A master at deception and Machiavellian intrigue, Carlo Gambino would eventually eclipse all he came in contact with as he rose to become the most powerful mafioso of his time.
Carlo (Don Carlo) Gambino – aka “Carl Gambino” – was born in 1902 in Palermo, Sicily. He immigrated illegally to this country in 1921.
He resided at 2230 Ocean Parkway, an all-brick residence in Brooklyn for years. By the late 1950s, he built an oceanfront ranch-style home on Club Drive in Massapequa on Long Island. His next-door neighbor was his close friend and top capo Ettore (Terry) Zappi.
He had several brothers who would join him in the life. He also had three sons, and many cousins on both sides of the Atlantic, who were active mafiosi.
The closest of these would always be his brother Paolo (or Paul in English), a capo and his closest advisor and partner.
The Gambinos were related to the Castellano, Masotto, Scarpulla, and Guglielmini families, among others, all of whom were well-established mafiosi in their own right.
He would later arrange the marriage of his eldest son Tommy to Gaetano Lucchese’s daughter, Frances, a coup, that would solidify the power of those two mob Families.
FBI # 334450, NYPD # B-128760, NY-DCI # 467576X
Carlo was built small. At approximately 5-foot 7-inches and 140-pounds, with a prominent hawk-like nose and small beady eyes, he was an unassuming presence.
He had a quiet and very reserved demeanor typical of the old-style mafioso of Sicily who he emulated.
Many mistook his appearance and sealed lips as a sign of fear and weakness. They would be among those who would succumb to his sharp wit and mind over his career.
A master at deception and Machiavellian intrigue, Carlo would eventually eclipse all he came in contact with as he rose to become the most powerful mafioso of his time.
He criminal record started in 1930:
- 1930 – inquiry (suspicious person)
- 1930 – grand larceny
- 1931 – suspicion
- 1934 – grand larceny (fugitive)
- 1934 – bootlegging ($1,000 fine)
- 1937 – inquiry
- 1937 – federal alcohol tax violation (22 months in federal prison)
- 1940 – still conspiracy (30 days)
- 1953 – immigration law violations
- 1958 – deportation proceedings
….. with the exception of his one bootleg conviction where he served a short jail term, Carlo would never again see the inside of a prison.
Carlo was the active head of the borgata named after him for almost 20 years. He had been the underboss for years before that, and a top capo even earlier.
He was arguably one of the most powerful mafioso to ever operate in this country.
At the height of his power, he was considered the “Capo di tutti Capi” or “Boss of all Bosses” of Cosa Nostra in America.
He was a key attendee at the infamous Apalachin Meeting in 1957. It is said that his position as Family Boss was ratified at this meeting.
Known as “The Fox”, Carlo often made the analogy of the Fox and the Wolf, explaining that to be both was optimum in this life, but that the Fox was most important to be able to see the traps and pitfalls in order to avoid them.
He was, indeed, “The Fox” in his machinations and the key maneuvers he made throughout his lifetime.
His personal rackets over the years included bootlegging, ration-stamp thefts and counterfeiting, gambling, shylocking, currency counterfeiting, extortions, and international heroin smuggling.