Mobster Peter Gotti dies of natural causes while serving 25-year prison sentence aged 81

Mobster Peter Gotti (pictured in 2002), has died while serving a federal prison sentence, a person familiar with the matter said

Mobster Peter Gotti (pictured in 2002), has died while serving a federal prison sentence, a person familiar with the matter said

Mobster Peter Gotti (pictured in 2002), has died while serving a federal prison sentence, a person familiar with the matter said

Mobster Peter Gotti, the brother of notorious Gambino crime boss John Gotti, has died while serving a federal prison sentence, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Gotti, 81, died of natural causes while incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, said the person, who could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Gotti was sentenced to a 25-year term for his conviction in 2004 on racketeering and other charges alleging he took command of the Gambinos after his brother was locked up.

Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano testified against Gotti, which ultimately landed him in prison. 

It was previously reported that Gotti had placed a $70,000 bounty Gravano’s head after he helped authorities bring down his brother John in 1991 in exchange for a plea deal. 

Gotti was already serving a separate sentence when he was convicted in 2004. 

Upon hearing the news of Gotti’s death, Gravano told Newsday: ‘It is the closing of the Gotti era.’ 

‘I don’t like to hear about anybody dying in prison,’ Gravano added. 

He had sought an early release in late December, citing his poor health and his rejection of the gangster life, in an effort to avoid dying in prison. Gotti served more than 17 years behind bars, authorities said. 

Peter Gotti in his mugshot from 1990. The former mob boss died on Thursday night

Peter Gotti in his mugshot from 1990. The former mob boss died on Thursday night

Peter Gotti in his mugshot from 1990. The former mob boss died on Thursday night

John Gotti

John Gotti

John Gotti and Peter Gotti (right)

John Gotti and Peter Gotti (right)

Gotti, who is the brother of notorious Gambino crime boss John Gotti (left and right, with Peter), died of natural causes while incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina

‘We are truly afraid he is dying now, he feels he is,’ his attorney James Craven wrote in court papers in 2019.

‘As his lawyer, I am afraid this will all become moot soon if nothing is done.’

According to the New York Post, Craven also claimed that even ‘Stevie Wonder could see’ Gotti was not dangerous and had fully rejected his former life. 

Peter Gotti as a young mobster

Peter Gotti as a young mobster

Peter Gotti as a young mobster

Peter’s shift in attitude is a marked difference from his brothers John and Gene – the former would deny being part of any crime and the latter was released last year after spending 29 years in prison for dealing heroin and refused to leave prison even a day earlier than his sentence.

His nephew Junior, who is John’s son, publicly denied being a part of the mob in 2005. 

Peter Gotti had been sick for some time, suffering from thyroid problems, and was blind in one eye, said Lewis Kasman, a former mobster and close confidant of John Gotti.

According to New York Daily News, Peter suffered from glaucoma which earlier in his life had earned him the derogatory nickname One Eye. 

He also allegedly had another nickname, ‘The Dumbest Don’, stemming from John’s belief that Peter didn’t have the ability for the mafia. 

‘My client was considered a dope by his own brother!’ defense lawyer Joe Bondy famously said in his opening argument. 

The Gambinos were the most powerful of the five families of the New York City mafia and worth an estimated $500 million a year. 

Kasman recalled Peter Gotti as a ‘regular knockaround guy who didn’t let his title go to his head’.

His kindness, however, made him ill-suited to lead the Gambino crime family, Kasman said.

‘He was trying to do his brother’s bidding and he had a tough task,’ he said. ‘A lot of the captains were very upset with him because he wasn’t a strong boss. The Lucchese family walked all over him.’ 

Pictured, lawyer Bruce Cutler, mobster Peter Gotti and John Miller

Pictured, lawyer Bruce Cutler, mobster Peter Gotti and John Miller

Pictured, lawyer Bruce Cutler, mobster Peter Gotti and John Miller

Peter Gotti (left) had been sick for some time, suffering from thyroid problems, and was blind in one eye, said Lewis Kasman, a former mobster and close confidant of John Gotti (center in 1986)

Peter Gotti (left) had been sick for some time, suffering from thyroid problems, and was blind in one eye, said Lewis Kasman, a former mobster and close confidant of John Gotti (center in 1986)

Peter Gotti (left) had been sick for some time, suffering from thyroid problems, and was blind in one eye, said Lewis Kasman, a former mobster and close confidant of John Gotti (center in 1986)

Kasman recalled Peter Gotti (left in 1986 with his brother John, center) as a 'regular knockaround guy who didn't let his title go to his head'

Kasman recalled Peter Gotti (left in 1986 with his brother John, center) as a 'regular knockaround guy who didn't let his title go to his head'

Kasman recalled Peter Gotti (left in 1986 with his brother John, center) as a ‘regular knockaround guy who didn’t let his title go to his head’

Peter Gotti worked as a sanitation worker and collected a disability pension until taking over as acting Gambino boss in 1997 and as boss in 2001. 

He retired from the sanitation job with a disability pension after injuring his head against the back end of a garbage truck after a fall in 1979. 

Bruce Mouw, the former FBI agent who ran the investigation that ultimately led to Gotti’s arrest, said that while working for his brother, Gotti mainly collected the money. 

‘He got made in 1986,’ Mouw told Newsday Thursday night. ‘Peter was a loyal soldier and very loyal captain. His main job was to collect the money.’

‘He was a good captain but as far as a boss he was a disaster and the family went down hill,’ Mouw added. 

John Gotti became the head of the Gambino family in 1985 after engineering the assassination of former boss Paul Castellano, Mouw said. 

John, who was known as both the ‘Dapper Don’ because of his expensive suits and silvery swept-back hair, and the ‘Teflon Don’ after a series of acquittals, was serving a life term for racketeering and murder when he died of cancer in 2002. 

He had received a life sentence in 1992 for racketering and related offenses. 

Peter was indicted on his own federal racketeering charges just days before his younger brother’s death. 

Peter Gotti’s climb from santitation worker to mob boss  

Born in the Bronx in October 1939, Peter was one of 13 children and grew up in East New York in Brooklyn. 

While John, who was just a year younger, emerged as the family leader, brothers Gene Richard and Vincent were also involved in the famil business. 

Peter started working for the family aged 21 but didn’t become a ‘made made’ until the mid 1980s. 

In the early days of his mob career, he worked as a sanitation worker – as his father did – and his pension from the job was still listed as his form of income when he was arrested.  

Peter kept the job from 1969 until 1979 when he had the accident.  

He was made capo in 1989 and was made caretaker of Bergin Hunt and Fish Club and a designated driver for John and Gene. The Club was where John held court and where Peter would later take the reins.

The New York Times reported Peter and Junior carried out John’s wishes as he relayed them from prison after 1992 with Peter acting my himself after Junior also went to prison in 1999. 

Peter is said to have formally succeeded his brother after his death in June 2002. 

When Peter was hit with his own charges in 2003, New York Magazine reports that he received little legal or financial support to fight the case, which appeared to indicate the lack of respect that the rest of the crime family had for him.

‘When Pete offered me the consigliere job in 1998, I turned him down,’ mobster Mickey Scars testified. 

‘I didn’t think he had the qualifications [to be a boss]. Good skipper [capo], but the [bigger] management skills weren’t there.’

During his trial, Peter’s ten-year affair with girlfriend Margie Alexander was also revealed and his wife Catherine sued him for divorce. 

Alexander had written a plea to the judge to beg for mercy on charges linked to the attempts to kill Gravano which also threw Peter into a rage. 

She later killed herself after her relationship with Peter ended. 

The charhes of racketeering brought against Peter in 2003 centered on the Brooklyn and Staten Island waterfronts and including charges of extorting money from actor Steven Segal. 

It was reported in 2011 that Domenico Cefalù had formally replaced Gotti as boss of the Gambino family. 

‘The Dumbest Don’: Peter Gotti’s strained relationship with his younger brother John 

Peter Gotti’s ascension to mob boss came as a surprise to some given his own younger brother John’s believe that he was no fit to be in the mafia, never mind lead a crime family. 

‘He’s not only an unlikely gangster, he’s an unlikely boss,’ mob expert Jerry Capeci told the New York Daily News as he was announced as the new leader in June 2002. 

‘He would have never made the grade if not for his brother John.’

Capeci added that Peter rode on his brother’s coat tails for years without having to make his ‘bones’ by committing a murder. 

Peter was said to have none of the flair his younger brother had, opting for a less formal jacaket and pants even at his arraigment, while John was known for his flashy suits. 

The Daily News reported that before his arrest, he had lived in a modest home in Howard Beach in Queens which then had an estimated cost of $383,000. 

Gene had initially seemed the brother who would rise to the top after John. 

When John became boss, Gene was promoted to captain and took over the crew that his brother had formery led for a decade in Ozone Park, Queens, the New York Times reported. 

Yet Gene’s own convictions paved the way for Peter to become the unlikely successor.  

THE GAMBINO CRIME FAMILY 

The Gambino crime family is one of what is widely referred to as ‘The Five Families’ of Italian organized crime operations in New York City and other parts of the United States. 

The Gambinos’ rise to become one of the most powerful mafia families in America started in 1957, when the family’s namesake, Carlos Gambino – an Italian immigrant – orchestrated the murder of Albert Anastasia, who had organized a collection of Italian gangs into what now would be considered a ‘crime family.’ 

Gambino headed the organization until 1976, when he handed power over to his brother-in-law Paul Castellano. 

Like other mafia families, the Gambinos took their methods from the crime families in Italy – La Cosa Nostra – and were involved in illegal activities like loan-sharking, extortion, prostitution, gambling and money laundering – as well as the frequent assaults and murders associated with those types of business ventures. 

In 1985, Gambino ‘capo’ John Gotti orchestrated the murder of Castellano to become the most publicized boss of the family. 

Gotti’s reign came to an end when his underboss, Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano agreed to testify against him and other members of the family in a 1992 RICO trial. 

Since Gotti’s downfall, the Gambinos – and other mafia families – have lost much of the power they once had over politicians, judges and labor unions. 

The family was headed by Domenico Cefalu until 2015, when Frank Cali took over as capo. 

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