Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roy DeMeo

Made Men Make Mistakes

Carlo Gambino
Carlo Gambino

In 1976, when DeMeo was 34 and had been training his killing crew for over a year, Carlo Gambino died. Inevitably, power shifted and the new godfather was now Big Paul Castellano. That was one more good thing for Roy, because the person closest to Castellano was Nino Gaggi. Although Castellano despised Roy, since he was a Neapolitan and therefore considered by the Sicilian gangsters as unreliable, Nino kept putting in a good word for him.

Being a man with a strong sense of duty, Roy had no trouble showing that he had what it took. Becoming a made man was his goal, and that meant getting attention for his feats. Making money was one of them, but the otherkilling peoplehe developed into such a grisly art form that stronger men with greater status actually feared him. Castellano listened to the rumors about him with concern. He wanted no "cowboys" in the family, going off and killing for the hell of it. He told Nino he did not want Roy to become a made member of the family.

Roy thought it was just a matter of turning more money over to him, so he redoubled his efforts in his illegal businesses. He made deals with the Irish gangs on the West Side, bringing in ten percent of their business. Nino told this to Big Paul, who could not help but be impressed. When Paul decided to make some changes in the family roster, Nino once again advanced Roy's name for the status of made man, and Paul once again refused. Yet he eventually acquiesced on the strength of Roy's ability to negotiate with the troublesome West Side gang, and finally Roy DeMeo got his "button." He was a member of the Gambino family. He pledged his allegiance to omerta, the Sicilian code, and knew there was no getting out of this alive.

However, he continued to deal in drugs, despite the rule against it, and he was drawing the FBI's attention. His reputation as a killer was of interest to them. That's what concerned Paul Castellano. When the crew killed a man who had offered information to a grand jury, along with shooting his young mistress and leaving their bodies to be found, it was clear to Castellano that Roy was acting on his own initiative. He had performed two murders that had not been discussed or approved by his superiors. And there would be more.

But Castellano had his own problems. With breaches in security, made men wearing wires, and murmuring among family members that his leadership style was weak, Big Paul had to watch his back. The FBI was always there, just waiting for a chance at him.

"We had what I believe was one of the first court-authorized video installations on an organized crime case," said an FBI agent who had done surveillance on Castellano's enterprise. "This was around 1975 or '76, as best I recall. We targeted Castellano's loanshark operation and managed to install a hidden video camera, along with microphones in what was their loan sharking headquarters. No microwave transmissions then - we had to hardwire everything and monitor it from a nearby Catholic school. Everyday the money would come pouring in from various collection points to their location. We had them on camera counting the money, stacking it in piles and checking their list as to who paid and who didn't, etc. They had compromised a loan officer from a branch bank and would send their 'clients' to the bank where this loan officer would make sure the paperwork was right for their loan. In effect they were using the bank's money for their loansharking operation, skimming the 'vig' off the top and - most of the time - the bank got repaid as well. It was a sweet deal, until, as one of the thugs explained to me in flawless Brooklynese as we raided the place, 'Youse guys are fucking this all up.'"

Castellano withdrew out of the social clubs, meeting with members less often, and since Roy was not called on the carpet for his crimes, he expanded and empowered his killing crew. The years from 1977-79 were their most prolific, and anyone who got in the way or tried to cheat the crew on deals seemed to disappear. Even members of the crew were vulnerable and it wasn't long before one of them, acting on his own initiative, got himself into big trouble.

 

 

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