Pittsburgh Bosses

1910s – Gregorio Conti (March 17, 1874, to ?). In his autobiographical work “Vita di Capomafia,” Nick Gentile states that Conti was the leader of the Mafia in Pittsburgh in 1915. Conti and his nephew Peppino Cusumano ran a wholesale wine and liquor establishment. While Conti led a Mafia organization of Sicilians and Calabrians, a rival Neapolitan Camorra group in Pittsburgh was led by Ferdinand Mauro. A Mauro lieutenant in Johnstown was named Calabro.

1920 – Salvatore Calderone (1858 to 1933). Calderone led a Pittsburgh criminal organization through the early years of the Prohibition Era and, according to Nick Gentile, he was influential during the time of Gregorio Conti (above). Eventually Calderone allowed others to take control of day-to-day underworld operations, serving as an adviser to Mafiosi in the Midwest.

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 bootlegging commodities. His group eclipsed that of Calderone, who retired. The Monastero organization, largely comprised of immigrants from the area of Caccamo, Sicily, briefly lost ground to Luigi “Big Gorilla” Lamendola in the mid-1920s. Lamendola, 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.

Siragusa

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

Bazzano

1931 – John Bazzano (1890 to Aug. 8, 1932). Siragusa is 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 Lucky Luciano’s supposed “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 killings took place at Bazzano’s coffee shop.

1932 – Vincenzo Capizzi (1884 to ?). Bazzano was found dead of 22 (or 27) ice pick wounds in a large sack in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NY, on Aug. 8, 1932. Santo Volpe, boss of the Scranton mob family and unrelated to the recently murdered Volpe Brothers, was a suspect in the killing (as was Brooklyn’s Albert Anastasia). Authorities believed Bazzano was lured to New York for a dinner after Volpe appealed to the Commission for justice. Bazzano was succeeded by Capizzi, whose five-year reign became the longest in Pittsburgh Mafia history. The Pittsburgh family became aligned with the Genovese Crime Family in New York, which represented Pittsburgh at meetings of the eastern Commission.

1937 – Frank Amato (c.1893 to 1973). 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 LaRocca

1956 – Sebastian LaRocca (1901 to Dec. 3, 1984). “John” LaRocca, who appears to have had some family relationship with Amato and a background in the Scranton mob, served as the supreme boss of the Pittsburgh family from 1956 (when Amato turned over command and became a LaRocca adviser – serving first as underboss and then as consigliere) 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, sharing some of that 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 leadership of the family over to a panel including Michael Genovese, Gabriel Mannarino and Joseph “Jo Jo” Pecora of West Virginia. A prison sentence for gambling immediately took out Pecora.

Genovese

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

1984 – While law enforcement watched “Jo Jo” Pecora, Michael Genovese took the 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.

Crime Bosses of New York

It would be a mistake to attempt to define geographic limits for New York’s five families. Family influence is not confined to a region of the city or even to the entire city itself. The influence of New York families can be felt throughout the Northeast and all across the country. There is certainly no correlation between the five criminal organizations and New York City’s five boroughs. Dividing lines exist in formal family membership (though personal allegiance often crosses family boundaries) and in family rackets. Aside from the small regions designated as mob headquarters, there are no meaningful geographic “territories.”

Giuseppe Morello

1895 – Giuseppe Morello (Born Corleone, Sicily, May 2, 1867. Killed New York City, Aug. 15, 1930). Known as “Piddu” or “Clutch Hand” (in erroneous reports as “Peter”), Morello and his brother-in-law Ignazio Lupo led a gang of extortionists and counterfeiters in Italian East Harlem, Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn. With the support of Sicilian/American Mafiosi like Vito Cascioferro, Pasquale Enea and Ignazio Lupo, and with strong connections to Mafia organizations in New Orleans and Chicago, Morello was able to assemble a sprawling crime fraternity in the New York region and win recognition as boss of bosses of the whole U.S. Mafia, perhaps the first man to hold that title. It is unclear whether Morello’s New York organization was a single entity or a conglomeration of various smaller Mafias that allied or merged under his leadership. In 1910 Morello was jailed, along with Lupo and others in their criminal society, on a counterfeiting conviction. The Morello organization subsequently broke down (or devolved) into competing factions that may be viewed as the roots of the Genovese, Gambino and Lucchese Crime Families.

1911 – Salvatore D’Aquila (Born Palermo c. 1873. Killed New York City, Oct. 10, 1928). Known to his underworld associates as “Toto,” Palermo-born D’Aquila arrived in New York by 1904. He reportedly rose up through the ranks of the Morello Mafia, though it is likely he commanded a Palermo-oriented faction in a Morello-led conglomeration of Mafias. D’Aquila had a divided powerbase, with resources in both the Bronx and southern Brooklyn. He originally based his operations in the Bronx. At the height of his power, he relocated to Brooklyn, perhaps taking over remnants of an Ignazio Lupo organization there. Following the counterfeiting convictions of Morello, Lupo and others in 1910, the Morello New York organization fractured. D’Aquila became the most influential boss of the competing Mafia factions in New York City and secured support from allies around the country for designation as the new boss of bosses. However, he was unable to incorporate East Harlem and lower Manhattan into his underworld empire and resorted to assassination and gangland warfare in an effort to do so. In East Harlem, Morello’s half-brothers, Nicholas, Vincent and Ciro Terranova, and their relatives the LoMontes were in control of a group that eventually became dominated by an anti-D’Aquila boss in lower Manhattan named Giuseppe Masseria. D’Aquila never felt secure (and perhaps never was secure) in his leadership position. He is known to have inserted spies into the administrations of various crime families across the country. Upon Morello’s release from prison, D’Aquila created a schism in the New York Mafia by passing a death sentence against Morello loyalists. Years of conflict resulted. Masseria emerged as D’Aquila’s strongest adversary. Around 1925, with the war against Masseria virtually lost, D’Aquila abandoned Brooklyn to return to his Bronx roots. (Though this “Gambino” Crime Family is often depicted as a Brooklyn organization, D’Aquila and the next two family bosses held great strength in the Bronx.)

1928 – Manfredi Mineo (Born Palermo, Sicily, c. 1879. Killed Bronx, Nov. 5, 1930). Also known as “Alfred” or “Al,” Mineo was a key early ally of Salvatore D’Aquila and likely led his own Mafia organization within a D’Aquila Mafia conglomeration. The two had a falling out, perhaps over the D’Aquila death sentences against Morello loyalists. Mineo subsequently allied with Giuseppe Masseria during his 1920s underworld war against D’Aquila. After D’Aquila’s murder at the corner of Manhattan’s Avenue A and 13th Street on Oct. 10, 1928, Masseria supported Mineo’s claim as new boss of D’Aquila’s large underworld organization. While Mineo succeeded D’Aquila as boss, it is likely that he was resented by a continuing D’Aquila faction. Mineo’s chief lieutenant is believed to have been Bronx-based Steve Ferrigno. Mineo and Ferrigno sided with Masseria during the Castellammarese War.

1930 – Frank Scalise (Born Palermo, c. 1893. Killed Bronx, June 17, 1957). Al Mineo and Steve Ferrigno were ambushed and killed Nov. 5, 1930, in the courtyard of a Bronx apartment building (Alhambra Apartments, 750-60 Pelham Parkway). Mineo’s opponents took advantage of his death and prevented the criminal organization from reuniting within the Masseria camp. Bronx-based Frank Scalise seized control of the family and joined Masseria opponents in the Castellammarese War.

Vincent Mangano

1931 – Vincent Mangano (Born Palermo, Dec. 1888. Disappeared 1951). After the conclusion of the Castellammarese War to unseat Masseria, victorious boss of bosses Salvatore Maranzano was himself betrayed and murdered under orders of Charlie Luciano. The strength of Scalise, a Maranzano supporter, was undermined, and the crime family recognized Vincent Mangano as boss. Vincent and his brother Philip had been powerful Brooklyn waterfront racketeers for some time. They had connections to the Mafia of western New York State and were on good terms with Charlie Luciano. Former boss Frank Scalise remained an important part of the crime family. In 1951, the Manganos became a focus of the Kefauver Committee investigations in New York City. But the committee could not locate them. Some sources indicate Philip Mangano spoke to federal investigators behind closed doors.

Albert Anastasia

1951 – Albert Anastasia (Born Tropea, Calabria, Italy, Feb. 26, 1902. Killed New York City, Oct. 25, 1957). Philip Mangano was found murdered in 1951, just as his brother Vincent disappeared. Philip’s body was discovered April 19 near Jamaica Bay south of Avenue Y in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn. He had been shot three times in the head. Vincent Mangano was never found. Crime family underboss Anastasia, a veteran of Brooklyn underworld violence since the dawn of Prohibition, rose to lead the Mangano family. He appointed Carlo Gambino, a leader of the strong Palermo Sicily-oriented faction in the crime family, to be his underboss. Anastasia was engaged in labor racketeering at the waterfront and reportedly served as the Mafia’s overseer of the activities of Brooklyn-based Murder, Inc. During Anastasia’s reign, he resided in Fort Lee, New Jersey, near the home of Joe Adonis. (Anastasia’s Bluff Road residence, near Arcadian Way, was about a quarter mile from Adonis’s home on Dearborn Road.)

Carlo Gambino

1957 – Carlo Gambino (Born Palermo, Aug. 24, 1902. Died Massapequa, NY, Oct. 15, 1976). Anastasia was shot to death by unknown assassins in the barber shop of the Manhattan Park Sheraton Hotel on Oct. 25, 1957. He had been making an effort to involve himself in Cuban gambling operations just before his murder. It is believed that underboss Carlo Gambino conspired with powerful Neapolitan underworld leader Vito Genovese and established Cuban gambling racketeers to eliminate Anastasia (a strong supporter of Genovese rival Frank Costello). Despite opposition from Anastasia loyalists within the crime family, Gambino stepped up to the boss role just before the ill-fated Apalachin underworld convention. Gambino faced strong competition inside and outside his crime family. As Gambino put down a rebellion by Armand Rava and former Anastasia supporters, he was supported outside his family by Genovese. Gambino eventually reconciled with the Anastasia wing of the family by elevating Rava’s old friend Aniello Dellacroce to the position of underboss, apparently securing a future return to power for the Anastasia faction. During his reign, Gambino repeatedly interfered in the business of other crime families. By 1975, Gambino was in ill health and allowed his relative Paul Castellano to run day-to-day operations.

Paul Castellano

1976 – Paul Castellano (Born Brooklyn, June 26, 1915. Killed Manhattan, Dec. 16, 1985). Gambino died of a heart attack on Oct. 15, 1976, and his brother-in-law “Big Paul” Castellano, owner of a Brooklyn meat distributing business, became the next family boss. The old Anastasia wing of the crime family was offended by Castellano’s elevation, favoring Aniello Dellacroce for the top spot. Castellano allowed Dellacroce to remain part of the family leadership, even as he groomed Thomas Bilotti as his successor. During the late 1970s, Castellano was the most powerful of New York’s Mafia bosses. In his later years, he was a constant target for law enforcement. Federal agents managed to install electronic surveillance in Castellano’s home, obtaining compromising and embarrassing information on the crime boss. John Gotti

1986 – John Gotti (Born Bronx, NY, Oct. 27, 1940. Died Springfield, MO, June 10, 2002). Despite decades of friction and disappointment, Aniello Dellacroce kept his faction (the old Anastasia wing) loyal to Castellano. But, immediately following Dellacroce’s Dec. 2, 1985, death, John J. Gotti and other Dellacroce backers begin plotting against Castellano. Castellano and Thomas Bilotti were murdered Dec. 16, 1985, outside of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. Gotti was brought to trial several times on racketeering charges. He early successes won him the nickname, “the Teflon Don.” He and his relatives controlled the crime family until his 2002 death from cancer in a federal prison hospital.

1910 – Fortunato LoMonte (Born Corleone, Sicily, July 15, 1869. Killed New York City, May 23, 1914). Also known as “Charles,” LoMonte became boss in East Harlem after Morello was imprisoned. Salvatore D’Aquila viewed LoMonte as a rival. LoMonte attempted to monopolize the Sicilian rackets in Lower Manhattan but was assassinated on orders from D’Aquila in 1914. His brother Thomas was murdered a year later.

1915 – Vincent Terranova (Born Corleone, Sicily, May 15, 1886. Killed New York City, May 8, 1922). Leadership of the East Harlem portion of the old Morello mob passed to Morello’s half-brothers Vincent and Nicholas “Coco” (Born Corleone, Sicily, Jan. 6, 1890. Died Brooklyn, Sept. 7, 1916) Terranova. Vincent Terranova became the key figure in the East Harlem Mafia after brother Nicholas was murdered in 1916 on his way to a peace conference with a Brooklyn Camorra group.

Joe the Boss Masseria

1922 – Giuseppe Masseria (Born Menfi, Sicily, Jan. 17, 1886. Killed Brooklyn, April 15, 1931). Vincent Terranova was killed at 116th Street and 2nd Avenue on May 8, 1922, during a conflict between Morello loyalists and the organization of Brooklyn-based boss of bosses Salvatore D’Aquila. “Joe the Boss” Masseria, one-time member of a lower Manhattan burglary ring, became standard-bearer for the remnants of the Morello-Terranova organization. Masseria united underworld forces – including non-Sicilians – in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland to defeat D’Aquila and his many allies. Masseria became boss of bosses after D’Aquila’s murder in 1928. Among his chief advisers were former boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello and former D’Aquila friend Saverio Pollaccia.

Charlie Lucky Luciano

1931 – Charlie Luciano (Born Lercara Friddi, Sicily, Nov. 24, 1897. Died Naples, Italy, Jan. 26, 1962). With assistance from Giuseppe Masseria’s other lieutenants, Luciano (real name Salvatore Lucania, a.k.a. “Charlie Lucky”) betrayed Masseria and had him murdered at Gerardo Scarpato’s Nuova Villa Tamaro restaurant at Coney Island on April 15, 1931. Luciano took over the Masseria organization. Vito Genovese, a Neapolitan crime leader with strong support in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey, became Luciano’s second-in-command. After subsequently betraying boss of bosses Salvatore Maranzano, Luciano became the most powerful man in the American Mafia. Maranzano was the last boss of bosses of the American Mafia. Luciano and his allies insisted on the creation of a Commission system for resolving interfamily disputes. The first Commission members were the five bosses of New York City, the boss of Chicago and the boss of Cleveland.

Frank Costello

1937 – Frank Costello (Born Cosenza, Italy, 1891. Died New York City, Feb. 18, 1973). Luciano was convicted of running a prostitution ring in June 1936. Just six months later, his underboss Vito Genovese fled the country to Fascist Italy in order to avoid prosecution for the Ferdinand Boccia murder of Sept. 19, 1934. It is uncertain whether Genovese served as boss before he left (Luciano probably would not have stepped down while his appeals were being processed). Costello, architect of Mafia gambling rackets, assumed control of the day-to-day operations of the crime family by 1937, though imprisoned Luciano may still have held the boss designation. Costello’s leadership on the Mafia Commission and his strong connections to political figures caused him to be known as the “Prime Minister” of the underworld. In 1946, Charlie Luciano was released from prison and deported to Italy. In his absence, Frank Costello was universally recognized as the family’s full boss.

Vito Genovese

1957 – Vito Genovese (Born Risigliano near Naples, Nov. 21, 1897. Died Missouri, Feb. 14, 1969). Genovese was apprehended by the U.S. Military in Italy and returned to the U.S. to be tried for murder. The death of key witness helped him avoid conviction. A May 2, 1957, assassination attempt on Costello left Costello wounded and caused him to retire. Genovese became boss but would actively perform that role only briefly. He was jailed on drug charges in 1962 and used a number of acting bosses to run the crime family after that. Genovese underboss Gerardo Catena (1902-1905 to 2000) appeared to lead the leadership group from 1962 until Genovese’s death in 1969. The group included Tommy Eboli and Genovese’s consiglieri Mike Miranda.

Tommy Eboli

1969 – Thomas Eboli (Born Italy, June 13, 1911. Killed Brooklyn, July 16, 1972). Also known as “Tommy Ryan,” New Jersey resident and Greenwich Village capodecina Eboli took over the Genovese family upon Genovese’s death in prison. Eboli was close to rising Genovese Mafioso Vincent Gigante. When Gigante was a boxer, Eboli served as his manager. As crime family boss, Eboli had an antagonistic relationship with Carlo Gambino.

1972 – Phil Lombardo (Born c.1908. Died 1987). Boss Tommy Eboli was shot to death near his girlfriend’s Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home on July 16, 1972. The murder was likely the result of a power struggle influenced by outsiders. Carlo Gambino reportedly hoped to see Frank “Funzi” Tieri (Born Feb. 22, 1904. Died Brooklyn, March 31, 1981) succeed Eboli as the next Genovese boss. Instead the crime family quitely sided with Phil “Benny Squint” Lombardo. Lombardo screened his underworld activities behind front men, including Frank Tieri and Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno (Born, Aug. 15, 1911. Died Rhinebeck, NY, July 27, 1992).

Vincent Gigante

1981 – Vincent Gigante (Born New York City, March 29, 1928. Died Springfield, MO, Dec. 19, 2005). Lombardo retired to Florida, quietly passing control of the family to his consigliere Gigante, known as “the Chin.” Gigante, son of Neapolitan immigrants, is believed to have served as the Genovese gunman responsible for the botched hit on Costello in 1957. Like Lombardo, Gigante used Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno (Aug. 15, 1911 to July 27, 1992) as a front man. Gigante also screened his underworld activities by posing in public as mentally ill.

 

1915 – Stefano Magaddino (Born Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Oct. 10, 1891. Died July 19, 1974). Magaddino was a representative of the powerful Bonventre-Bonanno-Magaddino Mafia clan of Castellammare del Golfo. He arrived in the U.S. early in 1909 and shortly after associated himself with the Mafia in Chicago. He became leader of a tightly knit Castellammarese crime family based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before the start of Prohibition. The organization had branches in Buffalo and Endicott, New York, as well as Detroit, Michigan, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gaspare Milazzo (“Scibilia”), later known as a Detroit crime family leader, also looks to have been part of the early Brooklyn family leadership. Magaddino later left New York City but remained influential in the Williamsburg organization for at least a decade after his self-imposed exiles to Philadelphia and then to Buffalo. He claimed to be influencing the Brooklyn organization well into the reign of his cousin Joseph Bonanno.

There is some question as to whether this is an accurate photo of gang boss Cola Schiro

1921 – Cola Schiro (Born c.1880. Disappeared 1930). Schiro led a non-Castellammarese Mafia organization that merged with the Brooklyn Castellammarese family as Stefano Magaddino moved to Buffalo. As the Castellammarese were the strength of crime family, Schiro became a Magaddino puppet ruler. As friction between the Castellammarese and boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria grew around 1930, Schiro was criticized within the family for his pacifism.

1930 – Joe Parrino (Born c.1890. Killed Brooklyn, Jan. 19, 1931). As the Castellammarese Sicilians in Schiro’s organization, including Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Bonanno, began to oppose Joe Masseria, boss Cola Schiro vanished. It appears that he crossed the Atlantic and returned to Sicily. Some believe Masseria exacted a tribute payment from Schiro to undermine his support in the crime family, and then had him murdered. Masseria took the opportunity to insert his own ally, Joe Parrino, into the leadership of the rebellious underworld group. Parrino was the brother of a recently murdered Detroit mobster, Sam (also known as Rosario and Sasa) Parrino.

Tom Hunt approximation of Maranzano portrait.

1930 – Salvatore Maranzano (Born Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, c. 1886. Killed New York City, Sept. 10, 1931). Parrino was unable to hold together the Castellammarese clan. Many secretly defected to a guerrilla organization created by Maranzano. Though there is no evidence that Maranzano was ever officially appointed to any rank higher than soldier within the Schiro clan, he became the New York City war leader of the Castellammarese network in the U.S. and many other Mafiosi who opposed the tyrannical reign of Giuseppe Masseria, including D’Aquila loyalists from the Mineo Crime Family (Gambino). Upon the murder of Parrino, the rest of the Schiro clan joined Maranzano’s war effort. After the April 1931 assassination of Masseria, Salvatore Maranzano secured for himself the designation of boss of all bosses in the American Mafia. He made repeated demands of tribute from other Mafia families and plotted against those he considered his rivals.

Joe Bonanno

1931 – Joseph Bonanno (Born Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Jan. 18, 1905. Died Tucson, AZ, May 11, 2002). Charlie Luciano and his allies set up the assassination of Maranzano at his Park Avenue offices on Sept. 10, 1931. This may have been done with the approval of leading Castellammarese Mafiosi like Stefano Magaddino and Joseph Bonanno. Either during Maranzano’s reign as boss of bosses or immediately following Maranzano’s death, Bonanno became boss of the largely Castellammarese crime family based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

1964 – Gaspar DiGregorio (Born 1905. Died Smithtown, NY, June 11, 1970). On a morning he was called to testify in a racketeering probe, Joe Bonanno disappeared. His heir apparent, his son, was ignored by the commission, which appointed Gaspar DiGregorio to head the family. Bonanno’s son retained the allegiance of much of the family, and the Banana War resulted.

1966 – Joseph Bonanno (Born Castellammare del Golfo, Jan. 18, 1905. Died Tucson, AZ, May 11, 2002). Bonanno resurfaced in May 1966, claiming he had been kidnapped. The commission dropped its support of DiGregorio and allowed Bonanno to restore order to his family. Carmine Galante became Bonanno underboss.

Natale Evola

1968 – Natale Evola (Born Feb. 22, 1907. Died Brooklyn, Aug. 28, 1973). Bonanno decided to retire, reportedly after a heart attack. Some sources suggest that Bonanno was forced to leave New York after the exposure of his plot to assassinate Carlo Gambino and Gaetano Lucchese. The family came briefly under the leadership of Natale Evola. It appears that Evola did not have time (or possibly the ability) to bring the entire organization under his control. Instability continued within the Bonanno clan for much of the next two decades.

1973 – Philip Rastelli (Born Jan. 31, 1918. Died Brooklyn, June 24, 1991). Upon Evola’s death of cancer in 1973, Philip “Rusty” Rastelli took control of the Bonanno crime family. His first reign as boss lasted only a year.

Carmine Galante

1974 – Carmine Galante (Born Feb. 21, 1910. Killed Brooklyn, July 12, 1979). Galante’s release from prison allowed him to take control of the family from Rastelli. (Some sources indicate that Galante never reached the rank of boss and led only a rebellious wing of Rastelli’s family.) As one of the more ambitious and brutal Mafia heads in the United States, Galante immediately became a powerful underworld force and jeopardized the authority of the commission.

1979 – Philip Rastelli (Born Jan. 31, 1918. Died Brooklyn, June 24, 1991). Carmine Galante was murdered after a meal at Joe and Mary’s Restaurant, 205 Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn, on July 12, 1979. Rastelli returned as boss of the Bonanno clan. His role in family matters diminished until his death in 1991.

1920 – Gaetano Reina (Born Corleone, Sicily, 1889-90. Killed Bronx, Feb. 26, 1930). A crime family headquartered in the Bronx appears to have been founded by Gaetano Reina before 1920. Reina may have served earlier as a group leader within the Morello organization and the later D’Aquila crime family of Brooklyn and the Bronx. D’Aquila’s mid-1920s decline and 1928 murder may have resulted in the establishment of an independent Reina crime family.

1930 – Joseph Pinzolo (Born c.1887. Killed Sept. 9, 1930). Reina was killed on Feb. 26, 1930, outside his girlfriend’s apartment building at 1521 Sheridan Avenue in the Bronx. His lieutenants believed boss of bosses Joe Masseria was responsible. Masseria supported his friend Joe Pinzolo as the new head of the Reina clan. However, Reina family group leaders Gaetano Gagliano and Gaetano Lucchese opposed Pinzolo and began to cooperate with Masseria’s enemies in the Castellammarese War.

Tom Gagliano

1930 – Gaetano Gagliano (Born c.1884. Died 1951). Gagliano and Gaetano Lucchese cooperated on the elimination of Masseria puppet Pinzolo from their organization. Pinzolo was shot to death at a “wine brick” office he shared with Lucchese at 1457 Broadway. Police found his body in Suite 1007, headquarters of California Dry Fruit Importers, with bullets in its left chest and neck. Gagliano took control of the family and used its resources to oppose Masseria.

Tommy Lucchese

1951 – Tommy Lucchese (Born Palermo, Sicily, Dec. 1, 1899. Died Lido Beach, NY, July 13, 1967). Gaetano Gagliano died of natural causes around 1951. The precise date of his death is not known. (In 1952 testimony, Lucchese established that Gagliano was already dead.) Lucchese, also known as “Tommy Brown” and “Three-Finger Brown,” took over leadership of the family.

1966 – The Mafia commission began dividing up TommyLucchese’s personal rackets after he had been hospitalized for a year following surgery for a brain tumor and treatment for a heart condition.

Carmine Tramunti

1967 – Carmine Tramunti (Born Oct. 1, 1910. Died Flushing, NY, Oct. 15, 1978). Tommy Lucchese died at his Lido beach, Long Island, home on July 13, 1967, after a series of illnesses and operations. Carmine Tramunti (left) briefly took over the Lucchese crime family.

Antonio Corallo

1970 – Antonio Corallo (Born East Harlem, NY, Feb. 12, 1913. Died Springfield, MO, Aug. 23, 2000). Aging Carmine Tramunti apparently continued to serve for a few years as a front for new boss Corallo (right). The actual date of “Tony Ducks” Corallo’s takeover is in doubt. Corallo continued to lead the family at least until his 1986 imprisonment.

1986 – Anthony Luongo (Born ?. Killed 1986). With Corallo sentenced to prison, Luongo attempted to seize leadership of the Lucchese family. He was murdered shortly thereafter.

1905 – Giuseppe Fontana (Born Villabate, Sicily, c.1852. Killed East Harlem, NY, Nov. 4, 1913). Fontana was a leader of the “Zubbio” Mafia network in the Sicilian communities of Villabate and Bagheria in the 1890s. He, and his political patron Raffaele Palizzolo, were prime suspects in the 1893 Mafia murder of Emanuele Notarbartolo. They were tried and convicted in 1902 but secured new trials on appeal. They were acquitted and released in summer of 1904. The following year, Fontana crossed the Atlantic to settle in New York and become a key figure in the underworld organization of Giuseppe Morello. While there is no evidence that Fontana served as a Mafia boss in the U.S., it appears likely that he commanded fellow Villabate and Bagheria Mafiosi in his adopted homeland. Some Fontana relatives in the Magliocco, Proface (Profaci) and Zarcone families are known to have been involved in underworld activities in New York City and Brooklyn. Following Morello’s imprisonment, Fontana threw his weight behind Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila, but Fontana was killed apparently in a factional struggle among former Morello group leaders.

1920 – Salvatore DiBella commanded a Brooklyn Mafia unit at the start of the Prohibition Era. His organization included a number of Mafiosi from the Sicilian communities of Villabate and Bagheria, perhaps remnants of an earlier Fontana crime family.

Giuseppe Profaci

1925 – Giuseppe Profaci (Born Villabate, Sicily, Oct. 1, 1897. Died Bay Shore, NY, June 6, 1962). Profaci was descended from Mafia leaders in the Sicilian “Zubbio” organization of Villabate, Bagheria and nearby communities, and he was probably already highly regarded by relatives in the U.S. Mafia upon his 1921 immigration. Profaci initially settled in Chicago, where he managed a grocery. As the influence of Brooklyn-based Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore D’Aquila waned, Profaci began to travel again. He took a trip to Sicily in 1925 and then relocated from Chicago to Brooklyn by the middle of 1927. Salvatore DiBella gave way for Profaci to become a crime family boss. Profaci benefited from the demise of Brooklyn crime lord Frankie Yale in 1928, absorbing some of Yale’s rackets and followers. Profaci and brother-in-law Joe Magliocco were among the 21 suspicious persons arrested at a national Mafia convention at Cleveland’s Hotel Statler in December1928. Profaci maintained an outward neutrality during the Castellammarese War, though he was very close to Joseph Bonanno and secretly supported the Castellammarese effort against boss of bosses Joe Masseria.

Joe Magliocco

1958 – Joey Gallo and his brothers began to oppose boss Joe Profaci. The Gallo group splintered off from Profaci’s family over the boss’s abuses of power, and a civil war erupted in the organization. The Gallo grievance reportedly involved unjust Profaci disciplinary “hits,” regular fees Profaci assessed against made members of his crime family and Profaci’s failure to live up to promises he made to the Gallos. The Gallo revolt wins the quiet support of Anthony “Tony Bender” Strollo, leading figure in the Genovese Crime Family

1962 – Joseph Magliocco (Born Villabate, Sicily, c. 1897. Died Dec. 28, 1963). Joe Profaci died of cancer at Southside Hospital on Long Island, June 6, 1962. His brother-in-law Joe Magliocco succeeded him as boss of the family. The Gallo-Profaci War raged on.

Joseph Colombo

1963 – Joseph Colombo (Born June 16, 1923. Died May 22, 1978). Though Magliocco was Profaci’s chosen successor, a significant faction within the crime family was unhappy with the choice, and the Mafia Commission opposed it. When Magliocco was implicated in a Bonanno plot to assassinate two members of the commission – Carlo Gambino and Gaetano Lucchese – Magliocco was finally forced to resign. He died of natural causes near the end of 1963. “Sonny” Franzese looked to be next in line for the boss position, but, with the support of Carlo Gambino (who had been meddling in other family’s affairs), Joe Colombo was installed as family boss. Colombo is believed to have informed Gambino of the Bonanno-Magliocco plot against him. Colombo assigned aging Salvatore Mineo to be his underboss. Carmine Persico, formerly a member of the Gallo revolt, is elevated to capodecina.

Carmine Persico

1971 – Carmine Persico (Born Aug. 8, 1933). A Joe Colombo courtship with the press apparently cost him Carlo Gambino’s support just before it cost him his life. Colombo was mortally wounded in 1971, as he prepared to open his well-publicized second annual Italian Unity Day in New York City. Colombo had been organizing an Italian-American Civil Rights League and picketing FBI offices to protest anti-Italian bias. As a result of the gunshot wound, he lapsed into a coma. He died years later, on May 22, 1978. Carmine “the Snake” Persico took over leadership of the family. On April 7, 1972, the Gallo revolt in the family was ended, as “Crazy Joe” Gallo was shot five times in Little Italy’s Umberto’s Clam House restaurant. Gallo died on the sidewalk outside the eatery on his 43rd birthday.

American Mafia Website – Kefauver Reports

The U.S. Senate’s Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, chaired by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, did groundbreaking work in the investigation of the American mob. At a time when the FBI denied the existence of a nationwide criminal conspiracy, the Kefauver Committee uncovered the Syndicate’s tentacles in every region of the country.

Sen. Kefauver

Sen. Carey Estes Kefauver Carey Estes Kefauver, born July 26, 1903, in Tennessee, was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Yale University law department. Following the death of Congressman Sam Reynolds in 1939, Kefauver (a Democrat) was elected to complete Reynolds’ term. He was reelected four times. In 1948, he was elected to the Senate. Early in his first term, Kefauver drafted a resolution calling for a five-member special committee to investigate organized crime. The resolution succeeded in the spring of 1950 only due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Alben Barkley.

The resolution specified that the committee would be terminated on March 31, 1951. The hearings of the Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce were broadcast on television and became a public sensation. Gambling networks and corrupt officials were revealed, as were narcotics trafficking organizations and underworld infiltration of legitimate enterprises. The Senate extended the committee’s life until Sept. 1, 1951. The text of the committee hearings filled numerous volumes, and the committee published three interim reports (August 1950, February 1951, May 1951) and a final report (August 1951) before it dissolved. Kefauver was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. President in 1952 and 1956. He was nominated by the Democratic Party as Adlai Stevenson’s runningmate in 1956. Kefauver continued to serve in the Senate until his death on Aug. 0, 1963.

Committee Reports

  • First Interim Report – Aug. 18, 1950
  • Second Interim Report – Feb. 28, 1951
  • Third Interim Report – May 1, 1951
  • Final Report – Aug. 31, 1951
  • Virgil Peterson Testimony – July 6-7, 1950

Related Links

King of the Brooklyn Docks

Good Fortune

Law enforcement continued to have trouble getting charges to stick to Anastasia through the early 1930s.

He was suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of Isidore Juffe in 1932, but his role could not be proven in a courtroom. He was arrested twice in August of 1932 – first on suspicion of committing a Brooklyn homicide with an ice pick and then for consorting with known criminals. He was discharged both times. In August of 1933, witnesses identified him as the killer of a Brooklyn laundryman. Those witnesses later changed their stories, and Anastasia was let go.

While the police had a difficult time holding onto Anastasia, a Canadian-Italian woman managed to land him for good.

Elsa Bargneti, who was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1914, entered the United States through Detroit in 1934 and made her way to Brooklyn. She and Anastasia were married two years later, when he was 36 and she was 24. The couple had a son a year later. He was named Albert Jr.

Abe Reles

Abe Reles

The year 1939 turned out to be a troubling one for the leaders of Murder Inc. The murder of Peter Panto, a crusader against racketeer involvement in organized labor, caused much law enforcement energy to be focused on the Mafia’s hit squad. Abe Reles, one of Murder Inc.’s hired killers, was charged with Panto murder and decided to betray his underworld associates rather than fry for the crime.

Reles testimony helped police to more fully understand dozens of previously unsolved murders and the roles of Anastasia and Buchalter. They were able to link Anastasia in particular to the killing of Panto and to the assassination of Teamster union official Morris Diamond.

With Reles as a witness, Brooklyn District Attorney William O’Dwyer was able to win convictions against a number of mob hit-men. Buchalter would eventually get the chair for his involvement in the murder for hire organization.

O’Dwyer felt certain of winning an important conviction against Anastasia as well. His feelings changed, however, when Reles was found dead five stories below his room window at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Reles had been held at the Half Moon under armed guard while awaiting trial. A few tied-together bedsheets draped out the window suggested that Reles might have been trying to escape from police custody. But the distance his body traveled away from the hotel wall indicated that he had been thrown.

Anastasia had managed to get to Reles even while he was guarded by lawmen.

O’Dwyer’s case against the Lord High Executioner collapsed. But the Brooklyn D.A. kept the pressure on. The Mafia commission was forced to disband Murder Inc. and find another means of organizational discipline, and Anastasia was forced to change addresses for a while.

Steps Toward Legitimacy

The beginning of American involvement in the Second World War provided Anastasia with a means to vanish from New York for a while and simultaneously improve his image.

Anastasia is an army sergeant

Anastasia becomes an army sergeant

He enlisted in the armed forces on May 18, 1942. With his experience on the Brooklyn docks, he proved valuable to the military as an instructor. He was made a technical sergeant and assigned to the education of military longshoremen at Indiana Gap. Pennsylvania.

The military turned out to be Anastasia’s route to U.S. citizenship.

He took advantage of a special act of Congress, which granted speedy naturalization to aliens serving in the American armed forces, to become a citizen on June 29, 1943. He didn’t mention any of his previous run-ins with the law on his citizenship application.

At the end of the following year, the army discharged him because he was overage. He was nearly 43 at the time.

In the mid-1940s, Anastasia decided to move away from Brooklyn and follow his longtime friend Joe Adonis to the country setting of Fort Lee, New Jersey. The Brooklyn home held in the name of his wife was sold for $25,000. The Anastasias built a new, 35-room, 5-bathroom house, valued at more than $75,000 at #75 Bluff Road in Fort Lee. The property was put in the name of Albert and Elsa Bargneti. The hillside mansion, just around the corner from Adonis’s home, overlooked rolling hills and the Hudson River.

In October 1945, Anastasia showed the degree of his influence over New York’s longshoremen. A strike, relating to an inter-union power struggle, crippled the city’s docks from October 1 to 22. Anastasia then assembled his Brooklyn allies and brought them back to work. As the Brooklyn docks opened again, the strike collapsed, and the entire New York waterfront was opened for business.

 

Joe Aiello

Joe Aiello
Sept. 27, 1890, to Oct. 23, 1930.

Aiello was the boss of the Sicilian Mafia in Prohibition-Era Chicago. While Alphonse Capone is widely regarded as Chicago’s “Mafia” leader, Capone was not Sicilian and was not widely accepted by Sicilian Mafiosi (hence his obsession with dominating the Unione Siciliana brotherhood and with opening that group’s membership to non-Sicilian Italians).

Immigrant Aiello initially settled in Utica, an upstate New York community located about halfway between Albany and Rochester. About 1920, Aiello headed westward to Chicago and eventually became the acknowledged head of the post-Genna Sicilian underworld there.

During Prohibition, Aiello controlled much of the criminal element in the city’s Little Sicily, including its home liquor-making establishments, and was a thorn in Capone’s side. He actively worked to be more than just a thorn and in the late 1920s, possibly with the approval of Brooklyn’s Frank Yale, a former close friend of Capone, and the national Unione (who had grown disgusted with Capone’s meddling), Aiello allied with Bugs Moran’s mob in an attempt to destroy Capone.

The gang war did not go well for the Aiello forces, and the family leadership left Chicago for a time. The Aiello’s reportedly found sanctuary in New Jersey or in Yale territory in Brooklyn, NY.

The Aiello leadership returned to Chicago in 1928 after Yale was killed. The family was blamed for the assassinations of Capone-sponsored Unione Siciliana leaders Antonio Lombardo and Pasquale Lolordo.

After the assassination of Lolordo in January 1929, Aiello stepped up to the coveted but terribly hazardous position of Unione president.

Giuseppe Masseria of New York, the “boss of bosses” of his day, attempted to mediate the conflict between Aiello and Capone early in 1929 but only succeeded in offending Aiello (as well as his allies in Detroit, Buffalo and Brooklyn). During the early Castellammarese War, Aiello (a native of Bagheria, a wealthy suburb of Palermo) supported the forces of Salvatore Maranzano in New York against Masseria and Capone.

Aiello would have been on the winning side in the Castellammarese conflict (momentarily), but he was killed by Capone’s men on Oct. 23, 1930, near the corner of West End and Kolmar Avenues. A sketch at right shows that shots were fired from two adjacent residences across the street from Aiello’s waiting taxicab.

Joe Aiello had several brothers who also participated in bootlegging and other Mafia endeavors. Tony Aiello was injured in a Capone attack.

Crime Bosses of New Orleans

New Orleans

New Orleans was the first home of the American Mafia. Crime family roots in that community extend back as far as 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 friction between Palermo Mafia authority and the rebellious Monreale-based Stuppagghiara group that took hold in the Crescent City.

Provenzano

1865 – Raffaele Agnello (? to April 1, 1869). Descended from Palermo aristocrats, Raffaele Agnello was a leading figure in the small Sicilian colony in New Orleans. During the Union occupation of the city, Agnello’s gang was trusted to keep order along the French Quarter docks.

1869 – Joseph Agnello (? to July 1872). Believing that a Palermo-Messina feud in the New Orleans underworld has ended in his victory, Raffaele Agnello emerged from hiding and took a victory stroll through the French Quarter. He was shot in the head with a blunderbuss pistol at close range in front of the Joseph Macheca fruit store on April 1, 1869. Agnello’s brother Joseph took over leadership of the Palermo gang and eliminated some Messinian rivals.

J.P. Macheca

1872 – Joseph P. Macheca (1842 to March 14, 1891). Joe Agnello was gunned down on a New Orleans dock in summer of 1872. Though technically not a Mafioso, Macheca was the most powerful man in the New Orleans underworld. In later years, he helped to establish the Matranga family.

1875 – The first Mafia organization of New Orleans was leaderless, as Macheca supported the formation of the Matranga Stuppagghiara group.

1879 – Giuseppe Esposito (? to ?). Accused 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 putting the Provenzano family in charge of the New Orleans dock rackets.

1881 – Joseph Provenzano (? to ?). Giuseppe Esposito was betrayed to authorities and deported to Italy. The Provenzano clan, made wealthy and powerful by their control of the 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 – Joseph Provenzano (? to ?). The Provenzano clan ceased to be a major force in the New Orleans underworld.

Marcello (Macheca, Matranga)

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

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

1879 – Giuseppe Esposito – see above.

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, as it attempted to undermine the Provenzanos.

Mid-1880s – The Matranga group succeeded in winning contracts to provide dock labor to fruit companies in New Orleans. The 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. The men were acquitted. An angry mob stormed the prison. Most of the defendants, including Macheca, were murdered in the Crescent City lynchings. “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 decided to retire. He designated “Silver Dollar Sam” Carolla as 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 pull. His 1933 sentence of eight to 15 years at hard labor was cut to a 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 apparently 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.

 

Gangsters in Southwest Michigan

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A good portion of this article concerns the identity of the mysterious “Buster from Chicago.” The subject has been tackled a number of times and through a number of different methods over the years. Author David Evanier related in 2001 that Buster “actually lived and murdered for another 59 years” after 1931, dying “at the ripe old age of 83” in Los Angeles. Evanier later admitted, “Someone who claimed to be his son in California gave me some initial details that were exciting and proved to be true. The rest was fantasy.” The most extensive attempt to uncover the truth about Buster came in an article authored by Allan May, under the headline “Buster from Chicago” – Revealed?”. May’s article made a number of misleading claims.

After discounting Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno’s recognition of Buster as Bastiano Domingo, for reasons that remain inexplicable, the article went on to contend that Buster was a figment of Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi’s imagination. As proof, the author cited Valachi’s reference to Buster’s use of machine guns in his killings. May correctly observed that none of the Castellammare War murders was committed using this type of weapon. However, Buster did carry the shotgun, in a violin case, which was utilized in the killings of Manfredi Mineo and Stefano Ferrigno in November 1930. In 1963, more than 30 years after the events he described, Valachi had simply forgotten this important point. The failure by previous researchers to discover evidence of Buster’s legendary murder, led May to erroneously conclude: “When Valachi doesn’t need him anymore, Buster simply disappears – forever!” One of my goals for the article that follows is to settle once and for all the identity of “Buster from Chicago.”

Benton Harbor - Al Capone

Benton Harbor and Al Capone

Gangsters in Southwest Michigan

‘Buster from Chicago’ helps put Berrien County on the Mafia-map

Historians have neglected the role played by Berrien County, Michigan, in the history of Chicago and New York organized crime. The Berrien cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph were linked to three significant incidents in American organized crime history.

The first was the murder of powerful Chicago Mafia chieftain Antonio Lombardo in 1928. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in the Windy City also was linked with Berrien County. Both of those events had prolonged and broad reverberations. Benton Harbor was, moreover, linked to a young Mafia figure only known until now as “Buster from Chicago.” His impact on the future course taken by the American Mafia was arguably still more important.

Away from the big-city spotlight, regional underworld characters utilized Berrien County for several purposes, ranging from its use by Prohibition period figures in leisure activities, through to deploying the area as a safe place in which to dispose of a body, and as a base for moonshine liquor production.1

It was written in Benton Harbor for instance that Al Capone, “on occasion decides to either hide out locally or enjoy the summer time enjoyments of this locality.”2 The News-Palladium complained, “Capone’s presence has become so matter-of-fact here that the local citizenry, refusing to get excited about the proximity of one more headliner, has ceased to pay much attention to the comings and goings of Capone’s fleet of 16-cylinder sedans.”3 As if to underline its rest and recuperation function for organized crimesters, Capone, “as a farewell to his friends before his departure Friday for a stay in Leavenworth Penitentiary,” arranged his going-away party in 1931 at the Hotel Vincent in the city.4

Antonio Lombardo’s Killing

Violence inevitably followed from this association, with Chicago mob warfare at the epicenter. The body of a young and well-dressed Italian man shot through the head by an automatic revolver was found on September 9, 1928, face down on the shore of Lake Michigan at Hagar Township, a rural area near Benton Harbor. A Chicago-stolen and burnt out sedan was found a short distance away. All identification marks had been removed from the car, and the victim bore no identifying papers.

Antonio Lombardo

LombardoThe prevailing theory was that he had been “taken for a ride,” in retaliation for the murder of Tony Lombardo. The dead man’s build and clothes matched a description given to one of those used in the assassination. Furthermore, a blue steel gun found with the body was similar to one seen in the hand of one of Lombardo’s murderers.5 Lombardo had been slain near the busy intersection of Madison and Dearborn Streets.6 “Two men fell in step behind him, pulled out .45-caliber revolvers, and fired dumdum bullets into his head.”7 Joseph Ferraro, one of his two bodyguards, died a day later of the wounds he sustained. The shooters disappeared in the crowds.

Born 1891 in Galati Mamertino in the Messina region of eastern Sicily, Lombardo was identified as the “capo” (head) of the Chicago Mafia after the death of Mike Merlo in 1924. Second in command was Joseph Aiello.8 Aiello was Lombardo’s partner in moonshine supply racket, selling sugar and other alky paraphernalia to home distillers. Crucially, Lombardo was allied in the mob with Capone, and was said to represent Capone’s interest in the immigrant mutual aide society, the Unione Siciliana.

The Lombardo-Aiello partnership was broken by 1927, and Aiello was openly challenging Lombardo for control of the Unione.9 The struggle that developed supplied a strong motive for Aiello to order Lombardo’s assassination. Additional motive may have been afforded by the apparent Capone-sponsored murder, in July 1928, of Calabrian powerhouse Frankie Yale in Brooklyn.10

Notwithstanding these dynamics and line of investigation, the identity of the underworld victim found in Hagar remains as elusive as ever. But in a postscript, the estranged wife of Frank Biege, the “personal executioner” to Capone, told the Chicago District Attorney in 1929 that Capone had ordered her husband to “do a job” in Benton Harbor. However, she continued, that they instead fled to New Orleans, and the contract was never fulfilled.11

Fred “Killer” Burke

Joe Aiello

Aiello

Capone’s counter-attack for the murder of his friend Lombardo, and for similar infractions, was savage and unprecedented in scale, even by Chicago standards. Late in 1927, Joseph Aiello exited the Windy City. Until mid-1929, he operated in Chicago only by proxy and through an alliance with the Bugs Moran gang. The Morans had repeatedly attempted to shoot Capone’s chief triggerman, Jack McGurn, and were accused of hijacking Capone whiskey trucks in Indiana. To settle scores with the Aiello-Moran combine, believed responsible for Lombardo’s downfall, Capone devised a plan to eliminate the Morans.

On the morning of February 14, 1929, four of Capone’s men walked into the S.M.C. Cartage Company garage at 2122 North Clark Street, Chicago, after observing Moran gang members there. Acting the part of raiding police officers, the Capone gunmen disarmed their opponents, lined them up against a wall and opened fire. The Moran men, “literally torn to pieces by the withering crossfire, crumpled to the floor.”12 All except Frank Gusenberg died immediately; he lingered for three hours before succumbing to his wounds.

The case moved to Berrien County, when St. Joseph traffic Patrolman Charles Skelly was slain on the night of December 14, 1929, as he tried to intervene in a minor traffic dispute. A drunken Fred Burke shot Skelly three times after Skelly jumped on the running board of Burke’s Hudson coupe and instructed him to drive to the police station to resolve the matter. Burke apparently feared identification, since he was wanted for bank robbery and murder in Ohio.13

Fred Burke

Fred “Killer” Burke

Skelly’s murder prompted, “the greatest hue and cry and manhunt that Berrien ever knew and which attracted nationwide attention.”14 Registration records found in Burke’s abandoned car led police to a “luxuriously appointed” South Lakeshore Drive hideout south of St. Joseph, where stolen bonds and several firearms were discovered.15 Among the weapons were two Thompson machine guns, one of which was identified in Chicago as used to shoot James Clark in the Massacre. Moreover, Burke was known to pose, like the Massacre gunmen, as a policeman during the heists in which he partook.16 Burke “became the most wanted man in America, his mug shots gracing the front pages of newspapers from coast to coast.”17

Burke was born 1893 in Kansas as Thomas A. Camp. He spent his formative years in Kansas City, “eventually graduating into burglary and armed robbery.”18 Starting off by selling phony land deeds, Burke was better known to the authorities in several states for a string of heists and robberies he pulled from 1923, occasionally dabbling in kidnappings for ransom.

Al Capone

Capone

In March 1931 Burke was captured in his father-in-law’s farm in Green City, Missouri, and extradited to Michigan to face trial, as “America’s most dangerous killer.”19 Burke’s arraignment “took only a few moments but they were probably the most dramatic ever recorded in a Berrien court.” On April 27, 1931, his crime was reduced in Circuit Court to second-degree murder, when Judge White heard that Burke was drunk when he killed Skelly. Jailed for life with hard labor in Marquette Prison, Michigan,20 Burke died there on July 10, 1940, of a heart attack without ever admitting his role in the Massacre.

The St. Valentine’s Day executions signaled the end of the Moran gang as rivals for power with Capone. Without Moran’s support, Aiello was isolated by the time he was mown down by Capone’s order in October 1930. The murders of February 14, 1929, marked a turning point in the previously tolerant attitude of the Chicago public towards inter-gang atrocities.21 Pressure was placed on the federal government to put Capone away, with the Bureau of Internal Revenue assigned to spearhead the campaign. In October 1931, Capone was jailed for 11 years and fined for tax evasion. Released in 1939, he retired to his home in Palm Island, Florida, and died in January 1947.

Sebastiano ‘Buster from Chicago’ Domingo 22

Yet from 1929 to the fall of 1931, Capone was head of the most powerful syndicate in Chicago. Capone’s supremacy was exploited by New York Mafia big shot “Joe the Boss” Masseria as part of a broader design to extend his influence in the Mafia. Masseria’s campaign caused a backlash from other crime families, the rebels headed by Salvatore Maranzano, setting the stage for the “Castellammare War.” According to the U.S. Senate’s interpretation and that shared by a number of others, Maranzano’s victory in the Castellammare War “eventually involved mobs of Italian extraction throughout the United States and it led directly to the evolution of syndicated crime.”23

Maranzano’s followers were chiefly, like Buster from Chicago to which we turn, from the western Sicilian town of Castellammare del Golfo. “Buster was undoubtedly the number one killer in the Maranzano organization,” Chandler stressed, “and he drew all the important hits.”24 His significance was deeper. Without Buster, Maranzano may have not won the War, and could not have then ushered in a “new” Mafia organization, La Cosa Nostra (the LCN), that challenges law enforcement to this day.

Yet paradoxically, Buster has been one of the most mysterious identities in U.S. Mafia history. Ralph Salerno the NYPD’s former organized crime expert, like every other commentator, contended that the real name of Buster “is still unknown.”25 A number of attempts to correct this deficiency have fallen flat.26

Tony Domingo

Tony Domingo

Until 1983, insufficient detail existed to permit an accurate identification of Buster.27 Former Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno gave the game away when he identified Buster as “Bastiano Domingo.”28 During the Castellammare War, “Bastiano, or Buster, was the quickest to set up and the best shot among us. He could shoot from any angle and from any direction. His specialty was the machine gun, with which he was a virtuoso.”29 Once this information emerged, extended research filled in the blanks, leading to Benton Harbor.

Sebastiano (“Bastiano”) Domingo was born 1910 on Senna Street, Castellammare del Golfo, the son of a farm worker, Giuseppe Domingo, and Mattia (or Matilda) Farina.30 First in the Domingo clan to make the journey to New York was the eldest son, Tony Domingo,31 in 1910. New York port records showed Sebastiano, aged 3, his brother, sister and widowed mother, Mattia Farina Domingo, entering New York harbor on October 22, 1913.

The Domingos were headed for Tony’s residence in Chicago’s Oak Street neighborhood, a section “known as Death Corner because of the large number of shootings, stabbings, and murders that were committed there.”32

Mary Domingo

Mary Domingo

In following years, agricultural opportunities and real estate developments drew in many Italians to Berrien County from Chicago.33 But other Italians, perhaps including the Domingos, moved to escape the Chicago variant of the “Black Hand.” Extortionists, usually themselves of immigrant stock and operating in small bands or alone, targeted the more prosperous of their paesani for blackmail, threatening a bombing if their demands were unmet. Chicago was one location where the shakedown operators were especially active.34

Whatever their reason for settling in Berrien, the Domingos and their kinsfolk became deeply embroiled in the local bootlegging traffic over the course of the 1920s. Within the Italian section of Benton Harbor, nicknamed “Brooklyn,” a largely self-contained alcohol manufacturing and selling community existed, staffed by Domingo relatives by marriage,35 the DiMarias and the Ciaravinos. They were, like the Domingos, from Castellammare, and functioned as major bootleggers in the area.

The business of supplying thirsty customers with liquor changed. “In place of the small still operated by the individual moonshiner,” the Wickersham Commission noted in 1931, “there are plants of a capacity fairly comparable to the old-time lawful distillery and all gradations.”36 Berrien County distilleries helped serve both local and Chicago markets. In August 1929, for instance, five Sicilians transporting booze to Chicago were arrested and a plant was seized on the St. Joseph River.37 The Domingos and their kinsmen appear to have focused on neighborhood sales.

Matilda Domingo

Matilda Domingo

Tragedy awaited the Domingo extended family in Berrien County. Matilda Domingo, the six-year-old daughter of Mary and Tony, was accidentally shot dead by a single bullet fired by her 10-year-old uncle Leo DiMaria on the last day of 1925. They were alone in the Riford Street home of Stefano and Katherine DiMaria, Leo’s parents, when Leo “discharged a .38-caliber revolver he found hidden among the cushions of a davenport.” A “Chicago visitor” had left the gun in the house.38

On August 24, 1926, Sam and Frank DiMaria lost their lives when they fell into a distillery vat containing acid fumes. The plant, hidden in a barn, was one of the largest yet uncovered in Berrien County. As events were reconstructed, Frank tried to pull out Sam, but had succumbed to the fumes that killed his brother. “Then there was an appalling silence and frantic cries no longer came from the interior of the huge circular container.” At the rear was another alcohol producing installation.39

The Ciaravino family shared the DiMaria’s appetite for bootlegging revenues. Tony Ciaravino was sentenced in 1924 to up to a year for a liquor violation. His brother Gaspare “Jasper” Ciaravino pleaded guilty in February 1926 to a similar offense and was jailed for six months.40 It was his third such conviction; in 1922 and 1924, Gaspare was sentenced for offenses under the Prohibition laws.

As an alcohol-related feud erupted in April 1929, Carlo Ciaravino’s head was blown off at close range in his sleep.41 Carlo was the brother-in-law to Mary Domingo.

Late in April 1927, Prohibition agents announced “the biggest liquor haul ever made in Berrien County, and one of the largest in the state.” Leo Ciaravino, Gaspare’s son, owned the biggest plant, featuring three stills capable of producing 240 gallons of liquor daily. At Tony Domingo’s farm, an 80-gallons distillery was uncovered, along with 18 gallons of liquor and 2,000 gallons of alky manufacturing mash in barrels.42

Bootleg bombing

Driving back from Benton Harbor to their farm, Mary Domingo was blown apart on October 22, 1927, when a bomb planted in the Ford coupe she was driving exploded. The car belonged to her husband Tony, the likely target of the bombing. Detectives revealed that the explosive had been wired to the manifold under the car’s hood. Mary’s body was found fifteen feet away from the destroyed vehicle, “a flaming heap of wreckage.” She was “mutilated almost beyond recognition.”43

Newspaper accounts described the dramatic aftermath. Tony and his brother Sebastiano opened fire in the Fourth Ward Republican Club while looking for Mary’s alleged assassin, Louie Vieglo. Vieglo escaped through a back door. Shooting carried on in nearby streets and the two men were finally arrested while looking for Vieglo at his store. Vieglo had fled in a stolen car, and was not heard from again. His wife told of how Tony Domingo had blamed her for his estrangement from Mary and how the families had not spoken for a year.44 Vieglo and Tony Domingo had once been in business together.45 Tony and Sebastiano were released the following day.46

‘Buster’ Heads East

Tony Domingo sold his Riverside Road farm in Hagar Township and in 1928 moved back to Chicago where he shared Mary’s fate. On August 29, 1929, he was eating in an Ogden Street restaurant owned by Pasquale Spilotro (father of celebrity Chicago-Las Vegas gangster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, depicted in the motion picture Casino), when an assassin shot him dead.47 The Cook County coroner heard how Tony had his back to the door of the restaurant when nine shots were fired into his body from the street. Nobody saw the gunmen, but the revolver reports were heard.48 Sebastiano was mentioned only once during the inquest proceedings, as Tony’s brother who met him in front of a West Erie Street candy store “for the past several weeks.”49

Mary Domingo gravesiteThe News-Palladium declared that Tony’s “vow to avenge the dynamite death of his wife … must remain forever unfulfilled.”50 Although Tony’s murderers were never caught or prosecuted, Sebastiano purportedly believed that Capone was behind his death, furnishing a powerful reason for his eagerness to join in a Maranzano led war against the Capone-Masseria alliance.

As of April 1930, Sebastiano Domingo had moved to New Castle Township, in Westchester County, New York, nearer to the upcoming Castellammare War fighting in New York City.51 Surrounded during his formative years in America with a high level of lawlessness and violence in both Benton Harbor and Chicago, and with the advantage of being able to gun down Masseria members in New York without recognition, Domingo was an excellent addition to the Maranzano stable of shooters. Domingo’s skill in the use of a revolver and shotgun proved decisive. Within months, Masseria was suing for peace. It did Masseria no good – his own men betrayed and killed him in a Coney Island restaurant on April 15, 1931, a move that left Maranzano temporarily in command of the U.S. “honored society.”52

As other sources mistakenly assume that Buster’s life left no trace, they wrongly claim that there is no record of Buster’s murder.53 Yet the New York press openly reported the death of “Charles Dominico,” confirmed by his death certificate and headstone as Sebastiano Domingo.

On the night of May 30, 1933, four armed men burst into the Castle Café at 72 East First Street and opened fire on those playing cards. When the gun smoke cleared, Domingo was dead and five others were wounded, one (Salvatore Ferrara) subsequently also dying. According to an eyewitness, one of the gunmen shouted, “You bunch of rats,” before shooting. The assassins ran outside and vanished.54 The Domingo and Ferrara funerals on June 3, 1933, attracted over 200 people, including friends and relatives.55

Conclusion

The events described were inter-connected. The Lombardo homicide and its sequel, the St. Valentine’s Massacre, catapulted Capone into a position of pre-eminence in Chicago. Capone’s participation arguably hastened the Castellammare War showdown, as Masseria assumed that Capone’s support would lead to a quick and final outcome. After switching sides to Maranzano, Capone further gained influence during the War in which Domingo was involved.

Research into organized crime history has concentrated on major metropolitan areas, neglecting their interaction with surrounding communities. The three cases presented have displayed a reciprocal relationship.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’s Killer Burke and the slayers of the unidentified victim used Berrien County as a convenient location away from prying official eyes. Sebastiano Domingo’s experience was of contraband alcohol production in Benton Harbor. Ties to Maranzano’s New York faction, together with family misfortunes, took him from Michigan to fight a Mafia war with critical implications. In these guises, Berrien County is deserving of note for its important place in American underworld history.

 


Maranzano’s henchman

Sebastiano Domingo was implicated in the key murders that decided the Castellammare War in Salvatore Maranzano’s favor. Joseph Valachi’s information was used to reconstruct Domingo’s role.

• Joseph Morello was slain at about 3.30 p.m. on August 15, 1930, in an office on the second floor at 352 East 116th Street. Three men were sitting around a table when two gunmen burst in. “They paused only to take aim,” the New York Times recorded, “and then fired.” Also killed was Giuseppe Piraino. Gaspare Pollaro was seriously wounded. Above the office was the home of Mary Lima, Morello’s sister, who heard the gunfire and saw two assassins run into the street.56 Domingo told Valachi how Morello was killed.57

• The first time Valachi met Domingo was when they were stalking Manfredi Mineo and Stefano Ferrigno, top lieutenants in the Masseria outfit. Those lying in wait were Girolomo (Bobby Doyle) Santucci, Domingo and Nick Capucci. Mineo and Ferrigno were slain on the afternoon of November 5, 1930, as they came out of the courtyard of an apartment house at 760 Pelham Parkway. Ferrigno was shot through the head and neck. The back of Mineo’s head had been almost blown off. Three shooters were seen running from the scene.58 Valachi was away, “in the neighborhood,” when the murders were committed, but heard the details later.59

Sebastiano Domingo

Sebastiano Domingo

• Giuseppe “Joe the Baker” Catania’s death was a condition of Maranzano making peace. Valachi was the driver of the getaway car used in the murder. Domingo, Salvatore Shillitani and Nick Capuzzi conducted the execution.60 Six slugs, fired from an apartment in a building across the street, hit Catania on February 3, 1931, as he stood before a candy store on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. Catania was another Masseria man: “Sally said he that he saw dust come out of Joe’s coat as the bullets hit him in the back.”61

• On a previously unreported mission, this one out of town, Domingo and an associate mowed down two unidentified men who had crossed Maranzano.62

White-Collar Mafioso: Tommy Lucchese (1899-1967)

Despite running one of New York’s smaller underworld units, Gaetano “Tommy” Lucchese was one of the more successful American Mafia bosses of the post-Prohibition era. Abundant evidence of his business acumen suggests he was among the few mob chiefs who could have succeeded in life without underworld ties. Tommy Lucchese Tommy Lucchese Lucchese, whose surname has been spelled Luchese (which leads to mispronunciations) and Luckese, was a native of Palermo. His family reportedly immigrated to East Harlem around 1911.1 In that community, young Lucchese became affiliated with the Ciro Terranova-dominated 107th Street Mob.2 That affiliation also put him in touch with the Democratic political machine in New York City, which made regular use of street gangs.
Lucchese apparently had great interest in politics and would eventually emerge as one of the more influential gang leaders in the nation. At about the age of 20, Lucchese lost his right index finger in an accident at a Harlem machine shop. Though he actually had four fingers remaining on the hand, he came to share a nickname with a popular pitcher of the day, “Three-Finger Brown.” The use of the nickname for Lucchese has been historically attributed to a wisecracking police officer who happened to be a fan of baseball’s Mordecai Brown and, noting Lucchese’s missing digit, recorded “Three-Finger Brown” as a Lucchese alias. Lucchese appeared to dislike the monicker, but his underworld associates often referred to him as “Brown.” 3 In 1921, Lucchese was convicted of auto theft in Riverhead, Long Island. He quietly did his time – three years in Sing Sing prison – and emerged with a Mafia badge of honor, a prison record. After that auto theft conviction, law enforcement would never again score a victory against Lucchese.4 As he matured, Lucchese moved into leadership roles with Gaetano Reina’s Mafia organization in the Bronx. In July of 1928 he was one of three men arrested for the murder of Louis Cerasulo.
After six days, the charges were dropped. 5 Gagliano Gagliano By the outbreak of the American underworld’s Castellammarese War in 1930, Lucchese and Tom Gagliano were the key men in Reina’s crime family. Outwardly supporting “Joe the Boss” Masseria during the tense moments before the war, Reina’s family secretly opposed Masseria’s reign.6 Masseria caught wind of the betrayal late in 1929. Joe the Boss had Reina killed on Feb. 26, 1930, and handpicked the new head of Reina’s family, Joe Pinzolo.7 Lucchese and Gagliano appear to have cooperated on the assassination of Pinzolo on Sept. 5, 1930. Pinzolo was gunned down in an office he shared with Lucchese at 1457 Broadway. (The two men were partners in a “wine brick” business known as California Dried Fruit Importers, which skirted the Prohibition law. Wine bricks were blocks of crushed grapes that could be reconstituted by setting them in water. Fermentation would then yield wine.) Gagliano replaced Pinzolo as head of the old Reina family. Lucchese became the family’s underboss.
Wanted by police in connection with the Pinzolo murder, Lucchese turned himself in on Sept. 8. A grand jury failed to indict him on the murder charge. (Joe Valachi later testified that “Bobby Doyle” Santucci killed Pinzolo.)8 Schmeling fight weigh-in Schmeling fight weigh-in He was also arrested in July of 1931. The charge was suspicion. Lucchese was nabbed by Cleveland police while he was sitting ringside at the Stribling-Schmeling heavyweight boxing match. His two companions, Charlie Luciano and Joseph Biondo, were also arrested. While the arrest reportedly prevented the men from witnessing Schmeling’s 15-round victory, it presented little other trouble. The three men were quickly released.9 Police questioned Lucchese after the September 1931 murder of Salvatore Maranzano. Some sources believe that Lucchese secretly informed Luciano and Vito Genovese that Maranzano planned to have them killed. That information reportedly led to a preemptive strike by Luciano and Genovese. With Lucchese undeniably in the presence of Luciano at the Cleveland fights just two months before the Maranzano assassination, the story appears to have merit.
10 Lucchese was naturalized an American citizen on Jan. 25, 1943, in Newark, NJ. It took him seven more years to secure a certificate of good conduct from the New York State Parole Board. At that time, his 1921 felony conviction no longer stood as an obstacle to his voting rights.11 Though he was not personally able to cast a ballot in the elections, Lucchese’s backing of Vincent Impellitteri for City Council president in 1945 and for mayor in 1950 is fairly well documented. After accusations of mob involvement in Impellitteri’s career surfaced in the 1950 campaign, Impellitteri severed the relationship.12 Leading a family By the 1950s, Lucchese was outwardly a prospering vice president of a garment factory, Braunell, Ltd., of 50 East Ninth Street.13 Behind the scenes, his corrupting influence was felt in garment workers unions, longshoremen unions and truckers unions as well as in the New York City government and the local entertainment industry. Jimmy Durante Durante Part owner of some downtown hotspots, including the Casino de Paris and the Music Hall, Lucchese was known to be friendly with Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (Sinatra and Martin were linked to Lucchese through joint investments in the Berkshire Downs Race Track in Massachusetts).
14 A treasury agent of the day reported, “Gaetano Lucchese… has become as dangerous a character — if not more so — than Costello in his heyday.” (Costello apparently lost most of his political connections after his appearance at the Kefauver Committee hearings.)15 Lucchese became family boss after Gagliano’s death of natural causes about 1951-52. (Some sources say Gagliano lived until 1953. A few have argued for 1951. Lucchese seemed to resolve the matter by referring to Gagliano as deceased during a 1952 questioning.)16 John Dioguardi Dioguardi The new boss drew to him such underworld characters as Johnny “Dio” Dioguardi, Vincent Rao and Antonio Corallo, men who possessed both keen business sense and willingness to employ extreme violence. Dio was influential with the Teamsters Union and helped Jimmy Hoffa win election to the union presidency. He appears to have excelled in investment frauds. He created, sought investors for and bankrupted various paper corporations until government investigators caught up with him in the 1960s. Dio’s brutal side came to light in 1956, when he ordered the acid-blinding of crusading journalist Victor Riesel.17 Vincent Rao Rao Rao, who rose to the position of family consigliere and eventually might have become boss if his underworld career had not been interrupted by a stay in federal prison (perjury), had interests in gambling, real estate, labor unions and construction. His forte appears to have been money-laundering. In the mid-50s, he was president of a largely fictitious local of the International Hod Carriers union and inked lucrative contracts with the Five Boroughs Hoisting Co., a firm Rao himself owned.18 Anthony Corallo Corallo Like Dio and Rao, Corallo knew how to handle money. His personal rackets were largely confined to the construction and waste hauling industries.
A 1968 bribery conviction exposed Corallo’s connections to New York’s City Hall and brought down a member of Mayor John Lindsay’s administration. Further corrupt connections to the Tammany Hall political machine run by Carmine DeSapio were revealed a year later.19 The presence of such men allowed Lucchese’s organization to successfully compete with much larger New York families, like the Genovese and Gambino clans. Exposure and decline Lucchese’s success also brought government scrutiny. He was called to testify before the New York State Crime Commission in September of 1952. The commission hearings unearthed the gang boss’s connections to a sitting U.S. attorney, a former New York mayor and a future city police commissioner.20 Immediately after the state hearings, federal authorities moved to have Lucchese denaturalized and deported. He was able to defeat the attempts in court.21 Carlo Gambino Gambino In the early 1960s, mob informer Joe Valachi indicated that Lucchese was one of the five New York members of the U.S. crime syndicate’s ruling Commission. He served alongside Vito Genovese’s acting boss Tommy Eboli, Carlo Gambino, Giuseppe Magliocco and Joseph Bonanno (Bonanno would soon after be thrown out of the Commission for plotting against Lucchese and Gambino). Lucchese, once a rival of Gambino, had developed a close with the crime family boss.

The two men became related by marriage.22 When questioned by the Nassau County district attorney about Valachi-related allegations, Lucchese reportedly said, “Valachi’s crazy. I know nothing about any Cosa Nostra. The only thing I belong to is the Knights of Columbus.”23 Lucchese went into Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

Carlo Gambino

in early August of 1965 with a brain tumor and a heart ailment. A year later, he was still hospitalized and the Mafia’s Commission began dividing up his rackets. LaStella Restaurant arrests LaStella Restaurant arrests A September 1966 raid in a basement dining room at La Stella Restaurant in Queens, NY, netted Carlo Gambino, Mike Miranda, Joe Columbo, Tommy Eboli, Joey Gallo, Aniello Dellacroce and other mafiosi from New York and New Orleans. The apparent purpose of the meeting was to decide the future course of the Lucchese Crime Family. Police dubbed the gathering a “Little Apalachin.”24 “Three-Finger Brown,” aging and frail, returned to his Lido Beach, Long Island, home April 11, 1967.

He died there on July 13 at the age of sixty seven.25 Rao was prevented from taking over the fLaStella Restaurant arrestsamily, as he was beginning a five-year federal sentence for perjury (another five-year sentence would be added on an additional perjury charge two years later). Antonio “Tony Ducks” Corallo’s election to the top post was delayed, as he was finishing up a prison term for bribing a city water commissioner. Racketeer Carmine Tramunti kept the seat warm as acting boss for Corallo for several years. Corallo, Lucchese’s formal successor, ran the Lucchese Crime Family empire for a decade and a half until the federal Commission trial in 1986. Corallo, already in his 70s, was sentenced to serve 100 years in prison. He died Aug. 23, 2000, at the age of 87.26

Notes

1. “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead,” New York Times, July 14, 1967, p. 27.

2. While there is no documentation for direct interaction between Terranova and Lucchese, the two men had mutual underworld associates and prowled the same East Harlem territory: Reid, Ed, The Shame of New York, New York: Random House, 1953, p. 43, 58.

3. The story of the nickname is found in Raab, Selwyn, Five Families, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006, p. 102; and in “Luchese presents study in contrasts,” New York Times, Oct. 11, 1952, p. 26. Lucchese’s dislike of the name was noted in Maas, Peter, The Valachi Papers, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1968, p. 95; and in Lucchese’s testimony before a New York State Crime Commission: “Analysis of his testimony before board unfolds unsavory record,” New York Times, Nov. 22, 1952, p. 1. (He told the commission he would spit in the face of any man who called him “Three-Finger Brown.”)

4. “Luchese presents study in contrasts;” “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead;” Reid, The Shame of New York, p. 56-57.

5. “Luchese presents a study in contrasts.”

6. Bonanno, Joseph with Sergio Lalli, A Man of Honor, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983, p. 84, 106.

7. Bonanno, A Man of Honor, p. 106; Maas, The Valachi Papers, p. 86-87; “Wealthy ice dealer slain in doorway,” New York Times, Feb. 27, 1930, p. 3.

8. Maas, The Valachi Papers, p. 87; Bonanno, A Man of Honor, p. 116; “Luchese presents a study in contrasts.”

9. “Luchese presents a study in contrasts.”

10. “Luchese presents a study in contrasts;” Bonanno, A Man of Honor, p. 139; “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead.”

11. “Analysis of his testimony before board unfolds unsavory record.”

12. “Luchese presents a study in contrasts;” Reid, The Shame of New York.

13. “Luchese presents a study in contrasts;” places the manufacturing plant at this address and notes that display showrooms were located at 262 West 38th Street. Reid, The Shame of New York, p. 57, places the company at 225 West 37th Street.

14. Gage, Nicholas, “Ex-aides say Justice Dept. rejected a Sinatra inquiry,” New York Times, Wed., April 14, 1976, p. 81.

15. “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead.”

16. “Analysis of his testimony before board unfolds unsavory record;” Bonanno, A Man of Honor, p. 160, indicates that Gagliano remained boss until 1953 when Lucchese took over.

17. Raskin, A.H., “Thug hurls acid on labor writer,” New York Times, April 6, 1956, p. 1; Levy, Stanley, “Rackets and crime linked in Riesel case,” New York Times, Sept. 2, 1956, p. 10; “Threats delay acid case trial,” Binghamton NY Press, May 20, 1957, p. 14.

18. Riesel, Victor, “Phantom hod boss,” Oakland Tribune, Oct. 5, 1959, p. 15.

19. Amateau, Albert, “Carmine DeSapio, Village native son who ran Tammany,” The Villager, Vol. 74 No. 14, Aug. 4-10, 2004.

20. “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead,” indicates that Lucchese was found to be a friend of Myles J. Lane, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; future Police Commissioner Thomas J. Murphy; and former Mayor Vincent Impelliteri. “Analysis of his testimony before board unfolds unsavory record.”

21. “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead.”

22. Bonanno, A Man of Honor, p. 121.

23. “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead.”

24.”Mafia chiefs seized,” Syracuse NY Herald-Journal, Fri., Sept. 23, 1966.

25. “Thomas Luchese, rackets boss called 3-finger Brown, is dead;” “Luchese, Cosa Nostra boss, dead,” Syracuse NY Post-Standard, July 14, 1967, p. 1.

26. Feuer, Alan, “Anthony Corallo, mob boss, dies in federal prison at 87,” New York Times, Sept. 1, 2000.

THE AMERICAN MAFIA – Crime Bosses of Pittson

This Mafia family sprang up in the northeast Pennsylvania coal mining communities of Pittston, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The group also had members in nearby New York state, western New York, NeW York City and the Philadelphia area. At times, the family’s territory blended with that of the Buffalo crime family. The Pittston organization was always very close to the Genovese organization in New York.

1903 – Tomasso Petto (Killed Browntown PA, Oct. 25, 1905). Fleeing prosecution for New York City’s “barrel murder,” Tomasso Petto (known as “il Bove”), left, moved to the Pittston suburb of Browntown and engaged in black hand extortion against the more affluent Italian residents. Locally, he was known by the alias of Luciano Perrino.

Petto1904 – Santo Caressi (? to ?). Petto was murdered, apparently in retaliation for the barrel murder. Extortion victims and underworld rivals might also have had a hand in his death. At the time, Santo Caressi led a band of robbers and extortionists in Carbondale. Caressi was captured by a constable working with an anti-Mafia citizens’ group on Nov. 28, 1904. As he was taken into custody, the law enforcement group was attacked by Caressi men. Two members of the citizens’ group were shot and killed.

1905 – John Costa (? to ?). In 1905, Carbondale police apprehended John Costa, a New York Mafioso who frequently visited Carbondale, oversaw northeast Pennsylvania rackets and collected tribute payments for his New York criminal society.

1903 – Stefano LaTorre (Born Montedoro Sicily, March 12, 1886. Died Pittston PA, July 1984). LaTorre (right), who entered the U.S. in May 1903, looks to have been an early leader of a secret organization of underworld figures from Montedoro, Sicily. After arriving in Pittston, LaTorre saved up to pay for the transatlantic passage of his brother-in-law Montedoro Mafia boss Santo Volpe.

Santo Volpe

1908 – Santo Volpe (Born Montedoro Sicily, 1880. Died West Pittston PA, Dec. 2, 1958). In addition to his work as president of a coal company, Volpe (left) led a criminal organization in northern Pennsylvania mining communities. Volpe was Stefano LaTorre’s brother-in-law, and joined LaTorre in Pennsylvania in 1906. Volpe was suspected of avenging the 1932 deaths of James, Arthur and John Volpe, not related to him, by participating in the murder of Pittsburgh boss John Bazzano. Volpe, called the King of the Night, is regarded as one of the organizers of the secret alliance known as the Men of Montedoro.

1933 – Giovanni Sciandra (Born Montedoro Sicily, April 10, 1899. Died c.1949). Coal miner Sciandra appears to have taken control of day-to-day operations in the Scranton crime family after about 1933. Many assume that Sciandra rose to power upon the death of Santo Volpe. However, there is evidence that Volpe was alive and involved in Mafia affairs until 1958. The Pittston family of the 1930s seems to have been operating under the auspices of New York’s Luciano-Genovese family.

Joe Barbara

Note: Giuseppe Barbara (Born Castellammare del Golfo Sicily, Aug. 9, 1905. Died Johnson City NY, June 17, 1959). Many historians believe that Barbara took over the Pittston-centered Mafia about 1940. His alleged assumption of power in northeast Pennsylvania coordinates with the belief that John Sciandra was murdered in 1940 on orders from Barbara. However, there is no evidence that Sciandra was murdered in 1940 or at any other time. He seems to have died of natural causes around 1949. It appears more likely that Barbara served as Buffalo Crime Family capodecina over the distant Castellammarese Mafia outpost in Endicott, NY. Barbara is known to have cooperated closely with Pittston’s Men of Montedoro, but there is insufficient evidence that he interrupted the Montedoro succession in Pittston. The fact that Barbara hosted national conventions of Mafiosi at his Apalachin country estate in 1956 and 1957 caused many of his time to believe he held a more significant spot in the Mafia hierarchy – some believed he was the supreme boss of the American Mafia. However, we now know that Barbara was ordered to host those conventions by Stefano Magaddino, boss of the Buffalo area.

1949 – Rosario Bufalino (Born Montedoro Sicily, Sept. 29, 1903. Died Kingston PA, Feb. 25, 1994). “Russell” Bufalino likely became acting boss for the Pittston area after John Sciandra’s death in 1949. Santo Volpe, the aging King of the Night, served in an advisory role.

Russell Bufalino

1957 – Russell Bufalino was boss of the northeast Pennsylvania Mafia at the time the American Mafia gathered for a convention at Joseph Barbara’s Apalachin estate. Police crashed the party, took down names and license plate numbers and established links between Mafia groups in different U.S. regions. Bufalino’s family began to emerge from under the Genovese family shadow in the 1960s. The Scranton organization began to engage in rackets in the Buffalo, NY, region and in Canada.

1970s – Bufalino was one of the U.S. Mafia’s most influential characters until his death in 1994. He is widely believed to have had a part in the disappearance of former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa.

1975 – Edward Sciandra (Born Montedoro Sicily, Nov. 13, 1912. Died Hallandale FL, July 13, 2003.) In the mid-1970s, Edward Sciandra of New York City, cousin to former boss Giovanni Sciandra, was believed to be calling the shots for the Scranton-Pittston family while Bufalino dealt with legal troubles.

1990 – In 1990, the Pennsylvania Crime Commission listed William D’Elia as a “significant member” of the Bufalino organization. D’Elia, former driver for Bufalino, stood in for Bufalino at crime family meetings. It appears that he was being groomed as the successor to Bufalino.

William DElia

1994 – William D’Elia (Born c.1947.) After Bufalino’s death, D’Elia stepped up to the top spot in the crime family. In 2001, he was identified as the Scranton boss by Ralph Natale, the turncoat Philadelphia mob leader. Natale indicated that D’Elia had helped resolve disputes within the Philadelphia family.

2006 – D’Elia, 59, was indicted for money laundering in May. He was released only to be rearrested and charged with additional counts of money laundering as well as witness intimidation.

‘Clutch Hand’ Confusion

Mafia Boss of Bosses Giuseppe Morello

There is no more mysterious and confusing figure in American Mafia history than the powerful Giuseppe Morello, who more than once climbed to the pinnacle of the society’s leadership.

While many details of Morello’s life are documented, a number of major puzzles remain. The precise nature of the working relationship between Morello and infamous Black Hander Ignazio Lupo is in doubt. The relationship between Morello and later crime boss Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria is similarly cloudy. Some historians have also been confused by Morello’s personal family history, by the appearance of a powerful Mafioso named Peter Morello in the Prohibition Era and by tales of an uptown abatoir in which the Morellos allegedly slaughtered their enemies.

I will attempt, as best I can, to resolve these issues here. Some questions will certainly remain, but many can be put behind us. And I believe most of the rest will prove to be inconsequential. For the few stubborn issues that remain both important and unresolved, perhaps drawing attention to them here will help other investigators in their research.

Family History

Historical works often disagree on Morello’s birth date. Many sources point to 1870 as the probable year. But it is important to note that Mafia historians frequently draw information from each other. Eighteen-seventy may have started as someone’s educated guess and through repetition became regarded as fact. David Leon Chandler places Morello’s birth back in 1863 put provides little clue why he has done so.

Giuseppe Morello

Giuseppe Morello

In fact, official documents indicate Morello’s birth date was May 2, 1867. He was born to Calogero and Angela Piazza Morello in the Sicilian town of Corleone. (The town has a rich and colorful history, though it is now more widely known for its impact on the “Godfather” stories.)

A few years after the birth of Morello’s sister Maria, their father died. Angela Piazza later remarried. She and her husband Bernardo Terranova had at least three sons and three daughters.

Some Mafia historians have had some trouble tracking the number of Morello brothers and their ages. Allan May, among others, lists four brothers and two half-brothers. But May stumbles when he counts “Peter” as a blood brother of Giuseppe Morello. Peter was, in fact, the same person as Giuseppe. But more about that later.

Further confusion results from speculation that the Terranova boys were step-brothers rather than half-brothers of Morello.

Birth records from Italy and immigration records in the United States show conclusively that Ciro, Vincenzo and Nicolas Terranova were half-brothers of Morello, as they were also born of Angela Piazza. Vincenzo was born in 1886. Ciro arrived a couple of years later. Nicholas was born in 1890. Morello’s half-sisters were Lucia, Salvatrice and Rosalia.

Nicholas has been a particular problem for historians because he apparently used the Morello surname on business documents. When he was found murdered on a Brooklyn street in 1916, he was in possession of documents identifying him as Nicholas Morello. Police called Ciro Terranova to the scene. In his conversation with authorities, Terranova drew a distinction between Nicholas and his step-brother Giuseppe Morello. But authorities seemed not to pick up on that.

Another bothersome story relates to the deaths of Morello relatives named Antonio. Some sources indicate that Antonio was Morello’s father, shot down after a night of drunken gambling. Others say Antonio was an older brother murdered under similar circumstances. There is no evidence to support either claim. There seems to have been no one in the Morello family named Antonio.

The Morello-Terranova clan family entered the U.S. in spring of 1893. While the rest of his family is noted on the manifest of the S.S. Alsatia, Giuseppe Morello’s name does not appear there. It seems he entered the country under an assumed name.

After an initial landing in New York, they lived for a time in Louisiana and Texas before returning east.