Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MARRIED TO THE MOB: MAFIA WIVES AND MISTRESSES

"Big Paul's" Maid

Paul Castellano's execution (AP)
Paul Castellano's execution (AP)

From 1976 to 1985, Paul Big Paul Castellano was the capo di tutti capi, boss of all bosses, of New Yorks Gambino crime family, then the most powerful of the citys five families. But Castellano is remembered more for his death than for what he accomplished in life. He was gunned down in front of his favorite steakhouse in midtown Manhattan in the middle of rush hour. It was the boldest, most spectacular gangland slaying in modern mob history. Castellanos execution was as much a statement as a power play orchestrated by John Gotti who muscled his way onto Castellanos throne and became the next boss of all bosses.

John Gotti
John Gotti
Gottis main beef with Castellano was that the boss favored taking the family into legitimate businesses at the expense of the bread-and-butter rackets that are the cornerstones of mafia money-making. Specifically Gotti wanted freer reign to steal from the New York airports.

In their personal styles, the two men were worlds apart. Gotti relished the tough-guy role, quick to retaliate against anyone who stood in his way. Castellano, who was tall and gentlemanly, saw himself as a businessman, though he didnt hesitate to use violence when he deemed it necessary. Gotti lived in a middle-class neighborhood in Queens. Castellano lived in a mansion nicknamed the White House in the exclusive Todt Hill section of Staten Island, far removed from the rough and tumble activities of his underlings. But what might have been the last straw for Gotti and his supporters was Castellanos choice of goomatta, his Colombian maid, Gloria Olarte.

Paul Castellano (AP)
Paul Castellano (AP)
Olarte was a most unlikely candidate for a bosss mistress. She wasnt the kind of flashy beauty wiseguys prize. She was small and dark with coarse black hair, a shy immigrant hired by Castellanos wife Nina to work as a domestic. But for reasons that Castellano took to the grave, at the age of 70 he became hopelessly smitten with the maid who spoke almost no English. They carried on in his home in the presence of his wife, and in so doing, Castellano crossed a line that likely contributed to his undoing.

When it comes to the women in their lives, Mafiosi hold a double standard. While a real man must have a goomatta, the mother of his children remains sacred. Affairs are conducted outside of the house, and wives should be spared the embarrassment of their husbands extracurricular activities as much as possible. By the Mafia rules of etiquette, Nina Castellano, though grandmotherly by this time, deserved her husbands respect, and Castellano more than anyone should have known that. His inappropriate, lovesick behavior with Olarte was further proof to his enemies that he was out of touch and needed to be replaced.

Gloria Olarte started working at the Castellanos mansion in September 1979, and it wasnt long before Big Paul started flirting with her. Because she knew so little English, Nina had bought a handheld electronic English-Spanish translator so that she could communicate with the maid and tell her what chores she wanted done. When Castellano got ahold of the device, he used it to send flattering little messages to Olarte in Spanish, complimenting her eyes, her smile.

Castellanos infatuation with the maid soon turned into a full-fledged love affair. Big Paul and Gloria acted like teenagers with little concern for who was watching. Gloria became quite outspoken around her lovers associates, which didnt win her any points with them. Castellano took her on vacations and even bought her a hot sports car, a red Datsun 280Z, even though she didnt know how to drive. Through all of this, Nina Castellano stood her ground. The White House was her home, and she wasnt going to budge for a pipsqueak like Olarte. If her husband wanted to act like a fool, let him. This queen wasnt about to give up her castle.

But the depths of Castellanos feelings for Gloria surprised even the FBI. On St. Patricks Day 1983, after two years of planning, FBI agents got by Castellanos elaborate electronic security system as well as his Doberman pinschers and successfully planted a listening device in a lamp on the bosss kitchen table. They knew from prior surveillance that Castellano often conducted business from his home, and he was most comfortable in the kitchen. In the three months that the bug operated, agents listened in on conferences between Castellano and his mob associates. The agents, by default, also heard personal conversations between Big Paul and Gloria. What the agents learned one day left them speechless.

Castellano had left the White House one day to travel to Tampa, Florida. The reason for his visit, according to his lawyer, was elective surgery. But further investigation by the U.S. Attorneys Office in Tampa revealed the true nature of this surgery. Big Paul had received a penile implant, a device that when unfolded would give him a mechanical erection. The implant telescoped inside of him like a manual car antenna.

This bit of information raised more than a few eyebrows within law enforcement. Castellano had never been known as a ladies man, but now in the autumn of his years, he was getting himself fixed, presumably to satisfy his new love. Knowing this, the agents listening in on the conversations in Castellanos kitchen started paying more attention to the exchanges between Big Paul and Gloria.

Eventually Nina Castellano moved out of the house, having finally had enough of the lovebirds shenanigans. Gloria, whose English was improving, was triumphant. In her mind, she was now the lady of the house. But Glorias victory was short-lived. Within a year Paul Castellanos lifeless body would be sprawled on a Manhattan sidewalk next to the open front passenger door of his black Lincoln Continental, blood seeping from multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Its uncertain whether John Gotti knew or even cared about Paul Castellanos penile implant. What Gotti thought of Big Pauls affair with his maid is not public knowledge. To this day, Gotti, who is imprisoned for life in Marion, Illinois, abides by the Mafia code of silence, omerta.

Perhaps former FBI Special Agent Joseph OBrien, co-author of Boss of Bosses: The Fall of the GodfatherThe FBI and Paul Castellano, best characterized Gloria Olartes position within the Gambino family. OBrien, who was one of the agents who planted the bug in Castellanos house, called her the Yoko Ono of the Mob.

The bandleader thinks hes found the love of his life, OBriens says in his book, the other guys think hes lost his mind. He thinks shes exotic, they think shes wildly inappropriate. He thinks hes been set free, they think hes making a total ass of himself.

 

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