Carlo Gambino is, without a doubt, one of the most recognized and at the time feared named of the Mafioso era, and in organized crime history. Born in August 24th 1902 in Palermo, Sicily, Gambino had two brothers, Gespare and Paolo Gambino. Although Gaspare never had much to do with his Carlos later involvement in the mafia underworld, his other brother Paolo had a big hand in one of the most secretive people of his era. He was also the brother-in-law of Paul Castellano, the famous Sicilian Gambino mobster.
Gambino was always destined to be in the crime world, it is said, due to his introduction to the world. His family was already part of the Honored Society, which was a more complex equivalent of the Black Hand. The Black Hand was a poorly organized equivalent of the real European mafia, and once the “real” Mafioso were driven out of Italy by Benito Mussolini, people like Gambino and his family prospered.
By the age of 19, he had already carried out murders for Mob bosses, and was a “Made Man” when he was inducted into the Cosa Nostra. He left Europe to join his cousins, the Castellanos, in New York. He soon joined up with a crime family run by Salvador D’Aquila, who were one of the biggest crime syndicates in the city. Gambino’s uncle, Guiseppe Castellano, also joined at roughly this time.
Gambino was also involved with the “Young Turks” who were a group of American-Italian Jewish mobsters. They were famous for robbery amongst other things, and during the Prohibition were big players in the bootlegging industry. During the Second World War, Gambino made a large profit by bribing the Office of Price Admissions officials for ration stamps. These stamps were then sold on the black market.
One of the Young Turks, Charles Luciano, was working with Giuseppe Masseria and had made a significant name for himself by 1926 and the implications this caused put Gambino straight into the firing line. D’Aquila, Gambino’s boss at the time, was executed by Giuseppe Masseria.
Masseria then demanded complete loyalty and obedience from all other mobsters in the area, and notably received all he asked for, such was his power at the time. Gambino and his crew, now headed by Alfred Mineo, also agreed to pay homage. In 1931, a spate of killings in New York involving the Castellammarese can caused Maranzano and his family to declare war against the Masseria family. The Masseria and the Maranzano factions continued to war for over four years, being dubbed “The Castellammarese War”
The long feud between both families ravished the town and left many operations during the Prohibition era heavily damaged and completely destroyed some of the underworld rackets put together by crime families. The Young Turks realized that if the war continued, the Italian syndicates would be cut out from the largest action by the growing Irish and Jewish syndicates. This was when Gambino and other members of the family decided to create a national syndicate, so they could make money on the lucrative deals available with non-Italians.
In April 1931, Giuseppe Masseria was gunned down at the Nuova Villa restaurant by Luciano and several accomplices, included Albert Anastasia. Maranzano was then killed in September 1931, after
naming Gambino as a capo of the new organization put together. Anastasia was named as his underboss.
The Commission, Marriage & The Gambino Crime Family
Luciano, wary of another big war, started “The Commission” in an attempt to stop the same thing happening again in the future. One of the big names who joined the charter was Vincent Mangano, who Gambino who help make a substantial amount of money in the future.
Gambino, although heavily involved in many of the most shocking and large crime events that happened during his era, was extremely key by nature. Living in a modest home in Brooklyn, he never showed his wealth or power to the public in a flash manner. Gambino married his cousin Catherine Castellano, making Paul his brother-in-law. Catherine and Gambino married in 1932, when Gambino was 30, they raised three sons, and a daughter.
In 1951, Phil Mangano, who had helped Gambino out a lot, was killed by who was presumed to be Anastasia, after many years of never agreeing. Anastasia was then named as the boss of the family, and this meant that Gambino was promoted to underboss.
Gambino was now making serious profits in extortion, hijacking and many other activities, including murder. Gambino’s cousin and brother in law became capo of his old crew at the same time.
The Death of Anastasia
Although the newly named Anastasia family was wealthier than ever, there were concerns of Anastasias temperament and ability to control himself. Anastasia made a key mistake when in 1952 he murdered a young Brooklyn tailor’s assistant called Arnold Schuster. To kill somebody outside of the mob world was considered below a crime member and was a cardinal sin, and it alerted many of the names like Genovese and Frank Costello to the impending trouble, putting many more mobsters at odds with Anastasia.
The attention that the murder received brought massive disharmony to the Mafia world, infuriating at the time extremely influential mob boss Vito Genovese. Genovese was at the time close to taking over the Luciano family, and although war was avoided, Genovese convinced Gambino to side with him over Anastasia.
When Genovese forced Costello into an early retirement via the Commission, he was able to take over the family, giving him even more power against Anastasia. At this time, Gambino was worried that Anastasia was going to have him killed through jealousy. This led Gambino to agree to have a hit put out on Anastasia, and he was killed in October 1957 by three shooters – Stephen Armone, Arnold Wittenberg and Steven Grammauta. This meant that the former Mangano crime family was now Gambino’s, which he renamed the Gambino Crime Family. The family still uses the name to this day, even after his death.
The Alpachin Conference & Influential Dealings
Genovese, now under the impression that Gambino was in his pocket, felt like it was his right to become mob boss. However, Gambino allied himself with Luciano, Costello and Lansky. Together, after the Alpachin Conference when several high profile mobsters were arrested, they set up Genovese to believe he was about to be crowned Boss of Bosses. Instead, it led to his arrest for a heroine shipment. This went through in 1957 and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was replaced by Thomas Eboli. Genovese died in 1969 due to a high heart attack.
By the early 60s, Gambino had already set himself up strongly. With Armand Rava as his capo, Joseph Biondo as his underboss, and Joseph Riccobono as his consigliore, he quickly cut off all avenues of revenge and extended his influence across the country quickly.
Gambino had rackets set up in Chicago, LA, Boston, Miami and Las Vegas, alongside New York. He also took over the New York Longshoreman Union, which took in more of 90% of the cities ports. This led Gambino to control an extremely powerful empire which also kept its nose clean – there was a strong message not to sell heroin or cocaine, as they brought too much attention.
In 1962, Gambino was running a five-hundred-million a year operation with over 500 soldiers and 30 separate crews. His eldest son, Thomas, married the daughter of Gaertano Lucchese, the head of the Gagliano crime family. This led to a long-lasting business and personal friendship for Gambino.
His contacts with Luchhese meant that Gambino moved into the lucrative airport rackets that were making fortunes. By this time, Gambino was one of the most prominent names not just in the mob world, but also on The Commission. Although the “Boss of Bosses” title was gone for some time now, Gambino effectively held the same power.
The Banana Split
In 1962, the Gallo brothers started to cause problems for Gambino as they kidnapped high ranked members of the Profaci family, Joseph Magliocco and Joe Colombo. In exchange for their release, the Profaci were forced to meet several demands. Although this turned to be a time buying exercise until the Profaci family could take revenge, and many of the Gallo family were taken out, Gambino and Lucchese had been putting pressure on the other crime bosses to convince Profaci to step down.
Profaci eventually lost his battle with cancer, and this led to Gambino and Lucchese backing the Gallo crew, due to Magliocco being installed in charge to the head of the Profaci family. Magliocco, incensed at the support Gambino gave to the Gallo crew, teamed up with Joe Bonanno. The two came up with a plan to assassinate the other mob bosses and assume control for themselves.
Magliocco soon found out the full power of the Gambino crime family, as his failed attempt to take out Gambino and the other family bosses failed. Being called against The Commission, Bonnano went into hiding and Magliocco died of high blood pressure not long after being faced with a fine and early retirement.
Bonanno, turned away by many different mob bosses for his thirst for power, was eventually replaced at the head of his family by Gaspar DiGregorio. Bonanno however, split the faction in two, creating a side led by himself and his son Salvatore. Bonano had been criticized for spending time all across the States and spent a lot of time in Canada.
The Commission, headed by Gambino, decided that enough was enough and Gambino gave the order to have Bonanno killed. However, he took mercy and allowed him to retire early, relinquishing his power and men.
This led to the beginning of the “Banana War” where DiGregorio led his faction to a “peace meeting” with Salvatore, which turned out to be an ambush. Salvatore somehow survived, despite being under fire from over 500 bullets. The war continued for two more years, as the return of Joe Bonanno swung the war in the favor of Salvatore. However, a turn of luck would see Bonanno suffer a heart attack, meaning that he and his son immediately retired to Tucson and left the mob world for good. This left Gambino as the supreme mob power in the United States.
Although aging now, Gambino showed his cunning in a show of true brutal force. Members of the Cosa Nostra, the organization that Gambino had been a part of since he was 19, made sure that they show utmost respect to their superiors. However, a member of the organization known as Mimi Scialo was known to be a volatile drunk and he called out Gambino in front of many others, trying to insult him in public. Scialo was eventually found in Otto’s Social Club, South Brooklyn. He was encased in the cement floor.
As confidants and friends Luciano and Lucchese died in 1962 and 1967 respectively, Gambino was one of the only remaining members of his line in the mob world. Gambino gave a speech in memory of Luciano in front of 2,000 people, in 1972.
Thomas Eboli, who had replaced Genovese in 1959, borrowed four million dollars from Gambino to re-organize his crime family and rebuild. Gambino was by this time the richest Don in the city. Unfortunately for Eboli, he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years, supposedly arranged by Gambino as he wanted associate Frank Tieri to be in charge. Eboli died in July 1972, and to this day nobody has ever been arrested for his murder. Tieri then succeeded him, as suggested by Gambino.
However, by 1972 Gambino was under constant surveillance by the police. He was on 24-hour watch by the FBI, as they looked to find connections between organized crime and the Gambino family. However, Gambino worked around the surveillance by coordinating everything. One famous recording showed Gambino merely nodding his head at the term “Frogs legs”
Gambino, as he grew older, realized that he needed additional aid employed two underbosses to help him manage the family, after being unimpressed by Aniello Dellacroce and John Gotti. Instead, both reported to Paul Castellano, Gambino’s brother in law. This created mass problems for any authorities trying to get into the operation, as they could never pinpoint who the actual boss of the family was.
Gambino still ruled his family into his final years with as much vigor and strength as always, while still managing to keep a low profile from the police and the public. He appointed Paul Castellano as his successor, and he died of a heart attack on October 15, 1976. He was watching the New York Yankees, and was buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Queens, alongside more than ten lifetime friends. With over 2,000 attendants, Gambino left his entire empire behind, with more than 20 years of work in the crime world. He left behind one of the most outstanding legacies ever to be seen in his era, and is widely considered to be the most famous mobster of any time.