1911 to July 27, 1992.
Salerno was raised in a Mafia-infested East Harlem neighborhood. Born in 1911, he was drawn into the street gang life and graduated into bookmaking, loansharking and the policy (numbers gambling) racket.
The city boy showed a love for the country when he purchased a rural farm in upstate Rhinebeck, NY, in the 1950s. By the 1970s, his influence was felt at the Fulton Fish Market and at produce markets around the city.
He appeared to serve as the Genovese Family consigliere during the post-Genovese reign of Frank "Funzi" Tieri.
There is disagreement about Salerno's rise to power in the Genovese Family. Some say he became the supreme Family leader from about the time of Tieri's death in 1981 and held that job until imprisoned five years later. Others say he was boss only for less than a year before being deposed by Vinny "The Chin" Gigante. Some apparently feel Salerno never was the actual boss of that Family and just fronted for Gigante.
Salerno reportedly suffered a stroke in 1981, which coincided with the time some Mafia historians say he was ousted. He remained at his country home for several months before returning to partial-week duties in the city - some insist this was a power-sharing agreement with the actual Family boss.
The authorities overlooked the ostensibly insane Gigante when they put together the Commission case and, instead, indicted Salerno as the Genovese Family boss in February 1985. The Commission trial did not begin until September of the following year. Salerno and his associates were convicted and sent away for lengthy prison terms.
Fat Tony died of a stroke while in custody at Springfield, Mo., July 27, 1992. He is buried at St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.
© 2007 T.Hunt
The American "Mafia"