John Joseph Gotti Jr. (October 27, 1940 – June 10, 2002) was an Italian-American gangster who became boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. Gotti and his brothers grew up in poverty and turned to a life of crime at an early age. Gotti quickly rose to prominence, becoming one of the crime family’s biggest earners and a protégé of Gambino family underboss Aniello Dellacroce, operating out of the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens.
The FBI indicted members of Gotti’s crew for selling narcotics, and Gotti took advantage of growing dissent over the leadership of the crime family. Gotti feared that he would be killed along with his brother and best friend by Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano for selling drugs, so he organized the murder of Castellano in December 1985 and took over the family shortly thereafter. This left Gotti as the boss of the most powerful crime family in America, one that made hundreds of millions of dollars a year from construction, waste management, hijacking, loan sharking, gambling, extortion, and other criminal activities.
Gotti was one of the most powerful and dangerous crime bosses in America. During his era he became widely known for his outspoken personality and flamboyant style, which gained him favor with much of the general public. His peers avoided attracting attention, especially from the media, but Gotti became known as “The Dapper Don” for his expensive clothes and personality in front of news cameras. He was later given the nickname “The Teflon Don” after three high-profile trials in the 1980s resulted in his acquittal, though it was later revealed that the trials had been tainted by jury tampering, juror misconduct, and witness intimidation. Law enforcement authorities continued gathering evidence against Gotti that helped lead to his downfall.
Gotti’s underboss Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano is credited with the FBI’s success in finally convicting Gotti. In 1991, Gravano agreed to turn state’s evidence and testify for the prosecution against Gotti after hearing Gotti on wiretap making several disparaging remarks about Gravano that implicated them both in several murders. In 1992, Gotti was convicted of five murders, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, extortion, tax evasion, and loansharking. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole and was transferred to United States Penitentiary, Marion. Gotti died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.