Get Gotti: How did John Gotti die?

Daisy Phillipson
Photo of John Gotti shown in Get Gotti on NetflixNetflix

The Netflix documentary series Get Gotti has sparked renewed interest in the life and crimes of mob boss John Gotti. The series doesn’t cover how John Gotti died, where his children are now, and what being a “made man” means, so let’s get into it.

The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Sopranos – TV and film have long satiated audience’s fascination with Italian-American mobsters. These sharp-suited figures, wielding power in the shadows and living by their own code, represent a dangerous allure that’s both thrilling and foreboding. The glamorized tales of family loyalty, intense rivalry, and unapologetic ambition have captured imaginations, making the mafia genre an indelible part of cinematic history.

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Yet, as enthralling as these fictional portrayals are, they draw heavily from the real and often bloodier world of organized crime. Far from the realms of fiction, these stories find their origins in true tales of power, betrayal, and intrigue. A prime example of this real-world parallel is the life of the notorious John Gotti.

The story of the famed mob boss – nicknamed “The Teflon Don” as the charges against him would never stick – is told in the latest Netflix documentary series, Get Gotti. So, here’s the true story as detailed in the documentary, as well as how the Teflon Don met his end. 

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How did John Gotti die?

On June 10, 2002, John Gotti died from throat cancer while at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. He had still been serving his life in prison without parole sentence when he died. 

Gotti, the former head of the Gambino crime family in New York City, was serving time at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. In 1998, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and sent to the medical center to have a tumor removed. 

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Although the surgery was a success, the cancer returned two years later, and he was sent back to the hospital where he spent his final days before his death in 2002. He was 61 years old. 

As per his obituary: “Gotti raised a mobster’s life to celebrity level, with his movements chronicled by the New York tabloids, which dubbed him ‘Dapper Don’ because of his wardrobe. 

Image of John Gotti in Netflix's Get GottiNetflix
John Gotti was famed for his dapper style

“Hours of FBI tape recordings and the turncoat testimony of hitman Salvatore ‘Sammy the Bull’ Gravano led to Gotti’s arrest in 1990 and his trial and conviction two years later for murder and racketeering. 

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“Gotti, the father of five, was considered America’s most powerful gangster when he was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole two years later when a federal jury convicted him of murder, extortion and obstruction of justice.”

Much like the three-part docu-series, the obituary describes how Gotti’s confidence and enjoyment of the limelight may have led to both his and his son and Gambino successor John “Junior” Gotti’s downfalls. 

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Quotes from Jerry Capeci, co-author of three books on the Mafia, read: “His legacy will be that he showed mob leaders of the future how not to run a crime family if you want to stay out of jail.

“You don’t run a crime family on Main Street or on Mulberry Street in Little Italy and have all your mobsters coming to pay homage once a week so that they can be photographed and investigated by the FBI. 

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“You’ve got to conduct it like a secret society. He began to believe he really was the ‘Teflon Don’ when in the first trial he bought a juror, in the second a key witness was too terrified to testify, and in the third he had good lawyering.”

Following an extensive investigation from various authorities, including New York’s Organized Crime Task Force and the FBI, as well as testimony from Gambino underboss Sammy Gravano, Gotti was eventually captured and locked up. 

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Get Gotti: What happened to the Gambino crime family?

Although severely broken down by authorities amid Gotti’s downfall, the Gambino crime family – one of the “Five Families” that dominate the American Mafia underworld in New York City – is still operational. 

The group, named after former boss Carlo Gambino, rose to power in the 1970s after Gambino named his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as leader upon his death. However, Castellano angered then-upstart Gotti, who organized for him to be killed in 1985. 

While Gotti’s son John Angelo Gotti became the acting boss when his father was arrested, he too was imprisoned for racketeering in 1999, although the charges were later dropped. Officials said Gotti’s brother Peter then took after, although he was arrested and sentenced in 2003, dying in prison in 2021 of natural causes. 

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Image of Paul Castellano in Netflix's Get GottiNetflix
John Gotti had Paul Castellano assassinated

It’s widely reported that Domenico “Italian Dom” Cefalù has been the boss of the Gambino crime family since 2011. Frank Cali, the acting boss since 2015, was shot and killed in March 2019 in what was described as the first targeted killing of a mob boss since the 80s. 

While the Gambino crime family is quieter and less dominant in the 21st century, it remains a functioning unit of the American Mafia. Its members have adapted to modern law enforcement techniques and the changing criminal landscape by being more discreet and less flamboyant than figures like Gotti. 

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The family continues to engage in various criminal enterprises but avoids the spotlight to preserve its operations. Let it be known that due to the secretive nature of organized crime, comprehensive and up-to-date details about the current state of the Gambino family or any other Mafia family can be challenging to obtain. 

Who are John Gotti’s children and where are they now?

John Gotti and his wife Victoria DiGiorgio had five children: Angel, Frank, Victoria, Peter, and John Jr. They have all lived differing lifestyles, and made the headlines due to their connections to their father. 

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In 1980, Gotti and DiGiorgio’s son Frank was struck down and killed by a neighbor while out on his minibike. He was just 12 years old. When the Gotti children grew up, each of them named one of their sons Frank in his honor

Last year, Angel Gotti and her son Frank Gotti Albano hit the headlines after suing Gene Borrello for $10 million, alleging that he coordinated a series of “heinous” online attacks due to his “sick obsession” with the Teflon Don. 

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Victoria Gotti is a reality TV star and writer, having worked for the New York Post and WNYW. She’s written and published a number of books over the years, including the 2009 title This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti.

Instagram post from John Gotti's daughter Victoria GottiInstagram/@victoria__gotti
Victoria Gotti is now a successful writer

As said, John A. Gotti followed in the footsteps of his father, and managed to survive four trials and a parole violation hearing without a guilty verdict. In 2015, after putting pen to paper about his experiences, he released a book titled Shadow of My Father.

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Little is known about the youngest son, Peter, although in 2001, the New York Post reported that he had been arrested for driving with a revoked license, stating that it was one of a long line of driving offenses. 

What is a “made man”?

In Netflix’s Get Gotti, you may hear the phrase “made man” being thrown around. In the world of organized crime, particularly within the Italian-American Mafia, a made man holds a status of significant reverence and importance. 

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To be “made” is to be officially inducted into the ranks of the Mafia, granting the individual full membership and with it, certain privileges and responsibilities. The process often involves a solemn ceremony rooted in tradition, where the inductee swears an oath of loyalty – known as “Omertà” – to the Mafia’s code of silence and undying allegiance to the family. 

Once a man becomes made, he is untouchable in the sense that no other member can harm him without facing severe consequences, often fatal. However, this status also comes with the expectation of absolute loyalty, with betrayal potentially leading to a death sentence. 

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Being a made man symbolizes a deep bond of trust and commitment within the hierarchical structure of organized crime.

Get Gotti is available to stream on Netflix now. You can check out more of our true crime coverage below:

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About The Author

Daisy is a Senior TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's a lover of all things macabre, whether that be horror, crime, psychological thrillers or all of the above. After graduating with a Masters in Magazine Journalism, she's gone on to write for Digital Spy, LADbible and Little White Lies. You can contact her on daisy.phillipson@dexerto.com