Gambino Genes

What's in a Mafia name?

He offers this: "[In the early '80s,] I was young and dumb and full of fun. I got involved with the wrong crowd. It cost me five years of my life in incarceration. I got in trouble under the RICO Act."

He's referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a 1970 legal invention that helped federal authorities put mobsters in jail. After the law was enacted, prosecutors could make a RICO argument against people who violated any two of 32 laws such as bribery, extortion, and gambling. The law also enabled prosecutors to go after criminal enterprises, meaning they could nail the high-ranking bosses who gave orders and not just the low-level individuals who carried out crimes.

"I was 17 years of age, and my best friend got caught doing some illegal activities," Gambino says. "He was facing a lot of time. He got pressured by the government. He decided to rat on everybody, and he ratted on me." The individual charges, Gambino claims, included dealing in stolen property, dealing narcotics, and bookmaking. This best friend, he says, was named Henry; there's a similar character — a rat — named Henry in the novel.

A thorough search of court records turns up no such RICO conviction for anyone named Christopher Gambino. (He says that's because he paid $7,000 to get it expunged — unlikely, according to legal experts.)

After serving his sentence, Gambino moved to Florida, worked in sanitation, and got hurt while driving a recycling truck for the City of Deerfield Beach (all verified). It was then that he decided to write his book.

OK, but what about the years since? How did he go from making $350 a week to living in a house worth half-a-million dollars?

"I have partners in my apparel business," he says. He also cites a 10 percent interest in a construction company in Lake Worth, a 10 percent interest in a catering company in California, and residuals from his book. He says that he's received thousands of dollars over the years from film companies that have optioned his screenplay and that he once owned a chain of men's consignment shops — but he can't remember the name of them.

And what about the bodyguards? What is he so scared of?

"I'm not afraid of nobody," he says. "When I do a fashion show, an event, or a book signing, I can't keep my eyes on the crowd. Now, I'm not famous, but I'm infamous, and people get stupid."

But what if his name weren't Christopher Gambino? What if his name were... Christopher Horton?

"Huh?" Gambino asks. Court documents show that a "Christopher Joseph Horton" had his name legally changed to "Christopher Joseph Gambino" in 1988. Records also show that a Christopher Joseph Horton II had his name changed to Christopher Joseph Gambino II in 1998 — and yes, our Gambino has a son named Christopher Joseph. He gives him a shoutout on the dedication page of his book.

Gambino swears that neither he nor his son ever went by the name Horton. (He says his son now lives in Staten Island but won't give out his contact information, though there's a Christopher Horton/Gambino II in prison in Moore Haven, Florida.)

"Maybe it's this other banana." Gambino points to the website of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that shows an outstanding warrant for another gentleman who goes by the name Christopher Gambino, also six-foot-one, with the middle initial J. But this guy has blond hair and hazel eyes, and he also goes by another interesting alias: Christopher Corleone.

There's a heroin trafficking charge also related to a Christopher Gambino. "This fucker's got me pissed off now," Gambino says. "I'll admit to something I did." Because of his efforts to take his company public, Gambino says, "Call the SEC! I've had to reveal everything that I've done. I have never, ever in my entire life seen one fuckin' ounce of heroin, and I don't want to be known as a heroin dealer." (A search of Securities and Exchange Commission filings turned up little financial information and none on Gambino's criminal record.)

One more thing: Is he any relation to Rosario (AKA Sal or Sonny), Giuseppe (Joe), and Giovanni (John) Gambino — the brothers who, according to Capeci's Ganglandnews, were sons of Tomasso Gambino, Carlo's second cousin? It might make sense if John were Christopher's dad and Sonny and Joe were his uncles...

No, Gambino says unequivocally. "Do you know how many Gambinos there are?" he asks. Well, there are 150 in the online White Pages for Florida; for New York, listings top out at 300. "There are 1,200 in the state of Florida," Gambino asserts. "They did a survey probably about three years ago — there's a World Book of Gambinos — in the United States. There's 6,500."

None of this is making much sense. If Christopher's not a real Gambino, then why would he draw so much attention to himself?

"Listen, if I disrespected [the Gambino] name, you and I would not be talking right now," he points out. "We would not be having this conversation." Maybe he'd be getting cozy with a cinder block at the bottom of the Long Island Sound.

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