The fourth episode of How to Become a Mob Boss highlights the life of John Gotti, the boss of the New York Gambino family. Gotti’s endless wrong decisions and the array of arrests and betrayals led to his downfall. While all the other episodes focus on the right ways to become a mob boss, his example brings out the things that are not to be done if one wants to earn that position. There wasn’t another soul that would lead a life like Gotti’s and survive in the mafia industry as long as he did. Despite being one of the most recognized and famous mob bosses of his time, his impulsive decisions cost him his mafia career. How long will Gotti survive in the mafia industry? What were the wrong decisions that he had taken? All the answers to these questions will be answered in this episode!
How Did Gotti Rise To Power?
John Gotti got involved in the mob business at a very early age and then slowly started climbing the ladder. As per Ed McDonald, the Attorney of the Federal Organized Crime Strike Force, the leaders of the Gambino family were impressed by Gotti. He was ferocious and had a charismatic aura with good leadership qualities. He had chosen a strong mentor for himself, Aniello Dellacroce, the man who was popularly known as Gambino family’s underboss. He taught him to be tough and to have an iron fist. He was, however, very open about his misdeeds, making him an open target for the government. In 1973, when the boss Cari Gambino’s nephew was kidnapped, the main suspect was Jimmy McBratney, an Irish-American gangster. Gotti was ordered to kill Jimmy, but he failed to do it discreetly, and he lands in prison for the next 4 years. He was considered to be a seasoned mafia member after returning from prison.
The Cosa Nostra is a code of conduct for the mafias so that all the rules are followed by them. At the top of a pyramid is the boss; then comes the underboss, and then the consigliere and the others. For a street fighter like Gotti, it was not an easy job to get into upper management. As per John Alite, Gotti wanted things to go his way, and nobody else’s opinions mattered. In 1985, Paul Castellano, the boss of the Gambino family, was running a white-collar crime business, and he was involved in less violent crimes. He was strictly against the dealing of drugs and said that anyone from the gang dealing with drugs would be wiped out of the system. Gotti’s brother, Gene, and friend Angelo Ruggiero got involved in a heroin case, and Gotti thought that he had to wipe out Castellano or he would kill his brother and then target him. On December 16, 1985, Gotti and Sammy Gravano, along with their assassins, hunted down Castellano and the underboss, sending a clear message to the public. Gotti is made the new boss of the Gambino family.
What Mistakes Did Gotti Make?
A former special agent, Lou Digrigorio, is of the opinion that what Gotti did was against the rules of the Mafia Commission. He had openly declared himself the new king and was showing no remorse. The former boss of the Colombo family, Michael Franzese, says that murder brings heat, but Gotti decided to ignore the chaos surrounding the murder. The mobs who are smart do not enjoy media attention, but Gotti chose the other path. Some mafias who chose to remain silent include the Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Junior, also known as “The Silent Don,” as he led a very low-key lifestyle despite being a big shot in the US and Cuba. The Sicilian mob boss, Bernardo Provenzano, stayed off the radar for 40 years as he avoided all electronic communications and had to stick to small paper pieces to communicate. Vincent, the Genovese crime boss, faked having dementia for 30 years. Gotti was not similar to them in this aspect, as he did not lay low. He tried showing who the real boss was and captured media attention through his changed demeanor and wardrobe!
In March 1986, he was sent for the first of three public trials. He had gone into a bar and got into a fight with a refrigerator repairman, Romual Piecyk, who had immediately gone to the police. He was threatened so that he wouldn’t testify. Gotti eventually manages to escape, earning him more fame. Too much pride has led to the fall of many, and it is proven when Joni Johnson, a forensic psychologist, says that hubris is when they have a false belief that nobody can touch them. He had become a celebrity figure and was almost always on the front page of tabloids during the 1980s. Gotti also made a major mistake when he moved his headquarters from the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Queens to Ravenite, which was in the middle of the city. It had become easier for the FBI to take pictures and collect more evidence against him. The other mafia bosses were concerned about Gotti’s flamboyant lifestyle and that he would give out all their secrets. The Commission had ordered Sicilian mobsters to kill Gotti, but they failed in their attempts.
What Happened After Gotti Got Arrested?
In May 1986, Gotti was arrested and was not operating as efficiently as other mobsters from behind bars. Usually, all the mobsters run their businesses from behind bars in secrecy to keep the business money flowing. Pablo Escobar used carrier pigeons instead of telephones. Joaquin Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel leader, ensured a majority of the prison system was under his payroll so that he had control. He smuggled cash, prostitutes, and movies into the prison through his associates. Gotti, who had been arrested as a part of the second trial for the Piecyk case, was also on federal RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) charges. It was quite hard to defeat this law.
Gotti was, however, reliant on a small group of lieutenants in prison to run his business, and his most trusted messenger was Angelo Ruggiero. He had brought the news that another capo, Robert DiBernardo, the porn king of the underworld, was talking badly about the boss. Gotti wants him killed and gets the job done by Sammy. It is later revealed that the murder was unnecessary, as Angelo had made the story up. He lied because he had borrowed $250,000 from Robert and got him killed to wipe his debt off. Mistrust was created among Gotti’s peers as they started getting worried about their own lives.
What Happened When He Failed To Shut His Mouth?
The “Code of Omerta,” or the code of silence, had been broken by Gotti. Dana Renga, a professor of Italian film and culture, said that if a mafioso opened his mouth, it meant betrayal for the entire family. In the RICO case, Gotti got overconfident and thought that he would be freed soon. His instincts proved to be right, and he was released. He became a greater public figure and started inviting celebrities to his trials. The public was on his side, stating that he was innocent and was just working for a plumbing company. It was in 1989 that he thought he was invincible and started talking openly with members of the Gambino family about their crimes.
An apartment where Gotti held all his meetings was bugged by the FBI, and they gathered evidence against him, Sammy, and Frank LoCascio. On December 11th, 1990, the FBI openly confronted Gotti at the Ravenite. While they were expecting a fight, they got a cordial welcome. The Teflon Don, Gotti was not worried initially, but after he learned that his apartment was rigged, he understood that he had lost it all. Gotti was concerned that Sammy Gravanno was taking up too much power in his absence, so he decided to kill him. When Sammy learned of it, he switched sides and helped the government by testifying against Gotti’s crimes. His loose lips caused him to fall into the trap, resulting in his reign lasting only six years and, lastly, dying a lonely death in prison.
John Gotti became a real-life example to the other mobsters as to how the boss should not be making hasty decisions. Despite his miserable decisions and overconfidence, like Icarus, he was famous among people because he was a representation of the people’s inner frustrations with the government. He was very open and upfront in his fight against the government. The irrational mindset of Gotti sets him apart from the other mobsters that we have seen in the previous episodes. However, the story of the mobster has been knitted quite well in the 30-minute episode of ‘How ‘to Become a Mob Boss’. I cannot deny having enjoyed the episode throughout!