Showing posts with label Murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Murder. Show all posts

26 October 2019

The Jersey Kid


“Are you hurt buddy? Are you hurt?”
George Lee, twenty-six-year-old over-night cashier for the Public Service Coordinated Transport, was indeed hurt, mortally.  A .32 caliber bullet had just ripped into his side and the man who fired it, Frank McBrien, stood over him, panicking. Miller didn’t answer, so McBrien tore the wounded man’s shirt open and tried to staunch the flow of blood. McBrien’s confederates, momentarily stunned, continued with the task at hand, looting the garage of its money. One entered the cashier’s cage where McBrien and Lee were and asked about the pillow cases that were brought along to carry out the loot.
“To hell with the money,” McBrien told his confederate, “this poor guy is dying. I’m going to call the cops,” turning again to the prostrate figure on the floor, he pleaded again, “Gee Buddy, are you hurt?”
     The job wasn’t supposed to go down like this. They planned it for three weeks. McBrien was a careful bandit, he liked to rehearse the robbery repeatedly so each man in the gang knew what to do and they could be in and out without trouble. The mob’s previous job went much smoother. On September 24, 1928, they hit the Alderney Dairy Corporation, also located in Newark. In this caper they managed to herd around twenty employees into a vault, another ten or so were covered while the gunmen collected five thousand dollars. McBrien fired his gun here as well, but not to hurt anyone. Only one employee was slightly injured, a woman, who was smacked across the head with a pistol butt because she wasn’t moving as fast as the bandits wished.
    After the Alderney job, the gang rendezvoused back at the rooming house where McBrien, the only tenant, lived to divvy up the loot. High on success and swimming in greenbacks, they decided the next target would be Newark’s, Public Service Coordinated Transport garage. The location where the city bus drivers, after finishing their shifts, came to deposit the day’s fares. It was decided that the time, around 2 a.m. Monday morning, would be the most lucrative because the weekend receipts would still be on hand. The gang consisted of six men: Frank McBrien, known in the underworld as the “Jersey Kid”, Frank “the Wop” Orlando, Victor Giampietro, Louis “Lefty” Malanga, Andy “Red” Silesia and Joe Rado. The idea to rob the Public Service garage probably came from Giampietro, a former bus driver.
        In preparation for the robbery Giampietro and Orlando stole a car on October 12 and parked it in a garage. On Sunday afternoon, Giampietro also gave his old bus driver outfit to Orlando, who would wear it during the heist. Around midnight of the Fifteenth, the gang gathered at McBrien’s room where the land lady made them all breakfast. After eating, the men left the house individually so as not to cause suspicion. Giampietro and Lefty Malanga went to retrieve the stolen car. Orlando left followed by McBrien and Rado, who were all picked up by Giampietro and Malanga at different spots. For some reason Red Silesia stayed behind in McBrien’s room. A decision that would save his life.
     Arriving at the garage, Orlando, dressed as a bus driver, went in to case the place. After a few minutes he returned to the street and told his confederates that two men were in the drivers’ room and six in the garage.
                “Let’s wait until later when the last bus has pulled in,” said Giampietro.
                “The hell with it,” McBrien retorted, “let’s get in and get it over with.”
The five men, all wearing gloves, exited the car and approached the garage. Lefty Malanga stayed at the door to keep guard. Orlando and Rado went down stairs and approached the cashier while Giampietro and McBrien went into the drivers’ room, which had since been vacated. After a moment they heard a shot. In an attempt to intimidate George Lee, the cashier, Orlando had fired through his screen. Entering the room, Giampietro saw Lee, peeking out from a rear room.
                “Put your hands up!” Giampietro barked.
Lee complied. Taking command, McBrien ran up to Lee and, wanting to get the cashier over to the safe, thrust his gun into his side and snarled, “Get over there.” As the last word was leaving McBrien’s lips, he accidentally pulled the trigger to his gun.
Hearing the shooting, Lefty Malanga ran down and met Giampietro who told him, “Mac shot that fellow.” The bandits quickly filled the pillowcases with cash boxes and coins. Too many coins in fact, as one of the cases ripped and spilled money across the floor. While this was taking place, McBrien picked up the phone and dialed the company operator. “There’s a robbery at the Lake Street garage, a man was shot, call the cops or send an ambulance.”
     Dropping the phone, McBrien ran from the garage and joined his confederates who were already in the car. Orlando took off the bus drivers hat and puttees and tossed them from the window. “I hope the cashier doesn’t die,” McBrien said. Afterwards the car was ditched, and the men split up.
     Returning to McBrien’s room by twos, the men gathered to divvy up the proceeds from the robbery, which amounted to about eight hundred dollars per man. After a while, McBrien went out and bought a paper, returning to the group he said, “Well, the man is dead, you know what that means.” 

The Jersey Kid

     Deciding that Newark would be too hot for them, the gang headed to Detroit where they hid out for a short time. Deciding that it would be better if they split up, Giampietro, Lefty Malanga and Red Silesia headed for upstate New York; Giampietro, carrying the gun McBrien used to kill the cashier. The remaining three men, McBrien, Orlando and Rado headed to Chicago.

     After the operator at the Public Service received the phone message from McBrien, a man was sent to the basement to see what it was all about. There he found Lee dead and the police were called. After sunrise there was a search of the neighborhood and detectives found the hat and puttees that Orlando had jettisoned from the car. All bus drivers working for the company were investigated and none were missing the items that the police had found. Next there was a check on former employees and Victor Giampietro’s name came up, working on a hunch, investigators also looked up former employees of the Alderney Dairy Company and there too was Giampietro’s name. They rushed to his house only to learn that he hadn’t been seen there since the day after the robbery.
     Detectives visited the haunts in Giampietro’s neighborhood and learned that he hung around with Red Silesia and Lefty Malanga. Follow up investigations proved that both men were also missing since the robbery. Wanted posters of the three men were produced and sent around the country. At the homes of the wanted men the mail was watched, and the phones were tapped but nothing came of it.
    On November 10, 1928, Newark detectives received a break. In the upstate town of Lackawanna, New York, Giampietro, Silesia and Malanga had gone into a roadhouse and, while there, they got into a fight with another patron. The police were called. When they arrived, Silesia was still there so they took him into custody. Back at the station Silesia remained silent, but one of the cops recognized him from one of the recent wanted circular the station had received. They also found a slip of paper with the address where he had been staying. The officers went to the house and managed to capture Giampietro and Malanga as they were leaving with their suitcases in hand. All three were returned to New Jersey where, in hopes of leniency, Giampietro turn states evidence and spilled the story on the robbery and murder.
     Seven weeks after the capture of their confederates, McBrien, Rado and Orlando were lunching in a restaurant in Chicago. They finished their meal and stepped to the counter to pay. Perhaps it was planned or a spur the moment decision since two cashiers were counting up receipts. Anyhow, one of the bandits punched one of the cashiers in the face while another grabbed the money. Orlando drew a pistol and held the crowd at bay while his cohorts ran out.
     When they hit the streets, McBrien and Rado ran in one direction and Orlando in the opposite. Orlando was pointed out to two nearby cops who saw him run into a furniture store. As they entered, the officers saw Orlando speaking to a salesman, pretending to be interested in a radio. As they neared him, Orlando spun around and, using the salesman as a human shield, opened fire on the police, hitting one in the groin. The clerk managed to pull away from Orlando and then the police opened fire. With bullets in his stomach, chest and forehead, Orlando crumbled to the floor mortally wounded.

     The following summer found McBrien back in New Jersey with a new gang. Taking part with McBrien was a former seaman named Robert Tully, a hardened gunman named James Sargert, who went by the nick name “California Eddie”, and Frank “Lefty” Long. There was a successful robbery in Philadelphia on June 17, but things started to go awry after that job. A robbery of a Philadelphia shoe factory was planned for August 2 and a payroll heist planned for Neptune, New Jersey to take place the following day. Philadelphia police learned about the shoe factory robbery and set a trap but at the last moment the bandits became aware of the ploy and fled the scene, returning to New Jersey. Though they were unable to arrest the gang police got a look at the getaway car and license plate. The gang’s driver, Robert Tully, had used his brother’s car and never bothered to change the plates.
     The very next day the gang was in New Jersey executing a payroll robbery that had been in the works for ten days. Tully was friendly with Russell Baxter, an employee of Steiner and Sons, Company; a pajama factory located in Neptune City. Through him the gang learned that the company’s $7000 payroll was delivered by sixty-five-year old George Danielson who transferred the money from the bank by himself, armed only with a revolver. At approximately 9 a.m. on Saturday August 3, Danielson was approaching the Steiner and Sons factory. Some witnesses claims say that two of the bandits were loitering in front of the factory prior to Danielson’s arrival, others have them pulling up in a sedan as Danielson approached. What is known as that the sixty-five-year old messenger found himself surrounded. The bandits demanded the payroll and Danielson went for this gun; two shots rang out in quick succession and Danielson dropped to the pavement as one of the bandits grabbed the payroll. The gunmen jumped back into their sedan and drove off.


     After the heist the gang rendezvoused at the Verdgemere hotel in Asbury Park to divide the loot. The men had some drinks during the split and sent Tully out for some gin. When he returned McBrien, California Eddy and Lefty Long were gone. He had been double crossed. Tully grabbed his bag and headed out of town. While fleeing he pulled over and tossed his grip into the Shark River. Unbeknownst to him, somebody saw him do it and had the wherewithal to remember part of his license number. The following morning the witness returned to the river and retrieved the bag and turned it over to the police along with the license number.
     Since Tully foolishly used his brother’s car in both the botched Philadelphia robbery and the Neptune City job, authorities quickly arrested his sibling, who in turn informed them that he had lent his car to his brother. Detectives managed to trace Tully to his boarding house located at 116 North Fourth Street in Camden, New Jersey.  They surrounded the place at 2 a.m. August 9 and arrested him without any resistance.

Robert Tully 

    After Tully’s arrest, Baxter turned himself in and admitted to being the tipster. Through testimony police learned that the McBrien, James “California Eddie” Sargert, and Frank “Lefty” Long were the other participants in the Danielson killing. By this time however, all had successfully escaped.
    Police got their next break on August 28 when New Jersey State Trooper David Reed entered a roadhouse in the New Jersey hamlet of Iona near Vineland. Wearing civilian clothes, his presence caused no alarm. After a bit, Reed’s attention was drawn to a table of men and, having worked in Newark the previous year, he recognized Joseph Rado at the table. Drawing his gun, Reed approached the table and announced that he was arresting Rado, who surrendered without a fight, while his companions fled. Back at the station it was determine that one of the men who had been with Rado was the Jersey Kid, whom Reed failed to recognize.
    With Rado in custody police began combing the Vineland area for McBrien but their search was in vain as he managed to allude capture again. As 1929 was winding up, in regard to the Public Service Co-Ordinated Transport job in Newark, authorities had Giampietro, Silesia, Malanga and Rado under arrest but for the Danielson murder, Tully was the only major participant in custody. That changed on November 20, when Lefty Long attempted to single handedly rob a bank in East Orange. The gunman handed a teller a note demanding money then fled empty handed when the clerk pressed an alarm. Police were able to trace him to a speakeasy a short time later and arrest him without trouble.
     After the arrest of Long, it was only two weeks before the law caught up with the Jersey Kid. In the end it was Philadelphia detectives that got him. They learned that the Kid’s paramour had moved from Philadelphia to 196th Street in New York City. They began a stakeout of the apartment and learned that the Kid was indeed inside. At 4:30 a.m. on December 4, both New York City and Philadelphia detectives surrounded the building. The element of surprise was lost when the Kid noticed two detectives in the court yard and took  a couple of shots at them. They returned the fire. After that a truce was called so that the Kid’s girlfriend could surrender and leave via the rear fire escape. The Kid used that time to barricade the front door and prepare for a battle. Intent on killing himself before allowing capture he penned a quick goodbye note to his mother. Detectives at the door informed him that they were getting ready to open fire with tear gas. Realizing that there was no escape and losing the nerve to commit suicide. The Kid surrendered.
The Kid is Captured

     Newark, Neptune City and Philadelphia all wanted the kid, but in the end Newark won out, so the Kid, along with Giampietro, Malanga and Rado went on trial for the murder of transportation clerk George Lee. Hoping to save himself from the electric chair, Giampietro turned States ‘evidence and testified against his codefendants. All were found guilty of murder and all, including Giampietro, were sentenced to death.
     All four men were scheduled to be executed on July 22, 1930. When the time came Giampietro was the first to go, which suited the Kid just fine since Giampietro implicated all of them in the murder in an attempt to get out with his skin intact. Hoping against a last-minute reprieve that might save the man who helped put him in the chair the Kid told the warden he wanted Giampietro to go first saying, “ He’s not going to get out of this, the rat.”    
     Giampietro entered the death chamber at 8:08 p.m. three minutes later he was declared dead. A trio of guards removed the body to the autopsy room and hoisted it onto a large marble slab and forced it to the far side in order to make room for his former confederates who would be joining him.  After Giampietro they came for the Kid. “Take it easy, Mac,” Rado and Malanga shouted to their one time leader. “O.k. boys, so long,” he replied. Entering the death chamber at 8:21 p.m., the Kid bit off the end of a cigar and threw it at the witnesses. Taking a seat in the electric chair, the wet helmet was placed on his head and a strap to his right knee. After a moment he relaxed and then the wheel was turned. The Kid shot out of the seat as two thousand volts went through his body. The executioner turned the wheel to off and the Kid slumped back into the chair unconscious. Another sixteen hundred volts were sent through the body and this was followed by another two thousand. In all it a took only a minute. The Kid then took his spot next to Giampietro on the slab. Next came Malanga who went calmly. Rado was the only one of the condemned men to speak out. Claiming he was innocent until the end he addressed the witnesses. “Spectators to the fact,” he announced, “Look at the gate crashers. Well before I go I want you newspaper guys to tell the world I’m innocent as God himself. I was framed. I hope you all enjoy the show.” As they strapped him into the chair, he continued his diatribe but it was cut short as the electricity coursed through his body. Smoke rose from his skull and leg as the executioner turned the wheel off. A second charge sent him from his chair like it did the Kid. The doctor checked his heart, the two jolts were enough.

21 October 2019

NYC Barrel Murder suspect killed in Pennsylvania

On this date in 1905...


A recent arrival to the mining community of Browntown, in Pennsylvania's Pittston Township, Luciano Parrino quickly became a successful business owner. Immediately following his October 21, 1905, shooting death, authorities discovered that he was a well connected underworld figure and had been the prime suspect in the spring 1903 Barrel Murder in New York City...


02 October 2019

The Assassination of Sam Giannola

Detroit Mafia boss Sam Giannola

One hundred years ago today, Detroit Mafia boss Salvatore (Sam) Giannola was assassinated as he stepped from the American State Bank branch at the corner of Monroe and Russell streets in Detroit, Michigan. Giannola and his two brothers, Vito and Antonino (Tony), were natives of Terrasini, Sicily and had led the city's Mafia family since the spring of 1914, when they seized control of the burgàta after winning a gang war against incumbent boss Pietro Mirabile. 

Based in the southern Detroit suburb of Ford City, the Giannolas had gained untold wealth and power from their newfound positions at the head of the city's Mafia family. Unfortunately, they had also accumulated a host of enemies both inside and outside of their organization. Sam's brother Tony had been murdered in January 1919 and Sam led his faction in a blood feud against his enemies, a faction headed by Giovanni (John) Vitale. After a peace treaty had been enacted in late May, things seemed to have calmed on the surface, but the bad blood between Giannola and Vitale seemed set to erupt at any time.

On October 2, 1919, Sam spent a good chunk of the day at his Little Sicily headquarters, the Viviano Macaroni Manufacturing Company, at 277 Monroe Street. Around 2 o'clock that afternoon. Giannola went to the American State Bank to cash a $200 check (Sam was looking to place a bet on the upcoming Game 2 of the ongoing baseball World Series). After finishing his business, Giannola was confronted by three assassins who shot him multiple times. Sam staggered back inside the bank and collapsed to the floor, quickly dying of his wounds. His three assassins ran in opposite directions on Russell Street. Sam's funeral in Wyandotte four days later was a elegant and well-attended affair. His widow Rosa swore an oath of vengeance against his killers at his gravesite.

Detroit Free Press


One of Sam Giannola's accused killers, Calogero Arena, was actually found guilty of the crime in March 1920 and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Arena's conviction was reversed on appeal, and he was acquitted at his second trial.

If you'd like to read more about Sam Giannola's life and career, I invite you to check out my book Vìnnitta: The Birth of the Detroit Mafia


Sources:

The October 3-6, 1919 issues of the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Detroit Times

Sam Giannola, Michigan Department of Health, Certificate of Death, No. 9756 (1919).

Recorder's Court of the City of Detroit, The People of the State of Michigan vs. Cologero Arena for murder, 1919, Case # 30216.

Daniel Waugh. Vìnnitta: The Birth of the Detroit Mafia. Lulu Publishing Services, 2019. ISBN 9781483496276.


12 September 2019

'Death Valley' end for ambitious gangster

Old pal of 'Clutching Hand' put on the spot in Brooklyn

New York Daily News
On this date in 1931...

Scores of afternoon produce shoppers on a busy Brooklyn street scurried for safety on September 12, 1931, as underworld gunmen blasted away at a gangster with ambitions to resurrect the former "Clutching Hand gang" and dispose of its enemies.

The gunmen vanished into nearby buildings, leaving Joseph Manino (also known as "Marino") dead at the entrance of 149 Union Street in South Brooklyn. He had been struck by eight slugs - one in the head, four in the chest and three in right arm.

When police arrived, they found no trace of the killers and learned little of any use from the pushcart peddlers and their patrons. The neighborhood had grown accustomed to violence - it was known at the time as "Death Valley" - and it had grown accustomed to remaining mum about it.

Reluctant witnesses said only that three men (early reports said there were only two) met Manino at a little before three o'clock, got into a loud argument and drew handguns. Manino tried to escape through the hallway of 149 Union Street but didn't make it.

Manino's body was identified by his brother Anthony, a nearby resident. Police found Manino's Lincoln automobile parked at the curb just a few doors from the spot of his murder.

Manino background
As they began their investigation into the murder, detectives theorized that Manino may have been killed because of a relationship with a woman in the Union Street neighborhood or because he was trying to muscle in on some local underworld rackets.

Brooklyn Standard Union
They learned that he was the married resident of 332 Bay Eleventh Street in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, had no children and worked with his father-in-law at a butcher shop at 273 Thatford Avenue in the Brownsville section. (Newspapers reported his age as 35, but official death records indicated he was 33.) It was said that he had arrived in the U.S. from Italy about fourteen years earlier. Manino's wife told police that he had no interest in underworld rackets and was involved in nothing that would get him killed.

Early in the investigation, police discovered that Manino had once been arrested for a Prohibition violation and was given a suspended sentence. They toyed with the idea that Manino's killing might be related to the assassination of Mafia chief Salvatore Maranzano in Manhattan two days earlier. It took a little longer for Manino's underworld connections to become clear.

Arrested with him in the 1920 Prohibition matter were his close friend Giuseppe Piraino (also written "Peraino") and some other associates. Piraino, whose twisted and partially paralyzed hand resulted in his "Clutching Hand" nickname, was a major Prohibition Era power in the Italian underworld of Brooklyn. The group was convicted of stealing alcohol from a pier at Atlantic Basin in Red Hook. Though Manino escaped with a suspended sentence, Piraino went to prison.

Clutching Hand gang
During Piraino's incarceration, Manino continued his bootlegging activities. In spring of 1923, he and four other men were arrested and charged with operating a large distillery in a supposedly vacant building at 61 Kouwenhoven Place (this short street formerly ran between Overbaugh Place and Kings Highway in Flatlands, southeastern Brooklyn). Press coverage at that time noted that it was Manino's third Prohibition violation. For the offense, he was sentenced to pay a $250 fine. His codefendants were each fined $25.

When Piraino was released from prison, Manino reassumed his top lieutenant role, and the rackets of the Clutching Hand gang expanded. The group came into violent conflict with other underworld powers. Piraino was considered a top contender to assume the Brooklyn rackets and gang membership of the Frankie Yale organization following Yale's 1928 murder.

Rivals put Piraino on the spot in March of 1930 during a visit to South Brooklyn. He was shot to death in front of 151 Sackett Street, near Hicks Street.

Manino reportedly tried to hold the Clutching Hand gang together after the loss of his friend and boss. The forces arrayed against him were powerful, but he reportedly swore that he would drive them all out of Brooklyn.

Authorities decided that Manino's stated determination to eliminate his rivals prompted them to arrange his murder. The Union Street location where Manino breathed his last was one city block south of the site of Piraino's murder.

Aftermath
Due to a tip provided in October to Detective Cal McCarthy of the Hamilton Avenue Police Station, Brooklyn racketeers Guglielmo Guica and Tito Balsamo were arrested and charged with participating in the Manino murder. But the evidence was insufficient to make the charges stick. Guica and Balsamo went free early in November.

Vengeance for Manino appeared to be the motive behind Guica's murder two weeks after his release.

Near midnight on November 16, 1931, Guica sat down in the Court Open Kitchen restaurant, 337 Court Street, with Benedetto Ruggiero and a third man, name unknown. Almost immediately, the third man dropped to the floor beneath the table as four other men jumped out of a car and entered the restaurant with guns blazing.

Guica's unknown companion crawled out of the restaurant through the kitchen. Shot ten times, Ruggiero died at the table and slumped onto the floor. Guica lunged for the kitchen but was brought down by the gunfire. He had been shot a dozen times.

Postscript
The Prohibition Era exploits of the Clutching Hand gang made news again in March of 1949, as police in Brooklyn arrested Nicolo Failla, who had been a fugitive since jumping bail in the alcohol theft case back in 1920. The sixty-three-year-old Failla was arrested at an apartment used by some of his children. At the time, authorities speculated that Failla was the last surviving member of the Piraino underworld faction.

Sources:
  • "13 suspects in new roundup," Brooklyn Standard Union, Oct. 7, 1931, p. 7.
  • "Arrest three men for barrel murder," Brooklyn Standard Union, Jan. 24, 1919.
  • "Brooklyn man slain amid rush hour crowd," Syracuse American, Sept. 13, 1931, p. 3.
  • "Brooklyn shooting laid to gang war," New York Times, Sept. 14, 1931, p. 6.
  • "'Clutching Hand's' son assassinated as his father was," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7, 1930, p. 23.
  • "Gang killing perils crowd in Brooklyn," Syracuse Herald, Sept. 13, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Gunmen kill two in Court Street restaurant trap," Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 17, 1931, p. 2.
  • "Holdup man gets 3 to 7-year term for $7,500 failure," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 17, 1923, p. 3.
  • "Man shot dead in Union Street," Brooklyn Standard Union, Sept. 12, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Manino killed in rum squeal, police theory," Brooklyn Standard Union, Sept. 14, 1931, p. 2.
  • "Many see killing in Brooklyn street," New York Times, Sept. 13, 1931, p. 25.
  • "Prohibition days reviewed by arrest," Kingston NY Daily Freeman, March 7, 1949, p. 12.
  • Giuseppi Piraino death certificate, Department of Health of the City of New York, no. 7070, filed March 29, 1930.
  • New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 19560, Sept. 12, 1931, Ancestry.com.
  • O'Brien, Michael, "Mafia victim slain, 2 shot; hint revenge," New York Daily News, Sept. 13, 1931, p. 56.

24 June 2019

Peers salute Genovese after murder acquittal

On this date in 1946...

Leaders of Mafia crime families based in the eastern U.S.  assembled at Midtown Manhattan's Hotel Diplomat, 108-116 West 43rd Street, on June 24, 1946, for a welcome home banquet in honor of Vito Genovese, according to Dom Frasca's book King of Crime (New York: Crown Publishers, 1959). Pittson, Pennsylvania, boss Santo Volpe was the first to greet the guest of honor, Frasca wrote. Reportedly the most senior of the crime bosses in attendance, Volpe led "Don Vitone" to a leather chair at the head of table. The remaining twenty-seven Mafiosi, standing around the table, offered their greetings and congratulations.

Genovese actually had been home in the United States for a few weeks by then. He returned from Italy June 1 in the custody of the U.S. Army Provost Marshal's Office and was turned over to New York prosecutors to stand trial for ordering "hits" on Ferdinand "the Shadow" Boccia and William Gallo in 1934. Boccia was murdered, but Gallo survived. (Genovese also was suspected of calling for the 1943 murder of anti-Fascist editor Carlo Tresca.)

As underboss to Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania in the summer of 1936, Genovese was poised to take control of a sprawling and highly profitable crime family when Lucania was convicted of compulsory prostitution and given a lengthy prison sentence.

Genovese was naturalized a U.S. citizen in November 1936, but almost immediately obtained a passport to leave the country, as he feared prosecution for the Boccia murder. He served the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini during World War II but then worked as an interpreter for the occupying American forces beginning in January 1944.

Murder suspects: Genovese, Mike Miranda, George Smurra, Gus Frasca.
(Brooklyn Eagle)

While he was away, Brooklyn prosecutors built the murder case against Genovese and other crime family leaders, largely through the confession of Ernest "the Hawk" Rupolo, who took part in the attacks on Boccia and Gallo, and corroborating testimony of witness Peter LaTempa. On August 7, 1944, a Kings County grand jury indicted Genovese for homicide. That news was transmitted to military officials, and Genovese was arrested in Italy by the end of the month.

It took months for the extradition process to begin. During that process, prosecutors' only corroborating witness, LaTempa, died in a prison holding cell of a mysterious drug overdose. Corroborating testimony was essential to the case, as state law would not permit conviction based solely on the testimony of an accomplice in the crime.

Prosecutors went ahead with the case following Genovese's return. Genovese was arraigned for the Boccia murder in Kings County Court on June 2, 1946. Trial began on June 6. Rupolo stepped to the witness stand the next day and testified that he was hired by Genovese to eliminate Boccia and Gallo. William Gallo also testified. The state rested its case that day, and the defense immediately moved that the charge against Genovese be dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Hotel Diplomat
(Museum of City of New York)
Judge Samuel Leibowitz (a former criminal defense attorney) dismissed the indictment and directed a verdict of not guilty. But he clearly wasn't happy about the situation. "I am constrained by law to dismiss the indictment and direct the jury to acquit you," the judge stated. "...You and your criminal henchmen thwarted justice time and again by devious means, among which were the terrorizing of witnesses, kidnaping them, yes, even murdering those who could give evidence against you. I cannot speak for the jury, but I believe that if there were even a shred of corroborating evidence, you would have been condemned to the chair."

Genovese was freed on June 10, two weeks before the Hotel Diplomat gathering reported by Dom Frasca.

Years of "government" work - first with Fascists and later with occupiers - apparently left Genovese with a large nest egg (or perhaps his colleagues gave him more than just greetings and food at the banquet). One month after the welcome home party, Genovese purchased a $40,000 seaside home at 130 Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. The deal was reportedly made in cash.

Genovese once again became a key figure in the former Lucania Crime Family.

A decade later, following a 1957 botched murder attempt that left a lasting impression on boss Frank Costello's mind as well as his scalp, Genovese finally moved into the top spot of an organization that would from that time on be associated with his name.

Sources:

  • "'Hawk' tips off police to 4 slayings," Brooklyn Eagle, Aug. 9, 1944, p. 1.
  • "Arrest in Italy in Tresca slaying," New York Post, Nov. 24, 1944.
  • "Chronological history of La Cosa Nostra in the United States," Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi,Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Washington D.C, 1988.
  • "Court weighs motion to acquit Genovese," New York Times, June 8, 1946.
  • "Death of four is laid to gang," New York Sun, Aug. 9, 1944, p. 6.
  • "Genovese, cleared of murder, buys $40,000 manse in Jersey," New York Sun, Aug. 16, 1946, p. 5.
  • "Genovese denies guilt," New York Times, June 3, 1945.
  • "Genovese free in murder case," New York Sun, June 10, 1946, p. 1.
  • "Murder trade's jargon explained in court," New York Sun, June 7, 1946, p. 1.
  • "Warrants out for 6 in 1934 gang murder," New York Daily News, Aug. 8, 1944, p. 28.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.
  • Manifest of S.S. James Lykes, departed Bari, Italy, on May 17, 1945, arrived NYC June 1, 1945.
  • People v. Vito Genovese, Ind. #921/44, Brooklyn District Attorney.
  • Vito Genovese naturalization record, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, petition mo. 256403, filed Dec. 19, 1935, certificate no. 4129975, Nov. 25, 1936, canceled Sept. 1, 1955.

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 Villa Nuova 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.

04 March 2019

Death chair takes Lepke, two aides

On this date in 1944...


Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, longtime New York City racketeer and reputed overseer of the underworld's Murder, Inc., enforcement arm, was electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison, March 4, 1944, along with two underlings.

Buchalter
Buchalter, Emanuel "Mendy" Weiss and Louis Capone were sentenced to death following their 1941 New York State conviction for the September 1936 murder of Joseph Rosen. Rosen was a former trucking contractor forced out of business by Buchalter-led rackets. At the time of his murder, Rosen, then proprietor of a candy store at 725 Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn, was reportedly threatening to assist Manhattan Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey in his investigation of rackets in the trucking industry.

Buchalter, believed to have ordered as many as eighty murders in his underworld career, insisted that he was completely innocent of the killing of Rosen. Weiss and Capone claimed that they had been framed. While their legal appeals of the state verdict were unsuccessful, some reviewing judges noted weakness in the state's evidence against the trio.

48 hours earlier

The executions of Buchalter, Weiss and Capone had been delayed repeatedly by legal maneuvers and by government stays. The most recent postponement occurred within an hour and a half of their scheduled appointment with the prison Death Chamber.

Weiss
At 9:35 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, Governor Thomas Dewey (Dewey won election to Manhattan district attorney in 1937 and to governor in 1942) ordered a forty-eight-hour stay in response to a last-ditch Buchalter appeal to federal courts. Buchalter's attorney argued that U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle improperly released Buchalter from federal prison, where he was serving a fourteen-year sentence for narcotics violations, to New York State authorities.

Dewey telephoned Sing Sing Warden William E. Snyder, who sent word of the postponement to the Death House prisoners through prison chaplain Father Bernard Martin. It was the sixth time their date of execution was moved. But it was the closest the prisoners had come to the electric chair. They accepted the news without visible emotion.

Capone
Buchalter, Weiss and Capone had already said their goodbyes to family members in the large pre-execution space known by inmates as "the dancehall." They had been clothed in the black pants and white shirts known as "death suits," and spots had been shaved on their heads to allow a clean connection to an electrode carrying a fatal dose of electrical current.

They already had eaten their "last meals": steak, french fried potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, rolls, pie and coffee for lunch; roast chicken, mashed potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, rolls and coffee for supper. (The selections were reportedly made by Buchalter, and Weiss and Capone ordered the same.)

Some newspapers reported that Dewey ordered the stay because Buchalter decided to cooperate. They wondered about the number of crimes that information from the longtime rackets boss could solve and the number of his old underworld associates that could be brought to justice.

March 4

Federal district and appeals courts were unwilling to involve themselves in the case. At one o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected without comment the Buchalter appeal.

The prisoners were already reliving the execution preparations when the final bit of bad news arrived.

They met with family in the same "dancehall" to say the same goodbyes. Buchalter spent the day with his wife Beatrice "Betty" and their son Harold. During the visit, Beatrice reportedly urged Buchalter to try to save himself by sending for U.S. Attorney James McNally and offering his cooperation. Her husband refused, saying, "The best I could get would be a delay of six or eight months or a year. If that's the way it's going to be, I'd rather go tonight."

Noting the press speculation following the March 2 stay of execution, Buchalter dictated a statement to his wife, who transcribed it on a piece of notepaper.

Superstition may have forced the selections for the prisoners' repeat "last meals." They ordered the same food they had eaten before the execution postponement on March 2.

Several things were different on the evening of March 4, however: Family members were permitted to stay about a half-hour past the usual parting time of nine o'clock; Buchalter was permitted to wear a pair of gray pants instead of the usual black; and there was no telephone call from the governor.

Beatrice Buchalter meets with reporters.

After leaving the prison, Beatrice Buchalter met with members of the press at a nearby restaurant and read her husband's statement:

I insist that I am not guilty of the Rosen murder, that the witnesses against me lied and that I did not receive a fair trial. Four out of seven judges in the Court of Appeals said that Weiss, Capone and I were not guilty. Judge [Harlan W.] Rippey said we were not given even a remote outside chance of any fair consideration of our defense by the jury and that the evidence wasn't enough to submit to a jury.
The one and only thing that I have asked for is to have a commission appointed to examine the facts in the Rosen case. If that examination does not show I am not guilty, I am willing to go to the chair regardless of what information I have given or can give.

Last moments

At eleven o'clock, Louis Capone, forty-seven, followed Father Martin into the Death Chamber. Twenty-four witnesses observed from a gallery.

Newspapers reported that Capone was selected to go to his death first because he was the weakest - emotionally and physically (he had recent heart problems) - of the three. He said nothing when he was strapped into the chair and the electrodes were attached to his body. His lips could be seen moving in silent prayer, as a helmet with a large electrode inside of it and a face-concealing mask on its front was placed on his head.


Executioner Joseph Francel was at the chair controls. At two minutes after eleven, he administered the first brain-killing shock. He followed it with several more jolts of current to burn the life out of Capone's organs. Three minutes later, a guard pulled open Capone's shirt, so Dr. Charles C. Sweet could check for life signs. "This man is dead," Sweet announced.

Capone's remains were removed from the chair, placed on a cart and wheeled next door to the autopsy room.

A minute later, Emanuel Weiss, thirty-seven, strode quickly into the Death Chamber with Rabbi Jacob Katz by his side. Weiss indicated to Principal Keeper Thomas J. Keeley that he wished to make a statement.

Weiss looked to the gallery and said, "I'm here on a framed case. I'm innocent and God and Gov. Dewey know it. I want to thank Judge Lehman [Appeals Court Judge Irving Lehman]. Give my love to my family and everyone. And - I'm innocent.

Weiss's turn in the chair began at seven minutes after eleven. His lifeless remains were removed from it four minutes later.

Buchalter's remains are
driven out of Sing Sing
Rabbi Katz stepped from the Death Chamber to join Buchalter and escort him in. As Buchalter, forty-seven, walked confidently and silently into the chamber, journalists struggled to find some sign of emotion in the racketeer's movements or expressions.

One reporter said he saw a lip quiver. Another noticed some redness and perspiration on Buchalter's face. A wire service reporter suggested that the prisoner was "so dazed that his attitude could have been interpreted as indifference" and then found a guard to support that view with the comment, "The other two were frightened, but Lepke was paralyzed."

Gilbert Millstein of the New York Daily News observed that Buchalter was not only calm but cooperative. He placed his own arms into position to be fastened to the chair, and he leaned his head forward into the death-delivering helmet.

Executioner Francel delivered the first shock into Buchalter at thirteen minutes past eleven. The fourth shock was completed three minutes later. "Lepke" Buchalter was dead.

Burials

Buchalter's family assembled for a brief service at Park West Memorial Chapel, 115 West Seventy-ninth Street in Manhattan, on Sunday, March 5. Prayers were chanted by Rabbi Morris Goldberg. Buchalter's remains, in a plain oaken casket, were buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, next to the gravesite of his mother.

Buchalter's burial
At almost the same moment, about fifty friends and family attended a ceremony for Weiss at the Midtown Funeral Home, 171 West Eighty-fifth Street in Manhattan. Rabbi Aaron Liss led those services. Weiss's widow Sophia, his mother and his four brothers attended. Weiss was also buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery, a short walk from the Buchalter gravesite.

On Thursday, March 9, the remains of Louis Capone were taken in an inexpensive metal casket from Andrew Torregrossa's funeral home, 1305 Seventy-ninth Street in Brooklyn, to the Church of Our Lady of Solace on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. His funeral, in the neighborhood where he was a longtime resident, drew a far larger crowd than seen at the Buchalter and Weiss services.

After a brief Mass celebrated by Father Francis A. Froelich, a procession of forty cars of mourners and five cars of flowers wended through Brooklyn streets to Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush. With his widow Sophie, three children and two brothers at graveside, Capone was interred in the cemetery's St. Charles section.

Sources:

  • "Buchalter dies in electric chair," Burlington VT Free Press, March 6, 1944, p. 1.
  • "Crowds attend funeral of Lepke pal Capone," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 9, 1944, p. 3.
  • "Lepke denied deal, admitted 'talking,'" New York Daily News, March 5, 1944, p. 3.
  • "Lepke dies in chair," Poughkeepsie Sunday New Yorker, March 5, 1944, p. 1.
  • Feinberg, Alexander, "Lepke is put to death, denies guilt to last; makes no revelation," New York Times, March 5, 1944, p. 1.
  • Hailey, Foster, "Lepke a gang leader who liked his privacy," New York Times, Aug. 13, 1939, p. 61.
  • Millstein, Gilbert, "Lepke and 2 pals die in chair; mobster chief calm, last to go," New York Daily News, March 5, 1944, p. 3.
  • Millstein, Gilbert, "Louis (Lepke) Buchalter: His life and crimes," New York Daily News, March 3, 1944, p. 14.
  • O'Brien, Michael, and Gilbert Millstein, "Gangland shuns Capone funeral," New York Daily News, March 10, 1944, p. M20.
  • Smith, Art, "Dewey orders 48-hour delay in execution of Lepke, 2 pals," New York Daily News, March 3, 1944, p. 3.
  • Smith, Art, "Bury Lepke with only kin at bier," New York Daily News, March 6, 1944, p. 2.

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.