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John Gotti Biography: Gambino Mafia Boss

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born October 27th, 1940 in the Bronx, New York, John Gotti began running with the mob very early in his youth. He then started a steady rise to the top of the Gambino crime family by joining their hijacking team. His crimes eventually escalated to murder, and after he had Gambino boss Paul Castellano killed in 1985, he took over as Mafia don. From there, he helped the Gambinos earn an estimated $500 million from crime. His time as the "Teflon Don" ended in April 1992 when he was sent to jail on multiple charges, after his underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano testified against him. In this video, WatchMojo.com learns more about the life of John Gotti.
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Biography of John Gotti


This mob boss was known as the “Teflon Don.” Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be learning more about the life of John Gotti.

Early Life


John Joseph Gotti, Jr. was born October 27th, 1940 in The Bronx, New York to an Italian-American family. By age 12 he was involved in Mafia gangs, where he befriended other important future mobsters like Wilfred “Willie Boy” Johnson and Angelo Ruggiero.

Attempt to Go Straight


Gotti was a school bully and dropped out at 16 to continue working for the Gambino crime family. When he started a family in the early ‘60s, he attempted to go straight but was soon tempted by easy money.

Hijacking


Gotti then became an important part of the Gambino hijacking team, but was arrested in 1968 for a robbery at New York’s JFK Airport.

Bergin Hunt and Fish Club


When Gotti was paroled in 1972, he returned to the Gambinos at their headquarters in the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club. Gotti became gradually more powerful as high-ranking members went to jail; however, he had still not officially been inducted into the Mafia, and was not yet a made man.

1974 Arrest


The crimes soon escalated: in 1973, Gotti was part of a team sent to avenge the death of a Gambino family member by an Irish mafia hitman. During the botched hit, they ended up shooting their victim dead in a bar full of witnesses. It was then no surprise when Gotti was arrested in 1974. He struck a plea deal and was sentenced to four years for attempted manslaughter.

Captain of the Bergin Gang


By the time Gotti got out in 1977, much had changed: the head of the Gambinos had died and left Paul Castellano at the reigns, with Aniello Dellacroce as underboss. Castellano then appointed the newly-initiated Gotti as captain of the Bergin gang. Dellacroce acted as his mentor, and the Bergin crew flourished.

Death of Gotti’s Son


However, misfortune hit the Gotti family in 1980 when his youngest son was accidentally struck and killed by a neighbor’s car. That neighbor soon went missing and was declared legally dead in 1983.

Racketeering Charges


Another of Gotti’s sons, John Gotti Jr., became involved with the mob in the early ‘80s. As his father’s presence spread, the FBI became increasingly interested and soon put Gotti and the Bergin club under surveillance. This led to his indictment on racketeering charges in 1985, and revealed that his longtime friend, “Willie Boy” Johnson, was working as an informant.

Drug Deals


Meanwhile, other Bergin associates were charged with selling heroin, and to Gambino boss Castellano, this was unacceptable: he disciplined drug dealers with death. Gotti worried his boss would blame the misbehaviors of his underlings on him, and sought help from Dellacroce to resolve the situation.

Assassination of Paul Castellano

Unfortunately, Dellocroce died of cancer soon after. Castellano refused to attend the funeral, which Gotti saw as an act of disrespect. Two weeks later, Castellano and his underboss were executed at a Manhattan restaurant. Gotti then became head of the most powerful crime family in America.

Cleared of Racketeering Charges


By 1986, a rigged jury cleared Gotti of the racketeering charges. This infuriated law enforcers, who battled to put the “Teflon Don” behind bars.

Final Arrest


However, his days of being untouchable were numbered: on December 11th, 1990, Gotti was arrested, and charged with crimes that included Castellano’s murder, as well as four others, loan sharking and tax evasion.

Downfall


Gotti’s downfall ultimately came at the hands of his latest underboss, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano: in a series of FBI tapes, Gotti trash-talked his subordinate and tried to frame him for his crimes. This motivated Gravano to help the prosecution prove the existence of the Gambino crime family, as well as Gotti’s place within it.

Death


On April 2nd, 1992, Gotti was found guilty on all charges, and was eventually sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He died there June 10th, 2002 from complications due to throat cancer.

Legacy


Though he exhibited unpredictable behavior and a flamboyant persona, Gotti helped the Gambino crime family earn an estimated $500 million from illegal activities. This made John Gotti one of the most notorious and intimidating mob bosses in the history of the Mafia.
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