Showing posts with label Al Capone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Al Capone. Show all posts

18 December 2020

Capone-Johnson photo: A new identification

The Atlantic City Al Capone - Nucky Johnson Photo: A New Identification?

Updated January 9, 2021

The Conference

On May 13, 1929, Al Capone and several of his associates - along with several of his gangland enemies - converged on Atlantic City, New Jersey, for a conference with the stated goal of bringing peace between the powerful bootlegging gangs of Chicago. It was at least the third peace conference that we know of. Ever since the photo was published in 1930 there have been questions over the identities of the men with Al Capone and Enoch L. "Nucky" Johnson. After an evaluation of the available evidence it may now possible to narrow down the mystery to one person.

Chicago Gang Conferences Before Atlantic City

On October 8, 1926, the Chicago Daily News reported that the Windy City held its first big gangland peace conference. According to information supplied by "an important official and a policeman" (later identified as a police lieutenant and an official of the Italo-American National Union) who sat in on the grand meeting held at the Hotel, one of the city's premier hotels. The Chicago Daily Tribune adds that Maxie Eisen, a labor racketeer associated with the late Samuel "Nails" Morton (some sources believe the friend of Morton and the labor racketeer were two different people), joined with Antonino "Tony" Lombardo, the rappresentante of the Chicago Mafia, to bring together the leaders of the Cicero-based organization headed by Capone, the North Side gang led by Hymie Weiss, Vincent "the Schemer" Drucci and George "Bugs" Moran, and their second-tier allies.

Preliminary to the meeting, Eisen met with the Mafia boss in Lombardo's office, and ideas were then passed from Eisen to Drucci and Moran, and Lombardo to Capone. They then agreed to send delegates to appear in person for the conference. The Cicero group was represented by Lombardo, Capone, Frank Nitto and Jack Guzik; the North Siders by Drucci, Moran, Eisen, Barney Bertsche and William Skidmore; and the minor racketeers included members of the North Side-friendly Myles O'Donnell and McErlane-Saltis gangs, and the Capone allies Ralph Sheldon and Danny McFall gangs. Sheldon was one of the participants. 

Reportedly both sides agreed to cease killings and beatings, consider past killings and shootings to be closed, disregard malicious gossip, and have leaders responsible for violations by the rank and file. However, a snag hit when Weiss and Drucci insisted that Capone put two of his men "on the spot" in retaliation for an ambush shooting a month prior. Lombardo refused the demand. When the Mafia boss told the Big Fella he supposedly said, "I wouldn't do a thing like that to a yellow dog." One of the two men whose death was demanded by Weiss and Drucci  (and the only one named), Frank Clemente, was reportedly wounded by machine-gun fire in Cicero. A follow-up piece identified the second potential victim as "Mops" - but not Anthony "Mops" Volpe. (This writer is unaware of any other Outfit member with that nickname. Later sources identify the two men as Volpe and Frank Rio, or Albert Anselmi and John Scalise.)

Later, the conference attendees were whittled down to five men sitting around a table: a prominent attorney, a police lieutenant, an official of the Italo-American National Union (known as the Unione Siciliana until 1925), and presumably Eisen and Lombardo. Not long after the conference, on October 11, Hymie Weiss and associate Paddy Murray gunned down in the street. Three others with them were hit by gunfire.

FBI HSCA Subject file LCN, MI 92-262

A second meeting was held in Milwaukee between 1926 and 1927, or maybe even 1928, in a nightclub owned by that city's boss, Pete Guardalabene. According to a member of the Milwaukee borgata (and confidential informant), Chicago Mafia underboss Joseph Aiello, regularly lost large sums of money gambling in Capone-owned joints. Afterward, Aiello sent his men to raid the games to take back what he lost - and more. The peace conference consisted of members of both factions, as well as leaders of other crime families from across the country. "The meeting ended with everybody throwing fruit and vegetables at each other," the source said. Aiello, who led a renegade faction of the Chicago Mafia allegedly over Lombardo's friendliness to Capone, was machine-gunned to death by Outfit killers while hiding out at a friend's home in 1930.

Lead-Up To A Third Conference

The third mobster conference, held in Atlantic City, followed the attempts on the life of top Capone gunman Jack McGurn (born Vincenzo Gibaldi in Licata, Sicily), first on March 7, 1928, and then barely a month later on April 17. The first attempt left McGurn with serious injuries after gang rivals fired off a Tommy gun in a drive-by shooting. The second shooting was also a drive-by using a machine gun. The Gusenberg brothers, James Clark and Billy Davern - all North Siders - were suspected of the brazen attacks.

It followed the assassination of Mafia chief Lombardo on September 7, 1928, and his successor Pasqualino Lolordo on January 8, 1929. Lombardo, who had been an ally of Capone, was reportedly killed either by Aiello or Frankie Yale of Brooklyn. Insider sources, however, gave a different story. Informants Nick Gentile and August Maniaci reported that Capone was actually inducted into the Mafia by Joe "the Boss" Masseria, head of what is now the Genovese crime family, as a capodecina (equivalent to captain or boss of a street crew) in 1928 with the authority to "make" ten men into his crew. Masseria told him that if he eliminated Lombardo he would recognize him as the head of the Chicago borgata. It was Al Capone, not Aiello or Yale, who was responsible for killing Lombardo. 

Mob turncoat Joe Valachi also supports this version. He recalled attending a lecture given by Salvatore Maranzano of what is now the Bonanno crime family in early 1931 after he was made the Capo di Capi (Boss of Bosses). At a large meeting celebrating his victory over Masseria, Maranzano recited the crimes committed by his enemy Masseria, including the murder of a "big boss" named Don Antonio, who was undoubtedly Lombardo.

It followed a national Mafia gathering in Cleveland on December 5, 1928, that featured a large contingent from Chicago. Local police were suspicious of the outsiders entering the swank Hotel Statler early in the morning and soon it was raided. Police arrested 23 men, most of whom were armed. Among those arrested were Tampa Don Ignazio Italiano, future Brooklyn bosses Vincenzo Mangano and Joseph Profaci, and from Chicago came Mafia chief Pasqualino Lolordo, Joseph Giunta, Frank Alo, James Intravia, Sam Oliveri, Giuseppe Sacco, and Phil Bacino (AKA Tony Bello). It was rumored that Al Capone was due to arrive but turned around when he heard of the raid, however, his presence probably wasn't necessary. Lolordo was said to be Capone's "puppet."

Arrested Mafiosi after meeting in Cleveland on December 5, 1928

It followed the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre, which resulted in the deaths of seven members and associates of the North Side Gang, then headed by Moran after Drucci was slain in a shoot-out with police. Among those killed was Moran's second-in-command Albert Kachellek and his top gunmen Pete and Frank Gusenberg.

It also followed the brutal killings of Joseph "Hop Toad" Giunta - Lolordo's replacement - and mob executioners Anselmi and Scalise by beating and gunfire. Giunta, who attended the Cleveland meeting with Lolordo, allegedly connived with Aiello, Anselmi and Scalise to eliminate Capone until their plot was discovered. Al Capone, who had been staying at his Florida home, returned to the Windy City on May 7, 1929, narrowly avoiding two Moran gunmen who just happened to be picked up by police.

A banquet was held in Capone's honor, and the guests included the aforementioned three Mafiosi. Depending on the source the dinner was either held in a Hammond, Indiana, roadhouse called The Plantation, or the Chicago Heights nightclub Miami Gardens. Jesse George Murray, a columnist for the Chicago American, imagined a ruse concocted by Frank Rio and Capone to expose the plotters. However it happened, they suffered a painful death. An inside source associated with Accardo's original crew told this writer that future Outfit boss Anthony Accardo did indeed earn his moniker "Joe Batters" by beating the men at a dinner before they were shot on May 8, and their bodies left in a vacant section of Hammond, Indiana. (It should be made clear that this triple homicide remains officially unsolved and that the Moran gang was also suspected of the killings.)

Five days after the deaths of the three traitors Al Capone found himself in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The city, which was considered the gambling mecca of the East Coast, thrived under the rule of Republican political boss Enoch "Nucky" Johnson. The two had known each other since 1921, when Capone's mentor John Torrio took him to see the Dempsey-Carpentier fight in Jersey City. They met again for the 1927 Dempsey-Tunney bout at Soldier Field in Chicago, known as the Long Count. Nucky was welcomed by entourages from fellow GOP leaders, such as Illinois States' Attorney Robert E. Crowe. Capone made sure the visiting dignitary had a fleet of limousines at his disposal.

Despite Nucky Johnson's influence his control over the city was not absolute. Capone and his bodyguard were seen at a nightclub and a boxing match, and there was a rumor that he was staying as a guest "who has a palatial home in the [center] of the fashionable Chelsea district." When Director of Public Safety W. S. Cuthbert found out about the gangster's presence he ordered the police "to pick up Al Capone if he is found in the city and arrest him as an undesirable." 

Conference Details

After the Atlantic City conference concluded, Capone and his entourage drove for Philadelphia to board a train bound for Chicago. Unfortunately, their vehicle broke down near Camden and they did not arrive in Philadelphia until the evening. Capone made arrangement for a later train and decided to take in a movie. He and bodyguard Frank Rio were promptly arrested as soon as they exited the theater. They were charged with carrying concealed weapons and rushed before a judge and jury, where they were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. The speed of the entire process was mind-blowing. Capone and Rio arrived in Philadelphia at approximately 6:30 pm, they were arrested at 8:30 pm, brought before a grand jury at 10:15 am, tried at 12 noon, then pleaded guilty and sentenced at 12:21 pm.

Fortunately for us, however, Capone was interviewed by Philadelphia Director of Public Safety Lemuel B.. Schofield, and the director shared his conversation with the press. Capone, Moran, and several other Chicago gang leaders signed a "peace pact" during his brief stay in Atlantic City. "With the idea in mind of making peace among the gangster in Chicago I spent the week in Atlantic City, and I have the word of each of the men participating that there shall be no more shootings," the crime lord said.

Capone added a few details of the conference. "We stopped at the President Hotel, where I registered under an assumed name. Bugs Moran, the leader of the West Side gang, seven of whose men were killed in the St. Valentine's Day massacre, and three or four other Chicago gang leaders whose names I don't care to mention participated. We talked over our troubles for three days. We all agreed at the end of that time to sign on the dotted line to bury the past and forget warfare in the future for the general good of all concerned," he said. The only names he provided besides his own were Rio and Moran. He also implied that the parley was small with only a handful of attendees.

The local newspaper, the Atlantic City Daily Press, reported that "the past few nights found him making whoopee, boom-boom, or what have you in several of the resort's best known night clubs." Look magazine wrote that Tony Accardo got a blue dove tattoo on the back of his left hand between the thumb and index finger during the trip to Atlantic City when he was acting as one of Capone's bodyguards.

Guesses as to the names of the other conference attendees began immediately. The Tribune believed that Joe Aiello, [Frank] McErlane, Joe Saltis, and John Torrio were there "either in person or by proxy." George Wolf, a criminal defense attorney who represented Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello, claimed in his biography of Costello that the two New York mob leaders organized the conference. Their guest list included Jewish and Italian mobsters from all over the country, such as "Lou Rothkopf and Moe Dalitz from Cleveland, King Solomon from Boston, John Lazia from Kansas City, Joe Bernstein and others from Detroit, Sam Lazar from Philadelphia...and Al Capone and his boys from Chicago." Luciano and Costello brought Joe Adonis, Lepke Buchalter, and Torrio. In this account not only do Torrio and Costello tell Capone to turn himself in for prison, but that they were forming the Commission, which we know from other sources was not created until 1931.

Some journalists, like Robert T. Loughran of the United Press, created an imaginary tale that stretched out the few points of agreement Capone spoke of into a fourteen-point plan. Among the points in Loughran's plan, Aiello was to be the head of the "Unione Siciliano," but subject to Torrio; and Torrio was to be the "king" of the rackets over Chicago. These and other points simply had no basis in reality.

The New York Evening Journal, owned by William Randolph Hearst, an FDR-supporting Democrat who drooled at embarrassing the Republican political boss, was the first to publish the photo. The authenticity of the photo was confirmed in 1941 when Elmer Irey of the IRS Intelligence Unit was targeting Johnson for tax fraud. Irey not only took down Capone in 1931, but his mentor John Torrio in 1939. In July 1941, newspapers all across the country reported Johnson's admission that he was with Capone when a New York photographer grabbed his image.

Arizona Republic, July 13, 1941

The Chicago beer baron admitted that he and all of his mobster guests registered using false names. Rio, for example, gave his name as Frank Cline. In the caption underneath only four of the five men are identified. The man on the far left was the man not ID'd, but next to him was David Palter, then Charles T. "Chuck" Greene, Capone, Johnson, and Lou Irwin. Palter and Greene were said to have been "high pressure" men, a euphemism for gangsters. Greene is also very likely an alias. All three men to Capone's left were underworld figures from Chicago.

New York Evening Journal, January 17, 1930

Mystery Man Number One: David Palter

The man second to the end to the left of Capone (from the viewer's perspective) is identified by the New York Evening Journal as David Palter, who "admitted paying $65,000 to avoid a year vacation in Atlanta, Ga. Federal Penitentiary after being convicted of mail fraud." This matches the David Palter listed as a defendant in a 1927 story from the Associated Press. Twelve individuals and a corporation were convicted of "using the mails to defraud in the sale of stock of the Glass Casket Corporation of Altoona, Pa." On March 7, 1927, the convictions were upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals. Gaston B. Means, an ex-Secret Service agent, and the late attorney Thomas B. Felder had promised to "fix things" for $65,000. In a separate case from 1938, a 46-year-old David Palter was described as a "former associate of 'Jake the Barber' Factor." Jake the Barber was known to be a crony of Capone and Nitto.

David Palter was born in New York on June 12, 1893, and worked as a jewelry salesman before serving in the military. He is probably the same person who in early 1924, along with his wife, was robbed by two armed burglars who forced their maid to lead them to his bedroom in a Manhattan high-rise. They forced Palter, a broker, and his wife, to hand over $5,400 worth of cash and jewelry. In the summer of 1930 a Mr. and Mrs. David L. Palter celebrated their niece's fourth birthday at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood. In 1933 Palter and his partner Martin Lederer, who owned a stock brokerage at 82 Wall Street, were charged with conspiracy and threatened with a permanent injunction for selling worthless gold stock.

David Palter

On January 11, 1938, the Hollywood Citizen-News reported that David Palter, alias David Hunter, 46, who was indicted the previous October in New York for a bait and switch of $14,200 worth of whiskey warehouse receipts, was arrested at his apartment on the Sunset Strip. Another friend of Palter's was J. Richard "Dixie" Davis, mobster Dutch Schultz's former attorney. "In Palter we have one of the cleverest stock racketeers who ever operated in New York," Gang buster John A. Klein said.

Later it was reported that the fraud case was in Reading, Pennsylvania, not New York. On February 10, 1938, the case against him was dismissed for lack of evidence. On March 15 he was exonerated after it was shown that Palter had separated from the warehouse company before the fraud took place. Palter returned to New York and passed away on April 15, 1965.

Mystery Man Number Two: Charles T. Greene

The man to Capone's immediate left (from our viewpoint) is more problematic than Palter. Due to the constant threat of death, Capone did not venture out in public without a bodyguard unless circumstances ruled it out. None of the men in the famous photograph, however, are identified as being one of his bodyguards. If the Chicago mob boss did have a bodyguard he most likely would have been walking next to him, and the person next to him was reportedly one Charles T. Greene. So who was Charles T. Greene? Could he have been a local gangster?

A search of newspapers in that time period using the newspaper databases at,, and Fulton Post Cards do not make a single reference to a mobster, gangster, or criminal named Charles T. Greene or Charles Greene in either New Jersey nor the East Coast. However, there was one mobster who had an alias of Charles Green (not Greene), and that was Charles Entratter. Entratter was a top lieutenant of Jack "Legs" Diamond who was murdered in New York in 1931. This Charles Green, however, did not resemble the man in the photo.

Charles Entratter (AKA Charles Green)

When Capone was arrested in Philadelphia he readily admitted to registering at an Atlantic City hotel using an alias, as did the other men who attended the conference. So perhaps Charles T. Greene was an alias for one of Capone's other bodyguards. We know that Capone traveled with Frank Rio, who was one of his many bodyguards (who often tended to be high-ranking lieutenants), since they were arrested together in Philadelphia. Yet, Rio does not resemble anyone in the photo.

Frank Rio, 1929

His other bodyguards were well known. Gunmen such as Jack McGurn, Louis Campagna, Willie Heeney, Phil D'Andrea, Mike Spranze, and Tony Accardo were all known bodyguards who accompanied him at various times. Yet none of them resembles the mysterious man in the photo.

Tony Accardo, 1930

Another candidate is Anthony "Mops" Volpe, whose features appear to very closely match the man in the photo. The height of the man in the photo is between the height of the Palter, who stood 5'6," and the nearly 5'11" tall Al Capone. Volpe's height ranges between 5'7" and 5'10," which averages to 5'8.5" and accords with Greene.

Who was Volpe? "Mops" was born in Argentina to Italian parents and worked in Chicago Mafia-affiliated Giuseppe "Diamond Joe" Esposito's Italian restaurant before joining Capone's Outfit. When the press first became aware of his existence back in 1916, he was a gang leader arrested for a shooting that was apparently ruled self-defense. Arrested with him was a gang member nicknamed Nickelodeon, whose real name was Nick Circella. Later known as Nicky Dean, Circella would become a close friend of Capone and involved in extorting the Hollywood studios with labor racketeer Willie Bioff in the 1930s.

Anthony "Mops" Volpe, 1930

In 1921, Volpe was a Cook County deputy sheriff and a secretary to (and brother-in-law of) Diamond Joe, a Republican committeeman in the old Nineteenth Ward. In 1925 Volpe was described as a "notorious gun fighter," and by 1928 he, along with Rio, Nitto and a Joe Kelly, was noted to be one of Capone's bodyguards. In 1930 he joined Capone, Rio, Moran and twenty-four others on the first list of Public Enemies.

On December 15, 1930, the Secretary of Labor had Volpe arrested by immigration agents to deport him to Italy. Several months later it was confirmed that he was born in Santa Fe, Argentina, sometime in October between 1890 and 1892, but his Italian-born parents had taken him back to their home country to be naturalized as a child. He came to the U.S. at age 15 and became a citizen in 1920. Italy and Argentina, however, refused to accept him, asserting that he lost his right to return when he was naturalized in America. Nevertheless the government did not give up its fight to deport him until 1953. As for his mob status, Volpe remained a fixture in Cicero as an old-timer in the crew headed by Joseph Aiuppa until his death in January 1965.

So was Volpe the mysterious Charles T. Greene? John Binder, who teaches at the University of Illinois and has written two books on the Chicago Syndicate, followed-up this question. Using Biometric Vision's FaceMatch software, which claims a success rate of 99.9% accuracy, Binder compared four photos of Volpe taken between 1930 and 1945 with a high quality scan of the Atlantic City photo contributed by researcher Mario Gomes. The result was that the man identified as Greene did not match Anthony "Mops" Volpe. So for now the definitive identification of the man next to Al Capone in the 1929 photo remains an unsolved mystery.

This essay will be updated if new information becomes available.


"3 Slain; Scalisi [sic], Anselmi?" Chicago Daily Tribune, May 8, 1929.

"Al Capone's Machine Runs Rackets As He Hides From Police." Chicago Daily News, September 22, 1930.

"And This Completes The Picture." New York Evening Journal, January 17, 1930.

"Asserted N.Y. Racketeer Seized Here." Los Angeles Daily News, January 12, 1938.

"Atlantic City Calls Capone 'Undesirable." New York Times, May 16, 1929.

"Al Capone Suns Held In Roller Chair," Atlantic City Daily Press, May 16, 1929.

Binder, John J. Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago During Prohibition. New York: Prometheus Books, 2017.

"Broker And Wife In Bed Forced At Gun Point To Give Up Gems Concealed Under Her Pillow." New York Evening Telegram, January 8, 1924.

"Capone Considers Starting To Prison." New York Times, October 30, 1931.

"Capone Moves; Fails To Report His New Address." Chicago Daily Tribune, August 8, 1928.

"Capone Takes Cover In Jail." Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1929.

"Chicago's Own 'Scarface' Held In $35,000 Here." Philadelphia Inquirer, May 17, 1929.

"Capone's Pal 'Mops' Volpe Dies In Cicero." Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1965.

"Colorful Atlantic City Republican Boss Awaits Tax Trial." Arizona Republic, July 13, 1941.

"Conspiracy Charged." New York Evening Post, October 17, 1933.

"Conviction of 12 in Glass Casket Case Is Upheld." Tampa Tribune, March 8, 1927.

"Cops On West Coast Arrest David Palter." Pottstown (PA) Mercury, January 12, 1938.

Critchley, David. The Origin of Organized Crime in America. New York and London: Routledge, 2008.

"Diamond Aide Slain, Capone Hand Seen." The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), July 7, 1931.

Eghigian, Mars. After Capone: The Life and World of Chicago Mob Boss Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2005.

"Fake Gold Stock Is Flooding City, Says Bennett Aid." New York Evening Post, October 31, 1933.

FBI HSCA Subject file LCN, MI 92-262, Report of SA Alexander P. Le Grand, Milwaukee, May 28, 1964, NARA Record Number 124-10287-10189.

Ferry, Frank J. Nucky: The Real Story of the Atlantic Boardwalk Boss. Margate, NJ: ComteQ Publishing, 2012.

"Fraud Charge Against Stock Broker Dropped." Hollywood Citizen-News, February 10, 1938.

"Gang Chief To Be Deported." Chicago Daily Tribune, December 16, 1930.

"Gangland Expose Is Near." Chicago Daily News, October 12, 1926.

"Gangland Lays Its Guns Aside; Peace Declared." Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1926.

Gentile, Nick. Translated Transcription of the Life of Nicolo (E) Gentile. Washington, D. C.: Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1947?

Gomes, Mario. "Albert Anselmi and Giovanni Scalise." My Al Capone Museum, June 2009. (Accessed December 6, 2020).

"Gun Fighter Taken As Fake Stamp Seller." Chicago Daily Tribune, January 14, 1925.

"Gunmen Kill One, Wound Another, In Saloon Fight." Chicago Daily Tribune, February 3, 1916.

Heise, Kenan. "Jesse George Murray, 86, Wrote For Chicago Papers and Theater." Chicago Tribune, September 19, 1996.

Helmer, William J. Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoir's of a Mobster's Wife. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Hoover, J. Edgar. Memorandum For Mr. Joseph B. Keenan, Acting Attorney General, August 27, 1936. FBI Subject file St. Valentines Day Massacre, Part 1.

Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona. "Cleveland Convention Was To Be Masseria Coronation." Informer Journal 3:1 (January, 2010).

Irey, Elmer, and William J. Slocum. The Tax Dodgers. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Company, 1949.

"List 28 As 'Public Enemies'." Chicago Daily Tribune, April 24, 1930.

"Machine Gun Roars; 2 Shot." Chicago Daily Tribune, March 8, 1928.

"McGurn Again Guns' Target; Escapes Unhit." Chicago Daily Tribune, April 18, 1928.

Mappen, Marc. Prohibition Gangsters: The Rise and Fall of a Bad Generation. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013.

Murray, George. The Legacy of Al Capone: Portraits and Annals of Chicago's Public Enemies. New York: Putnam, 1975.

Newman, Scott. "Hotel Sherman." Jazz Age Chicago: Urban Leisure from 1893 to 1945.,of%20the%20early%20twentieth%20century.&text=Sherman%2C%20a%20three%2Dtime%20mayor,Street%20between%20Clark%20and%20LaSalle. (Accessed December 16, 2020).

"Officials Probe Booze Deals In Gang Shooting." Chicago Daily Tribune, February 15, 1929.

Palter, David. U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940,

Palter, David. World War I Draft Registration Card, No. 11538, San Francisco, California, May 23, 1917.

"Peace Seen For Chicago." Chicago Daily News, May 17, 1929.

"Philadelphia Justice For Al Capone." Literary Digest, June 15, 1929.

"Phyllis Stille Honored On Birthday Anniversary." San Pedro News-Pilot, July 23, 1930.

"Publicity Annoys Capone, He Leaves." Atlantic City Daily Press, May 17, 1929.

"Rio Burke." Edwin's Roadhouse aka Capone's Miami Gardens. (Accessed December 16, 2020.)

Schweder, Hanna. "Have A Whiskey For Nucky." Press of Atlantic City, January 20, 2017. (Accessed December 16, 2020.)

"Slay Doctor In Massacre." Chicago Daily Tribune, February 15, 1929.

"Start Search For Aiello In Triple Killing." Chicago Daily Tribune, May 10, 1929.

"Stock Broker Here Cleared of Old Theft Charge." Los Angeles Daily News, March 16, 1938.

"Suspect Hunted On N.Y. Charges Arrested Here." Hollywood Citizen-News, January 11, 1938.

"Tony Accardo, The New Mr. Big In Crime, Al Capone’s Former Bodyguard, The Mob." Look, July 28, 1953.

"Triple Killing Laid To Gang Feud." Chicago Daily Tribune, May 9, 1929.

"Triple Slaying Bares Plot To Kill Capone." Chicago Daily News, May 9, 1929.

"U.S. Defeated In New Suit To Deport Volpe." Chicago Daily Tribune, July 31, 1953.

"U.S. Moves To Avert New Beer War." Chicago Daily News, October 8, 1926.

Valachi, Joseph. The Real Thing. Typed manuscript, 1963-1964. RG 60. National Archives, College Park, MD. (Also available online at

Volpe, Anthony. Declaration of Intention, No. 165, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, March 24, 1924.

Volpe, Anthony. World War II Draft Registration Card, No. 1898, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, April 27, 1942.

"Volpe, Facing Deportation, Is Barred From Italy." Chicago Daily Tribune, July 8, 1933.

Warner, Richard N. "The Dreaded D'Andrea." Informer Journal 2:2 (April, 2009).

"Whiskey Runner Is Found Slain." Chicago Daily Tribune, April 30, 1921.

Wolf, George, with Joseph DiMona. Frank Costello: Prime Minister of the Underworld. New York: Morrow, 1975.

Thanks to John Binder for providing photo analysis, David Critchley for additional material, and to Edmond Valin for his editorial comments and suggestions.

16 April 2019

Death of former Chicago gang chief goes unnoticed

Torrio founded Chicago Outfit
and mentored young Al Capone

On this date in 1957...

Chicago Tribune
May 8, 1957
Johnny Torrio, seventy-five-year-old former Chicago underworld boss, died April 16, 1957. His passing was virtually unnoticed. Newspapers were not alerted until about three weeks later, when his will was filed for probate.

Raised in the gangs of lower Manhattan's Five Points area, Torrio went west (along with longtime friend and fellow Five Points gangster Rocco "Roxie" Vanella) around 1909-1910. He became bodyguard, enforcer and business manager for Chicago vice lord "Big Jim" Colosimo - possibly a relative of Torrio's step-father Salvatore Caputo.

After a while, Torrio brought young Al Capone from Brooklyn to Chicago to assist him. Following Colosimo's 1920 murder, Torrio turned the Colosimo organization into a bootlegging operation and competed with other local gangs and the powerful Chicago Mafia for rackets territory.

A January 1925 assassination attempt convinced Torrio to retire as gang boss, and he turned his organization over to Capone. Following a jail term at Waukegan, Illinois, for Prohibition violations, Torrio returned to New York. He and his wife settled into a Brooklyn residence, spent winters in St. Petersburg and traveled abroad regularly. Torrio continued his involvement in underworld rackets, repeatedly running into trouble with the authorities.

The final decade of his life was spent out of the public eye. His last years were lived quietly in a recently constructed apartment building, 9902 Third Avenue in Brooklyn's Fort Hamilton section.

On April 16, 1957, he suffered a heart attack while in a barber's chair and was rushed to Cumberland Hospital (named for its first home on Cumberland Street but located on Auburn Place in 1957). He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery. Torrio was survived by his wife of forty years, Anna.

NY Times, May 8, 1957

15 April 2019

'Joe the Boss' murder befuddles press

On this date in 1931...

U.S. Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria was shot to death in a back room at Gerardo Scarpato's Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant, 2715 West Fifteenth Street, Coney Island. The murder, arranged by Masseria lieutenants including Salvatore "Lucky Luciano" Lucania,  concluded the Mafia's Castellammarese War.

The killing of "Joe the Boss" Masseria was covered by newspapers across the country. But all struggled to make sense of it and many made incorrect assumptions. Lacking precise witness statements, the papers of the New York area presented starkly different accounts of the incident.

New York Daily News of April 16, 1931 ("Joe the Boss slain; Capone marks spot," by John Martin), attributed the killing to a rivalry between Masseria and Chicago gang boss Al Capone (Masseria and Capone actually were close allies during the Castellammarese War, with Capone serving as a Chicago-based capodecina in the Masseria organization):

    Joe the Boss, head of the Unione Siciliana and arch enemy of Scarface Al Capone, was put on the spot by the connivance of his own bodyguards as he dallied over a hand of pinochle in a Coney Island resort yesterday afternoon.

    Two bullets through the head and one through the heart toppled him lifeless beneath the table. Clutched in his hand, when treachery overtook him, was the ace of diamonds.

    In taking off Joe the Boss - Giuseppe Masseria on police records - the killers removed one of the most feared gang leaders in the east; a man who is said to have slain more than 100 persons with his own hand and to have dictated the killings of Frankie Marlow and other big shots of gangland.

    Defiance of Capone is believed to have accomplished Masseria's dethronement, as it has spelled death for countless other racketeers. Recently the Chicago underworld czar sent Joe the Boss warning to pull in his horns or they'd be amputated.

    The slaying took place in the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant, at 2715 West 15th st., Coney Island, miles from the domain of Joe the Boss, which took in a large section of downtown New York and a slice of Brooklyn.

    Masseria in addition to controlling the Italian lotteries, was said to have dug in his tentacles so deeply that not a stick of spaghetti was sold in the city without paying him a tax.

    Masseria was in the place with two of his bodyguards - since the murder of Frankie Yale, one of his henchmen, he had never set foot out of doors without his gunmen - when two dapper young men alighted from a large blue sedan and walked in. They emptied their guns and fled.

    The bodyguards went, too. So did the proprietors. They went in such haste they left top coats and hats and $40 in bills scattered on the floor. Outside were found two .45 caliber automatics, tossed away by the killers or betrayers.

New York Times of April 16, 1931 ("Racket chief slain by gangster gunfire"), warned of a tremendous gangland conflict resulting from Masseria's murder:

    It took ten years and a lot of shooting to kill Giuseppe Masseria - he was Joe the Boss to the underworld - but this enemies found him with his back turned yesterday in Coney Island, and when they walked out into the bright sunshine Masseria's career was ended. There were five bullets in his body.

    To hear some of the detectives at Police Headquarters tell it, the killing of Joe the Boss is likely to cause an outbreak of gang warfare that will exceed anything this city ever has known. Some of the men who had kept tabs on the racketeer's long career insist that he was "the biggest of 'em all - bigger than Al Capone."

    It would be hard to tell why Masseria was "put on the spot," according to the police, for his name has been linked with numerous gang murders in the last ten years. And on the east side last night there was much furtive whispering and speculation as to what would follow. Even to his countrymen Joe the Boss was a mysterious power, greater in strength than many whose names appeared more often in the daily newspapers.

    At 1 P.M. yesterday Masseria drove is steel-armored sedan, a massive car with plate glass an inch thick in all its windows, to a garage near the Nuova Villa Tammaro at 2,715 West Fifteenth Street, Coney Island, and parked it. Then he went to the restaurant.

    What happened after that the police have been unable to learn definitely. Whether he met several men in the restaurant or whether he was alone when he went into the place, is uncertain. Gerardo Scarpato, the owner, said he was out for a walk at the time and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Anna Tammaro, said she was in the kitchen.

    At 2 o'clock the quiet of the little street near the bay was broken by the roar of gunfire and two or three men walked out of the restaurant to an automobile parked at the curb and drove away. When the police got there they found Mrs. Tammaro bending over the body of Joe the Boss. He lay on his back. In his left hand was clutched a brand new ace of diamonds.

    A few chairs were overturned in the restaurant and a deck of cards was strewn on the floor. There were several banknotes and a small amount of silver, about $35. Whether the ace of diamonds was put in Masseria's hand after he was shot, as some significant message for his friends, the police do not know. They are not inclined to believe that he was shot during a quarrel over a card game...

    Four hours after the shooting the automobile in which Masseria's murderers escaped was found abandoned at West First Street, near Kings Highway, Brooklyn, about two miles from the Nuova Villa Tammaro. On the back seat were three pistols. One lacked two cartridges; another had discharged one cartridge recently,a nd the third was fully loaded. Two other revolvers were found in the alley that runs along one side of the restaurant.

Paterson New Jersey Evening News of April 16, 1931 ("N.Y. fears gang war in slaying"), printed an INS wire story that echoed the incorrect gang war prediction of the Times but corrected the Capone relationship mistake of the Daily News:

    A violent gang war was predicted in New York as the aftermath of the killing of Guiseppe Masseria, known as "Joe the Boss." He was said by police to be an ally of Al Capone and worked with the Chicago gang leader in the liquor business, racketeering and gambling.

    Masseria was shot to death in a Coney Island cafe by two well-dressed young men who calmly walked into the restaurant and began shooting. They fired twenty shots and five struck Masseria - all in the back. He was found dead near an overturned card table.

    The killers walked leisurely out of the cafe and escaped in an automobile. Although fifty detectives surrounded the cafe shortly after the shooting, they uncovered no clews at the identity of the slayers.

    An armored steel car, equipped with bulletproof glass an inch thick, in which "Joe the Boss" was said to have traveled to protect him from many enemies, was found near the scene of the shooting. Police said they believed three of the Masseria gang, who had been with their chief in the cafe, might have hired the two young men to kill Masseria.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle of April 16, 1931 ("Suspect seized in murder of 'Joe the Boss'") noted the arrest of a murder suspect (the suspect turned out to be a Villa Nuova Tammaro restaurant waiter who had borrowed Scarpato's automobile) and further discussed the Capone angle:

    Brooklyn detectives were rushed to Jersey City shortly before noon, where a suspect had been taken into custody in connection with the slaying yesterday of Giuseppe (Joe the Boss) Masseria, big shot racketeer.

    According to information from the New Jersey authorities, they had seized Anthony Devers, 31, after he had given an erroneous Jersey City address.

    Devers was arrested on the State highway on suspicion. He was driving a car owned by Charles Starapata, of 2715 W. 15th St., Coney Island, the address of the Nuova Villa Tammara, where Masseria was slain.

    The slaying of Masseria led the police to take steps to prevent, if possible, the worst gang war in the city's history which they fear will follow the "rubbing out" of Masseria.

    When Police Commissioner Mulrooney was asked about the shooting he declined to admit that the dead man was an underworld big shot or that he ever had heard he was the arch enemy of Al Capone, Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1.

    The Commissioner was asked:

    "Did you know that several Chicago gunmen are known to be in Brooklyn and are supposed to have done the shooting?"

    "No, I do not," Mulrooney replied.

    "Have you learned any reason for the shooting?"

    "No. But we have detectives making an extensive investigation."

    Joe the Boss was far from his usual haunts when three slugs wrote finis to his 11 years of criminal activity.

    ...Masseria was playing cards in the back room of the Nuova Villa Tammara with three other men at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon when a blue sedan drove up to the door and two men leaped out.

    Walking directly through the restaurant, the men disappeard into the rear room. Instantly there came the sounds of several shots. Leaving by a side door and throwing their weapons away, the men entered their machine and disappeared.

    When the police of the Homicide Squad under Capt. Ray Honan arrived, no one was found who could give a clear description of the slayers or of the men playing cards with Masseria. Two bullets had struck Masseria in the head, another pierced his heart...

    One of the officers of the Union Siciliano, an organization of Sicilians, Masseria was the king of the wine, fish and beer rackets, his domain including a large portion of the east side of Manhattan and a part of Brooklyn.

    The reign of this underworld chieftain began in 1920, when he graduated from burglary and assault into the policy racket.

    In his day he had control of practically every purveyor of Italian food in the city, demanding and receiving tribute from wholesaler and shopkeeper alike.

Brooklyn Standard Union of April 17, 1931 ("Police follow scant clues to murder of 'Joe the Boss'"), discussed the murder investigation while dismissing boss of bosses Masseria as merely "a piker" (small-time operator):

    Forty detectives sought to-day, by clues and what little they could learn from the underworld, to untangle the murder of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, without much hope of success, while sagas of racketeer power grew up about the Italian policy slip seller Commissioner Mulrooney has called a piker.

    Masseria's body still lay in Kings County Morgue, where it was identified yesterday by his son James, pending removal to the Masseria home at 15 West Eighty-first street, Manhattan, and the funeral accorded by henchmen to a gangster.

    The assassins who shot him from behind while he played cards Wednesday in a Coney Island restaurant were still unknown to police, and shielded by the frightened silence of all who might know anything about them.

    Acting Capt. John J. Lyons of Coney Island station questioned a half dozen local racketeers brought before him yesterday, without tangible results. Police Department fingerprint experts have gone over Masseria's armor plated car, which he parked near where he was killed.

    But hopes of police center now on three overcoats left in the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant at 2715 West Fifteenth street where Masseria was killed. Two bear cleaners' marks, 6-504-28, and T-T 504. Detectives are checking these against the codes used in the city's dry cleaning establishments and tailor shops...

    The rumors about "Joe the Boss" continue to grow. Chicago gangsters of Capone ambushed him, one had it, because he was muscling into Brooklyn racket territory from his own bailiwick, the Bronx. Another had it he was taken by Al Wagner's gang on the East Side, over an insult from one of his followers to the wife of one of the Wagner gang. But "Joe the Boss" was, Commissioner Mulrooney insisted, a piker.

It is interesting that several accounts reported that Masseria's hand was holding a playing card when police reached the murder scene. The newspapers stated that the card was the Ace of Diamonds. A famous photograph of the scene, however, clearly showed an Ace of Spades card in Masseria's hand (at right). It has long been rumored that the photographer placed the legendary "death card" in Joe the Boss's hand before snapping the picture.

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 - linking it with the recent murder of rival Chicago gang boss Dean O'Banion - 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.


  • "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.

24 October 2018

Eleven years and a fine for tax dodger Capone

On this date in 1931...

Federal Judge James H. Wilkerson on October 24, 1931, sentenced Chicago Outfit leader Al Capone to eleven years in prison and a $50,000 fine for evading income taxes. Capone also needed to pay $215,000 in back taxes plus interest.

Chicago Tribune

One week earlier, a jury convicted Capone on five tax counts. Capone was found guilty of the felonies of evading taxes for the years 1925, 1926 and 1927, and of the misdemeanors of failing to file income tax returns for 1928 and 1920. The jury did not convict on counts relating to tax evasion in the years 1924, 1928 and 1929.

At trial
Judge Wilkerson sentenced him to five years in federal prison on each of the felony convictions, with two of those sentences to run concurrently. He added a year in Cook County Jail for the two misdemeanors. Capone had already been locked up in county jail for contempt, after it was shown that he pretended to be ill in order to avoid appearing before a federal grand jury.

As he returned to county jail after sentencing, Capone was in an angry mood and threatened a reporter who tried to photograph him: "I'll knock your block off." Later he pleaded with newsmen to put their cameras away. "Think of my family," he said.

Capone was refused release on bail pending the legal appeals in his tax evasion case. He brought his request for bail to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but that was denied on October 27. When his appeals were exhausted, with the Circuit Court's affirmation of his sentence in February 1932 and the U.S. Supreme Court's early May 1932 refusal to review his case, Capone was moved from Cook County Jail to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. His ten-year federal prison sentence would allow his release on good behavior in seven and a half years.

Capone's term in Atlanta was relatively brief. In the summer of 1934, he was transfered to Alcatraz Prison on the West Coast. His health deterioriated at Alcatraz. When he was freed from custody in November 1939, he was immediately placed in a Baltimore hospital for treatment of paresis. His final years were spent in retirement at Palm Island, Miami Beach, Florida. He died January 25, 1947.

  • "Capone gets writ; sent back to jail until appeal made," Bloomington IL Pantagraph, Oct. 27, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Capone in jail; prison next," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 25, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Capone loses his last chance to keep out of pen," Ogden UT Standard Examiner, May 2, 1932, p. 1.
  • "FBI History: Famous Cases: Al Capone," Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed June 27, 2010. (previously:
  • "Prison tonight for Capone," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 3, 1932, p. 1.
  • Certificate of Death, Florida State Board of Health.
  • Florida State Census of 1945.
  • Kinsley, Philip, "U.S. jury convicts Capone," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 18, 1931, p. 1.
  • Pickard, Edward W., "Chronology of the year 1931," Woodstock IL Daily Sentinel, Dec. 30, 1931, p. 3, and DeKalb IL Daily Chronicle, Dec. 31, 1931, p. 6.
  • Prisoner Index, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
  • United States Census of 1940, Florida, Dade County, Miami Beach, Enumeration District 12-42A.
See also:

10 September 2018

Valachi recalls assassination of boss of bosses

On this date in 1931...

Reigning Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore Maranzano was shot and stabbed to death in his Park Avenue, Manhattan, office. The assassins, sent by underworld bosses who had been targeted by Maranzano, posed as government agents to gain entry to the offices. Decades later, Joseph Valachi became one of several "inside" sources who provided background information on the killing.

New York Times
Following the Mafia's 1930-1931 Castellammarese War and the April 1931 assassination of then-boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria by his own lieutenants, Valachi served on a crew that was a sort of palace guard for the new boss of bosses Maranzano.

In late summer of 1931, Maranzano expected a raid from government agents. Fearing arrests on gun charges, he instructed his guards not to bring weapons to his office, the Eagle Building Corporation on the ninth floor of the New York Central Building, 230 Park Avenue.

Valachi was upset by the order. He told his associate Buster, "I don't like this. They are trying to get us used to come up here without any guns. I ain't going to come around here any more... You better talk to that old man and make him understand..." [1].

About twelve days later, on September 9, Valachi was called to Maranzano's home, 2706 Avenue J in Brooklyn. At that time, the boss of bosses revealed that he was planning a new war to eliminate those he viewed as his rivals. [2].

"Joe, I can't get along with those two guys," Maranzano said. Valachi understood that his boss was referring to "Charlie Lucky" Luciano and Vito Genovese, who recently assumed control of the large crime family previously run by Masseria. Maranzano revealed that there were others he felt needed to be eliminated, including Al Capone, Frank Costello, Guarino "Willie Moore" Moretti, Giuseppe "Joe Adonis" Doto, Vincent Mangano, Ciro Terranova, Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer.

Valachi was told to meet Maranzano at his office the following afternoon at two o'clock. Before leaving the Maranzano home, Valachi cautioned Maranzano not to appear in public and he let the boss know his feelings about the rule against bringing guns to the office: "I never liked that order about us coming down the office without any guns. Gee, after all, anything happened to you, we will all be out in the street."

Maranzano assured Valachi that all soon would be settled.

Overnight, Valachi wondered about the status of regional Mafia big shots Maranzano had not mentioned as targets of the intended new war. He later recalled, "I started to think that he did not mention Tom Gagliano, Frank Scalise, Don Steve from Newark, so I was wondering if those guys were in on it." [3]

The next day, September 10, Valachi prepared to meet with Maranzano as planned, but men higher in the organization called him away and kept him occupied until early the next morning. Valachi returned to his apartment at 108th Street and Second Avenue. Only then did he glance at the daily newspaper and learn that "they killed the old man."

The paper also reported that Vincenzo "Jimmy Marino" Lepore, a Maranzano ally in the Bronx, had been murdered at a barber shop, 2400 Arthur Avenue.

It occurred to Valachi that top Maranzano men had been "in on this" and worked to keep him away from the boss while the assassination was carried out. [4]

Days later, Valachi was summoned to a meeting with Tom Gagliano. The assassination of Maranzano was explained to him: "They told me the old man went crazy... and he wanted to start another war," Valachi recalled. "I knew they were right but I did not say anything." [5]

At a subsequent meeting with fellow Mafiosi, Valachi was given a story of the assassination. Girolamo "Bobby Doyle" Santuccio, who was taken into custody as a witness to the killing, told him, "...It was the Jews that came up at the office and they showed phony badges and they said that they were cops... There was about fifteen guys in the office at the time that they came up."

Maranzano escorted two of the visitors into his private office. Santuccio continued, "We heard a shot and everyone ran out of the office and, at the same time, the two guys came out and told us to beat it as they ran out. I went into the other room and I got on my knees and I lift his head and I saw that besides the shot they had cut his throat... I didn't care if I got pinched as I was disgusted, and I figure that even if I did run I won't know where to go." [6]

Read more about Maranzano in the August 2019 issue of Informer:

  1. Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government, unpublished, 1964, p. 360.
  2. Valachi, p. 361.
  3. Valachi, p. 362-363.
  4. Valachi, p. 364-366.
  5. Valachi, p. 367.
  6. Valachi, p. 372-373.

  • Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra, The American Mafia,
  • "Gang kills suspect in alien smuggling," New York Times, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Hunt racket killing clue in Park Ave.," New York Daily News, Sept. 12, 1931, p. 7. (Within this report, Charlie Luciano is referred to as "Cheeks Luciano.")
  • "Racket killing diary found; lists a judge," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 1.
  • Goheen, Joseph, "Gangs kill 4, 1 in offices on Park Ave.," New York Daily News, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 2.

26 April 2018

Gangster Profile: Ted Newberry

“He must have done something. They don’t kill you for nothing.”

The above quote is credited to gangster Edward “Ted” Newberry, the last racketeer king of Chicago’s North Side, whose corpse was found on a lonely stretch of road in Indiana on January 8, 1933. So, who was Ted Newberry and what did he do to deserve the proverbial “one way ride?”

Ted Newberry
Newberry was born on Chicago’s Northwest side on June 28, 1898, and seems to have been involved in crime most of his adult life. As a young adult he had a job as a “superintendent” at the Checker Cab Company. What he did as superintendent isn’t known for sure but it probably had something to do with sabotaging rival Yellow Cab. While there he became involved with another infamous Chicago hoodlum named Eugene “Red” Moran, whose brother Robert, became head of the company and a lifelong friend of Newberry’s.

By 1924 Newberry had moved into bootlegging and was working with a guy named Leon Tarr, who had a working relationship with another bootlegger named Harry Callan. The latter catered to the well-to-do crowd of Chicago’s “Gold Coast.” According to Callan, he “tipped” Tarr off to a customer who bought $7,000 worth of booze but never paid Callan his share. Callan called him on it and a meeting was set up. Callan was waiting on a park bench when Tarr showed up with Newberry and another guy named Arresti Cappola. Callan said that he challenged Tarr to a fist fight but Tarr drew a gun and shot him.

Callan stumbled to a cop and was taken to a hospital where he spilled the beans on how he came to be shot. Newberry was picked up for the shooting but nothing came of it. A few months later however, he took part in the murder of an Innkeeper, which almost cost him his freedom.

Omar Finch, about 59 years old, and his son Cole, 29, had a good thing going. They bought denatured alcohol and redistilled it into quality grain alcohol which they resold to numerous other saloonkeepers.
On December 11, 1924, Newberry and three confederates, one of whom was purported to be his colleague from the Checker Cab Co., Eugen “Red” McLaughlin, posed as Prohibition agents and kidnapped Finch in an attempt to extort him.

Finch was transporting four barrels of alcohol when he was pulled over by Newberry and his confederates. After taking his, stuff, Newberry and his associates brought him to a hotel on Chicago’s North Side where they demanded $5000 to let him go. Finch told them that he didn’t have that kind of cash but that he could raise a thousand. Newberry agreed to accept that as a down payment. They made an appointment the next day to receive the money and let Finch go.

According to Finch’s son Cole, the following day his father decided that the four barrels of alcohol weren’t worth a grand, so he decided not to pay the money. Acting under the belief that Newberry and his gang were actual Prohibition agents and not murderous thugs, Finch and his son went and moved their still and all remaining evidence. Finch believed that Newberry and company couldn’t do anything with the four barrels of alcohol and that they couldn’t prosecute him after attempting to shake him down and then letting him go. Assuming he pulled one over on the agents, Finch blew off the meeting.

A few hours later the gang burst into Finch’s saloon. They called him a double crosser then drew guns and opened fire at the saloonkeeper. One bullet proved fatal and Finch died at the hospital.

Newberry’s involvement came to the attention of the police when two young bootleggers reported that a gang of hijackers had stolen their car and their liquor on December 10. The bootleggers said that the hijackers told them they could have their car and liquor back if they paid $200. They also stated that one of the men in the car was Omar Finch. The auto used by the gangsters was described to the police who were able to trace it back to Newberry.

Newberry's sedan
 After the murder of his father, Cole Finch left town but returned after the arrest of Newberry. Though his wife received calls threatening that if her husband talked he’d be dead in twenty-four hours, Cole assured authorities that he would testify.

A federal investigator stated that by posing as Prohibition agents, Newberry’s gang had extorted thousands of dollars from over thirty saloonkeepers. “A federal badge was found in Newberry’s possession, and we know he used it on more than one occasion,” United States District Attorney Edwin Olson told the press. “Conviction on that alone would mean a penitentiary sentence.”

Newberry at time of arrest
In addition to having Newberry’s car and badge, prosecutors also had Bell boys from the hotel where they kept Finch who could identify Newberry. They also had Cole and two other witnesses from the saloon that could identify Newberry as one of the killers. It didn’t look good for Newberry. But this was Chicago and although the lead up to the trial was well covered in the press, the trial itself was not. It wasn’t stated what happened but Newberry apparently went free.

By the end of the decade Newberry was a big shot on the Northwest Side of Chicago controlling the alcohol and gambling. He was considered a strong ally to the North Side gangsters headed by Bugs Moran. In fact Newberry was with Moran on the Morning of February 14, 1929 when the latter was on his way to the gang’s headquarters. As they approached their destination, they saw a couple of detective cars pull up so they took a walk. Who they thought were cops were actually gunmen employed by Al Capone who entered the garage and murdered seven of Moran’s boys.

Three months later Capone was arrested in Philadelphia on a gun charge and sentenced to a year in prison.

It appears that the Capone gang may have had their gun sights fixed on Newberry as well. On November 30, 1929, Newberry was slightly wounded in a drive-by as he was approaching a club said to be run by Moran’s gang A little over a month later, according to the Chicago Tribune, Newberry learned of a machinegun nest that was planted in an apartment across the street from his headquarters. Once this was found out, Newberry high tailed it to Canada and his second in command, Al Shimberg, fled to Michigan. Left to run things were subordinates Benny Bennett and John Rito, known as the “Billiken.”

Around the first of February Bennett disappeared. About a month later, Rito likewise disappeared but he didn’t stay disappeared for long. After spending two weeks under water, his body broke loose from its constraints and floated to the top of the Chicago River.

John "the Billiken" Rito
The day after the Billikin surfaced, Capone was released from the Eastern State Penitentiary and returned home. At some point a peace was made between Newberry and Capone and the latter recognized the former as the leader of the North Side. To commemorate, Capone gave Newberry a diamond studded belt buckle, a gift that the big guy seemed to bestow on a lot of his esteemed colleagues.

As the top man on the North Side, Newberry was frequently in the papers. He was said to be involved in bucket shops as well as an attempt to organize racetrack workers. He was also arrested for the usual stuff i.e. murder and bootlegging.

One murder that garnished him much attention was that of Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle when it was discovered that Lingle was killed with a gun that was sold, in part, to Newberry. Though the gang leader wasn’t responsible for the murder of Lingle, Jack Zuta, a North Side associate was, and, since Lingle’s murder adversely affected every gangster in Chicago, Zuta had to be killed. When he got his, witnesses stated that one of the gunmen was Newberry. The accusation was never proved.

The beginning of the end for Newberry came when Capone was sent away for good in the spring of 1932. Newberry and Frank Nitti, Capone’s successor, did not get along. Reasons given are that, with Capone gone, poor management plus lower earnings due to the depression, led to the Capone organization not earning what it once did. The North Side however, which catered to the wealthy, weathered the depression better and was still making money. Nitti and Co. began to eye Newberry’s fiefdom in a most coveted manner and they started to chip away at his empire. It was also said that Newberry owed the Capone gang a large sum of money and to guarantee a return they inserted a representative to oversee affairs.

The person they sent was Gus Winkeler, who had a good relationship with Newberry, but other Syndicate men followed. Soon, Newberry felt that he was being squeezed out. His response was to have Nitti killed. On December 19, 1932 police raided Nitti’s office and one of the officers shot the gang leader a number of times, supposedly in self-defense.

It was a sloppy attempt and Nitti survived. The wounded gang leader figured out straight away who was behind the botched hit and, less than three weeks later, Newberry’s body was found. Around his waist, the diamond studded belt buckle given to him by Al Capone; a reminder of the good old days.

Officer points to where Newberry's body was found


Mr. Capone, Schoenberg, Robert, William Morrow and Company,1992
Al Capone and His American Boys, Helmer, William, Indiana University Press, 2011
Capone, Kobler, John, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1971
The Man Who Got Away, Keefe, Rose, Cumberland House Publishing, 2005

"De Luxe Rum Broker Shot" Chicago Tribune 09.27.1924
"Elite Rum Baron Ready to Give Up in Shooting" Chicago Tribune 09.28.1924
"It Was Shoot or Get Shot Says Leon Tarr" Chicago Tribune 10.08.1924
"Village Saloon Keeper Shot to Death By Gang" Chicago Tribune 12.12.1924
"Witnesses Call Newberry One of Finch's Slayers" Chicago Tribune 12.21.1924
"Seize Hijacker; Finch Slaying Solved, Belief"  Chicago Tribune 12.20.1924
"Detectives Seek Newberry's Pals" Moline Dispatch 12.23.1924
"Ted Newberry Indicted; Writ Moved Balked"12.23. Chicago Tribune 1924
 "Billiken Rito is Shot to Death; Pal is Missing" Chicago Tribune 03.17.1930
"Ted Newberry Taken on Gang Ride and Slain" Chicago Tribune 01.08.1933