Angelo Ruggiero

Angelo Ruggiero

Angelo Ruggiero Sr. pronounced (roo-JEH-roh) (1941 - 1989) was a capo of the Gambino crime family and close personal friend of John Gotti.

Mob family roots

Angelo Ruggiero was born in East New York, Brooklyn to John Ruggiero Sr. a first generation Italian immigrant from Torre de Ruggiero in Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy and Italian-American Mary Dellacroce, the sister of Gambino crime family underboss Aniello Dellacroce. It is unknown if John Ruggiero Sr. was a member of the Gambino crime family under Charles Luciano or Albert Anastasia. Angelo's former criminal attorney, Jeffrey C. Hoffman would describe him as a "very caring family man." There has never been any indication that Angelo's father was involved in organized crime. Law enforcement authorities describe Ruggiero as a stocky man with a gravelly voice brought on from years of cigarette smoke that sounded like a cement truck mixer. He appeared to be of mixed Amerindian, Afro-Venezuelan and Spanish descent because of his skin complexion and not Italian-American. His uncle Aniello was never close to his nephew Angelo and made his childhood friend, John Gotti, his protegé. Angelo was a high school dropout and close childhood friend of John Gotti and Sammy Gravano, and later became consigliere of the Gambino crime family. He was a maternal nephew of Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce, cousin to Gambino associate Armond Dellacroce, the son of Aniello and a childhood friend of boss John Gotti. Ruggiero was the brother of drug trafficer Salvatore Ruggiero (July 20, 1945 - May 1982) and is the father of John Ruggiero and Angelo Ruggiero, Jr. and two daughters. He is also the uncle to mob associate Salvatore Ruggiero Jr., the son and namesake of his brother. He married an Italian-American woman named Marie who would bear him two sons Angelo Jr. and John Ruggiero Jr. would later follow their father into a career of organized crime. Angelo Jr. was convicted of grand larceny, in May 1998, and sent to prison for one-to-three years. He became estranged from his brother Salvatore when his brother became a fugitive in 1978 until his death death on May 6, 1982 along with his wife and mother of his children, Stephanie.


In court Detective Michael Falcone said, "Heavy, Bullface. You know, he wasn't a handsome guy. How would I describe him? Animal or human? He looked like a fire pump." Sometime following his release from prison for his role in the James McBratney gangland slaying in July 1977, both he and John Gotti were formally inducted into the Gambino crime family by Paul Castellano, Joseph N. Gallo and Aniello Dellacroce. It is suggested by law enforcement that due to Dellacroce's role as underboss and fondness for John Gotti and his nephew was the reason they were promoted to "made men". Angelo would often publicly complain about the lack of money that he was earning through his illicit criminal enterprises. Following the diagnosis of his uncle's terminal cancer, Paul Castellano issued an even stronger edict on narcotics, ruling that any member of the family member made after 1962 was strictly prohibited from any involvement in narcotics under pain of death. He followed up by pressuring the National Commission to issue a firm mafia-wide ban that would also carry an instant death penalty. This new edict was aimed directly at John Gotti and Angelo, along with Aniello, who Castellano began to suspect, had been secretly sanctioning (and profiting by) Gotti's narcotics operation. Castellano hoped that these and a number of other politically motivated moves in the crime family would brake the sudden, ambitious accent of Angelo and John Gotti. Authorities would later comment that, judging by appearances, however, both Angelo and John seemed blithely unconcerned by a second consequence of the Ravenite social club wire tapping operation, a grand jury subpeona calling forth Angelo, John and ten other habitues of the Ravenite to discuss certain aspects of organized crime, as revealed by the successful Operation Acorn. Given John Gotti's new position of Gambino crime family boss in 1985, Gotti no longer handled the actual specifics of contract killings, and assigned the job to Ruggiero. But Ruggiero, who often let his emotions and mouth run away with him, would occasionally demonstrate a less than firm grasp of the arcane art of contract murder. On a recorded conversation he once threatened to throw two former drug trafficker's looking for payment in the pool of his Cedarhurst home where he told them he kept "man eating" sharks.

The murder of DiBernardo and attempted murder of Casso

In June 1986 he successfully arranged the murder of Gambino crime family capo, Robert DiBernardo but later botched the murder of Lucchese crime family mobster Anthony Casso, who was a "soldier" at the time. Casso openly called Ruggiero an "idiot". Insulted, Ruggiero decided to have Casso murdered, a task entrusted to Michael (Mickey Boy) Paradiso, one of John Gotti's oldest friends. Paradiso, in turn, assigned the actual task of killing to three hoodlums, including a Staten Island thug named James Hydell, a nephew of Gambino crime family capo Daniel Marino. Hydell shot Casso five times, but failed to kill him, a mistake that proved costly: kidnapped by Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, Hydell was hideously tortured by Anthony Casso for twelve hours, then killed, all as a warning to Ruggiero. The incident further rattled Gotti's faith in Ruggiero's abilities as a capo, and created a major managerial problem: as family boss, Gotti was being ushered into the great riches of the upper-level rackets, ones that required captains with some intelligence and business sense who could help him run the organization. Ruggiero proved to have none of these attributes. He was addicted to cigarettes and would smoke four packs of Marlboro cigarettes a day. He was later removed from the drug trafficking indictment with John Carneglia and Gene Gotti to be treated for heart problems and spots on his lungs. While in a Manhattan hospital recieving chemotherapy, he announced that he was giving up smoking Marlboros and replacing them with a recessed-filter brand that, he insisted, in the face of all medical evidence, would not harm his lungs.

Relationship with Wilfred Johson

For reasons which have never been made entirely clear, mob associate Wilfred Johnson hated Angelo. Out of all the members of the Bergen crew he seemed most intent as an informant on hurting Angelo who he referred to as "that fat fuck" in some way. However, Johnson pointedly did not include John Gotti in his discussion of the Bergin narcotics operation, insisting to the FBI that he didn't know too much about that subject. The FBI suspected this was a lie but Johnson nevertheless provided them with precise sketches of the interior of the Ruggiero home in Cedarhurst, New York, accompanied by reccomendations on the best places to plant a wire transmitter. When the bug was planted in 1982, the FBI was provided with what is now considered by many in law enforcement as one of the most remarkable oral histories ever recordeed on the progress of a major criminal conspiracy.

Troubled medical history

It is thought by many that he suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD and attention deficit disorder which earned him the monicker as being the "Perle Mesta of the Mob". He earned the name "Quack Quack" from his extreme talkative nature and because he suffered from Plantar fasciitis, a painful flammatory infection of the feet of which the most telltale sign was his duck-like wattle step caused by severe pronation like the Duck Walk made famous by American guitarist Chuck Berry. He later suffered from obesity and would later be plagued with lung cancer that would later spread throughout his body, leading to his premature death. Gambino crime family capo John Carneglia often complained about Angelo to fellow criminals stating, "Dial any seven numbers, and there's a fifty-fifty chance that Angelo will answer the phone."

Personal toll over Salvatore's death

After Angelo was notified of his brother's death, he, along with Gene Gotti and John Carneglia, went to Salvatore's hideout in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, searching for a yet-to-be-sold shipment of heroin and cash. A few months earlier however, hoping to catch up with his elusive brother and to gain evidence to indict John Gotti, the FBI's Gambino Squad had thoroughly wired Angelo's home. Not only was his telephone line bugged, but microphones were placed in his kitchen, den and dining room. Federal agents were able to record Angelo's attorney Micheal Coiro, offering condolences to Angelo on the death of his brother, and then saying, "Gene found the heroin." The talk of heroin in the wake of Salvatore's death and the connection to a Gotti family relative seized the attention of the investigating FBI agents. The investigation into Angelo suddenly held promise in leading to indictments of major family operatives. Angelo was known as a constant chatter-box, providing a running commentary on everything going on around him. Everyone who visited him had to endure endless gossip, complaints and general indiscretions. The death of his brother Salvatore, hit Angelo hard and he was often overheard on FBI wiretaps in his Cedarhurst, New York home wistfully speaking of his brother to Gerlando Sciascia and Joseph LoPresti, his two drug trafficking partners. Unlike his brother Salvatore who became a multi-millionaire from his successful large scale drug trafficking operation, Angelo would never rise above a wealthy street-level mobster. He would later tell Joseph LoPresti, "You know I lost my brother. I said to myself: "I'll have to get drunk". I had two vodkas... I went in my room, I closed the door and I cried...."

McBratney and Castellano slayings

Ruggiero was involved in the 1973 murder of James McBratney with Gotti and Ralph Galione. Ruggiero also participated in the 1985 slaying of Gambino leader Paul Castellano. Finally, Ruggiero was suspected in the 1980 disappearance of John Favara, a neighbor of Gotti who had killed Gotti's 12 year-old son Frank in a car accident. Ruggiero was later the subject of a government undercover investigation. Mobster turned government informant Wilfred Johnson provided investigators with the layout for Ruggerio's home so that they could install for bugs and wire taps. Investigators monitored Ruggiero's activities in narcotics [ [ The Rat by Allan May ] ] . Investigators later recorded conversations between Ruggiero and Gene Gotti that implicated the two men in Castellano's murder.

Falling out with John Gotti and death

In 1989, Angelo Ruggiero died of cancer in Howard Beach, Queensat 48 years old. Ruggiero is portrayed in the television movie "Gotti" by actor Vincent Pastore. After turning state's evidence to avoid prosecution, former underboss Sammy Gravano reported that during the last months of Angelo's life both he and Gene Gotti urged John to visit his near death childhood friend. Gotti refused to see his once loyal soldier and friend because he was still angry over Ruggiero's criminal activities being recorded on wire taps. Gravano would also claim that he nearly had to drag Gotti to attend his wake.

Further reading

* Capeci, Jerry. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia". Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. ISBN 0-02-864225-2
* Davis, John H. Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. ISBN 0-06-016357-7
* Jacobs, James B., Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington. "Busting the Mob: The United States Vs. Cosa Nostra". New York: NYU Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8147-4230-0
* 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
* Willis, Clint (ed.) "Wise Guys: Stories of Mobsters from Jersey to Vegas". New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003. ISBN 1-56025-498


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