Joe Bruno on the Mob — Salvatore Maranzano

Salvatore Maranzano is the Mafia leader who organized the first Cosa Nostra in America. Maranzano was born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily in 1886. As a young man, the college-educated Maranzano studied to become a priest, but then he did a 180-degree turn and became a Mafioso instead. He came under the influence of Sicilian Mafia Boss Don Vito Cascio Ferro and soon was groomed by Ferro to be his second in command.

In 1925, Ferro sent Maranzano to America to organize the Sicilian crime families into one powerful group. Ferro planned to eventually come to America himself and assume the title of “Capi de Tutti Capi” (Boss of All Bosses), but he was arrested in 1926 by Sicilian prefect Cesaer Mori, on a trumped up charge, and sentenced to life in prison. This opened the door for Maranzano to take his bosses’ place at the top of the mob heap in America.

When Maranzano arrived in America, he was ostensibly in the real estate business. When, in fact, he was a major bootlegger, who specialized in “homebrew,” where he employed hundreds of people to produce illegal booze in their homes, which Maranzano’s men distributed throughout New York and New Jersey, and even as far as Pittsburgh. Maranzano’s long-range plan was to unseat New York’s top mafia chief, Joe “The Boss” Masseria, then reorganize the fractured crime families, including non-Italians, into one large organization, with several “Bosses” leading their individual families and Maranzano as the top boss of all the families. Masseria did not agree with Maranzano’s vision, and the result was the Castellammarese War, where the casualty count in both Masseria and Maranzano’s ranks totaled over fifty dead bodies.

In 1928, in order to achieve his goal, Maranzano tried to recruit Masseria’s top lieutenant, Charles “Lucky” Luciano to take out Masseria. Luciano balked at first, but in 1931, Luciano, tired of Masseria’s greed, and also Masseria’s ban on Luciano working with non-Sicilians, switched sides and agreed to take out Masseria. Luciano lured Masseria to an Italian Restaurant in Coney Island, and with Luciano conveniently in the men’s room, four men, led by deranged killer Bugsy Siegel, filled Masseria’s belly with lead, to go with the Chicken Parmesan he had eaten earlier.

With Masseria out of the way, Maranzano was on top of the American Mafia world, or so he thought. He summoned more than five hundred Mafioso to a meeting in the Bronx. At this meeting, he outlined a Roman Empire-type organization, with the entire New York Mafia being divided into five families, each with a boss, and underboss, lieutenants and soldiers. He dubbed his new organization the “Cosa Nostra,” or “Our Thing.” Of course, Maranzano inserted himself as “Boss of All Bosses,” which did not sit well with Luciano and his pals, which included Frank Costello, Vito Genovese and Joe Adonis, in addition to Jewish gangsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.

Maranzano, ever the wily fox, knew Luciano had the adulation of many of the top New York City mobsters, and would eventually try to wrest control from Maranzano. So Maranzano compiled a “death list” of guys who had to go, and Luciano’s name stood right at the top. Maranzano struck a deal with kill-crazy, Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole, to murder both Luciano and Genovese, while they were present at Maranzano’s midtown office. He gave Cole $25,000 down, with $25,000 more due, upon the completion of his task. But Luciano caught wind of the plot and sent his own execution squad to Maranzano’s office, which consisted of four Jewish gangsters, led by capable killer Red Levine.

On September 10, 1931, while Maranzano was awaiting the arrival of Luciano and Genovese, four men barged into Maranzano’s outer office, flashing badges. They threw Maranzano’s bodyguards against the wall, frisked them and relieved them of their weapons. Then they strode into Maranzano’s inner office, and stabbed and shot him to death.

The killers rushed from Maranzano’s office, bypassed the elevator, and hurried down the emergency stairwell, followed by the two Maranzano bodyguards, who were now out of work and seeking employment. They crossed paths with “Mad Dog” Cole, who was hurrying up the stairwell to do in Luciano and Genovese, who were nowhere near the premises. When Levine informed Cole about Maranzano’s demise, Cole did an immediate about-face, then rushed down the steps, whistling a tune, $25,000 richer, for doing absolutely nothing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: