Aniello Dellacroce

Aniello Dellacroce
Aniello Dellacroce
Born March 15, 1914(1914-03-15)
New York, United States
Died December 2, 1985(1985-12-02) (aged 71)
New York City, New York, United States
Cause Lung cancer
Conviction(s) Tax evasion
Penalty Five years
Occupation Butcher's assistant
Children Armond, Ronald, Shannon and Sean

Aniello John "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce (March 15, 1914 - December 2, 1985), also known as "Father O'Neil" and "The Tall Guy", was an Italian-American gangster and underboss of the Gambino crime family. A capo of his own crew for many years he rose to the position of underboss when Carlo Gambino moved Joseph Biondo aside.


Early life

Little is known of Dellacroce's early life. He was born to first generation immigrants from Veneto, Italy and grew up in Little Italy. Dellacroce was a tall, broad-shouldered man who was usually chomping on a cigar. Dellacroce became a butcher's assistant, but work was scarce and he took to crime. As a youngster, Dellacroce was jailed once for petty theft. Dellacroce was a traditional Cosa Nostra mobster and believed in following the traditions and being loyal to the family and its boss.

He sometimes walked around Manhattan dressed as a priest and called himself "Father O'Neil" to confuse both the police and rival mobsters. Dellacroce allegedly committed a killing dressed as the priest. He also allegedly used a body double for some public events.[1] Dellacroce preferred to keep a low profile and was said to have a menacing stare. NYPD detective Ralph Salerno said that the only mobsters whose eyes sent shivers down his spine were Dellacroce and Carmine Galante. "You looked at Dellacroce's eyes and you could see how frightening they were. The frigid glare of a killer."

Dellacroce had a son Armond, a Gambino associate, a son Ronald and daughters Shannon Connelly and Sean Connelly. Dellacroce's sister Mary had three sons: John Ruggiero Sr., Angelo Ruggiero and Salvatore Ruggiero. Dellacroce was the great uncle of John Ruggiero Jr., Angelo Ruggiero Jr. and Salvatore Ruggiero Jr. Dellacroce was known as "Neil"; an Americanization of his Italian name. Some Gambino members nicknamed him "the Polack", although this was never uttered in his presence.


In the late 1930s, Dellacroce joined the Mangano crime family, forerunner of the Gambino family. He soon became a protege of underboss Albert Anastasia. After the disappearance and presumed murder of longtime boss Vincent Mangano, Anastasia became family boss and appointed Dellacroce as a caporegime with his own crew. Dellacroce bought the Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy, which soon became a popular Gambino social club and Dellacroce's headquarters. On October 25, 1957, gunmen murdered Anastasia in a Manhattan hotel barbershop and underboss Carlo Gambino took over the family.

Gambino was suspected of plotting Anastasia's murder with Lucchese crime family boss Tommy Lucchese and Luciano crime family capo Vito Genovese. Dellacroce was a strong Anastasia supporter, but he chose to pledge loyalty to Gambino. In 1965, Gambino moved the aging Joseph Biondo from underboss position and appointed Dellacroce to replace him.[2] In March 1973, Dellacroce was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to five years in prison.[3]

It was widely presumed that Dellacroce was Gambino's heir apparent. However, on his deathbed in 1976, Don Carlo announced to the family that his cousin and brother-in-law, Paul Castellano, would be the new family boss. Dellacroce and many of his supporters were angered with Gambino's choice. Although Castellano had been a major earner for the family for many years, Dellacroce and others saw him as a businessman rather than a gangster.

To appease Dellacroce, Gambino persuaded Castellano to agree to keep Dellacroce as underboss. In addition, Gambino gave Dellacroce control of the traditional criminal activities, such as robbery, hijacking and extortion, in Manhattan. In 1976, Gambino died and Castellano became boss. Always the loyal family man, Dellacroce pledged his loyalty to Castellano. Castellano soon banned drug dealing in the family. This ban created immense dissatisfaction within the family, especially with younger capos such as John Gotti. However, Dellacroce refused to even consider a move against Castellano and the unhappy family members did not rebel. Gotti in particular, idolized Dellacroce.


In early 1985, Dellacroce was indicted along with the leaders of the other New York Cosa Nostra families as part of the Mafia Commission investigation. On March 28, 1985, Dellacroce was indicted on federal racketeering charges regarding the activities of two crews in New York and Long Island over the previous 18 years.[4] However, by this time Dellacroce was already very sick and would not live to attend either trial. On December 2, 1985, Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce died of lung cancer at age 71. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in the borough of Queens in New York City.[5]


After Dellacroce's death, Gotti and his supporters no longer felt constrained against attacking Castellano. In addition, Castellano's refusal to visit Dellacroce when he was dying, or attend his funeral, reportedly enraged Gotti. On December 16, 1985, just two weeks after Dellacroce's death, gunmen assassinated Castellano and his new underboss Thomas Bilotti outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. Gotti then took over as boss of the Gambino family.

In April 1988, Dellacroce's son, Armond died while hiding in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He had been convicted of racketeering and had failed to appear for sentencing in March. The cause of death was listed as cirrhosis and a cocaine overdose.[6]

Popular culture

Further reading

  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. ISBN 0-02-864225-2
  • 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
  • Rosen, Charley (2003). The Wizard of Odds: How Jack Molinas Almost Destroyed the Game of Basketball. New York: Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1583225625. 
  • United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi: Hearings Before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs. 1988. [1]


External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Joe Biondo
Gambino crime family

1965–1985 (shared with Paul Castellano 1974-1976)
Succeeded by
Thomas Bilotti

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