Archive for Joe Profaci

International Best Selling author Joe Bruno has 11 of the top 20 ranked books on Amazon/United States in the category “Media and there Law.”

Posted in Cosa Nostra, crime, criminal, crooks, famous murders, famous trials, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, killers, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2017 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


“Crazy Joe Gallo- The Mob’s Greatest Hits – Volume 2” is ranked highest at #2.


Joe Bruno on the Mob – Carlo Gambino

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

He was a quiet man who dressed inconspicuously and was known to never loose his temper. But there is no doubt, Carlo Gambino, with his huge hawk nose and enigmatic smile, was one of the most powerful mob bosses of all time.

Gambino was born in Palermo, Sicily on August 24, 1902. The area of Palermo, called Caccamo, in which Gambino grew up in, had such a intense Mafia presences, the police and even the military, were afraid to enter into its domain. That left the Mafioso to rule the area with impunity, knowing whatever they did would not be reported to the police, if the police even cared what happened there in the first place.

Carlo’s mother’s maiden name was Castellano, and she used her influence with her family, who were Mafiosos, to introduce Gambino to “Men of Respect” when Gambino was barely a teenager. Gambino, who was slight of built and only 5-foot-7, quietly impressed his superiors with his calmness, his intellect, and his ability to do what was necessary to be done, even if it mean killing someone who needed to be killed.

In 1921 right before his twentieth birthday, Gambino was rewarded for his good work by being inducted into the Mafia, or what was known in Italy as the “Honored Society.” However, because of Benito’s Mussolini’s vendetta against the Mafia (Mussolini had arrested many Mafioso, including top Mafia boss Don Vito Cascio Ferro, who was sentenced to life in prison), many Mafioso, including Gambino, decided that Sicily was too dangerous for them to exist in the manner that they had been accustomed to. As a result, there was a huge exodus of Mafioso to that mountain of gold across the Atlantic Ocean called America.

In late 1921, Gambino left Sicily on the freighter SS Vincenzo Florio, which was headed for America. For the entire trip, Gambino subsisted on nothing but wine and anchovies, which besides olive oil, were the only food substances on the ship.

The SS Vincenzo Florio docked in Norfolk, Virgina, on December 23, 1921, and Gambino disembarked as an illegal immigrant. Wearing a natty three-piece suit and a black fedora, Gambino walked down the gangplank looking for a car, he was told when he left in Palermo, would be waiting for him when he docked in America, with flashing lights at the end of the dock. He spotted the car and when he arrived at it, Gambino saw a Castellano cousin sitting behind the wheel. The two men embraced, and in seconds they were headed to New York City.

When Gambino arrived in New York City he was pleased to discover that his Castellano cousins had already rented him an apartment on Navy Street in Brooklyn, near the waterfront. They also put Gambino to work in a trucking company owned by his first cousins Peter and Paul Castellano. Soon Gambino segued into the illegal bootlegging business, run by his Palermo pal Tommy Lucchese. Prohibition was instituted by the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, which banned the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquors, but not the consumption. On thing led to another, and soon Gambino was a main cog in the crew of Joe “The Boss” Masseria, the most powerful Mafioso in America.

However, another Mafioso had escaped Mussolini’s wrath and arrived in America in the mid-1920’s. His name was Salvatore Maranzano, second in command to Don Vito Cascio Ferro in Sicily. Maranzano figured the Sicilian Mafioso were much superior to those in America, so it was only natural that he should become the top Mafia boss in America. This did not sit well with Masseria, and the result was the Castellammarese War, which flooded the streets of New York City with scores of dead bodies from 1929-31.

Masseria’s crew was soon joined by top Mafia men like Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, and Vito Genovese, who were well-connected to Jewish gangsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. However, since Masseria did not like his men doing business with non-Sicilians (Costello, real name Castiglia, was from Calabria), Luciano, Costello, Anastasia, and Genovese bided their time, hoping that maybe both Masseria and Maranzano would knock each other off, so that the younger men could take control of all their operations.

However, it was Gambino who made the first move in rectifying this situation. Sensing that he was on the losing side of the battle, Gambino secretly approached Maranzano and offered to jump to Maranzano’s side. Maranzano readily agreed, and soon Luciano, Costello, Anastasia, and Genovese, also wanted to join Maranzano’s forces. Maranzano accepted their offer, on the stipulation that they do away with Masseria, once and for all. That task was accomplished on April 15, 1931, when Luciano lured Masseria to the Nuova Villa Tammaro Restaurant in Coney Island. While Luciano was taking a bathroom break, Siegel, Genovese, Anastasia, and Jewish killer Red Levine burst though the front door and filled Masseria with lead, rendering him quite dead and ending the Castellammarese War.

Maranzano immediately called for a meeting of all the top Mafioso in the city (reportedly over 500 men) in a warehouse in the Bronx. At this meeting Maranzano said, “Whatever happened in the past is over. There is to be no more hatred between us. Those who lost someone in the war must forgive and forget.”

Maranzano then proceeded to form five families, each with a boss and an underboss. Under the two top men each family would have capiregimes, or captains, who would rule over the rest of the family: soldatos, or soldiers. The five bosses were Joe Bonanno, Joe Profaci, Lucky Luciano, Tommy Lucchese, and Vincent Mangano. Albert Anastasia became Mangano’s underboss, and Carlo Gambino – a captain in Mangano’s family. Of course, Maranzano made himself “Boss of All Bosses” (Capo Di Tutti Capi), which did not sit well with the rest of the young Mafioso.

Despite all the nice talk about “no more hatred between us,” Maranzano had a secret plan to kill Luciano, Genovese, and Costello — men Maranzano thought to be ambitious and a threat to his rule. Maranzano called on vicious Irish killer Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole to eliminate his perceived competition. Maranzano paid Cole $25,000 on the spot, with another $25,000 forthcoming when the dirty deed was done. To set the trap, Maranzano invited Luciano, Genovese, and Costello to his office in Midtown Manhattan.

However, Luciano caught wind of the plot through an informer close to Maranzano, believed to be Tommy Lucchese. Instead of showing up at Maranzano’s office, Luciano sent four Jewish killers to the proposed meeting, led by Red Levine, one the men who had offed Masseria. The four men, posing as detectives, bulldozed their way past Maranzano’s bodyguards in the outer office. Then they blasted into Maranzano’s office, where they stabbed and shot him to death. On the way out of the building, the four killers ran into “Mad Dog” Cole. They told him not to bother — that Maranzano was dead and the police were on the way. Cole did an about face, whistling a happy tune, having made a $25,000 payday without firing a single shot.

Luciano soon called the bosses of the other four Mafia families and told them the title of “Boss of All Bosses” was eliminated with Maranzano. Luciano then formed a National Crime Commission, which included Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Dutch Schultz.

Gambino, now firmly entrenched as a captain in the Mangano family, became the biggest money-maker in all the New York Mafia. And in the Mafia, money brings prestige.

In 1932, his pockets bursting with cash, Gambino married his first cousin, Catherine Castellano Carlo and Catherine Gambino eventually raised three sons and a daughter. (Marrying a first cousin was common in Italy, and not frowned upon in the United States as it is today. In fact, marrying a first cousin is now illegal in most, but not all, states. Editors note: My grandparents on my father’s side were first cousins, married in Sicily in the early 1900’s.)

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Gambino was already set to cash in on the now legal booze business, but he did so in an illegal way. While Prohibition was booming in illegal sales for the Mafia, Gambino planned for the days when he knew Prohibition would end. To achieve his goals, Gambino scooped up as many illegal stills that he could; in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even as far as Maryland. When Prohibition ended and the price of alcohol blasted through the roof, Gambino had the largest illegal liquor distribution system on the East Coast of America. And since he was producing the booze himself and not paying any government taxes, Gambino could undercut the legal distributors, thereby making himself, and the Mangano family, a small fortune all through the mid-to-late 1930’s.

The start of World War II gave Gambino another opportunity to make even more illegal cash, through his wartime rations stamps racket. With war imminent against both Germany and Japan, on August 28, 1941, the United States government created the Office of Price Administration (OPA), whose job it was to print and distribute rations stamps to the American public. Without these stamps, people could not buy gasoline, tires, shoes, nylon, sugar, fuel oil, coffee, meats, and processed foods. Gambino figured the only way he could get his hands on ration stamps to sell on the black market was to steal them outright.

Gambino sent his best safe-crackers and second-story men to the vaults inside the Office of Price Administration, and they emerged with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ration stamps. When certain low-level employees of the OPA realized the ration stamps were being stolen by the mob, they decided to cut themselves in on the deal, by stealing the ration stamps themselves and selling them to Gambino and his boys, of course, at bargain-basement prices. Gambino figured why take a chance of stealing the ration stamps, with the possibility of getting caught. So he took the crooked OPA employees offer, and started buying the rations stamps from them in droves.

The beauty of this scheme was that Gambino already had a ready-made distribution network in place: his network of illegal booze distributors. In October 1963, Mafia informant Joe Valachi testified before Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan’s Investigative Subcommittee on Government Operations, that in one rations stamp deal alone, Gambino made a profit of over $1 million.

Being the savvy businessman he was, Gambino knew he could not live the high life without reporting substantial income to the government. So Gambino invested the money he made from his illegal operations, estimated to be several millions of dollars, in legal businesses such as meat markets, pizza parlors, olive and cheese importers, carting companies, dress factories, bakeries, and restaurants.

By 1951, the Mangano family, thanks to Gambino’s incredible ability to generate income, was one of the most prosperous in the Mafia. The problem was Mangano did not get along with his underboss Anastasia. Mangano was jealous of Anastasia’s closeness with the other bosses, like Frank Costello and Lucky Luciano, who was in exile in Italy; a stipulation of the pardon agreement he received from the United States government after serving 9 years in jail on a trumped-up prostitution charge. Several times Mangano physically attacked Anastasia, a silly move since the younger and stronger Anastasia easily beat his boss in a fistfight.

With rumors abounding that Mangano was plotting to kill Anastasia, Anastasia, with the blessing a crime boss Frank Costello, decided to strike first. On April 19, 1951, the body of Phil Mangano, the brother of Vincent Mangano, was found in the marshes near Sheepshead Bay. He was shot five times in the head. When the police investigating the murder tried to contact Vincent Mangano about his brother’s death, they could find no trace of him. Vincent Mangano’s body was never found.

Within days, Anastasia sat down with the other bosses and explained that he killed Mangano before Mangano could kill him. With the backing of Costello, Anastasia was bumped up to the boss of the Mangano Family, and the name was changed to the Anastasia family. Anastasia made Frank Scalise and Joe Adonis his underbosses, and he gave his capo Carlo Gambino more men, and more power within the organization.

However, Anastasia’s reign lasted less than seven years. Anastasia continually butted heads with vicious crime boss Vito Genovese, who was looking to take over all the rackets in New York City, even if it meant killing the other bosses one by one. Anastasia received a terrible blow when his underboss Joe Adonis was deported back to Italy as an undesirable alien. Anastasia knew his days were numbered, when in early 1956 Frank Costello was shot in the head by Genovese henchman Vincent “The Chin” Gigante. Costello survived the shooting, and at Gigante’s trial, Costello, true to the Mafia code of “omerta,” refused to name Gigante as his assailant.

However, this greatly diminished Costello’s power in the Mafia, and at the insistence of Genovese, Costello was booted out as one of the fives bosses on the Mafia Commission. This left Anastasia without his closest ally, and put Anastasia in a vulnerable position. Soon after, Anastasia other underboss Frank Scalise was gunned down while shopping for fruits and vegetable on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

The final shoe dropped, when on October 25, 1957, Anastasia was shot to death while sitting in a barber chair in the Park Sheridan Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. With Anastasia now dead, Genovese called for a sitdown with the other bosses, and proposed that Carlo Gambino, whom he had let in on his plot to kill Anastasia, should take over Anastasia’s family. The commission agreed and they renamed the family the Gambino Family.

The greedy Genovese called for a meeting of all the crime bosses, underbosses, captains, and respected Mafia men in America, which was to take place in the sleepy town of Apalachin, New York, at the home of Joseph Barbara, a capo in the crime family of Buffalo crime boss Stephano Magaddino. There were several items on Genovese’s agenda, but the prime one was that Genovese would announce himself as the “ Capo Di Tutti Capi,” or “Boss of All Bosses,” a title that had been vacant since the death of Salvatore Maranzano.

On November 17, 1957, scores of mobsters made their way to Barbara’s home. Included in the group were crime bosses John Scalish, from Cleveland, Sam Giancana from Chicago, Frank DeSimone from California, Santo Trafficante from Florida, Gerardo Catena and Frank Majuri from New Jersey, and Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci, Tommy Lucchese, and Vito Genovese from New York City.

However, before the festivities got under way, state Sergeant Edgar Roswell, along with a dozen state troopers, stormed the house. Roswell later said that he became suspicious when he saw Joseph Barbara Jr. make hotel reservation for a dozen or so out-of-towners. Roswell said he then drove by the Barbara residence and saw dozens of parked luxury car parked in and around Barbara’s estate. Roswell said he called for heavy backup, and when his troopers arrived, they made their move.

Another rumor later circulated that it was Meyer Lansky himself, no big fan of Vito Genovese, who had tipped off the state troopers about the impending Mafia convention.

Be that as it may, when the troopers stormed the house, Mafioso, like in a Chinese fire drill, scattered in all directions. Men in expensive suits jumped though open windows, and if they could not make it to their cars, they hightailed it on foot through the woods, ruining their patent-leather shoes. Sam Giancana safely escaped by fleeing through the woods, as did Bonnano underboss Carmine Galente. But both men were a mess; their suits destroyed by thorny bushes. Some cars made it off the property before a roadblock was put in place, but most didn’t. When the dust cleared 58 members of the Mafia were detained and told to empty out their pockets. A total of $300,000 in cash was found on the 58 men, making the state police all the more suspicious about the meeting.

What was notable about the meeting was the men who chose not to attend. Besides Lansky, those absent were Frank Costello, Carlo Marcello from New Orleans, and Lansky’s pal Joseph “Doc” Stracher.

Of the 58 men detained, 27 were indicted on obstruction of justice, 20 of whom were convicted of refusing to answer questions about the purpose of the meeting. One of the men convicted was Gambino’s cousin Paul Castellano, who wound up doing a year in the slammer as a result.

The aborted meeting, more than anything else, led to the downfall of Vito Genovese. Not only did he not get the exalted title of “Boss of All Bosses,” but he became a pariah in the Mafia; ridiculed as being stupid and greedy for calling so many important men to the same place at the same time for his own purposes.

The day after the raid, the entire nation’s newspapers ran front page stories about the incident. No longer could Mafia men claim that the Mafia did not exist. The police, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who for years denied the existence of the Mafia, went on a rampage, putting extreme pressure on the Mafia’s operations.

Although at first, Carlo Gambino seemed to be a victim of circumstances, the wily mob veteran plotted to turn the incident to his advantage. In fact, there was speculation that Gambino knew about the raid in advance, and went there purposely so that no would would suspect him of being in on the treachery; which would make sense in light of further developments.

With Genovese still stewing from his loss of face, Gambino colluded with Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano (still in exile in Italy, but able to move freely into Cuba to meet with his pals) to get Genovese up to his neck in a multi-million dollar international drug deal. Even thought dealing in drugs was forbidden by the Mafia, the greedy Genovese could not resist the urge to make a ton of dough.

When the time was right, Gambino tipped off the Narcotics Bureau about the drug deal, resulting in Genovese’s arrest. At Genovese’s trial, Gambino paid a false witness named Nelson Cantellops, who insisted on the witness stand that Genovese was not only involved in this particular drug deal, but was, in fact, involved in dozens of drug deals throughout the years. As a result, Genovese was sentence to 15 years in prison. Genovese served a little more than ten years of his sentence, before he died in prison on February 14, 1969.

With Anastasia dead, Genovese in prison, Luciano in exile, Frank Costello basically out of the Mafia loop, Joe Profaci getting older and weaker, and Joe Bonanno having a relatively small crime family, Carlo Gambino became undoubtedly the most powerful Mafia boss in America. His crew of over 500 made men out in the streets included his underboss Joe Biondo, his consigliere Joseph Riccobono, and capos Armand “Tommy” Rava, Aniello “Mr. Neil” Dellacroce, Paul Castellano, Carmine “The Doctor” Lombardozzi, Joseph “Joe Piney” Armone, and Carmine “Wagon Wheels” Fatico.

Gambino expanded his enterprises all over the United States. Besides New York City, Gambino had his fingers in the pot in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Gambino also ruled the powerful International Longshoremen Union, which controlled all the docks in New York, the main port for imports into America.

After Joe Valachi became the first known Mafia informer, Gambino reinforced the rule that forbade the sale of drugs in his crew. Gambino’s rational was that the penalties for selling drugs were so severe, men might turn rat when arrested, rather than do their time in jail like the “real men” of the Mafia had done in the past. The Gambino family policy was “Deal and Die,” and he enforced this rule with no exceptions.

Riding on top of the Mafia heap, Carlo Gambino became a popular figure in New York’s neighborhood streets of Little Italy. While the other bosses barricaded themselves in their mansions, with armed bodyguard, burglar alarms and electrified fences, Gambino walked the streets with impunity, stopping to talk with old friends, while be bought vegetables and fruits from street vendors. Gambino went to Ferrara’s on Grand Street, between Mulberry and Mott, for pastries. Then he would stroll down the block to get his Italian meats, cheeses, and Italian delicacies from Aleva’s, on the corner of Mulberry and Grand.

Starting in March of 1970, Gambino started having trouble with the law. While he was strolling down a Brooklyn street, Gambino was surrounded by New York City police and members of the FBI. They arrested Gambino and charged him with masterminding a scheme to steal $30 million in cash from an an armored truck company located in the Bronx. Gambino was eventually indicted, but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

This forced the Feds to try another tactic to take Gambino off the streets. In 1966 the government had issued a deportation order on Gambino, but for some reason the order was never implemented. In early 1971, after Gambino’s wife Catherine had died of cancer, the Feds did indeed try to implement this order, but on hearing about his imminent danger, the wily Gambino faked a serious heart attack. The Feds were incensed at Gambino’s ploy, so they had the U.S. Public Health Service give Gambino a complete physical. The Feds were aghast when it was determined that Gambino indeed had a severe heart condition. This was confirmed in 1972, when Gambino was rushed from his home at 2230 Ocean Parkway, in Brooklyn, to the Columbus Hospital in Manhattan with a massive heart attack. Why a hospital in Brooklyn was not suitable for Gambino was never revealed.

While recuperating at home, Gambino broke one of the laws he decreed himself — “Deal Drugs and Die.” Acting Genovese boss Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli approached Gambino with a “can’t miss” proposition to broker a multi-million dollar drug deal with Louis Civillo, considered by the Feds to be the biggest narcotics dealer in America. The problem was, Eboli, a former boxing manager and notoriously bad gambler, did not have the $4 million needed to proceed with the operation. Gambino fronted Eboli the $4 million, but he lost it all when the Feds arrested Civillo, and confiscated the drugs and money. When Gambino approached Eboli about his missing $4 million, Eboli turned his pockets inside out, indicating he was flat broke.

This did not please Gambino too much. As a result, at approximately 1 a.m., on July 16, 1972, Eboli was shot five times while he was leaving his girlfriend’s apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Eboli died on the spot, and Gambino had enough influence in the Mafia Commission to order that his close pal, Genovese captain Frank “Funzi” Tieri, would now be the new boss of the Genovese Family. And so it was done.

Gambino had another setback, when in early 1973, his 29-year-old nephew Emmanuel “Manny” Gambino was kidnapped for ransom. This same gang had previously kidnapped a Gambino Crime Family captain, Frank “Frankie the Wop” Manzo for $100,000. After that amount was paid for Manzo’s safe return, the gang got more ambitious with the Manny Gambino kidnapping — this time asking for $200,000. Gambino tried to bargain, offering them only $50,000. Soon after, the body was Manny Gambino was found in a sitting position in a New Jersey dump near the Earle Naval Ammunition Depot. On June 1, 1973, degenerate gambler Robert Senter plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Apparently, Senter had fallen in debt to Gambino and it was easier to kill Gambino then to pay the debt.

After the death of his nephew compounded the agony of the death of his wife, Gambino became a recluse in his house on Ocean Parkway. He surrounded himself with family members, most notably his cousin Paul Castellano. By 1975, it was clear Gambino’s heart condition would not allow him to live much longer. So he began to plan for his succession as the head of the Gambino Crime Family. Wanting to keep power in his own family blood, Gambino anointed his cousin Paul Castellano to succeed him.

This did not go over well with the rest of the Gambinos, who expected longtime Mafioso Aniello Dellacroce to be the natural successor to Gambino. To appease Dellacroce, Gambino gave him all the Manhattan rackets controlled by the Gambino Family. And that was a big gift indeed.

On October 15, 1976, Carlo Gambino took his last breath, as his heart finally gave out. Gambino’s funeral was one of the most elaborate ever to take place in the borough of Brooklyn. More than 100 cars took part in the funeral procession, which ended at the Saint John’s Cemetery in Queens, New York City; the same cemetery his lifelong friend Charles “Lucky” Luciano had been buried at.

In the 1985 film “Prizzi’s Honor,” directed by John Huston and starring Jack Nicholson, actor William Hickey played Don Corrado Prizzi, a character based on Don Carlo Gambino.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Vito Genovese

Posted in bootleggers, Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, Drugs, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Sicily, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Racket-buster and future New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey called him the “King of the Racketeers.” And there is no doubt Vito Genovese was one of the most vicious, conniving, and treacherous bosses in Mafia history.

Genovese was born on November 27, 1897 in the tiny town of Risigliano, located in the Province of Naples in Italy. He reached the equivalent of a fifth grade education in Italy, when in 1913 he traveled to New York City to hook up with his father, who had come to America a few years earlier. The Genovese family settled in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, and soon Genovese was working for an young up-and-coming gangster named Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Genovese also became tight with Mafia thugs like Frank Costello, Joe “Adonis” Doto, and Albert Anastasia. But he didn’t particularly like to associate with Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.

The first time Costello introduced Genovese to Lansky and Siegel as their partners in various criminal enterprises, Genovese said, “What are you tying to do. Load us up with a bunch of Hebes?”

Costello snapped back, “Take it easy, Don Vitone? You’re nothing but a fuckin’ foreigner yourself.”

Because of the inclusion of criminal mastermind Lansky and the muscle provided by Siegel, the Prohibition era of the Roaring Twenties was very profitable for the Italians mobsters. They also hooked up with Irish mobsters Owney “The Killer” Madden and his partner Big Bill Dwyer, who was known as the “King of the Rum Runners,” and was the biggest distributor of illegal booze in the entire United Sates of America.

During the mid 1920’s, the biggest Italian mob boss in New York City was Joe “The Boss” Masseria, a porcine-looking thug, barely five feet tall, who was said to have the table manners of a “drooling mastiff.” Masseria took Luciano, Costello, and Genovese under his wings, and he inserted Luciano as his second in charge, or “Underboss.” The problem was, Masseria didn’t like his men associating with anyone who wasn’t a Sicilian, specifically mentioning Lansky, Siegel, Madden, and Dwyer. Masseria was not too fond either of Genovese, who was from Naples, and Costello (real name Castiglia), who from Calabria. However, Masseria tolerated both men because, after all, they were Italians. But Masseria would not elevate Genovese and Costello to anything above being a mere Mafia soldier. And this did not set too well with Luciano and his pals, Italian or otherwise.

In 1927, Benito Mussolini basically chased the Mafia out of Sicily; jailing some and killing others. Salvatore Maranzano, from the area around the Bay of Castellammare in Sicily, escaped to the United States with another group of Mafia exiles. Maranzano’s boss Don Vito Cascio Ferro had been imprisoned for life by Mussolini and his Chief of Police Caesar Mori. So Maranzano, figuring the American Mafia was inferior to the Sicilian brand, decided he would be able to take over all the rackets of Masseria and his cohorts without too many problems. Or at least, problems he couldn’t handle. This led to what historians called the “Castellamarese War.”

A mobster who met Maranzano soon after Maranzano arrived in America later said, “When we arrived it was very dark. We were brought before before Maranzano, who seemed absolutely majestic, with two pistols stuck in his waist, and about ninety boys who were also armed to the teeth surrounding him. I thought I was in the presence of Pancho Villa.”

From 1927 to 1930, the Castellamarese War raged all over New York City. Men were killed in and in front of pool rooms, Italian members-only clubs, all-night diners, bars and restaurants, and even in the streets as they emerged from their cars. The killers fired their guns from moving cars, roof tops, and darkened doorways. When the dust cleared, 50 bodies were piled up in the streets, which made Luciano consider the wiseness of his allegiance to Masseria. Lansky, who was the closest to Luciano, cautioned Luciano to “Wait the war out. Let the bosses kill each other, then we can step in and take over.”

It is not clear who’s idea it was first, but in the spring 1931, Luciano and Lansky had a secret meeting with Maranzano in Maranzano’s midtown office. At this meeting it was decided that Luciano and his cohorts would switch sides in the Castellamarese War and back Maranzano. Of course, this meant taking out Masseria, which Luciano had no compunction doing.

Luciano figured the best set-up was to entice Masseria into a situation the usually-cagey Masseria would feel totally comfortable with. And this, of course was scarfing down food in a four-star Italian restaurant.

According to Rick Cohen’s fine book on Jewish mobsters Tough Jews, on April 15, 1931, Luciano asked Masseria out to lunch in Brooklyn, far away from Masseria’s stronghold in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Luciano told Masseria, “We’ll go over to Scarpato’s in Brooklyn. Scarpato fixes sauce like in the old country, with the clams and the good olive oil.”

The mere mention of food caused drool to flow down Masseria’s lips, so he readily agreed to Luciano’s request. The two men took Masseria’s bullet-proof limousine from the lower east side of Manhattan to Brooklyn, and sat at a table in the back of Scarpato’s. In just a few short hours, Masseria consumed more food than the average man could eat in two days. When his belly was full, Masseria requested a deck of cards so that he and his best pal Luciano could play a little poker.

At around 3 p.m., Luciano excused himself and went into the men room. Seconds later, four men burst through the front door of the restaurant. They were comprised of the eclectic group of Genovese, Anastasia, Siegel, and a very capable Jewish killer named Red Levine. They reportedly fired 20 bullets at Masseria; some of them actually connecting with their intended target. Masseria rolled flat on his back, as dead as the card hand he was holding. In photos in the next day newspapers, all that was visible was Masseria’s right bloody hand, palm up, holding the ace of diamonds. From that point on, mobsters considered the ace of diamonds a curse. Some even sent the ace of diamonds to an enemy, warning him he was about to join Masseria in that hot place downstairs with no air conditioning.

With Masseria now quite dead, the four gunmen rushed to a waiting car, with the very nervous Ciro Terranova behind the wheel. Terranova was shaking so hard, he was unable to get the car into gear. Siegel angrily pushed Terranova aside, and drove the getaway car himself. A few years later, Terranova was banished from Luciano’s mob, because Luciano agreed with Siegel, Levine, and Genovese that Terranova had no guts.

When Luciano finally exited the men’s room, he found several nervous waiters, bullet holes in the walls and tables, and a dead Masseria on the floor. When the police arrived soon after, Luciano told the law that he didn’t see anything because, “I was in the bathroom taking a lead. And I take long leaks.”

Since the waiters clammed up, and the police themselves had an extreme dislike for Masseria, no one was ever arrested for Masseria’s murder, and it is doubtful that the police ever even looked for his killer.

When Maranzano heard about Masseria’s demise, he was beside himself with glee. Maranzano immediately named himself the winner of the Castellamarese War and the new boss of the Mafia. He immediately made Luciano his right-hand man.

A few weeks after Masseria’s demise, Maranzano called a meeting of every Mafioso in New York City, reportedly to be over 500 made men. The meeting took place in a large warehouse in the Bronx, near the Harlem River. At this meeting Maranzano divided these men into five separate crime families. As the five bosses of these families, Maranzano named Lucky Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Tommy Luchese, Joe Profaci, and Joe Bonnano. Maranzano also appointed each family a second-in-command, or “Underboss,” and he named Genovese as the “Underboss” of the Luciano Family.

Of course, Maranzano also named himself the “Boss of All Bosses,” or the” Capi de Tuti Capi,” and this was not palatable to Luciano and the other Mafia leaders, who were tired of always having someone lording over them, taking a big piece of their pies.

Even though Maranzano promised that his new organization, which he dubbed “Cosa Nostra,” or “Our Thing,” would keep peace and prosperity in the forefront of their operation, Maranzano secretly felt quite differently. He immediately drew up a list of people he wanted dead, because he felt their ambition was a threat to his leadership. Luciano, Costello, and Genovese were on that list. Maranzano invited Luciano, Costello and Genovese to a meeting in Maranzano’s midtown office. At this meeting, Maranzano planned to have Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole, an especially vicious Irish killer, execute all three men. Maranzano paid Cole $25,000 in advance, with another $25,000 payable after the dirty deed was done.

However, Luciano had a mole inside Maranzano’s inner circle, allegedly Tommy Luchese, and Luchese tipped Luciano as to the set-up. On the day of their intended demise, neither Luciano, Costello, nor Genovese were anywhere near Maranzano’s office. Instead, Luciano sent four Jewish gangsters, selected by Meyer Lansky and headed by Red Levine (who was also one of the shooters in the Masseria killing) to Maranzano’s office. The four killers posing as police detectives, bullied their way past Maranzano’s bodyguards in the outer office, and busted into Maranzano’s inner office, where they shot and stabbed Maranzano to death.

The four killers then hurried out of Maranzano’s office, followed by Maranzano’s ex-bodyguards, who were now looking for new jobs. The men sprinted down the stairs and barreled right into “Mad Dog” Cole, who was carrying a machine gun in a violin case. They told Cole that Maranzano was already dead, and to beat it before the cops showed up. Cole did an about face and followed the killers out of the building, having just received a $25,000 pay day without firing a shot.

With Masseria and now Maranzano out of the way, the five Mafia families thrived. However, Genovese, along with Anastasia the most vicious killers of the bunch, began an out-of-control killing spree.

First, Genovese’s wife (name unknown) suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. The word on the streets was that Genovese had killed his wife and made her body disappear, because he had fallen in love with a woman named Anna. The only problem was, Anna was already married to a man named Gerard Vernotico. Now this was merely a small obstacle to Genovese, who killed Vernotico on a tenement rooftop, then married Anna two weeks later, on March 30, 1932.

In 1934, things started falling apart for Genovese, when he was involved in an extortion plot gone awry. One of his co-conspirators in the plot was Ferdinand Boccia. Genovese, fearful that Boccia was the weak link and would squeal, murdered Boccia himself. This would later come back to haunt Genovese.

In 1936, special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey set his sights on organized crime, and on Luciano and Genovese in particular. After Luciano was convicted on a trumped-up charge of prostitution, allegedly orchestrated by Dewey himself, Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison. Before he left to do his time, Luciano named Genovese as the boss of Luciano’s family. But in 1937, Genovese was indicted for the murder of Boccia that had happened three years earlier. Instead of being fed the same fate as his pal Luciano, Genovese escaped to Sicily, one year after Genovese had become an American naturalized citizen. With Genovese unable to supervise the Luciano family, Luciano, from prison, degreed that Frank Costello was now the head of the Luciano Family.

While Genovese was in Sicily he was a very busy man indeed. Having reportedly taking $750,000 in cash with him, Genovese put this money to work for him on the streets. Of course this was impossible to do without the friendship and cooperation of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was intimately involved in Word War II, as an enemy of the United States. Genovese paid for the construction of a power plant for Mussolini in Nola, located in Southern Italy. Then Genovese contributed $250,000 for the construction of a Municipal building that Mussolini wanted built. Whenever Genovese got a little short of cash, he contacted his wife Anna in America, who was handling Genovese’s business operations while he was in his self-imposed exile. During this time, Anna Genovese made frequent trips to Italy to replenish her husband coffers.

To show his gratitude for Genovese’s largess, Mussolini awarded Genovese the Order of the Crown of Italy, a high civilian honor. And because one good turn deserves another, in 1943, Genovese arranged for the murder in New York City of Mussolini’s chief nemeses, Italian newspaper editor Carlo Tresa, who was stirring up the pot against Mussolini in his radical Italian newspaper Il Martello, which was sold in Italian communities in America. The hit was allegedly done by up-and-coming mobster Carmine Galente, who shot Tresa in the back of the head as Tresa was strolling down Fifth Avenue near 13th Street.

In 1944, Mussolini’s empire was crumbling. Genovese, seeing the handwriting on the wall, switched sides and began working for the United States Army, basically as an informer, who led the Army to a slew of black market operators, whom Genovese had been doing business with. Soon, the Army got wise to why Genovese was working with them so readily. It seemed that every time the Army shut down a black market operation that Genovese had led them too, Don Vitone took over that operation himself.

With the war over, and all of the witnesses against Genovese either dead or disappeared, Genovese made his way back into the United States. With no evidence against Genovese, the prosecutors simply dropped the Boccia murder case against him.

Genovese immediately tried to gain back control of the Luciano family, but Costello, with the help of Lansky and Anastasia, was too firmly entrenched. So Genovese bided his time. He moved with his wife to a luxurious house in Atlantic Highland in New Jersey and took the guise of a civic-minded businessman who gave heavily to numerous charities, including the Boy Scouts of America. In fact, Genovese was heavily involved in the narcotics business, raking in millions and building up his war chest to fight his way back to the top.

Genovese had a minor setback, when in 1953, Anna Genovese, claiming physical and emotional distress, sued Genovese for divorce. During their divorce trial, which was reported daily in the press, Anna Genovese said that her husband had stashed millions of dollars in European accounts, and that he grossed between $20,000-$30,000 a week from the Italian lottery games. This caused Genovese much dishonor amongst his Mafia cohorts, and delayed his planned coup d’état for control of the Mafia families.

Genovese waited until 1957 to make his attack. Since his return from Italy, it was estimated that Genovese, through drug dealing, Italian lotteries, and his activities with corrupt labor unions, had accumulated about $30 million of “play money” to invest in treachery. His three main obstacles to achieve his mission of Mafia control were Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, and Meyer Lansky. Since Lansky was Jewish and therefore not eligible to be in the Mafia, Genovese figured if he took out Costello and Anastasia, Lansky would have no other choice but to fall in line.

Genovese tried to take the first bite of the apple, when in 1957, he sent hulking ex-boxer Vincent “The Chin” Gigante to ambush Costello in the lobby of Costello’s Park Avenue apartment building. Gigante pointed his gun and said, “This is for you, Frank!” But the bulled Gigante fired simply grazed Costello’s head. A quick rush to the hospital emergency room and Costello was back in his own bed that same night. True to the code of omerta, when Gigante was captured and brought to trial, Costello refused to identify Gigante as his attempted assassin.

Genovese’s second upwardly mobile move was more successful. On October 25, 1957, Genovese arranged for the murder of Anastasia, who was filled with lead by two men as he sat in the barber chair in the Park Sheridan Hotel. Genovese originally gave the murder contract to his ally Joe Profaci, the head of one of the Mafia five families, and Profaci allegedly subcontracted out the hit to Crazy Joe Gallo’s Red Hook Brooklyn crew. Anastasia’s murder was never solved and over the years several men have privately took credit for the hit, including Gallo.

With Genovese still angling for his Mafia takeover, Costello and Lansky, with the approval of Luciano who was now exiled in Italy, devised a scheme whereby they could put Genovese out of commission for good without killing him. They enlisted the aid of an ambitious mobster named Carlo Gambino, who was looking for a rise to the top himself. Gambino approached Genovese about a proposed mutimillion international drug deal that would net them tons of money. Even though Genovese had outlawed drug dealing in his own crew, Don Vitone didn’t figure this ban extended to him, so he greedily agreed. Then Gambino, though his crooked connections in law enforcement, arranged for Genovese to be arrested on a drug conspiracy charge. However, the Feds needed proof before they could try and convict Genovese.

The wily Gambino knew a convicted minor drug dealer rotting in Sing Sing Prison named Nelson Cantellops. He approached Cantellops though an intermediary and suggested if Cantellops would testify in court that he had witnessed Genovese involved in several big money drug deals, Gambino would arrange for Cantellops to be paid the whopping sum of $100,000, a suspended sentence, and a release from prison. To accomplish this, Costello, Lansky, and Luciano would contribute $50,000, and Gambino would kick in the other $50,000.

Luciano later said about the sting, “We had to pay him (Cantellops) pretty good.”

Cantellops thought about the proposition for about two seconds and he agreed to take the bribe.

Then an anonymous tip was called in to the New York Narcotic Bureau saying that Cantellops would be willing to trade information on Genovese for his freedom. With Genovese being such a big fish, and Cantellops hardly a minnow, the government readily agreed.

In 1958, Genovese and twenty four member of his crew were arrested for violating the new Narcotics Control Act.

In 1959, at Genovese’s trial, Cantellops was the star witness for a full four weeks. Cantellops said under oath that he had personally witnessed Genovese and his underlings over the years making numerous drug buys. He also said that for two years he had acted as a courier for Genovese, carrying heroin from New York City to various other cities around the country. Cantellops testified that on one occasion he had accompanied Genovese to a meeting in the Bronx where it was discussed how to divvy up the heroin-selling territories.

Based almost exclusively on the testimony of Nelson Cantellops, Genovese and all 24 of his cohorts were found guilty. Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in prison, to be served at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.

While in prison, Genovese continued to run his crime family though intermediaries. Mobster Joe Valachi later testified before the John L. McClellan’s Subcommittee that while in jail Genovese, because he knew he had been framed, became extremely paranoid. Genovese trusted no one, and even ordered the execution of his top aide Tony Bender, just because he suspected Bender, wrongfully of course, in being involved in the set-up.

In prison, Genovese developed nervous symptoms and severe heart problems. Vito Genovese died of a heart attack on February 14, 1969, while still in prison. He is buried in Saint John’s Cemetery in Queens.

In the 1972 movie The Valachi Papers, staring Charles Bronson, Genovese was portrayed by actor Lino Ventura. And in the 2001 TV movie Boss of Bosses, Genovese’s part was played by actor Steven Bauer.