Mafia boss shot dead outside his New York home
Cali, also known as “Franky Boy,” was shot six times, then hit by a blue truck in which the suspects fled. He was pronounced dead at Staten Island University North hospital, according to police.Updated: Mar 15, 2019 10:22 IST
The reputed boss of New York’s Gambino crime family was left riddled with bullets outside his home on Staten Island, an old-school hit akin to the storied executions of 20th-century mafia dons.
The grisly scene saw Francesco “Frank” Cali shot dead outside his colonial-style red-brick home on Staten Island, police said Thursday.
The 53-year-old with deep ties to Sicilian organized crime factions -- thought to have been leading the Gambinos since 2015, wielding influence both stateside and in Italy -- suffered “multiple gunshot wounds to the torso” in the attack on Wednesday evening, police said.
Cali, also known as “Franky Boy,” was shot six times, then hit by a blue truck in which the suspects fled. He was pronounced dead at Staten Island University North hospital, according to police.
“There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing,” police said.
The Gambino family is one of New York’s five historic Italian Mafia families -- along with the Genoveses, Luccheses, Colombos and Bonannos.
US media reported that Cali’s death marked the first murder of a New York mob boss in 34 years, since the death of Paul Castellano -- another Gambino family boss -- by order of the infamous John Gotti, also known as Teflon Don.
Following Castellano’s murder, which saw the boss dramatically gunned down outside a Manhattan steakhouse after stepping out of a black limo, Gotti took over as the Gambino family don.
A paparazzi darling who sported flashy suits with his signature slick pompadour, police ultimately toppled Gotti and incarcerated him for conspiracy and murder in 1992.
He died in prison in 2002, leaving a notorious legacy that cemented New York’s place in mob lore.
- Ruling from the shadows -
Cali is thought to have taken the helm of the Gambino family in 2015, replacing Domenico Cefalu.
His power and rise within the Gambino clan was owed in large part to his family connections in Palermo, Sicily; Cali reportedly married Rosaria Inzerillo, the daughter of a prominent Sicilian mob faction that was once one of the island’s most powerful.
He began ascending within the ranks under capo John D’Amico, who went by Jackie and became the family’s acting boss in 2005 -- after which Cali became an acting captain, according to court documents.
Cali faced just one arrest over his career, over an extortion plot linked to a failed bid to build a Nascar race track. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
But federal prosecutors held that Cali was involved in a number of other crime schemes, including operating illegal gambling machines in Brooklyn establishments and snatching profits from an annual Italian Feast festival in the borough.
Cali shunned the limelight even after becoming don, ruling from the top while lying low in his affluent Todt Hill neighborhood in Staten Island, where Castellano also held court.
Situated on top of a hill with curving streets and large, shady trees, the district offered an ideal cover -- one of its Tudor-style homes was even featured in “The Godfather” film.
- ‘Old habits die hard’ -
The post-Gotti chapter saw the mob’s influence on the US eastern seaboard wane -- but Wednesday’s hit threw New York back to its golden years of organized crime.
“We thought those days were over,” the city’s mayor Bill de Blasio told journalists. “But I guess old habits die hard.”
It wasn’t the first such spattering of gore in recent years, however.
Last October, 71-year-old Sylvester Zottola of the Bonanno family was shot dead while waiting in his car for an order from a Bronx McDonald’s. His son Salvatore had been shot three months earlier outside the family home, but survived.
In another burst of mob drama, authorities announced Thursday that a Gambino family associate of over a decade, Anthony Pandrella, was arrested for robbing and murdering his friend Vincent Zito.
After prosecutors called him “a danger to the community” Pandrella, 59, pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court to accusations of shooting Zito in his own home and stealing money from him.
He then allegedly returned to the scene of the crime hours later to grieve with the older man’s family.
But he had been caught on CCTV cameras leaving and entering the house at the time of the murder, and his DNA was discovered from the trigger of the gun used to commit the crime.
“It takes a certain type of evil to murder a friend in their own home, and then console the grieving relatives,” said FBI assistant director in charge William Sweeney.
First Published: Mar 15, 2019 08:45 IST