Vincent “Chin” Gigante

Posted: 13th April 2011 by admin in Genovese Family, New York

Vincent “Chin” Gigante

Date of Birth- March 29th, 1928
Located- New York
Worked For- Genovese Family
Date of Death- December 19th, 2005

Born March 29th, 1928 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, Vincent Gigante was the son of a jewel engraver and a seamstress, immigrants from Naples, Italy who never learned how to speak the English language. Vincent was one of five brothers, all of whom- except for one who would become a Roman Catholic priest- would find their place in the life of crime later in their lives. Gigante was a man of many nicknames in his life, the earliest being “The Chin”, stemming from the way his Italian mother would pronounce his given name: Vincenzo.

The boy graduated from Public School 3 in the West Village but would later drop out of Textile High School at the age of 16, purely to pursue an attempted career as a professional boxer. He would end up instead working as a tailor, and becoming a protege to then well-known mobsters Vito Genovese and Philip Lombardo. Before he was 25 years old, Chin was arrested at least seven times, on charges spanning receiving stolen goods, to possession of an unlicensed handgun, to illegal bookmaking and gambling. Despite the arrests and the various allegations, the longest sentence he ever served was 60 days for the gambling.

Eventually, Gigante’s dreams of becoming a professional boxer would come true. He fought 25 matches as a Light Heavyweight between the years of 1944 and 1947, winning 21 of them. His experience in knowing when to fight, and his passion for never giving up in the ring, would earn him many kudos in the Mafia when he started as an enforcer in the 1950′s. Working in the Greenwich Village Crew for Vito Genovese, his mentor, he would earn the right to be given much more responsibility.

It was on May 2nd, 1957 that Genovese ordered Gigante to shoot then family Boss Frank Costello- one of the most well-known mafia figureheads in the country. Though Chin fired his .38-caliber handgun at Costello in the lobby of the Boss’ apartment building, due to his movement at the time it merely grazed the right side of his head. He fell and Gigante, thinking him dead, fled the scene. Later, when Costello refused to implicate his would-be-assassin, the doorman revealed what he had saw. Chin luckily had an effective defense team which granted him an acquittal in 1958 on the attempted murder. Frank Costello, however, felt enough fear to step down from his position, allowing Genovese to take over the family.

Just two years later Gigante would be convicted of heroin trafficking alongside his Boss Vito Genovese. Many residents of Greenwich Village and Little Italy wrote letters on Chin’s behalf, trying to prove he was good in character. He was still sentenced to seven years in prison, during which he would share a cell with Vito, and doing time not prevent him from receiving a promotion to caporegime to his own crew based out of the Triangle Social Club in Greenwich Village. Bookmaking and loansharking, as well as labor racketeering within the construction industry, were his specialties.

Things were moving well for Chin until 1969, when he was indicted in New Jersey for charges of conspiracy to bribe an entire police force to let him know when law enforcement agencies were watching him under surveillance. All accusations were dropped after it was proved, with reports from psychiatrists, that Gigante was mentally unfit to withstand a trial. Whether he was feigning, or was actually mentally troubled as some rumors stated, reports from prominent psychiatrists further suggested that the former boxer was legally insane. With a laundry list of diseases ranging from psychosis, to dementia, to schizophrenia, even the man’s entire family helped lend weight to the claims. Gigante’s own family produced a signed affidavit, claiming he: “suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations and delusions of persecution.”

As if knowing that inevitably the FBI would be able to charge him with something, Chin added his own credibility to the theory he was ‘insane’. Emerging from his and his Mother’s residences dressed only in a bathrobe or pajamas whilst talking incoherently to himself, he would only continue to conduct business from his club with a handful of associates. His behavior earned him many public monikers during this time period, including “The Enigma in the Bathrobe”, “The Robe” and “The Oddfather”.

By 1981 he was the Boss behind the scenes for the Genovese crime family, allowing Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno to run the front operations and successfully keeping law enforcement in the dark about who was actually in charge of the crew. It was Chin who ordered the failed hit upon John Gotti, then Boss of the Gambino Crime Family, in 1986. When at last Gotti, and other Gambino family members, were arrested and convicted on various charges, Vincent Gigante was recognized as the most powerful crime Boss in the United States. He became the capo di tutti capi, or the “Boss of All Bosses”, a phrase that had not been used since the days of Salvatore Maranzano, back in 1931.

In 1986 Anthony Salerno was convicted of murder and racketeering charges, sentenced to 100 years in prison with other reputed top members of the Five Families of New York. Turncoat to the family, Vincent Cafaro, told the FBI that Gigante was, and had always been, the leader of the family- Salerno was just a figurehead. With swift response, Chin promoted two associates to the new positions of Street Boss and Messenger, designed to further remove him from the public eye. When he had to speak to another mobster, it was within whispered conversations that could not be picked up by wiretap. He never, ever, discussed family business while on the phone and forbade family members from mentioning his name; when referring to their boss, members merely pointed to their chins.