New York

Agents Remove Phones, Laptops From High-Ranking Mobster's NYC Home: Source

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
  • A source familiar with the investigation says detectives and agents are still searching his home for clues, removing cellphones and laptops

Detectives and agents with a warrant searched the Staten Island home of Francesco Cali, a reputed boss of New York's Gambino crime family who was gunned down in a brazen hit, to remove items including cell phones and laptops as the hunt for the killer intensified, a source familiar with the investigation told News 4.

"Franky Boy," 53, was shot to death in front of his home on Hilltop Terrace not long after dinnertime Wednesday. 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. A suspect fled the scene in a blue pickup truck, the NYPD said.

Investigators on Thursday began 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 NBC 4 New York.

But it shows the suspect’s truck apparently deliberately hitting the vehicle — perhaps to get Calì to come out of his home. The two shake hands, the license plate from the suspect's vehicle falls off, the suspect picks up the license, hands it to Cali, then pulls a gun and shoots as Cali puts the license in his own car, according to the source. 

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

Shea said Cali tried to use his car as a shield to protect himself during the shooting.

“Mr. Cali was struck several times by gunfire. In trying to elude additional gunfire, [he] fled to the rear area of his private vehicle,” he said at a press conference.

Neighbor Rose Zaccaria, 90, told News 4 she heard the gunshots late Wednesday evening and saw emergency vehicles descend on Cali’s home.

“It was a scene from the movies — just a lot of vehicles and lights and commotion,” she said.

Another neighbor said he was shocked to hear about the incident.

“No idea that there was anyone of that nature who lived on this block,” another neighbor told News 4.

Police are now 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.

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.

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.

"We thought those days were over," Mayor de Blasio said of Cali's slaying. "Very surprising, but I guess old habits die hard."

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
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