Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Gotti, the Last Mafia Icon

Mob Politics

John Gotti was building the inner circle of his Bergin crew into a powerful outfit. Those closest to Gotti were Angelo Ruggiero, who was looked upon as the number two man; brother Gene, who at times could be just as brutal as his older brother; John Carneglia, who ran the auto-salvage business; Anthony "Tony Roach" Rampino, whose physical features led to his nickname; and Willie Boy Johnson. Rampino and Johnson served as Gotti's chief loan collectors. Gotti also employed his other brothers, Peter and Richard. Peter took care of the Bergin club, while Richard was assigned the Our Friends Social Club, located around the corner from the Bergin. Gotti insisted that all his men put in regular appearances at the Bergin and got irritated if anyone failed to check in within 48 hours.

During this period, from the late 1970s into the early 1980s, the FBI was building a crew of their own - a crew of informants. In addition to the aforementioned Willie Boy Johnson and William Battista, the bureau had also turned Salvatore "Crazy Sal" Polisi, Matthew Traynor and Anthony Cardinale, a heavy drug user whom Angelo Ruggiero had met in Attica. Despite carrying on crimes, this quartet of murderers were constantly feeding new information about Gotti's activities to their FBI handlers. Gotti, on the other hand, was not blind to the efforts of law enforcement and knew that several of the telephones the gang used were tapped. Cautious with the information he shared with crewmembers over the bugged lines, he never hesitated when it came to placing his bets. In addition to the telephone taps and informants, listening devices ("bugs") had been installed in the Bergin club, which were picking up a variety of conversations from the hoodlums that congregated there.

Paul Castellano
Paul Castellano (AP)

After the death of his son, John Gotti's gambling habits became more reckless. This was an observation that William Battista passed along to the FBI. The government informant was not alone in his opinion.  Paul Castellano, the boss of the family, voiced his own concerns to Dellacroce. Although Dellacroce passed it off as Gotti's way of dealing with grief, Castellano was still unhappy. Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain discuss Castellano's position in Gotti: Rise and Fall:

"Still, Gotti's gambling made Paul question his fitness for leadership. With typical Sicilian bias for people of Neapolitan origin, Paul already had a low opinion of Gotti's fitness. Like his ancestors, he thought Neapolitans were brash, garish, unreliable, too emotional."

Both Gotti and Dellacroce questioned Castellano's leadership skills. Castellano, who was never considered a "street" person, didn't understand Gotti or the men who made up his crew – and never took the time to try. Castellano retreated to his palatial home on Todt Hill on Staten Island, where he preferred to deal with a few chosen family members. During the early half of the 1980s, the relationship between Castellano and the Dellacroce/Gotti crew would continue to deteriorate steadily.


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