On this day, 16th December, was one of the most famous Mob hits of all time, the death of Mafia boss Paul Castellano. It was a significant event in Mob history, the death of a boss and the rise of another boss, John Gotti.
But it was another murder would bring Paul Castellano in to contact with some Irish gangsters and an Irish cop too.
Ruby Stein was one of the biggest bookies on the East Coast of the US, with close ties to the crime families in New York. He took a young gangster, Jimmy Coonan under his wing and had him make his weekly collections, which were all stored inside Steins Black Book
Coonan as well as others owed him a lot of money, which they couldnt pay back, so they asked him to come to the 596 Bar in Hells Kitchen where he was killed and cut into pieces. But that didnt go as planned, it would bring the Hell’s Kitchen gang into contact with Paul Castellano, in fact Castellano would take the young gangsters under his influence.
They dumped Steins body into the river but the body washed ashore. This caused an investigation from the Mafia, especially Fat Tony Salerno, and in particular they wanted to know what happened to Steins black book, which had all of the names and numbers of who owed money.
Jimmy Coonan and Mickey Featherstone were summoned by Big Paul Castellano to a sit down to find out what happened to the Black Book. At the meeting was the leaders of the Gambino Family and some of the Genovese family.
Castellano asked Jimmy Coonan & Mickey Featherstone to come to a meeting in Tommasso’s restaurant in Brooklyn. Coonan thought it was a trap, so he instructed some of his guys to be ready, if they didnt hear from them in 2 hours they were to come in with guns blazing. They had an arsenal of guns with silencers and machine guns ready and some grenades too and they were to storm the Vets & Friends Social Club next door.
In that meeting it was the entire hierarchy of the Gambino Family, all the big names were there and representatives of the Genovese Family too. After introductions and some food, the questioning began, Coonan & Featherstone denied any knowledge of the Black Book or the murder
It was at that meeting where Big Paul told Coonan and Featherstone – You guys got to stop acting like cowboys – like wild men, You’re going to be with us now. If anyone is going to get killed, you have to clear it with us.
In all the meeting lasted well more than the 2 hours and they began to get worried that any minute the rest of the gang were about to show up and shoot the place up, Jimmy and Mickey made their way outside to make sure the gang would see them, however there was no sign of the gang, Featherstone got on the phone to find out what was going on, when one of the gang answered the phone it turned out they got spooked and decided not to carry out the orders.
On the 16th December 1985, Paul Castellano made his way to Sparks Steak House for a meeting, it would be his last. As he stepped out of his car a hit team were waiting, on orders from John Gotti and shot Paul Castellano and his driver / bodyguard Thomas Bilotti to death in front of Christmas shoppers and the public. John Gotti would assume the top position within the Gambino Family.
Joseph Coffey, the legendary New York cop, who had arrested Paul Castellano in the Commission Case, would say of Castellano that he was a gentleman but wouldnt give him any information other than small talk, while they had dinner once.
T.J English – The Westies – Bantam Books