Showing posts with label Thomas Hunt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas Hunt. Show all posts

20 June 2017

70 years ago: The end of 'Bugsy' Siegel

On this date in 1947, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was killed at the home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill, 810 North Linden Drive in Beverly Hills, California.

Siegel, a transplanted New York racketeer, was an organizer of west coast gambling rackets and developer of the Flamingo hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Siegel was known to be a close associate of Meyer Lansky and Mafia boss Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.

New York Post
Binghamton NY Press
Los Angeles Times
FBI Report, p. 1.
FBI Report, p. 4.
FBI Report, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times

Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle

Los Angeles Times


17 June 2017

Fruits, vegetables may be hazardous to your health

Police restrain John and Philip Scalise after they view the body of their murdered brother.
On this date in 1957 - Frank "Don Ciccio" Scalise, a top lieutenant (and former boss) of the Mafia organization that soon would become known as the Gambino Crime Family, was murdered at a Bronx produce shop. (The killing served as inspiration for a scene in the movie, The Godfather.)

New York Times
Scalise, a resident of 211 Kirby Street on City Island in the Bronx, stopped at Enrico Mazzare's produce shop, 2380 Arthur Avenue, in the afternoon. He spent ninety cents on peaches and lettuce and was putting change back in his pocket, when two gunmen appeared and opened fire on the Mafia leader.

Four slugs struck and instantly killed Scalise. He suffered gunshot wounds to neck, head and arm. The gunmen exited the store, jumped into a double-parked black sedan and sped away.

Mazzare witnessed the killing but provided little useful information to the police: "Suddenly two men brushed by me. I heard some shots, and I looked around. These two men were hurrying by me again. They weren't wearing coats and they had their sleeves rolled up. They got into an old black sedan and went up Arthur Avenue." Mazzare was taken into custody as a material witness.

Scalise's blue 1956 Cadillac was parked a couple of blocks away on Crescent Avenue, near the candy store run by his brother Jack. Police brought Jack and Philip Scalise to Mazzare's shop to identify their brother's remains. (Jack left the country for Italy a short time later. He was spotted on a visit to the U.S. in 1959 and quickly brought before a grand jury investigating the 1957 murder.)

Later in the day, Bronx District Attorney Daniel V. Sullivan told the press, "Thus far this appears to be definitely a gangland killing. [Scalise] was regarded as a big shot and kingpin in this area."

Frank Scalise and Charlie Luciano.
Federal authorities suspected Scalise of involvement in an international narcotics smuggling operation. Scalise had been sought by police for questioning related to several murders. Investigators knew that Scalise was a lieutenant to crime boss Albert Anastasia and a close friend of exiled Mafia leader Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.



Sources:

  • "Underworld figure murdered in Bronx," New York Times, June 18, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Gunmen end Scalise's life," Albany NY Times-Union (Associated Press), June 18, 1957, p. 5.
  • "Scalise slain; pal of Costello and Luciano, Albany NY Knickerbocker News (Associated Press), June 18, 1957, p. 7.
  • "Scalise bank box divulges no clue," New York Times, June 19, 1957, p. 40.
  • "Scalise data checked," New York Times, June 20, 1957, p. 21.
  • "Hint Scalise doubled as 'loan shark,'" New York Post, June 20, 1957, p. 40.
  • "Police photograph funeral of Scalise," New York Times, June 23, 1957, p. 58.
  • "Bronx' Scalise gets gangland sendoff," New York Post, June 23, 1957, p. 2.
  • Katz, Leonard, "Bail cut, witness to Scalise murder is let out of jail," New York Post, July 9, 1957, p. 21.
  • Katz, Leonard, and Abel Silver, "Scalise: Little Italy's fourth unsolved murder," New York Post, July 28, 1957, p. 12.
  • "Scalise brother flies in, seized," New York World Telegram and Sun (Brooklyn), April 4, 1959, p. 1.
  • "Scalise brother held," New York Times, April 5, 1959, p. 34.
  • "Scalise inquiry begins," New York Times, April 7, 1959, p. 19.
  • "Scalise in Paris," Kingston NY Daily Freeman (Associated Press), April 28, 1959, p. 5.

14 June 2017

San Francisco boss succumbs to blood disorder

On this date in 1937 - Francesco Lanza, Mafia boss of the San Francisco area, died of natural causes. His son Mariano Vincenzo (James) was deemed too young to succeed him, and the role of boss was passed to Tony Lima.


Originally from Castelbuono, Sicily, where the family surname was Proetto, Francesco Lanza entered the U.S. through New York in the early 1900s. His family, including two-year-old Mariano Vincenzo, joined him in New York in February of 1905.

The family made its way west during the World War I years and settled in San Francisco by the start of Prohibition. A low-profile Mafioso, Lanza ran produce-related businesses and became a legal supplier of grapes to illegal wine-making operations across the U.S. He remained far in the background while more conspicuous underworld figures perished in Prohibition Era gangland conflicts.

In the 1920s, he became part-owner of a vineyard in Escondido, California. Nick Licata, a Mafia leader from the Los Angeles area, later partnered in that business. California Mafioso Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno recalled Lanza as San Francisco's regional Mafia boss and partner with Giuseppe Alioto in a restaurant at the city's Fisherman's Wharf.

Lanza died at the age of 64. Historian Christina Ann-Marie DiEdoardo noted that the apparent cause of Francesco Lanza's death was aplastic anemia, a blood disease that could have been treated through transfusions. "Ironically," DiEdoardo wrote, "this made him the only boss around during the Booze Wars who died because his blood stayed in his body..."

A couple of decades after Francesco Lanza's death, his son James became boss of the San Francisco crime family. Unnoticed by the early 1950s Kefauver Committee, his name came up during the McClellan Committee hearings later in that decade. It was believed that James Lanza traveled east for the 1957 Apalachin convention as representative of San Francisco but managed to escape the notice of authorities. His presence in New York City and Scranton, Pennsylvania, hotels at the time of the convention was noted. The FBI began watching Lanza in the late 1950s and conducted electronic eavesdropping on his operations in the early 1960s. A widely publicized U.S. Justice Department listing of U.S. Mafia leaders in the late 1960s named James Lanza as the boss of the San Francisco crime family. James Lanza died in February 2006 at the age of 104.

Sources:

  • "Mafia's leadership list updated by Justice Dept.," Palm Springs CA Desert Sun, Aug. 22, 1969, p. 7
  • "San Francisco deaths," Oakland CA Tribune, June 15, 1937, p. 35. 
  • California Death Index, Ancestry.com.
  • Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno, New York: Times Books, 1981, p. 137.
  • DiEdoardo, Christina Ann-Marie, Lanza's Mob: The Mafia and San Francisco, Santa Barbara CA: Praeger, 2016.
  • Hart, Arthur V., "Meeting of hoodlums, Apalachin, New York, November 14, 1957," FBI report, file no. 63-4426-171, NARA no. 124-90103-10092, July 8, 1958, p. 103.
  • Investigation of Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Hearings Before the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Part 32, 85th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1958.
  • Mudd, Herbert K. Jr., "La Cosa Nostra San Francisco Division," FBI report, Aug. 23, 1968, file no. 92-6054-2397, NARA no. 124-10297-10131, p. Cover-C.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Sicilia, departed Palermo on January 26, 1905, arrived New York City on Feb. 10, 1905.
  • Polk's Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory 1934, San Francisco: R.L. Polk & Co. of California, 1934, p. 635.
  • SAC San Diego, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI airtel, file no. 92-6054-1907, NARA no. 124-10222-10055, March 13, 1967, p. 4.
  • SAC San Francisco, "Mariano Vincenzo Lanza, aka James Joseph Lanza," FBI memorandum, file no. 92-3432-87, NARA no. 124-10222-10385, Dec. 29, 1960.
  • Social Security Death Index, Ancestry.com.
Read more about the Lanzas of San Francisco in:

11 June 2017

Vendetta ends life of 'Black Sam' Todaro

Son, wife, nephew of murdered 'Big Joe' Lonardo
participate in the slaying of Cleveland Mafia boss

Salvatore Todaro
On this date in 1929 - Cleveland Mafia boss Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro was murdered in front of a Porrello corn sugar warehouse at Woodland Avenue and 110th Street. Though recent killings in the region had resulted from underworld rivalries, authorities determined that the assassination of Todaro was an act of personal vengeance.

Todaro took power in the local crime family after the October 1927 murders of boss Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo and his brother John. His position was secured with the murder of Lonardo loyalist Lorenzo Lupo the following spring. The Lonardo faction, closely aligned with the national Mafia leadership of boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila, was replaced by an administration of Todaro and the Porrello brothers. The new regime was supported by rising New York Mafia boss Giuseppe Masseria. (Masseria had relatives in Cleveland.)

The murdered Lonardos were given a lavish gangland funeral - reports said their caskets were silver. But Lonardo kin almost immediately began experiencing money problems.

Concetta Lonardo and Fannie Lanzone Lonardo both claimed to be the widows of Joseph Lonardo. Though never formally married, Concetta had lived with Lonardo for many years until their 1925 separation and she was mother to their five children. Fannie was with Lonardo in the last few years of his life and claimed that the two had been married in Sandusky, Ohio on September 8, 1925. A court battle between the widows tied up the family fortune - cash and property estimated to be worth $200,000. Lacking financial resources, Concetta faced the loss of the family home at 13700 Larchmere Boulevard. She reached out for support from the new underworld boss.

Concetta Lonardo
(Cleveland Public Library)
Early in 1929, she began making regular visits to the front of the Porrello corn sugar warehouse - the Mafia leadership's local headquarters. Todaro dutifully stepped out of the building to meet her at her car, a maroon and black Chrysler Model 75 coupe, and provide her with some money. (Cleveland detectives considered the possibility that these were blackmail payments extracted by the Lonardo family under threat of cooperating in the investigation of the Joseph and John Lonardo murders.) Concetta was generally driven to the meetings by her oldest child, eighteen-year-old Angelo.

On the afternoon of June 11, Concetta's twenty-two-year-old nephew Dominic Sospirato came along for the  ride to see Todaro. As usual, Todaro emerged from the warehouse to greet his former boss's widow. As he crossed the sidewalk toward the waiting car, gunshots were heard and "Black Sam" collapsed. He had been shot five times. The Chrysler sped away.

Todaro's brother-in-law, Angelo Sciara, witnessed the shooting and gave authorities the names of the occupants of the car. Concetta was later taken into custody as a material witness, though she claimed to know nothing of the fatal shooting of Todaro. Angelo Lonardo and Dominic Sospirato could not be located. Concetta and the two young men were all indicted for first-degree murder.

“Black Sam” Todaro's funeral featured an expensive bronze and silver casket and abundant floral tributes, but restrictions on the use of marching bands and the route of the cortege were put in place by local Safety Director Edwin Barry.

On November 12, Concetta went to trial alone for the Todaro murder. The prosecutor argued that she must have known that occupants of her automobile planned to shoot and kill Todaro. The state's case included a jury visit to the Cleveland corner where Todaro was killed. After a deliberation of more than six hours, the jury acquitted her.

Angelo Lonardo in later years.
The not-guilty verdict seems to have encouraged Angelo Lonardo and Dominic Sospirato to come out of hiding and take their own chances with a jury. They surrendered to authorities in February 1930, pleading not guilty to the murder charges against them. They were convicted of second-degree murder on June 11, 1930 (the anniversary of Todaro's killing). They were immediately sentenced by Judge James B. Ruhl to life terms at the Ohio State Penitentiary. A successful legal appeal gave them a second chance, and they were both acquitted at retrial in November 1931.

Authorities briefly considered Lonardo a suspect when Rosario and Raymond Porrello and their bodyguard Dominic Mangino were murdered in February 1932.

Many years later, the seventy-seven-year-old Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo, by then a former Cleveland Mafia underboss who had become a government informant, testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Early in his testimony, he matter-of-factly stated, "...My father was murdered by Salvatore Todaro in 1927. In revenge, my cousin, Dominic Sospirato, and I killed Todaro."

Sources:
  • Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  • Neilsen, Sgt. William T., Criminal Complaint, Cleveland Police, June 11, 1929.
  • Porrello, Rick, The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia: Corn Sugar and Blood, Fort Lee NJ: Barricade, 1995.
  • Reports of the Detective Bureau, Police Department of the City of Cleveland, Oct. 13-16, 1927; June 13, 1929; July 2, 1929.
  • United States Census of 1930.
  • United States Census of 1940.
  • Zicarelli, Det., Information report to Inspector of Detectives Cornelius W. Cody, Oct. 16, 1927, Nov. 16, 1929.
  • "2 brothers murdered in bootleg war," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 14, 1927.
  • "Hits new lead in murder of two Lonardos," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 15, 1927.
  • "Police seek gunman in yellow car," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 1, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Seize gunman as suspect in Lupo murder," Cleveland Press, June 1, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Police hunt Lonardo, Jr. as slayer," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 12, 1929.
  • "Lonardo's son indicted for feud killing," Cleveland Press, June 12, 1929.
  • "Bootleggers in Cleveland open warfare," Mansfield OH News-Journal, June 12, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Mrs. Lonardo indicted with son in murder," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 13, 1929.
  • "Detectives see blackmail sign as murder clue," Akron OH Beacon Journal, June 13, 1929, p. 20.
  • "Slain 'baron' given gangster funeral," Cleveland Press, June 15, 1929.
  • "Royal burial," Wilmington OH News-Journal, June 17, 1929, p. 4.
  • "Mrs. Lonardo faces trial for murder," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Nov. 12, 1929, p. 29.
  • "Try woman for gang murder in Cleveland," Zanesville OH Times Recorder, Nov. 13, 1929, p. 3.
  • "Gang murder trial," Zanesville OH Times Recorder, Nov. 14, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Acquit Mrs. Lonardo of Todaro's murder," Mansfield OH News-Journal, Nov. 15, 1929, p. 19.
  • "Fails to get share of Lonardo estate," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Feb. 24, 1930, p. 23.
  • "Cleveland racketeers are under pen life sentence," Chillicothe OH Gazette, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Cleveland men found guilty," Mansfield OH News-Journal, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Extermination of gang about complete today," Piqua OH Daily Call, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "United States Courts," Cincinnati Enquirer, July 19, 1930, p. 20.
  • "Marriage here basis of suit," Sandusky OH Register, July 22, 1930, p. 12.
  • Kenen, I.L., "Corn sugar racket has taken seven lives in Cleveland with five marked for death; once mighty Porello clan is tottering," Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 4, 1930, p. 13.
  • "Acquitted at retrial," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Nov. 25, 1931, p. 9.
  • "Free two convicts," East Liverpool OH Evening Review, Nov. 25, 1931, p. 11.
  • "Jail Lonardo in probe of feud killings," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb. 28, 1932.
  • Koziol, Ronald, "Jailed mob chief agrees to testify in casino trial," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29, 1985, p. 10.
  • Culnan, Dennis, "Former boss calls Mafia disrespectful," Cincinnati Enquirer, April 16, 1988, p. A4.
Read more about Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro, Prohibition Era underworld murders and the Mafia organizations of the region in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume I - to 1937 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

10 June 2017

Youngstown racketeer Farah killed at his home


On this date in 1961: Mike Farah, 56, was practicing his golf swing outside his Warren, Ohio, home, when gunshots from a blue Chevrolet cut him down. 

Mike Farah
Two or three shotgun blasts were fired. Farah's hip was badly damaged and some of the fired shot penetrated the side of his abdomen. His 16-year-old daughter Grace witnessed the shooting. She said the Chevrolet pulled up to the curb, about 30 feet from where her father was standing. Shotguns were fired from the rear seat of the vehicle, and it then sped away around a corner toward Youngstown, Ohio.

Farah dragged himself into the house, and an ambulance was summoned to take him to the nearby hospital. About two hours later, Farah died of internal bleeding.

Police found the blue Chevrolet abandoned just a half mile from Farah's home. They determined that it had been stolen from Canton three months earlier.

Mike Farah was known to authorities as the former part-owner (with his brother John and Tony Delsanter) of the Jungle Inn gambling casino, in Liberty township, just outside of Youngstown. James "Jack White" Licavoli, Cleveland-based Mafia leader, also appeared to hold an interest in the establishment. (Licavoli was known to have partnered with Mike Farah in the Girard Novelty Company in Niles and the Triangle Novelty Company in Warren.) The casino, opened following the repeal of Prohibition, proved itself impervious to law enforcement until the late 1940s, when the Ohio governor sent in agents from the state liquor control board. The Jungle Inn was closed after a raid in 1949.

Authorities in the region believed that Farah continued to be involved in racketeering, though he insisted that he was retired. He was charged with assault with intent to kill following an attack against Trumbull County Republican chairman and Board of Elections member Jean Blair in June 1959. In that case, he was convicted on a lesser charge of assault and battery and was sentenced to four months in county jail, a $200 fine and court costs. He did not begin serving that sentence until his the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Farah served two and a half months of the sentence before being released on March 31, 1961. Common Pleas Judge G.H. Birrell granted Farah's freedom in consideration of his good behavior while behind bars.

The Jungle Inn
Before "retirement," Farah had been imprisoned on racketeering charges (later pardoned by the governor) and for operating a still.

The Farah murder was counted as the fourth in a series of shootings in Mahoning and Trumbull counties dating back just over a year. The first was Joseph "Sandy" Naples, killed along with his girlfriend on the front porch of her home. Joseph Romano was struck by a shotgun blast but survived. He said he could not identify the shooters. "Big John" Schuller was shotgunned to death while fixing a tire on his car at the side of the highway. Authorities determined that the tire had been rigged to go flat. Additional murders of underworld figures would follow in the very near future.

Rumors indicated that the shootings were part of an effort by Cleveland mobsters to take direct control of gambling operations in the Youngstown area.

Sources:
  • "Motion filed by Mike Farah for new trial," Dover OH Daily Reporter, Jan. 6, 1961, p. 12.
  • "Warren rackets figure released," Salem OH News, April 1, 1961, p. 8.
  • "Around Ohio," Akron OH Beacon Journal, April 1, 1961, p. 19.
  • "Ohio mobster slain in own front yard," Pittsburgh Press, June 11, 1961, p. 7.
  • "Racketeer Farah slain in Warren," Akron OH Beacon Journal, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Warren racket boss Mike Farah slain by gunmen," Salem OH News, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Youngstown racketeer fatally shot," Chillicothe OH Gazette, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Clues sought in murder of rackets boss," Sandusky OH Register, June 12, 1961, p. 7.
  • "Purple gang member quizzed on slayings," Sandusky OH Register, Aug. 1, 1961, p. 1.
Read more about Mike Farah, the Jungle Inn and Youngstown racketeering in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume II - From 1938 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

02 June 2017

'Al Capone's Beer Wars' set for June 6 release

http://amzn.to/2s2p8w8
John J. Binder's latest book, Al Capone's Beer Wars, is scheduled for release in hardcover and Kindle and Nook e-book formats on Tuesday, June 6. It can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Although much has been written about Al Capone, until now there has been no complete history of organized crime in Chicago during Prohibition. This book, based on twenty-five years of research, covers the entire era, 1920 to 1933. Binder, an authority on Chicago organized crime history, discusses the bootlegging gangs in the region and examines other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor racketeering and narcotics.

Binder focuses on how the Capone gang — one of twelve major bootlegging mobs as Prohibition began — gained a virtual monopoly over organized crime in northern Illinois and beyond. Binder also describes the fight by federal and local authorities, as well as citizens' groups, against organized crime. In the process, he refutes numerous misconceptions related to the Capone gang, other organizations, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and gangland killings.



Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago during Prohibition by John J. Binder.

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.

29 May 2017

Chicago's Genna is laid to rest


On this date in 1925, Chicago Mafia leader Angelo Genna was laid to rest at Mount Carmel Cemetery in the village of Hillside, west of the Windy City. Observers said his funeral was as spectacular as that of his gangland rival Dean O'Banion half a year earlier.

The twenty-seven-year-old Genna was shot to death earlier in the week while driving in his roadster. Authorities determined that four shotguns fired at him from an automobile that pulled alongside of his. Genna's car smashed into a lamppost at Hudson and Ogden Avenues. Genna was taken to the hospital, where he died a few hours later without providing any statement about his killers. Family members also had no useful information for police and insisted that Genna, who had been involved in gangland conflicts for years and was once tried for murder, hadn't an enemy in the world.

Decatur Herald May 30, 1925
 Catholic officials denied Genna a church funeral, but a priest from Holy Guardian Church visited to pray with family members. A wake was held at the home of Genna's in-laws, the Spingolas, at Taylor Street near Halsted. (The Spingolas had become Genna's in-laws just a few months earlier at a lavish wedding that reportedly featured a one-ton wedding cake.)

As thousands, including judges, politicians and federal officials, visited the Spingola home to pay their respects, the home and the sidewalk outside became filled with enormous floral tributes. Chicago Tribune reporter Genevieve Forbes Herrick noted that notorious bootlegger Johnny Torrio, then in prison, sent a large vase constructed of pink and white carnations. Herrick went on to describe additional offerings:

There were bachelor buttons from the "Boys from Cicero;" a pile of blood red roses from the widow; a heart of pinks from the boys at Spingola's garage; peonies from "Diamond Joe" Esposito; lilies from Al Capone; a mass of flowers from "Samoots" Amatuna; more flowers from the Genna boys, still more from the Spingolas, and so until they spilled out of 31 limousines on the way to the cemetery.

Another source indicated that Capone's impressive eight-foot-tall floral piece was not his only contribution. The gang boss was said to have helped arrange the funeral.

Herrick noted that Genna's wounds were carefully concealed within the open casket at the wake. "The rich folds of the purple robe swathing his body hid the dozen or so bullet wounds, ugly things, which four enemies had poured into him...," she wrote.

At 10 o'clock, Friday morning, May 29, pall bearers from the Unione Siciliana carefully moved Genna's heavy $6,000 casket - said to be bronze with silver trim and the occupant's name written in gold - to the waiting hearse. A published report estimated the weight of the casket at 1,200 pounds.

A band played as the funeral cortege - a mile and a half long - made its way to the cemetery. An estimated 20,000 people lined the narrow streets of Chicago's Little Italy to view the spectacle. Genna's remains were interred in a $10,000 vault a short distance from O'Banion's gravesite.

Sources:
  • Angelo Genna death certificate, Cook County, State of Illinois, reg. no. 29944, filed Nov. 19, 1925, original reg. no. 1006, filed May 28, 1925.
  • Herrick, Genevieve Forbes, "New rich rum chief slain by gunmen in car," Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1925, p. 2.
  • "Feudist's death may renew war," Decatur IL Herald, May 27, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Splendor will surround Genna funeral today," Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1925, p. 3.
  • Herrick, Genevieve Forbes, "Chicago ne'er had funeral like Genna's," Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Funeral pomp awes Chicago's 'Little Italy,'" Decatur IL Herald, May 30, 1925, p. 1.
Link:

16 May 2017

88 years ago: Capone arrested in Philadelphia



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.

Authorities determined that Capone and Rio were returning from an underworld peace conference at Atlantic City, New Jersey, when automobile problems caused them to miss the afternoon Broad Way Limited train at the North Philadelphia Station. 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. 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.
 

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

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

13 May 2017

95 years ago: End of DiGiorgio

Feared California Mafia leader killed in Chicago barber chair

Chicago Tribune
May 14, 1922

May 13, 1922: Vito DiGiorgio, the leader of southern California's Mafia, was shot to death in a barbershop at Oak and Larrabee Streets in Chicago.

DiGiorgio, forty-three, was returning from a Mafia meeting in Buffalo, New York, and stopped off in Chicago for a couple of days. He, thirty-five-year-old James Cascio and an unidentified third man visited the barbershop of Salvatore DiBella and John Loiacono, 956 Larrabee Street. The location was in the center of a Sicilian neighborhood in Chicago's Near North End. DiGiorgio sat down in a barber's chair, while Cascio and the third man busied themselves at a pool table in a rear room.

Just a few minutes later, two gunmen burst into the shop and, without saying a word, shot DiGiorgio in the side of his head and put three bullets into Cascio. Both victims died of their wounds. The gunmen, accompanied by the man who entered the shop with DiGiorgio and Cascio, fled through a rear door.

Police found papers in DiGiorgio's pockets that linked him to an address on Dauphine Street in New Orleans. DiGiorgio had lived in New Orleans for years, managed a grocery business and earned his underworld reputation there before relocating to southern California. He may have returned to his home in the Crescent City after being wounded in an attempt on his life at Los Angeles in the summer of 1921.

New Orleans Daily
Picayune, June 12, 1908

Cascio was said to have Buffalo and New Orleans addresses.

DiGiorgio (image at left) appears to have been closely aligned with New York-based Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila and may have secured his position as southern California boss through D'Aquila's insistence. (D'Aquila inserted his personal representatives into crime family leadership positions in a number of U.S. cities, including Boston and Philadelphia.)

At the time, D'Aquila was attempting to consolidate power by moving against supporters of the former Giuseppe Morello regime in New York and elsewhere. A Los Angeles-area Mafia faction led by Jack Dragna and Salvatore Streva had connections with Morello.

Sources:
  • "The Serio explosion a Black Hand deed," New Orleans Daily Picayune, June 12, 1908, p. 1.
  • "Shot down by mystery assailants," Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1921, p. 13.
  • "Two men killed in Black Hand feud," Logansport IN Pharos-Tribune, May 13, 1922, p. 8.
  • "Double murder in 'Little Italy' baffles police," Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1922, p. 18.
  • Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  • Orleans Parish, Louisiana, Death Records Index, Ancestry.com.
  • United States Census of 1920, Louisiana, Orleans County, Precinct 2, Ward 8, Enumeration District 130.
  • Vito DiGiorgio World War I draft registration card, serial no. 1117, order no. A1450, Div. no. 7, New Orleans, Louisiana, Sept. 12, 1918.
See also:
http://amzn.to/2q08aOg

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


03 May 2017

Michigan mobster Joe Tocco succumbs

May 3, 1938: At four o'clock in the afternoon, Detroit Mafioso Joe Tocco died at Wyandotte General Hospital of gunshot wounds suffered the previous night.

Tocco, a native of Terrasini, Sicily, was regarded as a leader of the Detroit area's West Side gang and may have succeeded as boss of that organization following the February 7, 1931, murder of boss Cesare "Chester" LaMare. Authorities knew him as the "beer baron of Wyandotte" and as organizer of rackets in downriver communities. He had been arrested eleven times since 1915 - on charges including murder, arson, bootlegging and income tax evasion - but had never been convicted. At the time of his murder, he was the proprietor of the Kitty Kat Beer Garden, 635 South Bayside Avenue. About six months earlier, he shut down a gambling establishment.

At nine-thirty in the evening of May 2, Tocco parked his scarlet red sedan on Antoine Street and emerged. Shots were immediately fired at him from a shotgun and a revolver. Tocco ran from the car to the rear door of 215 Antoine Street, home of his longtime friend James Palazzola. As he ran, the guns continued to fire.

The gunfire halted as Tocco stumbled through the doorway into Palazzola's kitchen. Tony Bozzo, a neighbor of Palazzola, took Tocco to the hospital. Police interviewed Tocco in his hospital room, but the Mafioso claimed he was unable to identify the shooters.

Early in the morning of May 3, Tocco received a blood transfusion from his brother Peter and went into surgery. Doctors tended to six bullet wounds in the gang boss's back. Four slugs were removed. The damage to Tocco's internal organs was too great to repair. Tocco died of internal hemorrhage that afternoon.

Detroit Free Press, May 4, 1938.
An hour after his death, some children, playing in a field about 100 yards from the scene of the Tocco shooting, found a sawed-off shotgun in a ditch. Police determined that the gun had been fired twice and then jammed. It contained four unfired shells.

The authorities considered the possibility that Tocco was killed as the result of a romantic affair. While he was married and had children, Tocco was reportedly spending a good deal of his time with Mrs. Gina Rossi, wife of a former Tocco business partner. There was also suspicion that out-of-town gunmen had been brought in to murder Tocco. The previous Friday, two men asked Wyandotte police officers for directions to Tocco's beer garden establishment.

It appears that Tocco may have been eliminated in order to cement a new East-West alliance in the Detroit underworld. In later years, the Detroit Mafia, commanded by Joseph Zerilli, William "Black Bill" Tocco (said to be no relation of Joe Tocco) and Angelo Meli, was referred to by such nicknames as "The Partnership" and "The Combination."

Sources:

  • "LaMare, lord of West Side, assassinated," Escanaba MI Daily Press, Feb. 8, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Police arm to trap steel-clad gangster," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 11, 1931, p. 2.
  • "Tocco, Sciacca freed on bail," Detroit Free Press, Dec. 11, 1931, p. 8.
  • "Blasts wreck Tocco's home," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 22, 1932, p. 1.
  • "Police discover evidence of arson in debris of bootleg king's abode," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 23, 1932, p. 13.
  • "Ex-run chief shot in gang war outbreak," Port Huron MI Times Herald, May 3, 1938, p. 1.
  • "Two men and a woman sought in Tocco slaying," Detroit Free Press, May 4, 1938, p. 1.
  • "Joe Tocco, ex-beer baron, dies with lips sealed on identity of slayer," Lansing MI State Journal, May 4, 1938, p. 1.
  • "Detroit tavern keeper killed," Escanaba MI Daily Press, May 4, 1938, p. 2.
  • "Tocco's love affairs probed as police question relatives," Detroit Free Press, May 5, 1938, p. 1.
  • Michigan Deaths and Burials Index, Ancestry.com.


Additional information on Prohibition Era Detroit and its involvement in the U.S. Mafia's Castellammarese War can be found in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Vol. 1 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona 

30 April 2017

Mafia boss leads protests at FBI headquarters

New York Times, May 2, 1970.
On April 30, 1970, Mafia boss Joseph Colombo responded to the arrest of his son, Joseph Jr., by organizing protest marches around the FBI headquarters in New York City.

A meeting to set up the march reportedly occurred within a half-hour of the 4:30 p.m. arrest. Just two hours after the arrest, about 20 people assembled outside the FBI offices at Sixty-Ninth Street and Third Avenue. Colombo, his wife and another son joined the protesters at 7 p.m.

The following day, the protest picket continued, swelling to several hundred marchers. Colombo said the demonstration was to call attention to anti-Italian discrimination and harassment by the FBI. Signs carried by the marchers objected to the fact that federal action against organized criminals focused on Italian-Americans.

At the time, Joseph Colombo Sr. was under indictment for tax evasion and lying to a state agency to obtain a real estate license. He had been installed as leader of the Brooklyn-based Profaci Crime Family when Profaci successor Joe Magliocco was forced to resign by the Mafia Commission.

Federal officials suggested that the Commission would not be happy with Colombo's attention-getting demonstrations.

Associated Press photo. Colombo, in suit, marches in anti-FBI demonstration.
Joseph Colombo Jr. was charged with extortion against a coin collecting business and with conspiracy to melt a half million dollars' worth of silver coins and sell the silver in higher value ingots. Press attention to his father's protest movement caused a mistrial in this case on Dec. 1, 1970. Colombo Jr. was acquitted by a jury in February 1971.

Over time, the elder Colombo's protests against federal law enforcement became a nationwide movement known as the Italian-American Civil Rights League. (There is some evidence that the league itself became a form of underworld racket. In June 1971, Colombo visited the Buffalo, New York, area and was said to be offering local Mafia bosses a $50,000 payment to permit his establishment of a league branch in Western New York.)

Colombo organized two league-related Italian Unity Day rallies at New York City's Columbus Circle. He was shot three times, once in the head, at the second rally in 1971. The hit (occurring two weeks after his visit to Buffalo) reportedly was ordered by other Mafia bosses. Colombo was left almost entirely paralyzed by the shooting. He lingered for years at the family estate in Blooming Grove, Orange County, New York, until his death in May 1978. The immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest, but doctors linked his passing with the gunshot wounds suffered seven years earlier.

In 2016, Colombo's son Anthony (author of Colombo: The Unsolved Murder) suggested that a conspiracy of federal and local law enforcement officials may have been responsible for the assassination of his father. Anthony Colombo said he was certain that Mafia bosses were not involved.

Sources:
  • Conover, Nelson J., "Joseph Anthony Colombo," FBI report, file no. 92-5509-137, NARA no. 124-90156-10004, March 3, 1969.
  • "Reputed boss faces tax count," Poughkeepsie NY Journal, March 25, 1970, p. 24.
  • Whitney, Craig R., "Italians picket F.B.I. office here," New York Times, May 2, 1970, p. 35.
  • "Colombo acquitted in conspiracy case," New York Times, Feb. 27, 1971, p. 1.
  • "Public relations: A night for Colombo," TIME, April 5, 1971.
  • Gage, Nicholas, "Colombo: The new look in the Mafia," New York Times, May 3, 1971, p. 1.
  • Farrell, William E., "Colombo shot, gunman slain at Columbus Circle rally site," New York Times, June 29, 1971, p. 1.
  • Sibley, John, "Hospital emergency room a mixture of chaos and efficiency after shooting," New York Times, June 29, 1971. 
  • "The Nation: The capo who went public," TIME, July 12, 1971.
  • "Joseph A. Colombo Sr., 54, paralyzed in shooting at 1971 rally, dies," New York Times, May 24, 1978, p. 29.
  • Raab, Selwyn, Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006.
  • Colombo, Anthony, "Did the FBI kill my father?" Huffington Post, Feb. 9, 2016, updated Feb. 9, 2017.
Read more about Joseph Colombo, including his involvement in the Western New York Mafia factional struggle: 


25 April 2017

Old 'Black Hand' lie finds a new teller

I figured I would give Stephan Talty's new book, The Black Hand, a try. Any book that gets a movie deal involving Leonardo DiCaprio before it even has been released must be good, right?

After many years of research into the Black Hand, Joseph Petrosino, the NYPD Italian Squad and the early Mafia, I have some familiarity with the subject matter. I acquired the Kindle version as it was released this morning. (Fourteen-ninety-nine?! For a stream of electrons? Are you KIDDING me?) I quickly looked it over. I noted that it has an index, a bibliography and some endnotes - items important to those of us who do research.

I set to reading it, but I didn't get very far before I found something troubling. Chapter 1 begins with a description of what Talty claims was the first U.S. murder performed by a Sicilian "Black Hand Society." This was the killing of Francisco (Talty spelled the name Fransisco) Domingo on January 3, 1855.

According to Talty, the victim was found dead of multiple stab wounds - more than a dozen in all, plus another one across his throat from ear to ear - near the Mississippi River a short distance from New Orleans. Domingo apparently had been dead awhile, as Talty notes the blood on the neck wound was "caking thickly in the heat." (Must have been a particularly warm January in New Orleans.) The waters of the river, Talty says, were just a few feet from the corpse's "out-flung hand."

This is intended to show us that an organized "Black Hand Society" (Talty often refers to it as "The Society") was already extorting payments and murdering uncompliant targets in America at that time.

In the book's endnotes, Talty shares the blame for this tale with historian Michael L. Kurtz. Talty correctly points to Kurtz. That historian started off a 1983 article in the Louisiana History journal with precisely the same January 3, 1855, murder story and almost precisely the same wording (even the same misspelling of Francisco). Kurtz wrote that Domingo had been stabbed "over a dozen times, and his throat was slit from ear to ear."

In that article, Kurtz indicated that the details of the Black Hand murder of Domingo came from a couple of sources. One was the January 4, 1855, issue of the New Orleans True Delta newspaper and the other was (insert ominous music here) the book Brothers in Blood by David Leon Chandler.

I should mention that Chandler is someone to whom I owe an odd sort of debt. If his 1975 book had not contained so many obvious fabrications, I probably never would have chosen to spend so much of my time and resources digging up and writing about TRUE crime history (thereby avoiding the poverty and obscurity I now cherish).

Kurtz's citation of Chandler was correct. Brothers in Blood did report an elaborate story relating to the Domingo killing. Chandler claimed that Domingo, a truck farmer, was stabbed eighteen times (Eighteen! proving that when Chandler concocted a story, he went all in) and was also slashed across the throat (the "ear to ear" thing was added by Kurtz) before being dumped at the New Orleans levee. The murder of Domingo, according to Chandler, was never solved.

Chandler insisted that Domingo was identified as a Sicilian despite his Spanish-sounding surname. That's strange but very convenient, considering the whole Sicilian Black Hand theme he was about to explore.

The author went on to state that Domingo's widow provided authorities with samples of extortion letters her husband had received. These were signed, Chandler said, by hand prints in black ink. So, there we have the appearance of the dreaded Black Hand that so excited Stephan Talty that he led off his first chapter with this incident.

However, even Chandler, who elsewhere delivered his misinformation with great conviction, was somewhat hesitant to connect the Domingo killing with a Sicilian criminal organization. He noted that Black Handers were not always organized and not always Sicilian or even Italian. He also explained in a footnote that the ethnic backgrounds of the victim and the killer in this case were uncertain.

Chandler reported that the details of his story came from the January 4, 1855, issue of the New Orleans True Delta newspaper.

The fact that Chandler said these things caused me to doubt them. It didn't take long to find out the truth of the Domingo killing. We will simply have to wonder why Kurtz and Talty repeated the Chandler tale (and imagined they would get away with it).

Daily Picayune of June 24, 1855, thought the case was solved.

I quickly found articles on the killing in the New Orleans Picayune, New Orleans Bee and New Orleans Daily Delta. These articles were entirely in agreement that Francisco Domingo was fatally stabbed at about five-thirty in the afternoon of Thursday, January 4, 1855 - not Jan. 3. Domingo and a man named Guillermo Ballerio (or something spelled reasonably close to "Ballerio"), both fishermen (neither farmed trucks or anything else), had an argument during supper inside a home they shared on Marigny Street with a number of other fishermen. They decided to settle it like gentlemen. When Ballerio quickly found himself at a disadvantage in the fisticuffs, he opted to settle it like something other than a gentleman. He pulled a knife and plunged it into Domingo's side.

Just once. Not more than a dozen times or eighteen times. And just in the side. Not across the throat.

Domingo was never found dead by the side of the Mississippi with his blood baking in the (January) heat. He was, in fact, taken to Charity Hospital. Doctors could do little more than keep him comfortable and await the inevitable. Domingo died at the hospital the following day.

The newspaper accounts mention nothing about extortion, nothing about Domingo's wife, nothing about an inky Black Hand and nothing about Sicily. And it turns out they had good reasons for these omissions.

The case Chandler said was never solved, well, it actually was solved and almost immediately. Ballerio was arrested. An inquest at the end of the month found that he had caused the death of Domingo by penetrating Domingo's lung with a knife. Ballerio was charged before Recorder Seuzeneau in February and brought to trial before First District Judge Robertson in June. A jury returned a guilty verdict for manslaughter late on the evening of June 19 (or perhaps early in the morning of June 20). On June 24, Judge Robertson sentenced Ballerio to serve seven years at hard labor in the penitentiary.

OK, so that's the story from the Daily Picayune and the Bee and the Daily Delta. But the stories of Chandler and Kurtz (and, by extension, Talty) still could have been drawn on some nonsense published in the January 4 issue of the New Orleans True Delta newspaper. That's the one Chandler and Kurtz claimed to use as their source. Maybe that newspaper - and no others - published the stuff about the wife and the Black Hand and Sicily and multiple stab wounds and the Mississippi River and... all that.

There aren't many copies of the January 4, 1855, True Delta floating around. But with help from Becky Smith, head of Reader Services of the Historic New Orleans Collection at the Williams Research Center, I obtained a copy of that issue.

New Orleans Daily True Delta, Jan. 4, 1855.

It didn't even mention the Domingo killing. And, if you think about it, that actually makes a good deal of sense because those historians placed the killing one day earlier than it actually occurred. True Delta went to press on January 4 before the stabbing happened and a day before Domingo died. The newspaper did not mention the incident even in the January 5 issue. Whether it did so sometime after that seems of little consequence. The Chandler and Kurtz citations of True Delta were False.

Funny thing about Domingo's surname. He had that Spanish-sounding name because - you may want to sit down for this - he was Spanish! He and Ballerio were both from Manilla in the Philippines. As you probably recall, the Philippines were a Spanish colony from the time of Magellan's visit there in 1521 until the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. A listing of passenger arrivals in New Orleans actually shows Spanish citizen Francisco Domingo, then 25, entering the U.S. from Havana Cuba aboard the Brig Salvadora on September 13, 1847.

Interesting side note: the criminal phenomenon that first became known as the Black Hand had its roots in Spain.

After all of this, I was left staring at Talty's book wondering if I should try to read another paragraph. I decided instead to skip around to a few random pages to check things out.

I noticed Talty's use of an alternate spelling for Petrosino biographer Arrigo Petacco's surname. (The name appears as "Petacco" on his book, Joe Petrosino, but has also often been written as "Pettaco." I "Googled" it, and found quite a few uses of this spelling.) There was a far less common alternate spelling for the name of the Trinacria cafe ("Trinarcia" - don't bother "Googling" that one).

The book included an often repeated but still inaccurate mention of Petrosino working as a city street sweeping "whitewing." (The white uniform that inspired that nickname was not in use until years after Petrosino had moved on to other things. He and the other sweepers actually swept streets in their own clothes.) And there was an interesting Talty insistence that Vito Cascio Ferro was such a genius that he masterminded the courtroom defense of 1903 Barrel Murder suspects even though he could not have anticipated their arrest and fled New York for New Orleans as soon as he became aware of it.

In my final random selection, I found some familiar stuff about Petrosino's ostensibly Irish assistant "Hugh Cassidy" actually being an Italian with the real name of Ugo Cassidi. I think I first saw that written in NYPD: A City and its Police by James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto. It's a neat story. But it makes me wonder about the Irish-born city police officer named Hugh Cassidy listed as a resident of East 119th Street in the 1900 U.S. Census. (Coincidence?)

Stephan Talty and Leonardo DiCaprio have no reason to care what I think. But I am unimpressed with what fourteen-ninety-five buys these days.

Sources:

  • Chandler, David Leon, Brothers in Blood: The Rise of the Criminal Brotherhoods, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975.
  • Kurtz, Michael L. "Organized Crime in Louisiana History: Myth and Reality," Louisiana History, Fall 1983, New Orleans: Louisiana Historical Association, 1983, p. 355.
  • Lardner, James and Thomas Reppetto, NYPD: A City and its Police, New York: Henry Holt, 2000.
  • Talty, Stephan, The Black Hand, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
  • List of passengers arrived from foreign ports in the port of New Orleans, quarterly abstract, September 1847.
  • United States Census of 1900, New York State, New York County, Ward 12, Enumeration District 940.
  • New Orleans True Delta, Jan. 4, 1855; Jan. 5, 1855.
  • "Third District: Another Probable Murder," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Jan. 5, 1855, p. 1.
  • "Third District: Probable Murder," New Orleans Bee, Jan. 6, 1855, p. 1.
  • Third District: The Supposed Murder," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Jan. 6, 1855, p. 2.
  • "Inquests," New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, Feb. 2, 1855.
  • "Committed for murder," New Orleans Daily Delta, Feb. 11, 1855, p. 8.
  • "The Courts," New Orleans Daily Picayune, June 20, 1855, p. 2.
  • "City intelligence," New Orleans Bee, June 21, 1855, p. 1.
  • "The Courts," New Orleans Daily Picayune, June 24, 1855, p. 4.