14 November 2017

Apalachin party-crashers expose Mafia network


[Following is an excerpt from DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. II.]

On November 14, 1957, Sergeant Edgar Croswell of the New York State Police, aided by troopers from the Vestal barracks and agents of the Treasury Department, broke up a convention of American mobsters at the rural Apalachin home of regional crime chieftain Joseph Barbara Sr. Scores of Mafiosi from around the country were rounded up and identified. 

With known criminal figures from every region of the country in attendance, the crashed party at tiny Apalachin triggered years of investigations and compelled reluctant federal law enforcement officials to acknowledge the existence of a highly organized, interstate network of racketeers.

Joe Barbara
Croswell learned a day earlier that Joseph Barbara's son made a number of room reservations at the Parkway Motel on Route 17 in Vestal. Knowing of Barbara's underworld connections, the police sergeant and Trooper Vincent Vasisko investigated. They drove up to the Barbara residence, a large stone house surrounded by fifty-three wooded acres on dead end McFall Road in Apalachin. They noted the license plates of the few cars they saw parked on the grounds. One was registered in New Jersey. The officers went back to the Parkway Motel later in the evening of November 13 and found an Ohio-registered Cadillac. When Croswell learned that several men had checked into one of the rooms reserved by the younger Barbara, he asked motel proprietor Warren Schroeder to have the occupants sign registration cards. The men refused to give their names.

Barbara had a record as a bootlegger, so Croswell contacted the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Unit. Agents of the unit arrived in Vestal on the morning of November 14. The troopers and agents drove over to the Barbara estate. They observed a half dozen, expensive, new cars in a parking lot. Many more vehicles could be seen parked behind the home’s detached garage.

The Barbaras apparently were hosting a large gathering. Croswell called the barracks for additional help and advised Inspector Robert E. Denman of the state police headquarters in Sidney, New York.

With no warrant for Barbara’s home and no official justification for setting foot on his property, the troopers recorded the license plate numbers of visible automobiles and then set up a roadblock on the nearest state road, Old Route 17. They monitored traffic passing through toward McFall Road and stopped every vehicle leaving the area, demanding identification from drivers and their passengers.

Word of the police presence outside the estate reached Barbara’s guests by early afternoon, and dozens of men suddenly poured from the home. Many attempted to leave by automobile but were halted at the law enforcement roadblock.

Elmira NY Star-Gazette, Nov. 15, 1957.

At twenty minutes after one, a car carrying Barbara’s longtime friend Emanuele Zicari and Dominick Alaimo of Pittston, Pennsylvania, was the first to reach the roadblock.

Troopers next stopped a black, 1957 Chrysler Imperial registered to William Medico of Pennsylvania. Inside they found New York-New Jersey Mafia leaders Vito Genovese, Gerardo Catena, Joseph Ida and Dominick Oliveto, along with Rosario “Russell” Bufalino of Pennsylvania. A 1957 Cadillac contained Cleveland Mafia boss John Scalish; John DeMarco of Shaker Heights, Ohio; James LaDuca of Lewiston, New York; and Roy Carlisi of Buffalo. Brooklyn underworld figures Carlo Gambino, Armand Rava and Paul Castellano were stopped in a borrowed car chauffeured by Castellano. In another vehicle police found Pittsburgh Mafiosi Michael Genovese and Gabriel “Kelly” Mannarino, traveling with Pittston, Pennsylvania, gangsters James Osticco and Angelo Sciandra.

Some of Barbara’s guests, either lacking automobiles or deciding that escape by road was impossible, ran off into the hilly woods and open fields surrounding the Barbara estate. Observing that suspicious behavior, police pursued them.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Nov. 16, 1957
Antonino Magaddino, brother of western New York Mafia boss Stefano Magaddino, was apprehended at McFadden Road to the east of the estate. John C. Montana of Buffalo and Brooklyn underworld leaders Joseph Bonanno and John Bonventre were found in a cornfield nearby. When police reached him, Montana was tangled in a barbed wire fence. James Colletti of Pueblo, Colorado, and Simone Scozzari of San Gabriel, California, slid down a brushy hill to the west of Barbara’s home and were gathered up by police on the avenue leading to the Pennsylvania state line. Santo Trafficante, the crime boss of Tampa, Florida, and the representative of a growing number of Mafia investors in Cuban gambling casinos, was extracted from a wooded area near Barbara’s home.

The law enforcement operation in Apalachin ultimately collected almost sixty underworld figures. Two more – Nick Civella and Joseph Filardo of Kansas City – were picked up fifteen miles away at the Binghamton train station as they attempted to arrange transport home. All the captured men were brought to the Vestal barracks to be identified and questioned.

None provided a reasonable explanation for the gathering at the Barbara home; most insisted that they had all coincidentally dropped in to visit their ailing friend Joseph Barbara Sr., who recently had suffered a heart attack. Genovese, Ida, Catena and Oliveto refused to answer any questions. The authorities were convinced that the gathering had been prearranged for a far more sinister purpose. (Some suggested the meeting was held in order to establish a uniform policy with regard to narcotics trafficking. Others felt it was to divide up the rackets of the recently murdered Albert Anastasia or to settle succession issues in his Mafia organization, later known as the Carlo Gambino Family. Still others speculated that the purpose was to endorse the takeover of Lucky Luciano's former crime family by Vito Genovese.) However, with no legal grounds for holding the men, police had to turn them loose.

Further investigation led authorities to assemble a list of more than 70 underworld-connected Apalachin convention attendees from twenty-five U.S. regions:
  • Apalachin, Binghamton, Endicott, New York – Joseph Barbara Sr., Joseph Barbara Jr., Ignatius Cannone, Anthony Guarnieri, Bartolo Guccia, Pasquale Turrigiano, Emanuele Zicari.
  • Auburn, New York – Sam Monachino, Patsy Monachino, Patsy Sciortino.
  • Boston, Massachusetts – Frank Cucchiara.
  • Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York – Roy Carlisi, Domenick D’Agostino, James V. LaDuca, Sam Lagattuta, Antonino Magaddino, John C. Montana, Charles Montana, Stefano Magaddino.
  • Chicago, Illinois – Salvatore “Sam” Giancana, Anthony Accardo.
  • Cleveland, Ohio – John DeMarco, John Scalish.
  • Dallas, Texas – Joseph Civello.
  • Elizabeth, New Jersey – Joseph Ida, Louis Larasso, Frank Majuri.
  • Essex-Bergen Counties, New Jersey – Salvatore Chiri, Anthony Riela.
  • Kansas City, Missouri – Nick Civella, Joseph Filardo.
  • Los Angeles, California – Frank DeSimone, Simone Scozzari.
  • Miami, Florida – Bartolo Frank Failla.
  • New York, New York (Bonanno) – Joseph Bonanno, John Bonventre, Natale Evola, Carmine Galante.
  • New York, New York (Gambino) – Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino, Carmine Lombardozzi, Armand Rava, Joseph Riccobono.
  • New York, New York (Genovese) – Gerardo Catena, Vito Genovese, Michele Miranda.
  • New York, New York (Lucchese) – Americo Migliore, Aniello Migliore, John Ormento, Vincent Rao, Joseph Rosato, Peter Valenti.
  • New York, New York (Profaci) – Joseph Magliocco, Joseph Profaci, Salvatore Tornabe.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Dominick Oliveto.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Michael Genovese, Gabriel Mannarino, John Sebastian LaRocca.
  • Pittston, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – Dominick Alaimo, Rosario Bufalino, William Medico, James Osticco, Angelo Sciandra.
  • Pueblo, Colorado – James Colletti.
  • Rochester, New York – Frank Valenti, Costenze Valenti.
  • San Francisco, California – Joseph Cerrito, James Lanza.
  • Springfield, Illinois – Frank Zito.
  • Tampa, Florida, and Havana, Cuba – Santo Trafficante, Joseph Silesi.
  • Utica, New York – Joseph Falcone, Salvatore Falcone, Rosario Mancuso.
News of the roundup of national crime figures in tiny Apalachin shook the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. Despite the earlier discoveries of the Kefauver Committee and other investigators, Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover had insisted that criminal rackets were organized on no more than local or regional levels. The Apalachin incident revealed that known hoodlums from across the country were closely acquainted with each other. Many of the attendees were connected by business and/or family links.

In the wake of Apalachin, the withering attention of media and law enforcement was focused on American Mafiosi from coast to coast. Investigations into the gathering and its attendees were launched by state and federal legislative committees, including the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Government Operations and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (McClellan Committee), as well as a federal grand jury in Albany and Hoover's greatly embarrassed Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Additional information on the Apalachin meeting, its attendees and its impact on organized crime can be found in:

DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. II
by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.


Article sources:

  • Fitchette, Woodie, and Steve Hambalek, "Top U.S. hoods are run out of area after 'sick call' on Barbara," Binghamton NY Press, Nov. 15, 1957, p. 1.
  • “65 hoodlums seized in raid and run out of upstate village,” New York Times, Nov. 15, 1957, p. 1
  • "Cops spoil mobster Apalachin reunion," Elmira NY Star-Gazette, Nov. 15, 1957, p. 1.
  • “How hoodlum rally went haywire,” Syracuse Herald Journal, Nov. 16, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Cops probe convention of gangland," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 16, 1957, p. 1.
  • Feinberg, Alexander, “U.S. taking steps to deport aliens at gang meeting,” New York Times, Nov. 24, 1957, p. 1.

06 November 2017

Jealousy nearly kills a Gopher

On this date...

Madden
In the early morning hours of November 6, 1912, twenty-year-old Owen "Owney the Killer" Madden, leader of New York City's Gophers gang, was shot in the abdomen while attending a dance at the Arbor Cafe, Fifty-Second Street and Seventh Avenue. 

The gunshot perforated Madden's intestines and left him near death. Doctors gave him no more than a one-in-ten chance of surviving, but Madden managed to pull through. In later years, he rose to the leadership of bootlegging and gambling rackets and developed alliances with some of the top organized criminals in Prohibition Era New York City. In addition to his underworld endeavors, Madden became involved in managing boxers, entertainers, hotels and nightclubs. For a time, he held a financial interest in Harlem's Cotton Club. He is said to have aided the careers of actors George Raft and Mae West.

But back in the 1910s, Madden and his Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea-based branch of the old Gopher's gang, was fighting for survival against its rivals, particularly the Hudson Dusters and the Buck O'Brien Gophers of the Upper West Side. Due to a prolonged squabble with his young wife, Madden let his guard down just a bit in early November of 1912.

NY Sun, Nov. 7, 1912
On Election Night, November 5, Mrs. Madden antagonized her jealous husband with an announcement: she would be attending the David Hyson Association Dance at the Arbor Cafe (formerly known as the El Dorado) and would feel at liberty to dance with any of the men attending. Owney followed her there - many blocks north of the territory controlled by his gang. Mrs. Madden was aware of his presence but refused to acknowledge him. Madden took a balcony seat to watch her activities and probably to take note of her dancing partners. It appears he was not taking much note of those who were moving into the seats near him on the balcony.

The dance continued past midnight. At two in the morning, November 6, a friend told Mrs. Madden that someone wanted to see her outside. As she reached the door, a muffled gunshot was heard. Word that Owney had been shot circulated quickly through the crowd.

Madden gave different accounts of the shooting, but reportedly did not reveal the identity of the gunman. Initially, he insisted, "I done it myself." When his wife reached him, he responded to her questions about the gunman with, "How'd I know?"

At Flower Hospital (where he told a surgeon, "Git busy with that knife thing, doc"), he stated to police that he had been surrounded on the balcony by eleven members of the Hudson Dusters gang. As they closed around him, he became aware of the threat and responded with bravado, telling the gangsters they didn't have the nerve to shoot him. But one of them, according to Madden's story, had just enough nerve. He pressed a handgun to Madden's side and fired.

Madden (back row, center) and some of his Gophers gang.
The press speculated that the shooting was payback for Madden's recent killing of a young man named William Henshaw, but noted that Madden had no shortage of enemies in Manhattan.

As doctors were tending to the five holes the bullet created in Madden's intestines, police determined that John McCauley of 440 Tenth Avenue was the shooter. They arrested him on Nov. 7. McCauley admitted being at the dance and being near Madden at the time of the shooting. His account of the incident sounded ridiculous, but it was in agreement with Madden's odd first remark.

According to McCauley, as Madden saw his rivals around him, he handed his own handgun to McCauley and said, "You'll get me someday and it might as well be now." McCauley insisted that he handed the weapon back to its owner, took no further action and merely watched as Madden then shot himself.

Sources:

  • "Chase for a slayer," New York Times, Feb. 13, 1912, p. 1.
  • "Held on charge of murder," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 13, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Oweny Madden, 'Killer' shot, sneers at sleuth," New York Sun, Nov. 7, 1912, p. 9. 
  • "Prisoner says Gopher leader shot himself," New York Evening World, Nov. 7, 1912, p. 2.
  • "Dry padlocks snapped on nine wet doors; 'Owney' Madden's 'Club' is one of them," New York Times, June 23, 1925, p. 23.
  • Waggoner, Walter H., "Herman stark dies; owned Cotton Club from 1929 to 1940," New York Times, July 9, 1981.
  • "Owney Madden, 73, ex-gangster, dead," New York Times, April 24, 1965, p. 1.



04 November 2017

Evidence of some lingering hostility

Bioff's body lies in the wreckage
of his exploded pickup truck
(Arizona Republic)
On this date in 1955, a former Chicago Outfit member living under an assumed identity in Arizona was killed in a car-bombing. The fatal explosion was linked to an extortion racket exposed more than a decade earlier.

"Fat Willie" Bioff, a native of Chicago's West Side, relocated to southern California before World War II and became an aide to International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) union President George Browne. As he became a union official, Bioff already had a reputation for violence (Chicago police suspected him of involvement in the murder of Wisconsin gang boss Jack Zuta) and for close affiliation with members of the Capone organization. In California, he remained in close touch with the Outfit's West Coast rackets overseer Johnny Roselli.

In the early 1940s, federal authorities became aware of an ongoing Chicago Outfit scheme to extort vast sums from movie companies through control of motion picture industry unions, and Bioff emerged as a central player in that scheme, the main link between the IATSE union and Chicago organized crime. Word leaked from federal grand jury proceedings in New York City that studio executive Joseph Schenck was revealing the extortion scheme.

Bioff
Outfit leaders, trying to assess the damage of the Schenck testimony, quickly got in touch with Bioff through Roselli. Bioff's response to the news - "Now, we're all in trouble" - concerned his higher-ups in the mob. Outfit leaders feared that Bioff would make a deal with the federal prosecutor and reveal their connection to the racket. The underworld bosses wanted to kill Bioff in order to resolve the issue, but Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti talked them out of it. Nitti convinced them that Bioff was a "stand-up guy" and could be trusted to keep his mouth shut.

Bioff and Browne were convicted in November 1941 of extorting more than half a million dollars from movie studio bosses at Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and other companies during the 1930s. (Bioff later admitted that the total profit was more than a million dollars. The figure was subsequently inflated in the press to $2.5 million.) Bioff was sentenced to ten years in prison. Brown was sentenced to eight years. Each man was fined $20,000.

Browne
While in custody, Bioff betrayed his underworld colleagues and provided evidence to investigators. He confessed that he had arranged annual studio payments ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, depending on the size of the studio, and revealed that the racket was directed by a group of crime figures. By cooperating, he earned a sentence commutation - he and Browne were released in 1944 - but he also incurred the wrath of the Chicago Outfit.

Bioff grand jury testimony in 1943 resulted in indictments against Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti, Charles "Cherry Nose" Gioe, Frank "Frankie Diamond" Maritote, Johnny Roselli, Louis "Little New York" Campagna, Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (DeLucia), Phil D'Andrea and Ralph Pierce of the Oufit, as well as IATSE business agent Louis Kaufman. Upon learning of the indictments on March 19, 1943, Nitti, friend and staunch defender of Bioff to that time, shot himself in front of witnesses.

The other Outfit mobsters were successfully prosecuted and sentenced on Dec. 31, 1943, to ten years in prison. Gioe, Campagna, Ricca and D'Andrea received early paroles in summer of 1947. Many expected immediate action against the Outfit traitor Bioff. But years passed without any related news.

In 1955, all the past unpleasantness seemed forgotten. Bioff and his wife Laurie were living under assumed names (Mr. and Mrs. William Nelson) in Phoenix, Arizona. There seemed little threat of underworld retribution for Bioff's betrayal. Involved Chicago mobsters had long ago served their prison terms and completed their probations. Most of them were no longer among the living.

Nitti shot himself in front of witnesses immediately upon learning of the extortion indictments. Charles Gioe and Frank Maritote were shot to death in August of 1954. (The FBI determined that their murders were due to Johnny Roselli's suspicions that they had cooperated with federal authorities.) Phil D'Andrea and Louis Campagna had died, reportedly of natural causes, in 1952 and 1955, respectively. (Ricca, Pierce and Roselli lived into the 1970s. Ricca and Pierce died of natural causes, in 1972 and 1976, respectively. Roselli was the victim of an apparent gangland execution in the summer of 1976.)


Evidence of some lingering hostility was seen on the morning of Nov. 4, 1955: Fifty-five-year-old Bioff climbed into his pickup truck inside his home garage. As he stepped on the starter, an explosion suddenly shook the neighborhood.

According to a press account, "The blast threw Bioff twenty-five feet and scattered wreckage over a radius of several hundred. It left only the twisted frame, the motor and the truck wheels. The garage door was blown out, the roof shattered and windows in the Bioff home and several neighboring houses were broken. Jagged chunks of metals tore holes in the wall of a home 100 feet away. The blast rattled windows a mile away."

Bioff's body, minus both legs and a right hand, were found 25 feet from the explosion.


A representative of the local sheriff's office told the press, "I don't know whether this was a professional gangster job or not, but it certainly was an effective one."

Phoenix police had noted a visit to the city of Outfit leader Anthony Accardo a short time before the murder of Bioff but could not meaningfully connect the visit to the bombing. No one was ever convicted for Bioff's murder.

See also:
Sources:
  • Lahey, Edwin A., "Willie Bioff, who sent Capone Mob to prison, should rest easier with Maritote's death," Des Moines IA Tribune, Aug. 24, 1954, p. 13.
  • Lee, Eddie, "Blast in Phoenix kills Willie Bioff," Arizona Daily Star, Nov. 5, 1955, p. 1.
  • Loughran, Robert T., "Underworld caught up with 'Fat Willie' Bioff," Sheboygan WI Press (United Press), Nov. 5, 1955, p. 1.
  • McLain, Gene, "Willie Bioff blown to bits! Bombed at Phoenix home," Arizona Republic, Nov. 5, 1955, p. 1.
  • Parker, Lowell, "Willie Bioff has reason to complain he'd been 'Peglerized,'" Arizona Republic, May 7, 1975, p. 6.
  • Wendt, Lloyd, "The men who prey on labor," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 10, 1941, p. Graphic Section 2.
  • Yost, Newton E., "La Cosa Nostra," FBI report, file no. 92-6054-683, July 22, 1964, NARA no. 124-10208-10406.
  • "Campagna, Gioe ordered freed in parole fight," Chicago Tribune, Dec. 5, 1948, p. 17.
  • "Blast in truck kills Willie Bioff, once Hollywood racket leader," New York Times, Nov. 5, 1955, p. 1.
  • "Revenge-bent gang killed Bioff, view," Sheboygan WI Press, Nov. 5, 1955, p. 1.

30 October 2017

CIA joins with Mafia in effort to kill Castro

Some Kennedy assassination-related documents released through the National Archives last week (October 26, 2017) and earlier this year (July 24, 2017) discussed CIA cooperation with American organized criminals in an effort to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The documents revealed little about CIA-underworld interaction that was not already known to historians through other sources, but the release provides an occasion to reflect upon that interaction and its aftermath.

Another release of documents is expected in six months' time. Any additional pages will likely be in general agreement with those we already have. The key features of the government-underworld conspiracy appear to be these:

  • A small group of CIA officials decided to accomplish the assassination of Cuba's Communist President Fidel Castro by working with American Mafiosi, who had been deprived of Havana casino income by Castro's rise to power.
  • No written approvals of the plan by top CIA administrators or White House officials were ever obtained, though the CIA plotters later insisted that oral approvals from CIA higher-ups were obtained and that some discussion occurred with the White House.
  • In an effort to keep CIA involvement in the plot a secret, an outside intermediary was used to make contacts with Mafiosi. CIA was prepared to pay $150,000 to the Castro assassin.
  • The intermediary met and plotted with Mafiosi Santo Trafficante, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli. The mobsters refused to take any money. Despite the efforts to keep CIA involvement a secret, the mobsters quickly figured out that CIA was involved.
  • A level of cooperation between the Mafia and the CIA was first exposed early in the planning process, when a technician illegally wiretapping a Las Vegas entertainer's telephone for Giancana was arrested and sought help from the CIA. CIA became involved and succeeded in having charges dropped, but FBI investigated the matter.
  • As FBI reported to Attorney General Robert Kennedy about the incident, the Bureau warned that any CIA-Mafia arrangement could subject the U.S. government to underworld blackmail.
  • Several times, Giancana and Roselli sought to use the CIA relationship to their personal advantage.
  • CIA scientists designed six poison pills. Those pills were delivered in two separate batches to Mafia contacts in Cuba so they could be placed in food or drink consumed by Castro. The pills reportedly were never used.
  • CIA-Mafia plans to poison Castro were called off following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. CIA conspirators remained in contact with Mafiosi for several years and continued to develop Castro assassination plans, though new leadership at the CIA did not know of the contacts or the plans until they were brought to light by the FBI.
  • Columnist Jack Anderson wrote about CIA plotting against Castro in 1967 and exposed Mafia involvement in the plotting in 1971. Official documents relating to the CIA-Mafia venture were discovered by the Rockefeller Commission and the Senate's Church Committee in 1975. Some secrecy was maintained until the New York Times published information about the government's relationship with Giancana and Roselli the following year.
  • Giancana was murdered in 1975. Roselli was murdered in 1976. Their killings appeared to be gangland "hits," but some were concerned that the murders related to their work with the CIA.

Click here to read the full article (including links to released government documents) at the American Mafia history website (mafiahistory.us)