Mafia Origins Origins and History of the Mafia “Commission” By: Richard Lindberg For years, the FBI blindly denied the existence of a National Mafia “Commission.” To even suggest that a consortium of career criminals representing the interest of twenty-four crime “families” were secretly meeting to define objectives and set national policy invited censure and hot denial from the Bureau. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was finally forced to admit that this shadowy crime cartel was a lethal force in American life following public disclosure of a secret conference of sixty-five ranking mobsters at Joseph Barbara’s sprawling estate outside Apalachin, New York on November 14, 1957. Astute state troopers, accompanied by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms tax unit, observed several well-known Mafia figures coming and going from the country house of the millionaire president of the Canada Dry Bottling Company of Endicott, New York. Road blocks were hastily set up, and in the ensuing commotion, the aging “dons” fled into the dense woods discarding money and guns as they fled in panic.
While no one was charged with a crime, the attending media publicity focused national attention on this long-rumored Mafia Commission, whose origins date back to 1931, and the conclusion of the Castellammarese War. The fragmented New York underworld had coalesced under the leadership of Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, an old-fashioned crime boss who cloaked his various illegal enterprises under the guise of familial traditions of honor, respect, and oaths of loyalty. The younger bosses, notably Joe Profaci, Thomas Lucchese, and Joseph Bonanno bitterly resented that the older bosses, cloaking themselves in outmoded and irrelevant European customs, should be telling them what to do. Thus, the Young Turk faction aligned itself to Brooklyn boss Salvatore Maranzano, himself a “Mustache Pete,” who aspired to become the “Boss of Bosses.” Maranzano was born in Castellammarese de Golfo in Sicily, and the war he initiated against the Neapolitan Masseria in 1928, came to be known as the Castellammarese War. For three years the combatants traded insults and bullets, with no immediate resolution or hope for victory on either side. Tiring of the endless bloodshed, Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano, initially an ally of Masseria, pressed for settlement of the dispute.
... both cases because the accused were being charged with Nazi war crimes, specifically genocide, there cases seem to get a little leeway ... of individuals that it thought to be guilty of Nazi War Crimes. Not only will one find some of the answers to ... on 3 May 1946 are excellent examples of how such crimes of war are dealt with. (Roberts and Guelff 153-54) But ...
When Masseria refused, Luciano plotted the older man’s demise with Vito Genovese, Ciro Terranova, Joe Adonis, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Albert Anastasia, all destined to play important roles in the development of the Mafia and its ruling National Commission. Masseria was murdered inside the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn on April 15, 1931. The Neapolitan gang boss was shot six times as he sat alone at his table gorging on antipasto and linguine after Luciano excused himself and disappeared into the bathroom. Believing himself to be invulnerable to the intrigues of his jealous upstarts, Maranzano, backed by an army of 600 “soldiers,” proclaimed himself Boss of Bosses at a secret meeting inside a Bronx, New York social hall that same year.
Maranzano delineated the lines of authority and drafted the organizational structure that guided the Mafia in America through the twentieth century. Allegedly, it was Maranzano who coined the phrase “La Cosa Nostra,” meaning “this thing of ours.” Luciano and his cohorts endorsed the concept, but drew back when it became evident that Maranzano would never relinquish power. Accordingly, they had him assassinated inside his real estate office at 230 Park Avenue, September 10, 1931. Four men dressed as police officers brushed past security and emptied their revolvers into the Boss of Bosses. The body was later recovered in Newark Bay. In the next twenty-four hours, three other “Mustache Petes” from New York were systematically liquidated-far less than the nationwide bloodbath described by Donald R.
... used in the commission of a crime or it may be the target. Net-crime refers to criminal ... unauthorized access in its definition of cyber-crime. Cyber-crime in effect covers a wide range of ... account. For example, in 2002 the New York Times reported that more than 21,000 American ... new criminal opportunities but few new types of crime. What distinguishes cybercrime from traditional criminal activity? ...
Cressy in his 1969 volume Theft of the Nation. With the slate wiped clean, Luciano and Meyer Lansky reorganized the National Commission with Luciano, Joseph, Bon nano, Vincent Mangano, Joseph Profaci, Thomas Gagliano Stefano Magaddino of Buffalo, and Frank Nitti in Chicago brought in as charter members. Sam Giancana served as Chicago’s representative during his nine-year rule as head of the Outfit in the 1950 s, but sensing the East Coast orientation of the Commission, Giancana kept his organization a comfortable arm’s length away. Patterned after the hierarchical structure of modern corporations, the Commission was a tightly controlled bureaucracy of crime based on patriarchy, and empowered to settle jurisdictional disputes as they arose, particularly in cities like Las Vegas, which has always been considered “open territory” for organized crime penetration.
During the 1940 s, a Jewish-Italian combination known as the “Big Six” (Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Meyer Lansky, Tony Ac cardo, Jake Guzik, and Long Zwillman) were influential in policy making. However, their precise role and eventual successors is open to interpretation. After Lansky passed away in 1983, the Jewish presence on the Commission all but disappeared. In his book Organized Crime, author and criminologist Howard Abadinsky cites the true purpose of the Commission as being an intervener in family disputes, approving “the initiation of new members, joint ventures between families,” while exercising control of relations between “the U. S. and Sicilian branches of La Cosa Nostra.” Within the ruling Commission, various sub-committees were often appointed to handle specific matters, or localized disputes.
In April 1986, the President’s Commission on Organized Crime concluded that nationwide membership in the Mafia totaled 1, 700 members belonging to twenty-four “families,” or crime groups falling under the nominal authority of the National Commission. “The Commission traditionally has consisted of the bosses or acting bosses from the five New York families, and bosses from several of the more important families around the country. Besides the five New York bosses, the La Cosa Nostra Commission currently includes bosses from Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. The exception is the New Orleans family, which is independent in most matters,” the eighteen-member panel went on to say. Other crime groups fell under the spheres of influence of larger, better-organized families. The Chicago “Outfit” dominated the smaller Midwestern groups in Kansas City, St.
... . They recognized opportunity just as others did. Mafia members thrived in the Italian neighborhoods of large American cities. New Orleans was ... of money 'legally', and it increases the influence the Mafia boss has in political life. Jimmy Hoffa, former Teamsters union ... torture or death. Always help out fellow Mafia members. Avenge attacks on members of the family, because every sheep is part of ...
Louis, Milwaukee, Rockford, and Detroit. Cleveland was under the control of the Genovese family in New York. In November 1986, he heads of the five families were convicted of conducting the affairs of “the commission of La Cosa Nostra,” in a pattern or racketeering violating federal RICO statutes. The subsequent jail terms handed down in this landmark case considerably weakened the power of the National Commission to formulate policy.
Others argue that the Commission was never very effective to begin with, evidenced by its inability to rein in the Gallo-Profaci combatants in the vicious war of succession that erupted in the early 1960 s, and its failure to head off Joe Bonanno’s ruthless power grab later in the decade. In the wake of the RICO indictments, the New York Mafia families were thrown into chaos and disarray, but they did not disappear or disband simply because of governmental prosecutions. Younger men rushed in to fill the void, sparking internecine gang wars in the 1980 s, not unlike the bitter and contentious battles that contributed to the formation of the Commission in 1931. It is believed that the Commission still exists in one form or another, but in a diminished capacity and centralized along the East Coast. web > Copyright 2001 by Search International When one thinks of Cosa Nostra, or better known as the Mafia, it strikes fear in knowing that a ruthless criminal enterprise existed and still thrives today. The Mafia is something that Hollywood movie producers and Americans alike can’t simply seem to get enough of.
The name Cosa Nostra, translated as “Our Thing,” goes back hundreds of years and was founded in Sicily to offer protection to the common people of that country from police, bandits and even government agencies. Cosa Nostra, not surprisingly were treated as folk heroes, saviors of the people. The practice of keeping your mouth shut was the code and if you violated it, the wrath was swift and deadly not only to the culprit, but to his own family as well. This served as the power base for the American Mafia which was organized, depending on who you ask, during the 1920 s by several leaders, most notably Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria and up and coming mobster, Salvatore Maranzano. These old style gangsters were known as “Mustache Petes” for their traditional and conservative ways of doing business. To them, rapid change and too much ambition were out of the question.
... friend Joe, and wishes his friend’s family were his family. He sees Joe’s family as normal ... people and this means that he sees his family ... . p 7). Conclusions about this family The Jacques family needs medical interventions. From the observation ... Policies/Practices and Relationships to Child Placement, Family Services and Residence. U.S Department ...
In other words, they wanted their members to be complacent while they reaped the fruits of others’ dastardly deeds. Salvatore Maranzano arrived in the United States in 1927. He came here not as your ordinary Italian immigrant, but was sent by the Sicilian “Boss of Bosses” Vito Casio Ferro. Don Vito had a vision of organizing all the American crime families, including non-Italians groups, under one leadership.
Once on American soil, Maranzano’s authority was recognized by Gaetano Reina of Brooklyn and his capos, Thomas Luchese and Gaetana Gagliano, by Joey Aiello, the boss of Chicago, and by Joe Zerilli, underboss of the Detroit family. These men entered the United States illegally and were identified by Italian police records as members of the Sicilian Mafia. Other Sicilian Mafia members to arrive in this manner were Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonanno, Stefano Maggadino and Joe Profaci. Collectively, these mobsters were known as the Twenties Group. When these men hit the American coast, they took shelter in an organization called Unione Siciliana which found them housing, jobs when they wanted them, and identities to cover up their illegal activities. Unione Siciliana also afforded these men the opportunity to learn English and the American way of life.
This organization has received a bad rap by history because it helped mobsters and was considered “Mafia owned.” This however was not true. Unione Siciliana also helped thousands of law abiding Italian immigrants in adjusting to American life. Including the family of Salvatore Lucania. Better known as Lucky Luciano. 1. Maffia Started as a patriotic organization when the Arab invaders seized the island, driving bands of citizens into the hills where they conducted guerilla operations.
... to maintain homeostasis in their family. Refrences Boss, P. (1979). Theoretical influences on family policy. Journal of Home Economics ... it easier to maintain homeostasis in the family. Family Systems Theory My family is not much different than any ... in miscommunication, inefficiency, conflict etc. and impacts family negatively. Family Subsystems Mother and father subsystem. Typically, there are ...
Later the ‘Mafia’ fought the French oppressors and functioned as a fraternal society initially created to protect the lives and welfare of the Sicilinas. 2. “Ma-fia, Ma-fia!” The most prevailing myth among southern-Italians of the word. In 1282, during a revolt of Sicilians against against their French occupiers, a French soldier allegedly raped a young Sicilian woman on her wedding day. Her anguished mother ran though the streets crying, “Ma-fia, Ma-fia!” , infuriated Sicilians rose up and thousands of Frenchmen died in a bloodbath.
3. Squadri della Maffia The first recorded use of the word. A group of peasants supporting Giuseppe Garibladi were described as ‘squadri della maffia’. Born on July 4, 1807, in Nice, France, Garibladi (1807-87) was an Italian nationalist revolutionary and leader in the struggle for Italian unification and independence.
In 1833 he joined Young Italy, the movement organized by the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini to achieve the freedom of the Italian people and their unification into a self-governing republic. He promised the peasants that their years of enslavement were at an end and that unification would bring social change to Sicily. But nothing happened. Garibaldi was condemned to death in 1834, but he escaped to South America, where he lived for 12 years.
4. I mafisusi della V icaria A celebrated play in 1863. It described the life in a Palermo prison in which there existed a ‘consorteria mafiusa’ – a secret society of criminals, with a hierarchy which had its own rules, ran the prison by bribing or scaring the guards into submission. 5.
M. A. F. I.
A. In 1282, the French Angevins “held a tight grip on Sicily,” and a secret society arose to defeat this oppressive organization. The battle cry of this rebellious group was “morte alla Francia Italia an elia!” (Italian for “death to the French is Italy’s cry!” ), and if the first letters of the verse are taken, the anagram MAFIA is deciphered. (Contributed by Ben Calcaterra) web > Ranks of Mafia Capo C rimini Super Boss Capo di Tutti Capi Boss of Bosses Cupola Commission Don Boss Consigliere Trusted Advisor; Counsellor; “In-house lawyer” Consiglieri Plural of Consigliere Sotto Capo Underboss (number 2 in a family) Capo Bast one Same as Underboss Cantabile Financial Advisor Capodecina Captain of ten Capo Same as Capo regime Capi Plural of Capo Sgarrista High Soldier Picciotto Low Soldier; “Buttons” Giovane D’Honore Associates (non-made members) web > The Mafia Induction Oath The induction ceremony is usually conducted by the boss of the family. Present on the secret ceremony are the underboss, the consiglieri, and the rest of the top ranking capi in the family.
... truthfully driven by the desire to sustain his family’s financial comfort and the business’ reputation ... which helps him to provide for his family. Keller is an undoubtedly assertive and dominant ... imprint of the machine-shop worker and boss still upon him.” This reveals how Keller ... Joe Keller varies through-out the play, as the protagonist is conveyed as a successful business man, a capitalistic family ...
According to the book Underboss, the group would hold hands, forming a circle. They would then break the circle, get the newly inducted into the circle and form the circle again. This symbolized that the family has opened up and accepted the newly inducted into the family. During the induction ceremony, the initiate’s trigger finger is cut, blood is then drawn from the wound, and a holy card with an image of the family’s patron saint is burned on his hand.
The actual words of the oath may differ in words but according to secret FBI recordings made in Connecticut, in 1989, one induction oath went like this: “I (NAME GIVEN) want to enter into this organization to protect my family and to protect my friends. I swear not to divulge this secret and to obey with love and omerta. As burns this saint so will burn my soul. I enter alive into this organization and leave it dead.” web > Five Families Bonanno The vestiges of Sal Maranzano’s criminal organization, the Bonanno family is second only to the Colombos in terms of the publicity its leaders sought and enjoyed. Always fighting against Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonanno also chafed under the rules of the Commission and brought down its ire. Bonanno tried to have Gambino removed from power after Gambino took out Bonanno ally Albert Anastasia and when Joe Profaci died, Bonanno found his support on the Commission down to one — himself.
It didn’t take long for Bonanno to go into hiding — he said he was kidnapped — and when a deal was struck for his “retirement” he resurfaced and moved to Arizona where he died recently at age 97. From Arizona, he penned an autobiography, “A Man of Honor,” and managed to indirectly help the feds gut the New York Five Families leadership in the Commission Trial. His successor was Carmine Galante who was, like Paul Castellano, taken down by ambitious underlings. Unlike Bonanno, Galante was not given a retirement option.
Today, experts estimate the Bonanno family has about 100 members and associates. Joe Bonanno Joe Bonanno took control of the former Maranzano Family in 1931 and helped form a commission that ruled the Sicilian underworld in America. His cousin, Stefano Maggadino, was a Buffalo mob boss who helped him sneak into the United States in 1924. After bootlegging for a few years, Bonanno went to work for Salvatore Maranzano. Bonanno was the boss of a powerful family that fed off the proceeds of prostitution, protection rackets, gambling, narcotics and murder. Bonanno vanished for 19 months after an apparent October 1964 kidnapping during the “Bananas Wars.” Mobster Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno said the disappearance was a ploy to avoid testifying before grand juries.
But Bonanno said he was grabbed by Magaddino, with whom he was feuding. After his release, Bonanno said he hid out in his Tucson home and in New York City before coming out of hiding in May 1966. He was known as Joe Bananas, but that was a nickname he hated. In 1977 Bonanno was described in the Arizona Daily Star as “the biggest and most important mobster of all. Probably the most powerful Mafioso in America, the boss west of the Rocky Mountains.” He died in May 2002 at the age of 97. Colombo (profaci) Known for much of its history as the Profaci family, the Colombos have suffered through probably to most internecine battles between factions.
That infighting, more than anything else has kept the Colombo mob from prospering as it could. Made up of perhaps the most ambitious wiseguys in New York City, the Colombos included such men as the Gallo brothers, Joe Profaci and Carmine Persico. Profaci was a very powerful boss who made the mistake of running his family along the model devised by Sal Maranzano, who demanded excessive tribute from his soldiers. Profaci and his crews battled openly with other families, especially the Bonanno family. Once Joe Profaci died and Joe Colombo took over, the family settled down somewhat but Colombo’s ego and short-sightedness made the Colombo gang persona non grat a among the other families and contributed to Colombo’s assassination. With the very able Carmine Persico in the driver’s seat, the Colombos thrived in the 1970 s and early 80 s before Carmine was hammered with essentially a life sentence for racketeering.
His son, Alphonse, did an admirable job running the family in his father’s absence, but again, prosecutions and defections have gutted this once-proud criminal organization. Joe Profaci One of the most reviled bosses (even by his own men) Joe Profaci ruled his family with an iron fist, demanding excessive tribute money and absolute, unquestioning fidelity and respect. Profaci was of the old school like Sal Maranzano, but in a new school era and that meant trouble. The Profaci-Gallo war of the 1960 s occurred because the Gallo brothers did a favor for their boss by rubbing out Frankie Shots Abbatamarco but were rebuffed in their request for his territory. When they were stiffed by the boss, the Gallos recruited other disenchanted soldiers and went to war by kidnapping high-ranking Profaci family members. Profaci responded not as the Gallos expected but instead started peeling off their supporters and isolating the brothers.
Profaci died in 1962 from cancer, ending the war. Joe Colombo The youngest of the bosses, Colombo toiled under Joe Profaci and took control of the family when Profaci died in 1962. He was one of the most high profile Commission members who took great offense with the negative portrayal of Italian-Americans on television and in the movies. Colombo’s Italian-American Civil Rights League was responsible for having all references to the Mafia removed from the script of The Godfather.
He grew in power and popularity among Italian-Americans and his fame was unsettling to other members of the Commission. They turned to Crazy Joe Gallo, who always had a beef with his family’s leadership, to take care of things. Gallo had connections with African-American organized crime and thus arranged for Jerome Johnson to take out Colombo at the second annual Italian-American Day rally at Colombos Circle in New York City. Colombo lingered in a coma for some time before dying.
Johnson was killed on the spot by Colombo’s bodyguards, wrapping things up very neatly for the Commission. Gambino (Mangano) The Gambino family history proves that staying on top is much more difficult than getting there. Originally known as the Mangano family of LCN, for first boss Vincent Mangano, the family thrived and prospered under a powerful set of leaders like Albert Anastasia and Carlo Gambino. More than any other family, Gambino bosses tend to be targets of their underlings, but strong dons like Albert A or Carlo Gambino were able to solidify their power bases and extend their protection to other families, making getting Commission permission for a coup very difficult. At one time, Carlo Gambino managed to place four loyalists on the thrones of the other powerful Syndicate groups and became a defacto capo di tutti capi. Nothing lasts forever, and Gambino’s snub of his underboss, Neil Dellacroce, in favor of his brother-in-law Paul Castellano, eventually paved the way for John Gotti’s rise to power.
As a flamboyant and very visible don, Gotti attracted the attention and ire of law enforcement which picked apart the clan which Albert and Carlo spent so much time building. A shadow of its former glory, the Gambinos number less than 200 actives and associates. Carlo Gambino Don Carlo was arguably the most powerful mob chief ten of them all, and he was certainly the most ruthless. He rose through the ranks of the Mangano family and took charge by convincing someone — many say Joe Gallo — to take out Albert Anastasia.
The fact that the Gambino family is named for him is testament to his power. He was a machiavellian schemer who used the Commission to further his own ends and though he looked like a kindly old Italian grandfather, was a cold-blooded killer who was not afraid to use strong methods when diplomacy failed. Never a flashy or ostentatious leader, Carlo lived a humble life and eschewed the trappings of luxury loved by his successors. If Carlo made any mistakes, it was anointing his son-in-law, Paul Castellano, as his successor, instead of underboss Neil Dellacroce. Castellano was powerful but Dellacroce’s snub angered enough people in the family and allowed John Gotti to rise to power.
The Gambino family was a favorite target of the feds in the 1980 s and 90 s and has been decimated by defections and prosecutions. Paul Castellano The successor to Carlo Gambino, Paul Castellano is best known for being the guy John Gotti had killed to seal his own rise to power. It would be unfair to say Paul got where he was because he married the boss’s daughter, for Castellano was a smart gangster who was surrounded by greedy underlings. Castellano, a tall man and flashy dresser who lived large, still held the traditional view that narcotics were a bad idea for the mob and forbade his crews from getting involved in drug sales. Gotti, who faced a family death sentence for dealing dope, was placed between a rock and a hard place when Castellano demanded to hear tapes of Gotti and friends discussing drug deals. Castellano wanted to hear the tapes because he was about to be prosecuted in the federal Commission case thanks to bugs placed in his own mansion.
Unable to hold off Castellano any longer, Gotti had Castellano and his bodyguard, Tommy Bi lotti, whacked outside Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan. John Gotti John Gotti was born Oct. 27, 1940, one of 13 children. Gotti quit school at 16 joined the Gambino family wise guys in his Brooklyn neighborhood as an associate in the 1950 s. Within a few years, he was jacking swag at Kennedy Airport, for which he served three years. Released in 1972, he killed the murderer of a nephew of boss Carlo Gambino which earned him his button.
Once known as the “Dapper Don” for his fine double-breasted suits and confident bearing, and as the “Teflon Don” after a series of acquittals, John Gotti was sentenced to life in 1992 for racketeering and six killings including “Big Paulie” Castellano, whom he followed as boss of New York’s Gambino crime family in 1985. Gotti reigned for six years as the nation’s most high-profile mobster, claiming to be a plumbing supply salesman while strutting about in expensive suits and sneering at law enforcers who kept trying to put him behind bars. In the end, Gotti’s leadership of the Gambinos led to the collapse of the family, because he attracted so much attention. In 1990, the feds arrested Gotti, Sammy Gravano and crony Frank Loca scio on charges of racketeering and murder, the centerpiece being the Castellano rubout. Prosecutors played tapes of Gotti delivering lengthy Fidel Castro-like speeches about “whacking” people and other mob topics. He said a crony was murdered because he “didn’t come in when I called.” Weeks before the 1992 trial, Gravano cut a deal and became the star witness.
Gotti suffered from throat cancer and had been moved from the maximum-security federal prison in Marion, Ill. to the hospital in Springfield, Mo. where he died in May 2002. Genovese (Joe Masseria -> Charlie Luciano) Named for Don Vito Genovese, this family is probably the most powerful LCN family in New York if not the world. The blue blood crime family, the Genovese line begins for all intents and purposes with Joe Masseria, followed by Charlie Luciano, and includes Frank Costello and Vito Genovese among its dons. The Genovese family has always been one of the largest organized crime operations in the United States and its leaders have been able to exert considerable muscle in the underworld and in the political and business arenas.
Weakened by prosecutions in recent years, the Genovese family remains firmly ensconced in New York City rackets and will for some time, despite its aging membership and the imprisonment of boss Chin Gigante and many of his capos. Gangland expert Jerry Cape ci estimates the size of the Genovese family at about 250 members and associates. Joe Masseria Joe Masseria was born in Sicily in 1887. He moved to the United States in 1903 and settled in New York where he soon became involved in criminal activity. By 1930 he was one of the city’s leading gangsters and employing people such as Albert Anastasia, Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano.
Masseria was involved in bootlegging, prostitution and drug smuggling. In an attempt to hold on to his lucrative trade, Masseria declared war on his main rival, Salvatore Maranzano. Over the next few months over sixty men were killed during this gang war. On 15 th April, 1931, a group of his own men, including Albert Anastasia, Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano, killed Masseria while he was sitting in a Coney Island restaurant.
Joe “The Boss” Masseria Joe had little man’s syndrome. He was never above biting and groin punching his quarry. In fact, at 5’2″, he was never above anything. Born in 1879 as Guise ppe Masseria, he was a racist, bigoted, old school mobster. Almost everything about the man is apocryphal. Joe spoke very little English, and was extremely cantankerous.
It’s thought he came to the US in 1903 after he stabbed a man to death in Palermo, Italy. In New York, Joe joined the Ciro Terranova gang, an up and coming group of thugs that had moved their way up the east side of New York. Oddly enough, the most common practice of this gang was a strategy known as “Black Handing.” In practice, it was a pretty retarded idea: Sicilian gangsters would target Sicilian businesses for extortion, protection, and black mail. Why Sicilians decided to fuck with their own people is unknown, but the practice was rampant around the turn of the century. Somewhere towards the end of World War I, the Sicilian gangs had an epiphany: fucking with everyone was much more lucrative than simply fucking with Sicilians. The Artichoke King of New York Ciro Terranova was not a particularly gifted gangster.
He kept his rackets confined to what he knew. Evidently, he knew a lot about artichokes, because by 1913, he was dubbed the Artichoke king of New York. Every ‘choke that was sold in Manhattan had to get there through Terranova’s gang. Now that’s fucking power! For some reason, the Morello gang wanted to muscle in on this vast artichoke empire and began killing Terranova men at will. Masseria, as Terranova’s lead enforcer lead a number of raids on the Morello head quarters, killing around a dozen henchmen with the help of some Terranova gorillas.
The Morello gang was topped by a band of brothers, the most powerful of which was named Peter. Peter had what is arguably the coolest nickname of the early mafia world: The Clutching Hand. In 1922, The Clutching Hand sent Umberto Valenti (an unacknowledged relative of MPAA chairman Jack Valenti) to kill Masseria, who by this time headed the Terranova gang. Masseria never went anywhere without two gorillas, at the time, but Valenti managed to kill both of them in six seconds, thanks to his dual handgun kung-fu. Run, Bitch! Valenti chased Masseria around the streets of New York, cornering him in a dry cleaning outfit.
Inside, he pumped round after round into racks of clothes. After using up all of his ammo, Masseria was no closer to death, and Valenti was cursing and stamping his feet. The cops arrived, and Valenti gave up. Joe was too fucking short to hit. Joe took Valenti out for his transgressions.
He sent Joe Adonis and Lucky Luciano to do it, and the pair dropped him at an ambush in a local restaurant. Adonis and Luciano were the golden boys of Masseria’s empire afterwards, rising to high ranking posts. But that didn’t stop Masseria from acting like a dickhead to them both. To everyone, for that matter. Masseria was a cock gobbling asshole who took vendettas to the very limit of their possible extrapolation. He clung to all the old school ideals that the new crowd of the underworld hated.
Joe constantly demanded that Luciano stop hanging around with Jews, like Meyer Lansky, Louis Buchalter, and Bugsy Siegel. Luciano conceded, but associated with them anyway behind Joe’s back. Through the 20’s, Masseria’s empire grew. He gathered thousands of thugs around him, including such notables as Albert Anastasia, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, and Paul Castellano. Working for Masseria was like joining mafia high school. Everyone had to be Italian and anyone who wasn’t popular was immediately whacked.
Masseria never forgave anyone. And he never understood the power of a bribe. Masseria was so old school that he never tipped. Imagine, a 5’2″ asshole on skates pigging the fuck out in a restaurant, leaving a huge mess, and not leaving one red cent. Joe hoarded his money.
Luciano, always keen to offer new ideas, suggested that Joe might offer some sort of profit sharing for his boys, clients, and officials. But Joe never considered it. It was simply not done in the old world, so it would not be done here. Oh Hidey Hidey Hidey Hidey Hidey Ho So it’s not really surprising that when Salvatore Maranzano began shuffling into Masseria’s bootlegging territory, that Joe immediately declared open war. He sent his thugs out on the streets to gun down anyone associated with Maranzano’s gang. Maranzano did the same, enlisting the help of an ethnically mixed group of gangsters, such as Irishmen Legs Diamond and Vincent Coll.
The war would come to be known as the Castellmarise war, and it would claim hundreds of lives between 1928 and 1931. Luciano wanted to stop the fighting so everyone could simply focus on stealing, extorting, and smuggling. Masseria wouldn’t hear of it. After Luciano was abducted and almost killed by Maranzano’s men, he decided to stop the war the only way he knew how. Feed, THEN Kill Lucky set up a date with his boss. He told Masseria to meet him at their favorite restaurant: Nuova Villa Tammaro, on Coney Island.
There, Masseria gorged himself on a seven course Italian meal. After the food was gone, Luciano started a game of cards with his boss. The two talked and played for a while, then Lucky excused himself to go piss. As soon as Lucky left, five of Masseria’s own men walked in and pumped him full of bullets. It was tax day, April 15, 1931. The moment Masseria hit the floor, the Castellmarese war ended.
Luciano told police the truth: he was pissing when he heard the shots, and when he came out of the bathroom, he found his boss dead on the floor. No one went to Joe’s funeral. Not even his own wife. He was buried in a little bitty coffin.
Vito Genovese Don Vito came to the United States as a boy in 1913 and joined up with Joe Masseria and Charlie Luciano, serving as an enforcer and hit man. In 1937, he fled to Italy to escape prosecution for the 1934 murder of mobster Ferdinand “The Shadow” Boccia. A close friend of Benito Mussolini, Genovese grew even more powerful by smuggling drugs into the U. S. , a practice some mobsters viewed with disdain. He returned to America after the war to face the Boccia charges, beat the rap and continued to be boss of the family now named for him.
Genovese approved the killing of Albert Anastasia and was the capo di tutti capo at the ill-fated Apalachin meeting of the Syndicate bosses. Eventually Don Vitone was convicted of specious narcotics charges and sentenced to prison. He somehow convinced Joe Valachi that Joe was a marked man which sent Valachi into the arms of the feds, opening the door on the modern Mafia. The don died of a heart attack in prison.
Frank Costello Born Francesco Casti glia, Frank Costello was the undisputed ruler of New York City in the 1940 s as the head of what would become the Genovese family. He moved in ratified circles, friendly with mobsters and politicians alike. Costello earned his Irish name when he was a young man boosting trucks and committing burglaries with Charlie Luciano, Benny Siegel and Meyer Lansky. When Meyer complained that the Jews were getting the hard jobs and the Italians the easy ones, Lucky replied that Frank wasn’t Italian. “Y’know,” he said, “he’s Costello. We ” re two Jews an Italian and an Irishman.” The nickname stuck.
Costello was shot in the head by the later head of the Genovese family, Vincent “Chin” Gigante, at the request of Vito Genovese, who wanted to take over. Costello got the message and retired. He died of a heart attack at the age of 82. Vincent Gigante Vincent Gigante From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Vincent “the Chin” Gigante (sometimes referred to as “the Odd father”) is a notorious Mafioso whom prosecutors allege has headed the Genovese family for years, at times while in prison. Since the mid-1960 s, Gigante has been regularly seen wandering the streets of Greenwich Village, New York in his bathrobe and slippers, mumbling incoherently to himself.
Gigante escaped conviction on bribery charges in 1969 by producing a number of prominent psychiatrists who testified that Gigante was legally insane, suffering from schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, and various other mental disorders. Gigante was convicted on several racketeering, conspiracy, and related charges in the summer of 1997, and sentenced to prison, despite his lawyers’ and psychiatrists’ claims that he has been quite mad for more than 30 years, and thus incapable of running a large and sophisticated organized crime operation. As part of a plea bargain in an obstruction of justice trial stemming from his efforts to delay his racketeering trial, on April 7, 2003, Gigante admitted in court that his insanity was an act. He received a sentence of three years, to be served after his current sentence is completed. He is now due for release in 2010.
Charlie Luciano Born Salvatore Lucania in Sicily, Luciano emigrated to the U. S. as a young boy and like so many others, drifted into a life of petty crime. He first went to prison in 1915 for narcotics possession and joined the Joe Masseria gang upon his release. Lucky earned his nickname by surviving a savage beating dished out by Masseria’s rival, Sal Maranzano.
Luciano double-crossed Masseria for Maranzano and then was faster on the draw than Sal as the two men plotted for control of New York’s rackets. Reportedly, Red Levine was on his way out of Maranzano’s office on the Upper East Side after whacking Sal when Mad Dog Coll was headed in to accept Maranzano’s contract on Levine’s boss, Luciano. Charlie was sentenced to 30 years on trumped up prostitution charges in the 1930 s but continued to be the top Mafioso in the United States from behind bars. In exchange for helping the U. S. war effort both on the docks of New York and in the invasion of Sicily, Lucky earned parole in 1944 and was deported to Italy.
Charlie continued to be active in the national Syndicate until his death of a heart attack in 1962. The family he created is known today as the Genovese family. Charles “Lucky” Luciano was born in 1897 in Lercardia Fri ddi, Sicily. The town was known for its sulfur mining and was short jaunt from the largest city of Sicily, Palermo. His parents worked hard as they could to provide for young Charles, but the long hours and chapped hands still didn’t put enough food on the family dinner table. Not only that, little Charles had a penchant for hanging around older kids that contributed to his mischievous behavior.
The Lucianos looked at their bleak surroundings long and hard. Should they continue to stay in an area that their ancestors lived for hundreds of years? What about their friends and other relatives, it would be difficult to part from them. But they knew they had to find a better way of life and fast because Charles wasn’t getting any younger. They heard about the promised land of America from friends. They were told about plentiful work and good schools. They would soon realize that this simply was not true.
The Lucianos set sail for America in 1906 and arrived at New York harbor in November of that year. Mischief and mayhem were the key factors in describing Charles’ youth. He logged his first arrest in 1907 for shoplifting. During the same year, he started his first racket. For a penny or two a day, Luciano offered younger and smaller Jewish kids his personal protection against beatings on the way to school; if they didn’t pay, he beat them up.
One runty kid refused to pay, a thin little youngster from Poland, Meyer Lansky. Luciano fought him one day and was amazed at how hard Lansky fought back. They became bosom buddies after that, a relationship that would continue long after Luciano was deported back to Italy years later. In his teens, Luciano became adept at various vices, most notably narcotics. At age eighteen he was convicted of peddling heroin and morphine and was committed to a reformatory for six months. Upon his release he resumed narcotics dealing.
By 1916, Luciano was a leading member of the notorious Five Points Gang and named by police as the prime suspect in a number of murders. His notoriety grew as did his circle of underworld friends. By 1920, Luciano was a power in bootlegging rackets (in cooperation with Lansky and his erstwhile partner Benjamin “Bugsy Siegel), and had become familiar with Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese and most important among Italian gangsters, Frank Costello. It was Costello who introduced him to other ethnic gangsters like Big Bill Dwyer and Jews like Arnold Rothstein, Dutch Shultz and Dandy Phil Kassel. Luciano was impressed by the way Costello bought protection from city officials and the police, which his buddy Meyer Lansky had already told him was the most important ingredient in any big-time criminal setup.
Luciano later joined forces with Joe “the Boss’ Masseria. He soon realized that Masseria didn’t see the future like he did. Luciano was becoming very impatient with the way Masseria was handling business. He saw many opportunities slip by that could have brought immense profits for the organization.
In order to get a piece of this delicious pie, he felt Masseria had to expand and diversify his business. This, unfortunately, would not occur because the bull-headed Masseria didn’t do business with non-Italians. Masseria undoubtedly was aware of Luciano’s ambitions and felt he was threat to him. He later committed an act that would prove fatal to him, and launch Luciano to gangland super stardom. Luciano was standing one day on Six Avenue in New York when a limousine, with curtains drawn, rolled up beside him. Three men leaped from the vehicle and prodded Luciano in the back with gun muzzles and forced him to the back of the limo.
This was the beginning of the long ride. The adhesive tape was applied, then came the kicks and punches and knife wounds. Luciano thought for sure he would die and felt himself get weaker and weaker until the lights in his brain went out. Hours later he woke up on the beach, staring unbelieving at the waves rolling in from lower New York Bay. His head was aching from fist and gun butt blows and there was a knife wound on his chin. He tore off the tape and staggered almost a mile before he reached the police booth at the Totten ville Precinct.
“Get me a taxi,” Luciano pleaded. “I’ll give you fifty bucks if you do and let me go on my way.” One of the cops ignored the offer and took Luciano to the hospital instead. At the hospital the detectives began to ask a series of questions. Suddenly, Luciano became mute. He remembered the code of Omerta and kept his mouth shut. The cops wouldn’t give up, relentless, they asked, so it seemed to Luciano, a thousand questions.
He finally blurted out in anger, “Don’t you cops lose any sleep over it, I’ll attend to this thing myself later.” He refused to say any more and denied that he had recognized the men who had taken him for the ride and wearily insisted that he had no enemies. The cops were inclined to the theory that Broadway racketeers had thrown Luciano on the beach in a belief that he was dead. Initially, Luciano had no idea who would want him dead. He was fully aware of the infighting and rivalries that existed in the ranks and what a good way for some young maverick, looking to make it big, take him out.
Luciano turned to his wise and trusted friend, Meyer Lansky, for an answer. It didn’t take Meyer long to come up with not only the answer, but a solution that would be beneficial for Luciano, and also himself. Meyer explained to him that Masseria was behind the plot and it would be wise to think about joining forces with Masseria’s arch-enemy, Salvatore Maranzano. Several months later, after recovering from the beating, Luciano did just that.
He met secretly with Maranzano and agreed to betray Masseria. This put in motion one of gangland’s biggest purges or as some like to call it, the war of attrition. History would call it The Castellammarese War. Luciano was now at the top, a dandy dresser and well-known sport on Broadway.
He looked menacing, thanks to a famous scarring he received in 1929, when knife-wielding kidnappers severed the muscles in his right cheek, leaving him with an evil droop in his right eye. Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t get the nickname “Lucky” for this incident, but instead got it for being a whiz at selecting winning horses at various tracks. Lucky Luciano could not have built a national crime syndicate alone, he needed alliances. What Lucky needed was someone he could trust-someone with brains and guts. He found this and more with his childhood buddy, Meyer Lansky. Meyer was called, with total respect, the “Little Man,” and Lucky’s advice to his followers was always “listen to him.” An agent of the FBI would say of him with grudging admiration: Life in the 1930 s was tough for the average American.
The Depression left numerous people homeless and without jobs. This wasn’t the case for Lucky Luciano and his cohorts. Luciano knew that people were the same regardless of social status, when it came to gambling, drinking and prostitution-the more the merrier. This insight enabled Lucky to reap enormous profits from these vices for himself, and others in the Syndicate. Prostitution was Luciano’s forte, and he mastered the art of pimping. But just like a drug dealer shouldn’t sample his product, Luciano shouldn’t have sampled his girls.
He was a celebrity now. Everywhere he went, he enjoyed himself hugely, gambling at the racetracks, preening in the glory of golden girls from Hollywood, and watching Joe Dimaggio slam a baseball at Yankee Stadium. Sexually transmitted diseases spared no one, as Luciano can testify. Seven times a gonorrhea victim, and once a syphilitic. He was also concerned about the humiliation of being a pimp. He expressed doubts in particular about his prostitution business.
Luciano felt that more money could be extracted out of the business if he would Syndicate every whorehouse in New York and put all the madams on salary. “We ” ll run them like chain stores,” Lucky blurted to one of his men. The madams who did not fall into line ended up in the hospital, and in the words of one of the girls: “They worked us six days a week, the Syndicate did. They worked us like dogs and then they kicked us out.” When Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey and his team of twenty racket busters went after a conspiracy in the prostitution racket, they secretly set up a massive raid on approximately eighty brothels. Forty of the raids were successful. Almost a hundred madams and girls were brought in.
Then Luciano got caught, and it was an astonishing story. Lucky had worried most about his prostitution business for good reason. Under Dewey’s pounding, it began to fall apart. The prostitutes were talking. The madams were talking. Soon the brokers of the women were talking.
As the weeks passed, Dewey, who at first had not wanted to venture into prostitution, a social matter, realized he had an unassailable case against Luciano in just this one field. A warrant was issued for Luciano’s arrest, and, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he was taken in. Soon Lucky’s greatest fear came to pass, he was put on trial. Dewey’s witnesses were convincing. They corroborated with ease the fact that Luciano had, if nothing else, been running an illegal vice combine. He denied all charges and still felt that even he was convicted, the sentence would not be very much to worry about.
Oh, how wrong he was. In Dewey’s master full summation to the jury, he translated his points of evidence into a general onslaught against Luciano. The jury was convinced and found him guilty of all charges. The judge handed the thirty-eight-year-old Luciano a staggering sentence of thirty to fifty years imprisonment. Within a handful of hours, his empire left to his associates, Luciano was interviewed by Dr. L.
E. Kienholz, assistant psychiatrist in the classification clinic at Sing Sing Prison, just like all other humiliated new inmates. Kienholz found Luciano a man of “borderline intelligence.”He should attend school and learn a trade while here,” Keinholz recommended in his diagnostic report. Keinholz later wrote, “Due to his drug addiction, he should be transferred to Dannemora Prison.” It looks like Lucky’s luck had finally run out. So Lucky Luciano, unlucky at last, was shipped out of Sing Sing to the Clinton State Prison at Dannemora, near the village of Malone in upstate New York. Dannemora was known the “Siberia” of all American penitentiaries.
There Luciano, Inmate No. 92168, diagnosed in a second psychiatric interview as a “normal criminal type,” was put to work in the laundry. Dannemora, the third oldest maximum-security institution in the state, was a cold, neglected, unfeeling, inhuman place in which men like Lucky Luciano were supposed to think on their sins and repent them while being kept apart from society. He was confined in his cell for fourteen to sixteen hours day after day, week after week, month after month, from the second of July in 1936 until the warm, wartime spring of 1942. Out of sight, out of mind. Or so it was assumed.
Luciano and his Syndicate associates back in New York City were influential enough to ask the warden for one important favor. Let Lucky have unrecorded visits from friends and family. The requests were granted. It was business as usual and Lucky was able to continue to run his empire from the walls of Dannemora. On one particular visit, two narcotics agents dropped by thinking that Luciano might be ready to talk. As soon as he saw the agents he said, “Take me out of here.
I won’t talk to these people.” Another visit brought none other than his sentencing judge, Phillip J. McCook. In an interview attributed to Luciano in a book whose authenticity has been questioned, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, by Martin A. Go sch and Richard Hammer, Judge McCook is alleged to have fallen to his knees, pleaded for forgiveness, and begged Luciano to remove a Sicilian curse that was ruining his life.
Nobody who knew the rugged, no-nonsense judge believed this-and it never happened. Actually, McCook was visiting Luciano to check out a rumor that turned out to be unfounded — that Luciano had been threatened with underworld violence. World War II was grinding on in 1942 and the United States had entered it in 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Luciano was ready in the spring of 1942 for almost any idea that would help get him out of dreary Dannemora.
As it was, he was not even eligible to apply for parole until April 24, 1956. Meyer Lansky, in trying to help his friend get out of prison, sent out feelers that suggested that Lucky could help the United States war effort in Sicily and at home. Some serious thought was made to enlist Luciano’s help in securing the waterfront docks in New York from Nazi saboteurs. Naval Intelligence got wind of the idea, and eagerly decided to approach Luciano with their proposal.
But first, they needed to get him out of Dannemora and send him to a more secure location. The place they had in mind was Great Meadow Prison in Comstock, New York. Luciano was ecstatic and jumped at the opportunity to leave Dannemora to what he felt like was a country club. On May 12, 1942, he was headed for Great Meadow Prison.
Luciano felt that Great Meadow was a great place to visit, but didn’t want to live there. Shortly after his arrival there, he was hospitalized for iritis of his right eye, the eyelid which had drooped ever since his ordeal back in 1929. He recovered and would soon be healthy enough to be assigned chores in the cement shack. He attended no chapel services and never set foot in a classroom.
Afterall, what trade could he learn for life on the outside? Lucky didn’t break a single prison rule and was considered a model prisoner. Friends dropped by on a frequent basis, especially Meyer Lansky. However, there were other visitors that Lucky didn’t know, but expected. The Allies in war torn Europe were about to launch an invasion of Sicily. The U. S.
could use some help in acquiring intelligence on German troop movements and other vital military information. The U. S. had reason to believe the Mafia wanted the Axis forces off the island, so that they could get back to peace and prosperity for its own purposes.
Naval Intelligence made numerous unrecorded visits to Great Meadow to solicit help from Lucky. Can he get word to the Mafia leaders on Sicily asking for help? Lucky assured them he could, and it was later proven he did. Lucky did what you would call easy-time at Great Meadow. He could get anything he wanted-booze, good food, and reportedly women.
With his service to the U. S. government, he felt this justified an early release from prison. At war’s end and in a strange twist of fate, the person who could grant commutation of sentence was also the person who put him in jail, Thomas Dewey, who was now the Governor of New York.
Maybe Dewey felt obligated in giving Luciano a break because he had heard about Dutch Schultz’s intention on having him killed and how Luciano disposed of Dutch instead. At any rate, in January, 1946, Dewey granted commutation of sentence with the condition that he be deported to Italy. Dewey found that Lucky never became a naturalized citizen in his own right. At 8: 50 a.
m. , Sunday, February 10, 1946, Charles “Lucky” Luciano set sail away from America aboard the S. S Laura Keene. Ready to begin a new life in the old country, yet never gave up hope of return. He never did, alive. The Italian government gave strict rules on Luciano’s livelihood.
He could venture no more than a few miles from Naples and had to tell them about any visitors from outside Italy. That was a rule he broke frequently. He still conducted business back in the states through runners and even the telephone. His friendship with Meyer Lansky began to sour in the late 1950 s, because he felt Meyer was cutting him out on more lucrative deals back in the States. Regardless, Lucky remained a very rich man.
Lucky’s heart was weak and he suffered several heart attacks. On January 26, 1962, he was scheduled to meet a scriptwriter who was to do a story about him. Upon greeting him at the Naples airport, he clutched his chest, face contorted, and died of a massive heart attack. Only after his death was Lucky Luciano allowed to come back to the United States. He is buried at St. John’s Cemetery in New York City.
Joe Valachi Joe Valachi was a minor foot soldier in the Genovese family who blew the lid of La Cosa Nostra and spilled his on organized crime more than any other hood up to that time. He had been a loyal soldier to Don Vitone for years until he started doing a long stretch for dealing narcotics and faced the death penalty in New York for the murder of a 38-year-old hood. Worried that Valachi was going to talk, Vito Genovese, his cellmate in the federal pen in Atlanta, gave Joe “The Kiss of Death” and sent his straight into the arms of the feds. They proceeded to milk him of everything he knew, thought he knew or could make up. After Valachi, La Cosa Nostra was now a household name and the privacy organized crime had enjoyed for some 40 years could no longer be covered up. Lucchese This family is proof that slow and steady should win the race.
While the Gambinos, Colombos and Bonanno tore into each other and decimated themselves, the family headed for decades by Tommy Luchese (note the spellings of the family name and the boss’s name) plugged along quietly integrating itself into unions and other typical mob rackets. Luchese was loved by his soldiers and the other bosses because he wanted no trouble and caused none. When he died, many mob bosses came to show their respects despite the knowledge that law enforcement would be watching. Unfortunately for the Lucchese, that was the end of good old days. The family was taken over by Gambino pal Carmine Tramunti until he went down on a drug conviction.
Tony “Ducks” Coral lo took over the family from there and remained in power through the Commission case. When Ducks went to prison for cent i anni, the Lucchese clan fell into disharmony and chaos as various capos tried to grab power. The last true boss was Vittorio Amu so, who is now in jail. The family’s membership is well under 100 made men and associates. Meyer Lansky He would have been chairman of the board of General Motors if he’d gone into legitimate business.” Born Maier Suchowljansky, a Jew from Grodno, Poland, he truly had the first and last word in organized crime. Everybody, especially Luciano, listened to Meyer because it paid.
If they listened well, he might, for instance, give them a slice of the pre-Castro Cuban action. Lansky cut in Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey, and New York. When the Traffic antes of Tampa tried to go in big on their own in Cuba, Lansky used his Batista connection to squash the move. Then he gave them a slice, smaller than what many other mafiosi got.
That was Lansky’s way. Jack Drag na, the Los Angeles Mafia boss, once tried to use muscle in on Lansky to get a piece of Las Vegas. Lansky talked him in circles and gave him nothing. It was Lansky’s way. Both Luciano and Lansky independently said that they had planned the formation of a new syndicate as early as 1920, when Luciano was in his early 20 s and Lansky was only 18. Lansky and Luciano together survived the crime wars of the 1920 s by cunning alliances, eliminating one foe after another, even though they lacked the manpower and firepower of other gangs.
When they effected the killings of Masseria and then Maranzano, they stood at the pinnacle of power in the underworld. Even Al Capone realized they were more powerful than he. Luciano once explained, “I learned a long time before that Meyer Lansky understood the Italian brain almost better than I did… I used to tell Meyer that he may ” ve had a Jewish mother, but someplace he must ” ve been wet-nursed by a Sicilian.” Luciano often said Lansky “could look around corners,” or anticipate what would happen next in underworld intrigues, and that “the barrel of his gun was curved,” meaning he knew how to keep himself out of the line of fire.
Through the years that was Lansky’s way. Meyer Lansky was a pro at staying out of the limelight. Even during the Kefauver investigation (1950-51) into crime, Lansky was considered so unimportant that he was not even called as a witness to testify. The committee did not even mention him until the final report when they found evidence of a Costello-Adonis-Lansky alliance. It was Lansky who opened up what was for a time the Syndicate’s greatest source of income, gambling in Havana.
He personally handled negotiations with the dictator Batista. Luciano was pleased with this money machine and never stepped on the toes of Meyer Lansky and listened to him intently. It was Meyer who had the brains of the outfit, but it was a group of remorseless hired killers who had the muscles to keep the ship running. Known infamously as Murder, Incorporated. A Russian-born immigrant, Lansky was a mathematical genius who took the mob from street corner craps games into posh casinos. Known as the “Chairman of the Board” Lansky was called “pound for pound the toughest guy” Charlie Luciano had ever met.
Together with boyhood friend Benny Siegel, Meyer Lansky was the highest ranking Jewish gangster in America and respected on both sides of the law (albeit grudgingly by the feds).
Meyer was just as willing to kill as any other mobster, but he managed to keep the blood off his hands publically. He was a quiet man who loved gambling but who never shied away from a fight. The cool head to Siegel’s hair trigger temper, Lansky stepped in several times to save Benny when other mobsters wanted his head for the Flamingo debacle. In the end, when it was revealed that Siegel was skimming from his friends, Lansky agreed to have him whacked.
As an old man he wanted to emigrate to Israel, but his criminal past prevented this from happening. He died of cancer in Florida in the 1970 s. It’s probably apocryphal, but Lansky is best known for saying the mob was bigger than U. S.
Steel, a line stolen by Hyman Roth (a Lansky-like character) in The Godfather II. Murder, Inc. The mob never had any of society’s misgivings about the justification of the death penalty. They decided it would be very businesslike to set up a special troop of killers that the Syndicate could call on for rub-outs. By doing this, they felt it would eliminate animosity and conflict of interest in killing each other’s members. Under the rules, Murder, Inc.
, killed only for pressing business reasons, and was never to be brought into action against political figures, prosecutors or reporters. Bugsy Siegel probably best summarized the top gangsters’ attitudes toward Murder, Inc. , when he informed construction executive Del Webb, rather philosophically, that he had nothing to fear from the mob because “we only kill each other.” The principal that “we only kill each other,” was never better illustrated than in the rubout of New York numbers king, Dutch Schultz, himself a founding ruler of the Syndicate. In 1935, Schultz had become the prime target of special prosecutor, Thomas E. Dewey, and he demanded that Murder, Inc. , hit Dewey.
This was in direct violation of the founding rules of the organization, and Schultz was voted down. Then Schultz stormed out of the meeting with Luciano, Lansky, Costello and Adonis, insisting he was not bound by such a decision and that he would handle the hit himself. Immediately, a new vote was taken, and the principle of law and order prevailed. Schultz got the death penalty.
The job was carried out shortly thereafter in a Newark chop house. Albert Anastasia is often described as the “Lord High Executioner”, or operating commander of the troop, but he took orders from Louis Lepke, the country’s number one labor racketeer and a member of the Syndicate’s ruling circle. Lepke later earned the distinction of being the only top Syndicate member to be executed by a state or federal body, when he died in Sing Sing’s electric chair. At times, Joey Adonis also issued orders. However, none of the estimated 500 murders believed to have been committed by Murder, Inc. , ever went ahead without the concurrence of Luciano, Lansky or Frank Costello.
Directly below Anastasia, Lepke and Adonis were a number of lieutenants, including Louis Capone (no relation to big Al), Mend Weiss and Abe “Kid Twist” Reles. Instructions for specific assignments came from Luciano, Lansky or Costello and then passed on to the underlings. This way it could not be proved in any criminal prosecution that the men at the top were involved. In 1940, Murder, Inc.
unraveled when a number of lesser mob members were picked up on suspicion of various murders. Also picked up was Abe Reles. He became known as the “Canary of Murder, Inc. ,” and eventually gave details on some 200 killings in which he personally participated or had knowledge.
He died while in police custody under mysterious circumstances. He “fell” 75 feet out a hotel window. Albert Anastasia Known as the “Lord High Executioner” of Murder, Inc. Albert Anastasia was rubbed out in one of organized crime’s classic hits. Although his murder was never solved, it is widely known that Albert was bumped off by order of Carlo Gambino as Don Carlo made his move to take over what was then known as the Mangano family. Albert was a ruthless killer who followed in the footsteps of his sometime-mentor, Lepke Buchalter, in believing the best enemy was a dead one.
Anastasia was close to Charlie Luciano and moved to the head of the Mangano family by killing his boss, Vince Mangano. During the heyday of Murder, Inc. in the 1930 s and 40 s, Albert was the connection between the Commission and the rank-and-file hit men. He died in a barber shop in the basement of the Sheraton Park Hotel — the same hotel where Arnold Rothstein was shot — allegedly at the hands of the Gallo brothers, but some crime historians doubt the veracity of their claim to the hit.
Regardless, the photograph of a sheet-covered Anastasia lying on the floor of the barbershop is a ubiquitous mob staple. The castellammarese war Business in crime until the late 1920 s was run by the “Mustache Petes.” They were very slow to change and hindered mobsters like Luciano and others. They also refused to do business with non-Italians, which stepped on the toes of the likes of Meyer Lansky. Luciano later became the chief aide to “Joe the Boss” Masseria. After observing “Joe the Boss” pass up lucrative deals with other gangsters due their ethnicity, Luciano had enough. In a sense, he was a visionary; he saw the vast potential of having a national crime network that crossed all ethnic lines.
Luciano believed the old line mafiosi were the problem and should be wiped out. Thus in 1928, all hell broke loose. Long standing feuds and power grabbing changed the way organized crime would play in years to come. The Castellammarese War erupted between the numerous forces of Joe the Boss and those of a fast-rising New York mafioso, Salvatore Maranzano. Over the next two.