Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Ranking Member of Notorious NYC Gambino Crime Family Shot to Death in Front of His Staten Island Home

The last crime family boss to be shot in New York City was Paul Castellano, who was assassinated outside a steakhouse in 1985

What to Know

  • A man said by federal prosecutors to have been a ranking member of NYC's notorious Gambino family was shot dead on Staten Island
  • Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds at his home in Todt Hill Wednesday night; no arrests have been made
  • The last crime family boss to be shot in New York City was Paul Castellano, who was assassinated outside a steakhouse in 1985

UPDATE: Agents Removing Phones, Laptops From Reputed Mob Boss' Home

The reputed boss of New York's Gambino crime family was struck at least six times when he was shot to death in front of his Staten Island home not long after dinnertime Wednesday, marking the city's first mafia don killing in more than three decades.

Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso outside his home on Hilltop Terrace in Todt Hill. The 911 caller had initially reported a man had been run over by a vehicle on purpose and that he was trapped; the caller then said he had also been shot multiple times. Cops found Cali bullet-ridden when they responded to the call around 9:20 p.m.

He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A suspect fled the scene in a blue pickup truck, the NYPD said. Authorities canvassed the scene overnight, roping off the entire front yard as evidence markers littered the pavement near an SUV parked out front. 

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had referred to Cali in court filings in recent years as the underboss of the Gambino organization, related through marriage to the Inzerillo clan in the Sicilian Mafia.

During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said that 12 shots were fired, with at least six striking Cali. 

Shea said before the shooting, based on the police's preliminary investigation, Cali had a conversation outside his residence with a man about 25 to 40 years of age, before the man allegedly pulled out a firearm and shot Cali.

According to Shea, authorities are trying to figure out what prompted Cali to come out of his residence. Shea said that there was a vehicle accident in front of Cali's residence.

Based on the preliminary investigation, Cali's parked car was involved in a vehicular accident with the individual that ends up shooting him, Shea said.

"What we know at this point in time, it is quite possible that that was part of a plan," Shea said referring to the car accident. He adds that it is "quite possible" the pickup truck authorities are searching sustained damage when it backed into Cali's car.

Police are combing through surveillance video and witness statements as they continue the investigation into Cali's murder. It is unclear what the motive was or if the incident was related to organized crime, Shea said.

The FBI's Joint Organized Crime Task Force is actively engaged in the investigation, along with the NYPD, a federal law enforcement official tells News 4.

Another source familiar with the investigation said detectives and agents were still searching Cali's house with a warrant to remove items including cell phones and laptops Thursday evening. 

Investigators are retrieving video from NYPD cameras positioned on the pair of roadways that lead in and out of Todt Hill, according to the source.

Surveillance video from the shooting scene is grainy, the source told News 4. But it shows the truck apparently deliberately hitting the vehicle — perhaps to get Calì to exit his home. The two shake hands, the license plate from the suspect's vehicle falls off, the suspect throws the plate back into his truck and then pulls a gun and shoots, according to the source.

Multiple press accounts since 2015 said Cali had ascended to the top spot in the gang, although he never faced a criminal charge saying so.

His only mob-related criminal conviction came a decade ago, when Cali pleaded guilty in an extortion conspiracy involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison and was released in 2009.

The last Mafia boss to be shot to death in New York City was Gambino don Paul Castellano, assassinated outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985 at the direction of Cali's swaggering 1980s-era predecessor, John Gotti.

With his expensive double-breasted suits and overcoats and silvery swept-back hair, Gotti became known as the Dapper Don, his smiling face all over the tabloids. As prosecutors tried and failed to bring him down, he came to be called the Teflon Don. Cali kept a much lower profile than Gotti.

In 1992, Gotti was convicted in Castellano's murder and a multitude of other crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of cancer in 2002.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us