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.
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  • "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.
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  • "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.


14 February 2019

Moran's men massacred

On this date in 1929...

Disguised as law enforcement officers, gunmen murdered seven members and associates of George "Bugs" Moran's North Side gang at 10:30 in the morning of February 14, 1929.

Chicago Tribune, Feb. 15, 1929.
The North Siders were assembled at the SMC Cartage Company garage, 2122 North Clark Street. A team of professional killers, two of them dressed as police officers, entered the building. Believing they were being raided by authorities, Moran's men cooperated and lined up facing a wall of the garage.

The helpless gangsters were then slaughtered in a hail of machine gun and shotgun fire. The killers escaped.

Belvidere Republican, Feb. 14, 1929.

Decatur Herald, Feb. 14, 1929.

Uniontown PA Standard, Feb. 15, 1929.

Boston Globe, Feb. 15, 1929.
Gang boss Moran, said to be the primary target of the attack, also escaped. Lookouts working with the hit team mistakenly believed Moran was present in the garage and initiated the attack too early. According to reports, Moran was just approaching the building when he observed what looked to be a police raid and decided on a different course. When he learned of the massacre, he went into hiding.

Minneapolis Star, Feb. 14, 1929.
The victims of the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre":
  • James Clark, 42. The top lieutenant of George Moran (and often referred to in the press as Moran's brother-in-law), Clark (born Albert Kachellek) had been imprisoned several times for robberies and parole violation.
  • Frank Gusenberg, 36. Often a suspect in burglaries and robberies, he served one jail sentence for disorderly conduct. He was considered an enforcer for Moran. He was the only one of the seven victims still living when police arrived. He died hours later.
  • Peter Gusenberg, 40. The brother of Frank Gusenberg, he was the top enforcer of the Moran bootlegging operation. He served several prison terms for robberies and parole violation.
  • Adam Heyer, 40. He had been in and out of prison since 1908, convicted of robberies, confidence games and parole violation. It was reported that Heyer managed the gang finances and ran the S.M.C. Cartage Company.
  • John May, 35. A former thief, he was an associate of the Moran gang and worked as a automotive mechanic.
  • Albert Weinshank, 35. A member of the Chicago cleaning and dying association, authorities believed he joined the gang when Moran was scheming to take control of that industry.
  • Reinhardt Schwimmer, 30. An optometrist, he often socialized with the Moran gang and bragged of his underworld association.
New York Times, Feb. 15, 1929.
Out-of-town gunmen working with Al Capone's Chicago Outfit are generally believed responsible for performing the massacre.


Sources:
  • "Doctor in massacre," Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 15, 1929, p. 1.
  • "No one brought to trial for goriest gangland hit," Bloomington IL Pantagraph, Feb. 13, 1979, p. 6.
  • "Police records tell lives of gang slain gangsters," Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 15, 1929, p. 2.
  • Binder, John J., Al Capone's Beer Wars, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2017.
  • Gomes, Mario, My Al Capone Museum, myalcaponemuseum.com.
  • Helmer, William J., Al Capone and His American Boys, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011. 
  • Helmer, William J., and Arthur J. Bilek, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Cumberland House, 2006.
  • Kobler, John, Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1971.
  • Koziol, Ronald, and Edward Baumann, "Chicago's grisly wall," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 13, 1987, p. 5-1.

29 January 2019

Mob mayhem on a Monday morning

On this date in 1962...

NY Daily News

It was a bad Monday morning for Michael F. Albergo of Ridgewood Queens. A bad one also for Michael's younger brother Philip.

Michael, forty-four, left his apartment building, a three-story brick structure at 1875 Troutman Street, at about eight o'clock on January 29, 1962, to fetch his car. The all-white 1961 Chrysler New Yorker was parked about a half-block up the one-way street near the corner with Woodward Street. Michael's wife needed a ride to the subway station, so she could get to her waitressing job.

As he reached the car, Michael saw that one of his flashy, wide-whitewall tires was completely flat. That was the beginning.

Michael was not entirely unaccustomed to bad days. He had a really bad one about eight months earlier, when he and four other men were arrested and charged with extortion conspiracy. Michael was able to have his case severed from codefendant Joseph Gallo. But he must have been discouraged to see Gallo, a Profaci Crime Family-affiliated hoodlum known as "Joey the Blond" and "Crazy Joey," get convicted and sentenced to between seven and a half and fifteen years in prison. Michael's own trial was approaching. In the meantime, he was free in bail of $5,000.

Michael had been in trouble with the law before and knew what prison was like. He was sent to reform school when he just was sixteen and convicted of burglary. He avoided incarceration following convictions for receiving stolen goods in 1937 and for bookmaking in 1946. He had federal interstate theft charges dismissed in 1947. But, then, he was sentenced to five to ten years in state prison on a grand larceny conviction. He served more than five years of that sentence before he was paroled on April 26, 1954.

Determining that the flattened white wall would prevent him from getting his wife to the subway on time, Michael returned to his second-floor apartment and telephoned for his brother. Philip, twenty-eight, lived in Brooklyn. A carpenter by trade, Philip had no police record, though people had noticed him spending considerable time with his mob-connected brother.

Philip drove over in his Cadillac convertible and dropped Michael's wife at the subway station before returning to Troutman Street to assist Michael with his flat tire.

Michael Albergo
The brothers were finishing the job at twenty minutes past ten when that Monday morning got really bad.

They were crouching by the tire as a dark green sedan came up beside them and slowed. From inside the vehicle, a gunmen opened fire. At least a half-dozen shots headed in the general direction of the Albergo brothers. The sedan then sped away.

Michael and Philip suffered serious but not immediately life-threatening wounds. Michael was hit by .38-caliber slugs in his right shoulder and right arm. Philip had a slug pass through his left arm and lodge in his chest.

It must have seemed like good luck when a bakery delivery truck happened by. The Albergo's got the attention of the driver, and the driver agreed to take them to the hospital. As they drove off, it became apparent that the driver was not going directly to the hospital. He had just one more delivery to make that morning, and was determined to keep on schedule.

According to reports, Michael and Philip accepted that news with remarkable nonchalance. They casually smoked cigarettes as their blood poured out into the bakery truck.

Upon arrival at the Carlton Restaurant, 52-03 Metropolitan Avenue, the brothers finally met people willing to drop everything to help them. Restaurant owner Rose Achiel and her daughter Barbara summoned an ambulance and administered first aid. (It seems the bakery truck driver did not wait around long enough to be identified.) The brothers were taken to St. John's Hospital in Elmhurst. Their condition was said to be not critical.

Detectives from Queens investigated the shooting and called in Brooklyn Deputy Chief Inspector Raymond V. Martin for assistance. The shooting was linked to an underworld conflict between the Gallo Gang of the Gowanus section of Brooklyn and their superiors in the Profaci (later known as Colombo) Crime Family.

Martin's book
Martin had been keeping an eye on the Gallo Gang. The group had been intensely interesting to him since the 1959 murder of their Mafia mentor "Frankie Shots" Abbatemarco. (Martin later wrote a book about the Gallo-Profaci War, entitled Revolt in the Mafia.) It was said that Abbatemarco had been withholding numbers racket tribute payments from the Profaci hierarchy. Soon after that murder, the Gallos rebelled against Profaci. There were rumors that Profaci ordered the Gallos to arrange the killing of Abbatemarco, promising them control of Abbatemarco's numbers as a reward for their loyalty. According to the rumors, the Gallos felt betrayed when Profaci handed the numbers racket to others. They launched their rebellion by kidnaping and threatening several leaders of the crime family.

Aware of increasing hostility between the Profaci factions, police had positioned themselves near Gallo headquarters and had followed the Gallo members as closely as they could. It appeared that Michael Albergo was not deemed an important enough Gallo contact to monitor, leaving him vulnerable to an attack from Gallo enemies.

Detectives quickly concluded that Michael's tire had been deliberately flattened to put him on the spot for a mob hit. The Chrysler was parked on the left side of the one-way street. The front tire on the passenger's side - facing the middle of the street - had been pierced with an icepick.

After interviewing a few dozen Albergo friends and relatives, police were no closer to identifying those responsible for firing on Michael and Philip. If the brothers knew anything, they were keeping it to themselves. Their silence may have contributed to their longevity. After recovering from his bullet wound, Philip lived another forty-three years, dying in May 2005. Michael lived to the age of ninety, passing in the summer of 2008.

One of the lingering questions for police was whether Philip was intended to be a target. Michael was alone at the car for a period of time before Philip arrived to help him. But the attack did not occur until both brothers were together. Sources suggested that Michael and Philip routinely got together on Monday mornings.

Sources:
  • "Extortion figure shot in Brooklyn," Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle, Jan. 30, 1962, p. 6. 
  • "Gunned down in gang war," Troy NY Record, Jan. 30, 1962, p. 8.
  • "Night spot manager held in extortion," Long Island Star-Journal, May 13, 1961.
  • "Seek solution to shooting, Albergo brothers recover," Ridgewood NY Times, Feb. 1, 1962, p. 1.
  • House Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, 95th Congress, 2d Session, Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Appendix to Hearings, Report Volume IX, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979, p. 36.
  • Martin, Raymond V., Revolt in the Mafia: How the Gallo Gang Split the New York Underworld, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1963, p. 219.
  • Pugh, Thomas, "Gallo's 2 boys getting well; cops baffled," New York Daily News, Jan. 31, 1962, p. 23.
  • Pugh, Thomas, and Henry Lee, "Gallo hood & brother shot in street - live," New York Daily News, Jan. 30, 1962, p. 3.
  • Social Security Death Index, May 28, 2005, and Aug. 29, 2008.


26 January 2019

Awaiting airport arrival, Lucky departs

On this date in 1962...


Longtime Mafia leader Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania, sixty-four, died January 26, 1962, of an apparent heart attack at Capodichino Airport north of Naples, Italy.

Lucania was at the airport to meet movie producer Martin Gosch and discuss a Gosch script for a Mafia-related movie.

Gosch later suggested, without providing any evidence, that Lucania had dictated his life story to Gosch. Gosch and Richard Hammer authored a book, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, that was packaged as Lucania's memoirs. The book was released in 1975, after Gosch's death. The book's publisher, Little, Brown & Company, claimed in advertisements that Last Testament was based upon tape-recorded conversations with Lucania. The publisher later issued a correction, revealing that no such recordings were ever made. Little, Brown & Company followed up with a claim that a collection of Gosch's original notes - seen by no one connected with the project and allegedly burned by his widow after his death - was based upon thirty interviews of Lucania by the producer between 1959 and 1962. Over time, the story was altered to suggest that Gosch provided handwritten notes to Hammer or provided his own recorded dictation of his original notes to Hammer. It was later discovered that Last Testament contained factual errors on matters that would have been well known to Lucania and also was built upon quotations attributed to Lucania that were fabricated by Hammer. An FBI investigation of Gosch labeled the producer an untrustworthy opportunist trying to profit from his association with Lucania. FBI records reveal that Gosch told a representative of the FBI that his movie script, the only product of his interaction with Lucania, was a work of fiction. The Bureau dismissed the Gosch and Hammer book as a fraud, stating, "It is not believed that this book has any value to the FBI, or to anyone else for that matter." (Richard N. Warner's detailed analysis of the book was published in the April 2012 issue of Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement.)

United States Narcotics Bureau agents and Italian law enforcement had been trailing Lucania, known to many as "Lucky Luciano," believing that he was an organizer of an international narcotics smuggling ring. They were preparing to arrest him at the time of his death.

NY Daily News
Gosch reached Lucania as he collapsed. Knowing that Lucania had a heart condition, he searched the Mafia leader's pockets for pills. Finding a small box of pills, he put one into Lucania's mouth. Observers found the activity suspicious, and there were persistent rumors that Lucania was poisoned. Police questioned Gosch for about five hours. The producer said he first met Lucania in 1960 and was working on a movie about Lucania's life.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Lucania was born to Salvatore and Rosalia Lucania in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, in November of 1897. He was brought to the U.S. as a child around 1905. His family settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and Lucania attended public school until sixth grade. He got into some trouble as a teenager and was sent for a time to Brooklyn Truant School. In 1916, he was convicted of a narcotics offense (sale of morphine) and served a sentence at the New Hampton Farms Reformatory.

NY Times
Following his release, he participated in gambling rackets and continued involvement in narcotics sales. He became an associate of Jack "Legs" Diamond and Arnold Rothstein and, later, of Manhattan Mafia boss Giuseppe Masseria. As Masseria reached the position of boss of bosses, Lucania was his top lieutenant.

Lucania and other members of Masseria's organization betrayed their boss at the end of the underworld's 1930-31 Castellammarese War and set him up for assassination in spring 1931. Lucania took over the Masseria operation. Months later, he arranged the assassination of another Mafia boss of bosses, Salvatore Maranzano. With Lucania's backing, the U.S. Mafia discarded the old boss of bosses system of resolving inter-family disputes and installed a representative panel known as the Commission.

Lucania was convicted of compulsory prostitution in 1936. He testified in the trial and was forced to admit past crimes and lies told to authorities. He was sentenced to serve thirty to fifty years in prison. He was released from prison on a conditional executive commutation from Governor Thomas Dewey and deported from the U.S. to Italy in 1946. His release and deportation were arranged after a former member of the Office of Naval Intelligence vaguely claimed that the imprisoned Lucania rendered assistance to U.S. forces during World War II.

Wishing to be closer to his longtime home, his associates and his lucrative rackets, Lucania traveled back across the Atlantic and settled in Havana, Cuba, in autumn 1946. Pressure by U.S. agencies on the Cuban government succeeded in forcing him back to Italy March of 1947.

During his years in Italy, Lucania reportedly hoped to someday return to the U.S. His return occurred only after his death. His remains were transported by plane from Rome to New York City in February 1962. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in Queens, New York.

Sources:

  • Anderson, Jack, "The Last Days of Lucky Luciano," Parade, June 17, 1962.
  • Dewey, Thomas E., Twenty Against the Underworld, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1974.
  • FBI cablegram to Director, Charles "Lucky" Luciano FBI file, Jan. 26, 1962.
  • Feder, Sid, and Joachim Joesten, The Luciano Story, New York: Da Capo Press, 1994 (originally published in 1954).
  • Gage, Nicholas, "F.B.I. tells agents not to trust book on Luciano," New York Times, March 14, 1975, p. 30.
  • Gage, Nicholas, "Questions are raised on Lucky Luciano book," New York Times, Dec. 17, 1974, p. 1.
  • Lewis, Norman, The Honored Society, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1964.
  • Packard, Reynolds, "V-King Luciano's luck runs out: drops dead," New York Daily News, Jan. 27, 1962.
  • Poulsen, Ellen, The Case Against Lucky Luciano: New York's Most Sensational Vice Trial, Little Neck, NY: Clinton Cook Publishing, 2007.
  • Powell, Hickman, Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime in America, New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006 (reprint of 1939 work).
  • "Publisher of book on Luciano says it was based on interviews," New York Times, Jan. 21, 1975, p. 46.
  • Receiving blotter, Chas. Luciano, no. 92168, Sing Sing Prison, June 18, 1936.
  • Rosen, A., "Charles 'Lucky' Luciano parole," FBI memorandum to E.A. Tamm, April 3, 1946.
  • Rosen, A., "Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, was miscellaneous information," FBI memorandum to E.A. Tamm, Feb. 10, 1947.
  • Rosen, A., "Charles 'Lucky' Luciano's parole and deportation," FBI memorandum to E.A. Tamm, March 6, 1946.
  • The People of the State of New York against Charles Luciano, et al., Record on Appeal, Volume III, Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division - First Department, 1937
  • Vizzini, Sal, with Oscar Fraley and Marshall Smith, Vizzini: The Story of America's No, 1 Undercover Narcotics Agent, New York: Pinnacle, 1972.
  • Whitman, Alden, "Publisher to go ahead with Luciano book," New York Times, Dec. 27, 1974, p. 23.
  • "'Lucky' Luciano succumbs' was underworld czar," Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle, Jan. 27, 1962, p. 1.
  • "Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, information concerning," FBI memo, Feb. 19, 1962.
  • "Charles Luciana, with aliases," FBI memorandum, file no. 39-2141-X, Aug. 28, 1935, p. 4, 5.
  • "Charles Luciano, Anti-Racketeering," translations of Italian language articles appearing in the Jan. 11, Jan. 18 and Jan. 25, 1959, issues of L'Europeo magazine, FBI memo, Feb. 18, 1959.
  • "In the end 'Lucky' Luciano was not really so terribly lucky after all," Bridgeport CT Sunday Post, Feb. 4, 1962, p. 14.
  • "Lucania is forced to admit crimes," New York Times, June 4, 1936, p. 1.
  • "Luciano dies at 65; was facing arrest," New York Times, Jan. 27, 1962, p. 1.
  • "Luciano dies of seizure," Poughkeepsie Journal, Jan. 26, 1962, p. 1.
  • "Luciano's links to underworld investigated by Italian agents," New York Times, Jan. 28, 1962, p. 66.
  • "Salvatore Lucania...," FBI report Albany 100-5170, Oct. 16, 1942.
  • "Salvatore Lucania...," FBI report NY 62-8768, file no. 39-2141-9, May 5, 1946
  • "The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano," FBI memorandum to Mr. Cleveland, Oct. 2, 1974.

24 January 2019

Torrio surrenders Chicago rackets after ambush

On this date in 1925...


Chicago rackets boss Johnny Torrio, at liberty before beginning a nine-month sentence for Prohibition violations, was shot and seriously wounded in front of his home on the afternoon of January 24, 1925.

The attack did not result in Torrio's death but it did effectively remove him from the Chicago underworld. Following weeks in the hospital and months in Lake County Jail in Waukegan, Illinois, Torrio sold his interests in bootlegging businesses and left Chicago. His top lieutenant, Alphonse Capone, took over Torrio's gang and built the Chicago Outfit.

Bullet holes in the Lincoln auto used by the Torrios.

A portion of the Chicago Daily Tribune account of the attack on Torrio follows:

John Torrio, czar of bootlegging and vice in Chicago, was shot five times yesterday in front of his home, 7011 Clyde avenue. He is expected to recover.
The assailants escaped. The police and the underworld are convinced they are gangsters loyal to the memory of Dean O'Banion, the beer runner who was murdered in his flower shop two months ago. O'Banion had challenged Torrio's control of beer running and was killed by Torrio's men, police are certain.
Torrio attended O'Banion's wake. His presence was interpreted by the underworld as a warning to any who challenged him that they might expect to sleep in silver-bronze caskets surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of flowers.
But Torrio's enemies were not cowed. A week ago they tried to assassinate his first lieutenant, Al Capone.
That attempt failed. Yesterday three of them lay in wait for half an hour opposite the Torrio home, waiting for Torrio to return. At 4:30 o'clock Torrio and his wife, Anna, drove up in a heavy sedan. While one of the gunmen remained at the wheel, the other two jumped out and shot Torrio, who tried to escape by running into the apartment building. The attackers leaped back into their machine and fled.
["Torrio is shot; police hunt for O'Banion men," Chicago Sunday Tribune, Jan. 25, 1925, p. 5.]

Mrs. Anna Torrio
The newspaper noted that Torrio left the country for a time following O'Banion's wake. It said that he and his wife traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas, before embarking for Havana, Cuba, and then reentered the U.S. at St. Petersburg, Florida, before returning to Chicago. The Tribune suggested that friends of O'Banion followed them every step of the way, waiting for an opportunity to avenge O'Banion's murder.

The trip outlined by the newspaper was not out of the ordinary for the Torrios, who frequently traveled inside and outside the U.S. (Their visit to Havana following O'Banion's death was documented by a passenger manifest of the S.S. Governor Cobb, the ship that brought them from Cuba to Florida on December 13, 1924.) But it is odd that Torrio was permitted to leave the country between his May 19, 1924, arrest on federal Prohibition charges and his January 17, 1925, sentencing.

Anna and John Torrio pulled up to their apartment building on January 24 in a chauffeured Lincoln automobile borrowed from a friend. Anna stepped out of the car and walked to the apartment steps, while John gathered a bunch of packages from the vehicle. Two gunmen - one carrying a shotgun and the other a handgun - climbed out of a gray Cadillac around the corner, approached Torrio and opened fire. Torrio made a dash for the building but fell to the sidewalk. The gunmen escaped in their Cadillac.

The chauffeur of the Lincoln, wounded in the knee by a bullet, drove off as the first shots were fired. He was later found and questioned by police. He refused to discuss the shooting.

John Torrio
Torrio, wounded in the chest, arm and jaw, was treated at Jackson Park Hospital. He also refused to provide any information to investigators. According to the Tribune, he told Assistant State's Attorney John Sbarbaro, "I know who they are. It's my business. I'll tell you later." The paper reported that Alphonse Capone was in tears when he rushed to his boss's hospital bed. After Capone made arrangements for Torrio's care and safety, he was taken in for questioning.

As a result of the shooting, federal authorities postponed for thirty days Torrio's scheduled January 28, 1925, entry into DuPage County Jail in Wheaton. Just two weeks later, however, Torrio said he was sufficiently healed to begin his sentence. He requested that he be allowed to serve his time at Waukegan in Lake County, which would be better able to treat any health complications. Federal officials found the request suspicious but granted it.

Allowing for a sentence reduction of forty-five days for good behavior, Torrio's sentence expired near the end of September. His release was held up when some accused the Lake County sheriff of providing Torrio with illegal privileges during his incarceration. It was said that Torrio had his own comfortable furniture placed in his cell, was permitted to possess a loaded automatic pistol for his defense and even repeatedly left the jail for nights out in the company of the sheriff.

Torrio remained in custody as hearings were conducted into the actions of the sheriff. He was released on a $5,000 bond on October 6, as federal Judge Adam C. Cliffe considered the evidence. Cliffe decided a few days later that there was insufficient proof of any wrongdoing. Torrio left Chicago almost immediately after the judge's decision.

John and Anna Torrio set out again that fall for Havana. They traveled with Alphonse Capone and his wife Mae. All four indicated that they lived in New York. They returned to the U.S. together through Key West, Florida, on November 14, 1925. Capone went back to Chicago as a newly appointed underworld boss.

The Torrios headed to an apartment on Shore Road in Brooklyn, where John Torrio continued his involvement in liquor-related rackets. In 1939, he was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison for evading income taxes. Upon his release from Leavenworth, he worked in real estate. He reportedly died of a heart attack while in a Brooklyn barber's chair on April 16, 1957. He was seventy-five years old and had outlived his far more notorious protege Capone by nearly a decade.

Torrio's death went unnoticed by the media until more than two weeks later, when his will, leaving an estate estimated at $200,000 to his wife, was filed in Brooklyn.

Sources:

  • "Al Capone's mentor dies of heart attack," Bloomington IL Pantagraph, May 8, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Chicago police make big haul in war on beer," Freeport IL Journal-Standard, May 19, 1924, p. 1.
  • "Denies Torrio's plea," Chicago Sunday Tribune, Sept. 27, 1925, p. 2.
  • "Drop Torrio inquiry," Decatur IL Herald, Oct. 9, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Johnny Torrio gets 2 1/2 years," Brooklyn Eagle, April 12, 1939, p. 1.
  • "Johnny Torrio, ex-bootlegger who gave Capone start, dies," Richmond IN Palladium-Item, May 8, 1957, p. 9.
  • "Johnny Torrio, ex-public enemy 1, dies; made Al Capone boss of underworld," New York Times, May 8. 1957, p. 32.
  • "Johnny Torrio, once Capone's boss, is dead," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 8, 1957, p. 3: 11
  • "O'Bannion, arch gunman, killed," Decatur IL Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1924, p. 1.
  • "Pistol kept in cell," Cincinati Enquirer, Sept. 29, 1925, p. 3.
  • "Scarface Al Capone, ex-king of crime, dies," Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Torrio and 2 aides admit tax frauds," New York Times, April 11, 1939, p. 1.
  • "Torrio free on bonds pending contempt edict," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 7, 1925, p. 12.
  • "Torrio is shot; police hunt for O'Banion men," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 25, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Torrio offers $10,000 if jail lark is proved," Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 18, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Torrio under heavy guard as he quits jail," DeKalb IL Daily Chronicle, Oct. 7, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Torrio's power in rum ring bared," New York Times, April 1, 1939.
  • "U.S. is wary of Torrio's request for jail tonight," Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 9, 1925, p. 3.
  • "Woman involved in Dion O'Bannion's murder in Chicago," Brooklyn Eagle, Nov. 11, 1924, p. 3.
  • Gordon, David, "Torrio admits guilt, halts tax evasion trial," Brooklyn Eagle, April 10, 1939, p. 1.
  • John Torrio World War II Draft Registration Card, serial no. U1962, Local Board no. 171, Brooklyn NY.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Cuba, arriving Key West, Florida, on Nov. 14, 1925.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Governor Cobb, departed Havana, Cuba, on Dec. 13, 1924, arrived Key West, FL, on Dec. 13, 1924.
  • Peterson, Virgil, "Inside the Crime Syndicate (No. 2)," Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine, Oct. 14, 1956, p. 28.
  • Stelzer, Patricia Jacobs, Prohibition and Organized Crime: A Case Study, An Examination of the Life of John Torrio, master's degree thesis, Dayton OH: Wright State University, 1997, p. 7.

12 January 2019

Cali cops called for Caddy corpse

Cleveland-connected
killer confesses


Petro
On this date in 1969...

On Sunday, Jan. 12, 1969, police found a dead man behind the wheel of a '66 Cadillac convertible parked in the Los Angeles International Airport lot. There was a small-caliber bullet wound at the base of the man's skull. The man had been dead for a couple of days.

A local resident, departing the airport Saturday for a one-day flight, parked near the Cadillac and noticed the driver slumped over the steering wheel. When the resident returned Sunday night and found the Cadillac and its driver in the same position, he alerted police.

No identifying papers were found on the body. Police used fingerprints to identify the victim as forty-six-year-old former Cleveland robber/safecracker Julius Petro. They learned that Petro had borrowed the Cadillac from a woman friend two days earlier.

Petro had survived at least two brushes with death during his young adult years in Ohio. He was sentenced to be executed for murder, but won a retrial on appeal and in 1948 was acquitted of that murder. Months later, he and four accomplices held up the Mafia-linked Green Acres casino outside of Youngstown, Ohio. The robbers took about $30,000 in cash and jewels, including a large diamond ring belonging to regional gambling boss Joseph DiCarlo. Shots were exchanged between the robbers and casino guards. Petro suffered gunshot wounds to his right chest and arm, but managed to recover.

An early 1950s bank robbery conviction sent Petro to prison for about thirteen years. Following his May 1966 release, he joined a wave of Cleveland-area racketeers relocating to California. Initially serving as an enforcer for a gambling operation, in a short time Petro was viewed as a threat to displace racket overseer John G. "Sparky" Monica. The killing of Petro eliminated that threat.

Ferritto
Authorities were unable to solve the Petro murder until about a decade later, when Raymond W. Ferritto became an informant and confessed that he performed the killing for Monica. He said he shot Petro on January 10, 1969. Ferritto, a western Pennsylvania native connected with the Cleveland Mafia, also confessed to participating in the 1977 bombing murder of Cleveland mobster Danny Greene.

Monica denied any involvement, but he was indicted for hiring Ferritto and a man named Robert Walsh to kill Petro because Petro was extorting money from him. Prosecutors seeking to bring the gambling boss to trial encountered a number of obstacles that delayed for years a preliminary hearing in the case. A Monica arraignment was finally set for Monday, February 22, 1982. Just a few days before that, however, fifty-six-year-old Monica, free on bail, died in a traffic accident on US-7 near Tularosa, New Mexico.

Investigators were able to track some of Monica's movements and guessed that he was returning from a visit to a girlfriend in Odessa, Texas, when the highway accident occurred.

Sources:
  • “Petro, freed in killing, is found shot,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept. 18, 1948.
  • "Reputed Mafia figure," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 1982, p. 35.
  • California Death Index.
  • Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso, New York: Bantam Books, 1981.
  • Dye, Lee, “Parolee’s murder mystifies police,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 16, 1969, p. 1
  • Farr, Bill, “’Hit man’ admits murder at airport,” Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1978, p. 5
  • Hazlett, Bill, "1969 gangland slaying case headed for trial," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8, 1982, p. II-6.
  • Hazlett, Bill, "Judge to appeal closed hearing order," Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1979, p. II-4.
  • Hertel, Howard, and Gene Blake, "Reputed Mafia chief defies court, jailed," Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1969, p. 1.
  • Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume II, 2013.
  • "Fatal wreck adds twist to murder," El Paso Times, March 17, 1982, p. 11.
  • Petro v. United States, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Feb. 12, 1954. (Also Joseph J. Sanzo v. U.S.)
  • Porrello, Rick, Superthief, Next Hat Press, 2006.
  • Porrello, Rick, To Kill the Irishman, Next Hat Press, 1998.
  • Social Security Death Index.
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