Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Gotti, the Last Mafia Icon

The Tragedy of Frank Gotti

Frank Gotti was the fourth child of John and Victoria Gotti, their second son. Frank Gotti led the life of an average twelve-year-old. He was a good student and enjoyed sports. On March 18, 1980, he borrowed a friend's motorized mini-bike and took a ride around his Howard Beach neighborhood. At the same time, John Favara, a service department manager for a furniture manufacturer, was on his way home from work. Favara was a neighbor of the Gottis. His house on 86th Street was directly behind the Gotti home on 85th Street. Favara's adopted son, Scott, was a friend of Gotti's son, John, and had enjoyed sleepovers in the Gotti home. With the sun going down in the late afternoon, young Frank Gotti and the 51 year-old Favara were about to have the proverbial "appointment with destiny." In Mobstar, by Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain, the authors describe what happened next:

"On 157th Avenue, near 87th, a house was under renovation. A dumpster had been placed in the street to collect the debris. It was on Favara's right. Favara did not notice the boy on the mini-bike dash into the street from the other side of the dumpster, and his car struck and killed Frank Gotti."

The death of her son was a crushing blow to Victoria Gotti. She lived for her children. Frank Gotti's funeral was heavily attended by friends. Favara was advised by a local priest not to make an appearance. FBI agents, who normally held surveillance at wakes and funerals, stayed away out of respect for the death of a child.

Two days after the accident, a woman called the 106th Precinct house and said, "The driver of the car that killed Frank Gotti will be eliminated." That same day, Favara received a death threat in the mail. On March 23, a detective visited the Favara home to warn him about the phone threat. Favara told the detective, "That kind of stuff only happens in the movies." Naïve to the danger he was in, Favara could not understand why the Gotti family didn't realize the child's death was a tragic accident. A woman's phone call to the Favara home on March 24 spelled out another death threat.

On April 13, Favara's car, which had not been repaired, was stolen. It was recovered less than a mile from his home on May 1. Nineteen days later, a funeral card from the services for Frank Gotti was left in Favara's mailbox. The following day a picture of Frank Gotti was placed in the mailbox. The next day, May 22, the word "Murderer" was spray-painted on the Favara automobile. Favara had been a childhood friend of Anthony Zappi, whose father, Ettore, had been a capo in the Gambino Family. Favara went to Anthony Zappi for advice. Zappi told Favara to move out of the neighborhood and get rid of his automobile, because Victoria became enraged every time she saw it.

While contemplating his decision, he was helped along by Victoria, who attacked him on May 28th with an aluminum baseball bat. Favara was treated at a local hospital, but refused to file charges. Favara took Zappi's advice and put his home up for sale. On July 28, three days before he was to close on the sale of his house, Favara was abducted while leaving work. Several people watched as Favara was clubbed over the head and thrown into a van. He and his car were never seen again. A diner owner who witnessed the attack and described it to police soon received a visit from three hulking hoods who sat silently for fifteen minutes staring at him. The diner owner avoided the police, sold his business and moved away.

John and Victoria had conveniently been in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when the abduction took place. The FBI canvassed their informants for information. William Battista reported that while "Gotti did not initially want revenge," an alleged eyewitness had claimed that Favara had been speeding and had run a stop sign just prior to hitting Frank. Battista claimed that since Victoria had been "so distraught" over the death of her son, John promised her revenge. When the couple returned from the south, detectives questioned them. About Favara, Victoria claimed, "I don't know what happened to him. I am not sorry if something did. He never sent me a [sympathy] card. He never apologized. He never even got his car fixed." John's response was similar, if not rehearsed. "I don't know what happened. I am not sorry if something did happen. He killed my kid."

Frank Gotti would have turned 13 on October 18, 1980. Victoria took the opportunity to place two "In Memoriam" notices, one from her children and a second from her and John, in the New York Daily News. Every year since, on the anniversary of Frank's death, the notices appear. As the children began their own families, the number of notices grew. Each of Frank Gotti's siblings named a son in his memory.

On March 8, 2001, Jerry Capeci's "This Week in Gang Land," ran an exclusive account of the John Favara disappearance. In the article, Capeci states that the story was put together from information from present and former law enforcement people who were connected with the case. Capeci identifies eight crewmembers – Angelo Ruggiero, Willie Boy Johnson, Gene Gotti, John and Charles Carneglia, Anthony Rampino, Richard Gomes and Iggy Alogna – as having played a role in the abduction and slaying.

It played out like this: as Favara approached his automobile he spotted the men and turned to run. John Carneglia dropped him with two shots from a .22 caliber, silencer-equipped pistol. Favara gasped, "No. No. Please, my wife," as he struggled to get off the ground. Gomes, a former hood from Providence, Rhode Island, who had joined the Gotti crew in the late 1970s, cracked Favara over the head with a two-by-four, picked him up and threw him in a van. Another crewmember took the victim's keys and followed in Favara's car.

Favara and his car were driven to a salvage yard in East New York operated by the Carneglias. There Favara's body was stuffed into a barrel that was then filled with cement. While Charles Carneglia disposed of the barrel in the ocean off Brooklyn, his brother John crushed Favara's car at the salvage yard. No one was ever arrested for the abduction and murder. In 1983, Favara's wife had him officially declared dead.

 

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