Showing posts with label Genovese Crime Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genovese Crime Family. Show all posts

12 December 2019

Exit of Hoffa foe, 'Tony Pro' Provenzano

On this date in 1988...

Courier-Post, Dec. 13, 1988

Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a longtime New Jersey labor racketeer and suspect in the 1975 disappearance of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, died December 12, 1988, while in federal custody in California.

Provenzano was moved from the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California, to Lompoc District Hospital for treatment of congestive heart failure. He died at the hospital following a heart attack. His remains were transported back to his family in New Jersey for burial.

Breaking with its own recent policy, the Roman Catholic Church permitted a Funeral Mass for the longtime crime figure. A church official explained that Provenzano requested Catholic Last Rites while he was in the hospital, made his Confession and obtained Absolution at that time. Those actions, the official argued, restored him as a member of the church.

At the Provenzano family's request, Father George Rutler was brought in from Manhattan to celebrate the mid-morning December 27 Mass at St. Andrew's Church in Clifton, New Jersey. Less than a mile from Provenzano's longtime home, 47 Lockwood Place in Clifton, St. Andrew's had also been the site of Provenzano's 1961 Catholic wedding ceremony with second-wife Marie-Paul Migneron (they were officially married earlier in a civil ceremony). Father Rutler's funeral homily focused on religious themes and did not discuss the details of Provenzano's life.

"May God give him merciful judgment and forgive all his sins," the priest said. "May he gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven and be happy forever in the presence of the eternal king."

The service was attended by less than one hundred people. Provenzano's widow was conspicuous in the small crowd. She wore a fur coat, walked stiffly and was supported between two men as she entered the church. Provenzano's first-wife, Eunice Butts Provenzano, was not noted at the service.

After a one-hour Mass, Provenzano's bronze-colored casket was loaded into a hearse, which led a procession of black limousines on a dozen-mile journey to Saint Joseph Cemetery in Hackensack. The casket was placed at the family burial plot, where Provenzano's Sicilian immigrant parents had been interred. Just before noon, after the last of the mourners had left, the casket was lowered into the ground.

Early life

Provenzano was born May 24, 1917, in New York City, to Rosario, a subway construction laborer, and Giuseppa Dispenza Provenzano. The family home was located at 27-29 Monroe Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Tony Pro attended Public School 114 but did not finish grade school. At age fifteen, he went to work as a driver's helper. He became a truck driver at age eighteen.

About five years later, he moved from Manhattan to Valley Stream, Nassau County, Long Island. He soon married Eunice Butts. During the 1940s, the Anthony Provenzano family grew to include two children - years later, Eunice told authorities that these were children of her cousin and were informally adopted by her and her husband. The family relocated to Huntington Station, Suffolk County, in 1945.

Anthony separated from Eunice about 1950, moving to 70 Catalpa Avenue in Hackensack, New Jersey. She filed for divorce in April 1961, charging desertion, and was awarded a final divorce decree at the end of May. The divorce seemed timed to permit Provenzano's second marriage. The FBI noted that a couple who testified for Eunice in the May 1961 divorce seemed to be the same people who witnessed Tony Pro's application for a marriage license in June 1961.

Records indicate that Provenzano was living with Marie-Paule Migneron in a seven-room home on Clifton's Lockwood Place for several years before their marriage.

He began working as a full-time organizer for Local 560, based in Union City, New Jersey. Around 1956-1957, he began living with Marie-Paule Migneron at 47 Lockwood Place, a seven-room house, in Clifton, New Jersey.

Labor racketeer

Provenzano
A soldier in the Genovese Crime Family and pal of Jimmy Hoffa, Tony Pro began working as a full-time organizer for Local 560 in Union City, New Jersey, about 1950. During that decade, he gained control of the powerful local. He became its president in 1958, following the resignation of William Madison for "reasons of health."

His rise to the position of local president was quickly followed by an arrest for bribery and increase scrutiny from law enforcement. In 1959, he was called to testify before the U.S. Senate's McClellan Committee and pleaded the Fifth Amendment forty-four times. He was indicted in 1961 for taking a $5,000 bribe from a Hoboken trucking company to ensure labor peace. The cases against him were unsuccessful.

Though repeatedly charged with criminal offenses related to his union role, including bribery, extortion and the murder of a rival, he continued to win reelection and to gain power over time. At a Teamsters convention at Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1960, Hoffa named Provenzano as one of 13 vice presidents of the Teamsters International. Provenzano also became leader of regional Teamster Council 73. He was widely considered the second most powerful leader of the Teamsters.

Provenzano was convicted June 11, 1963, of extortion. He was sentenced the following month to seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He remained free during his legal appeals, which continued to May 1966. He entered the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on May 6.

The conviction legally barred Provenzano from participating in union business for the length of his sentence plus five years. But, during that time, his brother Salvatore became president of Local 560 and Council 73, and his brother Nunzio became secretary-treasurer of Local 560, allowing Tony Pro to maintain control over the region's Teamsters.

Falling out with Hoffa

Hoffa
Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa was incarcerated at Lewisburg beginning in 1967, following his unsuccessful appeals of 1964 convictions for jury tampering and fraud. While Hoffa and Provenzano were both at that institution, the old friends had a serious falling out. Some sources say they argued over Provenzano's desire to have Hoffa use influence to secure him a Teamsters pension. One report indicates that the conflict became physical and that Hoffa broke a bottle over Provenzano's head.

Provenzano was paroled from Lewisburg in November 1970. He immediately became close with Frank Fitzsimmons, who Hoffa had selected to succeed him as Teamsters International president. Fitzsimmons made Tony Pro's brother Salvatore Provenzano a vice president and general organizer for the International the following year.

At the end of 1971, Hoffa was released from prison through a commutation from President Nixon. The former Teamsters president began to maneuver to regain control of the union. Mending fences with the powerful and well connected Tony Pro was necessary.

When last seen on July 30, 1975, Hoffa was reportedly on his way to a meeting with Provenzano at a restaurant outside of Detroit. Hoffa's wife told authorities that she was aware of threats made by Provenzano against her husband and against their grandchildren.

The investigation of Hoffa's disappearance focused on Provenzano and his aides within Local 560. An informant indicated that Salvatore and Gabriel Briguglio and Thomas and Stephen Andretta, all connected to Local 560, knew what happened to Hoffa. A grand jury in Detroit was unable to resolve the matter.

End of the road

In December of 1975, the five-year ban on Provenzano union activity ended. Salvatore Provenzano resigned as Local 560 president. Nunzio Provenzano moved from secretary-treasurer to president and immediately appointed Tony Pro as the new secretary-treasurer.

Almost immediately, Tony Pro was indicted for conspiring to arrange a financial kickback from a Teamsters pension fund loan. About half a year later, he was charged, along with Salvatore Briguglio and others, with conspiring in the 1961 kidnapping and murder of union rival Anthony "Three-Finger" Castellito. Castellito had been a leader of a dissident faction within the Teamsters local. He vanished on July 5, 1961. Investigators with an Organized Crime Task Force later learned that Castellito had been severely beaten by Provenzano underlings and garroted to death.

Provenzano's career was quickly coming to a close. Two cases for racketeering conspiracy went against him in 1978 and 1979. The first, tried in New York's Southern District, resulted in four-year prison sentence. The second, tried in Newark, New Jersey, federal court, resulted in a twenty-year sentence.

Tony Pro managed to remain free during his legal appeals until late in 1980. His prison terms and the final stage of his life began on November 18, 1980.

Sources:

  • "Anthony Provenzano," Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 100-12-5957, birth May 23, 1917, death December 1988.
  • "Anthony Provenzano, mobster, suspect in Hoffa disappearance," Camden NJ Courier-Post, Dec. 13, 1988, p. 18.
  • "Anthony Provenzano, New Jersey crime figure," Morristown NJ Daily Record, Dec. 13, 1988, p. 13.
  • "Tony Pro's name appears on tape," Passaic NJ Herald-News, Jan. 7, 1970, p. 2.
  • California Death Index, 100-12-9557, death Dec. 12, 1988.
  • Donnelly, Frank H., "Anthony Provenzano aka Tony Pro," FBI Report, file no. 92-7195-2, NARA no. 124-10221-10186, Dec. 20, 1963.
  • Edelman, Susan, "100 attend 'low-keyed' funeral for 'Tony Pro,'" Hackensack NJ Record, Dec. 18, 1988, p. 1.
  • Kelly, Mike, "The legacy of Tony Pro," Hackensack NJ Record, Dec. 13, 1988, p. B1.
  • New York City Birth Index, certificate no. 26086, May 24, 1917.
  • Pienciak, Richard T., "Tony Pro indicted" 'I'm just a truck driver,'" Bridgewater NJ Courier-News, Dec. 11, 1975, p. 1.
  • Social Security Death Index, 100-12-5957, death December 1988.
  • United States Census of 1930, New York State, New York County, Assembly District 1, Enumeration District 31-22.
  • United States Census of 1940, New York State, New York County, Enumeration District 31-74.
  • Windrem, Robert, "Two sides of 'Tony Pro,'" New Brunswick NJ Home News, June 24, 1976, p. 1.
  • Yost, Pete, "Stephen Andretta faces grand jury in Detroit," Bridgewater NJ Courier-News, Dec. 11, 1975, p. 1.

24 June 2019

Peers salute Genovese after murder acquittal

On this date in 1946...

Leaders of Mafia crime families based in the eastern U.S.  assembled at Midtown Manhattan's Hotel Diplomat, 108-116 West 43rd Street, on June 24, 1946, for a welcome home banquet in honor of Vito Genovese, according to Dom Frasca's book King of Crime (New York: Crown Publishers, 1959). Pittson, Pennsylvania, boss Santo Volpe was the first to greet the guest of honor, Frasca wrote. Reportedly the most senior of the crime bosses in attendance, Volpe led "Don Vitone" to a leather chair at the head of table. The remaining twenty-seven Mafiosi, standing around the table, offered their greetings and congratulations.

Genovese actually had been home in the United States for a few weeks by then. He returned from Italy June 1 in the custody of the U.S. Army Provost Marshal's Office and was turned over to New York prosecutors to stand trial for ordering "hits" on Ferdinand "the Shadow" Boccia and William Gallo in 1934. Boccia was murdered, but Gallo survived. (Genovese also was suspected of calling for the 1943 murder of anti-Fascist editor Carlo Tresca.)

As underboss to Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania in the summer of 1936, Genovese was poised to take control of a sprawling and highly profitable crime family when Lucania was convicted of compulsory prostitution and given a lengthy prison sentence.

Genovese was naturalized a U.S. citizen in November 1936, but almost immediately obtained a passport to leave the country, as he feared prosecution for the Boccia murder. He served the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini during World War II but then worked as an interpreter for the occupying American forces beginning in January 1944.

Murder suspects: Genovese, Mike Miranda, George Smurra, Gus Frasca.
(Brooklyn Eagle)

While he was away, Brooklyn prosecutors built the murder case against Genovese and other crime family leaders, largely through the confession of Ernest "the Hawk" Rupolo, who took part in the attacks on Boccia and Gallo, and corroborating testimony of witness Peter LaTempa. On August 7, 1944, a Kings County grand jury indicted Genovese for homicide. That news was transmitted to military officials, and Genovese was arrested in Italy by the end of the month.

It took months for the extradition process to begin. During that process, prosecutors' only corroborating witness, LaTempa, died in a prison holding cell of a mysterious drug overdose. Corroborating testimony was essential to the case, as state law would not permit conviction based solely on the testimony of an accomplice in the crime.

Prosecutors went ahead with the case following Genovese's return. Genovese was arraigned for the Boccia murder in Kings County Court on June 2, 1946. Trial began on June 6. Rupolo stepped to the witness stand the next day and testified that he was hired by Genovese to eliminate Boccia and Gallo. William Gallo also testified. The state rested its case that day, and the defense immediately moved that the charge against Genovese be dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Hotel Diplomat
(Museum of City of New York)
Judge Samuel Leibowitz (a former criminal defense attorney) dismissed the indictment and directed a verdict of not guilty. But he clearly wasn't happy about the situation. "I am constrained by law to dismiss the indictment and direct the jury to acquit you," the judge stated. "...You and your criminal henchmen thwarted justice time and again by devious means, among which were the terrorizing of witnesses, kidnaping them, yes, even murdering those who could give evidence against you. I cannot speak for the jury, but I believe that if there were even a shred of corroborating evidence, you would have been condemned to the chair."

Genovese was freed on June 10, two weeks before the Hotel Diplomat gathering reported by Dom Frasca.

Years of "government" work - first with Fascists and later with occupiers - apparently left Genovese with a large nest egg (or perhaps his colleagues gave him more than just greetings and food at the banquet). One month after the welcome home party, Genovese purchased a $40,000 seaside home at 130 Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. The deal was reportedly made in cash.

Genovese once again became a key figure in the former Lucania Crime Family.

A decade later, following a 1957 botched murder attempt that left a lasting impression on boss Frank Costello's mind as well as his scalp, Genovese finally moved into the top spot of an organization that would from that time on be associated with his name.

Sources:

  • "'Hawk' tips off police to 4 slayings," Brooklyn Eagle, Aug. 9, 1944, p. 1.
  • "Arrest in Italy in Tresca slaying," New York Post, Nov. 24, 1944.
  • "Chronological history of La Cosa Nostra in the United States," Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi,Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Washington D.C, 1988.
  • "Court weighs motion to acquit Genovese," New York Times, June 8, 1946.
  • "Death of four is laid to gang," New York Sun, Aug. 9, 1944, p. 6.
  • "Genovese, cleared of murder, buys $40,000 manse in Jersey," New York Sun, Aug. 16, 1946, p. 5.
  • "Genovese denies guilt," New York Times, June 3, 1945.
  • "Genovese free in murder case," New York Sun, June 10, 1946, p. 1.
  • "Murder trade's jargon explained in court," New York Sun, June 7, 1946, p. 1.
  • "Warrants out for 6 in 1934 gang murder," New York Daily News, Aug. 8, 1944, p. 28.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.
  • Manifest of S.S. James Lykes, departed Bari, Italy, on May 17, 1945, arrived NYC June 1, 1945.
  • People v. Vito Genovese, Ind. #921/44, Brooklyn District Attorney.
  • Vito Genovese naturalization record, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, petition mo. 256403, filed Dec. 19, 1935, certificate no. 4129975, Nov. 25, 1936, canceled Sept. 1, 1955.

21 March 2019

'Sally Bugs' is killed to ensure his silence

On this date in 1978...

Briguglio
A Teamsters union official, suspected of involvement in James R. Hoffa's 1975 disappearance, was murdered March 21, 1978, on Mulberry Street in Manhattan's Little Italy.

Salvatore "Sally Bugs" Briguglio was observed standing in front of the Little Italy's Andrea Doria Social Club, 165 Mulberry Street, at about eleven o'clock that night. (The Andrea Doria club was a known hangout for members and associates of the Genovese Crime Family. It sat about a block from Umberto's Clam House, the location of the 1972 murder of renegade Colombo Family Mafioso "Crazy Joe" Gallo.)

Minutes later, two men, wearing jackets with hoods pulled over their heads, approached him from behind. There are different opinions about what happened next.

Some witnesses reported that the two men spoke with Briguglio, perhaps trying to convince him to come along with them. As conversation became argument, one of the men struck Briguglio. Other witnesses saw no such thing. They stated that no words were exchanged at all; the two hooded men merely went up to Briguglio and knocked him down.

At that point, witnesses agree that the two men with hooded jackets drew handguns and started firing. Four bullets entered Briguglio's head. One struck him in the chest. 

The gunmen ran a short distance north toward Broome Street, climbed into a light blue Mercury Monarch with New Jersey plates and drove off.

Briguglio was rushed to Bellevue Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Though the killing, which occurred just outside the front windows of the popular Benito II restaurant, 163 Mulberry Street, was seen by a number of people, all witnesses told police that they could not identify or even describe the gunmen.

Provenzano
Briguglio was secretary-treasurer of Union City, New Jersey, Local 560 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He was known to be a top aide to powerful New Jersey Teamsters official Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a Genovese Crime Family mobster. Provenzano and Hoffa once had been friendly but had a serious falling out when they served time together in prison.

Federal investigators received information that Briguglio and his brother Gabriel participated in the abduction and murder of Hoffa. Salvatore Briguglio was brought twice before a Detroit federal grand jury investigationg the Hoffa disappearance. He reportedly refused to testify, citing his right against self-incrimination.

At the time he was killed, Briguglio was awaiting trial with Provenzano, New Jersey racketeer Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg and others for the 1961 killing of a previous Local 560 secretary-treasurer, Anthony Castellito, who dared to oppose "Tony Pro." Rumors suggested that Provenzano feared Briguglio was providing information to prosecutors and had him silenced.

Briguglio and Konigsberg may have been on thin ice for some time. FBI heard that there was a Mafia death sentence against both men just months after they worked together on the killing of Castellito.

A different Provenzano associate, Salvatore Sinno, was cooperating with law enforcement and provided all the information needed for a successful prosecution. Provenzano and his codefendants were convicted of the Castellito murder just a few months after Briguglio was slain.

Sources:

  • "Tony Pro convicted of murder," Passaic NJ Herald-News, June 15, 1978, p. 9.
  • Buder, Leonard, "Federal agents hope Teamster slaying in Little Italy will offer leads in the Hoffa-disappearance case," New York Times, March 23, 1978, p. B3.
  • Casey, Dave, "Hallandale men indicted, sought in pension fraud," Fort Lauderdale FL News, Nov. 29, 1978, p. 1B.
  • Doyle, Patrick, and Joan Shepard, "A Hoffa witness is slain by 2 in Little Italy street," New York Daily News, March 22, 1978, p. 3.
  • Edmonds, Richard, "Says Tony Pro paid for a hit," New York Daily News, June 2, 1978, p. 18.
  • Gage, Nicholas, "Provenzano indicted with Teamster aide in '61 union killing," New York Times, June 24, 1976, p. 69.
  • Kramer, Marcia, and Paul Meskil, "Cops read 'contract' in killing of Hoffa suspect," New York Daily News, March 23, 1978, p. 5.
  • Linker, Norbert R., "Criminal influence in International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 560, Union City, New Jersey," FBI report, file no. CR 92-5215-22, NARA no. 124-10300-10030, Jan. 15, 1962.
  • Social Security Death Index, 141-22-0294, March 1978.

19 December 2018

'Chin' Gigante dies in prison hospital

On this date in 2005...

Vincent "Vinny the Chin" Gigante, longtime boss of the Genovese Crime Family, died December 19, 2005, at the United States Medical Center for Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. The seventy-seven-year-old was serving a racketeering sentence at the time of his death.

Prison staff found Gigante unresponsive at five-fifteen in the morning and attempted without success to resuscitate him through CPR. A cause of death was not announced, but prison officials noted that Gigante had a history of heart disease.

Gigante was born in New York on March 29, 1928. His family lived for many years on Thompson Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village neighborhood. In his late teens, Gigante was a prizefighter. He later became a protege of crime bosses Vito Genovese and Tommy Eboli, and he is generally believed to have been the gunman who wounded Frank Costello in May 1957.

After serving a five-year sentence for a 1959 narcotics trafficking conviction, "Chin" Gigante advanced to leadership positions in the Genovese Crime Family. He was one of the key figures - along with longtime friend Venero "Benny Eggs" Mangano - in the organization's powerful Greenwich Village crew. Gigante ran his criminal rackets from the Triangle Social Club.

About a decade after the narcotics conviction, Gigante first made use of feigned mental illness. When charged with attempting to bribe the police department, he managed to convince doctors that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

Gigante gradually took over the Genovese clan in the early 1980s, as boss Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo moved into retirement. (Venero Mangano substituted for Gigante in 1988, when the boss had surgery for a heart ailment.) Gigante deflected attention first by having East Harlem-based Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno pose as crime family leader and, after Salerno's 1992 death, by publicly portraying himself as severely mentally ill. Family and close acquaintances insisted that he suffered with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and/or paranoid schizophrenia.

Gigante did his best to back up the amateur diagnoses through his actions. He regularly checked into hospitals seeking treatment for hallucinations and dementia. He often wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in pajamas, robe and slippers, was observed carrying on conversations with himself and once was found hiding under an umbrella in his bathroom shower. The New York press dubbed him "the Oddfather."

The Chin's act was largely successful until the July 25, 1997, conviction for racketeering, extortion and plotting (but not carrying out) a murder resulted in a twelve-year prison sentence. In 2003, Gigante admitted in Brooklyn federal court that he had been feigning mental illness in order to obstruct justice. Three more years were added to his prison sentence following that admission.

Sources:
  • Marzulli, John, "Last of the old dons gone," New York Daily News, Dec. 20, 2005, p. 36.
  • Newman, Andy, "Analyze this: Gigante not crazy after all those years," New York Times, April 13, 2003.
  • Pyle, Richard, "Imprisoned mob boss Vincent Gigante, 77," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 20, 2005, p. B9, "Vincent Gigante, mob's 'Oddfather,'" Arizona Republic, Dec. 20, 2005, p. 10.
  • Raab, Selwyn, "Vincent Gigante, mob boss who feigned incompetence to avoid jail, dies at 77," New York Times, Dec. 20, 2005, p. 29.

See also: