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.