Philomena Gotti, the obscure matriarch of what became the country's best-known organized-crime family, died of an undisclosed cause late...

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Philomena Gotti, the obscure matriarch of what became the country’s best-known organized-crime family, died of an undisclosed cause late Tuesday in her Valley Stream, N.Y., home, her relatives said. She was 96.

Mrs. Gotti, known as Fannie to family and friends, had 16 children, including her most notorious offspring, Gambino crime boss John Gotti.

Four other sons also chose criminal careers: Gene Gotti is serving a 50-year sentence for heroin trafficking; Peter Gotti is serving 25 years for racketeering; Richard Gotti was imprisoned in 2003 for racketeering and other crimes; and Vincent Gotti is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to charges resulting from an FBI crackdown on the Gambino organization.

Mrs. Gotti’s death also came two days before her grandson John A. Gotti pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Florida in his latest battle against racketeering charges.

Philomena Gotti married John J. Gotti in Italy and lived for a time in San Giuseppe Vesuviano, a town near Mount Vesuvius. The couple moved to New York and lived in a cold-water apartment in the Bronx before settling in Brooklyn, according to published accounts.

Mrs. Gotti’s husband worked at various laborer jobs before taking a position in the motion-picture industry, according to her granddaughter Angel Gotti.

Eleven of the couple’s children survived to adulthood, and nine are still living, Angel Gotti said.

The most notorious of her sons was John, the “Dapper Don,” who became boss of the Gambino family in 1985 after he engineered the assassination of then-leader Paul Castellano. John Gotti went to prison in 1992 after he was convicted of federal racketeering charges. He died of throat cancer in June 2002.

The FBI arrested Mrs. Gotti’s grandson John, known as Junior, this month. Three previous federal trials ended in mistrials after he maintained that he had disassociated himself from the mob life his father encouraged him to join.

Mrs. Gotti never appeared at any of the trials of her children or grandchildren and kept a low profile, observers said.

Manhattan defense attorney Andrew Maloney, who prosecuted her son, also known as the “Teflon Don,” said he couldn’t recall Mrs. Gotti’s ever accompanying her son to court. “I don’t remember her being involved at all,” he said.

Angel Gotti said her grandmother once worked as a meat cutter for the Bohack supermarket chain.

“Everybody loved her,” she said.

Mrs. Gotti’s husband died in June 1992, around the time their son John was sent to prison for the rest of his life.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.