Longtime Mafia leader Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania, sixty-four, died January 26, 1962, of an apparent heart attack at Capodichino Airport north of Naples, Italy.
Lucania was at the airport to meet movie producer Martin Gosch and discuss a Gosch script for a Mafia-related movie.
Gosch later suggested, without providing any evidence, that Lucania had dictated his life story to Gosch. Gosch and Richard Hammer authored a book, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, that was packaged as Lucania's memoirs. The book was released in 1975, after Gosch's death. The book's publisher, Little, Brown & Company, claimed in advertisements that Last Testament was based upon tape-recorded conversations with Lucania. The publisher later issued a correction, revealing that no such recordings were ever made. Little, Brown & Company followed up with a claim that a collection of Gosch's original notes - seen by no one connected with the project and allegedly burned by his widow after his death - was based upon thirty interviews of Lucania by the producer between 1959 and 1962. Over time, the story was altered to suggest that Gosch provided handwritten notes to Hammer or provided his own recorded dictation of his original notes to Hammer. It was later discovered that Last Testament contained factual errors on matters that would have been well known to Lucania and also was built upon quotations attributed to Lucania that were fabricated by Hammer. An FBI investigation of Gosch labeled the producer an untrustworthy opportunist trying to profit from his association with Lucania. FBI records reveal that Gosch told a representative of the FBI that his movie script, the only product of his interaction with Lucania, was a work of fiction. The Bureau dismissed the Gosch and Hammer book as a fraud, stating, "It is not believed that this book has any value to the FBI, or to anyone else for that matter." (Richard N. Warner's detailed analysis of the book was published in the April 2012 issue of Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement.)
United States Narcotics Bureau agents and Italian law enforcement had been trailing Lucania, known to many as "Lucky Luciano," believing that he was an organizer of an international narcotics smuggling ring. They were preparing to arrest him at the time of his death.
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|Rochester Democrat and Chronicle|
Lucania and other members of Masseria's organization betrayed their boss at the end of the underworld's 1930-31 Castellammarese War and set him up for assassination in spring 1931. Lucania took over the Masseria operation. Months later, he arranged the assassination of another Mafia boss of bosses, Salvatore Maranzano. With Lucania's backing, the U.S. Mafia discarded the old boss of bosses system of resolving inter-family disputes and installed a representative panel known as the Commission.
Lucania was convicted of compulsory prostitution in 1936. He testified in the trial and was forced to admit past crimes and lies told to authorities. He was sentenced to serve thirty to fifty years in prison. He was released from prison on a conditional executive commutation from Governor Thomas Dewey and deported from the U.S. to Italy in 1946. His release and deportation were arranged after a former member of the Office of Naval Intelligence vaguely claimed that the imprisoned Lucania rendered assistance to U.S. forces during World War II.
Wishing to be closer to his longtime home, his associates and his lucrative rackets, Lucania traveled back across the Atlantic and settled in Havana, Cuba, in autumn 1946. Pressure by U.S. agencies on the Cuban government succeeded in forcing him back to Italy March of 1947.
During his years in Italy, Lucania reportedly hoped to someday return to the U.S. His return occurred only after his death. His remains were transported by plane from Rome to New York City in February 1962. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in Queens, New York.
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