Concerns of an “all-out war” within the mob are brewing after the apparent hit on reputed Gambino crime family boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali outside his New York City home Wednesday night due to the timing of the late "Teflon Don" John Gotti’s brother’s release from prison about six months ago, reports said Thursday.
Since 73-year-old Gene Gotti’s release in September, after a 29-year sentence for dealing heroin, law enforcement sources have been concerned about the possibility of a bloody power struggle within the family, reports have said.
If Gotti, a reputed capo in the family, is linked to the murder of Cali, who had close ties to the Sicilian Mafia, “there’s going to be an all-out war,” a source told the New York Post Thursday. “The Sicilians are not going to sit back and let that happen.”
Cali, 53, was shot several times around 9:15 p.m. Wednesday outside his red-brick colonial-style house in the Todt Hill section of Staten Island. His family was reportedly inside at the time.
"Doing it at their home with family, that breaks a rule," federal Mafia prosecutor Joe Peters said Friday on "Fox & Friends," referring to the location where Cali was killed. "But they’re used to breaking rules because they’re not supposed to be involved in drugs and heroin is one of their biggest businesses."
Surveillance footage outside Cali’s home showed the mobster appeared to have been drawn out of his house when the gunman backed his pickup truck into Cali’s Cadillac SUV, a law-enforcement official who saw the video told the Daily Beast. At least 12 shots were fired. Footage showed that after Cali was shot he had tried to crawl under his SUV to hide, police said.
Peters said that Cali’s ties to Sicily were “a bit unusual” and raised questions about Sicily’s involvement. He also said speculation included a war within the Gambino family or possibly “a war between the five families.” He referred to a case he prosecuted in Philadelphia, saying most of the murders were interfamily rivalry "to wrest control.”
Peters also pointed to several recent events—including Gene Gotti’s release—that have fueled speculation on why Cali was apparently rubbed out.
“On the day of [Cali's] murder the Bonanno chief was … acquitted of a crime," Peters said, referring to the acquittals of two heads of the rival Bonanno family on charges of racketeering and extortion. "You had Carmine Persico die last week," he continued. "When there’s change, there’s opportunity and people who want to take control try to move up."
Cali’s murder recalled the last major last mob hit in New York City more than three decades ago. Then-Gambino boss Paul Castellano was fatally shot outside Sparks Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan in 1985 — an act that authorities said was ordered by Gene’s brother, John Gotti, in a power move to seize control of the family.
“It’s in his bloodline,” a source told the Post of Gene Gotti, likening Cali’s killing to that of Castellano. “This is very similar in some ways to what happened to Paul Castellano in front of Sparks Steakhouse.”
When John Gotti died in prison from throat cancer in 2002, his other brother, Peter, reportedly rose as godfather. Power again shifted to the family’s Sicilian faction after Peter was put behind bars, with Domenico Cefalu taking over before passing leadership to Cali in 2015, reports have said.
Under mob protocol, Gene Gotti’s release from prison entitles him to a key role within the family, according to the Post.
But police have said it is too soon to tell whether Cali’s death was mob-related, let alone linked to Gene Gotti.
“It’s total speculation,” a source told the New York Daily News about a possible connection to Gotti. “But it’s also something to look out for. Was Gene trying to reclaim some of his business and Cali wasn’t going for it?”
The Gambino Family was once among the most powerful criminal organizations in the U.S., but federal prosecutions in the 1980s and 1990s sent its top leaders — including the Gotti brothers — to prison and diminished its reach.
Cali was considered a unifying figure in the family, credited with recruiting new immigrant gangsters from Italy and focusing on the heroin and Oxycontin trades, the Post reported.
No arrests have been made in Cali’s murder.