Aniello John "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce, also known as "Father O'Neil" or "The Tall Guy" (March 15, 1914 – December 2, 1985) was an Italian-American mobster and underboss of the Gambino crime family. He was a capo until Carlo Gambino demoted Joseph Biondo in 1965 and promoted Dellacroce to underboss. Dellacroce was also the uncle of Angelo Ruggiero and Salvatore Ruggiero.
Dellacroce was a 5ft 10 inch tall, broad-shouldered man who was usually seen with Carlo Gambino, and associated with other prominent mob figures like Tommy Lucchese and Albert Anastasia. He was said to have a menacing stare. Dellacroce was an extremely loyal, honorable, and traditional La Cosa Nostra mobster; he believed in following the La Cosa Nostra traditions of respect, honor, loyalty, integrity, dignity, and in being fiercely loyal to the organization and its boss. Dellacroce also preferred to keep a very low profile in public and believed in the old-school traditions of the mafia, he fiercely believed in the code of secrecy and silence, and completely believed in his oath of Omerta. Dellacroce was an old-fashioned mobster, believing in serving the Gambino crime family and its boss 24/7, and firmly believed in the saying "live by the sword and die by the sword". He completely lived by that quote, according to his closest associates.
His nickname was "Neil", an Americanization of "Aniello". Due to his square-shaped face, some Gambino members nicknamed him "the Polack", a nickname never used within his earshot.
Dellacroce had one brother, Carmine, and married Lucille Riccardi. The couple had two sons and a daughter: Ronald, Armand and Shannon Connelly. Armand would become a Gambino associate.The family originally lived in an apartment across the street from Dellacroce's social club in Little Italy. In later years they moved to Grasmere, Staten Island. Dellacroce was also the great uncle of John Ruggiero, Angelo Ruggiero and Salvatore Ruggiero.
As a teenager, Dellacroce became a butcher's assistant, but work was scarce and he took to crime. He was jailed once for petty theft.
Dellacroce sometimes walked around Manhattan dressed as a priest and called himself "Father O'Neil" to confuse both the FBI and rival mobsters. Dellacroce allegedly committed a murder dressed as a priest. He also allegedly used a body double for some public events. Dellacroce preferred to keep a low profile and was said to have a menacing stare. Longtime NYPD lieutenant/detective Ralph Salerno said that the only gangsters who frightened him were Dellacroce, Albert Anastasia and Carmine Galante.
Ralph Salerno Described Dellacroce "You looked at Dellacroce's eyes and you could see how terrifying they were, he had evil, ice-cold eyes, he was feared by everybody, he had a ferocious look that could scare the living hell out of anybody, he would give any man a chill running up their spine when he would look at them, his eyes were petrifying, he had an absolutely evil, demonic face, scarier than a demon, he was a beast in human skin, the frigid glare of a cold-blooded killer, when you looked at him you were looking at the devil himself. Thats how frightening and terrifying he was. He would be one of the last men in the world i'd ever want to piss off or come across."
Career in Gambino crime family
In the late 1930s, Dellacroce joined the Mangano crime family, forerunner of the Gambino crime family. He soon became a protégé of underboss Albert Anastasia. After the disappearance and presumed murder of longtime boss Vincent Mangano, Anastasia became family boss and appointed Dellacroce as a caporegime with his own crew in 1951. Dellacroce bought the Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy, which soon became a popular Gambino social club and Dellacroce's headquarters. On October 25, 1957, gunmen murdered Albert Anastasia in a Manhattan hotel barbershop. Underboss Carlo Gambino took over the family.
Gambino was suspected of plotting Anastasia's murder with Lucchese crime family boss Gaetano Lucchese and Luciano crime family caporegime Vito Genovese. Dellacroce was a strong Anastasia supporter. However, he was an old-school gangster who believed in complete loyalty to the family and its boss, and chose to pledge loyalty to Gambino. In 1965, Gambino removed the aging Joseph Biondo from his underboss position and appointed Dellacroce to replace him.
In 1971, Dellacroce was sentenced to one year in state prison on contempt charges for refusing to answer grand jury questions about organized crime.
On May 2, 1972, Dellacroce was indicted on federal tax evasion charges. In return for peace with its labor force, the Yankee Plastics Company of New York gave Dellacroce 22,500 stock shares worth $112,500. He was indicted on a failure to pay federal income tax on these stocks. In March 1973, Dellacroce was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to five years in prison.
It was widely presumed that Dellacroce was Gambino's heir apparent. However, on his deathbed in 1976, Gambino announced to the family that his cousin and brother-in-law, Paul Castellano, would be the new family boss. Dellacroce and many of his supporters were angered with Gambino's choice; although Castellano had been a major earner for the family for many years, Dellacroce and others saw him as a businessman rather than a gangster. To appease Dellacroce, Gambino persuaded Castellano to agree to keep Dellacroce as underboss. In addition, Gambino gave Dellacroce control of the traditional criminal activities, such as robbery, hijacking and extortion, in Manhattan.
In 1976, Gambino died and Castellano became boss. Always the loyal family man, Dellacroce pledged his loyalty to Castellano. Castellano soon banned drug dealing in the family. This ban created immense dissatisfaction within the family, especially with younger caporegimes such as John Gotti. However, Dellacroce refused to even consider a move against Castellano, and his underlings did not rebel; Gotti in particular idolized Dellacroce.
In early 1985, Dellacroce was indicted along with the leaders of the other New York Cosa Nostra families as part of the Mafia Commission investigation. On March 28, 1985, Dellacroce was indicted on federal racketeering charges regarding the activities of two crews in New York and Long Island over the previous 18 years. However, by this time Dellacroce was already very sick and would not live to attend either trial.
On December 2, 1985, Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce died of brain cancer at age 71 at Mary Immaculate Hospital (now closed) in Queens. Dellacroce was buried in St. John's Cemetery in Queens.
After Dellacroce's death, John Gotti and his supporters no longer felt constrained against attacking Castellano. In addition, Castellano's refusal to visit Dellacroce when he was dying, or attend his funeral, reportedly enraged Gotti. On December 16, 1985, just two weeks after Dellacroce's death, gunmen assassinated Paul Castellano and his new underboss/bodyguard Thomas Bilotti outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. Gotti then took over as boss of the Gambino family.
In April 1988, Dellacroce's son, Armond, died while hiding in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He had been convicted of racketeering and had failed to appear for sentencing in March. The cause of death was listed as cirrhosis and a cocaine overdose.
In popular culture
- Dellacroce's death is referenced in the 2007 film, Brooklyn Rules.
- In the 1996 TV movie Gotti, Dellacroce was portrayed by Anthony Quinn.
- In the 2001 TV movie Boss of Bosses, he was portrayed by Dayton Callie.
- Al Pacino will play Aniello Dellacroce in the upcoming John Gotti biopic Gotti: In The Shadow of My Father.
- Stacy Keach will play Aniello Delacroce in the Upcoming John Gotti Biography, Crime Drama The Life and Death of John Gotti (2017)
- "Things change now because there's too much conflict. People do whatever they feel like. They don't train their people no more. There’s no more respect."
- "You don't understand Cosa Nostra. Cosa Nostra means the boss is your boss. Boss is the boss is the boss. What I'm trying to say is a boss is a boss. What does a boss mean in this fucking thing. You might as well make anybody off the street."