The Mob Boss Who Faked Insanity For Years

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.” —Henry Hill, Goodfellas (1990)

In A Nutshell

Vincent Gigante was an extremely paranoid mobster. Worried that authorities would discover he was the boss of the Genovese crime family, he faked insanity and was thus dubbed “The Oddfather.” His charade fell apart in 1997 when one of his men ratted him out, and Gigante spent the rest of his life in prison.

The Whole Bushel

The stereotypical image of the Mafia don is a well-dressed man sitting on his throne, stroking a cat, and intimidating people who ask for favors. You probably don’t imagine a crazy-eyed old man staggering through the streets of Greenwich Village, talking to himself while wearing a bath robe, but that’s how real-life don Vincent Gigante spent a lot of his time.

After he was discharged from the Army for anti-social behavior, Gigante joined the Genovese family where he was nicknamed the “Chin,” which was short for “Vincenzo,” his Italian name. Eventually, boss Tony Salerno had a stroke, and while he was still leader in name, Gigante became the real power in the Genovese family. During this time, he ordered his men to refer to him as their “Aunt Julia” so no one would suspect he was the real boss.

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However, after Salerno was arrested in 1992, Gigante started to worry. He couldn’t hide from the spotlight anymore. Everybody knew he was the boss. Worried the cops would come for him next, Gigante decided to convince the world he was insane. After all, a crazy guy couldn’t be a mob boss, right? This was a trick he’d been pulling his whole life. He regularly checked himself into psychiatric hospitals, and he once told a psychiatrist that God was his lawyer. When detectives arrived at his home to serve him a subpoena, they found him fully clothed, in the shower, holding an umbrella. And then he started roaming the streets, muttering under his breath, while wearing a bathrobe. Thanks to his “madness,” the press started calling Gigante “The Oddfather.”

His act worked until 1997 when a member of his organization testified that the Oddfather wasn’t so odd at all. Jurors bought the story and sentenced Gigante to 12 years behind bars for racketeering and conspiracy to murder. Then the court gave him an extra three for obstructing justice with his little insanity act. Gigante spent the rest of his life behind bars, dying at age 77, perfectly sane.

Show Me The Proof

Vincent Gigante: Biography
Slate: Where do mob nicknames come from?
Genovese Family: Leader of the Pack, Part III: Sun Set

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