A trove of long-hidden FBI documents reveal how slain Gambino boss Frank “Frankie Boy” Cali rose from family soldier in the 1990s to head of a powerful crime syndicate until his murder in 2019 of.
The heavily redacted document obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request provides the most revealing view yet of Cali’s rise to power — as the Mafia leader is known as a “ghost,” he Keep a very low profile to avoid federal prosecution.
Cali — who was shot outside his Staten Island mansion in 2019 — was arrested just once in a 2008 racketeering plot, despite years of FBI surveillance and the surveillance of Brooklyn agents, It’s a testament to his ability to stay off the radar.
After being shot and killed by an apparent QAnon believer near Todd Hill, a law enforcement official told The New York Times that Cali was the exact opposite of flamboyant Gambino owner John “Dapper Don” Gotti.
“He’s basically a ghost,” the official said.
But Cali came to the bureau’s attention in the spring of 1996, when he was about 30 years old, for helping to bypass a phone-card fraud scheme by the Gambinos in the Park Avenue office building, according to FBI files.
By November of that year, FBI agents in New York believed that several Gambinos were involved in “the production and distribution of telephone travel cards” — as part of the scheme, they had committed a number of federal crimes, including money laundering, violations of Income tax, mail fraud and wire fraud.
“It goes without saying that the calling card industry is one of the most important sources of illicit income for the Gambino LCN family,” an FBI official wrote.
At the time, Cali was listed in the FBI file as a “proposed soldier” for the Gambino family — who the FBI didn’t believe had been “made” or sworn allegiance to the syndicate he would later lead.
In October 1997, FBI agents in New York contacted the bureau’s Atlanta field office to assess an apparent $94 million calling card “bankruptcy plan” led by Gambinos against Georgia-based Worldcom. “.
“The approach is to sell as many calling cards on the street as possible by charging the best prices by country and offering the best discounts to distributors,” an FBI report said. “[Redacted] Over the entire 10-month plan, he paid only a fraction of Worldcom’s outstanding balance. ”
It added: “Gambino members such as [redacted] Frank Cali and others have received millions in cash from the aforementioned scheme. “
Along with Gambino members John D’Amico and Joseph Watts, Cali allegedly created a company called CNC to distribute calling cards, which would then be billed by Worldcom.
“Due to the flood of cards, the debt owed to Worldcom has grown exponentially. In the beginning, the CNC paid off the debt and was considered trustworthy by Worldcom. However, the CNC did not continue to pay the debt,” FBI filing, March 7, 1997 pointed out.
Around that time, the federal government appeared to be increasingly interested in Cali, the documents show.
They began following him in Brooklyn, posing for photos with colleagues on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, and interviewing classified sources about Gambino soldiers.
In an October 1997 report, an FBI agent documented a “spot check” at a location on 18th Avenue between 72nd and 75th Streets in Bensonhurst, the documents show. Before entering “Point After Sports Bar and Grill”, agents recorded an unidentified marker traveling with Cali.
In July of that year, an agent drafted a report titled “The Surveillance of Frank Cali on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York,” which included photos of Cali and several others visiting a nearby Tony’s lunch restaurant.
The FBI also listed him as a “new member of the Gambino family” in a March 1997 newsletter.
A federal grand jury related to Cali was convened in the Eastern District of New York in 1998, but charges were never brought against him, documents show.
Federal charges of calling card fraud were later charged against then-famous Gambino family leader John Gotti Jr., but were later dropped by prosecutors.
“I was the victim. I lost a lot of money on that deal,” Junior told The Washington Post at the time.
After his 2008 arrest, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn highlighted Cali’s involvement in the calling card scheme, arguing that he would be held pending trial.
At a detention hearing, prosecutor Joy Lipton told Judge Carley – who had been promoted to captain at the time – that he was a successful criminal because of his ability to hide from the spotlight.
“Cali, like other family members, has been sworn in to the group to commit criminal activity,” Lipton said. “Cali has succeeded in fulfilling this vow, in large part because he has been careful.”
In the 2008 case, Cali pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
After his release, he continued his meteoric rise in the family, and was reportedly promoted to boss in 2015 following the ouster of agent Don Domenico Cefalu.
Cali’s hidden image made international headlines in March 2019 when he was shot outside his home.
The alleged shooter, Anthony Comello, a clear QAnon conspiracy theorist, is deemed mentally unfit to stand trial in 2020.
A spokesman for the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office said in an email Wednesday that they could not provide any information on the case.