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.


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