He was slippery, yes, but even the “Teflon Don” couldn’t escape justice forever.
Despite the future nickname, John Gotti—a violent, ruthless mobster who’d grown up on the streets of New York—had been in and out of prison several times in his early career. In 1968, for example, we arrested him for his role in a plot to steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. Gotti was sent to prison, but was released in 1972.
And quickly made more trouble. Within two years, we’d arrested him again for murder. Same story: he went to prison and was out in a few years. Soon after, he became a “made man” for the Gambino family, one of the five most powerful syndicates in the Big Apple. Gambling, loansharking, and narcotics trafficking were his stocks in trade.
By the early 80s, using Title III wiretaps, mob informants, and undercover agents, we were beginning to get clear insights into the Gambino family’s hierarchy and activities (and into the other families as well) and were building strong cases against them as criminal enterprises. A break against Gotti came in late 1985, when mob violence spilled out on to the streets of Manhattan.