Mob Boss Killer Anthony Camello's Connection To QAnon

The spring 2019 shooting death of an alleged Gambino mob boss, Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, was inspired in part by the fringe right-wing conspiracy site QAnon, according to ABC News. Cali was gunned down outside his Staten Island home. Charged with the crime was Anthony Camello, who was 25 years old when the murder took place. In 2020, Camello was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and as a result, he was transferred to a psychiatric facility for treatment and evaluation, based on 2022 reporting from Staten Island news outlet SILive. As of this writing, Camello's status is unclear.

As ABC News writes, Camello became obsessed with QAnon and other conspiracy platforms shortly after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, according to his family. Court documents in the case revealed Camello believed then President Trump would bless Cali's killing as a strike against the so-called "Deep State," an unproven theory popular among some QAnon followers that U.S. government policy is shaped by malevolent, unelected, and anonymous international interests. Before Cali's murder, Camello had also attempted what he called "citizen's arrests" of several prominent Democratic politicians.

Who was 'Franky Boy' Cali?

According to further reporting from ABC News, Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali  (pictured) was an alleged mob boss with ties to the Gambino family, one of the so-called "Five Families' of organized crime in the New York area. The power of each family had been in decline in the years leading up to Cali's death. An incomplete list of Illegal enterprises reportedly pursued by the Gambino family and others include drug trafficking, extortion, and murder.

Cali, who was 53 when he died, was married to Rosaria Inzerillo from another powerful Sicilian mafia family and had previously served 16 months in prison after pleading guilty to extortion conspiracy. At first, Cali's murder was thought to perhaps be a mafia hit. Why a competing mafia family would do so was unclear. Early on, officials investigating the case said Cali received a call or text that lured him outside his home. It was also thought at that time that Cali may have been killed due to possible internal strife inside the Gambino family.

What happened the night Cali died?

As The New York Times writes, what caused Cali to exit his home on the night that he died was not a text or phone call but instead, Comello rang the doorbell to inform him of an accident after reportedly backing his car into Cali's Cadillac Escalade. Assisting in Comello's arrest, that interaction between Cali and Comello was captured by the Cali home security system. The collision also knocked the license plate off Cali's SUV which Camello picked up and handed to him, leaving fingerprints.

Also reported by The Times, Cali's shooting death was captured in that same security footage in which Comello's face could be plainly seen. There was no sign of aggression before the attack. Comello was arrested in Brick Township, New Jersey and charged with murder as well as weapons and assault charges. Shortly after Comello's arrest, lawyer Robert C. Gottlieb, retained to represent him, said "The people who know [Commello] best, his family and friends, cannot believe what they are hearing ... There is something very wrong here and we will get to the bottom of it."

Comello's story changed

In police interviews, Comello never denied he was at Cali's home the night that he died, nor that he pulled the trigger. Early on, Comello claimed that he had a romantic interest in a member of the Cali family to which "Franky Boy" took exception, as The Times notes. Comello also said he was high on marijuana when Cali was killed and he only did so in self-defense. Cali seemed to make a motion with his hand that he might be reaching for a gun, according to Comello (via SILive). At that time, he told the police,"I was scared. I was jumpy, I was high. ... I just zoned out."

Not long after, Comello's story changed several times: He claimed to be blackmailed into committing the crime over his HIV infection from a stripper; he also later said that it was a mob hit and that he was only at Cali's house that night to warn him. There was talk of a burner phone through which he was ordered to commit murder. Comello gave few other details about where or from whom that phone came, or the competing mob family that purportedly wanted Cali killed. At that time, Comello said (Via SILive) "I'm not a rat."

The truth comes out

Once Comello made a court appearance, he changed his story once again, based on further reporting from SILive. At that time, Comello said he traveled to Cali's house to conduct a citizen's arrest, handcuff Cali, and turn him over to the military. According to the court filing from Comello's defense, he believed Cali " ... held a significant status in a worldwide criminal cabal bent on the destruction of American values and the American way of life." 

The presence of handcuffs indicated that he never intended to kill Cali but to detain him, according to his defense attorneys (via ABC News). In that same court appearance, Comello also reportedly made vague references to Russia, Ukraine, Australia, and "Operation Mockingbird," an alleged 1950s-era CIA operation meant to influence the news cycle for the government, according to The Daily Beast. The program reportedly ended in the late 1970s but opinions are mixed as to whether or not it continues. At that same court hearing, Comello said all the evidence authorities would need was on his phone but "... everything got cleaned out."

The QAnon connection

Comello defense attorneys would eventually file new court documents to illustrate how deeply influenced their client was by QAnon and that he was in no mental state to stand trial, as ABC News explains. Those court documents said Comello believed then-President Trump would support his decision to kill Cali and that Cali had connections to the "Deep State." Also according to those documents, Comello's interest in QAnon had turned from an interest to an obsession a short time before the Cali shooting took place.

As mentioned by ABC News, in Comello's court appearance he had QAnon, "MAGA Forever," and other phrases written on his hand in blue ink. He pleaded not guilty on all charges. Those court documents also said that Comello "... [B]elieved that he had been given secret knowledge about the Deep State and that Q was communicating directly with him so that the defendant could play a grand role in the conflict." 

"Q" refers to the alleged mastermind behind the QAnon website. Prior to Cali's death, Camello also attempted so-called "citizen's arrest" of then New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, as well as California Democratic politicians Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff, for similar reasons.