On this date in 1946:
New York Mafia boss Salvatore "Charlie Lucky Luciano" Lucania, age forty-eight, was removed from temporary custody at Sing Sing Prison on February 2, 1946, and placed in a holding area at Ellis Island, as authorities prepared to deport him to his native Italy.
The case that put Lucania behind bars was handled by then-Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey also was responsible for Lucania's release. Entering the final year of his first term as New York governor, Dewey on January 3, 1946, commuted the remainder of Lucania's sentence on the condition that he be deported to Italy.
The governor issued a statement relating to the commutation, which revealed that the imprisoned Lucania rendered some sort of assistance to the U.S. military during World War II:
Luciano is deportable to Italy. He was a leader of a syndicate which supervised and gave orders relating to the operation of a vice combine which "booked" women for houses of prostitution and provided other service incidental to the operation of houses of prostitution. He has previously been convicted of the possession of drugs. Upon the entry of the United States into the war, Luciano's aid was sought by the armed services in inducing others to provide information concerning possible enemy attack. It appears that he cooperated in such effort, though the actual value of the information provided is not clear. His record in prison is reported as wholly satisfactory.
Wild stories quickly grew out of the news of Lucania's aid to the military. Just a few days after Dewey's statement, a New York Daily News entertainment page featured an article that claimed Lucania was single-handedly responsible for saving the lives of countless American servicemen. The article, by Robert Sylvester, quoted an unnamed underworld source:
Remember the Sicily campaign was one of the easiest of the war? Well, Charley made it that way. He turned over a whole Cloak & Dagger Crew which worked before and during the invasion. You can thank Charley Lucky for saving thousands and thousands of American lives.
SIx days after Governor Dewey's sentence commutation, Lucania was transfered from Great Meadow State Prison in the upstate New York hamlet of Comstock (just east of Lake George) to Sing Sing Prison at Ossining, about thirty miles from New York City.
The Board of Parole approved Lucania's release for the purpose of deportation on February 2. Immigration and Naturalization agents took custody of him on that date and brought him to the federal immigration facility at Ellis Island. While at Ellis Island, he was permitted to visit briefly with underworld associates Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Michael Lascari and with attorney Moses Polakoff.
His stay on the island lasted less than a week. He was taken to Brooklyn and put aboard the S.S. Laura Keene at Pier 7 of the Bush Terminal on February 8. The ship's departure was delayed by bad weather, but she sailed for Italy on February 10, reaching Naples seventeen days later.
Read the details of Lucania's imprisonment and release:
"When 'Lucky' was locked up," The American Mafia, mafiahistory.us
- Abrams, Norma, "Poor Italy: Defeat and now, Luciano!" New York Daily News, Feb. 9, 1946, p. 3.
- "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.
- Conroy, E.E., FBI teletype, file no. 39-2141-5, Feb. 26, 1946.
- Conroy, E.E., FBI teletype, file no. 39-2141-6, Feb. 27, 1946.
- Conroy, E.E., Letter to Mr. Hoover, Charles Luciano FBI file, no. 39-2141-8, March 1, 1946.
- "Dewey commutes Luciano sentence," New York Times, Jan. 4, 1946, p. 25.
- "A French payment," editorial, Brooklyn Citizen, Jan. 5, 1942, p. 4.
- Herlands, William B., Report of the Commissioner of Investigation to Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Sept. 17, 1954.
- Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce (Kefauver Committee), U.S. Senate, 81st Congress 2nd Session and 82nd Congress 1st Session, Part 7, Meyer Lansky testimony of Feb. 14, 1951, p. 606-607.
- "'Lucky' Luciano to be paroled and deported," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 3, 1946, p. 1.
- Rosen, A., "Charles 'Lucky' Luciano," FBI memorandum to E.A. Tamm, file no. 39-2141-39, May 17, 1946.
- "Salvatore Lucania...," FBI report NY 62-8768, file no. 39-2141-9, May 5, 1946.
- Sylvester, Robert, "A B'way hoodlum lives a melodrama nobody would write," New York Daily News, Jan. 8, 1946, p. 27.
- Vizzini, Sal, with Oscar Fraley and Marshall Smith, Vizzini: The Story of America's No, 1 Undercover Narcotics Agent, New York: Pinnacle, 1972, p. 77.