The mafia didn’t kill Gambino boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali — a Staten Island knucklehead with a personal beef over a woman did, police and sources say.
Anthony Comello, a 24-year-old non-mobster who lives with his parents and works odd construction jobs, was in custody in a New Jersey jail and expected to face murder charges in connection to the killing of Cali, 53, police said Saturday.
The don was blasted at least 10 times outside his Todt Hill mansion on Wednesday, prompting initial speculation of a Gambino power struggle.
The real motive? Sources now believe Cali hadn’t liked Comello hanging around a particular woman in the mob boss’s family — and the younger man was so outraged by this slight, he slaughtered one of the most dangerous mafioso in Staten Island to get revenge.
Comello was arrested before the ire of the entire Gambino organization could thunder his way, but only thanks to his own alleged ineptitude.
In a fleeting gesture that Comello may now have a lifetime in prison to regret, he had picked up and handed to Cali a fallen license plate moments before allegedly opening fire.
Turns out he may have been handing over the murder’s most incriminating evidence — to his own alleged victim.
Investigators dusted the license plate, ran the prints recovered from it, and got a hit for Comello, police said.
Realizing they did not have a well-orchestrated mob assassination on their hands, the FBI soon scaled back their role in the murder investigation, leaving the NYPD in control, sources said.
“This went from the perfect crime to amateur hour,” one law enforcement source quipped.
Cali’s murder was the first assassination of a New York City mafia don since an upstart John Gotti had Gambino boss Paul Castellano whacked outside Sparks Steak House in 1985.
Investigators quickly feared a mob war in the making.
But they now believe a personal dispute was to blame — over a woman in Cali’s family, according to multiple law enforcement sources.
The nature of the dispute, and how the two knew each other in the first place, was not immediately clear.
Sources said Cali — who helmed a family notorious for gambling, loan sharking, and a deadly trade in heroin and oxycodone — had come to think Comello was trouble, sources said.
Despite his own reputation, Cali didn’t think Comello was worthy of associating with a woman in his family, the sources said.
Comello has no criminal record, but sources said his prints are on file from a rifle permit.
How the mob boss and his alleged killer knew each other, is unclear, investigators said.
The two lived in large, well-landscaped brick homes just a 20 minute drive apart in wealthy neighborhoods in Staten Island, Cali in Todt Hill and Comello in Eltingville.
At a Saturday afternoon press conference, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea announced Comello had been arrested in the Ocean County, NJ, shore town of Brick.
He was being held there until he could be extradited to New York, Shea said.
“I think it bears repeating — we are not yet three days into this incident,” Shea said.
“While we believe we have the shooter in custody for this incident, the investigation at this point is far from over,” he said.
Shea confirmed that prints were recovered as evidence from Cali’s Escalade.
“So what I will say is the victim’s car that was present at the murder scene that night — we believe we have fingerprints recovered from that car,” he said.
“We are well aware of Mr. Cali’s past,” he added.
“ That will be part of this investigation as we determine what was the motive for this incident. There are multiple avenues that we are still exploring.”
According to sources, Comello was arrested at 2 a.m. Saturday by the US Marshals’ New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.
Comello was sleeping at the time in a relative’s home; he was unarmed and did not resist arrest, sources said.
Comello had allegedly lured Cali from his mansion by ramming his blue pickup into the mob boss’s silver Cadillac Escalade, parked outside, just before 9:20 p.m. on Wednesday.
The loud crash knocked the license plate off the Escalade; surveillance footage showed that when Cali rushed out, the two men spoke and shook hands, sources said.
At some point, Comello picked up the fallen license plate from the street and handed it to Cali, who tossed it in his car’ s truck, sources said.
Comello’s fingerprint was on the plate, sources said.
Only adding to the case against him, Comello left his distinctive — and slightly dented — electric blue Chevy Silvarado pickup parked in his parents driveway on Retford Ave. in Staten Island before he lit out for Jersey, sources said.
The truck matches the one shown in surveillance footage of the murder, sources said.
Between the license plate and the truck, “Anthony Comello will go down in the record books as being one of the dumbest killers in New York City history, if not in the US and the world,” another source said.
“Not to mention that the victim was the head of the Gambino Crime Family.”
The truck is known throughout the neighborhood; Comello uses the truck to plow the local streets, his Staten Island neighbors said.
“He is always nice when I see him, says hi to me,” said neighbor Victor Ujuck.
“One time he helped fix my car. He plows the snow out for us too. I know he likes fireworks. Sometimes at around midnight, he shoots off fireworks and I have to tell him my kid is sleeping. That’s really it.”
Comello’s Facebook page says he attended Tottenville High School in Staten Island.
He is listed as single on his account bio.
A 2016 photo shows him carrying a little boy, as a little girl looks on, at an apple orchard. He’s also posted several pictures of his dog, a Bluenose Pitbull named Smokey.
Also Saturday, John Gotti Jr. took a whack at law enforcement for originally believing his recently-sprung uncle Gene Gotti may have been involved in teh rub-out.
“I wonder if these tremendously insightful law enforcement individuals, are going to issue an apology to Gene Gotti,” Junior, 55, told The Post.
“He has grandchildren and to have to endure the last several days of that propaganda nonsense. I’m sure it was hurtful to the kids and this is the problem we have today,” he said.