Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce was the underboss of the Gambino family from 1965 until 1985. He was the uncle of Salvatore and Angelo Ruggiero and was the mentor of John Gotti, who after his passing became head of the family.
Aniello Dellacroce was born in Manhattans Little Italy. He became part of the Gambino Family under then boss Vincent Mangano and rose to become a capo in the early 1950's during the reign of Albert Anastasia. By that time he was active in racketeering and illegal gambling. He is also said to have participated in multiple murders. Dellacroce was loyal to Anastasia but remained silent when he was murdered in 1957. He continued being a strong force within the family which led to his elevation as underboss in 1965, becomming the successor of Joseph Biondo, who was shoved aside.
Dellacroce was a man who didn't attract to much attention. He was religious and reputedly once murdered a man dressed as a priest, leading to his nickname "Father O'Neil". In 1966 Dellacroce attended a meeting in Queens with other notables such as Joseph Colombo, Carlo Gambino and Carlos Marcello to discuss the distribution of Lucchese's rackets, who was dying from ill health. The police however disturbed the meeting and arrested 13 of them, including Dellacroce. According to a police officer "they acted as gentlemen" and all had a large amounts of money on them. The meeting was dubbed "Little Apalachin".
"His eyes had no color...as if his soul was transparent", is how a news reporter once described him. Dellacroce was respected by many, even outside the Gambino family. In 1976, the aging don Carlo Gambino was suffering from illness and appointed his cousin,
Paul Castellano, to be his successor. To some that came as a surprise because Dellacroce had been tipped as the new boss.
In 1980 Dellacroce was involved in the murders of the three renegade Bonanno capo's Alphonse Indelicato, Philip Giacolone and Dominick Trinchera, who were retaliating against their boss Phillip Rastelli. Therefore they had to go! Because of the close bonds between the Gambino and Bonanno family Dellacroce, being the families nr. two man, had agreed to support the hit.
In 1985 Dellacroce and Castellano were indicted in the "Commissions Case", but he would not live up to hear the verdict. On December 2 Dellacroce died of cancer. Many attended the funeral, except Paul Castellano, which was a grave insult. John Gotti, who saw Dellacroce as a mentor, was enraged. He already had a bad feel for his boss since they were cut short on tasks and income.
Only 2 weeks after Dellacroce's burial Gotti and his crew shot Castellano and his new underboss outside a Manhattan steakhouse. Since his actions were supported by other families, the murder went unsanctioned. By the end of 1985 Dellacroce's pupil had taken over the Gambino family and had become the new boss of the family.
Dellacroce's son, Armand, died one year later due to alcohol abuse.