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

17 July 2022

Car-bomb takes Youngstown rackets chief

On this date in 1961...

Minutes after midnight on Monday, July 17, 1961, the "Uptown" (South Side) business district of Youngstown, Ohio, was shaken by the explosion of a car-bomb. The blast claimed the life of rackets boss Vincent DeNiro.


Vehicle wreck removed from scene of explosion.

In addition to controlling vending machine, lottery and other rackets as the local representative of the Cleveland Mafia, the thirty-nine-year-old DeNiro co-owned Cicero's restaurant at Market Street and Indianola Avenue, across the street from the explosion.

Cicero's was closed on Sunday. DeNiro had a late dinner that night with friends at the Cafe 422 near Warren. At midnight, his companions - pizza restaurant owner Robert Parella and jeweler James Modarelli - drove DeNiro to a parked car on Market Street. The car belonged to a DeNiro girlfriend, Edith Magnolia. DeNiro's own car was parked behind Parella's pizza shop just a few blocks away, but he chose to drive Magnolia's car that night because he feared a car-bomb attack. (FBI was later told that DeNiro's enemies knew he was using different vehicles and had wired explosives to three different automobiles that night.)

DeNiro

The bomb erupted as he started the car at eleven minutes after twelve. The strength of the blast was said to be equivalent to ten sticks of dynamite. The hood of DeNiro's car was blown onto the roof of a nearby one and a half-story building. Windows around the business district were shattered. DeNiro's body was torn to pieces in the explosion. There was no autopsy.

The press reported that it was the seventy-fifth bombing in the Youngstown area in a decade and the fifth gangland murder in less than two years.

DeNiro was killed in retribution for the shotgun slaying of Youngstown's leading Pittsburgh-aligned racketeer, S. Joseph "Sandy" Naples in March 1960. Naples and DeNiro, once partners in the rackets, had become bitter rivals since the early 1950s. The brothers of Naples hired Dominick Moio of Canton, Ohio, to arrange the killing of DeNiro.

Moio was later hired by the Cleveland Mafia to set up the vendetta car-bomb murder of Billy Naples in 1962. Moio played for both sides in the feud until summer of 1963, when Cleveland bosses decided he was a liability. Moio's remains - shot and burned - were found in the trunk of his car outside of Canton.


Note: The November 2022 issue of Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement will contain more on DeNiro, his associates and the underworld history of the Youngstown area.


Sources:

  • "Bomb leads checked at Youngstown," Dayton Daily News, July 18, 1961, p. 7.
    "Fifth gang killing in Youngstown," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 18, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Gangland bomb kills Vince DeNiro; DiSalle assigns Melillo to probe," Youngstown Vindicator, July 17, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Naples murder gun owned by Canton police," Youngstown Vindicator, March 16, 1960, p. 1.
  • "Police quiz associates of slain Ohio racketeer," Chillicothe OH Gazette, July 18, 1961, p. 5.
  • "Rackets figure blown to bits," Sandusky OH Register, July 17, 1961, p. 1.
    "Won't enter Youngstown slaying probe yet -- Di Salle," Akron Beacon Journal, March 13, 1960, p. C1. 
  • "Youngstown night club owner killed by bomb," New Philadelphia OH Daily Times, July 17, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Youngstown slaying stirs Di Salle action," Akron Beacon Journal, July 18, 1961, p. 17.
  • Perkins, Zach, "Remembering Uptown (Part One)," Urban Youngstown, urbanyoungstown.weebly.com.
  • Peterson, Stanley E., "Unknown subjects: Bombing - Murder, Charles Cavallaro...," FBI report from Cleveland office, file no. CR 157-742-498, NARA no. 124-10220-10492, Sept. 9, 1964, p. Cover-S.

21 May 2022

Agents arrest woman counterfeiter in 1902

'Pretty Italian woman' was 'genius'
of Mafia-linked phony coin ring


On this date in 1902...

Paterson NJ Morning Call
U.S. Secret Service agents on Wednesday evening, May 21, 1902, arrested Stella Franto (also often written "Frauto" and occasionally "Fraute") and her teenage son Antonio at their Manhattan apartment, 949 First Avenue. Agents regarded Franto as leader of a determined gang of Mafia-linked Sicilian coin counterfeiters operating in New York, New Jersey and Canada.

Salvatore and Maddalena Clemente, husband and wife, also were arrested in the apartment, and agents led by William Flynn seized a quantity of phony 10-cent and 25-cent coins. Early Thursday morning, the Secret Service agents arrested Giuseppe Romano and Vito Cascio Ferro at Romano's barbershop, 969 First Avenue. (They did not realize it at the time, but Cascio Ferro was a visiting Sicilian Mafia leader and an organizer of left-wing radicals.) The accused counterfeiters, all Sicilian immigrants, were locked up in Ludlow Street Jail until they could be processed on Thursday.

The arrests followed a raid by Flynn's men on a cottage at Pyatt Place (possibly Dyatt Place) and Hackensack Avenue in the Little Italy section of Hackensack, New Jersey. The cottage was being used as a counterfeiting plant and was found to contain tools, molds, machinery and counterfeit coins valued at several hundred dollars.

Franto and her son were arraigned May 22 before United States Commissioner John A. Shields in Manhattan's Federal Building. The commissioner had the two held in $5,000 bail each for further examination. The other four suspects were taken before Commissioner Linsley Rowe in Jersey City, New Jersey, who held them under bond for examination.

As the story of the arrests hit the New York press, Agent Flynn commented that Franto was one of the most persistent counterfeiters in the country and one of the cleverest passers of bad money. He noted that Franto had been arrested and convicted of counterfeiting in 1895, arrested but not convicted in 1898 and watched and warned by the Secret Service several times after that.

While Flynn did not discuss the oddity of a Sicilian gang apparently under the command of a woman, the New York Press newspaper made it a point to describe Franto as "matronly looking."

Stella Franto's background


New York Sun
Stella Franto was thirty-six at the time of her 1902 arrest. Born in Palermo, Sicily, in March 1866, she reached the U.S., along with four children, in 1892. (Her fifth child was later born in the U.S.) She and her husband Salvatore soon joined the Clementes in a closely knit counterfeiting operation.

Their little ring began circulating phony dimes and quarters around January of 1895. Stella Franto was the primary passer of the counterfeit, brazenly using them in Manhattan shops for a month. The Secret Service caught up with her and walked in on an active counterfeiting operation in a top floor apartment at 307 East Seventieth Street. The suspects in that case included Franto's husband Salvatore and son Benjamin, as well as both Clementes and several others. In April 1895, Stella Franto, Salvatore Franto, Salvatore Clemente and several codefendants were convicted of counterfeiting offenses. Stella Franto was sentenced to two years in Erie County Penitentiary in Buffalo, New York. Other defendants, including Clemente and Salvatore Franto were sentenced to eight years.

Salvatore Franto had become seriously ill and a physician estimated he had just three months to live. The physician's estimate was off by a couple of months. Salvatore Franto died in Erie County Penitentiary on May 29, 1895.

Stella Franto was back on the streets and back to work counterfeiting coins in the spring of 1898. She and an accomplice referred to as Antonio Franko (possibly son Antonio Franto) were arrested by the Secret Service for passing phony coins. In this case, the government could not make the charges stick.

The 1902 case

The Secret Service had better luck with the 1902 case against Stella Franto. On June 27, U.S. Judge Thomas sentenced Franto to three years and six months in Auburn Prison. Franto, thirty-six, entered the prison the following day. The prison admission register recorded that she stood just five-foot-one, weighed 126 pounds and previously worked as a housekeeper.

New York Tribune

Some of the names of defendants in the 1902 counterfeiting case are difficult to track, but it appears little effort was made to prosecute either Antonio Franto or Vito Cascio Ferro. Cascio Ferro would linger in New York City until police began arresting suspects connected to the April 1903 Barrel Murder. Cascio Ferro was believed to be involved in that killing, but he could not be located. Months later, it was learned that he escaped to New Orleans and then crossed the Atlantic back to his native Sicily.

A great deal more attention was paid to Salvatore Clemente and one Andrea Romano (possibly the same as the Giuseppe Romano mentioned in the initial arrests), who fled before they could be brought to trial. Clemente traveled north across the border into Canada but was captured by police in Toronto and was tried for circulating counterfeit in that country. He was convicted and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. Law enforcement finally caught up with Romano in Niagara Falls, New York, in November 1902.

As Romano was returned to New York City for his trial, the press reflected on the history of the Franto organization that had just been dismantled: "A dozen years ago the Secret Service agents discovered the existence of the Frauto band. A pretty Italian woman of twenty appeared to be its genius." (She could not have been younger than twenty-six when the Secret Service first became aware of her.)

Later


Stella Franto was released from Auburn on February 27, 1905, and apparently began a less adversarial relationship with the U.S. Secret Service. March 10, 1910, Secret Service records indicate that she contacted the New York office and noted that her former accomplice Clemente would soon receive an early release from prison in Canada. She said she did not know Clemente's plans but promised, "if he started to make cft. coin she would advise this office of same."

(Within a short time, Clemente reportedly became a law enforcement informant, providing details of activities within a New York Mafia organization led by Giuseppe Morello, recently imprisoned for counterfeiting paper currency.)

Franto for decades lived with her children in Manhattan. In 1910, they resided at 406 West Eighteenth Street. In the mid-1910s, they moved a short distance away to 209 Tenth Avenue. That remained their home through the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, when sixty-four-year-old (the census recorded her age as sixty) Stella Franto made what seems to be her final appearance in government records.

Sources:

  • "A woman caused their arrest," New York Sun, Feb. 19, 1895, p. 4.
  • "Alleged counterfeiters caught," New York Times, April 14, 1898, p. 9.
  • "Bad coins made in Hackensack," Paterson NJ Morning Call, May 23, 1902, p. 11.
  • "Big counterfeiter caught," New York Tribune, Nov. 28, 1902, p. 10.
  • "Bogus silver pieces found in counterfeit raid," New York Times, May 23, 1902, p. 2.
  • "Catch six counterfeiters," New York Tribune, May 23, 1902, p. 6.
  • "Caught eight counterfeiters," New York Herald, Feb. 17, 1895, p. 12.
  • "Clever counterfeiters at last run to earth," Washington Evening Times, Nov. 28, 1902, p. 5.
  • "Coin makers captured," New York Times, Feb. 17, 1895, p. 8.
  • "Counterfeiter caught and brought here," Buffalo Evening News, Nov. 28, 1902, p. 1.
  • "Counterfeiters caught," New York Sun, Feb. 17, 1895, p. 5.
  • "Counterfeiters convicted," New York Evening Telegram, April 8, 1895.
  • "Counterfeiters in the toils," New York Evening Telegram, Feb. 18, 1895, p. 10.
  • "Counterfeiters sent to prison," New York Press, June 28, 1902, p. 4.
  • "Gang led by woman is now completely broken," St. Louis Republic, Nov. 28, 1902, p. 6.
  • "Have got them all now," Buffalo Morning Express, Nov. 28, 1902, p. 1.
  • "Last of coining gang caught," New York Sun, Nov. 28, 1902.
  • "Makers of bad money caught," New York Sun, May 23, 1902, p. 4.
  • "Motherly look belied record," New York Press, May 23, 1902.
  • "She shoved the queer," Auburn NY Bulletin, June 28, 1902, p. 6.
  • "Spurious coins made by woman," New York Evening World, June 27, 1902, p. 4.
  • "Two counterfeiters arrested," New York Sun, April 14, 1898, p. 5.
  • "U.S. prisoners sentenced," New York Sun, April 18, 1895, p. 9.
  • "Women coiners captured in raid on gang and plant," New York Evening World, May 22, 1902, p. 3.
  • Antonio Franto World War I Draft Registration Card, no. 56. Precinct 18, New York County, New York, June 5, 1917.
  • Bagg, G. Ray, Daily Report, March 4, April 8, April 9, April 17, June 29, 1895, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 16, Vol. 6, National Archives.
  • Flynn, William J., Daily Report, April 16, 1903, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 9, National Archives.
  • Flynn, William J., Daily Report, March 21, 1904, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 11, National Archives.
  • Henry, John J., Daily Report, March 10, 1910, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Vol. 29, National Archives.
  • Petacco, Arrigo, translated by Charles Lam Markmann, Joe Petrosino, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974, p. 94.
  • "Names, etc., of Convicts Pardoned or Discharged from the Women's State Prison during the Fiscal Year Ending September 30th, 1905," Auburn Prison Records, registered no. 459, February 27, 1905.
  • "Names, etc., of Convicts Received in the Women's State Prison," Auburn Prison Records, registered no. 459, June 1902.
  • New York State Death Index, Department of Health, City of Buffalo, 1895-1896, p. 129.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Letimbro, departed Naples, arrived New York on Sept. 2, 1890.
  • Trow's General Directory of the Boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx, for the Year Ending August 1, 1911, New York: Trow Directory, 1910, p. 480.
  • United States Census of 1900, New York State, New York County, Manhattan Borough, Enumeration District 334.
  • United States Census of 1910, New York State, New York County, Manhattan Borough, Ward 16, Enumeration District 860.
  • United States Census of 1930, New York State, New York County, Manhattan Borough, Enumeration District 31-284.


15 March 2022

Remote bomb shreds Philly boss Testa

On this date in 1981...

Just before three o'clock on Sunday morning, March 15, 1981, an explosion shook the Girard Estates neighborhood of South Philadelphia. Patrol cars sped to the home of regional crime boss Philip C. "Chicken Man" Testa, 2117 West Porter Street. Officers found that the blast had thrown bricks, mortar and concrete from the home's front porch into the roadway - some bits of brick reached the grounds of Stephen Girard Park across the street. The porch roof, torn apart, had collapsed. The force of the explosion forced the home's front door fifteen feet into the residence.

On the far side of a thirty-inch wide crater punched through the six-inch concrete porch floor, officers found fifty-six-year-old Testa, somehow still alive.[1]

The explosion left Testa's body burned and as badly torn as the clothes he wore. His lower body was mangled. One of the officers told the press, "[Testa] looked like he went through a giant paper shredder."[2] Testa, unconscious, was rushed to St. Agnes Hospital, about a mile away at 1900 South Broad Street. Doctors did what they could to bring the bleeding under control. At four-fifteen, Testa died of his wounds.[3]

Assistant Medical Examiner Halbert Filinger blandly reported that death had been caused by "multiple injuries" to Testa's "head, trunk, arms and legs."[4] Filinger could have added that a contributing factor was Testa's forty-year-old decision to pursue an underworld career.

Philip Testa was the second Philadelphia crime boss to be murdered within a single year. (See Philadelphia Mob leaders at mafiahistory.us.) His predecessor and close friend Angelo Bruno was fatally shot on March 21, 1980. Since the Bruno assassination, the dead bodies of Philly mobsters had been regularly turning up. Authorities wondered if the violence was the result of internal rivalries, frustration over crime family rules against narcotics trafficking or efforts by aggressive New York Mafia bosses to seize control of Philadelphia and southern New Jersey rackets.[5]

Angelo Bruno (l) and Philip Testa

Investigators at Testa's residence concluded that a powerful bomb packed with nails exploded behind a short brick wall that edged the two-story duplex's front porch.

Testa, who lived alone since the 1980 death of his wife, arrived there after finishing a night's work at his business, Virgilio's Restaurant, 5 Bank Street in the Old City District. He double-parked his black, Chevrolet Caprice Classic in the street, climbed the steps onto the porch, where the bomb was hidden in shadows. Testa opened the home's storm door and was beginning to put a key in the front door lock when the bomb was detonated.[6]

The bomb must have been set off by a sort of remote control, investigators determined, and the person responsible must have been within sight of the porch at that moment.[7]

Testa's son Salvatore (center)

Killings within the Philly Mob continued after Testa was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in the borough of Yeadon.[8] Some of the homicides were determined to be the result of a vendetta pursued by Testa's son Salvatore.

Salvatore reportedly concluded that his father's murder was planned by important rackets figure Frank "Chickie" Narducci possibly in conspiracy with Testa's underboss Peter Casella.[9]

When Casella attempted to take over the organization, Nicodemo Scarfo and his allies in New York forced Casella out of Philadelphia and into a Florida retirement.[10]

Marinucci

Narducci, forty-nine, was shot to death in front of his South Philadelphia home on January 7, 1982. Informer Thomas DelGiorno later told authorities that Salvatore Testa was personally involved in the Narducci murder and made sure Narducci saw who was taking his life.[11]

On the one-year anniversary of the Testa bombing, Rocco "Rocky" Marinucci, thirty, owner of Pop's Pizza in South Philadelphia, was found dead in a pile of debris left at a parking lot, South Eighth Street and Tasker Street. Marinucci, previously a driver for Casella, had been questioned after the bombing at Testa's home, as some witnesses reported seeing a black van like one he used speeding away from the scene just after the explosion. Police discovered that Marinucci had been beaten as well as shot. They found three large firecrackers stuffed in the mouth of his corpse and interpreted that as a symbolic link to the 1981 bombing.[12]

In September 1983, Theodore DiPretoro, twenty-three, already serving a life prison sentence on another matter, confessed to participating in the Testa bombing with Marinucci.[13]

A year later, reportedly on orders from boss Scarfo, twenty-nine-year-old Salvatore Testa was shot to death, his body dumped beside a road in southern New Jersey.[14]

Notes

1- Sutton, William W. Jr., Ray Holton and Marc Schogol, "Bomb blast kills Testa at his S.Phila. home," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 16, 1981, p. 2; "Bomb kills mob boss Testa," Philadelphia Daily News, March 16, 1981, p. 3.

2- "Hint N.Y. mob killed crime boss in Philly," New York Daily News, March 16, 1981, p. 8.

3- Anastasia, George, Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob - the Mafia's Most Violent Family, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1991, p. 108; Sutton, et al; "Bomb kills mob boss Testa."

4- "Bomb kills mob boss Testa."

5- Sutton, et al; "Hint N.Y. mob killed crime boss in Philly"; Culnan, Dennis M., and Margaret A. Scott, "Testa killed by bomb blast," Camden NJ Courier-Post, March 16, 1981, p. 1; "House bombing kills mob suspect," Newsday, March 16, 1981, p. 3.

6- "Bomb kills mob boss Testa"; Sutton, et al; Lawlor, Julia, Jack McGuire and Joe O'Dowd, "Suspect in Testa slaying murdered," Philadelphia Daily News, March 16, 1982, p. 3. The Chevrolet was reportedly registered to his son. The restaurant was conducted in the name of his daughter. Testa and his son were the owners of the restaurant building, and Testa used a back room as his personal office.

7- Cooney, Tom, "The Mob Chronicles: Part 2: Indictments begin to break up the family," Philadelphia Daily News, April 24, 1987, p. 6; Daughen, Joseph R., "The bloody battle for control of the Phila. Mob," Philadelphia Daily News, April 24, 1987, p. 36; Pennsylvania Crime Commission 1984 Report, presented to Pennsylvania General Assembly, p. 40; Lawlor, Julia, Jack McGuire and Joe O'Dowd, "Suspect in Testa slaying murdered," Philadelphia Daily News, March 16, 1982, p. 3.

8- "Philip 'Chickenman' Testa," Memorial ID 18254, Find A Grave, findagrave.com, Nov. 2, 2000.

9- Cooney; Daughen.

10- Anastasia, p. 112.

11- Cooney; Daughen.

12- Cooney; Daughen; Lawlor, Julia, Jack McGuire and Joe O'Dowd, "Suspect in Testa slaying murdered," Philadelphia Daily News, March 16, 1982, p. 3; Shuttleworth, Ken, "Slaying may be tied to Testa killing," Camden NJ Courier-Post, March 16, 1982, p. 10.

13- "Philadelphia man pleads guilty in Testa slaying," New York Times, Sept. 21, 1983, p. 18.

14- Cooney; Daughen; Heneage, Bill, "Salvatore 'Salvy' Testa," Memorial ID 6529146, Find A Grave, findagrave.com, June 20, 2002.


15 December 2021

Some JFK documents to be released today

The Biden Administration is expected to release a small number of secret JFK Assassination-related documents today (December 15, 2021). 

Update: The just-released files can be accessed through this National Archives web page.

Thousands of partial and whole documents related to the November 22, 1963, assassination of President John Kennedy continue to be withheld from the public. A 1992 law (the JFK Act) called for all records to be released after twenty-five years unless the President decided that postponement was necessary on the grounds of "identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or foreign relations... [that] outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

The Trump Administration released a number of files and document redactions in the autumn of 2017. In spring 2018, it extended the wait for additional releases until autumn of 2021.

In October, the Biden Administration postponed until December 2022 the release of most of the files still held as official secrets. Government departments have indicated that releasing those documents could harm the national security or the foreign relations of the United States. With COVID-19-era processing backlogs, the National Archives and federal departments were said to be unable to fully evaluate the potential for harm in time to meet the October 2021 deadline.

President Joseph Biden set a December 15, 2022, deadline (one year from today) for completion of a security review and release of remaining files. He stated that any documents that have already passed their review should be released today.

See also:

30 September 2021

Another JFK files deadline (Updated)

Update: Release postponed again

Oct. 22, 2021: U.S. President Joe Biden has postponed until at least December of 2022 the legally required release of the remainder of federal JFK assassination documents. A White House statement indicated that the delay had been requested by National Archives, which is dealing with COVID-19 pandemic-related backlogs in document processing. According to the statement, the President has ordered National Archives to complete an intensive review of the remaining secret files by December 15, 2022, and to make electronic copies of all JFK files available to the public online. The statement suggests that some currently withheld documents - those already designated as suitable for release - could be provided by National Archives a year earlier, December 15, 2021. Our original Sept. 30 post follows:

About one month remains before President Joe Biden is due to decide if the remaining redactions will be lifted from federal Kennedy Assassination records.

During the Trump Administration, a number of CIA records were released and redactions were removed from many National Archives documents. These contained no "blockbuster" revelations about the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John Kennedy but some interesting details. President Donald Trump decided at that time that other records should continue to be withheld from public scrutiny for three years past the October 26, 2017, expected release date.

U.S. Chief Archivist David Ferriero was scheduled to make a recommendation on the remaining records to President Biden this past Sunday (September 26, 2021). The following day, the Public Interest Declassification Board wrote to the President:

"We understand that agencies are asking you to extend the postponement of public disclosure... The Board unanimously recommends that you limit any further postponements of public disclosures of the Kennedy assassination records to the absolute minimum."

A 1992 law (the JFK Act) related to Kennedy assassination records called for all records to be released after twenty-five years unless the President decided that postponement was necessary on the grounds of "identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or foreign relations... [that] outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

According to the National Archives and Records Administration, there are remaining redactions in 15,834 documents - most of these created by the CIA. NARA states that 520 full documents, still withheld and not identified by the agency, are not subject to the JFK Act.

Related posts:

 

27 September 2021

October 2021 issue of Informer

Mafiosi of the West Coast

Our look at mobsters who set up shop on America's West Coast begins with excerpts from a fact-based crime noir by J. Michael Niotta PhD. These excerpts relate to the escape to California of New York gangsters - a young Jack Dragna and his cousin Ben Rizzotto - implicated in the 1914 murder of wealthy Manhattan poultryman Barnett Baff (PREVIEW). This is Dr. Niotta's first article in Informer. A brief biography of Baff is provided as a sidebar.

Dragna and Rizzotto also make appearances in Justin Cascio's study of the legendary “San Pedro Gang” and Corleone Mafia transplant Sam Streva (PREVIEW).

The San Francisco gangland murder of Nick DeJohn, found stuffed into the trunk of his car in 1947, and that killing's possible relationship with Chicago's so-called “Cheese War” are considered by Thomas Hunt (PREVIEW). The article is accompanied by a sidebar story on early Chicago shootings linked with the DeJohn family and by a collection of other car-involved murders of crime figures who settled in California.

Michael O'Haire reveals that San Francisco crime boss Francesco Lanza played important roles in the development of the Mafia in Colorado (PREVIEW). Lennert van 't Riet explores connections between the early San Francisco and New Orleans Mafia organizations, focusing on 1898 murder victim Francesco DiFranchi (PREVIEW).

In addition to the California-related material, we look into reports of another, “other Gentile family” (PREVIEW) and Jeffery King describes the career of Reinhold Engel, who led “one of the cleverest and most efficient” bank robbery gangs (PREVIEW).

In our “Just One More Thing” column, Thomas Hunt considers the rare appearance of law enforcement officers on United States postage stamps (PREVIEW). This issue also includes “Hundred Years Ago” notes on a crime boss desperate to leave the country and the murder of a St. Louis political boss, as well as a new book announcement for Rogues' Gallery about the Gilded Age revolution of policing in New York City. 

This issue is available in five formats: Print magazine, electronic PDF magazine, paperback book, EPUB-compatible e-book and Kindle-compatible e-book. Kindle e-books can be "preordered" immediately, but Kindle downloads will not be available until Sept. 29. The e-books and the electronic magazine are priced at $9.49 (USD). The print paperback retails for $14.95 (USD). The color-printed magazine retails for $25.50 (USD).

28 July 2021

FBI gives post-Brasco warning to 'Sonny Black'

On this date in 1981...

FBI Special Agents Doug Fencl, Jim Kinne and Jerry Loar visited Motion Lounge, a nightclub and Bonanno Crime Family headquarters at 420 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in late July of 1981 (the specific date is in doubt).  They pulled Bonanno capodecina Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano aside and revealed that Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone had successfully infiltrated Napolitano's organization as part of the "Donnie Brasco" undercover operation.

FBI agents Loar, Kinne and Fencl (left to right)
leaving Motion Lounge.


According to Pistone's book, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, the encounter occurred on July 28. Pistone wrote that the agents showed Napolitano a photograph of Pistone in the company of several fellow federal agents. As the photograph was shown, the agents asked Napolitano, "Do you know this guy? He's an FBI agent. We just wanted to tell you."

Napolitano had known and confided in Pistone - believing him to be jewel thief Brasco - for months. But he remained poised in front of the other agents and replied, "I don't know him, but if I meet him, I'll know he's an FBI agent."

Pistone could only have heard of this encounter second-hand. Fencl, who was actually there, recalled it differently for his testimony in the 2004 trial of Bonanno boss Joseph Massino. He placed the encounter two days later, July 30.

Motion Lounge


"I asked [Napolitano] if he knew Donnie Brasco and Tony Rossi, and he said that he did, and I told him they were FBI agents," Fencl testified. "I told him I wanted to make sure of his safety and that he was going to have a potential problem with the Bonanno Crime Family"

Fencl offered Napolitano his business card, hoping that he would contact Fencl and agree to cooperate with law enforcement. Napolitano refused, saying, "You know better than anybody that I can't take that, but I know how to get a hold of you."

Napolitano
According to Fencl, he brought along a photograph of Pistone and several other agents just in case Napolitano needed proof that the man he knew as Brasco was actually an agent. In his testimony, Fencl did not indicate whether the photograph was actually used.

Despite the government warning, Napolitano made no effort to protect himself. After Fencl, Kinne and Loar left the lounge, he scrambled to inform Mafia higher-ups of the possible infiltration and to locate the man he knew as Brasco. Napolitano was soon murdered by his underworld colleagues - under orders from rapidly rising Bonanno leader Massino - for taking the undercover agent into his orbit as a crime family associate. Late in the year, Napolitano was called to a meeting with bosses. He did not return.

Picked up in Brooklyn by mobster Frank Lino, he was driven to a house in Staten Island and murdered in the cellar. According to later testimony, two gunmen were assigned to perform the killing. One fired a less-than-fatal shot, and the other's gun jammed. Before a fatal shot was fired, Napolitano was heard to say, "Hit me one more time, and make it good." In the summer of 1982, Napolitano's badly decomposed body, minus its hands, was found wrapped in a city mortuary bag in woods near a creek in western Staten Island. Identification of the remains took considerable time because of the decomposition. A medical examiner reporting to the scene of the body's discovery was unable even to determine its sex.

The Brasco operation began in 1976 as an effort to penetrate the "fences" who processed stolen goods for organized crime families in New York. Special Agent Pistone first encountered Bonanno members in front of a mob social club on Madison Street in lower Manhattan. He gained the trust of Manhattan-based Bonanno soldier Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero and his immediate superior Napolitano.

Pistone
During the operation, Pistone participated in underworld rackets - fencing of stolen goods, gambling, loansharking - and learned of gangland murders. When pressure was put on him to participate in a murder, the FBI ended the operation. Through his undercover work, the FBI gained information on a Bonanno Crime Family civil war that included the assassination of leader Carmine Galante and the later killings of three rebellious group leaders, Alphonse Indelicato, Philip Giaccone and Dominick Trinchera. The Bureau also learned of relationships between elements of the Bonanno organization and crime families as far off as Florida and Wisconsin.

Donnie Brasco's true identity was publicly revealed for the first time in the federal racketeering conspiracy trial of Ruggiero and four other defendants in the summer of 1982. Judge Robert W. Sweet refused a prosecution request to allow the agent to testify only under his code name, finding that doing so would hamper defendants' ability to cross examine the primary witness against them. Pistone took the witness stand on August 2, 1982. His testimony focused on four of the five defendants. All four were convicted on August 27. The fifth defendant - charged on the basis of informant testimony - was acquitted. Ruggiero, then fifty-six, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for racketeering conspiracy including three murders.

Sources:

  • DeStefano, Anthony M., "Hardened felon chokes up on stand," Newsday, May 27, 2004, p. 22.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "3 of 5 convicted of conspiracy in 'Bonanno Family' rackets," New York Times, Aug. 28, 1982, p. 1.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "6 get jail terms in rackets case tied to mobsters," New York Times, Nov. 16, 1982, p. B1.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Defense assails agent's actions in Mob inquiry," New York Times, Aug. 6, 1982, p. B1.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "F.B.I. agent, dropping disguise, tells court of life inside the Mob," New York Times, Aug. 3, 1982, p. 1.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "F.B.I. infiltrator says Mob chief told of slayings," New York Times, Aug. 4, 1982, p. B1.
  • McPhee, Michele, "'Brasco's long wait," New York Daily News, Jan. 19, 2003, p. 10.
  • Pistone, Joseph D., with Richard Woodley, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, New York: NAL, 1987, pp. 363-368.
  • Schmetterer, Jerry, and Paul Meskil, with D.J. Saunders, "Victim was mobster who let fed agent in," New York Daily News, Nov. 16, 1982, p. 3.
  • Smith, Kati Cornell, "Brasco fiasco," New York Post, June 5, 2004.
  • Weiss, Murray, "Find body in a bag," New York Daily News, Aug. 13, 1982, p. 29.


14 June 2021

Spilotro bros killed by underworld colleagues

On this date in 1986...

Michael and Anthony Spilotro
Michael and Anthony Spilotro

Brothers Anthony "the Ant" Spilotro, forty-eight, and Michael Spilotro, forty-one, were murdered by underworld colleagues in the basement of a Bensenville, Illinois, home on Saturday, June 14, 1986. The brothers' remains were discovered buried in an Indiana corn field nine days later.

Nicholas Calabrese, an Outfit member who later turned informant, told authorities that the Spilotros were called to a June 14 mid-afternoon meeting with Chicago bosses. The brothers left Michael's Oak Park, Illinois, townhouse (1102 S. Maple Avenue) at about two o'clock and traveled in Michael's 1986 Lincoln Continental to their appointment. Reports indicate they were met by James Marcello, who brought them to the basement in Bensenville, a suburban DuPage County village adjacent to O'Hare International Airport.

The pretext for the meeting reportedly was the promotion of Michael Spilotro from Outfit associate to full member. The brothers had schemed against Outfit bosses and were apprehensive about the meeting. Michael told his wife if he wasn't back home by nine o'clock that night, "it was no good." But they went to their appointment unarmed.

Nicholas Calabrese

When the brothers arrived, they were attacked by Nicholas Calabrese and other mobsters. Years later, Calabrese recalled that James LaPietra, John Fecarotta, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Louie "the Mooch" Eboli, James Marcello, Louis Marino, Joseph Ferriola and Ernest "Rocky" Infelise were present at that time. Calabrese asserted that he tackled Michael Spilotro and held his legs, while others beat and strangled him. Anthony Spilotro made a last request: for a moment to say a prayer. No one responded to his plea, and he was mercilessly beaten until he was dead.

Fecarotta and others were responsible for disposing of the brothers' remains. They drove the bodies about seventy-five miles southeast of Bensenville (sixty miles south of Chicago) to the outskirts of Enos, in Newton County, Indiana. There, the brothers' bodies, stripped down to their underwear, were buried on top of each other in a shallow grave in a recently planted corn field.

When Michael did not return home that night, his wife called police to report him missing. On the sixteenth, the Lincoln Continental was located at a Schiller Park motel near O'Hare. There was no indication that any struggle or violence had occurred within the car, and its doors were found locked. The next day, federal agents joined the search, as a fugitive arrest warrant was issued by a U.S. magistrate in Las Vegas for Anthony Spilotro. "The Ant" had been due to appear in a Las Vegas court on the seventeenth in preparation for a retrial on a burglary ring case.

Farmer Michael Kinz discovered a patch of freshly turned earth within his corn field at the Willow Slough wildlife preserve on June 23. He first thought that a poacher had covered up the carcass of a deer killed out of season. Kinz contacted Dick Hudson of the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, and they began digging. They discovered the human remains about three feet down. The Newton County Sheriff's Department was summoned.

Law enforcement reportedly identified the bodies using dental records. Autopsies on June 24 revealed that the Spilotros died of blunt force trauma to head, neck and chest, which the medical examiner attributed to punches and kicks, and asphyxiation due to hemorrhage. (The listing of asphyxiation as a cause of death prompted some in the news media to incorrectly conclude that the brothers had been buried alive. The medical examiner could not precisely relate the time of death to the time of burial but noted that asphyxiation was caused by the lungs filling with blood.) Toxicology reports indicated that they had consumed alcohol shortly before their deaths, giving rise to the speculation that they may have had drinks with the men who killed them.

On June 26, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago determined that the brothers should be denied church funeral services. That decision was made after the Rev. Thomas Paprocki, vice chancellor of the archdiocese, reviewed criminal information supplied by an undisclosed source. Father Paprocki indicated that the church refused to grant funerals to crime figures in order to avoid public scandal. But the denial itself turned into a scandal, as many in Chicago protested it and called attention to the church's willingness in the past to accept large financial contributions from Michael Spilotro. (Father Paprocki argued that cash contributions from known crime figures were sometimes rejected by the church and that donations generally did not result in public scandal as they were made privately.)

A service was conducted the next morning at the non-denominational Salerno Galewood Chapel funeral home on North Harlem Avenue. Numerous floral offerings filled the chapel and surrounded the two bronze coffins. The Rev. John Fearon of St. Bernardine's Roman Catholic Church in Forest Park, of which Michael was a member, delivered a homily. About 300 people attended the service. The chapel was closed to the press, but observers noted the presence of Anthony Spilotro's Vegas lieutenant Herbert Blitzstein and actor Robert Conrad. Following the service, the Spilotro brothers were buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

Background

The motives for the Spilotro murders were fairly well understood in 1986 and became more clear with the passage of time. As soon as their bodies were found, former FBI Special Agent William Roemer told the press, "[Anthony] Spilotro wasn't doing his job in Las Vegas. He maintained too high a profile there... He was under the glare of the harshest spotlight."

Anthony Spilotro

Anthony Spilotro, a "made" member of the Chicago Outfit since 1963, mismanaged Outfit affairs in Las Vegas and drew excessive attention upon himself, while attempting to enhance his own wealth and power. Rather than focus on quietly maintaining order and ensuring a lucrative and smoothly run skim operation, Spilotro insisted on engaging in more conventional and order-threatening rackets, such as extortion, burglary, loan sharking. His obvious criminal activity got him banned from Vegas casinos. His violent tendencies - he was linked with a number of murders but never convicted - caused some of his Vegas underlings, including Frank Cullotta, to seek protection from federal agents and become witnesses against Spilotro and Chicago underworld bosses. Outfit leader Joseph "Doves" Aiuppa was convicted and sentenced to prison in connection with skim operations, in large part because of scrutiny triggered by Spilotro. Reportedly, "the Ant's" fate was sealed when Aiuppa learned that Spilotro was having an affair with the wife of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal.

An accomplished and innovative gambler, Rosenthal was responsible for managing Outfit investments in the Stardust and other Las Vegas casinos and maximizing the underworld's illegal "skim" siphoned off pretax casino income. Spilotro endangered important underworld relationships through the affair with Rosenthal's wife, and reportedly went so far as to plot the murder of Rosenthal himself. (Rosenthal also became a government informant, though his role, hidden by the codename "Achilles," was not exposed until after his 2008 death.) Spilotro and Rosenthal had been close friends in Chicago - "Lefty" reportedly once talked Fiore "Fifi" Buccieri out of murdering Spilotro - but their relationship quickly soured after their early 1970s arrival in Las Vegas.

In the 1980s, Spilotro became a favorite target for prosecutors. He faced charges of directing a burglary ring in 1980-1981. Prosecutions relating to his "Hole in the Wall Gang" continued for years. He was due to be retried on the matter in Nevada on the same day his body was discovered in the corn field. A 1986 prosecution for racketeering ended in an April 8, 1986, mistrial, but more charges loomed. He faced federal trial in Kansas City, Missouri, in connection with casino skimming operations and another federal case in Las Vegas, relating to the 1979 murder of a police informant. Before the end of April, a federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Michael Spilotro, owner of Hoagies restaurant in Chicago, for extortion.

Anthony Spilotro

'Family Secrets'

Outfit bosses were brought to trial for the Spilotro killings and many other offenses in the "Family Secrets" case of 2007, which resulted in plea deals and guilty verdicts. Turncoat Nicholas Calabrese testified for five days. While Calabrese listed the mobsters present at the time of the Spilotros' murders, he could not say who specifically was responsible for the fatal beatings given to the brothers. He testified that he, with help from Louie Eboli, was holding down Michael Spilotro and had his back toward Anthony Spilotro.

Though the Calabrese account of the killings included John "No Nose" DiFronzo, DiFronzo was not charged in the case.

Five of the original fourteen Family Secrets defendants remained at the close of the trial. The others had been removed through plea deals. After the ten-week trial, jurors deliberated for four days before finding the defendants - Frank "the Breeze" Calabrese, Sr. (brother of government witness Nicholas Calabrese), Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul "the Indian" Schiro and Anthony "Twan" Doyle - guilty on all counts on September 10, 2007.

The jury separately considered the issue of whether Marcello, Frank Calabrese, Lombardo and Schiro used murder to advance the interests of their criminal conspiracy. Eighteen murders and one attempted murder had been charged against the defendants. On September 27, the jury reported that Marcello, Calabrese and Lombardo were guilty of racketeering murders. (The panel deadlocked on the charge against Schiro.) Marcello specifically was convicted of participating in the killings of the Spilotro brothers, as well as in the 1981 beating death of Nicholas D'Andrea.

Government witness Nicholas Calabrese was sentenced March 26, 2009, to serve a term of twelve years and four months in prison. He admitted involvement in a number of mob murders, including the killing of the Spilotro brothers.


Sources:

  • "14 defendants indicted for alleged organized crime activities...," press release of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, U.S. Department of Justice, April 25, 2005.
  • Anthony Spilotro Certificate of Death, Indiana State Board of Health, signed by coroner on July 25, 1985.
  • Cawley, Janet, "Spilotro a 'nice boy' who grew up tough," Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1983, p. B1.
  • Chicago Tribune, "Did reputed mob brothers run or were they killed?" Elyria OH Chronicle-Telegram, June 19, 1986, p. B2.
  • Dwyer, Bill, "Details of Spilotro murders revealed in mob trial," Oak Park Journal, oakpark.com, Aug. 14, 2007, updated Feb. 11, 2021.
  • Goudie, Chuck, "The last family secret: 30 years after the Spilotro hit," ABC-7 Chicago, abc7chicago.com, June 24, 2016.
  • Hidlay, William C., "Mourners weep at funeral for Spilotro brothers," Associated Press (AP), apnews.com, June 27, 1986.
  • Houston, Jack, "Secrets led to Spilotro rites denial," Chicago Tribune, June 27, 1986.
  • Hunt, Thomas, "Family Secrets" coverage, Mob-News, mob-news.blogspot.com, 2007-2009.
  • Hunt, Thomas, "Outfit boss DiFronzo fought the law, and the law lost," The American Mafia, mafiahistory.us, 2018-2021.
  • Koziol, Ronald, and Edward Baumann, "Spilotros found beaten to death," Chicago Tribune, June 25, 1986.
  • Koziol, Ronald, and John O'Brien," "Spilotros may have had drinks with killers," Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1986.
  • Manning, Mary, "Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal dies at age 79," Las Vegas Sun, lasvegassun.com, Oct. 14, 2008.
  • Michael Spilotro Certificate of Death, Indiana State Board of Health, signed by coroner on July 25, 1985.
  • Schumacker, Geoff, "Tony Spilotro's last act," Nevada Public Radio Desert Companion, May 23, 2016.
  • Valin, Edmond, "'Lefty' Rosenthal was high-level FBI source into activities of Chicago Outfit," The American Mafia, mafiahistory.us, 2018.

 

06 June 2021

1962: Cancer claims mob boss Profaci

On this date in 1962...

Brooklyn-based crime boss Joseph Profaci died at ten minutes to eleven o'clock in the evening of Wednesday, June 6, 1962. The cause of death for the sixty-four-year-old leader of the Profaci Crime Family (later known as the Colombo Crime Family) was cancer.



Profaci was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in East Islip, Suffolk County, New York, on March 27, intending to have cancer surgically removed. Doctors found the cancer inoperable. He was released from Good Samaritan on April 5 and became a guest at the secure fifteen-room East Islip estate of his brother-in-law and second-in-command Giuseppe Magliocco. He remained there for two months.

Profaci's own home at 8863 Fifteenth Avenue in Brooklyn was largely avoided in that time. It was considered vulnerable to attack by the Gallo brothers faction, then in open revolt against the Profaci administration. Friction between Profaci and the Gallos dated back to the late 1950s, when the Gallos felt they had been inadequately rewarded for performing murders at the boss's orders. The Gallos forced early-1961 concessions by kidnapping several top Profaci leaders. But Profaci went back on the coerced promises and attempted to have the Gallo leaders murdered, making use of young mobsters who had betrayed the Gallo cause. Blood was spilled on both sides beginning in August 1961.

On Tuesday, June 5, 1962, Profaci was taken to Southside (subsequently renamed South Shore) Hospital in Bay Shore, Suffolk County, New York. Though he passed away the following night, Southside Hospital made no announcement until Thursday.

Newspaper reports published on June 8 described Profaci as a vicious and treacherous mob boss who, more or less successfully, portrayed himself as a businessman, a faithful churchgoer and a family man.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Monsignor Francis P. Barilla for Profaci on the morning of Monday, June 11, at St. Bernadette's Roman Catholic Church, 8201 Thirteenth Avenue between Eighty-second and Eighty-third Streets. Profaci's remains were held within a bronze coffin placed at the altar rail between rows of floral tributes.

More than a dozen police detectives and FBI agents scanned the two-hundred attendees for known crime figures. They reportedly found none.

Following a service of forty-five minutes, in which there was no eulogy, the remains were interred at St. John Cemetery, Middle Village, Queens, New York.


Sources:

  • "Profaci, reputed Mafia leader, dies of cancer," Scranton PA Times, June 8, 1962, p. 1.
  • "Profaci dies of cancer; led feuding Brooklyn mob," New York Times, June 8, 1962.
  • "S'long, Joe, the cops wonder wacha know," New York Daily News, June 12, 1962, p. 2.
  • Director FBI, "Criminal Intelligence Digest," Letter to FBI SAC New York, Nov. 8, 1961, NARA #124-10220-10084, p. 6.
  • Doty, Robert C., "16 in Gallo Gang seized to halt war on Profacis," New York Times, Dec. 11, 1963, p. 1.
  • Federici, William, and Neal Patterson, "Profaci rubbed out by cancer," New York Daily News, June 8, 1962, p. 5.
  • House Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, 95th Congress, 2d Session, Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Appendix to Hearings, Report Volume IX, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979.


25 May 2021

Journalist, crime writer Schmetterer, 77

Jerry Schmetterer, author of The Coffey Files, Crooked Brooklyn, Behind the Murder Curtain and other true crime books, passed away at his Manhattan home Monday, May 24, 2021, after a battle with cancer. His wife of forty-five years Emily and their son David were at his side. He was seventy-seven.

Schmetterer was an award-winning print and broadcast journalist and past-president of the New York Press Club (1984). He worked for twenty-three years with the New York Daily News, serving in reporter, bureau chief, assistant city editor and metropolitan editor roles. He also served as managing editor for the CNN news network and for WPIX-TV in New York. He was spokesman for the Kings County, New York, District Attorney's Office for twelve years.

In his days with the Daily News,, Schmetterer covered crime boss Joseph Colombo's protests against federal law enforcement, the Son of Sam case, the New York Guardian Angels group, the murder of John Lennon and many other important news items.

Daily News, March 23, 1971.

Daily News, May 1982

The New York Press Club tweeted on Tuesday morning, May 25: "The @NYPressClub mourns the passing of longtime member, past president and current trustee Jerry Schmetterer. Jerry was a journalist, author and former spokesman for the #Brooklyn DA's office. He was a good man who knew how to tell a good story. Our condolences to Jerry's family." 

A New York Daily News obituary by Larry McShane was published early Tuesday afternoon. The Daily News stated that Bronx-born Schmetterer reported on the French Connection case and the 1993 terror attack on the World Trade Center and other matters.

Ex-journalist and public relations counselor Edward Hershey posted on Schmetterer's Facebook profile late Monday night: "Deepest condolences to Jerry Schmetterer's family and friends. He was one of the very good guys."

Schmetterer and Jay Bildstein coauthored The King of Clubs: The Story of Scores, the Famed Topless Club and the Lurid Life Behind the Glitter, released in 1996 (Barricade Books). The book explored the challenges of Bildstein's climb to success in the sex industry despite government restrictions and the hazards of the AIDS era.

'He was a good man
who knew how to tell a good story.
'

The Coffey Files: One Cop's War Against the Mob, coauthored by Schmetterer and Joseph Coffey (1938-2015), former head of the NYPD organized-crime squad, was released in 1992 (St. Martin Press). The book recounted the highlights of Coffey's exciting career, which included arresting John Gotti, interviewing Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz and assisting on the Commission Case.

The 2009 release (iUniverse), E-Man: Life in the NYPD Emergency Service Unit, coauthored by Schmetterer and retired detective Al Sheppard, recalled events in Sheppard's career on the special unit called in when police officers were in need of help.

For Crooked Brooklyn: Taking Down Corrupt Judges, Dirty Politicians, Killers and Body Snatchers, released in 2015 (Thomas Dunne Books), Schmetterer worked with Michael Vecchione, former chief of the Brooklyn DA's Rackets Division, to present Vecchione's career battling organized crime and corruption.

In 2018 (Post Hill Press), Schmetterer teamed once again with Vecchione, and Special Agent Bruce Sackman, to author Behind the Murder Curtain, which revealed Sackman's efforts to expose and put behind bars "medical serial killers" - trusted doctors and nurses who murdered their patients.

27 February 2021

Jury complete, 1891 Mafia trial begins

On this date in 1891...

A lengthy jury selection process concluded Friday, February 27, 1891, and the trial of nine men accused of the assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy began with the reading of the indictment by Court Clerk Richard Screven.
 


Screven read: 

The grand jurors of the State of Louisiana, duly impaneled and sworn in and for the body of the Parish of Orleans, in the name and by the authority of the said state, upon their oath, present:
That one Peter Natali, one Antonio Scaffidi, one Antonio Bagnetto, one Manuel Politz, one Antonio Marchesi, one Pietro Monastero, one Bastian Incardona, one Salvador Sinceri, one Loretto Comitz, one Charles Traina and one Charles Poitza, late of the Parish of Orleans, on the 16th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety, with force of arms,... feloniously did shoot and murder one David D. Hennessy with a dangerous weapon, to-wit, a gun, with felonious intent willfully, feloniously and of their malice aforethought, to kill and murder him...
And the grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oath foresaid, do further present that one Asperi Marchesi, one Joseph P. Macheca, one James Caruso, one Charles Matranga, one Rocco Geraci, one Charles Patorno, one Frank Romero and one John Caruso, before the said felony was committed in form aforesaid... did feloniously and maliciously incite, move, procure, aid, counsel, hire and command the said Peter Natali, the said Antonio Scaffedi, the said Antonio Bagnetto, the said Manuel Politz, the said Antonio Marchesi, the said Pietro Monastero, the said Bastian Incardona, the said Salvador Sinceri, and the said Loretto Comitz, one Charles Traina, and one Charles Poitza, the said felony in manner and form aforesaid...

Though the indictment contained charges against nineteen men, just nine of those were going on trial. District Attorney Charles H. Luzenberg handled the prosecution. The lead defense counsel was Lionel Adams.

Court adjourned at just after five o'clock in the afternoon. The start of testimony was scheduled for 10:30 the next morning, Saturday, February 28.


Through a period of twelve days, the court had summoned 1,221 prospective jurors. Of that number, 780 had been examined before the twelfth man of the panel could be placed.

A total of 557 men were prevented from jury service in the case for causes such as objecting to capital punishment, objecting to conviction based on circumstantial evidence, holding a fixed opinion in the case and exhibiting extreme prejudice against Sicilian-Americans. Physical disability excused ninety-five of those examined. The defense used 100 of its 108 peremptory challenges (twelve per defendant) against prospective jurors, while the prosecution used twenty-eight of its fifty-four peremptory challenges (half the total allowed to the defense).

The completed jury consisted of Jacob M. Seligman, jeweler, of 636 Carondelet Street; Solomon J. Mayer, real estate dealer, of 500 Franklin Street; John Berry Jr., flour company solicitor, of 137 Gravier Street; Walter D. Livaudais, Southern Pacific Railroad clerk, 209 1/2 Magazine Street; Henry L. Tronchet, cotton company clerk, of 411 Dauphine Street; William H. Leahy, machinist, of 439 Constance Street; Arnold F. Wille, grocer, of Lafayette and Franklin Streets; Edward J. Donegan, molder, of 299 1/2 St. Thomas Street; William Mackesy, bookkeeper, of 235 1/2 Julia Street; Charles Heyob, jewelry repairer, of 242 Royal Street; William Yochum, grocer, of Fourth and Dryades Streets; Charles Boesen, shoe company clerk, of 402 Customhouse Street.


The trial continued until Friday, March 13, when the jury returned with its verdicts. It found Bagnetto, Incardona, Macheca, the Marchesis and Matranga not guilty and could not reach a verdict on Politz, Scaffedi and Monastero. Suggestions that the jury had been bribed by agents employed by the defense were already being discussed in the community. The failure to convict anyone for the killing of the local police chief further incited the community.

Though not convicted, the nine case defendants could not be released until a related charge was dismissed. They were held overnight at Orleans Parish Prison, along with their untried indicted co-conspirators. Release of the acquitted defendants was expected to occur the next morning.

Overnight, however, political leaders hastily arranged a community mass meeting. On the morning of March 14, they stirred up a large crowd and swarmed the prison. A squad of gunmen penetrated the prison and murdered eleven of the prisoners held there, including six of the trial defendants.

See also:

Sources:

  • "A jury at last," editorial, New Orleans Daily Picayune, Feb. 28, 1891, p. 4.
  • "The jury complete," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Feb. 28, 1891, p. 1.
  • "The Hennessy Trial," New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 4, 1891, p. 1.
  • "None guilty!," New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 14, 1891, p. 1.
  • "The mass meeting," editorial, New Orleans Times-Democrat, March 14, 1891, p. 4.
  • "What next?" editorial, New Orleans Times-Democrat, March 14, 1891, p. 4.
  • "Juror Seligman and the state's attorney," editorial, New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 15, 1891, p. 4.
  • "Avenged," New Orleans Times-Democrat, March 15, 1891, p. 2.
  • "The dead buried," New Orleans Times-Democrat, March 16, 1891, p. 2.
  • State of Louisiana versus Peter Natali, et al, indictments, no. 14220, Nov. 20, 1890; no. 14221, Nov. 20, 1890; no. 14231, Nov. 22, 1890.

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

27 May 2020

Heart, lung ailments take 'Joe Batters'

Longtime Outfit boss started as Capone bodyguard

On this date in 1992...



Longtime Chicago Outfit boss Anthony Accardo succumbed on May 27, 1992, to lung and heart ailments at the age of eighty-six.

The former underworld leader had just returned to the Chicago area (he spent summers in the Barrington Hills home of son-in-law Ernest Kumerow) from his winter home in Palm Springs, California, when on Thursday, May 14, he was admitted to St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center. He died there at 7:36 p.m. on Wednesday, the twenty-seventh. A nursing supervisor told the press that the causes of death were congestive heart failure, acute respiratory failure, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmorary disease.

Funeral cortege. (Chicago Tribune)

Accardo was given a private funeral service two days later at the Montclair-Lucania Funeral Home, 6901 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago. A Catholic priest was observed entering the funeral home through a rear entrance. Accardo's send-off was far more modest than the funerals of many of his underworld contemporaries. Police and press noted no gangland leaders in attendance. Just two floral offerings were seen - "two sprays of yellow and pink roses inside a slate gray hearse," reported the Chicago Tribune. Accardo was laid to rest at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

A life in Chicago crime
Accardo c.1930
Accardo was born in Chicago on April 28, 1906. His parents, Francesco and Maria Tillotta Accardo, were Sicilian immigrants, originally from Castelvetrano, who settled around 1904 on Gault Court in Chicago. His birth name was reportedly Anthony Leonardo Accardo, but later he was known as Anthony Joseph Accardo. Over time, he acquired the nicknames, "Joe Batters," "Joe B." and "Big Tuna."

According to the press, he was a full-time hoodlum by the age of sixteen. In the late 1920s, he served as an enforcer and bodyguard for Chicago underworld boss Al Capone. Accardo was largely able to avoid law enforcement notice until the Capone-orchestrated St. Valentine's Day Massacre intensified the scrutiny.

On February 1, 1930, Accardo was arrested along with "Machine Gun Jack" McGurn (Gibaldi) following the murder of informant Julius Rosenheim. Rosenheim was walking near his home after breakfast that morning, when an automobile pulled up to him and two men got out of it. The men drew handguns and fired five bullets into Roseheim's head, then returned to their car and sped away. Shortly after that, police detectives William Drury and John Howe spotted Accardo and McGurn riding in a taxicab at Dearborn and Harrison Streets and stopped them. They found both men illegally carrying firearms. McGurn had a loaded .45-calibre automatic pistol, and Accardo had a .32-calibre revolver.


Just six months later, Accardo and Sam "Golf Bag" Hunt were named as suspects in the murder of Chicago vice racketeer Jack Zuta. Zuta was killed at a Wisconsin resort hotel. The descriptions of two of his killers matched Accardo and Hunt. Authorities speculated that Zuta was murdered because he knew of Capone connections to the June 9 murder of Chicago Tribune reporter Alfred "Jake" Lingle.

Accardo was again arrested in May 2, 1931, police raids that were part of an investigation into the supposed murder of brothel keeper Mike Heitler. Police believed that a charred body found in smoldering ruins near Barrington, Illinois, was Heitler. The raids were conducted at known Capone headquarters and business enterprises. Accardo and three other men were grabbed at the Club Floridian, 674 West Madison Street. Other raids took place at the Lexington Hotel at Michigan Avenue and Twenty-second Street and at the Western Hotel in Cicero.

At the end of July 1931, the Chicago Crime Commission designated Accardo a "public enemy," adding him and twenty-seven other area hoodlums (including Charles Fischetti, Sam Hunt and Claude Maddox), to a list that had grown to fifty-six men. A photo of Accardo, then about twenty-five, was printed in the newspaper, along with photos of dozens of other crime figures.

Despite the increased attention, Accardo was able to avoid criminal conviction.

After Capone
Accardo's mentor, Capone, was sent off to prison for tax violations the following spring. Over the next decade, Accardo moved into positions of increasing importance within the Chicago Outfit. By the 1940s, he was considered one of the Outfit's top bosses, along with Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca (Felice DeLucia), Louis Campagna and Charles Gioe.

In 1943, the Outfit leadership was decimated by exposure of an extortion racket conducted against the Hollywood movie industry. As indictments were returned against those implicated in the racket, Nitti committed suicide. Near the end of the year, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Ricca, Campagna, Gioe, Johnny Rosselli (Filippo Sacco), Philip D'Andrea and Francis Maritote. They were sent to prison for ten-year terms.

With other bosses confined to federal prison, Accardo emerged as the single most powerful figure in Chicago organized crime. (Authorities took note of his visits to the imprisoned Ricca.) It appeared that the role weighed heavy on him, and in the 1950s he stepped away from day-to-day management, allowing Sam Giancana to serve as Outfit boss. Accardo continued in an advisory capacity. The FBI learned that Accardo and Giancana were regularly seen together outside of Chicago in the period between 1950 and 1956. They were spotted at meetings in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami Beach.

In 1957, the year of the Apalachin, New York, convention, the Bureau learned that Accardo had turned over to Giancana his role as Chicago's representative to the Commission, the U.S. Mafia's supreme arbitration panel.

The following summer, the Senate's McClellan Committee accused Accardo of frivolously invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering its questions. Accardo declined to answer basic questions about his birthplace and employment as well as more probing questions about his underworld associates and alleged involvement in mob murders. On August 18, 1958, the United States Senate unanimously held Accardo and a dozen other witnesses, who appeared before the McClellan Committee, in contempt of Congress. The Senate recommended that the Justice Department prosecute the witnesses. Along with Accardo on the list cited for contempt were Jack Cerone, Sam Battaglia, Marshall Caifano, Joseph Aiuppa and Ross Prio of Chicago and Pete Licavoli of Detroit.

Decline
Accardo was charged with federal tax fraud in April 1960, and that case came closest to putting the crime boss behind bars.

The government accused him of lying about business expense deductions for the years 1956, 1957 and 1958. He was convicted on all three counts in November 1960 and was sentenced to six years in prison. However, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found numerous errors in the case and in January 1962 ordered a new trial. Accardo was then acquitted of the tax charges in October 1962.

Giancana's mid-1960s problems with the law and flight from the U.S., pulled apparently reluctant Accardo and Paul Ricca out of their retirements for a time. The aging Accardo seemed to guide the Outfit through a government investigation of Las Vegas casino skimming operations and the sudden reappearance and 1975 murder of ex-boss Giancana.

Accardo's health became a major issue for him the 1980s. In 1984, he visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for treatment of heart and lung conditions. Shortly after returning home to Chicago, he became dizzy and suffered a head injury during a fall. His injury required a hospital stay. Despite his declining health, some believe he continued to advise Outfit bosses until his last days.

Just when his last days occurred seems to be a matter of some disagreement. While contemporary news sources and biographer William F. Roemer, Jr., clearly place his death on Wednesday, May 27, 1992, as of this writing a number of online sources (including Wikipedia and Find A Grave) insist that Accardo's death occurred five days earlier, on May 22 (a Friday). This is made more curious by the fact that a source cited for the Wikipedia death date is a May 29, 1992, Hartford Courant (Associated Press) article that states death occurred the previous Wednesday.
 

Sources:

  • "28 more public enemies named by crime board," Chicago Daily Tribune, Aug. 1, 1931, p. 5.
  • Cohen, Jerry, "U.S. grand jury summons two Mafia chieftains," Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1970, p. 19.
  • Conroy, L.N., "Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, Committee on the Judiciary, Estes Kefauver Chairman," FBI memorandum to Mr. Rosen, file no. 62-102198-116, NARA no. 124-10347-10011, Nov. 12, 1959.
  • Daniels, Lee A., "Anthony Accardo, long a figure in mob world, dies in bed at 86," New York Times, May 29, 1992.
  • FBI memorandum to Mr. McAndrews, file no. 92-6054-2092, NARA no. 124-10287-10397, July 25, 1967.
  • Hill, Ralph R., "Anthony Joseph Accardo,..." FBI report, file no. 92-3182-79, NARA no. 124-10203-10000, May 26, 1960, p. A-6.
  • Hill, Ralph R. Jr., "Samuel M. Giancana, ..." FBI report, file no. 92-636-3, NARA no. 124-90024-10122, May 5, 1961, p. 10-11.
  • "Illinois shorts," Dixon IL Evening Telegraph, Jan. 6, 1962, p. 4.
  • "Informer is slain by Chicago gunmen," New York Times, Feb. 2, 1930, p. 11.
  • 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 33, 85th Congress, Second Session, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1958, p. 12782-12797.
  • Kiesling, Mark, "Anthony Accardo's death closes Capone Era," Munster (IN) Times, May 28, 1992, p. 11.
  • Koziol, Ronald, and John O'Brien, "Reputed mob boss Accardo dies," Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1992, p. B1.
  • "McGurn, on trial, claims illegal arrest," Chicago Daily Tribune, June 25, 1930, p. 7.
  • "New names introduced in Zuta killing," Streator IL Daily Times-Press, Aug. 6, 1930, p. 1.
  • O'Brien, John, "Low-key sendoff for Accardo," Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1992, p. 5.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Sicilian Prince, departed Palermo, arrived New York on Feb. 25, 1904.
  • "Raid gangdom for 'slayers' of Mike Heitler," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 2, 1931, p. 1.
  • Roberts, John W. Jr., "The Criminal commission; et al Chicago Division," FBI report from Chicago office, file no. 92-6054-131, NARA no. 124-10216-10239, Dec. 21, 1962, p. 2.
  • Roemer, William F. Jr., Accardo: The Genuine Godfather, New York: Donald I. Fine, 1995.
  • "Senate, 87-0, cites 13 for contempt," New York Times, Aug. 19, 1958, p. 16.
  • Smith, Sandy, "Jury acquits Tony Accardo," Chicago Tribune, Oct. 4, 1962, p. 1.
  • Social Security Death Index, SSN 360-14-0886.
  • "Tony Accardo reputedly led Chicago mob," Hartford CT Courant, May 29, 1992, p. C10.
  • "Two more slain by gangs," Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 5, 1930, p. 1.
  • "U.S. indicts 23 Capone men," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 2, 1931, p. 1.
  • Wehrwein, Austin C., "Accardo receives 6-year jail term," New York Times, Nov. 19, 1960, p. 11.
  • Yost, Newton E., "La Cosa Nostra," FBI report, file no. 92-6054-683, NARA no. 124-10208-10406, July 22, 1964, p. 18.