By: Serach Nissim
The NY Post used the Freedom of Information Act to request and obtain long-hidden FBI files regarding the mafia boss’s rise in the Gambino family.
As reported by the NY Post, it uncovered heavily redacted files regarding Frank “Franky Boy” Cali and his ascent from a family soldier in the 1990s–evolving into the powerful leader of the crime syndicate. The files offer a trove of information and description of the Gambino kingpin, who was known as a “ghost”, and who kept a very low profile thereby avoiding federal prosecution.
Cali had been arrested just once in a 2008 in connection with an extortion conspiracy. For years the FBI tried to catch him red handed and he was surveilled by Brooklyn agents, but he had managed to keep under the radar. In March 2019, at the age of 53, he was gunned down outside his mansion in Staten Island, in a shocking murder. He was shot ten times by an apparent QAnon conspiracy theory devotee, in the quiet Todt Hill neighborhood. One law enforcement had commented that Cali was the opposite of previous Gambino boss, John “Dapper Don” Gotti, who had been so flashy. “He’s basically a ghost,” the official said of Cali.
Despite his cryptic way of life, the uncovered FBI files, now show that Cali was noticed by the FBI in the spring of 1996, when he was just 30 years old. He was allegedly helping with a phone card fraud scheme for the Gambinos, operating out of a Park Avenue office building. As per the Post, by late 1996, FBI agents in New York were trailing several Gambinos involved in the “production and distribution of telephone travel cards”.
The agency also believed the members had committed numerous federal crimes as part of the scheme– including money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud and income tax violations. “It goes without saying that the telephone card industry is one of the most important sources of illegal income for the Gambino LCN Family,” one FBI official wrote in the redacted files. Cali was classified in the FBI file at the time as a “proposed soldier” for the Gambino family, with the feds getting the impression that he wasn’t yet “made,” or hadn’t taken a blood oath of loyalty yet.
The Feds’ interest in Cali grew. In July 1997, an agent created a report titled, “Surveillance of Frank Cali on 18th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY,” which included photographs of Cali and several other people. In a March 1997 memo, the FBI also listed Cali as a “recently made member in the Gambino Family”.
In 2008, when Cali was arrested the prosecutors pointed to the previous phone scam, saying he should be locked up till the trial. “Cali, like other members of the family, has sworn a blood oath to the organization to commit criminal activity,” prosecutor Joey Lipton told the judge then. “Cali has been successful in fulfilling that oath, in large part because he’s been careful.” The case concluded with Cali pleading guilty to extortion conspiracy and being sentenced to 16 months in jail.
After his time in prison, Cali had quietly resumed his rise to power—taking over as the acting boss of the Gambino family in 2015 after the former acting head don Domenico Cefalu stepped down. Cali led a seemingly innocent life to the outside world, and his status as a mafia boss only came into light after he was murdered.