Joe Bruno on the Mob — The Morello Brothers

Antonio Morello was born in Corleone, Sicily in 1864. He had two younger siblings, Nick Morello born in 1866 and Joe “The Clutch Hand” Morello, born in 1867. They immediately gravitated to a life of crime and started working extensively for the Sicilian Mafia. The Morellos were an especially vicious clan, and Antonio Morello alone was suspected of committing between 30 and 40 murders in the 1890’s.

By 1892, Antonio, Nick and Joe were all inducted as made men into the Corleonesse Mafia. In 1893, Joe Morello, under contract from the Mafia, reportedly killed Corleone police official Giovanni Vella. Two woman were witnesses. One was killed, the other threatened, and Joe Morello escaped arrest. He was not as fortunate a year later, when he was nailed for counterfeiting and sentenced to six years in Sicilian prison. But he never served a day, because he escaped to America, along with his two brothers, and two half-brothers Ciro Terranova and Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta.

In America, the Morello clan organized the infamous Black Hand, whereby they wrote sinister letters to Italian immigrants, threating to kill them if the did not pay protection money. The note was always punctuated at the bottom by a chilling drawing of a “black hand.” Their first headquarters was in East Harlem, where they operated a “Murder Stable,” where scores of men were tortured and killed, their screams for mercy echoing in the midst of night throughout the streets of East Harlem.

Things started going sour for the Morello clan, when in 1898, Antonio Morello was shot to death by a rival Mafioso, reportedly over the affections of a woman. Things became worse in 1909, when Joe Morello and Ignazio Saietta were arrested, tried and convicted for Joe Morello’s old swindle – counterfeiting. They were sentenced to a staggering 30 years in prison, but were released in 10 years, after allegedly greasing the right politician’s palms, which was not an uncommon practice in those days.

With his brother Joe imprisoned, Nick Morello assumed control of the family business. He immediately was confronted with the problem of the Neapolitan Camorra, which was the Naples version of the Sicilian Mafia. The Camorra, led by Don Pellegrino Morano, was moving in on Nick Morello’s territories in East Harlem and also in Greenwich Village. In 1914, After bodies piled up on both sides, Morello petitioned Morano for a truce, whereby their could peacefully divvy up the territories, so both could continue to make money, without the fear of being killed. Morano initially refused, but in 1916, he changed his mind and said a truce was the right thing to do. He enticed Nick Morello to Navy Street in Brooklyn for a meeting, guaranteed his safety. Morello agreed, and as he and his bodyguard exited their car, five of Morano’s men opened fire, killing them both.

When Joe Morello was released from prison in 1920, he tried to regain control of the remnants of his mob. But he was thwarted by Joe “The Boss” Masseria, who was now considered head man in the New York City Mafia. But Masseria, recognizing Morello’s skills with a gun and with a knife, made Morello his bodyguard, then his top lieutenant.

1930, Masseria became involved in the Castellammarese War against Salvatore Maranzano. Scores of men were killed on both sides, including the last surviving Morello brother. On August 15, 1930, Joe Morello was counting cash in his East Harlem business office, when someone known only as “Buster from Chicago” barged in and filled Morello’s body with lead.

The three Morello brothers lived by the sword and they died by the sword, which didn’t deter scores of other men from battling to assume their places in American infamy.


5 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob — The Morello Brothers”

  1. What is your evidence for the births of Antonio and Nick Morello in Corleone?

    • Various research books, including Mike Dash’s “The First Family.

      • I found Mike Dash’s reference to Antonio Morello. Here is what he says: “Another account held that Giuseppe had a brother, Antonio, who preceded him as boss in New York, and who once shot dead the dreaded leader of a rival criminal society, the Camorra. The battered transcripts of Antonio Morello’s 1892 murder trial, rescued in the early 1980s from a dumpster and now archived in an obscure law library, reveal that he was neither a member of the Mafia nor any relation to his more celebrated “brother,” and also that the man he killed was a one-armed organ grinder with no criminal record who had crudely insulted Morello’s wife.”

  2. Theresa mollica Says:

    Dose any of your books cover the murder of Carmillo Mollica in the murder stables?

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