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.
See also:

11 January 2019

He did it, but they couldn't prove it

Carmine Galante of Bonanno clan
is regarded as Tresca's killer


On this date in 1943...

Tresca
Carlo Tresca, sixty-three-year-old editor of the Italian-language newspaper Il Martello (The Hammer), sat alone in his third floor Manhattan office after the close of business on Monday, January 11, 1943. He was preparing to host an eight-thirty meeting of a committee of the anti-Fascist Italian-American Mazzini Society.

Tresca, who embraced an anarchist (anarcho-syndicalist) philosophy and was arrested dozens of times for pro-labor mischief and other offenses over the years, had actively opposed Fascism since early in the rise of Benito Mussolini. His views on the movement, once dismissed as radical rabble-rousing, gained popularity upon U.S. entry into the Second World War near the end of 1941.

Committee member Giuseppe Calabi, of 415 Central Park West, arrived about fifteen minutes late to the office, above the Crawford clothing store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Fifteenth Street. None of the four other committee members showed up at all.

Tresca and Calabi waited for other members until after nine-thirty and then gave up. Tresca asked Calabi to accompany him for dinner. The editor had a favorite bar and grill, located about half a block away, on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets. He often stopped there in the evening as he made his way from work to his Greenwich Village home, 52 West Twelfth Street. Calabi accepted the invitation. The office lights were turned out and the men exited the building onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.



Galante
On that same night, thirty-five-year-old Carmine Galante, of 876 Lots Avenue in Brooklyn, had an appointment in downtown Manhattan. Galante had been paroled a few years earlier from Sing Sing Prison after serving two-thirds of sentence for shooting at a police officer during a payroll holdup. There were months left on his parole, and he had been called to a meeting with the State Parole Board at 80 Centre Street.

Sidney Gross, in charge of the parole office, noted that Galante seemed nervous during the meeting. He grew concerned that Galante was slipping back into the old criminal associations that had repeatedly landed him behind bars since he was a teenager. Gross secretly assigned investigators Fred Berson and George Talianoff to follow Galante when he left the office.

The investigators positioned themselves near the building exit and waited for Galante. At shortly after eight o'clock, they were surprised by the speed with which their target rushed out onto the sidewalk and jumped into a waiting automobile.

With wartime rationing of gasoline and rubber, automobiles were generally reserved for only the most important travel, and they were entirely unavailable to Berson and Talianoff. They reasonably expected Galante to walk to the nearest subway station. As the dark sedan drove away, the investigators did the only thing they could do. They wrote down the sedan's license plate number: 1C-9272.



Tresca and Calabi took just a few strides on the dimly lit sidewalk, passing a man who was impatiently pacing back and forth, when that man stepped up behind them and fired a handgun at Tresca's back. The two men instinctively turned toward the sound of the gunshot. Tresca got a second bullet in the face. The gunmen fired another wild shot or two before climbing into a dark sedan and heading off to the west on Fifteenth Street.

Police officers and an ambulance from St. Vincent's Hospital rushed to the scene. Tresca was dead before he reached the hospital. A postmortem examination found that either of the .32-caliber bullets that entered his body would have been sufficient to end his life - the first ripped through one of his lungs and the second lodged in his brain.
NY Daily News

Calabi could provide little identifying information about the gunman. He was about five-foot-five, wore dark clothes and had his hat pulled down low, leaving his face in shadow. Calabi estimated that the gunman was in his mid-thirties.

Investigators found no .32-caliber firearm at the scene. They did find a .38-caliber handgun, tucked behind an ash barrel around the corner near the Fifteenth Street exit of the office building. This suggested that preparations were in place to assassinate Tresca as he left the building, no matter which exit he chose. It also suggested that a second gunman may have been involved.

Some eyewitnesses told the police that, despite the darkness, they could tell that the gunman's vehicle was a 1938 or 1939 Ford. A matching car soon was found abandoned at a subway entrance one-half mile away at Seventh Avenue and West 18th Street. (Seventh Avenue was not yet a southbound one-way street in 1943, allowing the automobile to drive up northward from Fifteenth Street.) Its license plate number was 1C-9272.

Police learned that the vehicle was purchased as a used car from Confield Motors just eighteen days earlier. The purchaser paid for it with $300 in cash. It was registered to Charles Pappas, 82-07 Eighty-Second Street in Brooklyn. The authorities found that the name and address were fictional.

Detectives wondered about the Mazzini Society members who failed to show up for the meeting. Tracking down the members, they found that each had a different reason for failing to make it to Tresca's office that night. One recalled a prior engagement, one insisted he was never notified of the meeting, one knew about it but didn't feel it was important to attend and the last simply forgot about it.



The next day, parole board investigators heard of the Tresca murder and saw the familiar license plate number of the abandoned automobile. Sidney Gross called police with information about Galante. He then led officers through Galante's known hangouts and located him at a restaurant on Elizabeth Street. Police arrested Galante as he emerged from the restaurant.

Questioned about his movements after leaving the parole board office, Galante stated that he took a subway uptown, went to a movie theater and then spent time with a girlfriend. He knew little about the movie he supposedly watched, and he refused to divulge the name of the girlfriend.

Police had already caught the parolee in a lie. They revealed that witnesses saw Galante get into an automobile. Galante stubbornly stuck to his lie.

Two of the many mourners who paid respects to the
late Carlo Tresca at the Manhattan Center.
Library of Congress

Police and prosecutors were certain that Galante was involved in the killing of Tresca. However, they did not have enough evidence to build a murder case against him. The authorities had to be satisfied with returning him to prison on a parole violation.



Garofalo
Galante today is widely regarded as the gunman who took Tresca's life. But the precise reason he did so remains unclear. Law enforcement sources have indicated that Galante was ordered to perform the hit by Frank Garofalo, underboss of the Bonanno Crime Family in New York. Some say this resulted from a personal dispute between Tresca and Garofalo. Others say it was a favor done by Garofalo for New York mobster Vito Genovese, who returned to Italy in the late 1930s and sought to improve his standing with Mussolini. (The Genovese theory seems unreasonably tangled.)

Still others believe there was an arrangement between Garofalo and newspaper publisher Generoso Pope. Pope, whose original surname, "Papa," was very close to the name used to purchase the Ford sedan, faced intense criticism from Tresca for his prewar support of Mussolini and Fascism. Following U.S. entry into the war, Pope made every effort to portray himself as a Mussolini critic and a key political ally of the Democratic Administration in Washington. Pope was influential in the Italian-American community, was well regarded by anti-Communist U.S. political leaders and included not only Garofalo but also Frank Costello (and possibly Tommy Lucchese) among his underworld friends.

Pope
(The Pope-Costello relationship continued into the next Pope generation. Multiple sources indicate that Generoso Pope, Jr., used no-interest loans from Costello to purchase the New York Enquirer tabloid and build it into the National Enquirer. The May 1957 assassination attempt against Costello occurred when he was returning home from a dinner with Generoso Pope, Jr., and other friends.)

Sources:

  • "Carlo Tresca slain on 5th Ave.," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 1.
  • "Carlo Tresca shot dead," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 2.
  • "Carmine Galante," FBI report, file no. 92-3025-8, 1958, p. 1.
  • "Costello is shot entering home; gunman escapes," New York Times, May 3, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Enemies of Tresca sought by police," New York Times, Jan. 15, 1943.
  • "Ex-convict seized in Tresca murder; chance gives clue," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 1.
  • "FBI fears reprisals over Tresca slaying," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 3.
  • "Tresca biography," Anarchy Archives, dwardmac.pitzer.edu, accessed Jan. 10, 2019.
  • "VIII, Costello's influence in politics," Third Interim Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Report no. 307, Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1951.
  • Cummings, Judith, "Galante to give up to U.S. authorities," New York Times, Oct. 9, 1977.
  • FBI Director, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel to SAC New York, file no 92-6054-2176, NARA no. 124-10289-10184, Nov. 16, 1967.
  • Feather, Bill, "Bonanno Family membership chart 1930-50's," Mafia Membership Charts, mafiamembershipcharts.blogspot.com.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1959, p. 67.
  • Gallagher, Dorothy, All the Right Enemies - The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988.
  • Horgan, Richard, "The dubious beginnings of The National Enquirer," Adweek, adweek.com, June 13, 2013.
  • Martin, John, and James Tierney, "Grill hoodlum, linked to Tresca murder car," New York Daily News, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 2.
  • New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 1306, Jan. 11, 1943.
  • SAC New York, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel, file no. 92-6054-2194, NARA no. 124-10289-10202, Nov. 20, 1967, p. 3.