DEATH OF THE ODDFATHER; Mafia boss acted crazy to fool FBI.
A MAFIA Godfather who cheated justice for decades by pretending to be mad died in jail yesterday of suspected heart disease.
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, 77, ran New York's powerful Genovese crime clan.
But he covered up his life of crime by spending hours at a time wandering the streets of Greenwich Village, dressed in slippers and a dressing gown and mumbling incoherently.
The brazen mobster used his act to beat a string of charges, and checked into a mental asylum every time the FBI turned up the heat on him In all, he had 22 hospital stays between 1969 and 1990. And every time he ended up in court, his family, including a brother who was a priest, wheeled out "experts" to testify that he was a paranoid schizophrenic.
Once, when FBI agents raided Gigante's home, they found him naked in the shower holding an umbrella over his head to keep himself dry.
Another time, Gigante spotted the Feds watching him in the street, and immediately fell to his knees on the pavement and started praying.
To maintain Gigante's cover, fellow hoods never mentioned him by name in case they were under surveillance.
They referred to him by stroking their chins in honour of his nickname.
US government officials said Gigante died at 5.15am at the medical centre for federalprisonersin Springfield,Missouri. Cause of death was not disclosed, but Gigante had a history of heart trouble.
Another Mafia Don, John Gotti, died at the same hospital of cancer in 2002.
Gigante was a small-time boxer before joining the crime family headed by Charles "Lucky" Luciano in the 30s.
He first made his name in 1957 when he tried to assassinate the then boss of his clan, Frank Costello.
Gigante fired a shotgun at his victim's head but the blast only grazed Costello.
Terrified by the attack, Costello retired, leaving the man who ordered the hit, Gigante's patron Vito Genovese, in charge of the clan.
Eventually, Gigante took over as Godfather, and relied on his insanity act to protect him from the law.
He first claimed mental illness to beat a bribery charge in 1970, and it worked so well that he adopted the strategy permanently.
But the FBI obtained film of Gigante acting perfectly normally when in private. Then six former mobsters, including notorious boss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, agreed to testify against him.
Despite pretending not to know where he was throughout his trial, Gigante was convicted in 1997 of racketeering, extortion and plotting a gangland murder which was never carried out. He was sentenced to 12years.
Six years later, in a bid to cut his time in jail, Gigante finally admitted he was sane.
By that time, he had been caught out repeatedly by agents watching him in his cell. He even phoned his kids from jail on the day of the September 11 attacks to make sure they had all survived
RUSE: Gigante; RIVAL: John Gotti