Aniello (O’Neill) Dellacroce – aka “O’Neil”, “Mr. O’Neil”, “Neil Dellacroce”, “Father O’Neill”, “Timothy O’Neil”, “The Pollack”, “The Tall Guy”.
Side Note: In the Italian language his first and surname literally means “little lamb of the cross” – Aniello (lamb) – Della (of the) – Croce (cross)… hence Aniello Dellacroce.
In honor of the all-important celebration of Easter for the Roman Catholic people, his parents picked such a gentle, biblical name to give their son…But his name would become a strange, cruel twist of fate that O’Neil should by chance grow up to be one of the deadliest, and reportedly cruelest, mafioso to ever live and operate in America. The “little lamb of the cross” he was not!
The highly-decorated NYCPD detective and resident organized crime expert Ralph Salerno once said he had met dozens and dozens of Mafia figures in his lifetime, but that there were only two mafiosi who actually shook him to the core, unnerving him, – Aniello Dellacroce and Carmine Galante.
He stated that “They had bad eyes, I mean they had the eyes of killers. You looked at Dellacroce’s eyes and you could see how frightening they were, the frigid, cool glare of a stone killer.”
Joseph Coffey, a former top New York City mob investigator himself stated that “Dellacroce was one of the scariest individuals I’ve ever met in my life, and I’ve met them all. Dellacroce’s eyes were like he didn’t have any eyes. Did you ever see ‘Children of the Dammed?’ His eyes were so blue that they weren’t even there. It was like looking right through him.”
The FBI once described Dellacroce as a notorious, very tough racketeer who had a “proclivity toward violence” and was “the heir apparent” to Carlo Gambino himself.
Aniello Dellacroce was born on March 15, 1914, and raised at 232 Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy section at a time when its Little Italy was truly Little Italy, and the mafia ruled that neighborhood with an iron hand.
It was a neighborhood he would reside and operate in his entire life. By the early-1970s, he had also purchased a private home at 597 W. Fingerboard Road on Staten Island that he alternated back and forth from to his Little Italy apartment.
He got married young to Lucille (nee Riccardi) and raised a son by the name of Armand. He also had a brother named Carmine. Both followed Neil into the mob.
Dellacroce also had a decades-long, much younger “comare” that he lived within Staten Island and considered his second wife.
O’Neil was approximately 5-feet 10-inches tall and was solidly built at 190 pounds. He was fair-skinned with medium-brown hair that turned nearly all-white by his early 50s. Neil had very light blue eyes. Hence, this is how he acquired his other nickname of “The Pollack” because he didn’t have a typical Italian or Mediterranean look to him.
According to people who met him, he had an ice-cold stare that unnerved all who met him.
FBI # 327320, NYCPD # B-82875
As a young hood in the late-1930s, he had come to the attention of mafiosi in the old Mangano Family based in Brooklyn – the first “Mustache Petes” who came over from Sicily. He soon became affiliated with them and was eventually formally inducted as a swore “soldier” in the early 1940s.
Not much was known about his early years, but by 1951, after the disappearance and presumed murder of boss Vincent Mangano, this borgata would be taken over and headed by the notorious underboss Albert (The Executioner) Anastasia, who quickly elevated Dellacroce to “capo di decina” of the Mulberry Street crew.
From this point forward, and all through the 1950s and 1960s era, O’Neil steadily rose in stature and power, until he commanded a small army of soldiers and associates and became one of the most capable and powerful of the Family’s recognized leaders. He operated one of the largest and most important regimes in their borgata – the “Mulberry Street Crew.”
Dellacroce was said to have served as a top Family enforcer and was suspected of many homicides in his career, including that of a top 1950s overly ambitious Anastasia capo Armand (Tommy) Rava, Little Italy hoodlum brothers Frank and Carmine Consalvo, a Yonkers-based shylock named Charles (Charlie Bear) Calise, Florida-based Gambino soldier Anthony (Tony Plate) Plata, and maverick Bonanno boss Carmine (Lilo) Galante, to name but a few.
O’Neil had a deadly reputation and was considered a no-nonsense underboss and taskmaster over all who dealt with him, both within and outside the Family.
With Anastasia’s very public and infamous execution in the barber’s chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel in 1957, O’Neil was elevated to serve as new boss Carlo Gambino’s trusted underboss. It was a role he was made for, and one that he executed (pardon my pun) with precision and unwavering dedication.
Dellacroce had been given the spot previously held by Gambino’s longtime underboss, the iconic Joseph (Joe Bandy) Biondo, after Biondo became an outcast and was “broken” by Gambino and “shelved” rather than killed, which had been a distinct possibility. It was a merciful fall from grace for Biondo considering the alternative.
Neil Dellacroce would serve unfailingly in that role for nearly 30 years.
Side Note: Although a staunch supporter of Albert Anastasia, O’Neil was also a pragmatist and understood the machinations of mafia life and mafia protocol. When offered an “olive branch” by Gambino, Dellacroce was smart and astute enough to accept the position graciously…and all indications are that whatever his previous loyalties or personal feelings may have been, O’Neil served Carlo very, very loyally through the years.
He controlled the “street” for Carlo with an iron fist, and all the “capos”, as well as the rank and file soldiers, held him in a reverence and high esteem reserved for few. The leaders of the other four New York Families greatly respected him as well.
There are underbosses, and then there are “underbosses” in the Mafia… THIS was an underboss!
Dellacroce’s criminal record started as a juvenile when he was just 16 years old. It reflected at least 12 arrests on such charges as:
1930 – store burglary (sentenced to 2.5 years at Elmira Reformatory)
1934 – disorderly conduct
1937 – felonious assault (6 months)
1956 – vagrancy, consorting with known criminals, and a Sullivan law violation
1958 – vagrancy
1971 – contempt of court (1 year)
1972 – income tax evasion (5 years in federal prison for not reporting $100,000 in a company stock he received in 1968)
1979 – * Rico conspiracy (racketeering, murder of Charles Calise, extortion, shylocking, obstruction of justice)
1980 – criminal contempt of court
1984 – federal income tax evasion
1985 – *RICO conspiracy, various racketeering charges including murder, gambling, usury, extortion, hijacking, fraud (died before coming to trial)
1985 – *RICO conspiracy and racketeering, obstruction of justice, Galante murder conspiracy, etc. (died before prosecution)
*Dellacroce had been charged on three separate occasions with RICO charges. Each time, one of the overt charged offenses was homicide. That’s gotta be a record.
He headquartered for decades out of the Ravenite Social Club located at 242 Mulberry Street and became the most important Gambino member in Little Italy and one of the most important mafiosi in the entire neighborhood of the Five Families.
Early on, before being elevated to underboss, his personal regime over the years boasted such men as:
• Carmine Dellacroce
• Anthony (Tony West) DeLutro
• Cataldo (Charlie West) DeLutro
• Michael (Mike Tally) Caiazza
• Ralph DePaola
• Epifanio Orio
• Joseph (Joe the Cat) LaForte, Sr.
• Onofrio (Neil) Modica
• Guido (The Doll) DeCurtis
• Ettore (Eddie Dolls) DeCurtis
• Frank Barranca
• Anthony (Tony Plate or TP) Plata
• Guido Penosi
• Joseph (Mr. Harlem) Bisogno
• Louis Palmieri
• Frank Ricciardi
• Michael (Skinny Mike) Catalano
• Louis DeFilippo
• Edward Grillo
• Charles (Sleepy) Barcelona
• and brothers Carmine and Frank Consalvo, among many others.
Most of those listed above were hoods from the Mulberry Street area, and fully “inducted” mafia soldiers.
In later years, it included younger generation mobsters such as his nephews Salvatore and Angelo (Quack Quack) Ruggiero, John, and Eugene Gotti, the Carneglia brothers – Johnny and Charlie, and their followers from the East New York regime formerly headed by old-line capo Carmine (Charlie Wagon Wheels) Fatico and his brother, soldier Donato (Danny Wags) Fatico.
Side Note: In time, Gotti would become one of Neil’s closest aides and minions, being groomed for greater things in the mob after Neil took a liking to Gotti and took the young, aspiring hoodlum under his wing.
For years, he listed employment as a salesman for the Royal Crown Bottling Co., of Newark, New Jersey and Hoffman Soda Bottling and Beverage Co., of College Point, Queens – two very popular soda brands in the greater New York metropolitan area during that era.
The principal officer of Hoffman was Martin Goldman of Roslyn, described by authorities as a mob associate and convicted swindler who once “busted out” Progressive Drug Co., of $580,000 in a complex bankruptcy fraud scheme, and in concert with O’Neill and soldier Mike Catalano, also shook down a platinum dealer for $100,000.
He was arrested in 1956 along with two of his men, DiPaola and Orio, after police trailed Neil to the Ravenite Club and nabbed the three of them as they exited the club on vagrancy charges despite the fact that Neil had $2,115 in his pocket at the time he was picked up. Neil was also charged with “criminal consorting with known hoodlums” (each other) and illegal possession of a homemade 12” sap (blackjack).
In 1966, he was one of 13 top mafiosi across the eastern seaboard that were arrested after the NYC Police Intelligence Squad raided a top-level “Commission Meeting” held at the famous La Stella Restaurant on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, Queens.
Dubbed “The Little Apalachin Meeting”, they were charged with criminal conspiracy and consorting with known criminals. Dellacroce was held on $5,000 bail.
Among his co-defendants were such Mafia luminaries as the bosses of five separate borgatas – Carlo Gambino, Joseph Colombo, Thomas Eboli, Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante Jr…Underbosses – Joseph Marcello Jr., and Frank Gagliano… Consiglieri – Joseph N. Gallo and Michele Miranda… and Capos and key Soldiers – Dominick Alongi and Anthony Carillo.
They represented three of the five New York Families; Gambino, Genovese, and Colombo; the New Orleans Family of Louisiana; and the Tampa Family of Florida…It was a major law enforcement coup.
Dellacroce and several others were eventually also charged with criminal contempt of court for refusing to testify before an empaneled grand jury investigating that restaurant meeting.
In 1972, Dellacroce was indicted for not reporting 22,500 shares of stock in a Long Island company named Yankee Plastics that he extorted for his help in maintaining the “labor peace” of their workforce with a Teamsters Union local. Basically, he provided them a “sweetheart contract” that favored management instead of the employees.
After this income-tax evasion conviction, while standing before the federal judge for sentencing in 1973, the jurist called Dellacroce “a top-level hoodlum, a danger to society, a menace to the community, and a parasite who lives off the lifeblood of honest people!”…he then sentenced O’Neil to the maximum 5-year jail term.
His co-defendants were Gambino soldier “Skinny Mike” Catalano, and mob associate Marty Goldman, who had each been previously sentenced to 1-year imprisonment for extortion and were already away serving their jail terms at the time of Dellacroce’s day for sentencing.
In the late 1970s, Dellacroce got pulled into another major law enforcement investigation that was probing the July 7, 1974 murder of a Yonkers bookmaker-loanshark and Gambino associate named Charles (Charlie Bear) Calise, who was shot five times in the head and found in the trunk of his car in a Yonkers shopping center.
Side Note: The medical examiner said Calise had been shot in both eyes, each ear, and directly in the mouth…a clear mafia sign that he heard too much, saw too much, and certainly talked too much!
It was a message from the mafia to future “Rats” to shut the fuck up!
Calise was an active subordinate of a Family soldier named Anthony Plata, better known as “Tony Plate” or “TP”. Originally operating out of the Bronx and Yonkers areas, years earlier, Plate had migrated down to the Sunshine State where he quickly established himself as an important loanshark and gambler, flying the Gambino flag. He left Calise in charge of his Bronx rackets, receiving his share monthly.
There came a time when Plate no longer trusted Calise, fearing he had possibly turned “rat”. After flying up to NYC to conference with his direct superior O’Neil, the decision was made to eliminate their Yonkers “problem”. Calise was found shot to death shortly thereafter.
Side Note: Indeed, Calise was, in fact, a cooperating federal informant.
In May 1979, after an intense murder probe a few years later, both Plate and Dellacroce were charged with a wide-ranging anti-racketeering case with many varied criminal counts, of which one overt act was the Calise homicide…it became a major headache and concern for the volatile underboss.
It did not take O’Neil long to figure out that his chances at beating the case would be greatly improved if he was tried alone, especially since Plate was the pivotal link and common denominator between Calise and Dellacroce in the case.
Mob legend has it on good authority that a few short months later in August of 1979, John Gotti and Angelo Ruggiero were quickly dispatched on a jet flying out of JFK Airport in Queens down to Miami, Florida to spend an extended weekend, flying right back several days later.
Coincidentally, Tony Plate and a longtime friend disappeared while running an errand in the friend’s car about that same date and were never seen again…ever!
Federal prosecutors lost the Calise murder trial against Aniello Dellacroce shortly thereafter. The jury deliberated for three days before returning a verdict of “not guilty”.
Headache solved!…it’s nice to have good “friends of ours” sometimes.
In March 1980, he was one of eight Gambino and Bonanno mobsters indicted for contempt of a grand jury probing the “execution-style” murder of mob czar Carmine Galante. Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgantheu charged the men with stalling the probe by refusing to answer questions
In November 1984, he was indicted on income tax evasion charges. And then a few months later in March of 1985, he faced his most serious indictment to date. He was one of 10 Gambino Family members charged with federal RICO conspiracy and related counts.
His co-defendants included then capo John Gotti, Angelo Ruggiero, and several of their close associates. They were accused of conducting an 18-year-long racket enterprise operating two crews from Manhattan and Brooklyn that encompassed gambling, truck hijacking, shylocking, extortion and murder.
Dellacroce was accused of overseeing and directing the group.
Also in December of 1985, he was accused of being one of 11 reputed members of “The Commission” – the regulatory body of Cosa Nostra in the United States. They were indicted on various conspiracy and racketeering charges for settling disputes and controlling organized crime in America… but Neil would never serve a single day in prison on any of the 3 cases that were brought against him, back-to-back within 13 months of each other.
Dellacroce was gravely ill and his arrest, indictment, and eventual arraignment by FBI agents, prosecutors, and the judge beside his hospital bed was but a formality and “half a charade” for the public – and a media spectacle at that.
He died at the age of 71 at Mary Immaculate Hospital, in Queens in the month of December in 1985. Dellacroce was suffering from cancer and heart disease.
His death inadvertently paved the way for the most unstable period the Gambino Family ever experienced.
Side Note: Two weeks after his death, his top protege, capo John Gotti would assassinate Family boss Paul Castellano and seize power, being named “boss” of the Gambinos. Over the next five years Gotti’s showboat style of operating, his lack of restraint and poor leadership skills would quickly corrode the borgata from within.
Side Note: In a sad postscript, Neil’s son Armand died at the age of 32 of a cerebral hemorrhage after he was found dead in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania where he had been living as a fugitive from justice for two years. He had pleaded guilty in 1985 to racketeering, having been indicted in the same case as his father, but failed to appear for sentencing on March 31, 1986, opting to go “on the lam” instead. The cause of death was “alcoholic cirrhosis”.