The family was one of the five families that were founded in New York after the Castellammarese War of 1931. For most of the next quarter-century, it was a minor player in organized crime. Its most prominent member during this time was its underboss, Albert Anastasia, who would rise to infamy as the operating head of the underworld's enforcement arm, Murder, Inc. He remained a power even after Murder, Inc. was smashed in the late 1940s, and took over his family in 1951--by all accounts, after murdering the family's founder, Vincent Mangano.
The rise of what for a time was the most powerful crime family in America really began in 1957, when Anastasia was assassinated while sitting in a barber chair at the Park-Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan. Experts believe Anastasia's underboss, Carlo Gambino, helped orchestrate the hit to take over the family. Gambino partnered with Meyer Lansky to control gambling interests in Cuba. The family's fortunes grew through 1976, when Gambino appointed his brother-in-law, Paul Castellano, as boss upon his death. Castellano infuriated upstart capo John Gotti, who orchestrated Castellano's murder in 1985. Gotti's downfall came in 1992, when his underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano decided to cooperate with the FBI. Gravano's cooperation brought down Gotti, along with most of the top members of the Gambino family. The family is currently headed by Domenico Cefalu.
With Anastasia's death, Carlo Gambino became boss of what was now called the Gambino crime family. Biondo became underboss, supposedly as a reward for the Anastasia killing. However, upset by Biondo's misbehavior, Gambino replaced him with Aniello Dellacroce in 1965.
By all accounts, Genovese was angling to become Boss of all Bosses, and believed that Gambino would support him. Gambino, however, had his own mind. He secretly joined forces with Luciano and Costello to get Genovese out of the way as well. Gambino helped trick Genovese into a lucrative drug deal, then paid a small-time Puerto Rican dealer to testify against him. In April 1959, Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, where he died in 1969.
Gambino quickly built the family into the most powerful crime family in the United States. He was helped by Meyer Lansky's offshore gaming houses in Cuba and the Bahamas, a lucrative business for the Cosa Nostra.
Gambino family case
In response to the Gambino rise, federal prosecutors targeted the family leadership. On March 31, 1984 a federal grand jury indicted Castellano and 20 other Gambino members and associates with charges of drug trafficking, murder, theft, and prostitution. This group included John Gotti's brother, Gene, and his best friend, Angelo Ruggiero. In early 1985, Castellano was indicted along with other Cosa Nostra leaders in the Mafia Commission case. Facing the possibility of time in prison, Castellano announced that Thomas Gambino would become acting boss in Castellano's absence, with Bilotti as acting underboss to replace the ailing Dellacrocce.
Although the Gambino family was making more money, the internal strife continued to grow. The Dellacroce faction considered Castellano a businessman, not a mob boss. They grew infuriated when Castellano increased their tribute requirements while building himself a grand mansion in Staten Island. Castellano became increasingly detached from family members, conducting all family business at his mansion. Castellano's announcement about Gambino and Bilotti further enraged the Dellacroce partisans.