14 March 2019

Gambino chief shot, killed at his home

Low-key boss linked New York, Sicily mobs

Cali
The reputed boss of New York's Gambino Crime Family was shot to death March 13, 2019, in the street outside his Staten Island home.

Shortly after 9 p.m. emergency dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call from 25 Hilltop Terrace in the Todt Hill section. Fire department medics and police responded. They found Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, 53, had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Cali was rushed to the North Campus of Staten Island University Hospital, about a mile and a half away at Seaview and Mason Avenues. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to published accounts, no one in the generally quiet residential neighborhood saw the shooting. Several residents reported hearing a series of six or seven gunshots just after nine o'clock. One resident said those were followed by a pause and then several more shots. According to the New York Daily News, a Cali family member stated that Cali was run over by a pickup truck before he was shot. (This incorrect report was likely the result of Cali being found behind and slightly under his SUV, parked at the road.) A blue pickup truck was observed leaving the area immediately after the shooting. Police are investigating.

Cali's wife and children were home at the time of the shooting. The home - a two-story red-brick Colonial-style structure - sits close to Hilltop Terrace. It is separated from the street by a small front yard consisting of several trees, a semicircle driveway of paving stones and a patch of shrubs. (Built in 1970, the home was last purchased in 2007 for $1.225 million. Extensive renovations were done to the home and the property at that time.) The residence is reportedly held in the name of Cali's wife, Rosaria Inzerillo.

Plastic cups cover shell casings found by
police following the Cali shooting
New York Daily News photo.


'He's everything'

Long suspected of underworld involvement, Cali's importance to Mafia organizations on both sides of the Atlantic first became apparent to authorities on October 21, 2005. On that date, electronic surveillance overheard Palermo, Sicily, Mafioso Gianni Nicchi talking to his district chief Antonino Rotolo about Cali in the U.S.: "He's our friend, and he is everything over there."

Authorities found that Cali had risen quickly in the Gambino Crime Family and was then a powerful capodecina based in Brooklyn. Under the reign of the Gottis, Cali had been used as an ambassador to the Mafia in Palermo. Cali became close to the Inzerillo clan of Palermo's Passo di Rigano district and was also known to have contacts within the 'Ndrangheta criminal society of Calabria, in the south of Italy's mainland.

Cefalu
The FBI learned more about Cali's underworld career from Frank Fappiano and Michael DiLeonardo (brothers-in-law and members of the Gambino Family). DiLeonardo recalled Cali from spring 1994, when DiLeonardo had recently been appointed capodecina and Cali was just a crime family associate.

During 2006 court testimony, DiLeonardo pointed out Cali in a surveillance video: "This is Frank Cali, associate at the time. He later on gets straightened out with Jackie D'Amico." DiLeonardo explained that being "straightened out" meant being formally inducted as a Mafia member. D'Amico handled crime family operations for the Gottis following the life imprisonment of boss John J. Gotti.

Cali paid a price for his new notoriety. Early in 2008, Cali and dozens of underworld figures were arrested as a result of the federal Operation Old Bridge. Cali pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy - relating to his attempt to force payments from a trucker working at a proposed NASCAR racetrack in Staten Island. He served sixteen months in prison and was released in 2009.

After the Gotti faction was removed from power, largely through a series of successful prosecutions aided by informants, the crime family was ruled for several years by a panel of bosses. In 2011, Sicilian native Domenico Cefalu was given the title of boss. His reign marked a return to power of the crime family's Sicilian faction (and relatives of former boss Carlo Gambino, for whom the organization was named.) Cali served in an underboss role for Cefalu.

Cali
Under Cefalu and Cali, the Gambino organization made increased use of Sicilian immigrant criminals and of its relationship with the Sicilian underworld. According to law enforcement sources, the organization became a major player in international heroin trafficking and traded also in prescription narcotics, such as oxycodone. (It continued to generate income through gambling, construction and labor rackets.)

Members of the Inzerillo clan, who earlier fled a Sicilian gang war, returned to Palermo and reclaimed their rackets territory. Cali, an Inzerillo in-law (Cali's wife also is niece to Giovanni Gambino, a relative of the late Carlo Gambino), benefited both from the increased power of the Inzerillos in Palermo and the resurrection of the Sicilian faction in the Gambino Family. There were rumors of Cali taking over for the retiring Cefalu in 2013 and again in 2015.


Factional conflict?

Some in the press are speculating that the killing of Francesco Cali is the result of a new phase of an old factional struggle within the large but deeply divided Gambino Crime Family. Through its history, the crime family has changed leaders as often through murder as through peaceful transfer of power.

The underworld organization's competing factions became evident a short time after the 1928 assassination of early boss Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila. Manfredi "Al" Mineo assumed control of the crime family with the blessings of then-boss of bosses Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. The combined Masseria-Mineo strength kept the organization's sub-leaders and members in line for a time. After the 1930 murder of Mineo, however, new conservative Sicilian leadership behind Frank "Ciccio" Scalise of the Bronx took power and pulled away from Masseria.

The old-line Sicilians retained control, but changed leadership to Vincent Mangano, when the Castellammarese War against Masseria concluded a year later. Mangano ruled for two decades but had trouble with a non-Sicilian faction led by Albert Anastasia, a native of Calabria. The regime of Mangano and his brother Philip was ended in 1951. Philip was found murdered. Vincent Mangano simply disappeared. Anastasia reportedly admitted to his colleagues that he was responsible for the deaths of the Manganos but claimed self defense, as they were planning to move against him.

Anastasia became boss. The Sicilian faction champion, Carlo Gambino, served as underboss. Anastasia's murder in fall of 1957, restored the Sicilians to power. Gambino stepped in as the new top man. He quickly suppressed a rebellion led by Anastasia loyalist Armand Rava and then made Rava ally Aniello Dellacroce his underboss. Gambino groomed his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as his successor, offending the out-of-power Dellacroce faction.

A crime family civil war could have been triggered by Castellano's move into the boss role in 1976, but Dellacroce restrained his followers. (Like Francesco Cali, Castellano was a resident of Todt Hill, Staten Island.) Upon Dellacroce's death late in 1985, the Castellano opposition united behind John J. Gotti. Gotti set up the assassination of the boss in Manhattan on Dec. 16, 1985, and secured for himself the leadership of the crime family.

Cali's murder may be a sign that the Sicilians, in power through the past eight years, may once again be forced out.



Old neighborhood


While some sources point to Sicily as Cali's birthplace, it appears that Cali was born Francesco Paolo Augusto Cali in New York City on March 16, 1965. He was raised in Brooklyn.

His father Augusto, recalled as proprietor of a video store on Eighteenth Avenue in Bensonhurst, reportedly maintained a clean record. He was questioned by the FBI in 1986 as part of the Pizza Connection investigation but faced no charges.

In addition to the home at Todt Hill, Francesco Cali was also associated with the 7306 Eighteen Avenue address in Bensonhurst. That address sits in an old Sicilian neighborhood, perhaps the same one where Augusto ran his business. Currently, a large number of business signs in the area feature Asian writing. But a Sicilian presence is still evident. Three private Sicilian social clubs sit on the same block with 7306 Eighteenth Avenue: Società figli di Ragusa (No. 7308), Sciacca Social Club (no. 7316) and U.S. Vizzinese Association (no. 7320).

See:

Sources:

  • "25 Hilltop Ter," Zillow, zillow.com.
  • "25 Hilltop Terrace," Realtor.com.
  • "Francesco Cali, a man with reported mob ties, shot and killed in New York City," USA Today, usatoday.com, March 14, 2019.
  • "Reputed Gambino crime boss Frank Cali shot dead in front of Staten Island home," CBS-2 New York, newyork.cbslocal.com, March 13, 2019. 
  • Bolzoni, Attilio, "Franky Boy, the invisible boss who wanted to have Palermo back," Rome La Repubblica, repubblica.it.
  • Burke, Kerry, and John Annese with Rocco Parascandola, "Gambino Crime Family boss Frank Cali shot and killed outside Staten Island home: sources," New York Daily News, nydailynews.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Celona, Larry, and Ben Feuerherd, "Gambino crime family boss Frank Cali shot dead outside Staten Island home," New York Post, nypost.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Celona, Larry, and Bruce Golding, "Gene Gotti's release from prison has mob on edge," New York Post, nypost.com, Sept. 17, 2018.
  • Cornell, Irene, "Report: Gambino Crime Family picks Domenico Cefalu as new boss," CBS-2 New York, newyork.cbslocal.com, July 29, 2011.
  • Dienst, Jonathan, Marc Santia and Michael George, "Gambino Crime Family leader shot dead outside home: sources," NBC-4 New York, nbcnewyork.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Egan-Chin, Debbie, "Frank Cali, 2008," New York Daily News, nydailynews.com.
  • Michael DiLeonardo Testimony, United States v. John A. Gotti, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Feb. 22, 2006, mafiahistory.us.
  • Murphy, Mary, "Gambino Crime Family boss fatally shot at Staten Island home," WPIX-11, pix11.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Weiss, Murray, "Mob pick for Gambino godfather turns down the job," DNAinfo New York, dnainfo.com, July 18, 2013.
  • Winston, Ali, Nate Schweber, Jacey Fortin and Liam Stack, "Man said to be Gambino boss is killed on Staten Island," New York Times, nytimes.com, March 14, 2019, p. 22. 

04 March 2019

Death chair takes Lepke, two aides

On this date in 1944...


Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, longtime New York City racketeer and reputed overseer of the underworld's Murder, Inc., enforcement arm, was electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison, March 4, 1944, along with two underlings.

Buchalter
Buchalter, Emanuel "Mendy" Weiss and Louis Capone were sentenced to death following their 1941 New York State conviction for the September 1936 murder of Joseph Rosen. Rosen was a former trucking contractor forced out of business by Buchalter-led rackets. At the time of his murder, Rosen, then proprietor of a candy store at 725 Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn, was reportedly threatening to assist Manhattan Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey in his investigation of rackets in the trucking industry.

Buchalter, believed to have ordered as many as eighty murders in his underworld career, insisted that he was completely innocent of the killing of Rosen. Weiss and Capone claimed that they had been framed. While their legal appeals of the state verdict were unsuccessful, some reviewing judges noted weakness in the state's evidence against the trio.

48 hours earlier

The executions of Buchalter, Weiss and Capone had been delayed repeatedly by legal maneuvers and by government stays. The most recent postponement occurred within an hour and a half of their scheduled appointment with the prison Death Chamber.

Weiss
At 9:35 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, Governor Thomas Dewey (Dewey won election to Manhattan district attorney in 1937 and to governor in 1942) ordered a forty-eight-hour stay in response to a last-ditch Buchalter appeal to federal courts. Buchalter's attorney argued that U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle improperly released Buchalter from federal prison, where he was serving a fourteen-year sentence for narcotics violations, to New York State authorities.

Dewey telephoned Sing Sing Warden William E. Snyder, who sent word of the postponement to the Death House prisoners through prison chaplain Father Bernard Martin. It was the sixth time their date of execution was moved. But it was the closest the prisoners had come to the electric chair. They accepted the news without visible emotion.

Capone
Buchalter, Weiss and Capone had already said their goodbyes to family members in the large pre-execution space known by inmates as "the dancehall." They had been clothed in the black pants and white shirts known as "death suits," and spots had been shaved on their heads to allow a clean connection to an electrode carrying a fatal dose of electrical current.

They already had eaten their "last meals": steak, french fried potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, rolls, pie and coffee for lunch; roast chicken, mashed potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, rolls and coffee for supper. (The selections were reportedly made by Buchalter, and Weiss and Capone ordered the same.)

Some newspapers reported that Dewey ordered the stay because Buchalter decided to cooperate. They wondered about the number of crimes that information from the longtime rackets boss could solve and the number of his old underworld associates that could be brought to justice.

March 4

Federal district and appeals courts were unwilling to involve themselves in the case. At one o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected without comment the Buchalter appeal.

The prisoners were already reliving the execution preparations when the final bit of bad news arrived.

They met with family in the same "dancehall" to say the same goodbyes. Buchalter spent the day with his wife Beatrice "Betty" and their son Harold. During the visit, Beatrice reportedly urged Buchalter to try to save himself by sending for U.S. Attorney James McNally and offering his cooperation. Her husband refused, saying, "The best I could get would be a delay of six or eight months or a year. If that's the way it's going to be, I'd rather go tonight."

Noting the press speculation following the March 2 stay of execution, Buchalter dictated a statement to his wife, who transcribed it on a piece of notepaper.

Superstition may have forced the selections for the prisoners' repeat "last meals." They ordered the same food they had eaten before the execution postponement on March 2.

Several things were different on the evening of March 4, however: Family members were permitted to stay about a half-hour past the usual parting time of nine o'clock; Buchalter was permitted to wear a pair of gray pants instead of the usual black; and there was no telephone call from the governor.

Beatrice Buchalter meets with reporters.

After leaving the prison, Beatrice Buchalter met with members of the press at a nearby restaurant and read her husband's statement:

I insist that I am not guilty of the Rosen murder, that the witnesses against me lied and that I did not receive a fair trial. Four out of seven judges in the Court of Appeals said that Weiss, Capone and I were not guilty. Judge [Harlan W.] Rippey said we were not given even a remote outside chance of any fair consideration of our defense by the jury and that the evidence wasn't enough to submit to a jury.
The one and only thing that I have asked for is to have a commission appointed to examine the facts in the Rosen case. If that examination does not show I am not guilty, I am willing to go to the chair regardless of what information I have given or can give.

Last moments

At eleven o'clock, Louis Capone, forty-seven, followed Father Martin into the Death Chamber. Twenty-four witnesses observed from a gallery.

Newspapers reported that Capone was selected to go to his death first because he was the weakest - emotionally and physically (he had recent heart problems) - of the three. He said nothing when he was strapped into the chair and the electrodes were attached to his body. His lips could be seen moving in silent prayer, as a helmet with a large electrode inside of it and a face-concealing mask on its front was placed on his head.


Executioner Joseph Francel was at the chair controls. At two minutes after eleven, he administered the first brain-killing shock. He followed it with several more jolts of current to burn the life out of Capone's organs. Three minutes later, a guard pulled open Capone's shirt, so Dr. Charles C. Sweet could check for life signs. "This man is dead," Sweet announced.

Capone's remains were removed from the chair, placed on a cart and wheeled next door to the autopsy room.

A minute later, Emanuel Weiss, thirty-seven, strode quickly into the Death Chamber with Rabbi Jacob Katz by his side. Weiss indicated to Principal Keeper Thomas J. Keeley that he wished to make a statement.

Weiss looked to the gallery and said, "I'm here on a framed case. I'm innocent and God and Gov. Dewey know it. I want to thank Judge Lehman [Appeals Court Judge Irving Lehman]. Give my love to my family and everyone. And - I'm innocent.

Weiss's turn in the chair began at seven minutes after eleven. His lifeless remains were removed from it four minutes later.

Buchalter's remains are
driven out of Sing Sing
Rabbi Katz stepped from the Death Chamber to join Buchalter and escort him in. As Buchalter, forty-seven, walked confidently and silently into the chamber, journalists struggled to find some sign of emotion in the racketeer's movements or expressions.

One reporter said he saw a lip quiver. Another noticed some redness and perspiration on Buchalter's face. A wire service reporter suggested that the prisoner was "so dazed that his attitude could have been interpreted as indifference" and then found a guard to support that view with the comment, "The other two were frightened, but Lepke was paralyzed."

Gilbert Millstein of the New York Daily News observed that Buchalter was not only calm but cooperative. He placed his own arms into position to be fastened to the chair, and he leaned his head forward into the death-delivering helmet.

Executioner Francel delivered the first shock into Buchalter at thirteen minutes past eleven. The fourth shock was completed three minutes later. "Lepke" Buchalter was dead.

Burials

Buchalter's family assembled for a brief service at Park West Memorial Chapel, 115 West Seventy-ninth Street in Manhattan, on Sunday, March 5. Prayers were chanted by Rabbi Morris Goldberg. Buchalter's remains, in a plain oaken casket, were buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, next to the gravesite of his mother.

Buchalter's burial
At almost the same moment, about fifty friends and family attended a ceremony for Weiss at the Midtown Funeral Home, 171 West Eighty-fifth Street in Manhattan. Rabbi Aaron Liss led those services. Weiss's widow Sophia, his mother and his four brothers attended. Weiss was also buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery, a short walk from the Buchalter gravesite.

On Thursday, March 9, the remains of Louis Capone were taken in an inexpensive metal casket from Andrew Torregrossa's funeral home, 1305 Seventy-ninth Street in Brooklyn, to the Church of Our Lady of Solace on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. His funeral, in the neighborhood where he was a longtime resident, drew a far larger crowd than seen at the Buchalter and Weiss services.

After a brief Mass celebrated by Father Francis A. Froelich, a procession of forty cars of mourners and five cars of flowers wended through Brooklyn streets to Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush. With his widow Sophie, three children and two brothers at graveside, Capone was interred in the cemetery's St. Charles section.

Sources:

  • "Buchalter dies in electric chair," Burlington VT Free Press, March 6, 1944, p. 1.
  • "Crowds attend funeral of Lepke pal Capone," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 9, 1944, p. 3.
  • "Lepke denied deal, admitted 'talking,'" New York Daily News, March 5, 1944, p. 3.
  • "Lepke dies in chair," Poughkeepsie Sunday New Yorker, March 5, 1944, p. 1.
  • Feinberg, Alexander, "Lepke is put to death, denies guilt to last; makes no revelation," New York Times, March 5, 1944, p. 1.
  • Hailey, Foster, "Lepke a gang leader who liked his privacy," New York Times, Aug. 13, 1939, p. 61.
  • Millstein, Gilbert, "Lepke and 2 pals die in chair; mobster chief calm, last to go," New York Daily News, March 5, 1944, p. 3.
  • Millstein, Gilbert, "Louis (Lepke) Buchalter: His life and crimes," New York Daily News, March 3, 1944, p. 14.
  • O'Brien, Michael, and Gilbert Millstein, "Gangland shuns Capone funeral," New York Daily News, March 10, 1944, p. M20.
  • Smith, Art, "Dewey orders 48-hour delay in execution of Lepke, 2 pals," New York Daily News, March 3, 1944, p. 3.
  • Smith, Art, "Bury Lepke with only kin at bier," New York Daily News, March 6, 1944, p. 2.

26 February 2019

'Longie' Zwillman takes his life

Jersey rackets boss is found hanging
in basement of his West Orange home


On this date in 1959...

Zwillman
Abner "Longie" Zwillman, fifty-three-year-old veteran New Jersey rackets boss, was found dead in his West Orange home on February 26, 1959. That morning at 10 o'clock, his wife Mary discovered his lifeless body. It was suspended from its neck by a loop of electrical cord tied to a ceiling beam in a basement storage room of their stately residence. A half-empty bottle of bourbon whiskey was found nearby.

Mrs. Zwillman told police she recalled her husband getting up in the middle of the night complaining of chest pains. He responded to her concern by having her take a sleeping pill and return to bed.

Essex County Medical Examiner Dr. Edwin Albano almost immediately ruled the death a suicide by hanging. He also reported that Zwillman had kidney disease and an enlarged heart. (He had been seeing a heart specialist for some time.)

Zwillman's stepson John Steinbach revealed that the racketeer had been depressed and worried about a jury bribery case relating to a 1956 tax evasion trial that ended with a hung jury. Zwillman had reportedly battled deep depression since 1950, when Senate investigators recently began examining his role in the jukebox and coin-operated vending machine industry.

Steinbach said Zwillman was troubled by the questioning of Mafia big shot Gerard Catena two weeks earlier. Catena, one of the New York-area Mafiosi who had been a longtime Zwillman business partner, took the Fifth Amendment more than seventy times.

An estimated 150 mourners paid their respects on the evening of Feb. 26. Zwillman's funeral was held at Philip Anter & Son funeral home, 16 Stratford Place, Newark, the next afternoon. An estimated 1,500 people gathered outside the establishment. Just 350 of those were permitted inside. Reporters identified Manhattan restaurateur Toots Schor and movie producer Dory Schary at the funeral.

After a service by Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, Zwillman's remains were taken for burial to B'nai Abraham Cemetery in Union, New Jersey.

Read more about Zwillman:
"The Capone of New Jersey: Abner 'Longie' Zwillman," mafiahistory.us.

20 February 2019

Stroke takes the 'Artichoke King'

Avoided the bullets of mob wars but
suffered disgrace, financial ruin


On this date in 1938...

Ciro "Artichoke King" Terranova, former rackets boss of East Harlem, New York, died February 20, 1938, of natural causes. He was the only son of Angela Piazza to die without a bullet in his body.

Terranova suffered a mild stroke on Tuesday, February 15, 1938, while at his apartment, 338 East 116th Street. A more severe stroke occurred at one o'clock on Thursday morning. Terranova's left side was paralyzed and he could not speak. His wife Teresa (known as "Tessie") called for an ambulance. Terranova was taken to Columbus Hospital.

That hospital's mission for many years had been the treatment of the Italian-American poor. Though he had once been a wealthy and powerful Mafioso in East Harlem, with a palatial pink-colored home at Pelham Manor, Terranova had in recent years lost his riches and his influence.

Hospital officials said the forty-nine-year-old Terranova's condition was serious but gave him a "fair chance" of recovery. Thirty minutes after midnight on Sunday, February 20, he passed away, becoming the only one of four male siblings, all New York Mafiosi, to die of natural causes.

Unlike the send-offs given to many of his contemporaries, Terranova's funeral was inexpensive and fairly small. After a wake at his apartment, the inexpensive, white metal casket containing his remains was taken on Wednesday, February 23, to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, East 115th Street near Pleasant Avenue. (The funeral director told the press that the casket cost $500. In contrast, the bronze casket holding the remains of Terranova's nephew Joseph Catania back in 1931 was said to cost $10,000.) The procession included fifteen cars of mourners and four cars of flowers.

A brief funeral Mass was celebrated by Father Peter Fiore. Angela Piazza, then about ninety, attended, with Terranova's widow and their five children, a small crowd of relatives and old friends. The ceremonies were also observed by a dozen detectives, eight patrol officers and two police radio cars. It was reported that the religious services were conducted while painters actively worked in the church on overhead scaffolding.

After the Mass, Terranova's remains were transported to his gravesite at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

Cursed clan

Ciro's brother Nicholas "Coco" Terranova was shot to death September 7, 1916, in Brooklyn as he attempted to resolve a Mafia-Camorra War. Brother Vincent Terranova, killed May 8, 1922, at 116th Street near Second Avenue, was an apparent casualty of a gangland conflict between Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila and insurgent gangs in Manhattan.

Half-brother Giuseppe Morello, a former Mafia boss of bosses, was attacked and murdered in his office, 352 East 116th Street, on August 15, 1930, during gangland's Castellammarese War.

All the brothers were born in Corleone, Sicily. Their mother, Angela Piazza, was married to Calogero Morello at the time of Giuseppe Morello's 1867 birth. Calogero died about five years later, and Piazza later married Bernardo Terranova, father of Vincent, Nicholas and Ciro.

(Terranova also lost a nephew, Joseph "Joe Baker" Catania, in the Castellammarese War. Catania was fatally shot February 3, 1931, on the Bronx sidewalk where Crescent Avenue, East 186th Street and Belmont Avenue meet.)



Ciro Terranova took precautions against a death by gangster bullets. He moved himself and his family (which grew to include the daughters of his murdered brother Vincent) to remote Pelham Manor. When traveling in New York City, he made use of an armored limousine.

Rapid decline

Terranova accumulated much of his wealth by monopolizing the distribution of artichokes in the New York area, a racket that gave him the title of "Artichoke King." He also reportedly benefited from a share of Dutch Schultz's numbers racket income.

The start of Terranova's decline is generally placed in December 1929, when a testimonial dinner for Magistrate Albert Vitale of the Tammany's Bronx-based Tepecano Democratic Club was held up by gunmen. Guests were robbed of money and jewelry, and a police officer had his service revolver taken from him. An investigation showed that a number of the dinner guests were politically-connected underworld figures: Ciro Terranova, Joseph Catania and his brother James, John and James Savino, Daniel Iamascia and Paul Marchione. The incident revealed connections between the political establishment and racketeers. Suspicions of Vitale's close relationship with criminals were reinforced when the police officer's service revolver was quickly returned by the robbers.

Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi revealed that Terranova lost all respect in the underworld following the assassination of "Joe the Boss" Masseria on April 15, 1931. According to Valachi, Terranova was present with other members of the Masseria leadership when Joe the Boss was shot to death in a Coney Island restaurant. Terranova was supposed to drive a number of the gangsters from the scene but appeared so rattled that he could not put the car key into the ignition. Valachi said he heard that the loss of nerve cost Terranova his leadership role.

In the early 1930s, the administration of reform Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia attempted to break up the artichoke monopoly by halting all sales of artichokes in the city. By then, Terranova seems already to have passed the racket on to Joe "Muskie" Castaldo. The leadership of Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania's Mafia organization assumed control of other Mafia rackets in East Harlem and the Bronx and seized the lucrative numbers game from Terranova's old partner Dutch Schultz, who was murdered in 1935.

New York City officials denied Terranova access to the city, placing him under arrest on a charge of vagrancy whenever he crossed the city line from Westchester County.

In May 1937, Terranova stated in court that he had no income, few assets and no job. The Pelham Manor home had been taken by creditors. He continued to live there as a tenant but had no funds to pay overdue rent. A finance company forced him to court after it had been unable to collect for eighteen months on the $542.87 owed for a furnace at the home. Terranova claimed he had been living for some time on borrowed money.

About a month later, reports said Terranova was vacating his home and planning to return to live in New York City.

Full circle

The police made no move to stop him from entering the city at that time. Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine told the press that he permitted Terranova's return because the former gangster "is now criminally and financially impotent."

The tenement Terranova moved into, 338 East 116th Street, and the neighborhood around it had been part of his family history. It was the same building where he and his brother Vincent lived with their families in the opening years of the Prohibition Era and the same building where his former top aide Frank Livorsi still lived.

At forty-nine, Terranova could have reasonably expected to live many more years. Perhaps he was planning to restart his rackets career in the location where it was launched many years earlier. But it is difficult to imagine that Terranova could be in that place and not think of death.

The apartment building sat a few doors to the west of the Ciro, Nicholas and Vincent Terranova pre-Prohibition residence at 350 East 116th Street - the address where Nicholas lived at the time of his 1916 murder. The building just next door to that, at 352, owned by relatives, was the spot where half-brother Giuseppe Morello was killed. Across the street, within view of 338's front entrance, was the spot where Vincent Terranova's blood was spilled in 1922.

Sources:
  • "$5,000 loot taken at Vitale dinner," New York Times, Dec. 9, 1929, p. 14.
  • "10,000 at funeral of 'Joe the Baker,'" New York Times, Feb. 8, 1931, p. 30.
  • "2 die in pistol fight in Brooklyn street," New York Times, Sept. 8, 1916, p. 18.
  • "7 of Vitale guests had police records, Whalen declares," New York Times, Dec. 13, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Armored car owner queried on Marlow," New York Times, July 11, 1929, p. 1.
  • "'Artichoke King' seized and freed," New York Times, Feb. 17, 1935, p. 27.
  • "Artichoke King comes down to his last button," New York Post, May 14, 1937.
  • "Artichoke king dies in decline," Fresno CA Bee, Feb. 22, 1938, p. 12.
  • "Artichoke king dies in poverty," New York Daily News, Feb. 21, 1938, p. 30.
  • "Artichoke king dies penniless," Windsor Ontario Star, Feb. 21, 1938, p. 19.
  • "Artichoke king irked by his latest arrest," New York Times, May 25, 1934, p. 17.
  • "Bail runner shot in street ambush," New York Times, Feb. 4, 1931, p. 11.
  • "Catania dies of wounds," New York Times, Feb. 5, 1931, p. 26.
  • "Ciro Terranova," Boston Globe, Feb. 24, 1938, p. 15.
  • "Ciro Terranova," New York Daily News, Feb. 22, 1938, p. 33.
  • "Ex-Artichoke King broke," New York American, May 14, 1937.
  • "Ex-Artichoke King gives up his palace," New York Daily News, June 23, 1937, p. 30.
  • "Gang glitter absent at Terranova burial," New York Daily News, Feb. 24, 1938, p. 37.
  • "Girl, woman, 4 men shot in battle of two bootleg bands," New York Times, May 9, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Indict Schultz on 3 counts in record time," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 19, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Link Vitale fete to Uale murder," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 26, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Police guard body of Ciro Terranova," Baltimore Evening Sun, Feb. 23, 1938, p. 29.
  • "Reveal millionaire as real head of new 'numbers' banking combination," New York Age, Aug. 20, 1932, p. 1.
  • "Rich restaurateur shot dead by gang in bootleg quarrel," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 8, 1922, p. 3.
  • "Rise and fall of a racketeer," Hartford CT Courant, Feb. 25, 1938, p. 12.
  • "Seven bandits hold up 50 at dinner to Vitale; escape with thousands of dollars' loot," New York Times, Dec. 8, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Six are indicted as artichoke trust," New York Times, April 8, 1933, p. 1.
  • "Terranova agrees to a receivership," New York Times, May 14, 1937, p. 6.
  • "Terranova appears to talk to police; jailed in hold-up," New York Times, Jan. 17, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Terranova dead; once racket 'king,'" New York Times, Feb. 20, 1938, p. 26.
  • "Terranova seized as vagrant again," New York Times, Aug. 3, 1938, p. 34.
  • "Terranova, paralyzed by stroke, gravely ill," New York Daily News, Feb. 18, 1938, p. 21.
  • "Terranova's exile from city is ended," New York Times, Feb. 18, 1938, p. 32.
  • "Vitale got gun back for cop after holdup," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 23, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Vitale guests ex-convicts, is Whalen claim," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 12, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Vitale guests granted writ; hit '3d degree,'" Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 31, 1929, p.1.
  • Ciro Terranova Declaration of Intention, Supreme Court of New York County, June 9, 1914.
  • Ciro Terranova Petition for Naturalization, 78124, Supreme Court of the State of New York, submitted July 25, 1918.
  • Greene, Roger D., "N.Y. racket smasher, 35, nearly became singer," Oakland CA Tribune, July 26, 1937, p. 5.
  • Joseph Catania Death Certificate, No. 1453, Feb. 4, 1931, Department of Health of the City of New York.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 4180, Feb. 20, 1938.
  • Turcott, Jack, "Ciro is down to last artichoke," New York Daily News, May 14, 1937, p. 22.
  • United States Census of 1920, New York State, New York County, Assembly District 20, Enumeration District 1362.
  • United States Census of 1930, New York State, Westchester County, Village of Pelham Manor, Enumeration District 60-316.
  • Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra, unpublished manuscript, Joseph Valachi Personal Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, 1964.
  • Vincenzo Terranova Petition for Naturalization, 105297, Supreme Court of the State of New York, submitted May 6, 1920.