Paul Castellano Biography

Organized Crime (1915–1985)
Paul Castellano is best known for becoming the boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City.


Paul Castellano was born on June 26, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York. "Big Paul" left school in the eighth grade to work at his father's butcher shop and run numbers. Castellano earned a reputation for never talking about his associations, even at the cost of serving time. On December 16, 1985, he was gunned down outside a New York City restaurant in a move by John Gotti's men to usurp power.


Gangster and racketeer Constantino Paul Castellano was born on June 26, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York. The youngest son of Sicilian immigrants, "Big Paul" dropped out of school in eighth grade to cut meat in his father's butcher shop and help him run numbers for mob-controlled bookies.

Castellano's early exposure to the underworld led to more frequent and more serious crimes. He spent three months in federal prison in 1934 after being arrested for armed robbery, never revealing the names of two friends who were also involved. His unwillingness to work with the police earned him street credibility among thugs in the neighborhood.

Life of Crime

In 1937, Castellano married the sister-in-law of mafia king Carlo Gambino, Nina Manno. For the next several years Castellano was involved in gambling and bootlegging, but otherwise kept a relatively low profile. Nearly two decades later, he was called before a grand jury to testify about his connections to organized crime. He refused to say a word and was sentenced to five years in prison for contempt of court. He only served seven months before being released, earning a reputation for bulletproof loyalty.

(Mugshot of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano.)

(Mugshot of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano.)

Thanks to his mob connections, Castellano's next business—a wholesale enterprise called Blue Ribbon Meats—made him a wealthy man. On the side, he and Gambino also developed the so-called "White Rackets," such as construction bid rigging, union infiltration and political corruption. After the death of Gambino, Castellano was made boss of the Gambino Crime Family. Castellano led with a quiet hand, keeping a low profile and running operations from his Staten Island mansion.

In 1983, while Castellano and his maid and lover, Gloria Olarte, were out of town, and his home left virtually unguarded, the government broke the code to his security alarm, drugged his guard dogs and placed a wire tap in his kitchen. The bug recorded 600 hours of evidence detailing Gambino crime family business. Castellano was arrested on March 30, 1984. Charged with sanctioning the murder of 24 people, he was released on a $2 million bond. A year later, he was arrested along with several other crime family bosses in what became known as the Commission Case, an investigation into mob control over the New York City construction business.


In 1985, Neil Dellacroce died. He was a beloved leader in the Gambino family who had been protecting Castellano from growing mutiny among his men. When Castellano failed to attend Dellacroce's wake, it was the last straw. Rival John Gotti took advantage of Castellano's weakening hold on the family, convincing the majority to change allegiance. On December 16, 1985 Paul Castellano was gunned down outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan.

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