31 December 2016

A solid start, better things ahead

The Writers of Wrongs website opened for business this past Oct. 22. As 2016 draws to a close, we take a moment to reflect on the early stages of this joint project of crime history authors.

Three authors are currently posting to the blog. Several other authors are preparing to participate.

Site "analytics" reveal a total of 5,741 pageviews, divided among the 30 posts published during the 70-day history of the site. The site has averaged a new post every 2.3 days. The average post receives just over 191 reader-visits. Statistics show the number of site visitors is dramatically increasing.

Links to individual blog posts have made their way to Facebook, Twitter and Google+, as well as CosaNostraNews and DeadGangster websites.


Through its first 70 days, the Writers of Wrongs blog received visitors from eleven different countries. About 76% of visitors were U.S. residents. Nine percent were from the United Kingdom. The countries of Germany, Canada and France contributed a combined ten percent. The site also had visitors from Australia (1.3%), Ireland (1.2%), Russia (0.7%), Netherlands (0.6%), China and Italy.

Our most popular single post to date was "Behind the Mug: Lucky Luciano's 1931 Arrest," by Christian Cipollini. That post has been viewed 595 times since it was published just two days ago.

Our most-visited post to date
We thank our readers for their support. We wish you all the best in 2017 and promise that you will find many interesting items on the blog during the year ahead.

30 December 2016

One week left in giveaway

There is just one more week to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution

The giveaway promotion is being run by Goodreads.com and is open to U.S. residents only. Three signed paperback copies of the book will be randomly awarded on Jan. 5, 2017 - the anniversary of Charles Sberna's execution in Sing Sing Prison. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries.

For more information or to enter, visit Goodreads.

To learn more about the Sberna case, visit the Wrongly Executed? website.

29 December 2016

Behind the Mug: Lucky Luciano's 1931 Arrest... There's more to the story!

Charles 'Lucky' Lucania, 1931.
Charlie Lucky’s name and reputation had certainly garnered the attention of some media entities and law enforcement by spring of 1931, yet to the public and many police departments outside of Manhattan - he was still largely an unfamiliar figure. Lucky's infamy began to grow exponentially following the events that unfolded later in the year.  Our story today addresses an incident that occurred just two months before he kick-started that career-boosting rise in notoriety (we are of course talking about the underworld housecleaning of sorts (which included the murder of Joe 'The Boss' Masseria April 15, 1931 and Salvatore Maranzano on September 10, 1931)

On the evening of February 2, all hell broke loose in Manhattan, or so it has been implied, when two Jersey cops decided to spend their day off in Big Apple, and crossed paths with one Charles Lucania, aka Lucky.

No News is Good News?

To jump forward a bit, the altercation ultimately provided one of the baddest of badass mugshots the world of organized crime had seen to that point, but oddly – very few details of the incident have ever surfaced to accompany the sinister picture. So then, what happened?  If one were to fill in some blanks with their own theories, then perhaps it's safe to say that fate, destiny, and possibly a lot of mouth-running and temper-flaring led to an physical altercation, subsequent arrest, unusual dismissal, and most peculiar - barely a damn thing ever mentioned in the media. Therefore, this little anecdote is rife with theoretical possibilities. Here's the lowdown on facts, hearsay and outlying oddities:

As Luciano's lengthy rap sheet clearly discloses, he was arrested on February 2, 1931 and charged with two first-degree felony assaults. On February 4, he stood before Judge Joseph F. Mulqueen in the Court of Common Sessions, whereby both felony indictments were discharged; case dismissed.Seems fairly cut and dry, but here's where it all gets interesting...


A sinister photograph with an elusive tale lurking behind it.  The 1931 mugshot of Charles 'Lucky' Luciano hadn't been publicly displayed until 1935, when the press began circulating it (in lieu of current photos, which did not exist) following the murder of Arthur 'Dutch Schultz' Flegenheimer in 1935. Luciano and John Torrio were considered 'of interest' to investigators following the murder.


Fight Club...

Lucky's arrest came at the hands of the two aforementioned off-duty New Jersey police officers, but not before some serious ass-kicking took place, and according to one so-called 'in the know' reporter of the time - it wasn't Luciano on the receiving end of said ass-kicking.  Hickman Powell, author of  'Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime, shed a little light on the melee, albeit brief and underscored by era-commonplace journalistic over-sensationalism.
 

"Lucky was accused of participating in a vulgar street brawl, beating up two Jersey City policemen who had ventured across the river into Manhattan." - Hickman Powell, from Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime

Back of mugshot. Luciano's chosen alias of the day was 'Charles Reed'.

Further adding intrigue to the entire scenario was the controversial judge who dismissed the charges.  Joseph Mulqueen had chalked up a high number of dismissals during his time on the bench, which was certainly an issue raised by his detractors.  That fact, paired with a documented denial of gang existence, makes for all the more conspiratorial fun and conjecture.

Notwithstanding the Judge's record and often-contentious reputation, the case may have been in Luciano's favor simply because the two  out-of-town, off-duty cops may have rather saved some face than explain why they were involved in a fight in the first place. Or perhaps the duo of Officers Phillips and Henshaw did appear in court and Mulqueen heard the explanation, dismissing on principal.  The answer we do not know... yet.  Rest assure, there's one crime historian who's definitely going to dig for the facts, and hopefully divulge a 'part two' to this little underworld mystery.


www.ganglandlegends.com

Also read...

28 December 2016

They gave at the office

Eighty-five years ago today, Philadelphia gangsters Sam Grossman and Al Skale sat in the office of their second-story gambling and drinking resort, the "Jewish Social Cub." It was located at the south east corner of Girard Avenue and Watts Street. Sam and Al were former lieutenants in gangster Mickey Duffy's gang. Former because Mickey was rubbed out in an Atlantic City hotel the previous summer. Both Grossman and Skale had been picked up as material witnesses and were currently out on bail.

Grossman sat at the desk, Skale  perched on top. They may have been divvying up the nights receipts as the former had $1,000 in his hand as five armed-men entered the club and headed directly for the office. Once inside the quintet played a hot number with their .38s. No encore required.

Police were pretty quick to respond. When they entered the office, they found Grossman keeled over the desk, that grand tight in one fist a gun in the other. His eyes were glazing over but, not wanting to take any chances, a cop knocked the gun from his hand. Skale was blown off the desk and found floundering on the floor amidst $400 in small bills and an ever increasing puddle of his own blood.
"Who shot you?", a cop asked,
"[expletive of your choosing] that. I don't know. Get me out of here."
Grossman was questioned but either couldn't or wouldn't respond.

Both men were taken to the hospital where they died a short time later.

                                            Skale (l) and Grossman (r) prior to perforation.

21 December 2016

Death of the Mafia's "Buffalo Bill"

On this date in 1932:

A longtime leader in the Mafia of Western New York, Benedetto Angelo Palmeri died of natural causes at the age of 54. Widely known as Angelo and referred to by the Italian community as "Don Nitto," 

Palmeri had been ailing for months with symptoms of hypertension and kidney inflammation. At about one o'clock in the afternoon, Dec. 21, 2016, Palmeri stepped out of his home at 295 Jersey Street in Buffalo and climbed into his automobile. He was scheduled to meet a friend.

A pedestrian happened to observe Palmeri slump behind the steering wheel and summoned assistance from the firehouse across the street. Firemen took the unconscious and dying Palmeri out of his car and attempted without luck to revive him. Though no autopsy was performed, officials decided the cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage.

Palmeri was well known for his tendency to wear cowboy hats and holstered sidearms. This fashion statement, combined with his Western New York hometown, caused the press to refer to him as "Buffalo Bill."

Born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Palmeri reached the United States in 1906. His brother Paolo, who also became an important U.S. Mafioso, crossed the Atlantic to join him in New York City a few years later. Angelo Palmeri moved on to Buffalo in 1911 and became a top lieutenant, business partner and valued friend of regional Mafia boss Giuseppe DiCarlo. He helped to establish a Mafia foothold in Niagara Falls, New York, and paved the way for Stefano Magaddino's arrival in Western New York in 1922.

News of Palmeri's death elicited great sorrow and grief within the Italian colony of Buffalo's West Side. The Buffalo Evening News wrote:

His death Wednesday brought sincere expressions of sorrow from hundreds of American citizens of Italian ancestry whom he had befriended in times of need... To the police he was known as a man who had close contact with many illicit enterprises, who had such power that he was able to bring peace between warring liquor runners – but to the citizens of the lower West Side he was their individual welfare department, a man who could and would aid them when pride kept them from appealing to the organized charities... Especially sad were the members of upwards of a score of families whose only source of food each Christmas for years had been Angelo B. Palmeri.

Click here to read a brief biography of Bendetto Angelo Palmeri on the book website of DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.


15 December 2016

Chance to win a copy of 'Wrongly Executed?'

Three author-signed trade paperback copies of Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution will be awarded through a promotional drawing on Goodreads.com. No purchase is necessary to enter. Entries will be accepted until Jan. 5, 2017, the anniversary of Charles Sberna's meeting with the Sing Sing Prison electric chair. Details are available on the Goodreads.com website.



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Wrongly Executed? - The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sbe... by Thomas Hunt
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13 December 2016

Book Spotlight: Organized Crime in Miami by Avi Bash


A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, the latest release from Arcadia Publishing's 'Images of America' series showcases such photographic storytelling - this time the focus is Miami and Mobsters.


Where did all the gangsters go when it was cold and blustery?  Where it was warm of course, and Avi Bash's new book Organized Crime in Miami covers everything from the 'land boom' of the Roaring Twenties to the flow of both liquor and mobsters that drenched 'Magic City.'
Bash, a lifelong resident of Miami and longtime collector/researcher of organized crime history and relics, filled the 127 page book with rare photographs and documents culled from his own collection, all detailed and accompanied by fascinating anecdotal information.  The narrative takes readers through the who, what, why and when of the underworld's foray into the tropical paradise.

  
Interestingly, Bash points out that although it was Al Capone's vacation presence that garnered much of the world's attention on an underworld presence in the region - in reality, vice lords had been there for quite some time.  Not only did Big Al bring on a hurricane of media attention, but he also often brought in his cronies from Chicago, New York and beyond.  This wasn't all rest and relaxation of course, and as Bash demonstrates through mugshots and arrest reports - most of these guys were operating the gambling empire both in Miami and nearby Cuba.

Among the 191 amazing photographs in Organized Crime in Miami, readers will see a very rare Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel mugshot, family photos of various mob associates (Meyer Lansky's brother Jake for example), and stunning examples of the architecture from Capone's Palm Island estate to the majestic Biltmore Hotel where Thomas 'Fatty' Walsh was gunned down.
Organized Crime in Miami is available from Amazon, Arcadia Publishing, and Avi Bash's author site

11 December 2016

Prohibition Era organized crime in Chicago

John J. Binder's latest book, Al Capone's Beer Wars is now available for pre-order through Amazon. The 400-page book is expected to be released in hardcover and ebook formats by Prometheus Books in June 2017. 

According to the publisher's writeup on Amazon, Binder covers the history of organized crime in Chicago through the entire Prohibition Era, 1920 to 1933. He discusses "all the important bootlegging gangs in the city and the suburbs and also examines the other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor and business racketeering, and narcotics."

Al Capone's Beer Wars rests on a foundation of 25 years of research, involving many previously unexplored sources. Binder, a Chicago-area resident, is the author of two previous books on organized crime. He lectures frequently on Chicago underworld history and has contributed his expertise to underworld documentaries shown on cable networks A&E, AMC, Discovery and History.

Link to Amazon.com website

09 December 2016

Death of former Boardwalk boss

On this date in 1968, eighty-five-year-old Enoch "Nucky" Johnson died of natural causes at the Atlantic County Convalescent Home in New Jersey. Johnson had been the Prohibition Era political boss of Atlantic City. 

During his reign, the city was a friendly location for organized criminals. Johnson's relationships with the underworld were brought to light during a feud with the New York Evening Journal newspaper in the early 1930s. His control over Atlantic City ended with his successful 1941 prosecution on federal tax evasion charges. Johnson lived a quiet life after his release from prison in 1945.

Asbury Park NJ Press, Dec. 10, 1968. Camden NJ Courier Post, Dec. 10, 1968.

05 December 2016

Caught in Cleveland

On this date in 1928, Cleveland police discovered a convention of U.S. Mafiosi at the Hotel Statler on Euclid Avenue and East 12th Street. 

Scores of detectives and uniformed police officers quickly surrounded the hotel and raided rooms occupied by out-of-town visitors with Italian-sounding names. Twenty-three men were arrested as suspicious persons. Eighteen of them were found to be armed. Among the suspects were known crime figures from Chicago, New York, Buffalo, Tampa and St. Louis.

The sole representative of Buffalo was Salvatore "Sam" DiCarlo. The youngest son of western New York's earliest known Mafia boss, at the time Sam DiCarlo was a trusted member of Stefano Magaddino's underworld organization.

Fourteen of the twenty-three arrested men were photographed by police as a group. Giuseppe Profaci is at center, seated in a wheelchair due to a recent accident. Sam DiCarlo of Buffalo stands behind him. Joseph Magliocco is to the right of DiCarlo. Pasqualino Lolordo of Chicago is seated to the right of Profaci.

The others arrested on December 5, 1928, were Pasqualino Lolordo, Giuseppe Giunta, Frank Alo, Tony Bella, Emanuele Cammarata, James Intravia, Sam Oliveri and Giuseppe Sacco from Chicago;  Giuseppe Profaci, Giuseppe Magliocco, Vincenzo Mangano, Giuseppe Traina, Andrea Lombardino, Salvatore Lombardino, Giuseppe Palermo and Michael Russo from New York and New Jersey; Ignazio Italiano and Giuseppe Vaglica from Tampa; Giovanni Mirabella and Calogero SanFilippo from St. Louis; Paul Palazzola of Gary, Indiana; and Sam Tilocco of Cleveland. (The suspects gave various stories to explain their presence in Cleveland. Officials accepted only the tales told by Mangano and Traina, and those two Mafia leaders were quickly released. The rest were interrogated by police and immigration officials and then arraigned.)

Portsmouth OH Daily Times, Dec. 5, 1928.

Police expressed their certainty that other organized criminals were staying elsewhere in the city. Rumors indicated that Chicago's Al Capone had been seen in the area.

Local authorities believed they had broken up a meeting called to settle feuds over Prohibition Era corn sugar, a necessary commodity for moonshining operations. They were mistaken. The bloody corn-sugar wars of the Cleveland underworld already had been resolved.

Some historians have suggested, quite wrongly, that the Cleveland gathering was the first formative convention of the U.S. Mafia (a number of writers have referred to the criminal society as the "Unione Siciliana"). Actually, a national Mafia network had been in place for many years, and meetings of Mafiosi occurred fairly regularly.

Masseria
Other explanations have been offered. Some say that the convention was called to reallocate underworld rackets following recent gangland assassinations, to resolve underworld disagreements in Chicago or to recognize the ascension of Profaci to the rank of family boss. However, local or regional issues would not warrant the calling of a national convention. It appears far more likely that the convention's purpose was to recognize the U.S. Mafia's new boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria.

At war with reigning boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila since the dawn of the Prohibition Era, Masseria had assembled the strongest and wealthiest crime family in the country. The recent murder of D'Aquila on a Manhattan street left Masseria's appointment as boss of bosses a mere formality. Though Masseria's own home base was in New York City, many of his kin resided in Cleveland, and Masseria allies in Cleveland had recently defeated a pro-D'Aquila faction there. The city would have been an entirely appropriate selection for a Masseria coronation.

Critics of this view note that Masseria and his allies were not among those taken into custody at the Hotel Statler. Of course, with much of his family in the area, there would have been no reason for Masseria to stay at any hotel. And police publicly expressed their disappointment that the hasty raid at the Statler allowed other conventioneers to get away.

Read more about the 1928 Mafia convention in Cleveland and other Cleveland underworld events in:

02 December 2016

Dellacroce's death

New York's Gambino Crime Family was fractured with the death by natural causes of underboss Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce on this date in 1985.

The seventy-one-year-old Dellacroce succumbed to cancer late on December 2 at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens, New York. He had been scheduled to go on trial in Manhattan the following year as a defendant in the Mafia Commission Case. He also faced federal racketeering and tax evasion charges.

Chicago Tribune, Dec. 4, 1985.

Following Dellacroce's death, his protege John J. Gotti organized the December 14, 1985, assassination of crime family boss Paul Castellano. Gotti assumed control of the crime family.

Dellacroce
The organization had been an incomplete blending of Sicilian and non-Sicilian factions for decades, with intra-family violence flaring up from time to time. Albert Anastasia, leader of mainland Italians in the organization, rose to power by deposing Sicilian boss Vincent Mangano in 1951. Carlo Gambino, head of the Sicilian Gambino-Castellano group, is believed to have conspired in the 1957 assassination of Anastasia. Orderly succession within the organization is believed to have been on the agenda of the 1957 Apalachin, New York, Mafia convention, broken up by the appearance of law enforcement officers.

Gambino's rise to boss was contested by Armand Thomas Rava. Some arrangement within the family appears to have been reached following the disappearance of Rava. Dellacroce stepped into Rava's role as opposition faction leader, and Gambino designated him as family underboss. Dellacroce made his headquarters the Ravenite Social Club, located on Manhattan's Mulberry Street in the area where Dellacroce was raised.

Gotti
Apparently believing that its leader was next in line to become boss, the Dellacroce faction was up in arms when Paul Castellano took over following the 1976 death of Gambino. Dellacroce reportedly kept the peace by ordering his followers to take no action against Castellano. Gotti decided that Dellacroce's death canceled the prohibition against violence.

See also Who Was Who entries for:

01 December 2016

He Done Her Wrong

When one thinks of the Golden Age of Hollywood, one doesn’t normally think about crime but Hollywood’s top stars lived with a constant fear that they could become the victims of armed robbers, extortionist or kidnappers. One of the most preyed upon movie stars was Mae West. She was the victim of both extortionists and armed bandits. Regarding the latter, in 1932 Mae was set up by a man named Harry Voiler, whom she considered to be a friend. Voiler was the manager of famed speakeasy hostess Tex Guinan and had ties to Chicago’s underworld. He moved to Hollywood in 1932 along with Guinan in search of Hollywood riches.
A bad guy at heart, Voiler just couldn’t help himself when it came to easy dough. Because Mae’s limousine was in the garage Voiler took to chauffeuring the actress around. On one occasion Mae opened her purse and pulled out a wad of $3,400. This plus the thousands in jewelry that Mae was always draped in was too much for Voiler to ignore. Knowing that he would be driving her around that night he got in touch with a couple of Los Angeles hoodlums and set up a robbery.  That evening, September 28, Voiler picked up Mae at the Paramount Studios and drove her and her manager back to Mae’s house. As Mae’s manager ran up to her apartment to feed her pet monkey, a man stepped up to the car and jerked open Mae’s door. With a gun hidden under a handkerchief, he demanded Mae’s purse and her jewelry.  Once he got what he was after he he told Voiler to take off.
Mae wanted to go to the police but Voiler said that she should wait to see if the robbers try to ransom back her jewelry, he even volunteered to act as her go between,  so the star agreed to wait. In the following weeks Voiler said that the bandits were willing to negotiate and that he would have to fly to Arizona to meet with them, so Mae sent him. Once there he called Mae and said that they had all her jewelry and were demanding $3,200 for it and were not willing to negotiate. Mae refused. With his plan backfired, Voiler was forced to sell the stuff elsewhere.
After the incident with Voiler Mae went to the police and, although it took over a year, Voiler was finally uncovered as the master mind behind the crime. Unfortunately for Mae, by that time, he was back in Chicago and the police were unable to extradite him.
                        Mae West shows the underworld that they won't be able to mess with her.