Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Black Hand

 

They came from the mobbed-up city of Corleone, Sicily, but they perpetrated their murder and mayhem in the mean streets of New York City.

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The co-leader of the Black Hand was a monstrosity of a man named Giuseppe (Joe)  Morello. Morello was born in 1867 with a severely deformed right hand that contained only an elongated pinkie finger that was bent grotesquely downward. As a result, Morello was called, “The Clutch-Hand,”  “Little Finger,” and “One Finger Jack”; whatever that means

Joe Morello’s father, Calogero Morello, died in 1872 and his mother, Angelina Piazza, remarried one year later to Mafioso Bernardo Terranova. Joe Morello’s stepfather and mother had four children together: Nick, Ciro, Vincent, and Salvatrice. There is some confusion as to the exact relationships, but Nick Terranova, also known as Nick Morello, was, in fact, not Joe Morello’s brother, but his half-brother. Salvatrice Terranova married a wicked man named Ignazio Lupo The Wolf” Saietta, who later in America, along with Joe Morello, and Nick and Vincent Terranova, formed the hated, and much feared Black Hand. For all practical purposes, Saietta and Morello had equal power in the organization.

While still in Corleone, Joe Morello and his three half-brothers were introduced by Bernardo Terranova into the Corleonesi Mafia (sometimes called the Fratuzzi), where they made their bones by killing whomever the Corleonesi bosses said needed to be killed. One such victim was Giovanni Vella, the head of a quasi-police force called the Guardie Campestri, or Field Guards, which patrolled Corleone on foot looking for Corleonesi Mafia members up to no good.

In 1888, Joe Morello was arrested for the murder of Vella, but then strange things began to happen.

First, the smoking gun Morello was arrested carrying minutes after the Vella murder, oddly disappeared from  the local carabinieri (police) lockup. Apparently, the gun was snatched by an enterprising carabinieri, who was paid molto lira to do so.

Secondly, there was the slight problem of a woman named Anna Di Puma, who claimed she saw Joe Morello shoot Vella to death in a darkened alleyway. Two days after Vella’s demise, Anna Di Puma was sitting outside a friend’s house, having a nice conversation, when  a gunman walked up behind her and shot her in the back, killing her instantly. With no smoking gun, and no witnesses to testify against him, Joe Morello was set free.

Morello decided it was time for him to start making some big money by dealing in the sale of “funny money,” or counterfeit bills. This went fine and dandy for a while, until in 1892, when Morello was arrested with a fistful of phony cash in his good left hand. Rather than face charges in Sicily, Joe Morello thumbed his nose at the Italian authorities, and absconded secretly to America, settling in the Lower East Side of New York City. Little did it matter that Morello was tried  “in absentia,” and sentenced to six years in solitary confinement. Morello was a vast ocean away from his punishment and ready to make his mark in the grand “Mountain of Gold.”

Soon after Joe Morello escaped from Sicily and landed illegally in America, Bernardo Terranova, his wife Angela, and six of their children, boarded the ship Alsatia and headed for America to join Joe Morello. Also with them was Joe Morello’s wife, Lisa Marvelesi, with her two-month-old baby Calogero, who was named after Joe Morello’s blood father. They passed, as all immigrants did at the time, through Ellis Island and entered America legally. While most immigrants came to America with only the clothes on their back and a few measly few bucks in their pockets, the Terranovas brought with them the stunning total of eighteen pieces of luggage, filled with the finest clothes, and who knows how much money. Even though, this certainly was not against America law, it should have raised some eyebrows among the Ellis Island officials, since Sicilian Mafioso Bernardo Terranova listed his occupation as “laborer,” even though he was a well-known murderous Mafioso in Corleone.

When they first came to America, Morello and the Terranovas tried their best to fly under the radar of American law enforcement. Even though there was basically no communication between the Sicilian police and their American counterparts, there was still a three-year grace period after which an Italian immigrant became immune to deportation. The Terranovas joined Morello and settled in Manhattan’s Little Italy on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At first, they tried to make a living in a series of legal jobs, including plastering.

However, the Panic of 1893 changed everything.

In the 1880s, America was the land of milk and honey. Railroads were being built at a record rate, and, in fact, they were over-built, because railroad revenues could not cover the expense of the railroad’s construction. By 1893, new silver mines had flooded the market with silver, causing the prices to plummet. In addition, the American farmers, especially the wheat and cotton farmers, suffered low prices, triggering their markets to dive as well. The combination of all three reverberated throughout America, but it especially devastated the metropolis of New York City. The final nails in the economy’s coffin were driven in, when in February of 1893, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad claimed bankruptcy, and President Grover Cleveland convinced Congress to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Americans panicked and rushed to the banks to withdraw their cash money. This effect rippled across the Atlantic, and United Kingdom investors quickly sold off all their American stocks and replaced them with stocks backed by gold. This caused the second biggest national credit crises ever; topped only by the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

With no jobs available in New York City, in 1893 Joe Morello, to support his family, traveled south to Louisiana to work in the cotton fields and sugar plantations. Eventually, Morello became a fruit peddler, selling lemons from a sack on his back. In two months, Morello had accumulated enough cash to send up north so that the rest of his family could come south to work on the plantations with him. Because Sicilian laborers were highly valued by the southern plantation owners for their hard work, Morello, Bernardo Terranova, and all the children, easily obtained jobs in the sugar fields; cutting and stacking cane sugar.

The work was grueling and the pay nothing to write home about, but it was better than anything they had back in New York City. Working 18-hour days during the height of the sugar season (known as the zuccarata) the grown men were paid as much as $1.50 a day. Woman and children were not valued as highly, and as a result, the Morello and Terranova women earned only $1 a day, and their children were paid as little as 10 cents a day. Still, it all added up, and the family earned enough in two years to move to an rural areas near Dallas, Texas, where they were able to obtain work as sharecroppers. The money was good, but the work was hard and malaria was easily contracted. In 1897, after all members of the family had endured bouts of malaria, Joe Morello and the Terranovas, now with more than a few bucks in their pockets; blood-money they had earned in the fields down south, make the trek back north. It was time for Joe Morello, his step-father, and his half-brothers to go back to what they knew best, being Mafioso; this time in New York City.

Ignazio Saietta, known as  “Lupo the Wolf” had a different type  of journey before he hooked up with Joe Morello and the Terranovas in America. Ignazio Saietta was born in Corleone, Sicily, on March 19, 1877. In 1896, Saietta, already well entrenched in the Corleonesi Mafia told his sad story in American court years later, when he was being tried on a counterfeiting case along with Joe Morello.

As it was reported in the New York Times, Lupo told the court:

 

 “When I was a manufacturer in Italy, I trusted Salvatore Morello, a storekeeper in Viapiatepoli for 500 lire (about $100), and I trusted another storekeeper, Francesco Vitalli, an old man. One day Morello came to me and said I must not sell silk handkerchiefs to Vitalli and more. ‘Vitalli is an old man. Do not bother him,’ I told Morello.’

“But Morello grew worse and would not pay me the money I owned him. One day he came to my store and said, ‘Did I tell you not to sell any more handkerchiefs to Vitalli?’ Then he added: ‘You will not get your money until you sell me the handkerchiefs instead.’

“ ‘You are crazy’ I said, but Morello responded, ‘You must obey my orders.’ ‘Are you crazy?’ I told him. And he said, ‘Are you taking his part?’  I said, ‘This is an old man. Do not bother with him.’

“Then he grabbed me by the throat. I tried to get away from him. He seized me by the throat again. He pulled out a stiletto and I broke away and ran behind the counter. I got my revolver and shouted, ‘Don’t touch me.’

“He came and I shot. He fell. I don’t know what was happening then. I ran away.”

 

According to the New York Times, “Lupo was sobbing when he finished his story. Lupo then told of going home and telling the story there. Then his family dissuaded him from surrendering to the police, telling him that the Morello family was big and powerful, and the best thing was for him to do was to run away.

“He escaped to England, thence to Montreal. Next he went to Buffalo, New York, and finally came here (to New York City).”

Of course, this was all nonsense. Salvatore Morello was not related to Joe Morello, or any member of his Morello family. Salvatore Morello just happened to have the same last name. In fact, Ignacio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta escaped to America to avoid prosecution for the murder of Salvatore Morello, and to hook up with Joe Morello and the Terranovas in a series of legal and illegal endeavors, most of which terrorized the Italian immigrants of New York City.

When they first arrived back in New York City, Morello ostensibly tried to earn an honest living, but this was all a front for his illegal activities, like bookmaking and loansharking. Soon flush with money, Morello invested in several small businesses, including a coal store in Little Italy, and several bars and restaurants in Little Italy, and as far north as 13th Street, all of which soon folded for “lack of business.” In 1899, Morello went back to what he knew best: counterfeiting – but this time the counterfeiting of American money.

Morello installed a small printing press in an apartment at 329 106th Street, in what was known as Italian Harlem. He printed up mainly two-and-five-dollar bills, which were the most commonly used American currency. To spread these bills around New York City, Morello hired several men, both of Italian and Irish descent. The New York City police got wind of the counterfeiting ring, and several of Morello’s workers were arrested. A man named Jack Gleason (not the comedian) immediately flipped and gave the police Morello as the mastermind of the operation. Morello was arrested, but since none of the other men arrested dare testify against Morello, and also since when arrested Morello had only legitimate American currency in his possession, Morello walked out of jail without even being indicted. But this embarrassment taught Morello a severe lesson he’d never forget: never work closely with anyone, except men he knew from Sicily.

It is not clear whether Joe Morello, or Ignazio Saietta originally started the Black Hand extortion scheme in America. What is clear is that around 1898 or 1899 both Morello and Saietta, along with the Terranova brothers Vincenzo and Ciro, began terrorizing local Italian businessmen of some means by sending them “Black Hand”  or  “La Mano Nera” extortions letters. These letters threatened local businessmen with the bombing of their businesses, or even death, if the businessmen didn’t immediately cough up some very substantial cash. On the bottom of the extortion notes was the imprint of a “Black Hand,” which was made by a hand dipped in black ink (but due to the inroads law enforcement had made with fingerprinting at the time, the “Black Hand” was later drawn instead). If the businessman did not comply with the note’s demands, he would indeed get his business bombed, and sometimes he was tortured, and even killed in the infamous Murder Stables, located at 323 East 107th Street in Harlem.

An example of such a letter was printed in a local New York City newspaper. It read:

 

“If you have not sufficient courage you may go to people who enjoy an honorable reputation and be careful as to whom you go. Thus you may stop us from persecuting you as you have been adjudged to give money or life. Woe upon you if you do not resolve to buy your future happiness, you can do from us by giving the money demanded.”

 

One such incident occurred in 1905, and the unfortunate victim was a butcher named Gaetano Costa who received a Black Hand letter demanding $1,000. The letter instructed Costa to put the money into a loaf of bread, then hand the loaf of bread to a man who came into his butcher shop the next day, and waved a red handkerchief. Costa refused to give in to the extortion, and two days later two men marched into his butcher shop and shot Costa dead.

Literally, hundreds of these Black Hand letters were sent out each year. One such letter was sent to a landlord named Salvatore Spinelli, who took his grievance to the New York Times, which printed the following letter from Spinelli:

 

My name is Salvatore Spinelli. My parents in Italy came from a decent family. I came here eighteen years ago and went to work as a house painter, like my father. I started a family and I have been an American citizen for thirteen years. I had a house at 314 East Eleventh Street and another one at 316, which I rented out. At this point the ‘Black Hand’ came into my life and asked me for seven thousand dollars. I told them to go to hell and the bandits tried to blow up my house. Then I asked the police for help and refused more demands, but the ‘Black Hand’ set off one, two, three, four, five bombs in my houses. Things went to pieces. From thirty two tenants I am down to six. I owe a thousand dollars interest that is due next month and I cannot pay. I am a ruined man. My family lives in fear. There is a policeman on guard in front of my house, but what can he do? My brother Francesco and I do guard duty at the windows with guns night and day. My wife and children have not left the house for weeks. How long can this go on?

 

To assure his collections, Joe Morello added an innovated new wrinkle to the Black Hand extortion scheme. Morello would mail an extortion letter to his victim, and then wait near the victim’s store as the postman delivered the letter the following day. While the victim was reading the letter, Morello would mysteriously appear in the victim’s store. Noticing the consternation on his victim’s face, Morello would inquire as to the cause of the victim’s distress. The victim, knowing Morello’s high status in the local Mafia, would hand Morello the letter and beg him to intercede with whomever had sent the letter; and maybe reduce the price, if not eliminate the payment completely. Morello would take the letter, and tell the victim he would find out who had sent the letter and what could be done about it.

Of course, since Morello had sent the letter himself, there was no chance of the demand being withdrawn completely. And since Morello was now in possession of the letter, the victim did not have any evidence to give to the police about the extortion attempt.

In a few days Morello would return to the victim’s store and tell a tall tale of how he was able to reason with the extortionist, and get the demand reduced to a smaller amount. At this point, the victim was only too glad to still be alive and his store still intact. So he would happily pay the sum to Morello, who would, in turn, promise he would deliver the money to the extortionist, putting this matter to rest once and for all.

            To give you  an idea of how extensive the Black Hand bombings and murders were in New York City in the first decade of the 20th Century, The New York Times ran the following article on Jan. 26, 1908.

 

                                MUST STOP OUTRAGES BY THE BLACK HAND

 

APPALLING LIST OF OUTRAGES – 52 SUCH CRIMES LAST YEAR – SIX BOMB             ATTACKS IN THE THREE WEEKS SINCE.

 

“Murders, bold attempts at extortion, and explosions, all of which the police attribute to the Black Hand, or to small organizations which take advantage of the popular belief in the existence of that society, averaged last year almost one every week. In the first month of the year there has been six such outrages, all serious explosions; and the police believe that many demands for money, under threats, are immediately complied with.

“In view of these facts, a number of prominent Italians, stirred by the blowing up of Pasquale Pati’s bank in Elizabeth Street on Thursday, will hold a meeting on Thursday night at 178 Park Row, above the office of Bolletino Della Sera, an Italian paper, in order to devise some means similar to the “White Hand” in Chicago, to suppress Black Hand outrages.”

 

Pasquale Pati was a self-made man who opened the Pasquale Pati & Son bank at 238 — 240 Elizabeth Street. Pati’s bank was so profitable, it was capitalized at $500,000. Pati was adept at self-promotion, and he lured investors with his little trick of proudly displaying piles of money behind the bank’s secured windows, as proof of his ability to pay depositors. It was said Pati was the most successful banker in New York, making him ripe for the Black Hand’s methods.

In early January of 1908, Pati received a Black Hand extortion letter. Pati scoffed at the idea that he, or his bank could be harmed, and he refused to pay any extortion money to the Black Hand. After his refusal to pay, on January 23, a bomb blew out the entire front of his bank, sending the piles of money on display flying in all directions. Pati’s son Salvatore was in the bank at the time and he was able to secure the money, while the bomb-throwers escaped into a frenzied crowd on Elizabeth Street. However, because of the bombing, worried investors at the bank made a run for their money. In the next four months, $400,000 was withdrawn from the bank.

On March 6, 1908, three armed Black-Handers entered the bank in an attempted robbery. However,  the feisty Pasquale Pati pulled out his own gun and shot one of the bank robbers dead, as the other two escaped empty handed.

On March 26, a bomb exploded at 246 Elizabeth Street (a few doors down from Pati’s bank) at a small bank owned by Dominick Bonomolo. Bonomolo, who with his wife and two daughters, Marie and Angelina, lived in the tenement right above the bank, and they had a kitchen and dining room on the ground floor just behind the bank. Dominick Bonomolo was not there at the time of the explosion, but his wife and two daughters were slightly injured; their clothing nearly torn off from the explosion.

Angelina Bonomolo told the police, “We were seated at the table about to begin supper when we heard an awful noise and the wall fell in on us, knocking us from our chairs.”

While Angelina was telling her story to the police, her father fought his way through the crowd in front of his bank, looking for his wife and two daughters. The police stopped Dominick Bonomolo, and assured him his wife and daughter were safe.

Dominick Bonomolo told the attending police, called the Italian Squad and headed by Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino, “This has happened because I did not heed their warnings. For five years, scarcely a month has gone by that I have received one or more Black Hand letters. They asked for sums from $1 to $1,000, but nothing ever happened, and recently I had paid no attention to their threats. This is to warn me. Next time I will be killed.”

On March 27, 1908, Pasquale Pati, after a group of men tried to set his Brooklyn home on fire, closed his bank for good. Pati left a note pinned on the front door of the bank that said, “The clientele of this bank be calm and trustworthy, as the banker, Pasquale Pati, has long been obliged to absent himself to protect his existence and family. He has been molested and threatened and will be back soon. He possesses 45 houses and $100,000 life insurance and has bonds of $15,000 with the State of New York.”

It was also reported in the New York Times that Pati had disbursed some of the remaining money to depositors, but had taken the last $50,000 for himself.

On March 28, after Pati had flown the coop, Achile Starace, the receiver for the Pasquale Pati and Son bank, opened the large safe at the bank, as hundreds of people pressed close to the windows outside so that they could see what was happening. When the safe was opened, Starace found not even a single cent inside. All the money had been taken by Pati when he left the bank and placed the dubious note on the front door.

According to the New York Times, “Not a negotiable paper was in the safe. All that was found by the receiver was a little pile of cash books, ledgers, and journals and of some cases of these the entries seemed to be erased and altered.”

When the crowd outside the bank found out what had transpired, they erupted into a frenzy. One man bellowed, “If Pati ever comes back he will get what he deserves – death.”

Another man screamed, “All that talk of the Black Hand is rubbish! It was only an excuse to get away with our money! He has robbed us of our savings and we want revenge! And we will have it!”

The crowd started chanting, “We will! We will!”

Then the crowd surged towards the bank trying to break in, but they were beaten back by a squad of policemen.

Days later, most of the people in Little Italy did not think Pati had closed down his bank because he feared the Black Hand.

“It was not the Black Hand that he feared,” a well-know Little Italy resident said. “He was afraid that he would be killed by some Sicilian who had lost his money in the Pati bank. Most of the depositors were Sicilian, and Pati’s family is from Calabria. A Sicilian will forgive another Sicilian, but he will not forgive a Calabrian. I doubt that Pati will show up in the near future.”

As this man predicted, Pasquale Pati never stepped foot again in Little Italy. As to why Pati disappeared with the fifty grand (and maybe more), that’s up for conjecture. No doubt, Pati feared the Black Hand, but he absconded with the money because it was there, and because he could. All he could possibly lose was the $15,000 bond. Pati probably figured taking the money was a win-win situation.

The mayhem caused by the Black Hand bank bombings caused the residents of Little Italy to lose all faith and trust in the local banks. The day the Pati bank closed, the crowd in front of his bank, that had packed Elizabeth Street from Houston to Prince Street, began to hurry towards the next largest Italian bank: F. Acritelli & Son, at 239 Elizabeth Street, which was then also forced to close.

To show how ambivalent the Italian Press was about the Black Hand situation, in February of 1908, before the bombing of Pati’s and Bonomolo’s banks, 500 Italians held a meeting at the offices of  Bollettino della Sera, an Italian newspaper edited by Frank L. Frugone. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the Black Hand extortion scheme, and what they could do about the it. Yet oddly, the Italian newspaper’s position was that the entire situation was overblown.

The speakers at the meeting said that the Black Hand existed only in Sicily, and was a “mild form of the Mafia.”

Robert Park, wrote the following in his 1921 publication, “Old World Traits Transplanted”: 

 

“The Italian press got as much news value as possible out of the situation, and threw the blame on the Americans, claiming that they admitted too many Italian criminals, and that the American police and court systems were defective in comparison with the Italian. The Italian papers protested violently against the blackening of the Italian name. The Bollettino claimed that ‘the fear of the Mafia is in great part a product of the reporter’s fancy.’ The Bollettino resented the fact that the odious word ‘mafia’ is continually thrown in our faces.”

 

However, after the epidemic of bank bombings, the Bollettino began changing its tune. In April 1908, the Bollettino ran an editorial that called on, “Italians to rise up and put a stop to the crimes which are besmirching the Italian name.”

A few days later, another editorial entitled “The Cry of Alarm” warned that the “doors of this country would be closed to Italians” if the Black Hand atrocities continued. A third editorial entitled “Against the Black Hand,” advised all honest Italians “to aid Police Commissioner Bingham by sending him all threatening letters, and information about Black Handers and idle Italians, with a description of individuals.”

The man who turned out to be the biggest torn in the side of the Black Hand was Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino. Petrosino was born in 1860 in Padula, Campania, in the southern tip of Italy near Naples. When he was a child, Petrosino’s parents sent him to live with his grandfather in America. Soon after Petrosino arrived in America, his grandfather was killed in an automobile accident. As a result, Petrosino was briefly sent to an orphanage. However, the presiding judge on Petrosino’s custody case, feeling sorry for the young boy, took Petrosino into his own home until Petrosino’s parents could arrived from Italy. While waiting for his parents to travel across the Atlantic (they arrived in 1874), Petrosino lived with the politically-active Irish judge and his family. As a result, Petrosino was given a fine education, which increased his chances of obtaining a decent job in America; unlike the other poor Italian immigrants who were arriving from Italy by the tens of thousands.

Because of the Irish judge’s connections in the political arena, on October 19, 1883, Petrosino became a New York City police officer. When he started “on the job,” Petrosino’s mentor was Police Inspector Alexander “Clubber” Williams, who was called “Clubber” because of his fondness for battering unruly arrestees with his police baton (club) to keep them in line. Williams took a liking to Petrosino (it was reported Petrosino wielded a mean police baton too), and as a result, Petrosino quickly moved up in the ranks of the New York City police department. Petrosino’s speedy promotions were mostly the result of Petrosino’s hard work and dedication, but also because Petrosino had been born in Italy and could speak the  Italian language fluently. This made it possible for Petrosino to infiltrate the Italian crime circles which were operating quite openly in New York City. In 1895, Petrosino was promoted to detective and assigned to Lower East Side of Manhattan, which was populated by a large contingent of Italian immigrants, including Joe Morello, Ciro and Nick Terranova, and Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta. The short, stocky, bull-necked, and barrel-chested Petrosino was a familiar sight on the streets of Little Italy. Petrosino was recognizable by his large pumpkin head and a pockmarked face which had an extreme reluctance to show a smile.

Petrosino first achieved prominence when he investigated the infamous “Barrel Murder” of 1903. Although several men were brought to justice for killing a man named Benedetto Madonia (then stuffing him into a barrel and leaving the barrel on the street), Petrosino knew the man who ordered the murder was Joe Morello. But knowing and being able to prove it were two different things. Morello skated on the Barrel Murder charges, but Morello was now directly in Petrosino’s crosshairs, and Petrosino did everything he could to make Morello’s and the other Black Hander’s lives miserable.

One such instance was the case of famous Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso. Caruso, who was then singing at the Metropolitan Opera House, received  a Black Hand letter demanding that he pay $2,000, or else. To avoid a big headache, Caruso decided to pay the amount requested. But before he could do so, a second Black Hand letter raised the demand to $15,000. Caruso immediately contacted Lieut. Petrosino, who was the leader of  the “Italian Squad,” which was created in 1905 by Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham. After reading the second letter sent to Caruso, Petrosino directed Caruso to comply with the letter’s demands, and to drop off the money at a pre-arranged place, directed by the Black Hand letter. When the two Italian Black Handers  arrived to pick up the cash, Petrosino slapped the cuffs on them, giving them a few slaps with his police baton for good measure.

In 1906, acting on information given to him by an informant, Petrosino got a warrant to investigate a horse stable (later called the Murder Stables) at 304 108th Street in Italian Harlem. Upon his arrival at the stable, Petrosino ordered his men to dig up the grounds, and as a result, they found the remains of more than 60 bodies that had been buried there. The owner of the stable was none other than “Lupe the Wolf” Saietta. When approached by Petrosino, Saietta feigned innocence, saying, “I am only the owner of the property. I am not responsible for the actions of my tenants.”

Saietta provided Petrosino with a list of names of his  supposed “tenants.”  Although all the names provided by Saietta had Italian surnames, Petrosino could not determine if these men actually existed, or were just a figment of Saietta’s imagination.

Not being able to cuff Saietta legally, Petrosino paid a little visit to Saietta in Saietta’s Little Italy grocery store. The New York Times reported, “Petrosino walked up to Lupo and said something in a low voice. Then the detective’s fist shot out and Lupo fell to the floor. Petrosino, according to several eyewitnesses, gave Lupo a severe beating.”

This act of violence was the first step in the Black Hand’s elimination of New York City Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino.

Soon after his beating at the hands of Petrosino, Saietta met with Joe Morello and the Terranova brothers. Raising a glass of wine in a toast, Saietta told his fellow Black Handers, “He has ruined many. Here’s a drink to our success here, and the hope of debt to him. It is a pity that it must be done stealthily – that he cannot first be made to suffer, as he has made so many others suffer. But he guards his hide so well that it will have to be done quickly.”

In early February 1909, New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham decided, that in addition to the “Italian Squad,” he would form a 14-man “Secret Service” branch of the New York City Police Department. Bingham appointed Petrosino as the leader of the Secret Service and gave him the directive to  “crush the Black Hand and drive anarchists out of the city.”

However, the Secret Service was not so secret, and this led to Petrosino’s demise.

Days after the creation of the Secret Service squad, Police Commissioner Bingham directed Petrosino to travel to Palermo, on the island of Sicily, to gather documentation on Sicilian immigrants in the United States, who were wanted for serious crimes in their native land. The plan was to get the goods on these men, then deport them back to Italy to stand trial for their crimes. Petrosino’s trip was such a secret, his squad was told Petrosino was home sick with a serious illness.

However, on Feb. 20, 1909, just days before Petrosino was scheduled to depart for Italy aboard the liner Duca di Genova, the New York Herald published an article detailing Petrosino’s supposedly secret trip. The source of these leaks was later determined to be Police Commissioner Bingham himself.

Even though it was now common knowledge in New York City and around the world, that Petrosino was traveling to Sicily in order to expedite the deportations of hundreds of Italian criminals in America, Petrosino foolishly thought that the Sicilian Mafia, like in America, would never kill a policeman of Petrosino’s stature.

Petrosino was dead wrong.

Leaving behind a wife and three-year-old daughter, Petrosino boarded the Duca di Genova, which was bound for Genoa, Italy, (which is in northern Italy – the opposite end from Sicily) using the alias “Simone Velletri.” He carried on board only two yellow suitcases. At first, Petrosino, who was staying surreptitiously in first class, locked himself in his room and had his meals delivered to him. But after a few days, Petrosino ventured topside and he told the passengers he did meet that he was on his way to Italy to find a cure for a digestive discomfit. However, since Petrosino’s face had been seen often in the newspapers, it was almost impossible for him not to be recognized. One person who did recognize Petrosino was the ship’s purser Carlo Longobardi. Petrosino begged Longobardi not to tell anyone on the ship who Petrosino really was.

After a few days out at sea, Petrosino ran into a shady character who called himself Francesco Delli Bovi. Petrosino thought he recognized this man, but not under the name Delli Bovi. When the ship docked in Genoa, Petrosino tried to follow Delli Bovi, but the mysterious man, mysteriously disappeared.

Petrosino did not stay in Genoa, but instead he took the first train available; destination Rome. In Rome, Petrosino went directly to the United States Embassy to meet Ambassador Lloyd Griscom. The purpose of this meeting was for Petrosino to gather information about as many as 200 Italian criminals, presently living in the United States, whom Petrosino wanted deported back to Italy. While Petrosino was in Rome, the Italian newspaper L’Araldo Italiano ran a story detailing Petrosino’s Italian excursion, and saying that Petrosino’s final destination was Palermo, Sicily. This story, which could have only been leaked from inside the New York City Police Department, was re-run in several other European newspapers, the most notable of which was the New York Herald’s European edition.

While walking the streets of Rome, Petrosino bumped into two journalists, with whom he had a passing acquaintance in New York City. Petrosino told the two scribes that his trip was secret, and he begged them not to write anything about his arrival in Italy. The two men told Petrosino that his visit was not so secret at all, and his arrival in Italy had been splashed all over the European newspapers; including the fact that his final destination was Palermo. This information spooked Petrosino and he decided not to travel directly to Palermo. He quietly boarded a train for Naples, which is in the southern part of Italy’s mainland. In Naples, Petrosino bribed the captain of a small ship to take him to Palermo. On February 28, when Petrosino arrived in Palermo, he was certain he had not been followed, but not certain of what awaited him in a town teeming with cutthroat Mafiosi.

Still Petrosino, who should have had eyes in the back of his head in Palermo, proceeded around town with a minimum of caution. Although he registered at the Hotel de France under the fictitious name of Guglielmo De Simone, Petrosino inexplicably opened a bank account under his real name at the Banca Commerciale. To compound his foolhardiness, Petrosino dined nightly at the Café Oreto, and he even told the waiters his real name. Petrosino foolishly figured that a famous police officer like Lieut. Joseph Petrosino was safe in the streets of Palermo; a town noted for its treachery.

By March 7, after meeting several times with Mr. Bishop of the American Consul in Palermo, Petrosino had accumulated more than 100 more penal certificates for wanted criminals in Sicily, making his total tally of Italian men he wanted deported from the United States to Italy at more than 300.

On March 6, Petrosino met the Commissioner of Police in Palermo: Baldassare Ceola. Ceola was unimpressed with Petrosino’s competence in a foreign land.  

In a letter to the prefect of Palermo, Ceola said, “I saw at once that Lieut. Petrosino, to his disadvantage, was not a man of excessive education.”

Ceola also felt that Petrosino was imprudent, since when Ceola offered Petrosino the services of a police bodyguard, Petrosino turned down his offer. Also, Mr. Bishop of the American Consul, forbade Petrosino to take a trip into the interior of Sicily, but Petrosino said he was afraid of nothing.

Back in New York City, Joe Morello and Ignazio Saietta were getting daily reports on Petrosino’s activities from their moles in Palermo. While in New York City, Petrosino was almost untouchable, because, as Saietta told Morello, “Damn detective. The devil guards himself too thoroughly. When he walks it is with a loaded revolver in his hand covered by a pocket, and two policemen without their blue coats walk near him eyeing everyone.”

Both the Mafiosi knew that in Palermo, Petrosino was a sitting duck for anyone brave enough to pull a trigger.

Thinking two moves ahead of Petrosino, Morello and Saietta, while Petrosino was still on board the Duca di Genova, sent two of their best killers, Carlo Constantino and Antonio Passananti, to Palermo to await Petrosino’s arrival. There the two men hooked up with the top Mafioso in Sicily: a brutal thug named Don Vito Cascio Ferro. Cascio Ferro had a personal bone to pick with Petrosino, since in 1903, due to extreme  pressure put on Cascio Ferro by Petrosino’s quest to find the killers in the “Barrel Murder,” the head Mafiosi was forced to flee New York City and hurry back to Sicily.

On the rainy Friday night of March 12, 1909, Petrosino went to have his nightly dinner at the Café Oreto. Petrosino was wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella. Petrosino took his customary table; with his back to the wall, so that he could see anyone who entered the restaurant. According to the waiters present, Petrosino was in the middle of his meal when two men came into the restaurant and marched to Petrosino’s table. These two men had a heated conversation with Petrosino, who did not rise from his chair, but instead dismissed the two men with an angry wave of his hand. After the men exited the restaurant, Petrosino threw three lira on the table, then quickly followed the men outside.

At 8:50 p.m., Petrosino was talking with the two men in the piazza of the Garibaldi Garden, when people nearby heard five shots ring out. When a passerby arrived soon afterwards, he found Petrosino dead, with bullet holes in his cheek, his throat, and in the back of his head. Petrosino’s revolver was held tightly in his hand, with two chambers empty. In his pockets, Petrosino had several documents with names and information on several Sicilian criminals. There was also a postcard addressed to his wife, which said, “A kiss for you and my little girl, who has spent three months far from her daddy.”

Police reports said that three men were involved in Petrosino’s murder; one of which was alleged to be Don Vito Cascio Ferro himself. When question later by the police, Cascio Ferro had an air-tight alibi. He said that at the time of Petrosino’s murder he was dining at the home at a Sicilian member of the Italian Parliament, and there were several honorable witnesses who could verify this fact. However, a report was delivered to the police saying that Cascio Ferro had slipped away during dinner, and was gone long enough participate in Petrosino’s murder. He then slipped back to the dinner party, without anyone noticing he had been absent. Unfortunately, this report could not be corroborated.

Immediately, the police offered a 10,000 lira award (around $2,000) for information leading to the arrest of the assassins. But the local Mafia circulated word in the streets of Palermo that any snitches would receive the same treatment as Petrosino. As a result, no one was ever arrested for the murder of New York City Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino.

However, a man called John Lupo, brother of Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta, was heard saying in his Hoboken, N.J. store that one of the reason’s Petrosino was killed was because of the vicious beating Petrosino had given Saietta in Saietta’s Little Italy store.

The tremors felt in New York City caused by the death of Petrosino were sudden and severe. Due to the newspaper leaks concerning Petrosino’s “secret” trip to Italy, Police Commissioner Bingham was immediately fired; his place taken by neophyte William F. Baker, who oddly enough, in 1913, after an undistinguished career as New York City Police Commissioner, became the president of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.

However, the damage caused by Petrosino’s murder was already done. It was estimated that because of Petrosino’s demise in Palermo, hundreds of Italian criminals were allowed to stay in America, causing murder and mayhem in the New York City streets for the next two generations.

            At the time of Petrosino’s death, Saietta and Morello ran a counterfeiting operation originating in the sleepy upstate town of Highland, New York, 50 miles from New York City. Saietta was the hands-on partner, while Morello continued operating their rackets in New York City. After reading the good news in a local Highland newspaper, Saietta turned to an associate named Zu Vincenzo.

“Petrosino was killed,” Saietta said. “It was successful! The way it was done could never have missed in Palermo. It was well he was fool enough to go there.”

Zu Vincenzo opened a bottle of wine. “No one will now go to Sicily to search for evidence to use against the Mafia,” he said. “For in going there they will find death.”

Saietta was somewhat disappointed the Sicilian Mafia would get most of the credit for the Petrosino hit, since the money sent to Palermo to insure the Petrosino hit was raised by the Black Handers in New York City.

Saietta poured himself and Zu Vincenzo each a glass of wine. “Some credit is due to us,” Saietta said. “Though the Palermo crowd will get the most.”

The two men then toasted to the death of their mortal enemy: New York City Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino.

Yet, the Black Handers had an enemy as great as Petrosino and his name was Deputy Inspector William Flynn. Flynn, an expert detective, but a little on the talkative side (especially when he was talking about himself), had been actively investigating Morello and Saietta since the “Barrel Murders” of 1903. Flynn also knew that Morello, Saietta, and his gang were running an extensive counterfeiting operation, but at the present time Flynn could not uncover where the bills were being printed. But he was fairly sure it was not being done in New York City.

Employing several undercover policemen, Flynn had what he called a “life surveillance” put on Morello, which was not exactly the proper term, since, because of the lack of police manpower, Morello was only intermittent observed. Still, Morello was certainly on Flynn’s radar, as was Saietta, until he inexplicable disappeared from New York City and went into hiding in Highland, New York, where he oversaw the group’s counterfeit printing operations.

In early 1908, Saietta began a large-scale fraud scheme, using his wholesale network of grocery stores in New York City (he imported olive oil and other Italian delicacies from Italy). Saietta operated out of his Mott Street store; other grocery stores throughout the city were owned by Saietta’s confederates, active in not only in the Black Hand extortions, but also in a nationwide counterfeiting operation.

In November 1908, Saietta filed for bankruptcy concerning his imports business. His Mott Street store was seized under the orders of the US court. When the receivers went into the store to examine the books, they found only $1,500 inventory, and over $100,000 in debts. The receivers also discovered that the week before he disappeared, Saietta had made over $50,000 worth of purchases, but those goods were nowhere to be found, and the sellers were now stiffed of the 50 grand. (This is called the standard “bust out” scheme, where you buy as much merchandise that you can on credit, sell the merchandise on the black market, pocket the cash, and then file for bankruptcy.)

Saietta cohorts in the scheme also filed for bankruptcy around the same time as Saietta did.  Antonio Passananti, who had been sent to Sicily by Morello and Saietta to do away with Petrosino, owned a wholesale wine business in Brooklyn. He too used the ‘bust out” scheme to close his business and claim bankruptcy. When the receivers investigated Passananti’s store, they found records that he had given huge sums of money to Saietta before they both disappeared. The New York Times reported that a dozen other Italian dealers had also gone into the wind, resulting in total liabilities close to $500,000.

In November of 1909, with Petrosino already dead, Saietta returned to New York City. With his lawyer Charles Barbier in tow, Saietta march into the bankruptcy receiver’s office and told a tall tale of why he had suddenly left New York City. Saietta said he had been sent a Black Hand extortion letter, and fearing for his life, he fled to Baltimore, then Buffalo, before spending the final few weeks at his brother’s grocery store in Hoboken. Saietta hired a phalanx of lawyers to fight his creditors, and he returned to his old haunts in New York City, socializing with Morello and the other Black Handers. What Saietta did not know was that Inspector Flynn had his men following Saietta too. One day, they followed him to Highland, New York, and bingo, now they knew where the counterfeit bills were being printed.

            Flynn now had enough evidence to arrest Morello, Saietta, and several other Black Handers who were in on the counterfeiting operation originating in Highland, New York. However, Flynn didn’t want to arrest the minor players first, because he feared Morello would be tipped off and go into hiding. From his surveillance on Morello, Flynn knew Morello now lived in a tenement building at 207 East 107 Street. However, Flynn did not know in which apartment Morello resided. One of Flynn’s operative was 17-year-old Thomas Callahan, who had been posing as a shoeshine boy on 107th Street.

On the night Nov. 15, 1909, Callahan spotted Morello, along with Vincenzo Terranova and another man heading down the block toward their building. Without an exact plan in place, and wanting to know which apartment the Mafioso inhabited, Callahan immediately ran into the four-story building. The building now was totally dark, since the janitor had turned off the interior building lights. After Callahan stopped on the second floor of the tenement, he heard the three men enter the building and begin walking up the steps towards him. Callahan, not knowing exactly what to do, slithered quietly to the top floor.  He then realized that the Black Handers, who were always armed, might continue upwards and see him trapped on the 4th floor, with no reason for being there.

Here is where Callahan made a bold move that might have saved his life.

Like he had nary a care in the world, Callahan started heading down the stairs. Between the third and fourth story landing, Callahan came face to face with “The Clutch Hand.” Morello looked puzzled. Morello stared Callahan straight in the eye and said, “’Scusa please.” Callahan moved to one side of the stairs, and without saying another word, the three men passed Callahan and continued to the top floor. Expecting a bullet in the back, Callahan sped down the stairs and out of the building; his heart pumping like a runaway train. As he hurried to where the other agents were waiting, Callahan turned around to see if he had been followed out of the building. He hadn’t.

Now it was time for Flynn and his crew to make their move. Within minutes after Callahan had exited 207 East 107 Street, Flynn’s agents had surrounded the building; their eyes on the 4th floor window, where the light was still on. Every so often, they could see one of the men in the room pass the window, but not once did any of the Mafioso look out of the window. That was a lucky break for Flynn. It wasn’t until 11 a.m. the next morning that the agents made their move.

Flynn, with six of his best men including Callahan, quietly entered the building and climbed the steps. Flynn has a skeleton key in his possession, which could open virtually any lock. When they reached the door of the 4th floor apartment, Flynn pressed his ear to the door and heard no movement inside. He quietly inserted the skeleton key, unlocked the door and with their guns pointed out in front of them, Flynn and his agents slowly entered the room. The door opened into the kitchen, but nobody was there. They opened the door to one of the bedrooms, and there was Morello, dead to the world; snoring lightly. On a second bed next to him lay his half-brother Vincent Terranova, also sawing wood.

“We had no intention of waking them,” Flynn later told the press. “Until we were sitting on them.”

Flynn gave the word to his men to pounce, and in seconds both Morello and Vincent Terranova were in custody. Under Morello’s pillow, the agents found four loaded revolvers; under Terranova’s pillow –  five. Certainly, if they were not sleeping, the two men would have put up a hell of a fight.

The noise the agents had made in snagging the two Mafioso awakened the rest of the apartment’s inhabitants. In seconds, three half-dressed men exited their bedroom, screaming and cursing in Italian. Then Morello’s wife Lina emerged from a third bedroom, her infant daughter in one arm, and a huge knife in the other hand. It took two men to subdue Lina and relieve her of her weapon. Still holding her baby tight, and incensed that the agents were just doing their job, Lina spat on them in defiance.

The other three Italians tried to create a diversion, so that certain evidence could be hidden, and eventually destroyed. One of Flynn’s men spotted one of the Italians stuffing several letters into Lina Morello’s apron, which lay sprawled on the kitchen table. Thinking no one was watching, Lena grabbed her apron, pulled out several of the letters, and stuffed them into her infant’s clothing. Holding the baby in one arm, Lina tried to leave the room. Two burley agents pounced on her and a fierce skirmish ensured. With Lina kicking, screaming and cursing, Flynn was able to search the infant’s clothing. He found three letters in the infant’s still clean (thankfully) diapers, and several more in her apron. They were all Back Hand letters waiting to be sent to their intended targets. However, Flynn’s agents did not fare too well in their battle with “Hellcat Lina,” as was evidenced by the several dozen cuts and bruises on their battered bodies.

Flynn’s agents fanned out and searched the other apartments at 207 East 107 Street. When the dust settled, they had arrested fourteen Black Handers and counterfeiters (some men were both). As an added bonus, $3,000 in fake two-dollar bills was found in a paper bag under the bed in the apartment occupied by the Vasi brothers. It was a fine roundup for Flynn indeed, but one of the big fish was nowhere to be found: Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta.

As the search for Saietta continued, other members of Morello’s and Saietta’s crew were arrested throughout the city. Domenico Milone was arrested in a grocery store at East 97th Street. Antonio LoBaido, Frank Columbo, Giuseppe Mercurio, and Luciano Maddi were among the others who were snagged by the police.

Failure of communication within the New York City police department delayed the arrest of  Saietta on the Highland, New York counterfeiting charges. On Nov. 18, 1909, just three days after the arrest of Morello and his gang, Saietta was arrested for extorting a man named Manzella, a Manhattan store owner, who claimed Saietta had ruined his business. On November 22, Manzella, not surprisingly, got cold feet and refused to appear in court for Saietta’s arraignment. The Manzella case was dropped, but then Saietta was immediately arrested under a bench warrant dated April 21, that charged him with being in the possession counterfeit money way back in in 1902. The bail was set at $5,000, which Saietta immediately posted. As a result, Saietta walked out of court a free man. When the New York City police department finally got their communication wires uncrossed, they realized they had their man in the clutches, but let him escape scot free.

On Nov. 26, the New York City police department issued an internal proclamation saying that any officer who could arrest Saietta in connection with the Morello counterfeiting case would immediately made first grade detective. As it turned out, because of an unrelated case of a piano theft, Saietta fell right into Flynn’s hands.

The piano was stolen in Hoboken, New Jersey by a man who was described as an “Italian immigrant.” This man was traced to a home at 8804 Bay 16th Street, Bath Beach in Brooklyn. When the police arrived there, low and behold, they found Saietta, who had rented the house under the name of Joe LaPresti. Lupo was arrested, along with fellow counterfeiter Giuseppe Palermo. When the police searched the house, they discovered a loaded revolver, Black Hand letters, phony passports, and three bank books under the names John Lupo, Joseph La Presti, and Giuseppe La Presti.

Saietta, realizing he should have used the phony passports while he had a chance to escape the country, offered the arresting officer a $100 bribe (presumably not in counterfeit cash). The police officer refused the bribe, but received his promotion to first grade detective.

The counterfeiting trial commenced on January 26, 1910, in a federal courthouse on Houston Street. It turned out to be a raucous carnival show, showcasing crying clowns as its main act. The judge was the honorable Judge George Ray, and there were eight total defendants, including the stars of the show: Joe “The Clutch Hand” Morello and Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta. They were represented by attorney Mirabeau Towns, who was born in Alabama and went to law school in Atlanta, Ga. Towns was notable by the fact that he sometimes presented his court addresses in verse, which couldn’t have please Judge Ray too much.

There were 60 witnesses in all put forth by the state, but the main witness against the counterfeiters was a timid little man named Antonio Comito, who was kidnapped by the Black Handers,  and along with his wife, was forced to do the actual printing of the counterfeit bills in Highland, New York. Comito told the court that he and his wife personally printed $46,000 worth of counterfeit bills.

 Comito also said that when New York City Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino was killed, Saietta had commented, “We did a fine job with Petrosino in Sicily.”

The trial came to its conclusion on Feb. 19, 1910, and it took the jury only 1 ½ hours to come back with the eight guilty verdicts.

When it came to the sentencing, the real theatrics began.

Morello was the first defendant called before the judge for sentencing. According to published reports, “Morello was cringing before the judge. He held out his left hand, deformed from birth, for the inspection of Judge Ray. This was the hand that Morello was averse to showing to the jury that had tried him. He was the father of a family, he said (through an interpreter), and if the dear court would only suspend sentence, he would go to Italy at once.

“But Judge Ray told Morello that he might serve fifteen years and pay a fine of $500 on the first count against him, and serve 10 years and pay another $500 on the second count against him. Morello didn’t wait for the interpreter to tell him about it. He dropped into a faint and had to be picked up and carried to the pen by the deputies.”
            Big, bad Lupo the Wolf was next in line for the sentencing. Newspaper reports said, “Was Lupo the brave and nervy criminal that he had been supposed? Not for a moment. He began to weep before he reached the bar, and by the time Judge Ray had finished asking him what he had to say, he had used up one whole handkerchief with his tears. His tick, fat body shook with emotion as he told the court how the murder charge against him (in Italy) was all wrong, and he had been hounded by the police of two countries.

“Judge Ray, getting in words between the sobs, told Lupo that he had passed sentence on himself as to the old murder case when he fled from Italy instead of standing trial.

“ ‘I believe you and Morello were at the head of this undertaking. You have been convicted. I sentence you to fifteen years and a fine of $500 on the first count and fifteen years and a similar fine on the second count,’ said the court, and Lupo was led back to finish his weeping in private.”

When the other six men had been sentenced by Judge Ray, the eight men were given a total 150 of years in prison.

The sentencing of Saietta and Morello effectively ended the Black Hand extortion letter scheme in America. But it did not end their lives of crime.

With Morello and Saietta behind bars for the foreseeable future, Nick Terranova took control of their old gang. With counterfeiting out of the question and the Black Hand letters a thing of the past, Nick, with the help of his brother Ciro, branched out into other criminal endeavors, including loansharking and the very profitable numbers rackets. Ciro also expanded the family’s importing business, and soon became known as the “Artichoke King,” because he got a piece of the sale of every artichoke that was imported into the United States. And Italians love their artichokes.

Of course, a murder or two was always in the cards, especially if a dupe was reluctant to pay his debt, or if an enterprising gangster decided to move in on their territory. This, in fact, happened  in 1915, when trouble came in the form of Neapolitan Cammora gangster Don Pelligrino Morano, who was the boss of the rackets in Brooklyn. Morano, not satisfied with only controlling Brooklyn, started to move in on the Terranova’s territory in Greenwich Village and in East Harlem. To thwart the competition, Terranova’s gang wiped out Cammora gang member Nick Del Guido. Morano responded when he whacked Goise Gallucci, a Harlem politician, who was also a made member of the Mafia and very close to the Terranovas.

After a peace summit was offered by Nick Terranova and turned down by Morano, bodies began piling up in both the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Then Morano had a change of heart and he said, sure, he’d meet with Nick Terranova to discuss their differences. Morano told Nick Terranova he’d guarantee his safety if Nick agreed to meet him at Vollero’s Café on Navy Street, in downtown Brooklyn, not far from the Brooklyn Bridge. Nick Terranova arrived at Voillero’s  Café with his bodyguard Charles Ubriaco, and when they exited their car, Morano’s men filled them with lead. Unfortunately for Morano, there was a turncoat in his crew, who ratted out him and his killers to the cops. As a result, Morano and seven of his men were convicted of the murders of Nick Terranova and Charles Ubriaco, and sentenced to life in prison. This “life sentence” lasted only three years, when Morano, pulling stings in two continents, was deported back to Italy (in those days, no matter what crime you committed, there was always a politician to be bought for the right price).

As for Ciro Terranova, he was not such a tough guy after all, and certainly not qualified to run a gang. In the early 1920’s, Terranova hooked up with up the new Italian sheriff in town: Joe “The Boss” Masseria, who had taken over all the Italian rackets in New York City. In 1931, Masseria’s second-in-command, Lucky Luciano, decided to take out his boss and side with Salvatore Maranzano in what was called the Castellammarese War. First, Luciano lured Masseria to the Nuova Villa Tammaro Restaurant in Coney Island. And as Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, and Joe Adonis rushed into the restaurant to finish off Masseria, Ciro Terranova sat outside at the wheel of the getaway car. When the killers emerged triumphantly, Terranova, his knees knocking, was unable to get the car into gear. Annoyed and disgusted, Siegel pushed Terranova aside and drove the getaway car himself.

When the news got back to Luciano about Terranova’s lack of courage, he banished him from the mob. Terranova became a pariah in New York crime circles, and unable to earn enough money to eat a decent meal. Soon, whatever money Terranova had ran out and he died a broke, and a broken man on Feb. 20, 1938.

As for Saietta and Joe Morello, even though they were sentenced to 30 years and 25 years in jail respectively, by the early 1920s, they were both soon out on the streets, causing murder and mayhem again (crooked politicians?).

There is some disagreement as to how it actually came down, but in 1920 Joe Morello, having served only 10 years of a 25-year sentence, was released from prison. There were reports that as early as 1911 Morello tried to cut a deal with the government in exchange of information about the murder of New York City Police Lieut. Joseph Petrosino. However, there is no concrete evidence to back up this theory, but the fact remains Morello was released early from prison for no stated reason.

After first trying to gain control of the rackets again and failing, Morello, like Ciro Terranova, joined the forces of Joe “The Boss” Masseria. Masseria, knowing Morello was a capable and willing killer, made Morello his bodyguard and a top captain in his crew. Unfortunately for Morello, he got caught in the crosshairs of the Castellammarese War.

On Aug. 15, 1930, while he was counting money in an apartment at 352 East 116 Street with two other mobsters, Sebastiano Domingo, known as “Buster from Chicago,” and another unnamed assassin, burst into the apartment and began firing their guns. Morello’s two confederates were killed instantly, but “The Clutch Hand” would not go down without a fight. Three decades later, Mafia turncoat Joe Valachi said Buster once told him, “Morello was tough. He kept running around the office and we had to give him a few more shots before he went down.”

In all, it took eight bullets to send Giuseppe Morello into the afterlife; probably downstairs, where there is plenty of fire, and no air conditioning.

With a little help of the United States government, “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta lasted a few years longer than Morello. In 1920, even though he had been sentence to 30 years in prison, Saietta was somehow released on parole in Atlanta, Ga. Soon afterward, United States President Warren G. Harding commuted the remaining 20 years of Saietta’s sentence, on the condition that Saietta would never return to a life of crime. Considering Saietta’s past, that condition was so ridiculous it deserves no comment. However, there is also no proof that President Harding ever received any benefits, monetary or otherwise, for releasing Saietta back into civilization.

Right out of the pen, Saietta tried to insinuate himself into the New York City Italian mob. However, Saietta’s methods were so much predicated on violence, Joe “The Boss” Masseria, unlike when he accepted Morello into his fold with open arms, banished Saietta out to Brooklyn, where Morello allowed Saietta to run a small Italian lottery.

However, Lupo the Wolf was hungry for more profits. He decided to run a “bakery union scam” whereby he forced all the bakers in Brooklyn to join his union, or else. In 1936, when Saietta had reached the age of 60, his little extortion racket came under the scrutiny of  Brooklyn District Attorney William F. X. Geoghan. Geoghan got a copy of Saietta’s pardon agreement with President Harding, which said only the President of the United States could cancel the agreement if Saietta returned to the rackets. As a result, Geoghan, through New York Gov. Herbert Lehman, wrote to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a letter that said, “I am sending you an application for the revocation of the commutation of the sentence of Ignazio Saietta, alias ‘Lupo the Wolf.’

“I am exceedingly interested in this case. A few months ago I  received a letter (the identity of  the writer of that letter was not given out) that Italian people engaged in the bakery business were being intimidated by Lupo the Wolf.

“Of course, I know you agree with me that it is disgraceful that men of the type of Ignazio Saietta are permitted to carry on their pernicious activities for years and years. If it is at all possible in the powers vested in you, I would most earnestly urge the commutation of sentence of Lupo be revoked. And that he be deported from the country.

“After an examination of the application I feel confident that you and the Attorney General of the United States will readily wish to cooperate.”

This letter led to Lupo the Wolf’s goose finally being cooked.

After examining the evidence, President Roosevelt signed a warrant that permitted Detective Edward Murphy of the Bath Beach precinct to arrest Saietta at his residence at 7316 Fifteenth Avenue in Brooklyn. Saietta violently protested his arrest, “shaking his white mane violently,” and claiming his innocence. Nevertheless, Saietta was taken to the Federal House of Detention, and seven hours later, handcuffed to two Federal marshals, he was put on a train at Penn Station – destination: the Atlanta Federal Prison, to serve out the rest of his sentence.

Saietta was released from prison in December 1946, and he died less than a month later from natural causes.

Lupo the Wolf’s death removed the last remnants of the Black Hand from the American soil they had so brutally sullied with the blood of mostly innocent men.

 http://www.josephbrunowriter.com/index.html

                                            

 

               

 

 

               

 

 

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6 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Black Hand”

  1. So thankfully for all Joe Bruno’s info would not be half as educated with out.still researching wish there were more pics of these characters.

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