1085
Gotti was convicted in Castellano’s murder and a multitude of other crimes in 1992
In 1992, Gotti was convicted in Castellano’s murder and a multitude of other crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of cancer in 2002.
On Wednesday, hours before Cali was killed, the reputed boss and consigliere of the Bonanno crime family were acquitted in a Brooklyn racketeering and extortion case.
In October, reputed Bonanno associate Sylvester Zottola was fatally shot while waiting for a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in the Bronx.
Last week, the longtime boss of the Colombo crime family, 85-year-old Carmine ‘the Snake’ Persico, died at a North Carolina hospital near the federal prison where he had been serving what was effectively a life sentence. Persico was convicted in a 1986 case overseen by then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani.
1985 MOB HIT ON GAMBINO BOSS PAUL CASTELLANO
Frank Cali’s murder is the first hit on a Mafia boss since John Gotti arranged the assassination of then-Gambino head ‘Big Paul’ Castellano – outside Sparks Steakhouse – in 1985.
The notorious assasination saw Castellano, 70, and his underboss Thomas Bilotti, 47, both shot in the face by a three-man hit squad just after the two victims had stepped out of their car.
Castellano’s reign as kingpin had begun in 1976 after the death of Carlo Gambino.
The Gambinos were the most powerful of the five families of the New York City mafia and worth an estimated $500 million a year.
Gambino capo John Gotti (left) was part of a three-man hit squad that shot Mafia kingpin Paul Castellano (right) outside a steakhouse in 1985
Big Paul was made boss instead of the likely heir, the then-underboss Aniello Dellacroce – a decision which annoyed those loyal to Dellacroce.
They were further enraged by Castellano’s insistence on living as a recluse in his mansion in Todt Hill, Staten Island, which earned him the moniker, ‘the Howard Huges of the Mob’.
When Dellacroce died of cancer in 1985, Castellano disrepected the Family by not attending the funeral.
The final nail in his coffin was when he made Capo Thomas Bilotti his underboss.
John Gotti, who had been loyal to Dellacroce and didn’t think Castellano was worthy of being the Don, and the irate Gambinos then decided to whack Castellano.
At the time, Castellano had been on trial in Manhattan federal court on racketeering charges involving three murders and an international stolen car ring but the trial was in recess.
On December 15, 1985 Gotti and the Dellacroce devised a plan to assassinate Castellano and Bilotti – by luring the boss to a meeting at Sparks Steakhouse on 210 E. 46th St., between Second and Third Avenues.
The scene of the crime. Big Paul was made boss instead of the likely heir, the then-underboss Aniello Dellacroce – a decision which annoyed those loyal to Dellacroce
The bodies of Castellano and Bilotti lay in a pool of blood after they were gunned down outside Sparks steakhouse in Manhattan
At around 5.30pm, Gotti and Salvatore ‘Sammy the Bull’ Gravano were driving in Gotti’s Lincoln Town Car when they spotted the boss in his Black Lincoln Town Car.
Gotti drove on ahead and parked at a vantage point across the street from the restaurant.
At around 6pm, Castellano and his Underboss Thomas Bilotti pulled up at Sparks Steakhouse to attend a sit down with Frank DeCicco to apologize for missing Dellacroce’s funeral.
Just as they exited the car, the assassin shot Castellano six times. He fell to the pavement and died. Bilotti, who was in the driver’s seat was also shot dead.
Gotti then drove past the scene, while Gravano looked at Bilotti’s body, saying ‘he’s gone’.
Soon after, John Gotti became Boss, Frank DeCicco became Underboss, and Gravano became Consigliere in 1986.