The Gambino operation is said to be one of the five historic Italian-US mafia families in NY.
Federal authorities tried to put a stop to Cali's rise to power in the late 2000s, after he completed a 16-month sentence for an extortion scheme connected to a failed bid to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island.
The murder of reputed Gambino crime family boss Frank Cali on Wednesday recalled New York City's last major mob hit almost 35 years ago: the assassination of Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steak house on a December afternoon in 1985.
Police were searching for the pickup truck that raced from the grisly scene, sources said. "His head was by his SUV, and the truck was open", the witness told the outlet.
According to the Associated Press, court documents referred to Cali as the underboss of the Gambino crime family.
The New York Daily News reported in 2008 that Cali was among 62 people arrested on federal racketeering charges and he later pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort money.
AFP 2018 OLIVIER MORIN'Mafia Can't Become Extinct Because It's a Type of Behaviour- Criminologist
He also had close ties through marriage to the Inzerillo family in Palermo, Sicily, having married Rosaria Inzerillo, a sister of Pietro Inzerillo and a relative of Gambino associate Frank Inzerillo.
In 2015, the Advance reported that Cali was believed to be the leader of the Gambino crime family.
The last crime family boss to be shot in New York City was Paul Castellano. He died in prison in 2002.
During his reign, Cali was the backbone of the heroin and Oxycontin trade, according to The New York Post.
The Gambino criminal organisation is one of the "Five Families" of organised crime in NY, alongside the Bonanno, Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese families. He was arrested in 2008 as part of a sweeping indictment by the Justice Department against organized crime but has mostly kept a low profile since.
NY media say it is the first targeted killing of a mob boss in the city since 1985. On April 6, 2009 he was released from prison.
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