Born in New York City in 1928, Vincent Gigante—also known by such nicknames as "the Chin" and "the Oddfather"—was an Italian-American mobster who became head of the Genovese crime family in the early 1980s (though he wasn't officially named boss until the early '90s). He was known to wander the streets of Greenwich Village in a bathrobe, an elaborate act to make him seem insane. In 2003, this bizarre gangster admitted to have faked his mental problems for decades to protect him while on trial. He died in 2005 at a medical center for federal prisoners.
Infamous mob boss Vincent Louis Gigante—also known by the nicknames "the Chin," "the Oddfather" and "The Enigma in the Bathrobe"—was born on March 29, 1928, in New York City. Known for wandering the streets in a bathrobe mumbling to himself, Vincent Gigante was one of the strangest gangsters of our time. The suspected boss of the Genovese crime family, his supporters say the former boxer took one too many shots to the head, and was thus simply incapable of running a massive crime syndicate.
After a boxing career that lasted 24 fights, joining the Army and subsequently being discharged for "anti-social behavior," Gigante took up a life of crime. Gigante's rise through the world of organized crime was bizarre. He was chosen by Capo Tommy Eboli to murder Genovese family boss Frank Costello, but botched the hit. Most would have thought that this mistake would have ended Gigante's life, but inexplicably he had risen to the rank of consigliere by the mid-1970s.
It is presumed that the Genovese family appointed Gigante as boss in the early 1980s, after Genovese family boss Tony Salerno suffered a stroke in 1981 and took a six-month hiatus to recover. Salerno was still presented as the family boss, but it was known within the organized crime world that Gignate ran the family.
After Salerno was sent to prison in 1992, Gigante was revealed as the head of the family. With no one to hide behind, Gigante resorted to a tactic that he'd used to beat earlier attempts at criminal convictions: faking insanity. Between 1969 and 1990, Gigante checked himself into a psychiatric hospital 22 times. The sight of Gigante walking through the streets of Greenwich Village dressed in a bathrobe and mumbling to himself became common.
This act worked until 1997, when Salvatore Gravano testified that Gigante was sane and was the head of the Genovese family. He was convicted of numerous counts related to racketeering and murder conspiracy and received a 12-year prison sentence.
After his 1997 conviction, Gigante faced new charges in 2003. He admitted that he had been faking his mental problems for roughly three decades to avoid having to stand trial. Pleading guilty to an obstruction of justice charge, Gigante received an additional three years on his original sentence.
One of the most unusual characters in criminal history, Gigante died on December 19, 2005, at the age of 77, at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.
Unlike the elaborate funerals of other crime bosses, such as John Gotti in 2002, Gigante's passing was honored quietly. His brother, Reverend Louis Gigante, a retired Roman Catholic priest, held a funeral mass for him. The service took place in a church in the same New York City neighborhood that Vincent Gigante spent so many years wandering as a mental patient.
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