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Peter Gotti, considered by law enforcement to be Gambino crime boss, dies at 81

Peter Gotti walks with his brother, John Gotti,

Peter Gotti walks with his brother, John Gotti, in this photo from 1986.   Credit: Newsday/Alan Raia

Peter Gotti, considered by law enforcement to be the successor to his brother, Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, died earlier this week in prison, according to one of his attorneys.

He was 81 and was serving a 25-year sentence for a federal racketeering conviction in North Carolina, law enforcement officials said.

"To those who knew Peter, they know how much he loved his family, he will certainly be missed," said attorney Joseph DiBenedetto of New York, one of the lawyers who represented him in the Manhattan federal case.

Gotti had sought to get out of prison on a compassionate release request based on various medical grounds but was turned down in late December by a federal judge in Manhattan, according to court records.

He had been serving his sentence in Butner federal prison, the same facility that housed Wall Street scammer Bernard Madoff.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. Court records show Peter Gotti suffered from congestive heart failure and high blood pressure, conditions that were the basis of his request for release due to the increased risk if he caught COVID-19.

"It is the closing of the Gotti era," said former Gambino underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano on learning of Peter Gotti’s passing. "I don’t like to hear about anybody dying in prison."

Gotti had been a former city sanitation worker when he became closely aligned with brother John Gotti’s crew working out of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park. Peter Gotti helped his brother run the club, said Bruce Mouw, the former FBI agent who ran the big investigation which netted John Gotti in 1990.

"He got made [inducted into the crime family ] in 1986," Mouw said Thursday night. "Peter was a loyal soldier and very loyal captain. His main job was to collect the money."

When John Gotti became head of the Gambino family in late 1985 after engineering the assassination of former boss Paul Castellano, Peter Gotti became a more important fixture in the crime family, said Mouw.

According to various law enforcement sources and court records, Peter Gotti, who lived in Howard Beach, became more of a power in the crime family after his brother was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 and was his successor when John Gotti died in 2002. He was twice convicted of racketeering himself in federal court, in 2004 and 2005 and was due to be released from custody in 2031.

Mouw said that both Gotti brothers presided over a period in which the Gambino crime family became a big media item and pulled in millions of dollars but that their leadership led to poor decisions and their eventual incarcerations.

"He was a good captain but as far as a boss he was a disaster and the family went down hill," Mouw said of Peter Gotti.

For the past 15 years, although Peter Gotti was considered the official boss of the Gambino family, other powerful gangsters essentially ignored him, said law enforcement officials and today, the Gambino family is reputedly led by Dominic Cefalu of Brooklyn.

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