Showing posts with label Provenzano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Provenzano. Show all posts

05 July 2017

Hennessys capture Sicilian brigand in New Orleans

On this date in 1881: Cousins David and Michael Hennessy, members of the New Orleans detective (or "aides") force, capture fugitive Sicilian brigand Giuseppe Esposito near the St. Louis Cathedral in the Crescent City.

Esposito
Esposito, also known as Giuseppe Randazzo and as Vincenzo Rebello, had escaped Italian authorities while headed to trial for homicide and other crimes. In the 1870s, he crossed the Atlantic and settled briefly in New York City before moving on to New Orleans. Police and press believed the Mafia of Palermo assisted in his escape and flight from Sicily. Esposito became the recognized leader of the Sicilian underworld in New Orleans, settled down and started a family.

He was betrayed to Italian authorities by some of his New Orleans associates. A U.S. private detective firm was hired to locate him and bring him to justice. Private detectives of the Mooney and Boland Agency worked through the New Orleans Chief of Aides Thomas Boylan to arrange the capture.

Esposito's arrest was conducted very much like a kidnapping. The Hennessys caught him alone, grabbed him and threw him into a carriage, taking him off to a secret location. He was prevented from seeing any of his New Orleans family or friends. The following day, he was smuggled aboard a steamship that was already underway for New York City.

The circumstances of his arrest and his New York City efforts to avoid deportation to Italy became international news and the subjects of Congressional inquiries.

NY Evening Telegram
In a series of hearings before U.S. Commissioner Osborn in New York, the prisoner contested his identification as the brigand Esposito and claimed to have been a good citizen in New Orleans at the time that Esposito was committing crimes in Sicily. Witnesses - some of whom were later linked with the Mafia - came from New Orleans to support his story. The prisoner had difficulty in explaining his documented use of aliases. His alibi failed when Italy sent police officials to New York to identify the fugitive brigand.

Esposito's deportation was handled as suddenly as his arrest. Once the U.S. Commissioner was satisfied of his identity and before any legal appeals could be considered, Esposito was turned over to Italian authorities and placed on a ship for Europe. His wife and child were left behind in the U.S. (Esposito trusted New Orleans allies to care for his family. They failed to do so and took Esposito resources for their own benefit. Esposito later tried without luck to sue them from his Italian prison cell. His wife gave birth to a second child after his deportation. Both children were later placed in New Orleans orphanages.)

In his absence, the Crescent City's Sicilian underworld broke apart into warring factions - the competing Provenzano and Matranga organizations.

The Hennessys became instantly famous following the Esposito arrest (though the local police superintendent accused them of insubordination for acting without his approval). Their fame came at a terrible price. Within ten years of Esposito's capture, both of them were murdered. In each case, the killings remained officially unsolved but were widely believed performed by Sicilian gangsters.

David Hennessy
Mike Hennessy, who relocated to the Houston-Galveston area and started a private detective business there, was shot to death a short distance from his Houston home on Sept. 29, 1886. He was shot repeatedly from behind. One suspect, D.H. Melton, was arrested but later released for lack of evidence.

David Hennessy became police superintendent in New Orleans and actively fought the local Mafia. As he returned home from work on the evening of Oct. 15, 1890, he was attacked by a group of gunmen. He was knocked down from a distance by a shotgun blast of bird shot and then mortally wounded by higher-caliber slugs fired into his body at closer range. He died the next day. The assassination of the police superintendent resulted in the imprisonment of members and associates of the local Matranga Mafia and later to the Crescent City lynchings.

Read more about this subject in:
Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia
by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon

06 May 2017

127 years ago: Ambush in New Orleans

Six stevedores of New Orleans' Matranga and Locascio firm were heading home in a horse-drawn "spring wagon" after a late night unloading fruit from the steamship Foxhall. Tony Matranga, Bastiano Incardona, Anthony Locascio, Rocco Geraci, Salvatore Sunseri and Vincent Caruso all lived close together, and generally took the same route home from their work at the docks.
Daily Picayune, May 6, 1890 Daily Picayune, May 7, 1890
Their wagon reached the intersection of Claiborne Street and the Esplanade close to one o'clock in the morning, May 6, 1890.

There were flashes of light accompanied by the thunder of rapid gunshots from a cluster of trees nearby. Dozens of bullets crashed into the wagon. Matranga's left knee was completely shattered by a large caliber slug. (His leg was later amputated at the lower thigh.) Caruso suffered a smaller caliber gunshot wound to his right thigh and another to his right calf, which severed the nerve to his foot. A large slug tore a gaping wound just above Sunseri's hip.

Times-Democrat, May 7, 1890
Some of the Matranga men drew firearms and shot in the direction of the trees. The gunfight ended as suddenly as it began. The attacking gunmen ran off on Claiborne to Kerlerec Street and then toward the river.

When police arrived, it was immediately clear that the Provenzano and Matranga families - rival powers in Crescent City underworld rackets - were once again at war. Leading members of the Provenzano family and their known associates were gathered up and placed under arrest.

New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, who had only recently brokered a truce between the feuding Provenzano and Matranga families, took personal charge of the investigation. In a few months, his decision to become involved and the outcomes of Provenzano trials would cause him to be targeted for assassination by the Matranga Mafia.

Read more about the Provenzano-Matranga feud and the early history of the New Orleans Mafia in:

Deep Water:
Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia
by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon