John "Dapper Don" Gotti

John "Dapper Don" Gotti escorted through crowd

 Getty Images / Bettmann

The following is a profile of John Gotti, the former godfather of the powerful Gambino family.

Born: October 27, 1940, in Bronx, New York

Childhood Years

  • At the age of 12, his family moved to a rough part of Brooklyn, New York.
  • Gotti dropped out of school in the eighth grade and began his full-time involvement in street gangs and petty crimes.

1960 to 1969

  • In his mid-twenties, he became associated with the Gambino Family and became close to Underboss Aniello Dellacroce. Gotti's specialty at that time was hijacking freight trucks at Kennedy Airport.
  • On March 6, 1962, Gotti married Victoria DiGiorgio, by whom he had five children: Angela (born 1961), Victoria, John, Frank, and Peter.
  • In 1969, he was sentenced to three years in prison for hijacking.

1970 to 1979

  • In 1973, he participated in the killing of James McBratney. McBratney was one of three kidnappers and murderers of Manny Gambino, nephew to Carlo Gambino.
  • John Gotti was convicted of the murder and sentenced to seven years in prison, two of which he served before being released.
  • Once out of prison, Gotti moved quickly up the ranks, for his part in the McBratney murder. During that same time, dying Carlo Gambino appointed Paul Castellano as his successor.
  • Now a capo, Gotti's loyalty laid with his mentor, Neil Dellacroce, and it was well known the Gotti felt Gambino should have appointed Dellacroce as his successor and not Castellano.
  • Around 1978, Gotti was named a capo and continued to work in top ranks under Dellacroce.

1980 to 1989

  • Personal disaster struck the Gotti home. John Favara, a friend and neighbor, ran over and killed Gotti's 12-year old son, Frank. The incident was deemed an accident. Four months later, Favara vanished, never to be seen again.
  • In February 1985, Castellano and five Family bosses were indicted in the Commission Case. Castellano was also was faced with the news that his mansion was wiretapped and conversations were overheard which resulted in some of Gotti's crew getting indicted for narcotics trafficking.
  • During that same time, Castellano gave Thomas Bilotti the capo position, which put him and Gotti on the same level. It was said that once Dellacroce died, Bilotti would be named Underboss, putting him in the position of Godfather in the event Castellano went to prison.
  • Faced with the prospect of life in prison, many worried Castellano might turncoat.
  • In December 1985, Dellacroce died of cancer. Two weeks later Castellano and Bilotti were shot to death in Manhattan.

Gotti Becomes Godfather of the Gambino Family

  • With Castellano, Bilotti and Dellacroce all gone, Gotti took control of the largest Mafia family in the nation, setting up his headquarters at the Ravenite Social Club.
  • In 1986, Gotti was charged with racketeering but managed to elude prosecution.
  • Over the next few years, Gotti became a media hound. He paraded in his expensive suits and coats for the media, who always seemed to be there ready to take his picture.
  • The press nicknamed him Dapper Don because of his charismatic charm and good looks, and Teflon Don because charges against him never seemed to stick.
  • Gotti demanded that the Family capos and soldiers come to the Ravenite to show their respect to him. This compromised many of them by exposing them to television coverage, a fact that late came back to haunt some of them.

Gotti's Downfall Begins

  • After bugging the Ravenite Social Club, the FBI eventually managed to get a RICO (Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organization Act of 1970) case against him because of over 100 hours of tape that implicated him and others in racketeering schemes.
  • Underboss, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, after hearing Gotti saying derogatory things about him, turned coat and partnered with the government to testify against Gotti.
  • Gravano confessed to 19 murders but received complete immunity for his testimony against John Gotti. His nickname Sammy "the Bull" then changed to Sammy "the Rat." Gravano was given only a five-year sentence and then entered the Witness Protection Program.
  • Gotti and several associates were arrested in 1990. Gotti was convicted by a jury in the United States District Court in New York on April 2, 1992, for 14 counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, loan sharking, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, and tax evasion. John Gotti Jr. was acting boss for Gotti while he was in prison.

Gotti's Prison Years

  • His time in prison was not easy. He was sent to an older federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was kept in a solitary-confinement cell 23 hours a day for nine years.
  • June 10, 2002, after battling cancer for several years, John Gotti died at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.
  • A large funeral was held in New York City, where many members of the Gambino Crime Family came to pay their final respects to their fallen leader.

The Aftermath

It is said that John Gotti, Jr. is now the head of the Gambino Crime Family.

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Montaldo, Charles. "John "Dapper Don" Gotti." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, February 16). John "Dapper Don" Gotti. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "John "Dapper Don" Gotti." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).