American Mafia History Website

American Mafia Website - Pittsburgh Bosses

Largely independent Mafia organizations sprang up in the Italian and Sicilian immigrant communities of cities and towns in western Pennsylvania. The South and North Sides and the central Hill District of Pittsburgh hosted Sicilian Mafiosi. By the early 1900s, the Sicilian criminal societies formed a regional association. Before Prohibition, the association engulfed Calabrian and Neapolitan criminal societies. Over time, the various entities merged into a single crime family. The family's territory expanded into portions of Ohio and West Virginia. The Pittsburgh Mafia has historically maintained close relationships with other Pennsylvania Mafia organizations (Philadelphia and Northeastern Pennsylvania) as well as the Cleveland Mafia and the Genovese Crime Family of New York City.

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Gregorio Conti

1915 - Gregorio Conti (March 17, 1874, to Sept. 24, 1919). In his autobiographical work "Vita di Capomafia," Nick Gentile states that Conti, originally from Comitini, was the leader of the Mafia in central Pittsburgh in 1915. It is possible that Conti took over an organization built by Salvatore "Banana King" Catanzaro (perhaps forced into retirement following a serious stabbing incident in 1914). Conti allowed a Neapolitan Camorra organization, led by Ferdinando Mauro and a Johnstown, Pennsylvania, resident named Calabro, to establish control in western Pennsylvania. Conti even cooperated in some Camorra extortion rackets against Sicilians in the region. An unauthorized but effective gangland war waged by Conti underling Gentile by about 1917 convinced the Neapolitan and Calabrian criminals to quit preying upon Sicilians and to join forces with the Mafia. Conti and his nephew Peppino Cusumano, also a Mafioso, ran the pre-Prohibition Pittsburgh Wine & Liquor Co. at 801 Wylie Avenue near Chatham Street. As the Wartime Prohibition Act became effective in summer of 1919, rumors indicated that Conti took advantage of business partners by selling large quantities of mislabeled liquor.

1919 - Salvatore Calderone (1858 to 1933). Following the effective date of the Wartime Prohibition Act, Gregorio Conti began making plans to take his family and his fortune back to his native Sicily. On Sept. 12, 1919, Conti and his wife Giovanna applied for passports, stating they needed to return to Sicily at once to tend to Giovanna's family estate. Twelve days later, on the eve of his sudden departure from Pittsburgh, Conti was shot to death inside his car on Twenty-First Street near the Allegheny Railroad. Conti's immediate successor in central Pittsburgh is uncertain, but the Mafia organization was likely overseen by Calderone, Apollo-based chief of the regional underworld association. Calderone, originally from the Termini Imerese area of Sicily, appears to have been in semi-retirement and likely avoided involvement in day-to-day operations.

Stefano Monastero

1925 - Stefano Monastero (March 3, 1889, to Aug. 6, 1929). Monastero led a Pittsburgh underworld clan during the later Prohibition Era, supplying sugar and other commodities necessary for bootlegging. The Monastero organization, largely comprised of immigrants from the area of Caccamo, Sicily, briefly lost ground in downtown Pittsburgh to Luigi "Big Gorilla" Lamendola in the mid-1920s. Lamendola, reportedly a castoff of Al Capone's gang in Chicago, increased in strength until he was shot down in front of his Chatham Street restaurant/headquarters on May 20, 1927. Monastero's gang is also believed responsible for the bombing of a rival bootleg supply warehouse in 1929.

Giuseppe Siragusa

1929 - Giuseppe Siragusa (1882 to Sept. 13, 1931). Stefano Monastero and his brother Sam were murdered in front of St. John's General Hospital on Aug. 6, 1929. Rival gang leader Joe "the Ghost" Pangallo is suspected of orchestrating the hit. Giuseppe "Yeast Baron" Siragusa, who became wealthy selling yeast to home breweries during Prohibition, took over leadership of the Pittsburgh Mafia family. It is believed that Siragusa was a loyal follower of the Brooklyn Castellammarese Mafia organization led by Stefano Magaddino, Cola Schiro and later Salvatore Maranzano.

John Bazzano

1931 - John Bazzano (1890 to Aug. 8, 1932). Siragusa was shot to death in his large Squirrel Hill home on Sept. 13, 1931. Due to the timing (just days after Salvatore Maranzano was assassinated in New York), Siragusa was said to have been a casualty of the legendary "purge" of the American Mafia. Coffee shop owner Bazzano became boss upon Siragusa's death. Like Siragusa, Bazzano catered to home breweries during Prohibition, selling them yeast and sugar. Bazzano's reign turned out to be even shorter than Siragusa's, as he entered into a deadly feud with the Volpe brothers.

John Volpe

1932 - John Bazzano is believed to have ordered the hit that resulted in the deaths of three Volpe brothers (there reportedly were eight brothers in the Volpe family), James, Arthur and John (at right), on July 29, 1932. The Volpes were Neapolitan gang bosses from Wilmerding, to the east of Pittsburgh. The killings took place at Bazzano's Rome Coffee Shop.

1932 - Vincenzo Capizzi (March 12, 1893, to Feb. 8, 1967). Bazzano's corpse, bearing about two dozen ice pick wounds, was found in a large sack in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NY, on Aug. 8, 1932. Santo Volpe, Sicilian boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania mob family (unrelated to the recently murdered Volpe Brothers, who were Neapolitan), was a suspect in the killing, as was Brooklyn's Albert Anastasia and other Mafiosi gathered in New York at the time. Nick Gentile's memoirs state that Bazzano was called to New York to answer before the Mafia's recently installed ruling Commission for the Volpe brothers killings. He gave an inappropriate answer and was immediately murdered by his underworld judges. Bazzano was succeeded by Capizzi. Originally from Villarosa, Sicily, Capizzi was a grocer. His strength was on Pittsburgh's North Side. His five-year reign became the longest in Pittsburgh Mafia history. The Pittsburgh family became closely aligned with the Genovese Crime Family in New York, which represented Pittsburgh at meetings of the Commission.

1937 - Frank Amato (c.1893 to 1973). Capizzi became something of a figurehead, as the real underworld power in western Pennsylvania settled on Frank Amato. Amato took over the top spot in the crime family when Capizzi retired in 1937. The Pittsburgh family experienced a prolonged period of leadership stability under Amato. Amato's son, Frank D. Amato Jr., followed his father into the Mafia. (Frank Jr. was a gambling bigshot who managed to avoid attention from media and law enforcement until his death in 2003 at the age of 75.)

Sebastian John LaRocca

1956 - Sebastian LaRocca (1901 to Dec. 3, 1984). "John" LaRocca, who appears to have had some family relationship with Amato, served as the supreme boss of the Pittsburgh family from 1956, when Amato turned over command and became a LaRocca adviser. He continued as official boss of the Pittsburgh underworld until his death of natural causes in 1984. Under LaRocca, the mob became a powerful force in Pittsburgh area labor unions and established rackets in Ohio, splitting income with the Cleveland Mafia. LaRocca also brought his family into an agreement with Tampa's Santo Trafficante for management of the Sans Souci casino in Havana, Cuba.

1957 - LaRocca was one of the attendees of the Apalachin conference. He was accompanied by his lieutenants, Michael James Genovese and Gabriel "Kelly" Mannarino. (Mannarino later took part in efforts to wrest Cuba from the control of Fidel Castro.)

1978 - Ailing LaRocca turned day-to-day leadership of the family over to a panel including Michael Genovese, Gabriel "Kelly" Mannarino and Joseph "Jo Jo" Pecora of West Virginia. A prison sentence for gambling immediately took out Pecora.

Michael Genovese

1980 - Michael Genovese (April 9, 1918 to Oct. 31, 2006). Genovese became sole acting boss under the ailing Sebastian LaRocca in 1980, as Gabriel "Kelly" Mannarino died July 11 of cancer.

1984 - While law enforcement watched "Jo Jo" Pecora, Michael Genovese took the crime family reins upon 82-year-old LaRocca's death (at his home in suburban McCandless Township) in 1984. Under Genovese's leadership, the Pittsburgh mob became a middle man in drug deals with distribution rings in the Midwest and Northeast and began making moves into Ohio territory vacated by a weakened Cleveland Mafia. The family was also linked with an attempt to infiltrate an Indian casino near San Diego.

1990 - The Pittsburgh organization began to crumble after the successful prosecutions of underboss Charles Porter and lieutenant Louis Raucci Sr. and the subsequent defections of Porter and Lenny Strollo.

2000 - Federal agents believed Michael Genovese, then 82 and living in rural West Deer, PA, was still in control of the remnants of the Pittsburgh Mafia family. Genovese died in 2006 at the age of 87. Though he had served some time behind bars for refusing to testify, prosecutors were never able to assemble a successful racketeering case against him.