Vincent Gigante

Vincent Gigante
Vincent Louis Gigante

Vincent Gigante in 1957.
Born March 29, 1928(1928-03-29)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died December 19, 2005(2005-12-19) (aged 77)
Springfield, Missouri, U.S.
Cause natural causes
Alias(es) "Chin", "The Oddfather", "The Enigma in the Bathrobe", "The Robe" and Vinny Gigante
Conviction(s) Racketeering and conspiracy
Penalty 10 years
Status died in prison
Spouse Olympia Gigante (née Girippa)
Parents Salvatore Gigante
Yolonda Gigante
Children Andrew, Salvatore, Yolanda, Roseanne and Rita Gigante

Vincent Louis Gigante (play /ɨˈɡænt/; March 29, 1928 – December 19, 2005), also known as "the Chin", was a New York Italian-American mobster in the American Mafia who was boss of the Genovese crime family from 1981 to 2005. Gigante started out as a professional boxer who fought 25 matches between 1944 and 1947. He then started working as a Mafia enforcer for the Genovese crime family. Gigante was one of five brothers: himself, Mario, Pasquale and Ralph all became mobsters in the Genovese family. Only one brother, Louis, stayed out of the crime family, instead becoming a priest.[1] Gigante was the shooter in the failed assassination of Frank Costello in 1959. After sharing a prison cell with Boss Vito Genovese following his conviction for heroin trafficking, Gigante became a caporegime, overseeing his own crew of Genovese soldiers and associates that operated out of Greenwich Village.

Gigante quickly rose to power during the 1960s and 1970s. By 1981 he became the Boss of the Genovese crime family while Anthony Salerno served as front boss during the 1980s. He also ordered the failed murder attempt of Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in 1986. With the arrest and conviction of Gotti and various Gambino family members in 1992, Gigante was officially recognized as the most powerful crime boss in the United States. Dubbed "The Oddfather" and "The Enigma in the Bathrobe" by the press, Gigante often wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in his bathrobe and slippers, mumbling incoherently to himself, in what Gigante later admitted was an elaborate act to avoid prosecution.[2] The act worked for over 10 years and Gigante was determined to be mentally unfit to stand trial. However, by 1997 he was tried and convicted of racketeering and was given a 12 year sentence. He died while in prison custody in 2005 at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners.


Early life

Gigante was born in Lower East Side, Manhattan to Salvatore Espositio Vulgo Gigante (April 26, 1900- April 1979), a jewel engraver, and Yolonda Santasilia-Gigante (1902-May 10, 1997), a seamstress and maternal nephew of Dolores Santasilia. His parents and aunt were first generation immigrants from Naples, Italy and never learned the English language. Vincent and his extended family relatives settled in New York City and Westchester County including Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Gigante's nickname, "The Chin", derived from his mother's use of the Italian pronunciation of his given name Vincenzo. He had four brothers, Mario (born November 4, 1923), Pasquale A. Gigante (October 18, 1921 - January 7, 1983) and Ralph, who followed him into a life of organized crime but would later die of AIDS. His last brother Louis Gigante became an ordained Roman Catholic priest at St. Athanasius Church in the South Bronx and city councilman.

Gigante graduated from Public School 3 in West Village, Manhattan and later attended Textile High school, but at the age of sixteen, in Grade 9 dropped out to pursue a career as a professional boxer and work in a number of blue collar occupations.

As a teenager Gigante became protege of Genovese crime family patriarch Vito Genovese and Philip Lombardo. Between the ages of 17 and 25, he was arrested seven times on charges ranging from receiving stolen goods, possession of an unlicensed handgun and for illegal gambling and bookmaking. Most of the allegations were dismissed and the longest sentence he served was 60 days for the illegal gambling conviction. During this time he stated that he was employed as a tailor.

His brother Louis insisted that Vincent had a tested IQ of 69. His mother Yolanda, when questioned about her son's alleged leadership of the Genovese crime family she stated, "Vincenzo? He's the boss of the toilet!" A psychiatrist retained by his relatives said in an affidavit that Vincent "suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations and delusions of persecution." Gigante had two families and lived in two different places. He had allegedly been mentally troubled since the 1960s with a below normal IQ of 69 to 72.

Boxing career

Vince Gigante
Real name Vincent Gigante
Nickname(s) "The Chin" Giganti
Rated at Light heavyweight
Nationality Flag of the United States.svg American
Boxing record
Total fights 25
Wins 21
Wins by KO 1
Losses 4

Vincent Gigante was a short lived professional light heavyweight boxer who was known as "The Chin" Gigante. He fought 25 matches and lost four, boxing 121 rounds. On February 19, 1945, he fought Pete Petrello in Madison Square Garden and won by a knock out in the second round. During his successful boxing career he fought in the Light Heavyweight division. His first professional boxing match was against Vic Chambers on July 18, 1944 in Union City, New Jersey which he lost; he then fought Chambers a second time at the St. Nicholas Arena on June 29, 1945 and successfully defeated him. He defeated him again on June 29, 1945 at Madison Square Garden. He also fought at the Garden against Luther McMillen on March 8, 1946 which he won, and Buster Peppe on July 19, 1946, which he also won. His last match was against Jimmy Slade on May 17, 1947 which he lost at the Ridgewood Grove, Brooklyn, New York. During this match he suffered a severe cut over his right eye, causing the referee to stop the fight and award it to Slade. That was the first and only time Gigante was ever stopped. Slade was top contender, and the fight was a vicious affair until the stoppage. His boxing manager was Thomas Eboli and he was a sparring partner of Rocky Castellani and future Genovese crime family acting boss Dominick Cirillo.

Criminal career

Gigante earned his Mafia credentials as an enforcer in the 1950s.[1] He worked in the Greenwich Village Crew, a group of mobsters in Greenwich Village that was overseen by Vito Genovese and later Anthony Strollo. Gigante was a protege of Genovese. Between age 17 and 25, Gigante was arrested seven times on charges of receiving stolen goods, possession of an unlicensed handgun, auto theft, arson and bookmaking.[2] He only served one jail sentence, 60 days for an illegal gambling conviction.[2] The rest were dismissed or resolved with fines.

Costello murder attempt

Mugshot of Gigante in 1960.

On May 2, 1957, Vito Genovese ordered Gigante to murder Genovese family Boss Frank Costello, a close friend of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky and one of the best-known underworld figures in the United States. Gigante shot Costello as he entered the lobby at 115 Central Park West, where he had an apartment in The Majestic, on the corner of 72nd Street, Manhattan. Just as Gigante fired his .38-caliber handgun, however, Costello moved, causing the bullet to graze the right side of his head. Because Costello fell down, Gigante thought the mob boss was dead and sped away in a black Cadillac. Costello refused to identify his attempted assassin, but the doorman at 115 Central Park West did. But when tried for the shooting, his defense team effectively challenged the credibility of the doorman, and Gigante was acquitted in 1958 on charges of attempted murder.


In 1959, Gigante was convicted, with Vito Genovese, of heroin trafficking and sentenced to seven years in prison. The sentencing judge was swayed by a flood of letters from residents of Greenwich Village and Little Italy attesting to Gigante's good character and his work on behalf of juveniles. He was paroled after five years.[1] Not long afterward, he was promoted from soldier to captain, running the Greenwich Crew.[1] Gigante's crew was based at the Triangle Social Club at 208 Sullivan Street, but also met at the Dante Social Club at 81 McDougal Street, and the Panel Social Club at 208 Thompson Street. Gigante also met with gangsters and business associates at his mother's apartment. He was involved in bookmaking and loansharking, and was immersed in labor racketeering in New York City's construction and haulage industries.

The crew controlled much of organized crime throughout downtown Manhattan, and Gigante went on to become one of the most powerful caporegimes (captains) in the New York Mafia from the early 1970s until his promotion to boss in 1981. Some of the rackets included labor union control, gambling, loan sharking, hijackings, and extortion of businesses. Through his brother Mario, who later became a capo of his own crew, the Gigantes maintained influence in the Bronx, Yonkers and upper Westchester. Gigante's closest associates included his brother Mario Gigante, sons Andrew Gigante and Vincent Esposito, Dominick Alongi, Venero Mangano, Frank Condo, Dominick DiQuarto, Thomas D'Antonio, Frank Caggiano, Louis Manna, Giuseppe Dellacroe, Dominick Canterino, Dominick Cirillo, Joseph Denti, and Joseph Sarcinella.

In 1969, Gigante was indicted in New Jersey on a charge of conspiracy to bribe the entire five-member Old Tappan police force to alert him to surveillance operations by law enforcement agencies.[1] The accusation was dropped after Mr. Gigante's lawyers presented reports from psychiatrists that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.[1]

Genovese crime boss

Vincent Gigante was a protege of both Vito Genovese and ultra-secretive boss Philip Lombardo ("Benny Squints"). When Lombardo retired from crime in 1981 due to poor health, he supported Gigante to take over the crime family.[1] As boss of the family, Gigante strengthened the family's stranglehold of some of New York City's most lucrative rackets, including the New York Coliseum, Jacob K. Javits Center, labor racketeering, the drywall business, Concrete Club, Fulton Fish Market, drug trafficking, private waste industry, and gambling. He controlled outright the Housewreckers Union Local 95 of the Laborers Unions. In June 1984, Local 95 union officials President Joseph Sherman, Business Manager Stephen McNair and Secretary-Treasurer John Roshteki were convicted of labor racketeering in connection with extortion from a contractor, Schiavone-Chase Corporation.

Additionally, he made Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno the front boss of the Genovese family. This fooled both law enforcement and other crime families, with only Genovese family members knowing who was really running things. In 1986, Salerno was convicted on charges of murder and racketeering and sentenced to 100 years in prison along with top members of the other Five Families in what was called the Mafia Commission Trial. However, Genovese family informant Vincent Cafaro revealed to the FBI during the trial that Salerno was just a figurehead; Gigante had been the real boss of the family since 1981. In response, Gigante abandoned the Front Boss position and added two new positions to the family administrations: Messenger and Street Boss. The job of the messenger, Dominick Cirillo, was to pass messages from Gigante to other family members and to serve as liaison between crime families. The Street Boss Liborio Bellomo, was responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the business. Both positions were created to further insulate the boss from the lower workers of the family.

Gigante was reclusive, managing to never be picked up on a wiretap by the FBI or other law enforcement agencies and managed to remain on the streets longer than all of his contemporaries. He almost never left his home unoccupied because he knew FBI agents would sneak in and plant a bug.[3] His discipline and care differed sharply from that of many other mob figures, most notably his rival, John Gotti, the boss of the Gambino crime family. Gigante made Venero "Benny Eggs" Mangano his underboss and sent his orders only through his closest associates, thereby insulating himself from the other family's bosses and lower ranking wiseguys. When necessary to speak to fellow mobsters, he only whispered so he couldn't be picked up by wiretap and never discusses criminal business on the phone.[3] Family members were also forbidden from speaking his name. When references to him had to be made, his men would simply point to their chins.[1]

While preferring to remain behind the scenes, Gigante would not hesitate to authorize the use of violence and was responsible for ordering the murders of Philadelphia crime family mobsters Antonio Caponigro, Fred Salerno, and Frank Sindone for the unsanctioned 1980 murder of Philadelphia boss Angelo Bruno, and Philadelphia mobsters Frank Narducci and Rocco Marinucci for the unsanctioned murder of Philip Testa, Bruno's successor. Gigante also ordered the murders of Genovese soldier Gerald Pappa and many others.

During his tenure as boss of the Genovese family after the imprisonment of John Gotti, Gigante would come to be known as the figurehead capo di tutti capi, the "Boss of All Bosses", even though the position had been abolished with the murder of Salvatore Maranzano in 1931. In one instance during the wake of a Genovese member, Gigante pulled aside Victor Amuso, the acting boss of the Lucchese crime family, to discuss the Lucchese's families encroachment on his families "Windows Racket". Gigante told him he'd be "lucky to leave this wake alive" and the Lucchese family subsequently gave in to Gigante's demand to back off.[4]

Feigning legal insanity

FBI surveillance photo of Gigante (right) strolling through Greenwich Village, being led by his close associate and bodyguard Dominick Canterino.

In 1969, Gigante started feigning mental illness to escape criminal prosecution. He escaped conviction on bribery charges by producing a number of prominent psychiatrists who testified that he was legally insane. The doctors said Gigante suffered from schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, and other disorders. Gigante allegedly enlisted his mother and wife to help him in these deceptions. The government had many psychiatrists and doctors examine Vincent including Thomas Gutheil from Harvard University, Donald Klein from Columbia University, William Reid from University of Texas, Wilford Van Gorp from Cornell University, Stanley Portnow from New York University, and Abraham Halpern from New York Medical College. These psychiatrists said that Gigante was neither competent to stand trial nor to be sentenced.

Even when not under indictment, he prepared for inevitable charges (knowing the FBI was watching him). Almost every day he would return from his residence to his mother's apartment at 225 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village and emerge dressed in a bathrobe and pajamas or a windbreaker and shabby trousers. Accompanied by one or two bodyguards, he crossed the street to the Triangle Civic Improvement Association — a dingy storefront club that served as his headquarters — where he played pinochle and held whispered conversations with his associates.[1] Regular visitors to the Triangle included senior Genovese caporegimes Liborio Bellomo, John Ardito, Tino Fiumara, Ernest Muscarella and Daniel Leo. From Gigante's 1990 indictment and after his incarceration (in La Tuna, Texas) these men ran the crime family, although all major choices would be authorized by Gigante from his prison cell.

Trial and conviction

FBI mugshot of Gigante.

In 1990, Gigante was arrested and charged with racketeering and murder; however, it wasn't until 1997 that he was brought to trial. During that time period, Gigante's lawyers produced witness after witness who testified that Gigante was mentally ill and unfit to stand trial. However, all this changed when a number of prominent Mafia members from various families began to cooperate with the government in the early 1990s.

Foremost among the cooperating witnesses was Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, former underboss of the Gambino crime family, who became a cooperating witness in 1991.[1] Gravano testified that on the two occasions he met Gigante, the mob boss was perfectly lucid and clear in his thinking. Other turncoat witnesses such as Phil Leonetti of the Philadelphia crime family implicated Gigante in ordering the murder of several Bruno family members in the early 1980s. In 1994, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, former underboss of the Lucchese crime family, implicated Gigante in a 1986 plan to have Casso kill new Gambino boss John Gotti, underboss Frank DeCicco and Gotti's brother Gene Gotti, due to the unsanctioned 1985 murder of John Gotti's former boss, Paul Castellano.

In 1997, Gigante was convicted on several racketeering and conspiracy charges and sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison by judge I. Leo Glasser. Despite his lawyers' and psychiatrists' claims that he had been legally insane for more than 30 years, the jury convicted him on all but the murder charges, which would have mandated a life sentence without parole. While in prison, he was still in firm control of the Genovese family. While other mobsters were entrusted to run the day-to-day activities of the family, Gigante relayed orders to the crime family through his son, Andrew, who would visit him in prison.[5][6]

On April 7, 2003, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in Federal District Court, acknowledging that his "insanity" was a pretense in order to delay his racketeering trial. This was part of a deal to avoid another set of charges that would have brought on a lengthy trial (he was 75 at the time). Instead, he had another three years added to his sentence. This plea deal was only agreed upon to get a lesser sentence for himself and his son Andrew.[1]


In 2005, Gigante's health started to decline. He started suffering labored breathing, oxygen deprivation, swelling in the lower body, and bouts of unconsciousness. Gigante was moved from the Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Worth to Springfield Missouri. In November 2005, Flora Edwards, his lawyer, sued officials at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri to transfer Gigante to an acute care hospital. Transferred to a private medical facility, Gigante rallied physically. In early December, he was transferred back to Springfield, where he died 10 days later on December 19, 2005.

On December 23, 2005, after a service at Saint Anthony of Padua Church in Greenwich Village, Gigante's body was cremated at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. He is survived by eight children (five from his wife and three from his mistress). He also has prominent cousins from Boston. (The cousins spell their name both Gigante and Giganti.) Gigante's lawyer has said that the family intends to sue the federal government over Gigante's health care treatment while in prison. Since Gigante's death, his family continues to live well off. Today, Gigante’s relatives earn nearly $2 million a year as gainful employees of companies on the New Jersey waterfront, according to a report by Jerry Capeci.[7]

Personal life

Psychiatrist Dr. Eugene D'Adamo, who was Gigante's "primary treating psychiatrist" saw him from 1973 to 1989 and stated that, "he has been diagnosed since 1969 as suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type with acute exacerbation's which result in hospitalization." His list of alleged mental illnesses later included Dementia pugilistica and Alzheimer's Disease. He allegedly had to take daily medications for these illnesses, which included prescriptions for Valium and Thorazine. Since 1969, D'Adamo reported that Gigante had been treated on 20 different separate occasions for psychiatric disorders at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison, New York. These visitations all coincided with news of criminal indictments being handed down against him. Psychologist and mental health workers said at his trial that from 1969 to 1995 he had been confirmed 28 times in hospitals for treatment of hallucinations that he suffered from "dementia rooted in organic brain damage." He had open heart surgery in 1998 and another cardiac operation in 1996 before his racketeering trial. He allegedly was prescribed to take on a day-to-day basis, 5 mg of Valium, 100 mg of Thorazine and 30 mg of Dalmane.

He is the father of Andrew born September 30, 1956 in New York City, Salvatore, Yolanda, Roseanne and Rita and two daughters, Lucia and Carmella by his mistress. He is the uncle of Ralph Gigante Jr., the son and namesake of his brother, Ralph Sr. a recognized mob associate involved in labor racketeering. He is also the uncle of Carmine Esposito, the son of Genovese crime family mobster Salvatore "Zooki" Esposito, who along with his brother Carmine "Nini" Esposito are the owners of "Il Cortile" restaurant in the "Little Italy" section of Manhanttan. Carmine (Zooki's son) was the subject of a documentary titled "Capturing Carmine." He was featured on America's Most Wanted after allegedly shooting a restaurant patron in New York City. Subsequently, Carmine was found not guilty of all charges related to the incident.

He maintained a residence in Old Tappan, New Jersey with his wife Olympia Grippa who he married in 1950 and their five children, Andrew Gigante, Salvatore, Yolanda, Roseann and Rita. He maintained his second family in a town house located at 67 East 77th Street, near Park Avenue in the Upper East Side, Manhattan with his long time mistress Olympia Esposito and their one son and two daughters. But he was rarely seen at his Old Tappan residence and instead at his mother's apartment located at 225 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) surveillance reports, after midnight, he was driven to a townhouse at East 77th Street near Park Avenue where he actually lived.[8] He grew up on the same streets in Greenwich Village where he spent most of his adult life during the day.

In popular culture

  • He is portrayed by Nicholas Kepros in Witness to the Mob. Kepros's scenes involve Gigante's desire to kill John Gotti.
  • Two episodes of Law & Order have featured Gigante-like characters


Further reading

  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. ISBN 0-02-864225-2
  • Jacobs, James B., Coleen Friel and Robert Radick. Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime. New York: NYU Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8147-4247-5
  • Maas, Peter. Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0-06-093096-9
  • Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: St. Martin Press, 2005. ISBN 0-312-30094-8

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno
Genovese crime family

Succeeded by
Saverio "Sammy" Santora
Preceded by
Philip Lombardo
Genovese crime family

Succeeded by
Daniel "Danny the Lion" Leo
Preceded by
John Gotti
Capo di tutti capi
Boss of bosses

Succeeded by
Joseph "Big Joey" Massino

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