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Carlo Gambino

His Rise As New York's Mafia King

Carlo Gambino was born on August 24, 1902 from a wealthy family in Palermo, Sicily, that was a part of the so-called Honored Society, a criminal brotherhood that used codes of honor and millions of Italian Lira to control illegal businesses in Sicily.

He was the most treacherous and vicious killer, murdering his closest friends and his bosses in his determined rise to the top of one of the most powerful and brutal American Crime Families. He began as an enforcer for the local Mafia chieftan, Don Vito, after quiting school at a young age.

Only 5'7" and with a prominent hook nose that looked like a Hawk;s beak, Gambino was tough, vicious and not afraid to confront those who owed money to the Honored Society, carrying out thier orders with a ruthlessness that was soon noted. Gambino was "made" or inducted into the Mafia on his 19th birthday.

Gambino would have been happy to remain in Sicily and succeed Don Vito, but the atmosphere of the rise of facism under Vito Mussolini made it diffifult for the Honored Society. Mussolini declared publicly he would break the crime organization.

At age 19 in November 1921, using his family connections from his mother's family, the Castellanos, who already had established themselves in New York, Gambino left Palermo, Sicily for New York. He was smuggled aboard a freighter among crates of wine, olive oil and anchovies that anchored at Norfolk, Virginia.

He worked during the era of prohibition for the Castellano family as a rum runner, a driver and sitting shotgun, eventually moving to another family working for Joe the Boss Masseria's bootlegging racket.

Masseria's rival was Salvador Maranzano.

It was Gambino who joined with Lucky Luciano to devise a plan to murder both Masseria and Maranzano. On April 15, 1931, Masseria was murdered while at a meeting with Luciano at a Coney Island restaurant.

They joined with Maranzano, as the new boss. Maranzano was shot and stabbed to death in his New York offices on orders from Luciano.

Luciano divided up the New York turf who turned the Mafia into a business commission, with each family getting an equal vote. Gambino was assigned to Vincent Mangano, who controlled the Brooklyn wharfs.

At 29, he was named a capo of his own crew. He brought in Paul Castellano as his aide.

Gambino married his first cousin, Paul's sister, Catherine Castellano, in 1932, at age 30. They raised 3 sons and one daughter, living in a modest row house in Brooklyn. Although it was modest, it was elegant and expensive and it stood out among the other "modest" rowhouses. His only real evidence of vanity was his license plate on his Buick, CG1.

In 1933, with Prohibition lifted, Gambino moved contraband liquor, selling alcohol without paying government taxes. He was arrested and charged with tax evasion, but he was able to beat the rap, released with a suspended sentence. Gambino invested his illegal profits in a business that was low-key and taboo, running "Gay Bars" for homosexuals.

In 1951, Gambino's boss Vincent Mangano, mysteriously disappeared and Albert Anatasia, a vicious killer, took of the family, leading many to believe he had ordered Mangano's killing. He organized Crime Inc., the infamous Mafia hit squad. He made Gambino his underboss in 1956. Gambino set up a hit to promote himself.

Anastasia was murdered on Oct. 25, 1957, while he was getting a shave at the Park Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan. With a hot towel on his face, two gunmen rushed in and shot him to death. On that day, the Gambino dynasty began.

In 1962, his eldest son Tommy married the daughter of rival mob boss Thomas Lucchese. Gambino was shrewd about FBI surveillance, speaking little during meetings and devising a code to discuss killings.

He was deiliberately illusive and low profile, dressing down and refusing comments to reporters during brief encounters.

In 1969, the Gambino Crime Family had 25 crews with more than 850 men.

Gambino was close to Vegas star Frank Sinatra, who did not run from associating with the Gambino family killers.

New York kept a police car parked in front of his home, that was marked "Organized Crime Control Bureau."

He was under constant surveillance. It was in 1969 that a Gambino crew member, John Gotti, was arrested for hijacking a truck. Gambino was charged the same year for masterminding an armed robbery truck hijacking. The case was delayed over and over again. In 1971, his wife Catherine died of cancer. The Feds tried hard to deport Gambino to Sicily. Gambino's doctors claimed he had heart trouble.

When the feds were ready to finally deport Gambino, his crime family bought off two powerful but always unnamed US Senator, to allow him to remain in the United States. They were to be paid $25,000 a year each for life, if the deportion order could be stopped. It was.

Gambino died of a heart attack while watching the New York Yankess game at his not so modest summer home in Long Island on Oct. 15, 1976. His successor was Paul Castellano.

The appointment of Castellano caused problems with the John Gotti crew, who looked up to Gambino's other underboss, "Neil" Dellacroce. Gotti would murder Castellano, after Dellacroce's death, to become Gambino's second successor.

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