Frank Locascio, the once obscure figure whose underworld career accelerated when the late Gambino crime boss John Gotti anointed him acting second in command, died Friday in a federal prison hospital, U.S. Bureau of Prison officials disclosed.
In a website posting, Bureau of Prison officials noted that Locascio, who was 89, died while serving a sentence of life without parole after his conviction with Gotti on racketeering charges in 1992. In recent months, after years of court fights, a federal appeals court granted him a hearing to challenge one of his racketeering murder convictions.
Locascio's health, according to court records, grew progressively worse after he was sentenced to prison. He suffered from various ailments including COVID-19. At the time of his death, he was being cared for at the Federal Medical Center Devens in Massachusetts.
Locascio was under the radar for much of his criminal life after becoming a "made" member of the Gambino crime family at age 21 and running a crew of gangsters in the Bronx who specialized in gambling activities, said one former federal investigator. Locascio had a strong aversion to cooperating with authorities.
"He was a real loyal gangster who never talked [to police]," said former supervisory FBI agent Bruce Mouw, who led the investigation that led to the conviction of Gotti and Locascio. "He never talked to any agent of law enforcement."
When Gotti took over the Gambino crime family in 1985 after engineering the assassination of then-boss Paul Castellano, he picked Locascio to be his acting underboss following the conviction of Joseph "Piney" Armone, recalled Mouw. Gotti was impressed with Locascio’s loyalty to the mob life, Mouw noted.
Then Gotti began to flip the leadership roles in the crime family, bringing in Salvatore "Sammy" Gravano as a de facto underboss and sometimes consigliere.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Gravano recalled that Gotti put Locascio in as acting underboss but kept Gravano as a top close adviser.
"He [Locascio] was never underboss," said Gravano.
But when Gotti took over as boss, he made a number of moves that led to his undoing, including requiring all crime family members like Locascio to show up at the Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy. That gave police and the FBI the opportunity to see mobsters they hadn’t focused on previously.
The agents also began an intense round of electronic surveillance at the building that led to Gotti and Locascio’s prosecution.
From a bug planted in an apartment above the Ravenite, FBI agents recorded conversations among Gotti, Locascio and Gravano talking about mob business and murders the crime family had sanctioned.
One of the killings discussed was the 1990 shooting of crime family member Louis DiBono, a murder that later sent Locascio to prison.
Locascio and Gotti, as well as Gravano, were arrested at the Ravenite on Dec. 11, 1985. Gravano became a government witness and testified against the other two. Gotti and Locascio were convicted in April 1992 and sentenced to life terms. Gotti died in 2002 in a federal prison hospital.
At his sentencing, Locascio protested his innocence but said, "I am guilty though, of being a good friend of John Gotti. And if there were more men like John Gotti on this earth, we would have a better country."
But Gravano in his biography said that Gotti once brought Locascio to tears by belittling him over the sharing of oranges stolen from a jail commissary. That prompted an angry Locascio to tell Gravano that he would kill Gotti if they ever were freed, Gravano wrote.
It was Gotti who also hurt Locascio’s defense by preventing his attorneys from eliciting testimony that could have cleared Locascio of involvement in the DiBono hit plot, said Gravano.
"It is shame," said Gravano about Locascio’s death in prison. "There was no need for that."