January 10, 2006 by

Vincent Gigante


Categories: Criminals

vgigante.jpgVincent “The Chin” Gigante, a Mafioso who managed to elude prosecution for decades by pretending to be crazy, died on Dec. 19 from complications of heart disease. He was 77.
Gigante was born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. His mother used to call him “Cincenzo,” a diminutive of Vincenzo, which his friends shortened to “Chin.” He was only 15 when he dropped out of vocational school and became a small-time boxer. At 20, Gigante married Olympia Grippa. While the couple would produce five children, he also fathered three more with his mistress, Olympia Esposito.
Tony Eboli, a capo for the Genovese crime family, introduced the teenaged Gigante into a life of crime. By the time Vincent was 25, he had been arrested seven times on an array of charges; most were dismissed or resulted in fines. His only jail sentence during that period was a 60-day stint for gambling.
In 1957, Don Vito Genovese allegedly ordered Gigante to kill crime boss Frank Costello, but he botched the job. Although Costello survived the assassination attempt, he refused to name his attacker in court and soon retired. This decision allowed Vito Genovese to become kingpin of the crime family that still bears his name. In 1959, Gigante was tagged by police for dealing heroin and sent to prison for seven years. While he was paroled after five, incarceration was something Vincent vowed to avoid in the future.
Over the next three decades, Gigante continued to work his way up the ladder of succession within the Genovese crime family. He spent the 1970s as a capo (captain), and the 1980s as the consigliore to Philip Lombardo, who was then head of the Genovese empire. Once Lombardo stepped down for health reasons, Gigante allegedly took over as the new godfather. Organized crime experts described Gigante as a traditional boss, one who settled family issues with threats and then violence (when such action was required). At the height of his reign, his criminal enterprise stretched from New England to Miami.
Knowing the government wanted to shut down his illegal activities, Gigante came up with a clever ruse. If he just pretended to be insane, the courts would never hold him accountable for his actions. So for more than three decades, Gigante wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in his bathrobe and slippers, muttering to himself. He maintained his artifice by booking himself into mental institutions more than two dozen times.
The newspapers dubbed him “The Pajama King” and the Mob’s “Oddfather.” His attorneys said he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and was incapable of running a sophisticated organized crime operation of bookmaking and loan-sharking rings. These claims were backed up by dozens of witnesses, including his brother, the Rev. Louis Gigante, a Roman Catholic priest.
His plan wasn’t so crazy, after all. In fact, it kept Gigante out of prison until 1997, when he was finally convicted of 41 different racketeering and conspiracy charges and sentenced to 12 years behind bars. Then in 2003, Salvatore Gravano, the former underboss of the Gambino crime family, made a deal with the feds and testified in federal court that Gigante had feigned his mental illness. At that point, Vincent finally admitted to running a con on the legal system and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He received another three-year sentence. (Coincidentally, Gravano’s nickname within Mafia circles changed from “Sammy the Bull” to “Sammy the Rat.”)
Gigante died at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. He was due to be released in 2010.

27 Responses to Vincent Gigante

  1. angela power

    I seen this man in Springfield many times and I am very sorry for the family. His younger son knows who I am, not by name but by looks, long curly hair, if you read this contact me at my email address. Once again sorry for the loss.

  2. TS

    What a great man, a real NY guy, will be missed,
    Despite his advancing years commanded respect from the other inmates, During one conversation with a prison guard, he was asked if other inmates were harassing him.

  3. Philip Cantelon

    Vincent Gigante was a very nice man from New York City. His life was one that everyman would love to have, to be the most powerful man in the country. May Mr. Gigante rest in peace.

  4. Fernando Uribe

    I met Mr Gigante in Fort Worth TX a federal prison hospital. He was everything but what is says on the papers…a nobody.

  5. Gigs24

    I did not know Vincent Giganti, but I have heard alot about him. He was my Great Uncle, and I never got to meat him, rest in peace

  6. michelle gigante casseri

    I would love to know if he was one of my relatives! My maiden name is Gigante. My dad’s family came from Italy through Chicago in the early 1900’s.

  7. Jennifer

    Hello, I’m writing a story for the Village Voice about the Gigante legacy. I’d like to here from people who knew the family — good, bad, indifferent– I want to learn as much as possible. Send me an email if you would like to talk.

  8. J. Gigante

    Vincent was my fathers first cousin. I met him numerous times and he was always a good man to my family and I. He never pushed his lifestyle on anyone and treated it as strictly business. You will never hear about all the good that he did in his life. That is the most sad part for me…

  9. andy

    Vincent Gigante. He lived in fear of death constantly. Wondering who would betray and assasinate him. No money or power in the world is worth the lives that pimps like these mafia men live. Movies glorify the mafia lifestyle. We enjoy the mafia lingo and secret society honor portrayed in the godfather, goodfellas, casino, a bronx tale just to name a few. the truth is that the mafia is made up of people who live on their most basic animal instincts. they portray to have lots of class when in fact they have no class. they’re just murderers pretending to be decent citizens while causing destruction thru fear, lies, manipulation, theft, and murder. They do not see. they are blind but continue to pursue the prizes of crime as though this time they will escape the snares and consequences of their evil desires. there is a certain robin hood type appeal of men who are your friends but in the end there are no true friends and it just turns out that everyone’s feigning loyalty and honor

  10. damo from nz

    im a devoted mafia researcher, i enjoy reading anything and evrything there is to no about cosa nostra, mafia ourthing what ever you want to call it, i reckon chin gigante was right to put out a hit on john gotti, look what he and his bumbling son and brother done to the gambinos, any way if you are a as interested as me in this topic or any organised crime, evan the zips (sicilians) i read claire stirlings book the octopus, its a good read any way if you like email me “carlo_gambin0@hotmail.com”

  11. hatter50

    Used to see him walking around the Village now & then years ago. You conned em all Vin !
    From another NYer( not as lucky)

  12. Don Gigante

    Was told Vince Gigante was my great uncle.
    Never met my Grandfather Joe before he died.
    I was fired from a very good job because he was in the news in the 80’s . The Boss asked if I had the exact same last name.And if I could be related. I said yes.
    A week Later I was Fired.
    I guess I was too stupid ,Not to be dishonest.
    Was also told in ancent times Gigantes were the children of falen angels and Humans.
    That would explain alot.
    Anyway I hope he has Found peace

  13. njprincess

    Vincent Gigante, was my cousins, cousins grandfather. The man died before meeting some of his gt-grandkids so please show some respect! They are some of the nicest people I’ve met, growing up I got his grand-daughters hand-me downs and his daughters sofas every time she’d redecorate.
    Its always bothered me thought with the sopranos story line how much the jr story and the “odd” father story parallel yet the Gigante’s don’t get any profit from it?!

  14. Jodi deStefano

    My father was Jimmy “The Shiv” Death House Barber of Sing Sing, he talked about Vinny and some of the interesting untold tales. May he rest in peace, a man who was a victim of the time.

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