Constantino Paul "Big Paul" Castellano (June 26, 1915 – December 16, 1985), also known as "The Howard Hughes of the Mob"(Because of his reclusive life in his Mansion in Todt Hill) and "Big Paulie" (or "PC" to his family), was an American Mafia boss in New York City. He succeeded Carlo Gambino as head of the Gambino crime family, at the time, the nation's largest Mafia family. In 1985, he was one of many Mafia bosses arrested on charges of racketeering, which was to result in the Mafia Commission Trial; in December of that year, while out on bail, Castellano and his bodyguard were shot to death outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan on the orders of John Gotti.
Castellano was born in Brooklyn in 1915, to Giuseppe Castellano and Concetta (née Casatu). Giuseppe was a butcher and an early member of the Mangano crime family, the forerunner of the Gambino family.
Castellano's sister Kathryn was married to Carlo Gambino, his cousin and a future boss of the Gambino crime family. Castellano was a cousin to Major General Vito Castellano a commander of the New York National Guard and chief of staff for Governor Mario Cuomo. Castellano was married to Nina Castellano; the couple had three sons (Paul, Philip, and Joseph Castellano) and one daughter, Constance Castellano.
Castellano often signed his name as "C. Paul Castellano" because he hated his first name, Constantino. Eventually he became known as Paul. Standing 6'2" (189 cm) and weighing 270 pounds, Castellano intimidated other mobsters with his size.
His nephew was actor Richard Castellano, who played Pete Clemenza in the Godfather (according to: http://www.famously-dead.com/criminals/paul-castellano.html).
Early life Edit
Paul Castellano dropped out of school in the eighth grade to learn butchering and collecting numbers game receipts, both from his father.
In July 1934, Castellano was arrested for the first time in Hartford, Connecticut for robbing a haberdasher and stealing a car. The 19-year-old Castellano refused to identify his two accomplices to the police and served a three-month prison sentence. By refusing to cooperate with authorities, Castellano enhanced his reputation for mob loyalty.
In 1937, Castellano married the sister-in-law of mafia don Carlo Gambino, Nina Manno. For the next several years Castellano was involved in gambling and bootlegging, but otherwise kept a relatively low profile.
In 1957, after Anastasia's murder and Carlo Gambino's elevation to boss, Castellano attended the abortive Apalachin Conference in Apalachin, New York. When New York State Police raided the meeting, Castellano ran into the woods and attempted to escape like all 61 high ranking mobsters there but he was arrested. Refusing to answer grand jury questions about the meeting, Castellano spent a year in prison on contempt charges. On January 13, 1960, Castellano was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to withhold information. However, in November 1960, Castellano's conviction was reversed by an Appeals Court.
Rise in Gambino family Edit
The United States Government listed Paul Castellano as a family capo as early as 1960. In 1966, Castellano, then a powerful family capo based in Brooklyn, was appointed acting boss while Carlo Gambino temporarily re-located to Florida to avoid pressure from law enforcement and immigration officials. At the same time, Joseph N. Gallo and Aniello Dellacroce replaced Joseph Biondo and Joseph Riccobono as the family's consigliere and underboss, respectively. Gambino remained the family's boss while giving day-to-day authority to Castellano. Gambino would return to New York, and resume control of the family, however, relying on Castellano more and more.
In 1975, Castellano allegedly ordered the murder of Vito Borelli, his daughter Constance's boyfriend. Someone had reported to Castellano that Borelli had compared him to Frank Perdue, the owner and commercial spokesman for Perdue Farms. Castellano considered this an insult because of Perdue's balding, elderly appearance and his comically awkward mannerisms. Borelli was murdered by John Gotti.
On July 1, 1975, Castellano was indicted on loansharking charges and with tax evasion for not reporting the profits from his illegal racket.
Mob businessman Edit
Castellano saw himself more as a businessman than a hoodlum; in fact, Castellano took control of non legitimate businesses and turned them legitimate. However, Castellano's businesses, and those of his sons, only thrived due to their mob ties.
In his early years, Castellano used his butcher's training to launch Dial Poultry, a poultry distribution business that once supplied 300 butchers in New York City. Dial's customers included supermarket chains Key Food and Waldbaum's. Castellano used intimidation tactics to force his "customers" to buy Dial's products.
As Castellano became more powerful in the Gambino crime family, he started to make large amounts of money from construction concrete. Castellano's son Philip was the president of Scara-Mix Concrete Corporation, which exercised a near monopoly on construction concrete on Staten Island. Castellano also handled the Gambino interests in the "Concrete Club," a consortium of mob families that divided revenue from New York developers. No one could pour concrete for a project worth more than $2 million without the approval from the Concrete Club. Finally, Castellano supervised Gambino control of Teamsters Union Local Chapter 282, which provided workers to pour concrete at all major building projects in New York and Long Island.
On October 6, 1976, Carlo Gambino died at home of natural causes. Against expectations, he appointed Castellano to succeed him over his underboss Aniello Dellacroce. Gambino apparently felt that his crime family would benefit from Castellano's focus on white collar crime. Dellacroce, at the time, was imprisoned for tax evasion and was unable to contest Castellano's succession.
Castellano's succession was confirmed at a meeting on November 24, with Dellacroce present. Castellano arranged for Dellacroce to remain as underboss while directly running traditional Cosa Nostra activities such as extortion, robbery, and loansharking.While Dellacroce accepted Castellano's succession, the deal effectively split the Gambino family into two rivaling factions.
In 1978, Castellano allegedly ordered the murder of Gambino associate Nicholas Scibetta. A cocaine and alcohol abuser, Scibetta participated in several public fights and then insulted a female cousin of Frank DeCicco. Since Scibetta was Gravano's brother-in-law, Castellano asked DeCicco to first notify Gravano of the impending hit. When advised of Scibetta's fate, a furious Gravano said he would kill Castellano first. However, DeCicco managed to calm Gravano down and accept Scibetta's death.
In February 1978, Castellano invited Irish Mob leader Jimmy Coonan and his underboss Michael Featherstone to a meeting at a Brooklyn mob owned restaurant. present at the meeting was Castellano, underboss Aniello Dellacroce, capo Carmine Lombardozzi and capo Anthony Gaggi. They made an agreement between the Gambino family and the Westies, an Irish-American gang from Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. Castellano wanted hitmen that law enforcement could not tie directly to the Gambino family. The Westies wanted Gambino protection from the other Cosa Nostra families. The Gambino-Westie alliance was set in a meeting between Westies leader James Coonan and Castellano. According to Westies gangster Mickey Featherstone, Castellano gave them the following directive:
"You guys got to stop acting like cowboys - acting wild. You're going to be with us now. If anyone is going to get killed, you have to clear it with us."
Castellano also created an alliance with the Cherry Hill Gambinos, a group of Sicilian heroin importers and distributors, for use as gunmen also. With the Westies and the Cherry Hill Gambinos, Castellano commanded a small army of capable killers.
In 1979, Castellano allegedly ordered the murders of Gambino capo James Eppolitto and his son, mobster James Eppolitto Jr. Eppolitto Sr. had complained to Castellano that Anthony Gaggi was infringing on his territory and asked permission to kill him. Castellano gave Eppolitto a noncomittal answer, but later warned Gaggi about Eppolitto's intentions. In response, capo Anthony Gaggi and soldier Roy DeMeo murdered James Eppolito Sr. and his son James Eppolito Jr.
In September 1980, Castellano allegedly ordered the murder of his former son-in-law Frank Amato. A hijacker and minor criminal, Amato had physically abused Connie Castellano when they were married. According to FBI documents, Gambino soldier Roy DeMeo murdered Amato, cut up his body, and disposed of the remains at sea.
In 1981, Castellano met twice with businessman Frank Perdue, the alleged cause of the 1975 Borelli murder. Perdue wanted Castellano's help in thwarting a unionization drive at a Perdue facility in Virginia. However, according to Perdue, the two men talked, but never agreed to anything.
Wealth and power Edit
In the early 1980s, Castellano became worried about the ambitions of John Gotti,the protègé of Dellacroce. Castellano repeatedly made it clear that he would kill anyone who was dealing in narcotics—knowing that Gotti was doing just that.
In 1981, at the height of his power, Castellano built a lavish 17-room mansion on a ridgeline in Todt Hill, Staten Island. Designed to resemble the White House in Washington, D.C., Castellano's house featured Carrara marble, an Olympic size swimming pool, and an English garden. He started a love affair with his live-in maid, Gloria Olarte, even though his wife Nina was living with him. FBI surveillance tapes recorded Castellano telling Olarte that he was going to undergo penile implant surgery to remedy his impotence. Castellano became a recluse, rarely venturing outside the mansion. Castellano was closest to a five-man-panel, consisting of capos Thomas Gambino, Daniel Marino, James Failla, Joseph Corrao and Thomas Bilotti. All of these men were Castellano loyalists. When not entertaining guests, Castellano wore satin and silk dressing gowns with velvet slippers around the house.
The extravagance of Castellano's mansion and lifestyle only served to increase resentment and envy within the Gambino family. This disaffection was concentrated among Dellacroce supporters, who were struggling to make money in the traditional family rackets. Typically, mob capos give ten percent of their earnings to the boss. However, Castellano began to demand fifteen percent or more in some cases. In addition, Castellano banned family members from running lucrative drug trafficking rackets, while personally accepting large drug payoffs from the Cherry Hill Gambinos and the DeMeo crew.
Many complaints originated from capo John Gotti, a prominent Dellacrocce supporter. Gotti fed this discontent that was rising in the family. In addition, Gotti defied Castellano by secretly distributing drugs, although it was no secret to Castellano. Gotti was ambitious and saw himself as a future family boss. However, as long as Dellacroce was alive, Gotti would not try to overthrow Castellano.
Legal problems Edit
In 1983, Castellano allegedly ordered Roy DeMeo's murder. Castellano knew that DeMeo had a severe cocaine dependency and doubted his loyalty in an upcoming car theft trial. DeMeo was found shot to death in the trunk of his Cadillac Coupe De Ville.
In March 1983, the FBI obtained a warrant to install secret listening devices in Castlellano's house. Waiting until Castellano went on vacation to Florida, agents drugged his watch dogs, disabled his security system, and planted devices in the dining and living rooms. These devices provided law enforcement with a wealth of incriminating information on Castellano.
On March 30, 1984, Castellano was indicted on federal racketeering charges in the Gambino case, including the Eppolitto murders. Other charges were extortion, narcotics trafficking, theft, and prostitution. Castellano was released on $2 million bail.In early 1985, Castellano was one of many Mafia bosses arrested on charges of racketeering, which was to result in the Mafia Commission Trial. Castellano was released on $3 million bail.
Paul Castellano didn't mind being tagged as a murderer. However, according to the book "Murder Machine" by Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci, Castellano got offended when he thought that a police officer had implied that he was less than a gentleman. When Detective Kenneth McCabe placed him under arrest, he did not protest. But when McCabe mentioned to Castellano that his late cousin, Carlo Gambino had been a "real gentleman", Castellano looked hurt and then responded, "What? I'm not a gentleman?"
Later Years and Assassination Edit
On December 2, 1985, Dellacroce died of lung cancer. Castellano then made two major mistakes. First, he did not attend Dellacroce's funeral - which was viewed as highly disrespectful by the Dellacroce/Gotti loyalists. Second, Castellano then named his bodyguard and driver, Thomas Bilotti, as the new underboss. Although Bilotti was a loyal mobster, he was also a brutish loanshark with little of the diplomatic skill required to hold such a high rank within the organization.
Within two weeks of Dellacroce's death, on December 16, Castellano and Bilotti were shot to death outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan on the orders of John Gotti. They had been lured there supposedly to a meeting with Gotti in order to iron out their differences. The hit team included Vincent Artuso, Joseph Watts, Salvatore Scala, Edward Lino, and John Carneglia, with backup shooters positioned down the street including Dominick Pizzonia, Angelo Ruggiero and Anthony Rampino, Gotti and Gravano observed from a car across the street.
Controversy dogged Castellano even in death, as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York refused to grant him the last rites of the church, citing the notorious circumstances surrounding both his life and death, leading many Italian-Americans, including New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, to accuse the predominantly Irish-American archdiocesan hierarchy of applying a double standard, citing the case of Brian O'Regan. O'Regan, an allegedly corrupt New York City police officer fearing impending arrest, committed suicide in a Long Island motel room the same year as Castellano's death; O'Regan received a Mass of Christian Burial despite his suicide note's authenticity being established beyond doubt. Castellano was buried in the Moravian Cemetery, a non-sectarian cemetery located in the New Dorp section of Staten Island.
The Castellano murder enraged Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante because Gotti never received permission from the Mafia Commission. Gigante solicited the help of Lucchese crime family boss Anthony Corallo to kill Gotti. On April 13, 1986, a car bomb meant for Gotti exploded outside a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn social club underboss Frank DeCicco was killed instantly Vittorio Amuso and Anthony Casso watched the murder from a car parked across the street.
During his life, Castellano was able to set up his sons in successful businesses that made them legitimate multimillionaires. Although their companies benefitted from their father commanding a network of over 350 "made" members and hundreds of more associates. One such business, Scara-Mix concrete, based in Staten Island, dominates the borough's concrete pouring industry. In 2006, during the racketeering trial of Gotti's son John A. Gotti, former captain Michael DiLeonardo testified that he was the bagman for the family and collected thousands of dollars per year from the brothers Peter and Philip who operated Scara-Mix.
John Gotti succeeded Castellano as Don of the Gambino crime family, which was confirmed by Salvatore Gravano, Gotti's underboss, when he entered into a plea bargain with the government in 1991. Gotti was later convicted of ordering Castellano's murder, along with many other crimes.
In popular culture Edit
- Richard C. Sarafian plays him in the 1996 HBO network original film Gotti.
- Abe Vigoda plays him in the NBC network TV movie Witness to the Mob (1998).
- Sam Coppola plays Paul in the 2001 Canadian-American TV movie The Big Heist.
- Chazz Palminteri plays him in Boss of Bosses, a 2001 film on the TNT network.
- Donald John Volpenhein starred as Castellano in the 2018 biopic Gotti.
Paul Castellano on Life
“This life of ours, this is a wonderful life. If you can get through life like this and get away with it, hey that's great. But it's very unpredictable. There’s so many ways you can screw it up." Paul Castellano
"There are certain promises you make that are more sacred than anything that happens in a court of law, I don't care how many Bibles you put your hand on. Some of the promises, it’s true, you make too young, before you really have an understanding of what they mean. But once you've made those first promises, other promises are called for. And the thing is you can't deny the new ones without betraying the old ones. The promises get bigger; there are more people to be hurt and disappointed if you don't live up to them. Then, at some point, you’re called upon to make a promise to a dying man." Paul Castellano
“If the president of the United States, if he's smart, if he needs help, he’d come. I could do a favor for the president..." Paul Castellano
Paul Castellano on The Law
“We're not children here. The law is-how should I put it? A convenience. Or a convenience for some people, and an inconvenience for other people. Like, take the law that says you can't go into someone else's house...I have a house, so, hey, I like that law. The guy without a house-what's he think of it? Stay out in the rain, schnook.That’s what the law means to him..." Paul Castellano
People Murdered by Paul Castellano Edit
1.Thomas Eboli/Capo/Genovese crime family/July 16th 1972/Ordered It/ Eboli was killed because he owed Gambino and Castellano $4million and refused to pay it back.
2.Vito Borelli/None/Independent/1975/Ordered It/ Castellano had Borelli murdered because he disrespected Castellano.
3.Nicholas Scibetta/Associate/Gambino Crime Family/1978/Ordered It/ Scibetta was killed because he was involved in a dispute with George DeCicco's daughter.
4.James Eppolito/Capo/Gambino Crime Family/October 1st 1979/Ordered It/ Eppolito was murdered because his charity scam had been exposed and had brought heat on the gambino crime family.
5.James Eppolitto Jr/Soldier/Gambino Crime Family/October 1st 1979/Ordered It/ He was killed along with his father to avoid leaving witnesses.
6.John Simone/Capo/Philadelphia Crime Family/March 1980/Ordered It/ Simone was murdered because he was involved in the unsanctioned murder of Philadelphia crime family Boss Angelo Bruno.
7.Frank Amato/None/Independent/September 19th 1980/Ordered It/ Castellano had Amato murdered because he had assaulted his wife, she was Castellano's daughter Connie.
8.Frank Piccolo/Capo/Gambino Crime Family (Connecticut)/September 19th 1981/Ordered It/ Piccolo was murdered because he brought heat on the gambino crime family.
9.Roy DeMeo/Soldier/Gambino Crime Family/January 10th 1983/Ordered It/ Castellano had DeMeo murdered to cover his tracks because DeMeo's car theft ring had brought heat on the gambino crime family and brought criminal charges against Castellano.