Mob's Greatest Hits: Frankie Cheech Bomb Plot

The car bombing that wiped out Gambino big-shot Frank "Frankie Cheech" DeCicco was really collateral damage from the hit on Paul Castellano.

Who knows how close New York's Mafia came to shooting it out. Probably a lot closer than the public has believed.
Frank DeCicco surveillance photo.

Frank DeCicco (November 5, 1935 - April 13, 1986) was John Gotti’s underboss when he was slain at the behest of  Vincent“The Chin” Gigante, who seemed to have partially outsourced the job to Luchese bosses Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso and Vittorio Amuso. (A New Jersey based Genovese capo also was tasked with the job.)

The Chin was old school, and he didn’t like Gotti’s move on Big Paul one bit, as it violated protocol. (Plus, The Chin and Paul made piles and piles of cash together.) Gotti mentor Neil Dellacroce would've agreed with the Chin – he was the definition of "old school" itself, which is why Johnny Boy waited until the cancer in his mentor’s brain finally ended him before making his move to take out a boss.

This had not been done in the Gambino family since 1957 when Carlo Gambino put in motion the hit on his boss, Albert Anastasia, who in turn had taken the reins years earlier after “disappearing” his boss, Vincent Mangano, whose body to this day has never been found.

The difference between these hits was that Gambino had the needed support – Anastasia was hated – and feared – by most other families. And Gambino had a strong ally in Vito Genovese, who was chomping at the bit to whack his own boss, Frank Costello, who Genovese believed was sitting in his chair.
Vito set in motion what would ultimately be a failed hit when the hit man Genovese chose from the choir creased The Prime Minister’s head instead of shattering it.

 Gotti was ‘very angry relative to the murder of Frank DeCicco, and when he was out on bail, or when the trial was over, there was going to be a war, and John would take his revenge.’ 

That hit man was The Chin himself. The ironies here abound, but the Chin back then was a much younger and inexperienced man who many say should’ve been treated to a dirt nap for fucking up the hit. But Frank retired, taking the message (not before a slip of paper in his pocket revealed to law enforcement who was really controlling Las Vegas; Genovese should’ve been whacked for that – had no one taken a shot at Costello the New York families would’ve been able to hold the bucket under the running tap for who knows how many years more, but Chicago's wily Tony Accardo stepped up). But I am getting off point here.

DeCicco helped plan the very public assassination of Gambino boss Paul Castellano.

A low-profile mobster, DeCicco was known to be a disorganized man who stuffed dozens of business cards in his suit jacket and car, which he kept quite messy. It would prove to be his doom.

He was known as a reliable associate – though he did turn on the boss, don’t know how reliable he ultimately was – and was known to be a skilled murderer when required. Former underboss and government witness Sammy Gravano seemed to have his number when he described DeCicco as being devious, calculating and observant.

In the late 1960s to early 1970s, DeCicco joined the Gambino family. DeCicco eventually became a Castellano protégé and was also close to Gambino capo James Failla, firmly entrenching him in the white-collar wing, as it was known (compared with Dellacroce’s blue collar guys). DeCicco's crew was said to be one of the most powerful in the Gambino family. It included associate Joseph “The German” Watts who would join DeCicco in swapping sides to be on Gotti’s team when the time came.

In 1985, DeCicco and John Gotti Sr. conspired to murder Castellano and the new inexplicable underboss, Thomas Bilotti. DeCicco's part was to lure Castellano, his previous mentor, to a fake meeting. DeCicco and mobster James Failla both appealed to Castellano to meet with Neil’s son to make nice for Paul’s decision to skip Dellacroce’s funeral owing to the heat from law enforcement (though there are other versions about the reasons for the meeting at Sparks steakhouse). Gotti fumed over the Pope’s public display of disrespect for his own underboss, the well-respected Little Italy strongman, Dellacroce, and it fuelled his rage to kill Paul – that and his desire to remain alive owing to a drug trial then going on in which some of Gotti’s crew, including Angelo Ruggiero and John’s brother Gene, were facing serious time on drug charges. (John wouldn’t let them cop to a lesser charge, which would have shortened their prison time considerably; Gene is still in the can because of his conviction from this trial).

On December 16, 1985, Castellano and Bilotti were shot to death

Soon after Castellano's death, Gotti declared himself the new family boss and designated DeCicco as his underboss. DeCicco took control of all of the "white collar" rackets that once belonged to the Castellano faction. (Gravano said in his book that he had told DeCicco that he, DeCicco, not Gotti, should become the new boss, with Gotti as underboss.)

As noted, the Castellano assassination enraged Genovese boss Vincent Gigante. Only the Mafia Commission, which Gigante then controlled, had the authority to assassinate a boss. More importantly, Castellano had been Gigante's ally, in business and other things. Not long after Paul was planted in the ground, Gigante asked Lucchese crime family boss Victor Amuso and underboss Anthony Casso to help him plan Gotti's murder.

On April 13, 1986, a hired explosives expert went to the Veterans & Friends Social Club in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, where Gotti and DeCicco were attending a meeting. The bomber secretly attached a bomb to DeCicco’s car’s underside. Later, DeCicco exited the club and went to his car along with Lucchese soldier Frank "Frankie Hearts" Bellino, who is said to bear a startling resemblance to John Gotti. Cheech was going to look through the mess for a business card for Bellino, whom the bomber mistook for Gotti -- and detonated the bomb, killing DeCicco instantly. Bellino lost several toes, but survived.

Gotti was not even at the social club at the time, Gravano later wrote.

A confidential informant informed a DEA agent that John Gotti was "very angry relative to the murder of Frank DeCicco, and when he was out on bail, or when the trial was over, there was going to be a war, and John would take his revenge."

Gotti instructed all the Gambino made men and associates to attend DeCicco's wake, held over two days at a funeral home near the bombing site. To replace DeCicco, Gotti ultimately appointed capo Joseph Armone as underboss.”


  1. Frankie DeCicco was a friend, and when he died I was asked by a member of that crew what I thought happened. My logic at the time said that John had done it himself to heal the rift between him and the old timers like Jimmy Brown. Of course, that didn't turn out to be the case. What I found troubling was that a bomb was used, which was supposedly verboten, but which I had predicted in my novel, "Blood of Our Fathers." It signaled another level down in the mob's sinking to the bottom. It also bothered me that readers might think I had copied the situation, for my book, which was in the process of being published up at S & S. I had written everything two years earlier and didn't want to look like I had exploited a friend's death. Ultimately, I realized that it didn't matter. Was just too bad my prediction came to pass on a pal. RIP Frankie.

  2. The idea behind the bomb was to mislead Gotti into thinking that some zips, perhaps going back to the Gambino-Castellano relationship, had committed the hit. I think it was Casso's idea -- bombs were widely used in Sicily by the Mafia at the time.

    1. Yes, they did, but Americans after 1931 banned it because of the heat it would bring if a civilian or more were killed by accident. The bombing here was done because of a breakdown in discipline and a number of guys who attached to the mob after returning from service in Vietnam with explosives experience.

  3. Nino Gaggi used a grenade to try to murder a civilian not sure what year but just like you said his nephew returned from vietnam with plenty experience in IEDs.

  4. yeah gaggi tried to kill Vincent govenara with a bomb , I read somewhere that gotti may have had a hand in it because he thought if deccico can betray castellano there may be a time wen he does the same to me , however I don't believe that to be true , I think it was casso and gigante who planned it as revenge for the unsanctioned hit on big paul

    1. Like you, I thought John had a hand in Frankie's murder. A member of that crew asked me what I thought was behind it when it happened, I said I believed that John did it as a peace offering to the old establishment wing of guys like Jimmy Brown. Obviously, I was off base.

  5. Gotti really was something - in so many stories I've written he suddenly pops up: the Farace fallout, helping light the fuse of the Colombo family's third war by building up Vic Orena, disposing of bodies for Joe Massino, causing the Lucheses to whacky Tommy D....


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