EXCLUSIVE: Gambino crime family infamous for Prohibition bootlegging, bloody turf wars and John Gotti’s lavish suits hauled before courts after decades of silence – as Mafia heir tells FBI not to go after ‘a few Italians telling jokes and eating cannoli’s’
- Ten members and associates of the Gambino family have been arrested on racketeering and other charges. They have all pleaded not guilty
- The Gambino Crime Family is one of the Five ‘mob’ groups that have been wreaking havoc in New York City since the 1900s
- They left behind a legacy of crime, bloody turf wars and decadence before quietly disappearing from the limelight – until now
The infamous Gambino crime family appeared to have gone quiet over the years.
Tales of the Sicilian clan’s Prohibition-era bootlegging, the bloody Castellamerese War of the 1930s and John Gotti’s flamboyant silk suits in the eighties faded into legend.
Omerta – the Mafia’s code of silence – shrouded the family’s dealings after the head honcho, Francesco ‘Franky Boy’ Cali, was gunned down outside his home in 2019.
But last week ten alleged mobsters were hauled before a Brooklyn court accused of running the Mafia racket – a brutal extortion regime to ‘dominate’ New York’s garbage and construction industries, involving threats with baseball bats and setting fire to the stoops of their victims’ homes.
Prosecutors pleaded with Judge Ramon Reyes this week to lock the defendants up and keep them off the streets, arguing they were known to brutally intimidate witnesses and presented a flight risk because of their access to vast sums of money and links to Italy.
But Mafia scion, Giovanni Gambino and cousin to Carlo Gambino – the man who led the crime syndicate into the national spotlight – blasted the arrests as ‘misplaced priorities’ as the world grapples with what he claims are real threats of terror flooding American borders.
Though the organization had been operating for decades, led by Salvatore ‘Toto’ D’Aquila in the early 1900s, the Gambino family name came from Carlo Gambino (pictured), who was the family’s boss from 1957 to his death in 1976
‘In an era where global crime and terrorism pose significant threats, it is surprising to witness the authorities’ misplaced priorities,’ Giovanni Gambino said.
‘While hundreds of known terrorists have infiltrated our borders, leaving our safety in jeopardy, federal agencies appear to be focusing their attention on an assumed organization that has remained dormant for decades.’
‘The FBI [is] spending taxpayer money on a few Italians at a café telling jokes and eating cannoli’s [when] they should be spending all their effort on the safety of our children.’
But Mafia scion, Giovanni Gambino and cousin to Carlo Gambino – the man who led the crime syndicate into the national spotlight – blasted the arrests as ‘misplaced priorities’ as the world grapples with what he claims are real threats of terror flooding American borders
Giovanni has championed men associated with the Gambino crime family – talking of their good work in the community, most famously hailing tribute to Frank Cali in 2019 after he was gunned down outside his home.
‘The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), entrusted with safeguarding our nation, seems to be diverting valuable resources towards trivial matters,’ he said speaking of the arrests.
‘One cannot help but question why the FBI is preoccupied with monitoring a group of Italians indulging in harmless banter at a local café, while our children’s safety hangs in the balance.
‘Global crime remains rampant and largely unanswered, with criminals operating with impunity across borders.
‘Yet, the attention of law enforcement agencies seems to be misdirected. It is crucial that we address the pressing issues at hand and prioritize the safety and security of our communities.’
He called on the FBI to ‘allocate their resources in a manner that truly ensures the welfare of our citizens.’
‘The focus should be on identifying and neutralizing known terrorists, tightening border security, and collaborating with international partners to combat global crime,’ Giovanni added.
‘As concerned citizens, it is our duty to demand that federal agencies reassess their priorities and allocate resources effectively.
Giovanni (left) is seen with his father Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Gambino (right) and says the FBI are wasting resources on ‘a few Italians at a café telling jokes and eating cannoli’s’
Vicari (pictured) gave a wink and a smile in the courtroom before leaving on Thursday after posting bail alongside Brooke
Robert Brooke (pictured) declined to comment and shielded his face while leaving the courtroom on Thursday
The Gambino men who were arrested these week hail from from Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, New Jersey, and Long Island.
Six of the alleged gangsters were allowed to walk free following hearings on Wednesday at Thursday.
Hoodies and coats were pulled over their faces – a far cry from the days of proud hoodlums in tailor made suits.
Salvatore DiLorenzo was released on a $500,000 bond. US-based Sicilian Mafia members Vito Rappa, 46, and Francesco Vicari, 46 – who is known as ‘Uncle Ciccio’ – as well as Robert Brooke and Vincent Minsquero, 36, known as ‘Vinny Slick’ were granted release on $1million bond.
Kyle Johnson, 46, known as ‘Twin,’ and Angelo Gradilone, 57, known as ‘Fifi,’ Diego ‘Danny’ Tantillo, and the alleged captain of the Gambino crime ring – 52-year-old Joseph Lanni – were all remanded in jail with no possibility of bond.
Prosecutors pleaded with Judge Ramon Reyes (pictured) to lock the defendants up and keep them off the streets, arguing they were known to brutally intimidate witnesses and presented a flight risk because of their access to vast sums of money
Lanni’s wife burst out crying when her husband – known by nicknames ‘Joe Brooklyn,’ and ‘Mommino’ – was remanded. He blew her a kiss from behind the bench.
Tantilo and Gradilone’s attorneys both told DailyMail.com after the arraignment that their clients are innocent.
‘We believe the evidence will demonstrate that our client didn’t do what he’s accused of doing,’ Vicari’s lawyer said outside of court on Thursday.
Vicari gave a wink and a smile in the courtroom before leaving on Thursday after posting bail alongside Brooke. They declined to comment when approached by DailyMail.com.
But to understand how these ten members found themselves before the courts and allegedly deeply entrenched in the crime syndicate, that spans more than a century, it’s important to start at the beginning.
Though the organization had been operating for decades, led by Salvatore ‘Toto’ D’Aquila in the early 1900s, the Gambino family name came from Carlo Gambino, who was the family’s boss from 1957 to his death in 1976.
The group’s operations which extended from New York and the eastern seaboard to California began building their empire when new mafiosi from Palermo, Sicily descended on the Big Apple.
The gang was originally led by Ignazio Lupo and his business partner Giuseppe Morello, who were sent to prison for counterfeiting in 1910, which is when D’Aquila, one of Lupo’s chief captains, took over.
Family and associates were seen supporting 9 out of the 10 defendants who appeared before Judge Reyes on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Federal Court
The Gambino family were hurled back into the spotlight by prosecutors (pictured) after ten alleged mobsters were accused of running a Mafia racket
D’Aquila was highly influential and had joined Lupo’s gang in East Harlem but answered to Morello who was considered the boss of bosses as more gangs formed in New York.
With the Morello family weakened, D’Aquila used the opportunity to establish the dominance of what was now his own family in East Harlem.
By the 1920s there were a number of gangs and the US had just started to outlaw the production and sale of alcohol, giving birth to the extremely lucrative illegal racket.
D’Aquila’s only significant rival was Giuseppe ‘Joe the Boss’ Masseria who had taken over the Morello family and by the end of the 1920s they were headed towards a showdown.
On October 10, 1928, Masseria gunmen assassinated D’Aquila outside his home and by 1930 a war between family’s had been waged for control of the Italian-American organized crime in New York.
The Castellammarese War started between Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, the new leader of Cola Schiro’s Castellammarese gang.
A year later Masseria was murdered in a restaurant by several of his gang members who had defected to Maranzano after which he declared himself the boss of all bosses and reorganized all the New York gangs into five crime families.
The five major families who controlled organized crime in New York came to prominence after hearings in Washington DC during that time.
The five major families who controlled organized crime in New York came to prominence after hearings in Washington DC during the 1950s the Mob families were named after the bosses during that time. Gambino (second from right) had ties to a number of influential people including Frank Sinatra (second from left)
Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano (left), a high-ranking member of the Gambino crime family, was arrested with eight other men on charges of loansharking. Included in the arrest was his son, Joseph Castellano (center), and cousin, Paul F. Castellano (right). Big Paul Castellano is the brother-in-law of Gambino
All five Mafia families were named after their leaders at the time the others included Bonanno, Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese.
The structure of the American Mafia family has been memorialized in pop culture through the years in movies such as the Godfather and TV shows like The Sopranos.
What little is known about the hierarchy reveals there is a boss at the top who runs the syndicate, his second-in-command known as an underboss and the consigliere, a counselor or adviser for the family.
Underneath them are the capos, or captains, who run crews of soldiers.
Soldiers are the lowest formal members of a Mafia family, but they’ve usually proven themselves and have taken an oath to the organization or ‘been made.’
Under Carlo Gambino – ‘the boss of bosses’ – the family reached new heights of power and infamy.
After his death in 1976 due to a heart condition, Paul Castellano took over the family for nine years before he was brutally murdered outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985. It’s claimed the death was a power grab orchestrated by John Gotti.
Unlike the other heads of families Gotti made his power in the city clear, flaunting his ties to the organization before his imprisonment in 1992.
Gotti was given the name the ‘Dapper Don’ and often appeared in smart suits with luxe silk ties and was known for his lavish lifestyle.
His other moniker, ‘Teflon Don,’ came from how often he managed to avoid prosecution – after he was famously acquitted in three high-profile trials during his first five years as the Gambino boss.
After Gambino’s death in 1976 due to a heart condition, Paul Castellano (pictured) took over the family for nine years
Castellano (pictured) was brutally murdered outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985. It’s claimed the death was a power grab orchestrated by John Gotti
Gotti’s legacy also came from his ruthlessness. He was known for having a furious temper and ordered the killings of people he suspected were informants.
His home in Howard Beach, Queens was frequently seen on television and he liked to hold meetings with family members while walking in public places so law enforcement couldn’t record his messages.
Mob leaders from the other families were enraged at the Castellano murder and disapproved of Gotti’s high-profile style.
His strongest enemy was Genovese crime family boss Vincent ‘Chin’ Gigante, a former ally of Castellano.
In a twist of fate, it was his underboss Salvatore Gravano who proved to be his undoing after he testified against him as a government witness during Gotti’s fourth trial on murder and racketeering charges.
Gravano, also known as ‘Sammy the Bull,’ testified about Gotti’s involvement in Castellano’s murder, as well as in other crimes over his time at the helm.
Gotti was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Federal prosecutors said at the time that Gotti had appointed his eldest son, as the acting boss but the younger Gotti went to prison in 1999, after pleading guilty to extortion. He has since claimed to have quit the mob.
Gotti was given the name the ‘Dapper Don’ and often appeared in smart suits with luxe silk ties and was known for his lavish lifestyle
Gotti’s other moniker, ‘Teflon Don,’ came from how often he managed to avoid prosecution – after he was famously acquitted in three high-profile trials during his first five years as the Gambino boss before being arrested in 1992
Gotti’s control over the Gambino family is believed to have lasted till his death in prison in 2002 with claims he acted through his older brother Peter.
Peter is believed to have taken over, before he went to federal prison in 2004 for racketeering, money laundering, extortion and plotting to kill Gravano.
The next time the family were thrown into the spotlight was in 2008, when law enforcement arrested 62 people on federal racketeering charges.
In a twist of fate, it was Gotti’s underboss Salvatore Gravano (pictured) who proved to be his undoing after he testified against him as a government witness during Gotti’s fourth trial on murder and racketeering charges
The indictment filed by federal prosecutors at the time said the acting boss was John ‘Jackie’ D’Amico.
Domenico Cefalu is believed to have taken control after this time before Frank Cali who was the last known leader of the group before he was killed in 2019.
The family retained its fame through reality television with Gotti’s daughter starring in ‘Growing up Gotti’ in 2004 and appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey’ and VH1’s ‘Mob Wives.’
Karen Gravano, the daughter of the man who helped send Gotti’s father to prison, also appeared on ‘Mob Wives.’
Karen went on to become an executive producer on another reality show, MTV’s ‘Made in Staten Island,’ which starred her daughter, Karina Seabrook. The show was later pulled.
In October, the eldest son of crime boss Carlo, Thomas ‘Tommy’ Gambino, once known in New York City as the ‘Mafia Prince’ died aged 94.
While surviving one of the bloodiest crime eras in history, he reportedly earned more than $75 million in cash bonds and blue chip stock.
In 1992, he and his brother took a plea deal after being charged with enterprise corruption, agreeing to pay $12 million in restitution and fines.
He had a younger brother, Joseph, who died in 2020, aged 83.
The family retained its fame through reality television with Gotti’s daughter starring in ‘Growing up Gotti’ in 2004 and appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey ‘ and VH1’s ‘Mob Wives’
Karen Gravano, the daughter of the man who helped send Gotti’s father to prison, also appeared on ‘Mob Wives’
The latest crimes came in a scathing 16-count federal indictment and detention document which laid bare the violent extortions, assaults, arson, and racketeering conspiracies the alleged mobsters undertook – ahead of their arraignment in Brooklyn Federal Court today.
The defendants now variously face maximum sentences between 20 and 180 years’ imprisonment.
The ‘Gambino 10’ takedown was made possible by the coordinated work between the FBI, NYPD, and Italian law enforcement.
James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI, said today as the arrests were announced: ‘These defendants learned the hard way that the FBI is united with our law enforcement locally and internationally in our efforts to eradicate the insidious organized crime threat.
‘Those arrested are alleged to have taken part in a racketeering conspiracy in an attempt to control the carting and demolition industries in the city.
‘The FBI will continue to lead the fight against organized crime and ensure that individuals willing to cross the line face punishment in the criminal justice system.’
NYPD Commissioner Edward A. Caban also vowed to take down members of any organized crime group, wherever they operate.
He said Wednesday: ‘Today’s arrests should serve as a warning to others who believe they can operate in plain sight with apparent impunity – the NYPD and our law enforcement partners exist to shatter that notion.
‘And we will continue to take down members of traditional organized crime wherever they may operate.’
The Gambino 10: Full list of charges
- Joseph Lanni – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One)
- Diego Tantillo – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One), Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Two and Three), Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Four and Five), Theft from Employee Benefit Plan (Count Six), Hobbs Act extortion and conspiracy (Counts Seven and Eight) , Embezzlement from Employee Benefit Plans (Count Nine) Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count Twelve) Theft from Employee Benefit Plan (Count Thirteen) Conspiracy to Commit Theft from Employee Benefit Plan (Count Fourteen)
- Robert Brooke – Hobbs Act extortion and conspiracy (Counts Seven and Eight)
- Salvatore DiLorenzo – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count Twelve) Theft from Employee Benefit Plan (Count Thirteen)
- Angelo Gradilone – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Theft from Employee Benefit Plan (Count Six)
- Kyle Johnson – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Two and Three) Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Four and Five) Conspiracy to Commit Theft from Employee Benefit (Count Fourteen)
- James LaForte – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Ten and Eleven) Witness Retaliation (Count Fifteen) Felon in Possession of a Firearm (Count Sixteen)
- Vincent Minsquero – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Witness Retaliation (Count Fifteen)
- Vito Rappa – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Two and Three) Theft from Employee Benefit Plan (Count Thirteen)
- Frank Vicari – Racketeering Conspiracy (Count One) Hobbs Act Extortion and Conspiracy (Counts Two and Three)
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