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John Gotti was an organized crime leader who became head of the Gambino family.
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The group's headquarters was disguised as a non-profit organization called the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club. After his release from prison in 1971, Gotti was designated as the temporary leader of Fatico's gang while the captain faced loan-sharking charges.
In May of 1973, while Gotti was captain of Fatico's crew, he committed his first murder: the shooting death of Jimmy McBratney, a rival gang member who kidnapped and murdered a member of the Gambino family. Gotti was sent to exact revenge, but he was less than discreet, leaving multiple witnesses at the scene of the crime. Gotti was arrested in 1974 after several bystanders identified him in a photo line-up. At his trial three years later, Gotti cut a deal with the court. In return for a plea of attempted manslaughter, he served only four years in prison.
In 1976, the head of the Gambino family, Carlo Gambino, died. Gambino chose to leave his brother-in-law, Paul Castellano, in charge of the family. In a gesture of goodwill, Castellano allowed Dellacroce to remain the family's underboss, giving him control over 10 of the 23 Gambino crews. When Gotti returned from prison in 1977, Dellacroce promoted the mobster to captain of the Bergin crew.
In March of 1980, personal tragedy hit the Gotti family when neighbor John Favara hit 12-year-old Frank Gotti with his car after the boy steered his bike into traffic. The death was ruled accidental, but witnesses say DiGiorgio later attacked Favara with a metal baseball bat, sending him to the hospital. Favara decided not to press charges. According to witnesses, Favara endured four months of death threats until July 28, 1980, the day he was clubbed over the head and shoved into a van. His body was never found. Gotti and his family were on vacation in Florida at the time of their neighbor's disappearance, and deny any knowledge of his whereabouts.
By the early 1980s, John Gotti's prominence in the Gambino family had earned unwanted attention from mob boss, Castellano. He considered Gotti's $30,000-a-night gambling habit a liability, and he also disapproved of the Bergin captain's unpredictable behavior. Gotti's activities also caught the eye of federal agents who, unbeknownst to the mobster and his crew, installed surveillance equipment in the Bergin club in 1981.
In 1985, the FBI had gathered enough evidence to place Gotti and Dellacroce under federal indictments for racketeering. Other associates were indicted on heroin trafficking charges. The drug charges infuriated Castellano, who punished illegal drug dealing with a penalty of death. As captain, Gotti knew he would be held responsible for the transgressions of his crew. To smooth over the situation with Castellano, Gotti asked Dellacroce to speak to the boss on his behalf.
But before an understanding could be reached, Dellacroce died of cancer. All goodwill between Castellano and Gotti dissolved when the boss didn't attend Dellacroce's funeral. Gotti saw the behavior as disrespectful and, according to later testimony, he decided to take action.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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