Showing posts with label Philadelphia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philadelphia. Show all posts

17 January 2018

Historian reveals identities of Mafia informants

The FBI makes every effort to hide the identities of its confidential underworld informants. Unlike the famous Joe Valachi and other Bureau cooperating witnesses, who exchange public testimony for government protection, confidential informants continue in their dangerous underworld roles during their furtive feeding of information to investigators. So, the FBI's secrecy regarding informants is vital... to a point.

For some reason, the Bureau insists on keeping informants' identities confidential even long after the informants have passed away, through natural or "unnatural" causes.

In reports, the FBI refers to its informants only by code numbers. Before any reports are made available to the public, revealing details about the informants are deleted. But subtle clues to their identities may remain within the text.

http://mafiahistory.us/rattrap/rattrap-idx.html
For years, Toronto-based crime historian Edmond Valin has been combing through publicly available information, including declassified files of the FBI, for these clues. He has shown a remarkable ability to discover the identities of some of the most important and most secret Mafia turncoats by comparing seemingly insignificant details from different documents.

Valin has consented to allow the American Mafia history website to publish a collection of his ground-breaking articles online. These articles, grouped under the heading of "Rat Trap," deal with informants from major U.S. Mafia organizations, including the Chicago Outfit, the Philly Mob, the Bonanno Crime Family and the Gambino Crime Family. Six articles are in the collection at this time, and more are on the way.

Valin's often shocking conclusions are painstakingly defended through document citations (many of the related documents can be accessed online through links provided in the articles' endnotes).

Visit Edmond Valin's Rat Trap articles.

30 May 2017

Zanghi 'squeals' after brother's murder

On this date in 1927, two men were felled by shotgun and automatic pistol fire as they chatted outside a South Philadelphia restaurant. The shooting resulted in unprecedented cooperation with law enforcement by a Philadelphia gang leader and the arrest and (largely unsuccessful) prosecution of local Mafia leadership.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1927.
The location of the shooting was the Cafe Calabria, 824 South Eighth Street near Christian Street. Gunmen positioned in the area coordinated with others in a passing automobile for the carefully planned 6 p.m. attack.

Anthony "Musky" Zanghi, 27, an arrogant gang boss who regularly found himself in as much trouble with other underworld figures as he was with law enforcement officers, was the apparent target of the gunmen. But he avoided any injury, reportedly by ducking for cover at just the right moment.

Zanghi's little brother Joseph, 19, and underworld colleague Vincent "Scabby" Cocozza, 31, were not as fortunate. They were hit by flying lead as they stood near Musky on the sidewalk. A slug penetrated the center of Joseph Zanghi's forehead, killing him instantly. Scabby was shot multiple times. He died minutes after arrival at Pennsylvania Hospital.

One of the witnesses to the double-murder was a six-year-old Alfred "Freddy" Cocozza, nephew of the slain Vincent Cocozza. Years later, Freddy Cocozza embarked on a fabulously successful singing career using the name Mario Lanza.

Vincent Cocozza death certificate

Early accounts of the shooting were vague. Some reports said Joseph Zanghi and Vincent Cocozza were shot while waiting for Musky to finish dinner at the Giardino di Torrena restaurant next door at 822 South Eighth Street.

Musky was so enraged by the killing of his brother that he provided detectives with a detailed story of the incident and formally accused a number of Philadelphia-area men of taking part in it. Police officials said it was the first time they recalled any crime figure of Zanghi's rank breaking the underworld's "code of silence."

According to his story, he and Cocozza had been in Atlantic City, New Jersey, earlier in the day. Upon their return to Philadelphia, Anthony Zanghi was warned to stay out of sight, as gunmen from out of town were looking for him.  Zanghi did not follow the advice.

Minutes before six o'clock, Musky and Cocozza encountered local Mafiosi Salvatore Sabella and John "Big Nose" Avena along Eighth Street. Sabella and Avena greeted Zanghi with unusual warmth, patting him on the shoulders and inquiring about his health.

Anthony "Musky" Zanghi
"I knew they were a couple of [John] Scopoletti's men, and it struck me funny that they were making so much fuss over me," Zanghi told detectives. (Zanghi believed that Scopoletti was the boss of the local Mafia at the time. That appears to have been an error.)

Cocozza walked on and bumped into Joseph Zanghi, who was on his way to meet his brother. The two men stopped to talk, while Anthony Zanghi worked to extract himself from the Sicilian gangsters.

Zanghi told investigators that he spotted a few Scopoletti men sneak around a corner. Certain that something was up, he stepped away from Sabella and Avena. At that moment, a blue sedan sped around the corner from Christian Street and Sabella and Avena and other men on the street drew pistols.

Musky dove for cover as the weapons from the sidewalk and the street opened fire. As Scabby and Joseph collapsed, the gunmen on the sidewalk jumped onto the sides of the automobile and were quickly carried away.

Hearing this story, police gathered up Scopoletti, Sabella, Avena, Joseph Ida, Dominick Festa, Luigi Quaranta and Dominick Pollina. They also arrested four men from New Brunswick, New Jersey, who showed up to meet with the Mafiosi as the arrests were being made. The New Jersey suspects were identified as Norman Marsella, Nicholas Messino, Joseph Bruno and John Marco.

Early on the morning of May 31, an emotional Zanghi identified all of the Philadelphia men in a police lineup, calling the suspects "dirty dogs" and "dirty rats." As he first saw the lineup, he called out, "There's the dirty rats that killed my brother. Let me get at them." According to reports, Zanghi decked Sabella with a single punch to his head.

After making the identifications, the gang leader wept: "I've done something I never thought any cop could ever make me do. I've squealed. I'll be killed now for sure, but I don't care. My brother is dead, and I loved my brother."

Zanghi provided police with information on underworld activities, including regional trafficking in liquor, narcotics and women. Police also learned that Zanghi's organization had been shaking down saloons in the region that did business with his bootlegging competitors, a possible motive for the Mafiosi to wish to eliminate Zanghi.

A short time later, there was reason to doubt Zanghi's stated determination to see his brother's killers brought to justice. Musky went missing. Luigi Quaranta was tried and convicted during his absence. Quaranta was later given a new trial because Zanghi - his original accuser - had been unavailable for cross examination.

Defense witnesses testified that Zanghi falsely identified the suspects. One witness testified that Zanghi privately admitted he did so in order to extort large payments from the Mafiosi. Zanghi's disappearance was said to be evidence that he had received a payment. He soon returned to Philadelphia, but he had little credibility left. None of the other murder suspects were convicted.

Anthony Zanghi remained a racketeer. Suspected of the 1928 murder of Anthony Denni, he left Pennsylvania and began operating in New York under the name of William Martino. Musky was shot to death in Manhattan's Little Italy, on Mulberry Street between Canal and Hester, on August 7, 1934. Police believed that Zanghi business partner Anthony Cugino, then in hiding, killed Zanghi after an argument related to a currency counterfeiting operation. Zanghi's widow, Antoinette, was subsequently arrested, tried and convicted of working in the same counterfeiting racket. Police tracked down Cugino the following year. He hanged himself in a holding cell at New York City Police Headquarters on September 8, 1935, before he could be arraigned for his partner's murder.


Sources:
  • Joseph Zanghi Certificate of Death, County of Philadelphia, file no. 47793, reg. no. 12335, filed June 1, 1927.
  • Vincent Cocozza Certificate of Death, County of Philadelphia, file no. 46043, reg. no. 12345, filed June 1, 1927.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 18199, Aug. 7, 1934, Ancestry.com.
  • Register of Interments, Mt. Moriah, Philadelphia PA, Ancestry.com.


  • "2 slain in street by gunmen firing from racing auto," Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1927, p. 1
  • "Gangsters kill 2 men," Wilmington DE Evening Journal, May 31, 1927, p. 8.
  • "Use pump guns in gang warfare," Wilkes-Barre PA Record, May 31, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Two men slain on street corner," Pittsburgh Press, May 31, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Breaks gang law in helping cops nab brother's slayers," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1927, p. 6.
  • "Gang chief names seven as slayers' bares crime ring," Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Scopeletti trial nearly disrupted by 'buying' charge," Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 1927, p. 1.
  • "New trial in killings," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 30, 1927, p. 2.
  • "Gangster killed in crowded street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1934, p. 11.
  • "Zanghi widow held as bad bill passer," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 19, 1934, p. 2.
  • "Ex-inmate of Maryland pen, wholesale killer, hangs himself in cell," Baltimore Sun, Sept. 9, 1935, p. 20.

16 May 2017

1929: Capone meets City of Brotherly Love

Arrested with concealed weapon on his way
home from Atlantic City peace conference


May 16, 1929 - Chicago crime lord Al Capone and his lieutenant, Frank Rio, were stopped by police detectives outside the Stanley Theatre, southwest corner of Nineteenth and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Washington Post
May 17, 1929
The notorious gangsters insisted they were in Philadelphia to kill only time, while waiting for the next Chicago-bound train. Detectives found that both men had handguns. Capone and Rio were arrested for carrying concealed deadly weapons.

Capone gave a detailed statement to authorities describing his situation: He and Rio were returning from a Chicago underworld peace conference at Atlantic City, New Jersey. They were driving to the North Philadelphia Station to catch the afternoon Broad Way Limited train back to Chicago. Automobile problems caused them to miss their train. The next train was scheduled to leave North Philadelphia some hours later, and the two gangsters decided to relax in the theater.

Capone's surprising stay in Pennsylvania began with a night in police lockup and would stretch on to a year. Treating the charge dismissively, the next day the Chicago boss and his aide pleaded guilty to weapons possession. They appeared stunned when Judge John E. Walsh sentenced them to one-year sentences in state prison.

The U.S. press immediately began speculating that Capone orchestrated his arrest and conviction in order to escape the vengeance of underworld rivals. Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred only three months earlier. Some claimed that former Chicago underworld leader Johnny Torrio had come out of retirement to order Capone to have himself arrested so things in the Windy City could cool down. No known data or reasonable analysis of available data supports these notions.

Capone certainly was not a willing prisoner. His attorney tried to postpone the trial, to achieve Capone's discharge on a bond that he would never reenter the city and to arrange a suspended sentence. Capone subsequently griped over the speed of his trial and the severity of his punishment, and he actively sought his release on appeal.

 


Atlantic City convention

Other legends sprang up relating to the meeting in Atlantic City. Some books and television programs have suggested that it was an organizational meeting - called by Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania, Johnny Torrio or Frank Costello - for a nationwide criminal syndicate. Others claim it was a sort of intervention by the nation's gang bosses to break Capone of his murderous habits or a disciplinary hearing against the Chicago gang leader.

The original source of these legends is difficult to pin down, and it seems they have snowballed over time. It was reported in May 1929 that Capone personally told Philadelphia Director of Public Safety Lemuel Schofield: "We stopped at the President Hotel, where I registered under an assumed name. 'Bugs' Moran, the leader of the North Side Gang, seven of whose men were killed on St. Valentine's Day, 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, bury the past and forget warfare in the future, for the general good of all concerned." (New York Times, May 18, 1929, p. 1.)

When Herbert Asbury, who had a strong tendency toward sensationalism, published The Gangs of Chicago in 1940, he basically repeated the Capone account, calling the Atlantic City event a peace conference of Chicago bosses. Asbury's sensationalist tendency was satisfied merely by inflating the number of Chicago bosses to thirty.

In the same year (1940), Thompson and Raymond's Gang Rule in New York seems to have been the first book to claim that the meeting involved bosses from outside of Chicago. They placed the convention at the Hotel President and said attendees included "most of the leaders in the national Unione Siciliane." The purpose, according to the authors, was to put a stop to Sicilian and Italian gangland feuds and arrange a system for a panel of bosses to consider and approve of killings before they were performed. The authors claimed that Frank Costello developed those ideas.

Twenty-two years later, Bill Brennan further expanded the conference story and added details for his book, The Frank Costello Story. Brennan, apparently realizing that Costello was not a boss in 1929 and did not have the authority to call a nationwide conference of underworld leaders, portrayed the Hotel President gathering as a bit of an insurrection against old-line Mafia bosses like Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Providing no source, Brennan claimed that the attendees included Capone, Jake Guzik, Frankie Yale, Joe Adonis, Frank Erickson, Owen Madden, Max Hoff, George Remus, Solly Weissman, Larry Fay and members of Detroit's Purple Gang. There were problems with Brennan's account - not the least of which was the death of Frankie Yale almost a year earlier - but that did not stop other authors from picking up the ball and running with it.

President Hotel
The Chicago Crime Book of 1967, edited by Albert Halper, tried to return the story to its origins with added importance for former Chicago gang boss Torrio. A chapter written by Francis X. Bush said that the Atlantic City conference involved Capone, Torrio, Joe Aiello and Bugs Moran, along with their chief aides. The conference concluded, he said, with a formal written agreement establishing a crime syndicate in Chicago. Torrio was set up as its supreme arbiter. For some reason, Bush placed the meeting in June 1929, when Capone already was behind bars in Holmesburg County Jail (he was transferred to Eastern State Prison in August).

When Jack McPhaul took a shot at the Torrio life story in 1970's Johnny Torrio: First of the Gang Lords, he combined various elements from previous writers for his account of the convention. There was the Torrio supremacy of the Halper book, the imposed preservation of gangland peace of the Thompson and Raymond volume and the expansive guest list of Brennan. According to McPhaul, Torrio ordered Capone to attend the convention, which McPhaul viewed as a disciplinary hearing, and then ordered Capone to get himself arrested and imprisoned (apparently it did not matter to Torrio where Capone did this).

John Kobler, who handled many other phases of Capone's existence more responsibly in his 1971 book Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone, seems to have found the Atlantic City convention legends irresistible. According to Kobler, the convention lasted three days and featured numerous gang bosses from around the country, all agreeing to combine into a national syndicate run by an executive committee. "Cutting across all the old ethnic and national divisions," Kobler wrote, "there gathered around the table not only Italians and Sicilians, but also Jews, Irish and Slavs, more than thirty gangsters in all." (Big table!) The list of attendees was expanded from previous accounts to include Dutch Schultz, Nucky Johnson, Joe Saltis, Frank McErlane, Sam Lazar and Charles Schwartz.

Fred Cook largely echoed this account for his (emotionally titled) 1973 book, Mafia! But Cook, perhaps benefiting from access to the meeting minutes, said the Atlantic City convention resulted in four major decisions: 1. U.S. was carved into crime districts; 2. No boss could be killed without approval of a leadership commission; 3. Syndicate would gather a bribery fund for police and politicians; 4. A fund would be set up "to groom young gangsters for the Syndicate." The resistance of old Mafia bosses to this new syndicate, Cook wrote, made the Night of Sicilian Vespers (another grossly inflated legend) necessary.

The next year, Frank Costello: Prime Minister of the Underworld by George Wolf with Joseph DiMona stated that the Atlantic City meeting was called by Frank Costello and Johnny Torrio. The book claimed that Costello was then - in 1929 - at the height of his power (allowing him a gradual decline spread out over the next four and a half decades). The conference guest list was dramatically altered so that Chicago's Frank Nitti could be there, along with Lou Rothkopf, Moe Dalitz, Charles "King" Solomon, John Lazia, Joe Bernstein and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter. Wolf's book provided a detailed but sourceless look at the convention, referring at one point to the "crystal chandelier" that "dangled above the rich mahogany table and chairs, which gleamed from recent polishing." (Wolf neglected for some reason to explain that mahogany is an excellent wood choice for furniture at a seaside hotel, as its density makes it extremely resistant to rot.) Wolf said the convention set up a national crime syndicate overseen by a commission of leaders and arranged for Capone to temporarily serve time in prison so things could be smoothed out with his Chicago rivals.

Virgil W. Peterson further increased the 1929 Atlantic City guest list for his 1983 book, The Mob. He had Albert Anastasia, Vincent Mangano, Frank Scalise, Longie Zwillman, Willie Moretti and Meyer Lansky (honeymooning with his new bride) also meeting at the Hotel President. Peterson reported a widespread belief that Capone arranged for his own Philadelphia arrest after the convention, but he left it for the reader to decide between unlikely choices: 1. Capone was ordered to prison by other gang bosses in attendance at the Atlantic City convention; 2. Capone arranged after the convention to go to prison seeking protection from enemies. Apparently unworthy of consideration was the possibility that Capone was an out-of-area gangster caught carrying a concealed weapon and a local judge threw the book at him.

Despite decades of invention and exaggeration, the truth of the May 1929 conference in Atlantic City probably is quite close to the earliest accounts.


"Al Capone's long stay in Philly" 
in this back issue of Informer.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Issue/112621

07 February 2017

108 years ago: Future mob boss arrives in NYC

On this date in 1909: Seventeen-year-old Stefano Magaddino of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, arrived in New York City aboard the S.S. San Giorgio

Magaddino's immediate destination was the home of his brother Gaspare, on Brooklyn's North Fifth Street near Roebling Street. The area was already a fair-sized colony of immigrants from Castellammare del Golfo. (It would later become the base of power of the Bonanno Crime Family.)

Magaddino frequently traveled around the U.S. His 1913 marriage in Brooklyn did not settle him down. Within a few years, he moved his family to South Philadelphia but continued to spend considerable time in New York City. He also traveled to Buffalo, Chicago and possibly Detroit.

Shortly after the start of Prohibition, Magaddino relocated to the Buffalo area. Almost immediately, he was selected boss of the western New York Mafia (previous boss Giuseppe DiCarlo died July 9, 1922). Magaddino remained the chief of the underworld in western New York and nearby Canada for more than fifty years.

Stefano Magaddino appears on Line 15 of this page
of the S.S. San Giorgio passenger manifest.

Read more about Magaddino and the Mafia of Western New York in 
DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

28 December 2016

They gave at the office

Eighty-five years ago today, Philadelphia gangsters Sam Grossman and Al Skale sat in the office of their second-story gambling and drinking resort, the "Jewish Social Cub." It was located at the south east corner of Girard Avenue and Watts Street. Sam and Al were former lieutenants in gangster Mickey Duffy's gang. Former because Mickey was rubbed out in an Atlantic City hotel the previous summer. Both Grossman and Skale had been picked up as material witnesses and were currently out on bail.

Grossman sat at the desk, Skale  perched on top. They may have been divvying up the nights receipts as the former had $1,000 in his hand as five armed-men entered the club and headed directly for the office. Once inside the quintet played a hot number with their .38s. No encore required.

Police were pretty quick to respond. When they entered the office, they found Grossman keeled over the desk, that grand tight in one fist a gun in the other. His eyes were glazing over but, not wanting to take any chances, a cop knocked the gun from his hand. Skale was blown off the desk and found floundering on the floor amidst $400 in small bills and an ever increasing puddle of his own blood.
"Who shot you?", a cop asked,
"[expletive of your choosing] that. I don't know. Get me out of here."
Grossman was questioned but either couldn't or wouldn't respond.

Both men were taken to the hospital where they died a short time later.

                                            Skale (l) and Grossman (r) prior to perforation.