Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pennsylvania. Show all posts

25 February 2020

Death of powerful NE Pennsylvania boss

Some link Bufalino to Hoffa disappearance, 
Kennedy assassination, effort to kill Castro

On this date in 1994...

Rosario "Russell" Bufalino, longtime boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Mafia, departed this life on Friday afternoon, February 25, 1994, at the age of 90. He may have taken numerous underworld secrets with him. Bufalino was widely suspected of involvement in the disappearance of former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa. He also was believed by many to hold information relating to the assassination of President John Kennedy and to the CIA's efforts to remove Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.


A resident of Kingston for much of his life, Bufalino passed away at ten minutes after two in the borough's Nesbitt Memorial Hospital. The cause of death was not released. Relatives kept secret their plans for Bufalino's funeral, irritating state and federal investigators who wanted to document and film the individuals attending it.

Born October 29, 1903, at Montedoro, Sicily, Bufalino was taken to the United States as a baby with his mother Christina Bucceleri Bufalino and several siblings. His father Angelo was already living in the Pittson area of Pennsylvania. Following the deaths of his parents, Bufalino and two sisters were shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic by family members. He and one sister ended up in 1914 with an older brother in Buffalo, New York (who was close to Magaddino underboss John Montana), while the remaining sister was deported for medical reasons. As a teen, Bufalino worked as an automobile mechanic.

Bufalino married Caroline Sciandra at Buffalo in the summer of 1928. The newlyweds subsequently moved to Endicott, New York, and Pittston, Pennsylvania, before settling in Kingston. They both had relatives in the region. Bufalino became involved in the garment industry and held financial interests in the Penn Drape & Curtain Company and the Alaimo Dress Company.

This was a departure from the pattern of earlier underworld-connected Montedoresi in the Luzerne County coal country, who had become leaders both in coal mining operations and in the coalminers' labor unions. Bufalino's early roles in the regional Mafia, known as the "Men of Montedoro" because of the dominance of the Montedoresi, are uncertain.

Bufalino likely succeeded to the leadership of the Men of Montedoro Mafia following the 1949 death of John Sciandra. But he was not really noticed by law enforcement until the Apalachin convention of 1957.

Bufalino's crime family was reported to be closely aligned with the Genovese Crime Family of nearby New York City. Bufalino spent much of his time in New York and is believed to have aided Mafiosi from that area in setting themselves up in non-union garment manufacturing businesses in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Bufalino also appeared to have business interests in Florida and Cuba.

There were reports of a visit to Cuba by Bufalino in November 1951. Documented trips to the island nation in late 1955 and spring 1956 later caused serious legal problems for the crime boss because he improperly claimed U.S. citizenship upon his reentry.

Authorities were confused by crime family relationships following the 1957 Apalachin convention. Due to the proximity of convention host Joseph Barbara's Apalachin estate to Scranton, Pittston, Wilkes-Barre home territory of the Northeast Pennsylvania Mafia, state and federal investigators decided that Barbara was a regional crime boss and Bufalino was his underboss. (This was stated in the 1970 report of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission.) It now appears, however, that Barbara was a remote lieutenant for the Magaddino Crime Family based in Buffalo, New York, while Bufalino was boss of his own organization.

As federal investigators looked into Bufalino after Apalachin, they discovered documents relating to his earlier returns from Cuba. In April of 1958, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered him deported as an undesirable alien. Years of legal appeals followed.

(Some writers have insisted that Bufalino developed a close personal relationship with Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the late 1950s and worked to return Batista to power after Fidel Castro's revolution. Some connect these claims to incidents relating to Hoffa and the Kennedys. There even have been suggestions that Bufalino personally fled Cuba just ahead of Castro's advancing army at the start of 1959 and may have watched the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion from a ship off the Cuban coast. Given Bufalino's ongoing problems with the INS deportation order, these claims seem far-fetched. It would have been extremely unlikely that Bufalino would have risked setting foot outside the country in this period for any reason at all.)

Late in 1959, Bufalino was among the more than 20 Apalachin meeting attendees to be convicted of conspiring to keep the purpose of the meeting from investigating agencies. In January 1960, Bufalino and fourteen co-defendants were sentenced to serve five-year terms in prison. Others were sentenced to lesser terms. The judge permitted the defendants to remain free on bail pending their appeals. Nearly a year later, an appeals court threw out the convictions.

Bufalino remained virtually untouched by law enforcement until his later years. Near the end of 1969, he was indicted in connection with the transport of stolen televisions across state lines. He was acquitted in 1970 and complained to the press about law enforcement harassment and wiretapping. He was then charged in spring 1973 with engaging in extortion in the cigarette vending machine business. A jury in Buffalo, New York, acquitted him.

At about that time, the U.S. was poised finally to deport him to his native Italy, but Italy halted the plan, refusing to issue the paperwork necessary for his return.

Another extortion case resulted in another acquittal in 1975. In the same period, Bufalino was mentioned but not charged in connection with the disappearance and likely murder of Hoffa, who was attempting to regain power in the Teamsters union. However, in the summer of 1977, Bufalino was convicted of extortion. His first documented experience inside a prison occurred in summer 1978, when his legal appeals concluded and he became an inmate at Danbury, Connecticut, Federal Correctional Institution. He served three years of the sentence before being paroled on May 8, 1981.

During his time in prison, the crime family of Northeastern Pennsylvania was reportedly managed by Edward Sciandra (nephew of former boss John Sciandra).

Less than half a year after his release from prison - at a time when his underworld organization was regarded as the most powerful in the State of Pennsylvania - he was charged with conspiring to kill a federal witness back in 1976. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. He was released in May 1989, after serving six years and eight months of that term. The end of the sentence was served in the federal prison hospital at Springfield, Missouri, as Bufalino's health began to decline in 1987 and a transfer was deemed necessary.

Bufalino spent the final two years of his life in a Kingston nursing home. Following his death, management of the regional crime family fell to Edward Sciandra and former Bufalino driver and confidant William D'Elia.

Read more:

Informer - Apr 2011

INFORMER: Informer - Apr 2011

Men of Montedoro by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona / Daring 1870 Bank Robbery in Scranton / Sicilian Miners Battle Black Handers in Northeastern Pennsylvania by Thomas Hunt / Capones Reach the Promised Land by Deirdre Marie Capone / Northeast Pennsylvania Mafia Membership Chart by Bill Feather /…

Find out more on MagCloud


Sources:

  • Corbett, Steve, "Moving up in the underworld," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, March 29, 1994, p. 3.
  • Corbett, Steve, "The passing of a shadow," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, March 1, 1994, p. 3.
  • "Death of the Don: Bufalino ruled over a vast crime empire," Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice, March 6, 1994, p. 8.
  • "Death of the Don: Direction of Bufalino Family now remains unclear," Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice, March 7, 1994, p. 6.
  • "Feds want Bufalino mourners on film," Wilkes-Barre Citizens" Voice, March 1, 1994, p. 5.
  • Houlihan, Frederick T., "Russell Alfred Bufalino, aka Russell Bufalino...," FBI report, file no. 92-2839-86, NARA no. 124-10290-10333, Sept. 12, 1960.
  • Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Vol. II - From 1938, 2013.
  • Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, "Men of Montedoro," Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement, April 2011.
  • Lynott, Jerry, "Former Pocono Record writer's book reveals a boss's power," Pocono Record, Sept. 3, 2013.
  • "Mob boss Bufalino dies," Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice, Feb. 26, 1994, p. 4.
  • "Mob boss Russell Bufalino," Philadelphia Daily News, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 37.
  • Moldea, Dan E., "The Hoffa Wars," Playboy, November 1978.
  • Morrison, Mitch, "Mystery follows Bufalino to the grave," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, March 1, 1994, p. 2.
  • New York State Marriage Index, Buffalo, New York, certificate no. 23108, Aug. 9, 1928.
  • "Organized crime may be meeting its Waterloo," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, April 17, 1994, p. 17.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Brasile, departed Naples on Dec. 31, 1905, arrived New York on Jan. 14, 1906.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Citta di Milano, departed Naples on Dec. 2, 1903, arrived New York on Dec. 21, 1903.
  • Pennsylvania Crime Commission, Report on Organized Crime, 1970.
  • Russell A. Bufalino World War II draft registration card, Fox Hill PA, 1942.
  • "Russell Bufalino," New York Daily News, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 25.
  • "Russell Bufalino, 91, reputed Pa. mob boss," Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 28, 1994, p. C10.
  • "Russell Bufalino, alleged mob boss, dies at age 90," Hazleton Standard Speaker, Feb. 26, 1994, p. 30.
  • "Russell Bufalino, reputed Pennsylvania crime boss," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 16.
  • SAC Philadelphia, "Russell A. Bufalino, aka, Neutrality Matter," FBI Airtel, file no. 2-1664-1, NARA no. 124-10293-10378, March 3, 1961.
  • Scholz, Frank, "Reputed mob boss Bufalino, 91, dies," Scranton Sunday Times, Feb. 27, 1994, p. 3.
  • Shurmaitis, Dawn, "Just a good fella?," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, April 17, 1994, p. 1.
  • Shurmaitis, Dawn, and Robert Sitten, "Russell Bufalino, 'don of dons,' dies," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Feb. 26, 1994, p. 1.
  • Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 168-12-7767, death date Feb. 25, 1994, claim date July 26, 1968.
  • Social Security Death Index, 162-12-7767, Feb. 25, 1994, Ancestry.com.
  • U.S. Department of Labor Immigration Service file on Cristina Bufalino, 1914.

21 October 2019

NYC Barrel Murder suspect killed in Pennsylvania

On this date in 1905...


A recent arrival to the mining community of Browntown, in Pennsylvania's Pittston Township, Luciano Parrino quickly became a successful business owner. Immediately following his October 21, 1905, shooting death, authorities discovered that he was a well connected underworld figure and had been the prime suspect in the spring 1903 Barrel Murder in New York City...


19 May 2019

The Pittsburgh machine gun murder that wasn't

'The Big Gorilla' may have been
killed with his own shotgun

On this date in 1927...

Lamendola
A Pittsburgh booze racketeer known as "The Big Gorilla" was murdered May 19, 1927, in what was initially proclaimed by the local press to be the city's first underworld assassination to involve machine guns. Newspapers subsequently backed away from the machine gun claim, when law enforcement concluded that a shotgun was instrument of death.

Coverage of the killing of Luigi Lamendola involved a great many journalistic disagreements. Newspapers could not agree even on the age of the victim. He was reported to be twenty-seven years old, thirty-two and thirty-five. (He was probably close to twenty-seven.) And the uncertainty did not end there. He was said to be a member of a Black Hand extortion organization or a victim of a Black Hand extortion organization or possibly neither. He suffered either three or six bullet wounds in the head. And he was killed in a hail of machine gun fire or through a double-barreled blast of a shotgun. Or possibly two shotguns.

There was general agreement that Lamendola - known to his friends as "The Big G" - was a bad guy. He was a brutal Prohibition Era gang leader, who held a monopoly on moonshine liquor distribution in Pittsburgh's Hill District and used threats of violence and a fair amount of actual violence to maintain that monopoly.

Some have claimed that he learned his craft from the Capone Outfit in Chicago before striking out on his own. (It is difficult to support this claim. However, Lamendola may have had connections with the underworld in the Hamilton, Ontario, area.) He may have served as a lieutenant of sorts for the Pittsburgh Mafia organization (led in the period by Stefano Monastero) until ambition caused him to strive for greater status.

Lamendola knew well that he had enemies. It was said that he did not often stray from the Hill District restaurant, 27 Chatham Street, that served as his headquarters. The building was also his home, as it contained a well furnished bachelor apartment upstairs. When he did go out, he carried a sword-cane with him. With the touch of a button, the outer cane covering fell away to reveal a fifteen-inch blade.

Late Thursday evening, May 19, after he locked up the restaurant and relaxed in the establishment with a couple of business partners, some enemies came calling. A large touring car with curtained windows pulled up in front. Two men got out and tapped on the restaurant's front window and called for Lamendola to come outside.

The Big Gorilla made it to the doorway. The two who tapped on the window ducked behind the car, and two others pointed weapons - most likely shotguns - at Lamendola through the car window curtains. The weapons fire, according to the Pittsburgh Press, "shattered" Lamendola's head. The damage done left the impression that a machine gun was used.

Pittsburgh Post


Lamendola partner Peter Curatolo, nearby at the time of the shooting, was superficially wounded by some of the shrapnel.

The automobile then proceeded north on Chatham Street, while the gunmen inside of it continued to fire. At least one bit of the fired lead cracked through the window of Charles Sparano's New Italian cafe at the corner with Webster Street - still busy at that late hour - and passed within inches of the head of a violinist in the cafe orchestra. The vehicle turned onto Bigelow Boulevard and sped away to the northeast.

Lamendola was rushed to Mercy Hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Authorities noted that he was wearing diamonds valued at about $12,000 and had four $1,000 bills in his wallet. His death certificate attributed the end of Lamendola's life to "shock and hemorrhage following gunshot wound of head. Prob. murder."

During their investigation of the killing, police searched the Lamendola restaurant and discovered several hundred gallons of moonshine whiskey. In the upstairs apartment, they found automatic pistols, knives and ammunition, including shotgun shells that matched those that took his life. They found no shotgun. At least not right away.

When detectives traced the escape route taken by the gunmen, they found a shotgun discarded on Bigelow Boulevard, near Washington Street. They assumed the gunmen tossed it out of the car as they drove away.

Days later, rumors circulated that Lamendola had been betrayed by someone in his own organization and had been killed with his own shotgun.

Adding further insult to fatal injury, press coverage subsequently suggested that Lamendola was working in the U.S. as an agent of the Fascist government of Italy. That charge seems to have resulted merely from the fact that Lamendola's remains were returned to his native city of Caltanissetta, Sicily, for burial.

Authorities held Lamendola's business partners for a while and questioned known members of the Pittsburgh underworld. But Lamendola's murder was never solved.

Sources:

  • "'Ghost' of murdered bootleg czar stalks through 'Hill' with death in either hand," Pittsburgh Gazette Times, May 23, 1927, p. 3.
  • "Death spurts from auto in Chatham St.; misses girl," Pittsburgh Gazette Times, May 20, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Hill District man victim of machine gun slayers," Pittsburgh Post, May 20, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Hunt slayers of Lamendola," Pittsburgh Press, May 20, 1927, p. 23.
  • "Italian murdered by gang here believed Fascist agent," Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 16, 1927, p. 3.
  • "Lamendola, slain here, is buried in Italy," Pittsburgh Press, July 16, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Machine gun killers sought in Pittsburgh," New Castle PA News, May 20, 1927, p. 26.
  • "Machine gun theory falls when weapon that killed Hill District man is found," Pittsburgh Post, May 21, 1927, p. 5.
  • "Man ambushed and killed," Pottsville PA Evening Herald, May 20, 1927, p. 9.
  • "Murder cafe owners held," Pittsburgh Gazette Times, May 22, 1927, p. D-12.
  • "Nab gangster as murderer of Monastero," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 9, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Pittsburgh police probe slaying of restaurant owner," New Castle PA News, May 20, 1927, p. 31.
  • "Two more padlocks are clamped on," Pittsburgh Post, April 9, 1926, p. 3.
  • Gazarik, Richard, Prohibition Pittsburgh, The History Press, 2017.
  • Luigi Lamendola Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, file no. 45184, registered no. 4142, May 19, 1927.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Conte Rosso, departed Naples, Italy, on Nov. 20, 1926, arrived New York, NY, on Nov. 30, 1926.