Over the years, Bilotti became a close aide-de-camp, confidant and chauffeur for capo Paul Castellano. Bilotti was a regular visitor to Castellano’s Todt Hill, Staten Island mansion and was considered a close family friend. However, when Castellano started an affair with his maid, Bilotti kept it secret from Castellano’s wife. He would also act as his chauffeur. Bilotti and Castellano were said to make an odd pair. Castellano, a gangster who thought himself more as a businessman, and Bilotti, a brutish loan shark.
Bilotti had a no-show job at Scara-Mix, Castellano’s cement company on Staten Island. He was also heavily involved in the Steam Fitters Local 638 of the Plumbers Union that was represented by George Daly, an associate who belonged to his crew. Daly served as Local 638’s business agent until his 1987 conviction for soliciting bribes to ensure labor peace.
When Castellano became Gambino boss in 1976, he gave Bilotti a crew to manage. Many members of the Gambino family were contemptuous of Bilotti and considered him to be Castellano’s stooge. This attitude was widespread in the traditional, “blue collar” wing of the family, led by underboss Aniello Dellacroce. This wing considered Castellano to be greedy and out of touch of with their concerns.
On December 2, 1985 Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce died of cancer. Immediately after his death, Castellano decided to appoint Bilotti as the new underboss. News of the Bilotti promotion, along with a perceived slight to the Dellacroce family by Castellano, stirred up considerable anger in the family. Capo John Gotti and Salvatore Gravano orchestrated a plan to kill both Castellano and Bilotti.
Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano planned to murder Bilotti. One idea was to have associate Joseph Watts tell his wife that he wanted his house painted, and they would put up plastic on the walls and floor to protect it from “paint”. Then sometime early in the morning Watts would call to arrange a meeting with Bilotti.
Watts would open the door for Bilotti and walk him into the home’s front corridor. Gravano would hide in the archway with Frank DeCicco. As Bilotti would walk past, Gravano would step out and shoot him in the head. They would then discard the plastic and body.
DeCicco would then go up to Paul Castellano’s home and tell him Bilotti called in sick so he would act as Castellano’s replacement driver. Then, DeCicco would shoot Castellano when he was in his car. But after some cautious thinking, Gravano and DeCicco thought that it was too haphazard of a plan.
A few minutes before 6:00 p.m. on December 16, 1985 Bilotti chauffeured Paul Castellano to where they were ambushed outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan, apparently on the orders of caporegime John Gotti. He pulled his black Lincoln right up in front of the restaurant. As Castellano began exiting the car, two gunmen (including Tony Rampino) walked up and fired at least six bullets at him, including a final shot to his head. As Bilotti stepped out, he was approached by the other shooters. Gambino crime family mob associate Anthony Rampino shot Bilotti six times in the head and chest after Castellano was gunned down. The fatal meeting was arranged by Frank DeCicco, James Failla, Gene Gotti and Armando Dellacroce, the son of former Gambino crime family underboss Aniello Dellacroce, who were against the age-old ban on narcotics as a business option.
Bilotti and Castellano most certainly saw their approaching executioners before being shot dead. From descriptions of the shooters given by witnesses, including a pedestrian who witnessed the shooting from only a few feet away, police detectives believe it was John Gotti associate Anthony Rampino who gunned down Bilotti as he was getting out of his black Lincoln. After the shooting, an off-duty registered nurse went to Bilotti’s aid in a vain attempt to revive him. Police found Bilotti to be in possession of $6,300 at the time of his death and was not armed.
Thomas Bilotti is buried fifty yards away from Castellano in the Moravian Cemetery of New Dorp, Staten Island. Bilotti left behind ten children, including a six-week old baby son. Bilotti’s wife Donna suffered a nervous breakdown and a miscarriage.
Gotti appointed Frank DeCicco as his new underboss. Gambino associate Joseph Watts wanted Gotti to kill Bilotti’s brother Joseph because he might seek revenge. However, Gravano persuaded Gotti that Joseph would accept his brother’s death.
On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was convicted in the 1985 Bilotti and Castellano murders. He was later sentenced to life in federal prison.
- March, 23, 1940
- Staten Island, New York
- December, 16, 1985
- Manhattan, New York
Cause of Death
- Murdered shot six times in the head and chest
- Moravian Cemetery
- New York