Thomas Bilotti (March 23, 1940 – December 16, 1985) was a New York mobster with the Gambino crime family who served as underboss for two weeks. It was this promotion that helped trigger the December 16, 1985 assassination of Gambino boss Paul Castellano.
As a young man, Bilotti joined the Staten Island crew of Gambino capo Michael D'Alessio. Bilotti also spent time as Alexander DeBrizzi's chauffeur and bodyguard. Bilotti later became a criminal associate of John D'Alessio, Michael's brother. Bilotti was involved in labor racketeering, extortion and loansharking. Bilotti soon gained a reputation for violence. In one incident, Bilotti assaulted Colombo associate Robert Pate. In 1970, D'Alessio allegedly recruited Bilotti and his brother Joseph to murder Thomas Ernst, the boyfriend of D'Alessio's daughter. However, the murder attempt failed when D'Alessio's daughter shot at them. Ernst was murdered a few months later.
Over the years, Bilotti became a close aide-de-camp, confidant and chauffeur for capo Paul Castellano. Bilotti was a regular visitor to Castellano's Todt Hill, Staten Island mansion and was considered a close family friend. However, when Castellano started an affair with his maid, Bilotti kept it secret from Castellano's wife. He would also act as his chauffeur. Bilotti and Castellano were said to make an odd pair. Castellano, a gangster who thought himself more as a businessman, and Bilotti, a brutish loan shark.
Bilotti had a no-show job at Scara-Mix, Castellano's cement company on Staten Island. He was also heavily involved in the Steam Fitters Local 638 of the Plumbers Union that was represented by George Daly, an associate who belonged to his crew. Daly served as Local 638's business agent until his 1987 conviction for soliciting bribes to ensure labor peace.
When Castellano became Gambino boss in 1976, he gave Bilotti a crew to manage. Many members of the Gambino family were contemptuous of Bilotti and considered him to be Castellano's servant. This attitude was widespread in the traditional, "blue collar" wing of the family, led by underboss Aniello Dellacroce. This wing considered Castellano to be greedy and out of touch of with their concerns.
in the 1980's he operated a loansharking operation with Liborio Milito this partnership ended when Milito went to prison in 1983.
Promotion and downfall
On December 2, 1985 Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce died of cancer. Immediately after his death, Castellano decided to appoint Bilotti as the new underboss. News of the Bilotti promotion, along with a perceived slight to the Dellacroce family by Castellano, stirred up considerable anger in the family. Capo John Gotti and Salvatore Gravano orchestrated a plan to kill both Castellano and Bilotti.
Salvatore Gravano planned to murder Bilotti. One idea was to have associate Joseph Watts tell his wife that he wanted his house painted, and they would put up plastic on the walls and floor to protect it from "paint". Then sometime early in the morning Watts would call to arrange a meeting with Bilotti.
Watts would open the door for Bilotti and walk him into the home's front corridor. Gravano would hide in the archway with Frank DeCicco. As Bilotti would walk past, Gravano would step out and shoot him in the head. They would then discard the plastic and body.
DeCicco would then go up to Paul Castellano's home and tell him Bilotti called in sick so he would act as Castellano's replacement driver. Then, DeCicco would shoot Castellano when he was in his car. But after some cautious thinking, Gravano and DeCicco thought that it was too haphazard of a plan.
At 6:00 p.m. on December 16, 1985 Bilotti chauffeured Paul Castellano to where they were ambushed outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan, apparently on the orders of caporegime John Gotti. He pulled Castellano's black Lincoln Town Car right up in front of the restaurant. As Castellano began exiting the car, Gun men Salvatore Scala, Edward Lino, John Carneglia and Anthony Rampino walked up and fired at least six bullets at him, including a final shot to his head. As Bilotti stepped out, he was approached by the other shooter Dominick Pizzonia. Gambino crime family mob associate Anthony Rampino shot Bilotti six times in the head and chest after Castellano was shot and lying dead against the passenger door and footwell of his car. The fatal meeting was arranged by Frank DeCicco, James Failla and Gene Gotti.
Bilotti and Castellano most certainly saw their ensuing executioners, before being shot dead. From descriptions of the shooters given by witnesses, including a pedestrian who witnessed the shooting from only a few feet away, police detectives believe it was John Gotti associate, Anthony Rampino who gunned down Bilotti as he was getting out of his black Lincoln Town Car. After the shooting, an off-duty registered nurse went to Bilotti's aid in a vain attempt to revive him. Police found Bilotti to be in possession of $6,300 at the time of his death and was not armed.
Thomas Bilotti is buried fifty yards away from Castellano in the Moravian Cemetery of New Dorp, Staten Island. Bilotti left behind ten children, including a six-week old baby son. Bilotti's his wife Donna suffered a nervous breakdown and a miscarriage.
Gotti appointed Frank DeCicco as his new underboss. Gambino associate Joseph Watts wanted Gotti to kill Bilotti's brother Joseph because he might seek revenge. However, Gravano persuaded Gotti that Joseph would accept his brother's death.
On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was convicted in the 1985 Bilotti and Castellano murders. He was later sentenced to life in federal prison.