Since the early 1900s, the public has had a strange fascination with mobsters and organized crime, especially in the presence of New York City. One of the most famous mafia families to date is the Gambino family, which was founded around 1910 by Salvatore D’Aquila and still exists today.
The Gambinos have long been known as one of the "Five Families" that dominate organized crime activities in NYC. But they've also been one of the most prominent crime families across the country, with operations extending from the Eastern Seaboard to California. Their list of illicit activities is seemingly endless and includes extortion, gambling, loansharking, money laundering, labor racketeering, fencing, hijacking, prostitution, and fraud.
That said, despite the family's presence and power for more than a century, federal prosecutions have pretty much demolished the Gambinos, as well as the other families, over the last 27 years. But that doesn't mean the public's fascination with them has gone away.
The Gambino family's story lives on in a new ABC documentary Truth and Lies: The Last Gangster. It features Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, a former member of the family and one of the most notorious hitmen in the world. According to the network, "Gravano reveals secret rites and practices of the mafia and speaks candidly about the use of murder as an instrument of power and control."
Curious to know where some of the most powerful players of the Gambino crime family are today? Keep reading to find out.
From 1957 to 1976, Carlo Gambino ran the Gambino family and is known as one of the most successful crime bosses of all time. He strengthened the family and increased the organization's profit levels all while staying out of the public eye, thus never spending any time in jail for any criminal activity. He passed away on Oct. 15, 1976, after suffering a heart attack.
After the death of Carlo, Paul Castellano took over the family business. Even though he was Carlo's brother-in-law, many people within the organization didn't like the way he was running the family, especially John Gotti (we'll get to him next). Nine years after stepping into power, he was assassinated on Dec. 16, 1985, after a hit was ordered by John.
Best known as the "Teflon Don," John Gotti notoriously became the head of the Gambino family in 1985 after the murder of Paul. John was given the nickname because he seemed to avoid serving time for any of his crimes; at three different trials, he was found not guilty.
He made Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano his second-in-command. Unfortunately for John, his right-hand man would later turn on him, becoming an FBI informant and eventually putting him behind bars in 1992. (You can read more about Sammy here.) Even though John was locked up, he insisted on maintaining his role as head of the Gambino family, with his son and brother relaying orders on his behalf.
John was serving a life sentence up until his death from cancer on June 10, 2002. He left behind his wife, Victoria DiGiorgio, and five children.
John Gotti Jr.
After his father was sent to prison, John Gotti Jr. stepped into a bigger role of power within the Gambino crime family, though he says he was never the boss. Just like his dad, the law eventually caught up with him, and in 1999, he pled guilty to four acts of racketeering including extortion, bribery, and the threat of violence. He ended up serving six years and five months in prison.
Once he was released, John Jr. left a life of crime behind to become a writer and entrepreneur. He has since shared that he feels guilty that he's a free man. In an essay for Men's Journal, he wrote, "I’m home with my family and friends, and I run numerous businesses, while some of my former peers are serving life sentences, many for crimes they did not commit, often because rats lied about them."
John has been married to his wife, Kimberly Albanese, since 1990 and the pair have six kids. They currently live in Oyster Bay Cove on Long Island.
Federal prosecutors have said that, after John Jr. was sent to prison, his uncle Peter Gotti informally stepped into the role of boss, and later officially took over shortly before John Sr.'s death in 2002. In 2003, he was sentenced to nine years and four months of prison time for extortion, money laundering, and racketeering. The following year, he was sentenced to another 25 years in a separate trial related to extortion and conspiring to murder Sammy Gravano.
Domenico Cefalù, Frank Cali, and Lorenzo Mannino
Marking the end of the Gotti family era of the Gambino crime family, Domenico Cefalù is said to have taken over in 2011, just a year and a half after being released from prison for racketeering and extortion. Along with his underboss, Frank Cali, Domenico kept the family incredibly active in a variety of criminal enterprises around New York City.
It was reported in 2015 that Domenico had stepped down and Frank Cali had taken his place. Frank led the Gambino crime family until he was killed outside his home on Staten Island in 2019. It's believed that longtime member Lorenzo Mannino stepped into the shoes of boss following Frank's death and holds the position today, though this hasn't been confirmed.
Learn more about the Gambino crime family in Truth and Lies: The Last Gangster, airing on Jan. 27 on ABC.