WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-12 > 1135204484
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: GIGANTE: Vincent Gigante--d.19/12/2005>USA---obits,the telegraph.co.uk
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 22:34:44 -0000
The Daily Telegraph and the telegraph.co.uk
Vincent Gigante, who died on Monday in a prison hospital at Springfield,
Missouri, aged 77, was the most powerful figure in the New York Mafia during
the 1980s and 1990s; though this much was virtually public knowledge, for 30
years he evaded prosecution by feigning mental illness, a tactic that earned
him the nickname "The Oddfather".
For decades, Gigante was a familiar sight on the streets of Greenwich
Village, a shambling, mumbling presence clad in striped pyjamas and a tatty
bathrobe. Those who observed him more closely, including the FBI, noticed
the constant presence nearby of several burly young men reared on pasta, but
Gigante and his family stoutly maintained the fiction that he was suffering
from schizophrenia and dementia.
His brother, a Roman Catholic priest, insisted that Gigante had a tested IQ
of only 69, and pointed out that in the three decades from 1969 Gigante had
committed himself to a psychiatric hospital more than 30 times.
When Gigante's mother was asked if he was really the head of the Genovese
crime family - one of the city's five principal Mafia syndicates - she
replied: "Vincenzo? He's the boss of the toilet!"
The federal authorities begged to differ. When Gigante was finally brought
to trial on racketeering and murder charges in 1997, a Mafioso turncoat,
Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, testified that Gigante was perfectly
lucid when he had met him.
Gigante was known as "Chin" - a diminutive of Vincenzo - and the FBI noted
that it was to this part of their anatomy that wiseguys pointed when
referring to their anonymous chief.
The police also claimed that late at night Gigante would be driven to his
mistress's apartment on the Upper East Side, where he would change into
respectable attire and watch television. By morning, he would be ready to
resume his ruse again.
Nonetheless, it was a demanding strategy. As his former chief Anthony "Fat
Tony" Salerno had once commented: "If Chin gets pinched, all that time in
the asylum would be for nothing."
At his trial, beyond insisting that "God is my lawyer", Gigante refused to
co-operate with his counsel, staring wide-eyed into the courtroom while the
likes of the 20-stone Pete Chiodo - a man so fat that his blubber had saved
his life when he was shot a dozen times - gave evidence. Gigante was
convicted of the lesser charges against him, but not of murder, and
sentenced to 12 years.
Then, in 2003, when accused of having obstructed justice by faking insanity,
Gigante calmly admitted that he had been shamming all along, in exchange for
a lower sentence. Warders at the jail where he was incarcerated reported
that he acted normally, shadow-boxing in his cell and making his own bed.
When one asked if he felt in need of protection while inside, the elderly
Gigante replied tersely: "No-one trucks with me" - or words to that effect.
Vincent Gigante was born in New York on March 29 1928, one of five children
of an immigrant watchmaker from Naples. He dropped out of school when young
and at 18 became a professional boxer.
Weighing 15 stone and standing 6ft tall, he won 23 of his 24 bouts, but by
then he was already running errands for the Genovese family, whose
activities had been begun by Charles "Lucky" Luciano in the early 1930s and
which had paid for an operation for Gigante's mother.
He first came to notice in 1957 when he was ordered to carry out a hit on
Frank Costello, the boss of a rival family. His bullet only grazed
Costello's scalp, but when Gigante was arrested after being identified by a
doorman, Costello refused to tell a court who the assassin was. As Gigante
left the hearing, he was heard to say "Thanks, Frank."
Two years later, Gigante was convicted of dealing heroin and received a
seven-year term. On his emergence, he began his rise from "soldier" to
"capo" in the family. In 1969 he was accused of trying to bribe all five
members of the police force in the small New Jersey town where he lived in
order to have prior warning of any FBI investigation into him. It was to
escape this charge that he first began to act strangely.
By the 1970s the Genovese had become the leading crime family in New York,
in part due to an alliance with the Gambinos, although Gigante came to
disapprove of the flashy style of their boss, John Gotti, and unsuccessfully
tried to have him killed.
When the head of the Genovese, Tony Salerno, had a stroke in 1981, he was
replaced behind the scenes by Gigante, and thus it was Salerno who took the
rap in 1986, being sentenced to 100 years for the Genovese's rackets.
By then, according to such authorities as Vinny "Fish" Cafaro and Tony
"Gaspipe" Casso, Gigante had already become head of the Commission, the
governing body of Cosa Nostra, and even Gotti had to bow to his will. The
Genovese extorted money from construction, bookmaking and refuse disposal,
while their reach extended as far as the Miami docks.
The family was thought to control some 1,200 "associates" and to make $100
million a year, though Gigante showed few signs of wealth. Investigators
suspected that he was motivated principally by a thirst for power. He was
eventually arrested in 1990, though his subterfuges staved off a trial for
seven more years.
Gigante had suffered from heart disease for some years.
He is survived by the two sons and three daughters of his marriage to
Olympia Grippa, and by the son and two daughters borne him by his mistress,
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
|GIGANTE: Vincent Gigante--d.19/12/2005>USA---obits,the telegraph.co.uk by "Peter_McCrae" <>|