John Angelo Gotti was born into one of the most infamous crime families in American history, and he has the name to prove it! Gotti is nicknamed “Junior” because he shares his famous father’s first name. So we’ve uncovered 22 interesting facts about the life of John A. Gotti, the man who turned his back on the mob to lead a “normal” life.
The only Gotti member to follow his father John J. Gotti into the mob, Junior quickly rose in the ranks of the powerful Gambino crime family in New York City. He acted as the boss when his father, the Dapper Don, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1992. Being the head of a crime family comes with its own headaches, to say the least. So in the months before his father died of throat cancer, John “Junior” Gotti asked for his father’s blessing to quit one of the last major mafia dynasties.
1. John A. Gotti Was Born into an Unconventional Family
John Angelo Gotti was born on February 14, 1964, in Queens, New York, two years after his parents, John Joseph Gotti Jr. and Victoria DiGiorgio, married.
You may remember Junior’s older sister Victoria, as she was the star of the A&E reality show, Growing up Gotti.
His parents had three other children: Frank “Frankie,” Peter, and Angel.
In 1964, the year John “Junior” Gotti was born, his father worked as a presser in a coat factory and as a truck driver. After years of making a living as a criminal, he was trying to make ends meet legitimately.
Unfortunately, working as a trucker at Barnes Express Company taught the elder Gotti how to value goods, and how warehouses and shippers operated. All of this practical knowledge helped Gotti move up the ranks in the Gambino family.
But it was a long haul, and not without its hurdles, which negatively impacted John “Junior” Gotti’s childhood. In 1963, John J. Gotti spent 20 days in jail for being caught in a stolen car. In January 1965, he was arrested for unlawful entry and possession of bookmaking records; in March, he was caught breaking into a tavern; and in October, he was accused of attempted petty larceny.
Needless to say, John Gotti was still learning the ropes on how to commit crimes without getting get caught.
In 1966, John J. Gotti became associated with a gang that reported to Carlo Gambino, boss of the Gambino crime family.
2. Junior Went to New York Military Academy, But Never Graduated
Junior didn’t follow his father into the family business right away. He attended the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York.
“My father used to love to walk the grounds when he’d come to visit me,” Junior said. “He’d smoke a cigar and was never followed by any FBI agents up there. I always knew my father was different, but it wasn’t until 1979 that I understood exactly how.”
John A. Gotti remembers watching TV with other cadets at the academy when a special news report aired on the Gambino crime family. It was then that he saw surveillance photos of his father in front of the Ravenite Social Club, a mafia nerve center in the core of New York City’s Little Italy. The journalist on the show identified John Gotti as an enforcer for the Gambino crime family.
“It gave me a bit of a celebrity status on campus, but the news wasn’t a total shock. I was raised around guys like this in Howard Beach. I never used words like ‘captain’ or ‘crime family’—those terms were unfamiliar to me at the time—but yeah, it was kind of normal.”
3. Frankie Gotti Died at Age 12 after Being Hit by a Car
In March 1980, while John A. Gotti was still at the New York Military Academy, he learned that his youngest brother Frankie had been fatally struck by a car while he was riding a minibike. He was just 12 years old.
He was hit by their neighbor, John Favara. Four months later, in July, Favara vanished; he was never seen or heard from again. No arrests were made in his disappearance.
To this day, Junior claims he has no idea what happened to the man; though he believes his father was involved in Favara’s disappearance.
“Probably. Knowing John, and how he was, and how he felt about a lot of things, especially regarding his own children, he probably was. Do I know with certainty? No. He’d never discuss that with me.”
4. His Father Helped Him Start a Trucking Business after High School
Despite his new-found celebrity status at school in upstate New York, John A. Gotti was not destined for a life in academia. Junior never finished at the academy, and subsequently, did not graduate with the class of 1983.
Instead, he returned to Howard Beach and began installing coin-operated Joker Poker gambling machines, and running a football tickets scam.
Later, his father helped him start a trucking business, Samson Trucking Company. Junior picked up and dropped off construction materials and debris. In 1983, he had a salary of $250 per week. He did this from 1984 through to the 1990s.
After the trucking business went under, his father helped him get a job with the Carpenters Union.
Also see: 9 Assassinations That Rocked the World
5. December 24, 1988: Gotti Was a Made Member of the Gambino Crime Family
Christmas Eve 1988 was an important day for Junior. On that day, Junior Gotti was, in his words, “officially brought into this world” and became a made member of the Gambino crime family.
“When my father wasn’t in prison, he’d be at the Bergin Hunt & Fish Club. That’s where we’d bond,” Gotti recalled. “Everybody there was an uncle to me. But when I became a made member, I was treated with more respect.”
Adding, “Now, my father is not just my father anymore, he’s my superior, but I still reported directly to another person. I couldn’t just go around the chain of command because I was the boss’s son.”
6. Gotti Was Publicly Reprimanded by His Father
Being the son of the head of one of the most powerful mob families doesn’t mean you get any passes when you make mistakes.
John A. Gotti described his father’s management style fondly; it did not include yelling at captains and crewmembers in front of others. If John J. Gotti had a problem with you, he would reprimand you in private, unless that is, it had to do for a violation of one of the Sr.’s cardinal rules.
“When someone was locked up and you had to visit their wife at home for whatever reason, you never, ever went alone. You always had to have somebody with you. Some things with my father you could argue your way out of, but not this,” John Gotti Jr. said.
“One time somebody broke that rule and he screamed at him in front of everybody. If you went a step further and actually messed around with someone’s wife while their husband was in jail, you wouldn’t see the next day.”
Junior only ever saw his father dress-down a crew member publicly twice. The second time, Junior himself was on the receiving end.
“Sometimes we put someone ‘on the shelf’ meaning that they did something wrong and we’re no longer associating with them. One time we had a guy on the shelf, but he had cancer. I felt bad and went to go visit him and gave him some money. My father found out and was furious.”
7. 1990: John A. Gotti Was Named the Youngest Cap in Gambino History
John Gotti Jr. didn’t exactly excel in high school, but he climbed the ranks of the Gambino crime family with lightning speed. In 1990, he was named a caporegime (captain). It is thought that he was the youngest cap in the history of the Gambino family.
Junior becoming a captain likely didn’t face any opposition. According to a cooperating witness with the FBI, he and Frank Locasio met with mob boss John Gotti at the Ravenite Social Club, who strongly recommended that his son be promoted.
Later that night, the two men met with John A. Gotti to inform him that his “representante” made him a caporegime. They then took John Gotti Jr. to introduce him to his father, telling Gotti Sr., “This is your new Caporegime.” They then told Junior, “This is your representante.” Father and son then embraced.
Later that evening, Locasio and the FBI informant introduced John A. Gotti to the other capos who were at the Ravenite club that evening.
8. John A. Gotti Married in 1990
It was a busy year for John A. Gotti. In 1990, he married Kimberly Albanese, daughter of Joseph Albanese, a flooring/carpet installer. The couple first met when she was just 15, and living in the same Howard Beach, Queens neighborhood as Gotti.
To woo Kim, Junior bought her a horse. It worked. John A. Gotti was her first and only boyfriend. They married on April 21, 1990 at a lavish wedding held at the Helmsley Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue.
The extravagant affair was attended by 300 guests, including mobsters from each of New York’s five families. Knowing camera’s would be there in full force, mob bosses from the other four New York families wore black ties and covered their faces. It’s one thing to be a mob boss, it’s another to turn down an invitation from John Gotti Sr.
As gifts, the happy couple received fat envelopes stuffed with cash; $348,700 to be exact.
The couple’s first child, Frank, was born two months later; three more children followed in the years to come. They went on to have six children and lived in Oyster Bay Cove on Long Island’s North Shore. His son, John Gotti III is a professional MMA fighter.
— Zombie Prophet (@ZPGIFs) May 5, 2018
9. April 1992: John A. Gotti Named Head of Gambino Family
In April 1992, John J. Gotti was given a life sentence for, among other charges, racketeering. It was then the FBI contends he made Junior head of the Gambino crime family. He was also assisted by a committee of captains.
It was a shrewd move. Despite being in prison, John Gotti Sr. asserted his prerogative to keep his title as boss until his death or retirement. As a family member, John Gotti Jr. could visit his father in prison, and is believed to have passed along his father’s orders to the organization from behind bars.
Junior denies the claim that he was the head of the Gambino crime family while his father was in prison.
“I was never as high up as my dad was. My father was the boss and I always reported to someone. The government kept flip-flopping on their theories as to who ran the family. When it served their purposes for me to be the acting boss, I became the head of the Gambino crime family just like that. I never was. Then I was arrested in January of 1998.”
10. Gotti Wasn’t as Flashy as His Father, and Not as Well-Liked
John Gotti Sr. was nicknamed the Dapper Don for wearing expensive, custom-made suits, and sporting slicked back hair. John Gotti Jr. on the other hand was more laid back, wearing jeans, turtle neck sweaters, and training shoes.
Junior didn’t inherit his father’s love of fashion, but he did learn what not to do based on his father’s actions. John Gotti Sr. was taken down, in large part, due to FBI bugs. To avoid the same fate, Gotti Junior only discussed mob business with trusted capos, and only then did he discuss things on “walk-talks.”
Sadly, Junior was not as good a negotiator as his father, and the Gambino crime family lost out on a number of disputes with other crime families. The equally powerful Genovese family refused to deal with John Gotti Jr.
11. John A. Gotti Was Asked to Carry out a Mob Hit on a Dog
Being a mob boss isn’t always glamorous. John A. Gotti recalled years later how someone asked him to carry out a mob hit on a dog. “The only reason I even gave this guy the time of day in the first place was because his cousin worked for me,” he said.
Like an episode of Seinfeld, Junior recounted how the man told him his neighbor’s dog was keeping their family up all night. He wanted the mobster to arrange for the dog to be assassinated. “Who did this guy think I was?” Gotti asked.
“I said to him, ‘Go tell your cousin what you just asked me to do.’ The next day, his cousin comes to me crying in embarrassment, literally tears in his eyes, pleading that his cousin has mental problems and didn’t know what he was saying.”
12. Was John A. Gotti a “Dumbfella?”
A Goodfella? Everyone wants to be that. A Dumbfella? Forget about it! But that’s exactly what John A. Gotti was nicknamed by the New York press after the FBI found a cache of evidence in the basement of a house owned by him.
After taking control of the Gambino family, it is alleged that Junior let things get out of control and disintegrate. It resulted in his arrest and imprisonment.
In 1997, the FBI searched the basement in John A. Gotti’s house and found a typed list of names of Gambino members who were made. They also found $348,700 in cash, a list of the guests who attended his 1990 wedding, the dollar amount of how much each guest gave, and two guns. A veritable who’s who of the American mob.
Luchese boss Vic Amuso and Anthony Casso (underboss) donated $10,000. Colombo acting boss Victor Orena and others gave $13,000. Bonanno boss Joseph Massino and underlings gave $6,000. The Genovese crime family sent $7,000.
At the time, Genovese boss Vincent Gigante ordered a hit on John J. Gotti for allegedly breaking mob rules by killing Gambino crime lord Paul Castellano in 1985 (thus taking control of the Gambino organization).
All was not what it seemed, though, as said by Gerald Shargel, John A. Gotti’s lawyer. The list of names and amount of money given was just proof that the money seized by the FBI wasn’t mob related, it was the moneyJunior received from his wedding…nine years earlier.
Incredibly, the FBI also found a list of other men who were inducted into other families in 1991 and 1992. Normally, these lists were destroyed as soon as the individuals were inducted. This one wasn’t, and the FBI now had a long list of the who’s who, and new names to add to their surveillance.
Suffice it to say, John J. Gotti and other mob bosses were not pleased with Junior Gotti’s sloppy bookkeeping.
Commenting on the FBI raid, and his son leaving stacks of ash lying around with lists of mob associates, Gotti Sr. said he and his co-conspirators “should never be sent to jail. They should all be sent to the insane asylum. I wanna know what part of this was intelligent.”
At the same time, John J. Gotti railed against his son for hanging out with “imbeciles” and relying on wanna-be mobsters he called “butlers and waiters.”
13. John A. Gotti Arrested in 1998
Junior was arrested in 1998, accused of extorting money from the Scores strip club in Manhattan and defrauding people who purchased prepaid telephone cards. Prosecutors also found transcripts of prison conversations showing that John A. Gotti allegedly received advice from his father on how to run the Gambino family.
If found guilty, the maximum sentence was 20 years in prison.
According to Junior Gotti, the arrest wasn’t a total shock. The FBI had been raiding Gotti properties since 1997. That same year, the FBI stormed another property, seizing over $300,000 in cash.
14. John A. Gotti Served 77 Months in Prison for Racketeering
Faced with overwhelming evidence, Junior pleaded guilty to reduced charges of racketeering less than a day before his trial was supposed to begin. He also agreed to give testimony against other mobsters, including his former best friend and mob turncoat, John Alite.
In return for his guilty plea, he avoided 20 years in jail, and instead faced a maximum sentence of seven years and three months in a federal prison, and $1.0 million fine.
In his plea, John A. Gotti admitted to four acts of racketeering, having paid bribes to an officer of the Teamsters Union in 1996. One bribe was part of an effort to win a contract valued at $5.0 million to $10.0 million for construction at Stewart Airport in New Windsor, N.Y.
In 1996, Junior said he “conspired with others” to extort money through “threatened force” from a construction project in Mount Vernon, N.Y. The government said the amount Gotti Junior extorted was $50,000.
The other two racketeering charges were related to an illegal gambling operation in Connecticut, and understating his income on an application to refinance his mortgage. Prosecutors said the gambling operation generated between $5,000 and $6,000 per week, and the loan was for $338,000.
Gotti Jr. also pleaded guilty to two other crimes that were not part of the original January 1998 federal indictment. Instead, they were part of a new investigation by the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. One charge was for loan-sharking between January 1990 and September 1994. The second charge was related to understated income on a 1994 tax return.
Interestingly, none of the guilty pleas had anything to do with Scores, the Manhattan strip club that was at the center of the case against John A. Gotti.
Why did Junior cut a deal? The then 35-year-old said he wanted ”closure and finality” so he could return to his home in Oyster Bay, and raise his four children before they were grown. In other words, Gotti Jr. wanted out of the mob and to live a normal life with his family.
15. Contrite John A. Gotti a Little More Bold after Being Released
Gotti Jr. is said to have looked humble and contrite when he was sentenced in 1998 to lesser charges of racketeering. After he got out of jail though, he was a little more emboldened.
“I retired from the streets in 1998. I took a plea on a case I could have beat, paid more than $2.0 million in fines, and went to prison for seven years on the condition the government would let me walk away after my release. Instead, they indicted me again, in 2004, and tried to convince jurors I was an active member of the Gambino family.”
16. The FBI Tried to Get Junior on Four More Occasions
In all, after being released from prison, John A. Gotti was tried three additional times; each one ended in a hung jury. After the last trial in 2009, federal prosecutors have (so far) decided not to pursue a fifth trial.
In Junior’s last legal entanglement in 2008, prosecutors were hoping to nail him with charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder. A guilty verdict rested on the testimony of an FBI informant named John Altie, who was once a close friend of his. But that friendship took a hit when Altie became a snitch.
Years later, Junior said, “Alite was a conscript for low-level jobs. And, we believed that he was always a CI [criminal informant] for the police anyway. Back in 1991, [Gambino soldier] Anthony ‘Tony Pep’ Trentacosta found out through a corrupt NYPD officer that Alite was already a rat, cooperating with police and giving them information.”
While most mobsters would want to eliminate a rat, John A. Gotti was a little more humane.
“I found out Alite was an informant back in ’91, so I chased him out of New York,” Gotti said. “But I didn’t want anyone else to know that he was a rat—it would have gotten him killed. I was actually protecting him by kicking him out because I didn’t want him dead. Alite went to Philly and I had nothing to do with him anymore.”
Rats have a way of coming back, though. Despite Junior’s attempts to get Alite out of the picture, his name popped up in conversation a few years later at a dinner meeting with Robert “Bobby Cabert” Bisaccia, who handled the Northern New Jersey territory for the Gambino crime family.
“Bobby was our liaison to the Scarfo family in Philadelphia,” Gotti recalled. “Bobby asked me ‘Do we have a guy named Alletto in Philly?’ Alite was still flying our flag, calling himself Alletto to sound Italian and still trying to associate himself with the Gambinos without our permission. Bisaccia asked me if I wanted him dead. ‘No! Of course not!’ I said. So the Scarfos chased him out of Philly and he went to Tampa. That’s where agent Ted Otto flipped Alite.”
Theodore Otto was an FBI agent assigned to the Gambino family. As expected, Otto was also trying to bring down the Gotti family, and was instrumental in building the three previous cases against John Gotti Jr. All three trials ended in deadlock and John Gotti Jr. walked away.
“The last indictment was handed down in Tampa because New York didn’t want it anymore and agent Otto knew it,” explained Junior Gotti. “They tried me three times for the same thing in New York. [Judge] Scheindlin wasn’t having it again. Otto was venue shopping. Once the judge in Tampa realized that Otto was trying to bring a New York problem to Florida, he sent it back to New York.”
“Lone-sharking? Sure. Racketeering? Yeah. I was a money guy and I did my time for that, but it wasn’t enough for Otto. Now, all of a sudden Alite is a new star witness. He was a liar and a junkie and thankfully the jury saw that,” Gotti added.
Alite’s lack of credibility damaged the prosecution’s case, and the jury was, for a fourth time, deadlocked. Federal Judge Kevin Castel declared the case a mistrial, and Junior walked out of court a free man on December 1, 2009.
Prosecutors could go after John A. Gotti a fifth time, but the odds of that happening are slim.
His father, John J. Gotti, earned the nickname the “Teflon Don” for his ability to repeatedly beat charges in court. Until 1992, that is, when he was convicted of racketeering and sent to prison. Junior earned a similar title, “Teflon Jr.,” for evading convictions like his father.
17. Junior Gotti Walked Away from the Mob Life
John A. Gotti’s life as a mobster and time spent in jail put a strain on his marriage with Kim, who was raising their kids on her own. Apparently, Victoria DiGiorgio Gotti was not aware that her son was in the mafia, and blamed her husband for ruining Junior’s life. She threatened to leave him unless he allowed Junior to leave the mob.
In 2002, Junior Gotti visited his dying father at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri; their last visit together. It was during this meeting that Junior asked for his father’s blessing to take the unprecedented steps of quitting the mafia.
“I loved my father,” Junior Gotti said. “He’s the only reason I got into the business. Once he was out of the equation, I completely lost interest.”
According to Junior, he quit the mafia when he was released from prison in 1998; but getting his father’s permission would cement the deal, and allow him to spend time with his wife and family making an honest living.
John A. “Junior” Gotti, the man the FBI says ran the Gambino crime family in the 1990s while his father was in prison, was out of the family business; whether the feds believed him or not.
18. Junior Gotti Now Makes Money in Real Estate
How does John A. Gotti make ends meet now that he’s left the mob? He owns industrial properties in the New York City borough of Queens and leases them to a number of automotive businesses (body shops, car dealerships, garages, and tire distributors). Junior also says he’s overseeing the rehab of distressed homes and is going to therapy.
He doesn’t make as much as he did when he was running the Gambino crime family, but it’s more than enough to keep him and his family living comfortably in the upscale hamlet of Oyster Bay.
19. John A. Gotti Never Watched “Growing Up Gotti”
John Gotti Jr. might have run the Gambino crime family, but he wasn’t as ostentatious as his father and he didn’t live in a flashy (some might say gaudy) house like his sister, Victoria. In the short-lived reality television show Growing Up Gotti, Victoria lived in a bloated, 6,000 sq.ft. faux-Roman mansion replete with marble pillars (even in her bedroom and ensuite bathroom), an outdoor Jacuzzi, waterfall, and massive guesthouse.
“That show would have never happened if I wasn’t away,” Junior Gotti mused. Growing up Gotti first aired on A&E in August 2004 while he was serving out his prison sentence. The show was cancelled in early December 2005.
“I never watched it. Not a single episode,” Gotti added. “Just the commercials for the show would irritate me. Prison guards would try to bring it up. I didn’t want to hear it.”
20. John A. Gotti Was Stabbed Trying to Break up a Fight
We’re not sure if Junior is a hero or not. Just because he isn’t in the mob life anymore doesn’t mean he doesn’t still stumble into trouble.
In November 2012, Junior, then 49, was stabbed in the stomach while trying to break up a fight between “strangers” in the parking lot of a CVS drug store in Syosset, New York.
After the scuffle, John “Junior” Gotti went straight to a Long Island hospital, holding his bleeding stomach, and calmly asked for a doctor. He became less cordial once Nassau County police showed up and started asking questions.
“He’s being very uncooperative. He says these guys were fighting and he jumps in and is this big savior and he gets stabbed in the stomach,” said an unidentified official.
Read between the lines: Junior isn’t going to rat anyone out, even if he gets shanked!
Gotti’s injuries were not life-threatening, and he was released the next day.
21. Mob Turncoat John Alite Called Junior a “Spoiled Brat”
Unlike John A. Gotti, mobster wannabe Alite was not going quietly into the night. According to former best friend and FBI informant Alite, Junior was a “self-mutilating” idiot with zero street cred.
“He’s like Kim Jong-un — a spoiled brat that took advantage of guys around us by his dad’s authority,” he seethed.
According to Alite, it was Junior’s insecurities and him always trying to appear tough, that made him an inadequate boss.
“Ever since we were kids, he’s self-mutilating himself, burning himself with cigars,” Alite said. “He would play drinking games with other guys, and part of these drinking games was if you lose, you gotta burn your hands with cigars. These are his ideas.”
According to Alite, he and the other Gambino “earners” thought Junior Gotti was dumb and weak. He was given the nicknames “Urkel” for wearing chest-high sweatpants, and “Kong” because some people thought he looked like an ape.
Victoria Gotti, his attention-seeking older sister, called her brother “Blinkie” because he blinked whenever he lied. Gotti Junior blinked a lot.
“The father was a tyrant and the son was a p***y . . . that’s what people don’t know about the Gottis,” Alite said in his 2015 book, Gotti’s Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia.
While Junior says he doesn’t like John Alite because he’s a rat, Alite says a rift in their friendship started years before when he started a relationship with Victoria Gotti. For the record, Victoria denies they ever had a fling.
“I was fooling around with Vicki Gotti on the sneak, nobody knew, in the late ’80s,” he testified in the 2009 trial of hit man, Charles Carneglia. “I had a problem with Carmine beating up Vicki. That turned into me, Vicki fooling around a lot, seeking each other on the sneak.”
Fast forward a few years, and Alite was not quite so chatty about their alleged fling. “We were kids at the time — I have a lot of respect for her, but I wasn’t going to lie on the stand.”
22. John A. Gotti Published His Memoir in 2015
In 2015, Junior self-published his memoir, Shadow of My Father. In it, he acknowledges for the first time, that he had a leadership role in the Gambino crime family, but still maintained that his father was the one who ordered any hits.
More broadly, the memoir documents his life in the Gambino family and his undying love for his father. He also declares that his criminal life is in the past, despite what others think.
“The streets have accepted that I’m out,” Gotti said. “It’s the government that won’t. And they don’t want anyone to know that you can get out of the criminal life without them. What they want you to think is that there are only two ways out. Either you die, or you cooperate with the FBI. I’m proof that’s not true.”
Furthermore, Hollywood has also decided to take a stab at their own version of the John J. Gotti story, and who better to play the Junior’s father than John Travolta. It’s set for a 2018 release, so check out the thrilling trailer below!