By Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.
What do numbers tell us?
In 1928, the boss of what we now know as the Gambino Crime Family is murdered in New York.
Two years later, his successor is gunned down.
Twenty-one years afterwards, the current boss of the family disappears, assumed murdered.
Seven years later, the man who replaced him is murdered in New York.
Nearly thirty years later, once removed, another Gambino boss is murdered in New York.
Thirty-four years later, in 2019, Francesco Paolo Augusto Cali (right), the current boss of the Gambino Family, at least nine times, or more, removed from his historic predecessor in 1930, is shot dead in New York. (1)
Are these numbers telling us something? Is coincidence simply exerting its unfathomable hold, or is it more to do with probability?
In 1989, two mathematicians considered defining a coincidence as “a rare event,” but decided “this includes too much to permit careful study.” Instead, they settled on, “A coincidence is a surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection.” (2)
Except in the world of the Mafia. Here, everything has a meaning and an intent. There is rarely, if ever, a casual connection with sudden death. This latest killing of the family boss, however, throws all the theories out of the window.
The Gambino Crime Family is the only one of the five dominant Mafias in New York’s underworld for almost 100 years where the killing of its leader has happened not once, since 1930, but multiple times. None of the other four have lost a leader in power to the gun. The significant number in this observance is, in fact, one. (3)
The Gambinos are the only one.
Being a boss in this mob family is a dangerous occupation.
Murray Kempton, the famous American journalist and commentator, once wrote about Carlo Gambino, the elfish, hook-nosed Sicilian-born mobster who ran the crime family for almost twenty years as “.... the last Mafia field marshal who could keep the virtue of circumspection and the vice of force in the exquisite balance that his successors in office had proved unable to manage.” Interestingly, Gambino, unlike his predecessor and successor, died in bed of natural causes. The other two died by the gun.
- READ: The Guys That Do More Than Killing: Gambino Mafia family mobsters involved in large variety of lucrative crimes
Cali, Franky Boy as he is widely known in New York’s underworld, is the latest in a long line of men paying homage to the danger of managing one of the most unstable elements in the social landscape of New York: A Mafia Family.
But a family feud, a jealous peer, someone after his job does not trigger his demise. His murder is activated by something much more deadly than one of man’s sins. Cali becomes the first, very public victim of a disease that is spreading across America. It’s not Covid-19. That is almost a year away for America.
Franky Boy dies a victim of conspiracy.
Mobsters tend to vote Republican, according to Mafia expert Selwyn Raab, because “They don’t want taxes and don’t like immigrants.” (4)
One of the most contentious men ever elected to the position presided over the United States in 2019. After three years in office, Republican Donald Trump is setting records, almost daily for his conduct and opinions, which are most often extreme right-wing. Moving into pre-election year he is doing everything he can to convince the voting public that the Democratic left-wing is a dark place, encouraging belief in something often referred to as a global cabal, a “Deep State,” to help remove Trump from office. It will come to have fatal consequences for the Mafia boss who leads the Gambino Crime Family.
It’s entirely possible Cali may have been the first murder victim directly linked to a mysterious right-wing conspiratorial fringe known as QAnon. (5)
Another one in the lexicon of numbers.
In Palermo, Sicily, Mafiosi talked about Cali’s rise to power within New York’s mob, somewhat in awe that he had achieved so much in such a relatively short time. Cali’s father is connected to some of the most powerful Mafiosi in Sicily’s post-war era. And his son would marry into one of Palermo’s most prestigious Mafia families.
His father, Augusto, was born and raised in the Ballaro, a working-class district in the inner-city of Palermo. Before migrating to America, he ran a household goods store on Via Candelai. He was a cousin to the Gambinos of Sicily and married Agate Scimeca. In New York, the Feds link him to Domenico Adamatia, a man with close connections to Gaetano Badalamenti, who will become infamous as not only a powerful Mafia boss in Sicily but also, a pivotal figure in one of the largest criminal cases in United States history- the Pizza Connection drug trial of 1985-1987.
Francesco, Cali’s son, is born in 1965, grows up in Brooklyn, which is to Italian-American organized crime what spinach is to Popeye, and almost by default, is destined for a life in the Mafia.
The father is still in the retail business, this time running a fruit and vegetable shop that somehow morphs into a video store called Arcobaleno Italiano, at 7306 18th Avenue in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn. (6)
The FBI believed it was a front for criminal activity. The family lived above the store at some period and according to law enforcement sources Augusto and his wife regularly travelled back to Palermo staying in an apartment at 58 Via dei Nabrodi (7)
Franky, as he emerges from his teenage years, comes under the wing of Jacky D’Amico, the Gambino capo who runs their 18th Avenue crew, which covers an area south from 75th Street to Gravesend Bay. They make him into the crime family in 1996 and he begins a career that will edge him up the promotion ladder, running all kinds of businesses on the side, his legitimate fronts in food, retail, real estate, that will earn him heaps, while he beavers away on his other illegal activities within the brotherhood. The Squadra Mobile, the flying squad of Palermo, receives confirmation of Cali’s “combination,” or induction into the mob, from the FBI in a report in January 1997. Ibid.
- READ: Murder on the Dancefloor: The demise of Gambino Mafia family soldier Anthony Mascuzzio
QAnon is not the first poster of its type to appear on fringe internet message boards 4 and 8chan. There was FBIAnon, then an HLIAnon, followed by CIAAnon, all claiming special, high-level US government access. These were popping up from some time in 2016. In November 2017, the first QAnon message was posted on 4chan. From the chans it moved to Reddit and then inevitably, Facebook, and a much, much larger audience. (8)
The search for the origins of this strange and twisted tale may well begin in 1993, when the suicide of a White House aide during Bill Clinton’s presidency reveals the first signs of a new information ecosystem that is spilling over into the mainstream. Myths about his murder proliferate on the early internet. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. In Arkansas, a parallel reality is forming, in which the Clintons, it is claimed, are a corrupt and murderous couple who will stop at nothing in their quest for power. (9)
In a fractious America, tribal politics are toiling and bubbling over the next twenty-five years.
And, as the second decade of the 21st Century draws to a close, scrabbling through the internet like tens of thousands of others is a troubled young man who lives on Staten Island. Like so much of modern-day America that seems as vague and dissociated with reality, like the dark-side of the moon, he is seriously troubled, and looking for answers in all the wrong places. Frank Cali also lives on Staten Island.
He and this other man are a planet and a sun that are on a collision course.
Anthony Comello (right) is twenty-four, unemployed and lives with his parents, Alfonso and Nicole. on the southern side of Staten Island’s South Shore, at 213 Retford Avenue in Eltingville. It’s six miles south of the plush residence where Frank Cali lives with his family at 25 Hilltop Terrace in the Tony area of Todt Hill. (10)
Albert Eisenstein once said that the distance between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent. It will all become clear in this story late one evening in March.
Comello believed he had received secret knowledge about “Deep State,” and was enjoying the protection and support of Donald Trump. He thinks some well-known politicians and celebrities are part of “Deep State”, and this leads him in February 2019 to try to effect a citizen’s arrest on the mayor of New York and two Californian Congressional Representatives while they were visiting the city. After failing in these attempts, he changes tack and sets as targets members of organized crime.
- READ: The sun was shining: The hit on New York Mafia underboss Frank Scalice
Around 9:00 on the evening of March 13, he drives his blue GMC Sierra pickup truck to Cali’s home, where a silver Cadillac Escalade is parked in the street outside the house near the corner of Hilltop Terrace and Four Corners Road. Eerily, the Google Map of the address taken in June 2018, shows the same car, parked in the same position. The crime scene in situ, eight months premature.
Comello rams the vehicle and when Franky Cali comes out to investigate what has happened to his vehicle, there is a short confrontation as the deranged younger man, dressed in a hooded sweat-shirt and wearing a baseball cap, attempts another one of his citizen arrests. When Cali resists after a brief argument, Comello pulls out a semi-automatic 9mm pistol from his vehicle and shoots the mob boss multiple times, killing him, before climbing back into the pickup truck and disappearing into the night. A CCTV camera catches the entire scene. The first one ever to capture the murder of a Mafia boss, live as it happens.
A number one beyond symbolic.
Three days later, the young man is arrested by the police, hiding out at another home owned by his family on Cadiz Drive in Brick Township, New Jersey.
- READ: A Man Alone: The Story of Genovese Family Hitman David Petillo
In June 2020, Judge William E. Garnett in a Staten Island court finds Comello unfit to stand trial as he deemed him mentally unfit and orders his transfer from prison to a state Office of Mental Health facility for further evaluation. According to his defence lawyer, Comello “believed Frank Cali (left) held a significant status in a worldwide criminal cabal bent on the destruction of American values and the American way of life.” (11)
According to Jerry Capeci, the New York-based Mafia expert, the Gambino family did not take long to fill the vacuum created by Cali’s murder. By May, two months after the shooting, they had appointed Lorenzo Mannino as either boss or underboss. It’s also suggested that Michael Paradiso, an octogenarian capo, or crew chief in the family, along with Domenico Cefalu, dragged back from retirement, are also part of the management team keeping the crime family on course. None of this is set in stone.
Following his funeral, Cali was buried in Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp, Staten Island. A four minute drive from his home. His remains are interred only a few hundred yards from former Gambino boss Paul Castellano murdered in Manhattan, the week before Christmas, 1985.
Donald Rumsfeld, a former American Secretary of Defence, once said, “There are known knows, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.”
In the strange, mysterious world of the American Mafia and the bizarre murder of Francesco Cali, we are lost for choice in our selection of adjectives. Although in line with the course of number probability, it’s almost certainly only one.
1) In 2019, there was some dispute as to just who was the head of the Gambino Family. The FBI claimed Peter Gotti, (brother of the infamous John) although locked away in prison serving multiple counts on extortion, racketeering and conspiracy, headed the group and had since 1999. Others claim Sicilian-born Domenico Cefalù, the family underboss since 2005, assumed the family leadership in 2011. See article by John Marzulli in New York Daily News. 2012-07-26
By 2013, it’s claimed Cefalù wanted to retire and had passed the rains onto Cali. This was speculation based on a limited source of origin, but apparently accepted at the time of his murder.
3) Joseph Colombo, head of the Mafia group that was previously under the control of Joseph Profaci, was shot and gravely injured in June 1971. He survived but lived in a coma until his death in May 1978. At that point, he was no longer the boss of the family.
Carmine Galante was shot dead in May 1979. Although some sources claim he was the Bonanno capo, he was never officially recognized by Cosa Nostra. Philip Rastelli, imprisoned, was the leader.
5) QAnon. According to a BBC News article dated January 6, 2020, “At its heart, QAnon is a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media. QAnon believers have speculated that this fight will lead to a day of reckoning where prominent people such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be arrested and executed.”
6) Mob Pick for Gambino Godfather Turns Down the Job. On the Inside. Murray Weiss. July 18, 2013.
7) La Repubblica. Jan 4, 2010. Attilio Bolzoni.
8) NBC News. How three conspiracy theorists took ‘Q’ and sparked QAnon. August 15, 2018.
9) BBC. The Coming Storm. Jan 4 2022.
11) silive.com June 3 2020.
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