Born October 27, 1940, in New York City. Gotti’s mother, Fannie, and father, J. Joseph Gotti, were both Italian immigrants. John Gotti was the fifth of 13 children in a family whose only income came from their father’s unpredictable work as a day laborer. Gotti and his family moved frequently before settling in East New York, an area known at the time for its youth gang activity.
By the age of 12, Gotti was working as an errand boy for an underground club in the neighborhood run by Carmine Fatico. Fatico was a captain in the local Gambino family, the largest of the five organized crime families in New York City. Through his activities with the club, Gotti met Aniello Dellacroce, who became his life-long mentor.
Gotti soon became the leader of a gang called the Fulton-Rockaway boys, a group known for their frequent robberies and car-jackings. When he was 14, Gotti’s toes were crushed as he tried to steal a cement mixer. The accident gave the mobster-to-be his trademark gait, and earned him another incident on his list of petty crimes. He was considered a bully and constant discipline problem at Franklin K. Lane High School until he dropped out at 16. By the age of 18, the police department ranked Gotti as a low-level associate in the Fatico crew.
Between 1957 and 1961, Gotti pursued a life of crime on a full-time basis. His arrest record included street fighting, public intoxication, and car theft. By his 21st birthday, Gotti had been arrested five times, but served little jail time.
On March 6, 1962, Gotti married 17-year-old Victoria DiGiorgio. At the time of their marriage, DiGiorgio had already given birth to their first child, Angela, and was pregnant with their second. In the early years of their marriage, the couple fought constantly and separated numerous times. Gotti briefly tried his hand at legitimate jobs for the sake of his family: first, as a presser in a coat factory, and then as an assistant to a truck driver.
His crime-free life was brief, however, and Gotti was jailed twice by 1966. When he and his family made the move to Ozone Park in Queens, New York, the budding criminal quickly became a major player in the Gambino hijacking crew. In 1968, Gotti served his first major sentence when the FBI charged he and his two accomplices with committing cargo thefts near John F. Kennedy Airport. All three men were convicted of hijacking and sentenced to three years in prison.
While Gotti served his time, the Fatico crew moved from East New York to a storefront near Gotti’s home in Queens. The group’s headquarters was disguised as a non-profit organization called the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club. After his release from prison in 1971, Gotti was designated as the temporary leader of Fatico’s gang while the captain faced loan-sharking charges.