It was just before 6pm on December 16, 1985 when the black Lincoln pulled up and parked in front of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. The streets were busy, but four men dressed in trench coats and fur hats moved with purpose. The passenger was Paul Castellano, the boss of the Gambino crime family. As he stepped out of the car, the men opened fire on him. The driver emerged and ducked a little to look towards Paul before he was shot in the back.
The forgotten man was Tommy Bilotti, Castellano’s driver and the new underboss of the family.
Tommy had a brother named Joe that passed away last week. Joe was real Cosa Nostra, not like the clowns that run around playing the role in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Guys who were in the life consider Joe the ultimate wiseguy. He kept a low profile, both before his brother Tommy was murdered by John Gotti’s crew and after.
The Billotti brothers were both known as tough guys with their hands. They used that fear to build up a massive gambling business. This proved a natural segway into their next business, which was loansharking. They both prospered because of their talent as businessmen.
One of the men on record with Tommy was a man named Joe Watts, a childhood friend who grew up with the Bilottis in the South Beach section of Staten Island.
Joe Watts was known as “the German” because he was part German. He managed the loan shark business for Tommy until Tommy was gunned down outside Sparks Steakhouse.
John wanted to get rid of Paul Castellano and Tommy Bilotti because he was caught up in the web of a heroin trafficking case and pure greed. Gotti and a few others plotted to take over the family, but they were not sure when to do it.
One plan was to put plastic down in the Watts home and invite Tommy over and murder him.
Then another man would take Tommy’s place as Paul's driver and murder him.
Instead, they settled on the midtown Manhattan spectacle.
Once Tommy was murdered, Sammy Gravano, the man who would later become John Gotti’s underboss, met with Joe Bilotti at a diner. He told Joe that his brother’s murder was just business.
Joe Watts was urging John Gotti Sr. to murder Joe also, lest he seek revenge. Joe agreed that he would accept it and not cause trouble.
John Gotti rewarded Joe Watts with Tommy’s loansharking book/business and it made him a millionaire. No wonder Joe Watts was in on the murder of the boss. He was one of the shooters. Joe Watts might have made some money and had a few good years but he has been locked up for years.
In 2011 Joe Watts was handed another prison sentence of 13 years for his participation in another murder. At 69 years old who knows if he will see freedom.
Joe Billotti outlived John Gotti. He was able to see him go away after Sammy Gravano helped team USA put him away. Gotti would die inside, never again a free man.
He continued to take part in Gambino family business. He was seen meeting with members of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra family in Florida in recent years.
Joe was a successful guy who most people don't know had a cigar factory in the Dominican Republic.
So we say goodbye to another old timer who lived the life.