Frank Cali, the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family whose deep ties to the Sicilian Mafia made him a figure of influence and power in both New York and Sicily, was fatally shot Wednesday night outside his home in Staten Island, New York, police told The Washington Post.
At around 9:15 p.m., Cali, 53, was in front of his red-brick colonial style home in the Todt Hill neighbourhood when he was approached by a blue pickup truck. Known as “Franky Boy,” the Gambino boss was reportedly shot six times in the chest and run over by the truck, as first reported by the New York Daily News. Police said that a suspect sped off in the truck, WNBC reported.
Cali’s death marks the first time in 33 years that a crime family boss was fatally shot in New York City.
In a statement to The Post, an official with the New York Police Department’s 122nd Precinct, which covers Staten Island, said authorities responded to a 911 call at 9:17 p.m. of an assault involving Cali. The address given on Hilltop Terrace near Four Corners Road, by the Richmond County Country Club, matched Cali’s address, according to public records.
“Upon arrival, officers found a 53-year-old male with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso,” police told The Post. “EMS also responded to the scene and transported the victim to Staten Island University North, where he was pronounced deceased.”
Police told The Post that no arrests have been made and that the investigation is ongoing. An NYPD spokesman told The Post early Thursday that police are obtaining and reviewing any available video surveillance from the scene.
Reports of sobbing, panic and fear from witnesses late Wednesday provided a window into the chaotic, swift violence that unfolded in a quiet neighborhood long known for its mob history.
“There were like six shots, and then there were three more,” one witness told the Daily News. “The man was on the ground face-up. His head was by his SUV, and the truck was open.”
A neighbor told the New York Times that he heard a series of gunshots from what he believed to be a single gun.
“I just heard the pow-pow-pow-pow-pow,” he said to the Times.
In 1985, another Gambino crime boss, Paul Castellano, was assassinated under the orders of John Gotti outside Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House. As the Daily News reported, Cali lived only a half-mile away from Castellano’s home.
Once described as “the rising star of the American mafia,” Cali was an influential figure who surrounded himself with many Italian-born associates. He gained the trust of Jackie “The Nose” D’Amico, an acting boss who promoted him to capo before 40. Cali’s ascension within the Gambino crime family, once considered one of the most significant criminal organizations in the U.S., came years after federal prosecutors sent its top leaders to prison, crippling its national and global reach. One of those prosecutors, Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s attorney, used the 1986 indictment of the heads of the five crime families to help launch his successful campaign for mayor of New York years later.
As a leader, Cali was reportedly considerably less flashy than the ebullient Gotti, another Gambino boss, and was described by the New York Post as “a real quiet old-school boss.” Cali’s influence reportedly stemmed from his family connections with the Inzerillo crime family in Palermo, Sicily.
“Cali is seen as a man of influence and power by organized crime members in Italy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joey Lipton said during a bail hearing in 2008.
Lipton went on to quote an intercepted conversation from an Italian mobster, who described Cali as “a friend of ours.”
“He is everything over there,” the mobster allegedly said, referring to Cali’s stature in New York, according to the Daily News.
Federal authorities recognized Cali’s sense of stability and attempted to stop his meteoric rise. In what would be his only mob-related criminal conviction, Cali pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort money in 2008, stemming from a failed bid to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island years earlier. He was released after completing a 16-month prison sentence. Upon his release, the Justice Department ordered that Cali not come in contact with his uncle, John Gambino, if it was not approved ahead of time by his probation officer. (Gambino died at 77 of natural causes in 2017.)
In 2015, Cali was reportedly elevated to acting boss of the Gambino crime family, succeeding Domenico Cefalu, according to the Daily News. During his run with the family, Cali was looked at as a unifying leader, concentrating on enhancing the organization’s role in the OxyContin and heroin trade, the New York Post reported.
The death in Todt Hill came on the same day that Bonanno crime family boss Joseph Cammarano Jr., and his consigliere, John Zancocchio, were acquitted in federal court of charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion.