John Gotti was born in the Bronx on October 27, 1940. His family moved into a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn when he was 12. John began to love the streets and dropped out of school in 8th grade. After spending years performing small crimes and gaining respect in the underworld, he became affiliated with the Gambino family in 1966.
In the family, John made a lot of money hijacking freight trucks at Kennedy airport. The Gambino under boss Aneillo Delacroce became good friends with him and took him under his wing like a son. Despite a minor setback of 3 years in prison from a hijacking, John moved up in the family quickly.
In 1973 John Gotti was given a contract to kill James McBratney, who was accused of murdering a nephew of Carlo Gambino. After a botched job with two witnesses, Gotti was put in prison for 2 years on second degree manslaughter charges. Gotti served the time and got out to find big changes in the family.
Carlo Gambino, the boss of the family, died and appointed Paul Castellano as his successor. Gotti was very angry about his friend Delacroce getting passed over, but would wait a bit before taking things into his own hands.
Out of prison, Gotti continued working, even dabbling in the narcotics trade, which was forbidden in the family. However, he was struck by tragedy when his son was killed while riding a bike in 1980. His son was struck by a vehicle, driven by Gotti’s own neighbor. The neighbor received a number of death threats by phone and Gotti’s wife assaulted him with a baseball bat. The neighbor decided to move, but suddenly disappeared into a van filled with Gotti’s men, never to be seen again. Since Gotti and his wife were in Florida at the time, there was no evidence to indict him.
Castellano found out about Gotti dealing in narcotics in the 80s, but Dellacroce protected John from the organization by defending him to the other under bosses. In spite of the narcotics, John was promoted to capo. Everything remained stable until 1985, when Castellano was indicted for taped recordings in his mansion and Gotti’s crew was indicted for narcotics trade.
Dellacroce prevented Gotti and Castellano from killing each other until his death, after which there was no barrier keeping the peace. Gotti agreed with some other capos in the Gambino family that Castellano needed to be whacked so he met with the other NY families and received support from 3 of the 4. On December 16, 1985 Castellano and Tommy Bilotti, his underboss, were gunned down by a hit team as they were entering Spasks Stake House in Manhattan.
Following the death of Castellano, John Gotti became the new boss of the Gambino family. Gotti ran the family from the Ravenite Social Club, unafraid of the public eye. Gotti was known for $2000 suits and flashiness, never hesitating to press the flesh with reporters. Despite a number of trials involving him, he emerged innocent, earning him the name “Teflon Don”.
Apparently even the “Teflon Don” would experience some friction. The FBI succeeded in wiretapping the Ravenite Social Club, getting tape recordings of orders for hits and strong evidence against the entire family. After several years of gathering evidence, Gotti was indicted.
The final blow to John Gotti was dealt by his one-time good friend Sammy Gravano. One of the recorded conversations featured John speaking badly of Gravano and Sammy decided to flip, becoming the star witness of the John Gotti trial and a witness under the FBI witness protection program.
On April 2, 1992, Gotti was convicted of 5 murder charges, among other things, and sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole. The sentence was a hard one, putting him in a lonely 23 hour lock down. However, John only lived to see 10 years of his final prison sentence, dying of cancer on June 10, 2002. The funeral was attended by over 100 members of the Gambino family and his personal family.