Tommy Bilotti: Gambino Underboss

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Gambino Underboss – Thomas Bilotti’ by Bloodletters & Badmen

Written by: Recapz Bot

Written by: Recapz Bot

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Thomas Belotti replaced the underboss, got shot dead, known for violence, loyal, involved in criminal activities, disliked by many, killed alongside Castellano, buried nearby.

Key Insights

  • Thomas Belotti was chosen to replace the underboss of the Gambino crime family in New York City.
  • Just two weeks later, Belotti was shot dead outside Sparks Steakhouse.
  • Belotti was known for his toughness and violent tendencies, using physical force to resolve disputes.
  • FBI agents described Belotti as lacking business ability and conversational fitness, with no charm or sense of humor.
  • Belotti was loyal, following orders without question and earning the trust of Paul Castellano.
  • Belotti was involved in labor racketeering, extortion, and loan sharking.
  • Many members of the Gambino family disapproved of Belotti and considered him a stooge of Castellano.
  • John Gotti and Salvatore Gravano orchestrated a plot to kill both Castellano and Belotti.
  • The hit took place outside Sparks Steakhouse, with four gunmen wearing white trench coats and black Russian hats.
  • Belotti's death was necessary to prevent him from rallying support and potentially starting a war within the family.
  • Belotti and Castellano were buried near each other at Moravian Cemetery.

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December 1985 had to be a joyous time for Thomas Belotti. Christmas was in the air, and New York City was bustling with holiday shoppers. Everything seemed to be going his way. The promotion of a lifetime, the one he had only daydreamed about, just landed in his lap.

After years of service to New York’s mafia crime family, the Gambinos finally paid off. The underboss of the family, Anelio Della Croce, died of cancer on December 2nd, and the current reigning godfather, Paul Castellano, picked Thomas Belotti to replace him. He was now second in command of the largest and most powerful family in New York. It was an honor to be chosen, and Tommy was proud.

But just two weeks later, the dream came to a nightmarish end as Tommy Belotti lay dead in the street just outside the popular Sparks Steakhouse of multiple gunshots. Six bullets had ripped through his head and body, and a pool of blood, mingled with the cold wet rain, began to form a puddle.

Thomas Belotti was born to first-generation Italian-American immigrants. His father hailed from Rome, Italy, and his mother from Lombardy in Milan. Tommy was born on March 23, 1940, in New York City and had two brothers, James and Joseph, who also followed him into a life of organized crime with the Gambino family.

Tommy had a reputation for being a tough guy, feared by street-level thugs in and around New York. Carl Syphakis writes, “What Castellano liked best about Belotti was his toughness. He was known to smash opponents over the head with a baseball bat as a way of ending disputes. In one reported incident, an agitated Belotti connected with a right hook to knock out Colombo associate Robert Pate, who fell to the floor unconscious as a result of the blow. Dispute over.”

As far as intellect was concerned, FBI agents Joseph O’Brien and Andris Kernis, in their book Boss of Bosses, the FBI and Paul Castellano, paint a picture that is less than complimentary. They write, “Belotti was basically a pit bull with shoes on. If he had a business ability beyond choreographing a shakedown or calculating the interest owned on Shylock loans, it didn’t show. In a milieu not known for its conversational fitness, Belotti distinguished himself by spluttering inarticulateness. Once when describing how a family problem was handled improperly, Belotti stated, ‘It’s gonna be like throwing out the baby with the bathtub.’ When he was corrected that he meant bathwater, Belotti shrugged it off, saying, ‘F**k it.'” Later, the agents wrote, “Belotti was short, 5 feet 7. He was stubby, a rock-solid 22. He wore a bad toupee. He had no tack, no charm, no sense of humor. He had a big mouth, and his piggish eyes were too close together. To the concept of self-control, he was a stranger.”

Alan May, writing for the American Mafia, noted, “The FBI transcripts of the tape-recorded conversation from Castellano’s Todd Hill mansion on Staten Island and from the encounters with FBI agent O’Brien. It is easy to envision Belotti as a Joe Pesci-type mob character. Short, ruthless, excitable, and, if possible, more foul-mouthed than Pesci. Transcripts reveal that practically all of Belotti’s comments were peppered with the F-word.”

Belotti’s character faults took a back seat to one of Belotti’s best attributes, loyalty. He never questioned authority and always carried out orders to the T given to him by his superiors.

As a young man, Belotti joined the Staten Island crew of Gambino Capo Michael D’Alessio. Belotti also spent time as Alexander Debrecy’s chauffeur and bodyguard. Belotti later became a criminal associate of John D’Alessio, the aforementioned brother of Michael. Belotti’s areas of crime included labor racketeering, extortion, and loan sharking.

Moving up in the ranks of the Gambino family, he caught the eye of Paul Castellano, who made Tommy his protege. Belotti was so trusted by the boss that he was given carte blanche access to Castellano’s Todd Hill Staten Island estate, known as the White House. Belotti had a no-show job at Sacramix, Castellano’s cement company on Staten Island. He was also heavily involved in the steam-fitter’s local 638 of the Plumbers Union, accepting bribes and kickbacks for the family.

With the death of Don Carlo Gambino in 1976, Castellano first promoted Belotti to Capo, giving him his own crew. But all was not well. Many members of the Gambino family disapproved of Belotti and considered him to be nothing more than Castellano’s stooge. This mindset was widespread in the traditional blue-collar or streetwise wing of the family led by underboss Neil Della Croce. This wing considered Castellano to be greedy and out of touch with the concerns of the average street soldier.

When Della Croce died on December 2nd, the word went out that Belotti was the new underboss. As news of Belotti’s promotion spread throughout the family, so did anger and resentment. Capo John Gotti and Salvatore Gravano, believing that the best days of the family were in the past unless something radically changed, took matters into their own hands. They orchestrated a plot to kill both Castellano and Belotti. The hit would take place on December 16th outside of Sparks Steakhouse in one of the most spectacular mob hits in recent history.

Former Gotti underboss turned government informant, Sammy the Bull Gravano, explains what happened next. “We were sitting in a car,” he told a federal grand jury in Brooklyn. “We were looking down at Sparks Steakhouse. A car drew up alongside us and stopped for a red light. I looked, and I saw that it was Mr. Castellano in another Lincoln driven by Thomas Belotti. I just turned and I told John they’re right next to us. Gravano said he used a walkie-talkie to notify the gunmen up ahead that they were stopped at the light, the first car, and they were coming through. When the light turned, the car with Mr. Castellano drove across 3rd Avenue and parked in front of Sparks Steakhouse. Waiting for the two men, he said, were four gunmen wearing white trench coats and black Russian hats. The shooters ran over to them and started shooting them. Mr. Castellano was shot first, and Mr. Belotti was getting out of the car when somebody came up behind him and shot him. Then Mr. Gotti slowly drove up to the murder scene. I noticed, I looked down at Tommy Belotti, and I said to John, ‘He’s gone.'”

Why this emphasis on Belotti? Could it have been a bit of mob logic? If Belotti was allowed to live, then he could have possibly rallied support for the murdered Castellano, and a full-scale inter-family war would have ensued. Not to mention, as underboss, he was next in line to be boss. No, Thomas Belotti had to go too.

Both men were buried at the Moravian Cemetery near Todd Hill. Thomas Belotti’s remains were buried in a simple grave just 50 yards from his late boss. Perhaps a symbolic gesture that even in death, Thomas Belotti, the ever-loyal bodyguard, is still watching over his godfather.

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Gambino Underboss – Thomas Bilotti’ by Bloodletters & Badmen