Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Gotti, the Last Mafia Icon

The Death of Manny Gambino

In the early 1970s a wave of kidnappings took place in New York City. Incredible as it may seem, the victims were members and associates of the city's crime families. In Tough Guy: The True Story of "Crazy" Eddie Maloney, co-authors William Hoffman and Eddie Maloney discuss the kidnappings Eddie and his gang were involved in. Maloney also details his friendship with Jimmy McBratney.

The two men met when both were incarcerated at Greenhaven State Prison in New York. Maloney described McBratney as a devoted family man who stood six-foot-three and weighed 250 pounds. A weight lifter, McBratney could bench-press 400 pounds. Maloney continues: "Jimmy McBratney was locked up for armed robbery. He was quiet, a listener and learner, and soon we were discussing heists we might do together. He knew about guns and wanted to become a collector, but closest to his heart were his wife and two small children and their house on Staten Island, and his goal of saving enough to own a nightclub. I learned Jimmy was very loyal to his wife, and that all the talk in the yard about 'broads' upset him. His wife visited regularly and wrote every day."

In October 1972, Maloney became part of a kidnapping ring with McBratney.  It was the brainchild of two wiseguys from the Gambino Crime Family - Flippo and Ronnie Miano. Claiming they only wanted ten percent of the ransoms, Flippo told Maloney that his motive for the kidnappings was revenge. "The guys I'm setting up have fucked me and my people on business deals in the past. It'll give me pleasure to see those greedy fucks suffer," Miano boasted.

The kidnapping gang consisted of Maloney, McBratney; Tommy Genovese, a distant relative of Vito's; Warren "Chief" Schurman, and Richie Chaisson. The first kidnapping was of a Gambino capo called "Frank the Wop." The escapade went off without a hitch and the gang got away with $150,000. Over the next two months, the gang completed three more successful body snatches. However, on December 28, 1972 their luck changed. McBratney outlined a plan to grab a Gambino loanshark named "Junior." Late on this bitter cold afternoon, Maloney stuck a gun in Junior's stomach and ordered him into a car. When Junior put up a fight, Maloney used a gun to hit him over the head a couple of times before shoving him into the back seat and taking off. Two young witnesses to the crime followed them for a while before they were scared off, but not before they recorded the license number and turned it over to a relative with mob connections.

A friend of Maloney's, in whose apartment they were holding Junior, and through whose mother they had rented the abduction car, spilled his guts to the wiseguys after some hoods showed up at his mother's house asking questions. McBratney was in a panic when he realized the mob had his name, as well as Maloney's and Schurman's. After a relatively small ransom, $21,000, was paid, McBratney arrived at the apartment to pick up Schurman and return the victim. Schurman was supposed to have taped Junior's eyes before covering them with sunglasses, but the slow-witted hood had failed to do it right.

After driving a few blocks McBratney suddenly realized Junior's eyes weren't taped.  Enraged, he brought the car to a screeching halt. Junior bolted out of the back seat and ran for his life as McBratney fired several shots at him. Meanwhile, Schurman jumped out of the car and retreated to Maloney's automobile, which was following them. Schurman was sure McBratney would kill him if he ever saw him again, a fact Maloney confirmed.

Maloney suggested to McBratney that he leave the city. McBratney declined the advice and instead decided to keep a machine gun in his car. Just before Maloney was sent back to prison on a parole violation, he and Schurman were drinking in a bar one night when two guys that he described as "stone killers" came in looking for them. The bar manager, a friend of Maloney's, told the pair he hadn't seen them in a while. While away in prison, Maloney saw a newspaper article about the arrest of McBratney's killers, featuring the pictures of John Gotti and Angelo Ruggiero. He claimed that they were the two "stone killers" who had been looking for him that night in the bar.

In his book, Maloney never mentions the kidnapping and killing of Manny Gambino, the murder that McBratney allegedly paid for with his life.

So what really happened to Manny Gambino? In the book, Brick Agent, former FBI Special Agent Anthony Villano talks in detail about the alleged abduction. Villano was tipped off that Manny Gambino, the son of Carlo's brother Joseph, had been kidnapped. Villano's attempts to help the family were at first rebuffed. A few days later, an attorney for the family called him and asked the FBI to get involved.

Villano reported that the kidnappers asked for $350,000, but the Gambino family claimed they could only come up with $40,000. The agent figured that either Joe Gambino's side of the family was poor or that having $350,000 in cash on hand might arouse the attention of the IRS.

After receiving new ransom orders, Tommy Gambino, Manny's brother, was told where to drive to and he took off with Villano on the floor in the backseat. The money drop was made before agents tailing Villano could get into position to observe it. However, one of the agents recorded the license number of a van that was seen in the area. The group went back to the Gambino home, only to be disappointed when Manny had not returned by the promised hour. Over the next several months, Villano continued investigating. Through a contact, he found out the following:

"Manny had fallen in love with a show-biz blonde. He wanted to leave his family because the girl refused to have anything more to do with him unless he gave up his wife and went full-time with her. Manny was advised by his betters in the clan to grow up and forget the blonde. In his circles it was okay to have a mistress but it was bad form to leave your wife, particularly if you were a nephew of Carlo Gambino."

Villano also found out that Manny had a few financial problems, most likely due to maintaining two households. Since he was heavy into loanshark operations, many in the family felt that Manny had too much money on the street. Through a snitch, Villano found out that one of the people who was into Manny for a large sum was gambler Robert Sentner, an ex-associate. Upon hearing the name, Villano realized the van that was spotted the night the ransom was paid had been rented to a Robert Sentner.

Manny Gambino's car was found at the Newark Airport. Villano reports that before his body was brought to the burial site, rigor mortis had set in. He was found buried in the sitting position in a New Jersey dump, near the Earle Naval Ammunition Depot. Robert Sentner and John Kilcullen were arrested on December 4, 1972, and charged with kidnapping. Senter later confessed to the murder of Gambino, revealed the names of his other two accomplices, and testified against Kilcullen.  On June 1,1973, he pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

Despite his detailed account of the incident Villano never mentions Jimmy McBratney's name in the book.

 

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