The Gambino crime family is one of the focuses of a new docuseries on Netflix called Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia, which uses previously unheard surveillance recordings, news footage, and archival material alongside new interviews in order to shed light “on how the mafia’s control of unions, high-rise construction, and other industries netted billions for organized crime.”
The focus of the docuseries is the infamous Five Families — five crime families that dominated organized crime on the East Coast. Here’s what you need to know about the Gambino crime family.
1. Its Origins Date Back to Italy in the Early 1900s
Back in the early 1900s in Italy, Ignazio Lupo and Giuseppe Morello were the first heads of what would later become known as the Gambino crime family. By the time they ended up in New York, it was known as the Lupo Mano Nera gang, “Mano Nera” meaning “black hand” in Italian.
When Morello and Lupo went to prison in 1910 for counterfeiting, Salvatore D’Aquila took over and started forming connections to other Mafia leaders around the country. As Prohibition approached, D’Aquila found himself at odds with Joseph Masseria. They feuded throughout the 1920s until Masseria had D’Aquila gunned down in 1928.
D’Aquila’s two right-hand men, Alfred Mineo and Steve Ferrigno were later shot during an assassination attempt on Masseria during the Castellammmarese War between the Masseria family and the Maranzano family. Salvatore Maranzano was eventually taken out by Lucky Luciano and Luciano placed Vincent Mangano as the head of the D’Aquila family, now known as the Mangano crime family. Mangano also had a seat on Luciano’s Commission, a group of 24 organized crime families all across the U.S.
2. Mangano and Albert Anastasia Helped Found Murder Inc.
After Mangano took over, he and his underboss, Albert Anastasia, established the City Democratic Club of New York City, which was a cover for Murder Inc., a group of hitmen who took on contract murders for members of the Commission across the country. Anastasia was the head of Murder Inc., something Mangano came to feel uneasy about.
Throughout the 1940s, Mangano and Anastasia were often at odds, with Mangano feeling uncomfortable about Anastasia’s relationship with Luciano, Joseph Bonanno and other top mob leaders outside of the Mangano family. He also felt that Anastasia was getting powerful due to his connections at Murder Inc. Then in 1951, Phillip Mangano, Vincent’s brother, was found dead and Vincent disappeared. He has never been found, but it is generally thought that Anastasia killed them both.
After Mangano disappeared, Anastasia took over as head of the Mangano crime family. Carlo Gambino, who had been one of the higher-ups under Vincent Mangano, took on the role of consigliere.
3. Gambino Eventually Replaced Anastasia
Anastasia was known as a brutal and ruthless mob boss, going so far as to order the murder of Arnold Schuster, a citizen with no ties to the mob who had helped the police capture a bank robber. The other New York mob families were angry about Anastasia’s indiscriminate killing that brought a lot of undue attention to the mob, so Meyer Lansky and Vito Genovese approached Gambino about overthrowing Anastasia.
In 1957, Anastasia was murdered in the barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, according to the New York Times, which said of the murder, “Carlo Gambino, the No. 2 man in the crime family at the time, wanted the top spot for himself, and the riches that came with it, and he orchestrated the event, much the same way John Gotti would do the same thing three decades later, by assigning the dirty work to drug dealers under his thumb.” Gambino took over as head of the family, which he now named after himself.
Shortly after taking over control, Gambino worked with Luciano to frame Genovese in a drug deal. Genovese got 15 years in prison and died there in 1969, according to the New York Times.
4. Gambino Became a Powerful Leader in the 1960s and 1970s
In 1964, the Bonanno family and Profaci crime family conspired to kill Gambino, but the man they gave the job to, Joseph Colombo, instead told Gambino about the plot and the Commission forced Profaci head Joseph Magliocco to resign his position and hand control of the family to Colombo, according to truTV. Bonanno fled New York, which made Gambino the most powerful mob boss in the country at the time, according to the Crime Library.
But Gambino didn’t like Colombo having control of his own crime family, so in 1971, he orchestrated his murder. Colombo survived the shooting but was left paralyzed for the remainder of his life.
Gambino also gained control of the Teamsters Local 282 in the mid-1970s, which meant he now had control of most construction jobs in New York City. Gambino died of natural causes in 1976.
5. Gambino’s Death Led to John Gotti’s Reign
Before his death, Gambino appointed his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as his successor. Castellano turned primarily to white-collar crimes during his reign. In 1984, he was indicted along with 20 other Gambino crime family members on charges of drug trafficking, murder, theft, and prostitution, according to the New York Times.
Castellano appointed John Gotti as acting boss of the family despite the fact that the two men did not get along. Gotti eventually had Castellano killed in 1985. Gotti ran the Gambino family until he died in prison in 2002. His brother Peter took over at the time, despite going to prison himself in 2003. Later, Frank Cali took over as head of the family.
Since then, dozens of Gambino crime family members have gone to prison, primarily for drug trafficking but also for charges that include racketeering, extortion, loansharking, and illegal gambling. Cali was murdered in 2019, though authorities believe Cali’s murder was due to a personal dispute with Anthony Comello, who was dating Cali’s niece at the time, and not due to his mafia ties, according to ABC 7. Cali was succeeded by Lorenzo Mannino.
Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia is out now on Netflix.