Carlo Gambino (Carlo Gambino)

Carlo Gambino

Carlo Gambino

Born in Sicily, Carlo Gambino came from a family that had been involved in the Mafia for centuries. Although he was thin and somewhat frail-looking, he was also single-minded, ruthless and tough as nails and made a name for himself as an enforcer in local Mafia circles before he was out of his teens. In fact, he was made a full member of the organization on his 19th birthday. Shortly afterward he left Sicily for New York, where he already had family connections, the Castellanos. He went to work for them in their bootlegging business. He started out as a truck driver, worked his way up the ladder and moved over to the family of Giuseppe Masseria, aka “Joe the Boss”, an old-time gangster who at the time was engaged in a war with another old-timer (collectively – and derisively – known by the younger hoods as “Mustache Petes”) named Salvatore Maranzano. Gambino became friendly with another Masseria hood named Lucky Luciano, whose ambitions were to get rid of both “Mustache Petes”. In 1931 Masseria was assassinated in a restaurant while meeting with Luciano, and Luciano hooked up with the Maranzano gang. Soon, however, Maranzano himself was dead, having been murdered in 1931 on orders from Luciano, leaving him the #1 boss in New York. Luciano divided up New York among five Mafia families, and Gambino was assigned as second in command to the Brooklyn family run by Vincent Mangano. Although ambitious, Gambino was patient and built up his fortunes and his influence over the years. In 1951 Mangano mysteriously vanished and his family was taken over by Albert Anastasia, a much feared killer, who made Gambino his underboss, leading many observers to believe that both Gambino and Anastasia had something to do with Mangano’s disappearance. Anastasia himself met his end in a New York City barber shop in 1957 and, much as Anastasia took over the assassinated Mangano’s empire, Gambino took over the assassinated Anastasia’s empire.

Gambino, unlike many other mobsters, always kept a low profile, making sure to stay out of the spotlight, and lived unostentatiously in a modest row house in Brooklyn. His frail, grandfatherly appearance made it difficult to believe that at the time he was the single most powerful organized-crime figure in America – and one of the most ruthless. Although both federal and state authorities had been after him for years, his secretive and illusive nature thwarted their efforts. Finally, in 1969, he was charged with planning the armed robbery and hijacking of a truck. Legal wranglings delayed the case for several years, during which time Gambino’s wife died and his health began to deteriorate. When federal authorities discovered that Gambino had never become a US citizen and, in fact, had been smuggled into the country, they instituted deportation proceedings against him. His doctors claimed that his heart problems meant that he was too weak to make the journey from the US to Italy, and his case was delayed time and time again, amid rumors that the Gambino family had paid off two U.S. senators to help delay the proceedings. In 1976 Gambino was in his Long Island summer home watching a Yankees game on TV when he had a heart attack and died.


  • August, 24, 1902
  • Palermo, Sicily, Italy


  • October, 15, 1976
  • Massapequa, New York

Cause of Death

  • Heart attack


  • Saint John Cemetery
  • Queens, New York

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