How to Become a Mob Boss (2023) s01e04 Episode Script

Don't Go Rogue

[narrator] This playbook has shown you
how to harness your mob boss energy,
grow your bottom line,
and obliterate everyone
who threatens your rule.
[guns firing]
It's a classic for a reason,
but not all mob bosses
pay attention to its lessons.
I want to tell you about someone
who thought he knew better.
His name, John Gotti.
John Gotti flipped
the playbook on its head.
You don't talk.
You don't strut yourself around.
[narrator] During his tumultuous
six-year reign
over New York's Gambino crime family,
Gotti blew off the playbook at every turn,
leading to an endless series
of arrests and betrayal
that brought him
and his entire organization to ruin.
John Gotti destroyed the Mafia.
You can't operate like John
and expect to survive. You just can't.
[narrator] Ready to learn what not to do
on your mob boss journey?
The Dapper Don is at your service.
[theme music playing]
In his prime,
John Gotti was the most recognizable
mob boss in the world.
[Gotti] You'll never see another guy
like me if you live to be 5,000.
[narrator] But by following
his own impulses
instead of the playbook's wisdom,
he blew his chance at greatness,
lost the respect of his peers,
and ended up dying behind bars.
There's a lot of guys
who look up to John Gotti,
the way he dressed, the way he acted,
because they're not mob guys.
The real story is
it's the worst thing you could ever do.
[narrator] Before we get into
the bad choices Gotti made at the top,
let's give him his due
for making it there in the first place.
Here's how he pulled it off.
[George] John Gotti was a thug.
His attributes
only worked well in organized crime.
So he gravitated toward the one business
where what he was good at
would have a payoff,
and then he started
to work his way up the ladder.
[man] The leaders of the Gambino family
were very much impressed
by the young John Gotti.
He was making money for them.
He had the reputation
for being violent because he was,
and, by all accounts,
Gotti was a raconteur.
He was somebody who had charisma.
He was somebody
that had leadership qualities.
[George] Aniello Dellacroce, who was
the underboss of the Gambino family,
became a mentor for Gotti.
Dellacroce came up from the streets.
It was somebody
that Gotti could look up to.
Dellacroce taught Gotti
you got to be tough, you gotta be strong,
and you don't take any guff from anybody.
This is not about diplomacy.
This is about an iron fist.
[siren wailing]
[narrator] In 1973,
boss Carlo Gambino's nephew is kidnapped.
The main suspect,
Irish-American gangster Jimmy McBratney.
[Ed] People in the Gambino
crime family decided
that the people responsible
for the kidnapping should be dealt with.
Gotti was given
the task of killing Jimmy McBratney.
So Gotti ends up
pleading out the manslaughter,
and I think doing four years.
When he comes back,
you know, he's a stand-up guy.
He's been involved in a murder,
and so now he can get made.
[narrator] Gotti was now a made man,
a fully initiated member of the Mafia,
but he wanted to be a boss,
and his plan for getting there
had him run afoul
of the playbook from the opening gun.
No matter what organization
you're looking to lead,
you have to respect its structure.
That's especially true
with the Italian Mafia,
also known as Cosa Nostra.
[Sammy] You live by Cosa Nostra's rules.
It's not your thing.
It's not my thing.
It's our thing, as a family.
[narrator] And in this family,
everybody needs to know their place.
In Cosa Nostra, there's a pecking order.
[man] At the top, you have your boss.
Under the boss, you have your underboss.
Then you have your consigliere,
which is basically the advisor
or the counselor.
Then you have your captains.
That's sort of your mid-level managers.
And then you have your soldiers.
Those are the made guys.
Beyond that, you have associates.
They're not made members of the group,
but they're people
who work with and contribute to the mob.
[George] And if everybody buys into that,
the organization
will probably function fairly smoothly.
[narrator] But when you're
a street fighter like John Gotti,
working your way into upper management,
it can be hard to just blend in.
He just wanted it the way he wanted it.
By his rules only,
and nobody else's rules mattered to him.
- [siren wailing]
- [gun firing]
[Ed] In the mid-1980s,
Paul Castellano
was the boss of the Gambino family.
His faction was sort of
the white-collar faction of the family.
They made their money
through committing fraud crimes.
They used labor unions,
and they used sophisticated means,
less violent means.
[narrator] Gotti's relationship
with the top boss was complicated
by more than just artistic differences.
Castellano put out an edict, "No drugs."
Anybody deals drugs is gonna get killed.
[gunshot, guns firing]
[narrator] As a loyal captain,
you should always make sure
your boss's commands are followed.
But Gotti wasn't that loyal.
[George] Gotti's brother Gene
and Angelo Ruggiero, Gotti's good friend,
get jammed up in a heroin case.
[narrator] Not a good look.
[George] Gotti decides,
"I got to do a preemptive strike."
"If I don't take this guy out, he'll take
my brother and my best friend out."
"Maybe he's gonna take me out."
[narrator] When it comes
to targeting mob royalty,
you can't just act alone,
and Cosa Nostra
has some particularly strict rules.
In the American Mafia,
you can't kill a fully initiated
or made guy in your family
without getting permission from your boss.
You can't whack
a made guy in another family
without getting permission from your boss
and the boss of the other family.
And if you want to clip
your own boss, good luck.
You need approval from the Commission.
Basically, the Mafia board of directors.
The rules were clear.
John Gotti needed to make his case
through the proper channels,
but he decided otherwise.
He said, "Do it. Fuck it."
We knew we couldn't get permission
from this thing.
Bosses want to protect each other
in the Commission,
so we formed this alliance
which we called The Fist.
So, there was five of us,
and there was nobody saying no.
It was just a time and a place.
[narrator] It's the height of the holiday
shopping season in Midtown Manhattan.
And John Gotti and Sammy Gravano
are awaiting their prey,
Paul Castellano
and his underboss, Tommy Bilotti.
Sammy scored a tip
that Gambino higher-ups
were meeting at five o'clock
at Sparks Steakhouse.
And I said, "This is perfect."
We know the restaurant.
We know what time.
We can make it happen.
I had told John, "They're a little late."
"I wonder what's going on."
As I said that,
four feet, five feet away from me,
was their car stopped at the light.
I told John they're right next to us.
[narrator] But luckily,
their targets are distracted.
They give Gotti's
conspicuously-dressed hitmen the word.
Castellano is approaching.
And as the boss's car
pulls up to the valet,
the assassins execute Gotti's plan.
[ominous music playing]
[music crescendos]
And it couldn't have been a better plan.
[crowd screaming]
No legitimate people were hurt.
There was hundreds of people
who saw this, was witnesses.
[screaming continues]
"What did they look like?"
They didn't know.
All they saw was those hats,
the jackets, and people getting shot.
[siren wailing]
[narrator] Within days,
John Gotti's power play bears fruit.
He's named the new boss
of the Gambino family.
So, what's the problem?
He absolutely knew
what he was doing was against the rules.
There's no doubt about it.
[narrator] And this unsanctioned hit
puts a huge target on John Gotti's back.
The very next day, he's out there.
He's just, "I'm the king now."
[Michael] You know, murder brings heat.
Doesn't only bring heat to you.
It brings heat to everybody.
[narrator] When the temperature
gets too hot,
our trusty playbook
has just the trick to cool things down,
which, naturally, Gotti would ignore
big time.
As a mob boss,
the spotlight is not your friend.
[Elie] Smart mobsters
don't want attention on themselves
from law enforcement,
from the media, from the public.
They know
that what they're doing is illegal,
and attention can only hurt
their bottom-line goal,
which is to make money.
[narrator] Let me show you how it's done.
Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Junior
earned the nickname "The Silent Don"
for his low-key lifestyle,
despite being a big enough player
in both the US and Cuba
that he was allegedly enlisted by the CIA
to kill Fidel Castro.
Sicilian mob boss Bernardo Provenzano
managed to evade capture
for nearly 40 years
by avoiding phone calls
and all electronic communication.
He would task his lieutenants
by sending messages on small
folded pieces of paper called pizzini.
While Genovese crime boss
Vincent "the Chin" Gigante
deflected attention from his activities
by feigning dementia for 30 years,
shuffling around Greenwich Village
in a bathrobe
while muttering to himself
and nearby parking meters.
After the Castellano murder,
Gotti had good reason to lay low.
[John] It blasted John Gotti
all over the media
that the people that didn't know him
outside the local areas of New York,
they all knew who John Gotti was now.
[narrator] But instead of following
the playbook and going underground,
Gotti decided to do the opposite.
[Sammy] But John Gotti decided,
"I have to present myself as a boss now."
So his whole demeanor changed.
His wardrobe changed,
and his attitude changed.
[narrator] Within months, Gotti's profile
was going to be raised even higher
by his first of three public trials.
This one was a blast from the past.
A year before he becomes the boss,
John Gotti is just another Gambino captain
looking to blow off steam
at the family's favorite bar
when his good time is interrupted.
- [indistinct chatter]
- [horn honks]
Refrigerator repairman Romual Piecyk
is boxed in and livid.
Not knowing who he's dealing with,
he asks the wise guys
to get out of his way.
They decline
[grunts, screams]
and make sure
the fridge guy knows that he got off easy.
Piecyk runs off straight to the police.
This was a nonsense assault.
It was almost street thuggery.
[narrator] But with Gotti
publicly flaunting his mob boss status,
the authorities were eager
to take him down
whether Mr. Piecyk likes it or not.
[Ed] All he had to do
was open up the paper and see
that the leader of the most notorious
and violent organized crime family
in the country
was the subject of his complaint.
[narrator] As prosecutors
refine their case,
the new mob boss makes sure
Piecyk and his family
also get some extra attention.
[John] Gotti wasn't sending out
orders to hurt this guy.
He was just trying to make him go away.
[narrator] Inside the packed courtroom,
Gotti and his attorneys
wait for the proceedings to begin,
but Piecyk doesn't show.
He has scheduled elective surgery.
It only delays the inevitable.
[gavel knocking]
But when Piecyk finally takes the stand,
he can't seem to remember a thing.
If I did go stand there and say
that this is Mr. Gotti
and this is Mr. Colletta,
they assaulted me and robbed me
I'm not sure.
[narrator] The judge throws out the case,
leading to even more headlines
about Gotti's great escape.
True to form,
Gotti took all the wrong lessons
from his brush with justice.
[George] That was an example of,
"Hey, this celebrity stuff
can really work to my advantage."
"Look at this guy."
"I didn't even have to do anything."
He forgot.
[narrator] But when you continue
setting the playbook on fire,
don't expect to get off that easy.
[Lou] If you're gonna be out there
and be flashy,
you're going to embarrass law enforcement.
So now we're gonna double down.
[narrator] Even so,
you can still get back on side
with the playbook by using your head
and making sure it doesn't get too big.
Throughout history,
excessive pride or hubris
has been the downfall
of many powerful figures.
[woman] One thing that can happen
when somebody develops
this hubris is they make mistakes.
Because they are operating
under this false belief
that nothing can touch me.
[narrator] And by the mid-1980s,
John Gotti was getting
ever closer to the sun
whether he knew it or not.
[Ed] John Gotti was
an egotistical narcissist
who appeared to revel in the attention
that he was getting from the press
and from the public.
And the more he got, the more he wanted.
[newscaster] He's called the Dapper Don.
[newscaster 2] The Dapper Don.
[newscaster 3]
The so-called Dapper Don, John Gotti.
Whoever named him the Dapper Don
should have came down and talked to him.
The reporter. He would've paid
that guy $100,000 for that label.
He loved those labels.
I mean, you couldn't make that stuff up.
[John] He'd get his hair done
on a regular basis,
so he'd have
one of the barbers come over to the club,
and they'd cut his hair
and shake as they're cutting.
He's got very good taste.
He likes his hair extremely perfect.
[Ellie] He operated
in front of the cameras.
He made himself into a celebrity,
into a "front page of the tabloid" figure.
[narrator] But Gotti's uncontrolled ego
quickly got him into even worse trouble.
[Ed] Gotti moved his headquarters
from the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club
in Queens to the Ravenite,
and this was the ancestral home
of the Gambino crime family
in Little Italy, in Lower Manhattan.
It was a move up the ladder, clearly.
You know, it's Manhattan now.
You're not out in Queens.
Now you're in the city.
Guys had to come there
to meet with Gotti on a regular basis.
The FBI's outside taking pictures.
[camera shutters clicking]
Is that good? That's not good.
He put the whole Mafia on Front Street.
A secret brotherhood.
[narrator] How do you think
that went with the heads
of the other Mafia families?
They were appalled that Gotti was
carrying himself in this flamboyant way,
bringing all this attention
upon himself and the family.
[narrator] And they were going
to do something about it
by borrowing a technique
from their criminal cousins
across the pond.
The Commission hired
Sicilian mobsters to have Gotti killed.
A car bomb exploded today
not in the Middle East,
but in a quiet neighborhood of Brooklyn.
[narrator] But things didn't go
according to plan.
The Sicilian mobsters botched it.
[newscaster] One man was killed,
the 58-year-old Frank DeCicco
described as a lieutenant to John Gotti.
They put a bomb in the wrong car.
[narrator] Were it not
for a little operator error,
Gotti's ego would have cost him his life.
You may not be so lucky.
But the Dapper Don's string
of good fortune was about to hit a snag.
For a studious mob boss,
a stay in the big house
can be just a temporary inconvenience.
But then you'll have to do better
at adhering to the playbook
than John Gotti.
There comes a time
in every mob boss's career
when you will have to work remotely.
To be in this life,
you have to be willing to go to prison,
because at some point,
you're gonna get caught.
[narrator] So make sure your time
in government custody is productive.
[Elie] Whenever a mob boss goes to prison,
they do their best to continue running
the show from behind bars.
But the struggle is to keep the money
coming in to keep control of this family
when you don't have
your individual liberty.
[narrator] These jailhouse operators
didn't miss a step.
During his time in prison,
Pablo Escobar continued running
all aspects of his criminal operation.
And when he discovered
that his phone calls were being monitored,
he started using carrier pigeons instead.
While serving 26 life sentences,
Salvatore Riina successfully ordered
the kidnapping of a 13-year-old boy
to prevent his father
from revealing Mafia secrets.
When the plan failed,
he had the boy killed
and his body dissolved in acid.
And to continue
running his operation behind bars,
Sinaloa Cartel leader,
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman,
put most of the prison system
on his payroll.
Friendly guards
also helped him smuggle in cash,
and the latest movies
to make his stay more pleasant.
The Piecyk assault case
was in the rearview mirror,
but John Gotti was now in jail
awaiting his second trial.
This time on federal RICO charges.
RICO is the worst law
they ever put on the books.
It's Racketeering Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations Act,
and it's an all-encompassing law.
It's very hard to defend.
[narrator] Excuses are for losers.
You still have a business to run.
That will take a firm hand
and impeccable judgment.
Wise guys
aren't the best people in the world.
A lot of people have their own agendas.
When someone has the boss's ear,
they could bring them anything,
and that's a problem.
[narrator] To stay connected in prison,
Gotti relies
on a small group of lieutenants.
His most trusted messenger
is Angelo "Quack Quack" Ruggiero,
known for his duck-like waddle
and big mouth.
Angelo comes to Gotti with urgent news
that another capo,
Robert "DiB" DiBernardo,
the undisputed porn king
of the underworld,
has been talking smack about the boss.
[Sammy] You'd have to be
a complete imbecile
to be talking about a boss
behind his back.
He's got the ultimate power
over your life, whether you live or die.
[narrator] Gotti has heard enough.
DiB needs to be rubbed out.
Back at home, Quack Quack calls
Sammy Gravano to relay the order.
Sammy invites DiB to his office
to discuss construction projects.
Once DiB arrives, Sammy asks an associate
to get their guest a cup of coffee.
It's a signal.
And thus, the demise
of the porn king comes prematurely.
While normally mob hits
are taken in stride,
this one is different.
[Michael] It's a hit that shouldn't
have been ordered. DiB's a good guy.
He made a lot of money,
and he was doing well,
and he was well-liked.
Why's this guy getting killed?
What did he do?
[narrator] Later, Sammy Gravano
would find the likely answer.
Angelo, before he makes up this story
about DiB talking behind John's back,
had borrowed 250,000 from him.
When he gets hit,
he just wipes that debt out.
He never talked behind John's back.
The whole hit completely turned me off.
He was a good friend.
[Michael] You know,
that's a treacherous life.
Dissension is created, uh,
and mistrust is created
when something like that happens.
Now, your own men are questioning that
and worried about themselves.
You know? What, am I next?
[narrator] That's what happens
when you take your eye off the ball.
You get a crew full of killers
doubting your leadership.
And yet,
Gotti's worst mistake is still to come,
failing to follow the playbook's
most basic commandment of all.
The code in the American Mafia is silence.
Don't talk about
a murder that's committed.
Don't talk on your phones.
Don't talk indoors.
Don't talk in your car.
Everything's about
keeping your mouth shut.
[narrator] The Mafia calls
this code Omerta.
[Micheal] When you take
the oath of Omerta,
you're taking an oath to never admit
that the life ever exists
and to never betray the life.
That's the oath.
I tell ya I don't know anything about
For a mafioso to break Omerta
is tantamount to betraying your family,
everything you know, everything you love.
[narrator] But as for John Gotti,
he was never great
at keeping his thoughts to himself,
even while standing trial
on his RICO case.
He goes into the court the next day.
He's smug. He's smiling. He's waving.
He knows he ain't going to jail
on this case.
[John] He starts setting odds.
"I'll bet you three to one,
I beat this case or that case,"
knowing we're getting to the jurors.
[narrator] Well, he was right.
[newscaster] The man they say is the boss
of the nation's most powerful Mafia family
was today found not guilty
of racketeering and conspiracy.
[narrator] With each acquittal,
the Teflon Don's legend grew even larger.
He starts inviting people
to come to his trials. Movie stars.
It brings more notoriety to him.
It legitimizes him.
And it's getting turned around
on the government
that John Gotti is an innocent guy
that works for a plumbing company.
And they don't like him
because he's in the public's eye.
[Renee] The government was jealous of him
because he was winning.
A vendetta's a vendetta.
Doesn't matter where it comes from.
It comes from the good side,
it comes from the bad side,
at the end of the day,
they're gonna get your ass.
[narrator] Sounds like a great time
to quiet things down,
but then he wouldn't be John Gotti,
would he?
[Ed] Gotti was talking very freely
with countless members,
leaders of the Gambino crime family,
about their criminal activities.
He was talking about the structure
of Cosa Nostra, past hits,
guys that he was contemplating hitting.
The FBI is able to bug an apartment
where Gotti would have meetings.
He assumed the apartment was safe,
and it wasn't.
[Ed] If he just stopped
and used common sense,
he would say,
"I'm running a real risk here."
"I am gonna bring myself down."
"And I'm going to bring
the entire family down."
[Gotti] Anytime you got a partner
who don't agree with us, we kill him.
You go to the boss,
and the boss kills 'em.
You tell this punk, I, me, John Gotti,
will sever your [bleep] head off.
You [bleep].
[narrator] Thanks to extensive wiretaps
and other surveillance,
the FBI and federal prosecutors
gather enough evidence
to indict John Gotti, Sammy the Bull,
and consigliere Frank LoCascio
on RICO charges.
Now, they just need to wrap them up.
On December 11th, 1990,
agents spot Gotti, Gravano,
and other Gambino soldiers
arriving for a meeting at the Ravenite.
They swarm in expecting a fight,
but instead receive a cordial welcome.
Gotti's not worried.
He's the Teflon Don after all.
After enjoying a delightful beverage,
Gotti takes his leave.
He's sure he'll be back soon,
until an agent tells him,
"You shouldn't have talked so much
in that woman's apartment."
[Sammy] It must have dawned on him
he was in deep shit.
He knew he fucked up big time.
[narrator] Having now defied
the Mafia's most sacred code,
Gotti's loose lips
will lead to one last karmic twist.
[Ed] John Gotti was being critical
of Gravano on wiretaps.
He was concerned Gravano was taking up
too much power for himself,
too much authority, asserting himself
in a way that was more substantial
than Gotti liked.
Gravano saw this
as Gotti being a dry snitch.
He wasn't ratting on him,
but in case somebody was listening,
he was ratting on him.
You don't have to call John Gotti a rat,
but that's a fucking rat move.
I was brokenhearted.
We were attached at the hip.
We went into a war, took over a family.
People were killed.
I killed people for you.
I rigged cases for you.
I said, "Fuck the Mafia. Fuck John Gotti."
And I reached out
to the government to change sides.
My allegiance
wasn't going to be to him or the Mafia.
To me, the code was gone.
It was gone. It was over.
[narrator] Thanks to Sammy's testimony,
John Gotti finally paid the price
for rejecting the playbook
and going rogue.
[newscaster] The feds finally did it.
They took down America's
most notorious Mafia boss since Al Capone.
Charges of murder, gambling,
and racketeering finally stuck
to the flashy, flamboyant John Gotti.
[narrator] In the end, Gotti did achieve
the attention he always wanted.
He was the best guy around.
[woman] What about the people he murdered?
- What murder?
- They say he murdered
[Lou] I think John Gotti represented
people's frustrations with the government.
How the government's
always nickel-and-diming you,
and John Gotti's fighting the government.
[narrator] But the Dapper Don's reward
for doing things his way
was a reign that lasted just six years
and a lonely death
in prison from throat cancer.
Basically, Gotti was an example
of how not to be a mob boss.
[Sammy] If you want fame,
go become a fucking actor
or whatever you want to be,
but don't be a mob boss.
[siren wailing]
[narrator] Now that you've seen
the wrong path to building
an enduring criminal career,
let's refocus
our attention on the right one.
Our next chapter will show
how with unfailing discipline
and the right priorities,
you can preserve your power
and your freedom for the long haul.
Nobody tackled
this challenge as creatively
as Boston's most legendary mob boss,
Whitey Bulger,
whose ruthless attention to detail
charted his path to infamy
and then pulled
a disappearing act for the ages.
[theme music playing]
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