American Mafia History Website

American Mafia Website - New Orleans Bosses

New Orleans was the first home of the American Mafia. Crime family roots in that community extend back as far as - perhaps further than - the U.S. Civil War. For much of its history, the New Orleans Mafia isolated itself from underworld organizations in the rest of the country. This must be partly due to historic friction between Palermo Mafia authority and the rebellious Monreale-based Stuppagghieri group that took hold in the Crescent City. The New Orleans Mafia colonized other areas of the U.S., including the western coast of Florida, Texas, California and eastern Missouri. Descendants of a New Orleans Mafioso managed for a time to dominate the underworld of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Provenzano Family

1860 - Raffaele Agnello (1830 to April 1, 1869). Descended from Palermo aristocrats, Raffaele Agnello was a leading figure in the small Sicilian colony in New Orleans. During the Civil War, Agnello was a leader in the "Italian Guards Battalion" of the local Confederate military force. As Union occupiers moved into New Orleans, local law enforcement and regular army units retreated. Agnello and the Italian Guards - regarded as a foreign entity - were left behind to maintain order along the French Quarter docks. The Union occupying force continued to rely upon the Italian Guards. Following the War, Agnello instigated a conflict with Sicilian gangs that were not part of his Palermo Mafia. His actions united the Messina and Trapani colonies in New Orleans against him. Agnello appears also to have been opposed by influential produce merchant Joseph Macheca and a radical Mafia organization linked to the Stuppagghieri of Monreale and Piana dei Greci in Sicily.


1869 - Joseph Agnello (1833 to April 20, 1872). A number of successful attacks against the Messina-Trapani gangs caused those leaders to temporarily flee New Orleans. Believing that he had won his feud, Raffaele Agnello emerged from hiding on April 1, 1869, for a walk through the French Quarter. Following a moment of distraction for Agnello and his bodyguard Frank Sacarro in front of Joseph Macheca's produce shop, a gunman appeared and fired a blunderbuss pistol at close range into Agnello's head. The Mafia boss was killed. His younger brother Joseph took over leadership of the Palermo gang and counterattacked the underworld rivals.


1872 - Mateo Minafo (1836 to July 15, 1872). Joseph Agnello successfully ambushed a number of rival leaders. He suffered serious injuries in shooting battles, but managed to recover each time. In April of 1872, his luck changed as opposition gunmen cornered him aboard the moored schooner Mischief and sent shotgun blasts through midsection. Following his death, the Messina-Trapani faction informed the press that only one man remained for them to kill - Mateo Minafo. Gang bullets would not have a chance to get to Minafo. Three months after Agnello's murder, the 36-year-old Minafo died at his home on Royal Street of an affliction doctors called "congestion of the brain." The Provenzano family appears to have moved into a prominent position within the traditional Mafia of New Orleans, but the organization was invisible until 1879.


Giuseppe Esposito

1879 - Giuseppe Esposito. Sicilian bandit and murderer Giuseppe Esposito escaped from authorities in Palermo. Using connections with Sicilian Mafiosi and businessmen on both sides of the Atlantic, Esposito traveled to New Orleans through New York. Upon his arrival in the Crescent City, he was looked upon as a Palermo Mafia authority and was given control over the New Orleans underworld. Esposito revived the old Mafia faction by supporting Provenzano family domination over New Orleans dock rackets.


1881 - Joseph Provenzano. Giuseppe Esposito was betrayed to authorities and, after hearings before a federal commissioner in New York City, he was deported to Italy. The Provenzano clan, made wealthy and powerful by their control of the employment at the New Orleans produce docks, was momentarily the greatest force in the local underworld.

mid-1880s - The Provenzano family lost control of the docks to the Matranga family. The Provenzanos fought a losing underworld battle from that point on.

1891 - The Provenzano clan ceased to be a major force in the New Orleans underworld.

Matranga / Marcello

1875 - Salvatore Marino (c. 1838 to Sept. 29, 1878). Marino and Salvatore Matranga established a branch of the Monreale-based Stuppagghieri ("Stoppers") Mafia in New Orleans. The highly secret organization conducted a guerilla war on both sides of the Atlantic against more conservative Giardinieri ("Gardeners").


1878 - Salvador Matranga (1818 to c. 1895). Marino died of Yellow Fever in New Orleans in September of 1878. Matranga assumed sole leadership of the underworld Stuppagghieri in New Orleans and brought his two sons, Antonino and Carlo, into the Stuppagghieri society.


1879 - Giuseppe Esposito (see above). The Stuppagghieri faded into the background during Esposito's term as underworld leader in New Orleans. It is possible that someone from Matranga's group alerted Italian authorities to Esposito's presence in the Crescent City.


Charles Matranga

1881 - Charles Matranga (November 1857 to Oct. 28, 1943). Matranga's Stuppagghieri splintered off from the Provenzano organization after Esposito was deported. Matranga's group had the quiet support of Joseph Macheca, a produce merchant and political organizer, as it worked to undermine the Provenzanos.

Mid-1880s - The Matranga group succeeded in winning contracts to provide dock labor to fruit companies in New Orleans. The stevedore contracts brought great wealth and influence to the Matranga leadership, while depriving the Provenzanos of the same.

1891 - Charles Matranga, Joseph P. Macheca and others were tried for the 1890 assassination of Police Chief David Hennessy. A jury found none of the defendants guilty. An angry mob stormed the Orleans Parish Prison. A number of the defendants, including Macheca, were murdered in the largest lynching in American history. Surprisingly, "Millionaire Charlie" Matranga and his chief lieutenant were left unharmed. They emerged from the experience with far greater power.


Sam Carolla

1922 - Sylvestro Carolla (June 17, 1896, to July 1970). Charles Matranga reportedly retired from underworld leadership in the early 1920s. "Silver Dollar Sam" Carolla became his successor. Carolla was in and out of jail between 1921, when he spent a year and a day in Atlanta Federal Prison, and 1947. He was reportedly jailed for narcotics crimes in 1931, for attempted murder in 1933 and again for narcotics in 1936. That he managed to abbreviate each of his sentences is testament to his political connections. His 1933 sentence of eight to 15 years at hard labor was cut to a single year by a pardon from Louisiana's governor.


Carlos Marcello

1947 - Carlos Marcello (Feb. 6, 1910, to March 3, 1993). Sam Carolla was deported to Sicily in spring of 1947. Marcello became the new boss of the Crescent City's underworld. Marcello cooperated with U.S. Syndicate leaders like Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky on Louisiana gambling rackets. Phil Kastel also shared underworld interests in regional casinos. Marcello remained a force in New Orleans through a brief deportation to Guatemala in 1961 and an extended prison stay (for RICO violations) beginning in 1981.