Ignazio Lupo

Ignazio Lupo
March 19, 1877, to Jan. 13, 1947.
"Ignazio Saietta," "The Wolf"

Lupo is credited - probably wrongly - with being the first to organize Mafia activity in New York under a single leader. His bases of operations were Little Italy in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in Brooklyn. But he ruled the Mafia alongside the Morello Mob of Italian Harlem and Ciro Terranova's organization in the Bronx.

Born in Corleone, Sicily, on March 19, 1877, Lupo fled to the United States in 1899 after killing a man named Salvatore Morello. In New York, he controlled much of the underworld activity in New York's Little Sicilies.

According to legend, Lupo owned a Harlem property known as the Murder Stables. There numerous rivals for power were said to have been killed, allowing Lupo to sieze control of the New York branch of the Unione Siciliana and designate himself the new world's Mafia boss of bosses. There seems little truth to the legend. In that era, stables were found everywhere, and a number of them were known as hangouts for criminals. There is no evidence that the organization known as the Unione Siciliana ever operated in New York (although the same name might have been used to refer to the U.S. Mafia network). And Lupo seems never to have been recognized as boss of bosses.

Lupo did work as a management partner (with Giuseppe Morello) in New York rackets. Their organization was active in Black Hand extortion and protection rackets. It also worked with Sicily's boss of bosses Vito Cascio Ferro - who reportedly spent some of his childhood years in New York before returning to the old country - on an operation circulating counterfeit American currency. The rackets of Morello and Lupo became fairly sophisticated, eventually involving corporate scams and fraudulent real estate deals.

Lupo, who sometimes used his mother's maiden name "Saietta" as an alias, married into the Morello-Terranova clan, taking Ciro Terranova's sister Salvatrice as his wife. Their son Rocco was born in 1900, and the family lived in an upscale home at 261 Avenue P in Brooklyn. The property was purchased for them by Terranova.

Lupo had run-ins with New York supercop Joseph Petrosino and is believed to have had a part in setting up Petrosino's 1909 murder in Sicily.

Lupo and Morello were arrested for counterfeiting in 1909 and began lengthy prison sentences in 1910. Lupo was sentenced to 30 years and Morello to 25 years.

Nicholas and Ciro Terranova looked after Mafia business in the Harlem and Bronx areas after Lupo and Giuseppe Morello were locked away, but the Italian/Sicilian communities in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side began generating their own Mafia leaders. Perhaps due to the power vacuum, the Morello Mob found itself at war with Neapolitan Camorrists in Brooklyn.

Lupo was released on parole from Atlanta prison on June 30, 1920. Later that year, he informed authorities that he wished to travel to Sicily to deal with some family business arising from the recent death of his father. Such a trip could not be allowed under parole rules. In 1921, President Harding granted a conditional commutation of the remainder of Lupo's counterfeiting sentence.

Upon the Wolf's return to the United States in May 1922, he was detained several weeks at Ellis Island. Authorities prepared to deport him. Surprisingly, the federal government ordered that Lupo be allowed to enter the country. The underworld was a far more complicated and more populous place in 1922 than it had been when he dropped out of the scene in 1910.

Mob bosses looked the other way as Lupo worked a bakery extortion racket, but The Wolf was excluded from Mafia leadership and from bootlegging operations. Law enforcement agencies discovered that he was meeting with mob enforcer Anthony Forti to create an Italian bakers' "union" in December 1935. Lupo's son Rocco also appeared to be involved.

Though his previous partners Giuseppe Morello and Ciro Terranova figured prominently in the Castellammarese War of 1930-1931, Lupo kept a relatively low profile. He was arrested in 1931 for allegedly killing a man named Roger Consiglio a year earlier, but nothing came of the charge.

Lupo was nabbed again in July 1935 when his bakery extortion racket was exposed. A year later, July 10, 1936, FDR's Administration decided that Lupo had violated the conditions of his "keep-yer-nose-clean" sentence commutation and threw him back behind bars to finish the remaining years of his original 30-year sentence.

While in prison, Lupo learned of the death of his brother-in-law, Terranova.

After significant bureaucratic discussion, authorities decided on Dec. 21, 1946, that Lupo's prison term - subtracting his good behavior time - had expired. He was released, senile and weak, to spend a final Christmas with his family. Upon his death of natural causes on Jan. 13, 1947, he was buried in the in the Terranova family plot in Brooklyn's Calvary Cemetery beside Ciro.

Related Links:

2007 T.Hunt
The American "Mafia"