The alleged godfather of the New York Mafia’s Gambino family was reportedly hit by six bullets as he was gunned down in front of his Staten Island mansion.
It is claimed Francesco “Frank” Cali, 53, was run over by a pickup truck driven by the killer in an attempt to finish him off as he lay bullet-riddled and dying in the street.
Wednesday night’s gangland assassination was the first of a New York Mafia boss in more than 30 years, and it has sparked fears of a new mob war.
Cali, known as “Franky Boy”, was the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family, one of the five historic Italian-American Mafia families in New York with deep ties to the Sicilian Mafia.
He died in hospital after he was shot six times, an unnamed senior police official told the New York Times.
Reports said he was shot multiple times in his torso.
Neighbours said they heard six or seven gunshots before the pickup truck was seen fleeing the scene.
The hit was “disrespectful” because it took place near Cali’s family home in an outer borough, a source told the New York Post.
Who was Frank Cali?
Cali was the alleged boss of what was once one of America’s biggest, most influential and most feared organised crime groups.
He became the acting godfather of the Gambinos in 2015, taking over from Domenico Cefalu, who stepped down, and was considered by authorities to be the Gambinos’ “ambassador” to Sicilian mobsters.
Unlike former boss “Dapper Don” John Gotti, Cali kept a very low profile.
He had mob connections the moment he was born in New York on March 26, 1965, to parents from Sicily.
His great uncles were Bonanno mobsters Vito Bonventre and Giovanni Bonventre.
It is said that Cali became a “made” man in the Gambino family in 1997, and he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a powerful capo before the age of 40.
He eventually became underboss to Cefalu before becoming the de facto godfather after serving on the Gambinos’ ruling panel for years.
By then, the crime family’s influence had waned due to convictions and deaths.
Cali was the nephew-in-law of mobster John Gambino, who police say helped run the Gambino family at one time, and had close ties through marriage to the Inzerillo family in Palermo, Sicily.
He had married Rosaria Inzerillo, a sister of Pietro Inzerillo and a relative of Gambino associate Frank Inzerillo, say reports.
Cali’s rise through the ranks attracted the attention of US law enforcement.
His lone conviction came in 2008 after he tried to extort money from a trucking firm owner working on a proposed NASCAR racetrack in Staten Island.
He pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort money and served a 16-month prison sentence.
Prosecutors claimed he was a go-between for the Gambinos and the Sicilian Mafia.
Reports said Cali was a unifying figure who became a Gambino underboss in 2012 and acting boss in 2015.
After his death on Wednesday, investigators, including the FBI, are probing whether his murder was sanctioned by New York’s five mob families or if it was carried out by a “cowboy” gunman, the Post reported.
The Gambino family was once led by Gotti, who seized power after arranging a hit on his predecessor Paul Castellano in front of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan in December 1985.
It was the last time a New York mob boss was shot until the hit on Cali.
Gotti was convicted of five murders and other charges in April 1992 and sentenced to life in prison.
He died of throat cancer at a prison hospital in June 2002, aged 61.