Gambino Crime Family and Frank Cali: 5 fast facts/things to know

A still from a news video on YouTube showing where the Cali murder occurred. Pic credit: CBS2 CT / YouTube
The location in Staten Island where the Cali murder occurred. Pic credit: CBS2 CT / YouTube

Staten Island, New York was the scene of a gruesome modern day mafia-style hit on Wednesday night.

Known as a negotiator, Francesco “Frank” Cali was gunned down in six shots and then run over in front of his house as neighbors heard the commotion.

The New York Times wrote:

Mr. Cali, 53, was shot six times in the Todt Hill section of Staten Island at around 9:20 p.m., the police said. Neighbors heard a staccato burst of gunshots — “pow-pow-pow-pow-pow,” one said on Wednesday night — all the same volume, as if fired from the same gun. A blue pickup truck was spotted fleeing the scene, the police said.

But why?

Who was Frank Cali and how was he connected to the mafia?

Cali was considered a high-ranking Gambino family member and acting boss (he replaced Domenico Cefalu) according to CNN and the New York Times.

Born in New York City, this mafia member’s mother and father hailed from Palermo, Sicily. His wife Rosaria Inzerrilo was a sister of Pietro Inzerillo and a relative of Gambino associate Frank Inzerillo of the Sicilian Palermitan Inzerillo family.

It was a family affair that reached back to Sicily.

Through his marriage and blood relatives, as Cali’s wife was the niece of Sicilian mobster John Gambino, he was directly related to the Sicilian Mafia family led by Salvatore Inzerillo, meaning he was also related to Sicilian mafioso Joseph Gambino and Rosario Gambino.

Cali was connected to the Bonanno crime family mobsters Giovanni Bonventre and Vito Bonventre by his grandfather’s brother and Cali was also related to Gambino boss Paul Castellano.

The New York Daily News summarized the “meteoric rise” of Cali in a 2015 news feature:

Federal prosecutors have marveled at Cali’s meteoric rise to power in the crime family’s post-Gotti era.

He became a powerful capo before the age of 40, less than a decade after he became an inducted member, according to court papers. Cali has just one criminal conviction: a federal extortion charge for which he was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

A wiseguy in Italy was secretly taped several years ago gushing about Cali’s stature in New York City, “He is everything over there.”

Did Cali have a family of his own?

We know he was married and ABC7 (New York) news reports say his wife and child were home when the gangland murder happened in Todt Hill, the section of Staten Island where he lived.

According to ABC7:

[Cali] family members told detectives Cali told them he was stepping outside because he had heard something that sounded like his car being hit. No one else in the house or on the block heard the noise, and police are also looking into whether he was signaled to go outside to meet someone.

Detectives are seeking video surveillance for evidence of the blue pickup truck.

Mob experts have been wary about possible conflicts erupting in the crime family, particularly after Gotti’s brother Gene, a reputed captain, recently was released from prison. But they say all options remain on the table.

They say the type of hit — at his home, with no real attempt to hide what happened — suggests that it was a message killing. The question for detectives is what type of message was being sent.

Was he arrested?

Yes. More than once, but most famously in 2008.

Cali was arrested for extorting ‘mob taxes’ as Cali and others in his crew shook down Joseph Vollero, the owner of a trucking and contracting company that was helping build a NASCAR speedway on Staten Island.

Several Gambino members were arrested in this FBI-coordinated sting.

Are the Mob Wives of reality TV connected?

Kind of, yes. You are going to need a bit of a Venn diagram:

Ramona Rizzo, the granddaughter of New York Bonnano crime man Benjamin ‘Lefty Guns’ Ruggiero made famous in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, while played by Al Pacino, alongside Johnny Depp.

Her series pal was Karen Gravano, daughter of Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano, who ratted out Cali predecessor Gotti. He was the mafia’s most high-profile informer when he turned in John Gotti and brought down the Gambino crime family.

Another cast member, Renee Graziano’s father was Anthony Graziano who had dealings with the crime family in New York and lastly, half Albanian Drita D’avanzo’s husband Lee D’avanzo was a high-ranking member of the Bonanno family, who Cali was indirectly and directly related to as well.

What was the reason?

Possibly his meteoric rise rubbed existing Gambino members the wrong way. The New York Times speculated that some in his own family may have had an issue with his leadership:

Mr. Lipton cited Mr. Cali’s “familial and blood ties” to the Gambino family, and his “very close relationship” with John D. D’Amico, known as Jackie, who had become the acting boss of the family around 2005.

Mr. Cali’s swift rise did not please everyone. One Gambino soldier, Joey Orlando, was overheard on a wiretapped call that was disclosed at the hearing complaining about Mr. Cali, whom he described as “Jackie’s guy.”

“Jackie made him a skipper,” Mr. Orlando was overheard saying. “Some snot-nosed, 30-year-old kid.”

Prosecutors said Mr. Cali’s influence extended to Italy, where many members and associates in his crew were from, and where he was seen as a man of “influence and power” by other organized crime figures.

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