Anthony "Antonino" "Nino" Frank Gaggi (August 7, 1925 – April 17, 1988) was a captain in the New York Gambino crime family who supervised the infamous DeMeo crew, headed by Roy DeMeo. Gaggi is recogniseable by his distinctive orange tint sunglasses. he is the uncle of Dominick Montiglio a member of the DeMeo Crew.
Born Antonino Gaggi to Angelo and Mary Gaggi, Gaggi was the youngest of three children. Gaggi had a sister Marie, and a brother known as "Roy". Angelo emigrated to the United States from Palermo, Sicily and ran a barbershop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Mary worked as a seamstress until Gaggi's birth.
Gaggi dropped out of school during the eighth grade and followed his father into the barber business. Gaggi also earned extra money delivering flowers, which he used for gambling. It was at this age that Gaggi learned the profitability of loansharking to gamblers.
When Gaggi was a young teenager, his family purchased a small farm in New Jersey and moved there to operate it. When Gaggi turned 17 in 1942, he attempted to join the US Army, but was rejected due to myopia. In 1943, Gaggi's family left the farm and moved to the Bath Beach area of Brooklyn. Angelo resumed work as a barber while his mother Mary and sister Marie worked in a dress factory. Discharged from the Army due to injury, Roy sold peanut dispensers to bars.
After returning to New York, Gaggi decided to pursue criminal activities. His father's cousin was mobster Frank Scalise, a founding member of the Gambino family. Scalise helped Gaggi obtain a job at a truck dock, where he quickly became a supervisor. Scalise eventually allowed Gaggi to become a "ghost employee", someone who did not have to work. Gaggi could devote all his time to loan sharking in Brooklyn bars and pool halls. This "no show" job also allowed Gaggi to report legitimate, taxable income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and avoid prosecution for tax evasion.
In 1947, Gaggi's sister Marie gave birth to Dominick Montiglio, Her husband and Montiglio's father was boxer and deliveryman Anthony Santamaria. However, Gaggi was the dominant personality in the household, eventually leading to Santamaria's estrangement from his family. Gaggi soon became Montiglio's surrogate father. When he became older, Montiglio joined his uncle in criminal activities and eventually testified in court about them.
In 1954, in his first arrest, Gaggi was charged with running an international auto theft ring. Operating out of a used car lot in Brooklyn, the ring was backed by Frank Scalise, now the Gambino underboss. For two years, Gaggi and two associates fabricated false vehicle registrations for nonexistent Cadillacs. The gang stole cars that matched the phoney vehicle descriptions and replaced their original Vehicle Identification Numbers with phony new numbers. They also gave the vehicles new license plates that matched the falsified registrations. The gang then sold the stolen vehicles in Florida, Georgia, Texas and Mexico.
In 1955, while his auto theft trial was underway, Gaggi got married. During Gaggi's auto theft trial that year, witnesses "forgot" their testimony on the witness stand and Gaggi's co-defendants refused to testify against him. In early 1956, Gaggi was acquitted. Later in 1956, Gaggi became a father. His wife and child now lived on the first floor of the three-story Gaggi house.
In 1957, the Gambino family underwent a dramatic change in leadership. In June, Frank Scalise was shot and killed at a fruit stand in the Bronx. In October, Gambino boss Albert Anastasia was shot to death in a barber’s chair at a Manhattan hotel. Immediately after the Anastasia murder, Gaggi ordered his family to stay home for a few days. Gaggi's close associate, underboss Carlo Gambino, became the new family boss. He appointed capo Aniello Dellacroce, an Anastasia loyalist, as underboss and gave him control over the Manhattan faction of the family.
In October 1960, Gaggi committed his first murder for the Gambino family. He served on a hit squad that murdered mobster VincentJames Squillante, the man who probably killed Frank Scalise. According to Montiglio, Gaggi described the murder: “We surprised him (Squillante) in the Bronx. We shot him in the head, stuffed him in the trunk, then dumped him for good.” In this case, “dumped him for good” meant that they hauled the body to the basement of a building, loaded it into a trash incinerator, and cremated it. After the Squillante murder, Gaggi was inducted into the Gambino family.
By the mid-1960s, Gaggi had established a large clientele of loanshark customers and was also a silent partner in several businesses. Gaggi started to dominate the organized crime world. To increase his earnings, Gaggi entered into a partnership with mobster Roy DeMeo, who was running a stolen car ring in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Flatlands and Canarsie. DeMeo had connections with the Lucchese family and a reputation as a capable and resourceful earner. Gaggi persuaded DeMeo to leave the Luccheses and work instead for the Gambinos.
Gaggi and DeMeo began making co-loans to loanshark customers. By 1970, DeMeo was officially working for Gaggi and paying him weekly tributes. In 1972, the three men forced their way into a partnership with a company that illegally processed X-rated films. After law enforcement raided the company in 1973, owner Paul Rothenberg began to cooperate with them. Gaggi ordered DeMeo to murder Rothenberg, whose body was found with bullet wounds shortly thereafter.
The Rothenberg killing was the first of many murders committed by the DeMeo and rew. While Gaggi was not involved in most of these killings, he did participate in some of them. DeMeo shot and killed Vincent Governara, a young man with no organized crime ties. Governara had fought with Gaggi and Gaggi wanted revenge. In 1976, Gaggi, killed George Byrum, an electrical contractor who worked on Gaggi's Florida vacation home. Byrum had tipped off thieves who burglarized the house while Gaggi was in New York. When Gaggi discovered the plot, he had DeMeo lure Byrum to a Miami hotel room where he was murdered and dismembered.
In late 1976, don Carlo Gambino died of natural causes. Before his death, Gambino had designated Paul Castellano, his brother-in-law and head of the Brooklyn faction, as the new boss. However, the Manhattan faction instead favored Aniello Dellacroce. At a leadership meeting held at Gaggi's house, Castellano became the new Gambino boss. In turn, Castellano agreed to retain Dellacroce as underboss. Gaggi was promoted to capo of Castellano's old crew. Gaggi remained close to Castellano, hoping to become underboss one day, With Castellano as boss, Gaggi proposed DeMeo for family membership, . Castellano initially balked at this request because he felt DeMeo was too violent and Gaggi couldn't control him.
In Summer 1977, Castellano finally relented and allow DeMeo into the family. During this period, DeMeo successfully formed an alliance between the Gambino family and the Westies, a gang of Irish-American criminals that dominated the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. DeMeo continued to expand his many illegal activities and passed more money over to Gaggi. Gaggi continued to expand his loansharking business, with a large loan he secured from Montiglio, now a Gambino associate, in charge of collecting loan payments from Gaggi's customers and weekly payments from DeMeo. Montiglio's close involvement in nearly all facets of Gaggi's criminal activities, particularly with the DeMeo Crew, would bring heavy repercussions for Gaggi in the mid-1980s.
On June 7, 1978, Gaggi and nine other mobsters,were charged with racketeering, conspiracy and fraud charges as a result of a year-long Federal investigation into the bankruptcy of a theatre in New York. The majority of the evidence in this case came from wiretapped conversations; fortunately for Gaggi, he never said anything incriminating. In December 1978 Gaggi was cleared of all charges.
By 1979, Roy DeMeo was involved in loansharking, murder-for-hire, and the operation of an auto theft ring that shipped cars to the Middle East. Gaggi received a large percentage of these profits from these rackets, along with money from DeMeo's drug trafficking. The DeMeo crew sold cocaine, marijuana, and a variety of pills in large amounts. DeMeo continued his drug trade despite a public prohibition that Paul Castellano had made against this type of racket.
In late 1979, Gambino captain James Eppolito told Castellano that Gaggi and DeMeo were drug trafficking. Eppolito claimed that DeMeo had cheated Eppolito's son, a Gambino soldier, in a drug deal. In addition, Eppolito accused Gaggi of being a police informant. Eppolito asked Castellano for permission to murder Gaggi and DeMeo. However, Castellano broke his own rules and sided with Gaggi and DeMeo. He then gave them permission to murder both Eppolito and his son.
On October 1, 1979, Gaggi and DeMeo shot and killed both Eppolitos. However, a witness alerted an off-duty policeman, who soon found Gaggi walking away from the crime scene (DeMeo had gone in a different direction). After a brief shootout, the policeman wounded Gaggi in the neck and arrested him. Charged with the Eppolitos' murders and the attempted murder of the police officer, Gaggi caught a lucky break when one of the jurors turned out to be the fiancee of the son of one of his loanshark customers. Thanks to the one recalcitrant juror, Gaggi was only convicted of assault and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in federal prison. While Gaggi was in prison, DeMeo became acting captain of Gaggi's crew. In 1981, Gaggi's sentence was overturned on appeal and he was released from prison. Gaggi had bribed a juror to make false claims of government misconduct during the trial.
After Gaggi was released from prison, dark clouds were appearing on the horizon. Montiglio had become a drug addict and fled New York for fear of punishment from the Gambino family. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI]) dismantled DeMeo's auto theft operation and sent two crew members to prison. In 1980, a third crew member, Vito Arena, became a government witness. In 1982, Arena began testifying about crimes committed by Gaggi and the DeMeo crew. As the investigation intensified, Paul Castellano became concerned about soldier Roy DeMeo cooperating with the authorities if he were arrested. On January 10, 1983, DeMeo's body was found nearly frozen in the trunk of his car. DeMeo's murderer were never identified, but law enforcement theorized that Gaggi killed him.
Shortly after DeMeo's murder, Montiglio returned to New York to collect an old loanshark debt and was arrested. To avoid prosecution, Montiglio started cooperating with the government, providing information on the DeMeo crew and Gaggi. Montiglio's information led to the indictments of both Gaggi and Castellano. By early 1984, some of the DeMeo crew members were arrested. One of them, Richard DiNome, was later murdered on February 4, 1984. As with DeMeo, DiNome's killers were never identified, but law enforcement assumed they were the remaining DeMeo crew members. DiNome's brother, Frederick DiNome, also suspected the DeMeo crew of killing Richard and agreed to become a government witness.
On February 25, Gaggi was indicted on multiple charges of racketeering and murder. Castellano was indicted the next month. The court decided to split the numerous charges against both men into two trials. The first trial would be dealing with the auto theft operation and five related murders. The first trial began in October 1985 and saw testimony from Vito Arena, Frederick DiNome, and Dominick Montiglio. on December 16th 1985, midway through the trial, Castellano was shot to death at the Sparks Steak House in Manhattan on orders from capo John Gotti. With Castellano's death, Gaggi became the lead defendant in the first trial. There was some speculation about Gaggi or the new Gambino boss. Gotti quickly assumed control of the family.
In March 1986, Gaggi was convicted of conspiracy to sell stolen cars, and was sentenced to five years in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. In 1988, Nino was transferred from Lewisburg to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York City for his second trial. The second trial would focus on Gaggi's racketeering acts and on the 25 murders allegedly committed by the DeMeo Crew.
While being held at the Correctional Center for the second trial, Gaggi died of a heart attack. Early in the day on April 17, 1988, Gaggi had told a guard that he was suffering chest pain. However, the guard did nothing. Later that day, Gaggi suffered a major heart attack, but was not transported to a hospital for several hours. Gaggi died in the hospital later that day.
It was widely speculated that Gaggi might have survived his heart attack if he had been sent to the hospital sooner. Gaggi's wife successfully sued the prison system for negligence, assisted by testimony from several other inmates. Gaggi's death sparked a controversy that eventually resulted in better medical conditions in New York City prisons.
Dominick provided writers Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustaine information on Gaggi and the DeMeo crew for their book Murder Machine. In both the book and the television documentaries, Dominick blamed his criminal actions on Gaggi's bad influence,