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

08 December 2019

Vitale dinner holdup sparks investigations

Incident leads to city magistrate's removal,
mayor's resignation, Tammany Hall's defeat

New York Times
On this date in 1929...
 
Seven gunmen entered a Bronx, New York, testimonial dinner for city Magistrate Albert H. Vitale early in the morning of December 8, 1929, and robbed the guests, including political leaders, well known hoodlums and one off-duty NYPD detective.

The testimonial, begun Saturday night, December 7, was drawing to a close at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, when Vitale rose to make some remarks. At that moment, the seven men, who had quietly entered and positioned themselves at the rear of the second floor banquet room of Roman Gardens, 2401 Southern Boulevard near 187th Street, drew handguns and politely instructed the fifty attendees to turn over their valuables. One of the seven had a handkerchief wrapped around the lower half of his face. The others were not masked. Some accounts indicated that the partly masked gunman was the leader of the group. Working at a leisurely pace, they gathered several thousand dollars' worth of cash and jewelry and departed the restaurant at one o'clock.

Vitale
Little is known of what occurred at the restaurant immediately after the robbery. The incident was not officially reported to police until about 2 a.m. The delay in reporting raised numerous questions and eventually cost Detective Johnson his job.

Hours later, the service revolver taken by the robbers from Johnson was returned through Vitale at Vitale's office in the Tepecano Democratic Club, 187th Street, in the Bronx. Published reports indicated that much of the rest of the loot taken in the robbery also was returned. Rumors suggested that the influence of organized criminals, in league with Vitale, forced the robbers to send back the stolen items.

The robbery occurred just a month and a half after the Black Tuesday stock market collapse, when the U.S. was beginning to sink into the Great Depression and Americans were beginning to blame rampant lawlessness and official corruption for their economic woes.

After the robbery and related oddities were reported in the press, investigations were launched into Vitale's associations with crime figures. Special attention was given to the testimonial dinner and to reports that underworld boss Ciro Terranova and several of his men were in attendance. The situation also sparked a New York State Senate investigation (known as the Hofstadter Committee and as the Seabury Investigation) into corruption within the Tammany Hall-aligned administration of Mayor James Walker.

Suggestions of Vitale wrongdoing in connection with that event were unproven. Vitale's explanations for the presence of gangsters in the Roman Gardens restaurant hosting his dinner and for the return of the service revolver were accepted as plausible. But other examples of faulty judgment came to light.

Roman Gardens
The Bar Association found that Magistrate Vitale had acted improperly in accepting a large 1928 loan from underworld financier Arnold Rothstein (a charge first leveled by mayoral candidate Fiorello La Guardia late in his unsuccessful 1929 campaign) and in discharging a thief represented by a Rothstein-retained attorney. It recommended Vitale's removal from the bench.

In March 1930, the five justices of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division agreed that the Rothstein loan brought "the court into public disrepute and suspicion." The justices made Vitale an ex-magistrate but stopped short of disbarring him.

Vitale returned to a private law practice, while investigations led to the removal of a number of corrupt officials, to a reform of the city courts and to an end of Tammany Hall's domination of city government. Mayor Walker resigned in late summer 1932. He was immediately succeeded by Tammany nominee John P. O'Brien. After a year, La Guardia and a reform administration was brought in through the 1933 municipal election.

02 December 2019

KC's Gurera gave info to federal agents

In his latest contribution to the Mafiahistory.us website's "Rat Trap" section, researcher Edmond Valin identifies Mafioso Joseph Gurera as the confidential FBI informant referred to in government reports as "KC-586."

Read:

Joseph Gurera
Gurera possessed a great deal of information on the Kansas City and Milwaukee crime families, as he was well connected to leaders in both organizations. Coming of age within the rackets of Kansas City, there is evidence that Gurera was involved in the 1950 murders of underworld-political leaders Charles Binaggio and Charles Gargotta.

When Milwaukee boss Frank Balistrieri sought new revenue streams for his organization, he brought in Gurera to help shake down operators of illicit enterprises in southeastern Wisconsin. While Gurera's activities generated income, they also brought a lot of "heat" on Balistrieri's crime family. The boss soon ordered Gurera to return to the Kansas City area.

The FBI became aware of goings-on in both criminal organizations through data revealed by informant KC-586. Comparing evidence found in FBI documents with the details of Gurera's life, Valin proves that Gurera served as an informant over a period of a few months before he died of a heart attack in 1967.


28 November 2019

Lost his love and then lost his life

How the Gophers got 'Patsy Doyle'

On this date in 1914...


NY Times, Nov. 29, 1914.

William Moore, better known by his Manhattan gangland alias of "Patsy Doyle," was relaxing at his favorite West Side watering hole early Saturday evening, November 28, 1914, when the bartender called him to the telephone. Moore had been chatting with two women but left them to take the phone call at about seven-thirty. The bartender overheard a portion of the brief conversation that followed. It sounded like Moore was arranging a meeting. "That's the man I'm looking for," the gangster said, "and I'll be here."

Committing to remain in a particular location while in the middle of a gang war - effectively putting himself "on the spot" - was not Moore's best idea, but evidently he felt comfortable in his surroundings and considered himself beyond the reach of his enemies in Owen "the Killer" Madden's Gophers gang. The base of Madden's Gophers was nearly a mile away.

A short time later, about eight-thirty, Moore was approached by twenty-two-year-old Margaret Everdeane. Everdeane had recently ended a relationship with Moore's lieutenant, William "Willie the Sailor" Mott, prefering to hang out with Owen Madden's faction and a Madden aide named Arthur "the King" Stein. (Mott was reportedly an active-duty U.S. seaman, who lost Everdeane when his vessel took him from New York harbor into action in the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico.) Mott was determined either to get her back or punish her in some severe way for her disloyalty. He had just sent her an ultimatum letter and was awaiting a reply.

Owen Madden
Everdeane greeted Moore, slipped him a note and then left the saloon. A more experienced underworld figure might have been alarmed that Everdeane knew his location, particularly given her recent fondness for Madden's Gophers. But this too seems not to have troubled him.

Moore might have thought that the note was intended to be passed along to "Willie the Sailor," a response to the ultimatum, but he found that it was for him, written by his own ex-paramour Frieda Horner, who over the summer had left Moore to become Madden's mistress (Madden was married to another woman, with whom he had a baby girl).

After the loss of Horner, an enraged Moore lashed out at whatever Madden men he happened to find. He beat up several of them. When Tony Romanello, of 431 West Thirty-sixth Street, made the mistake of taunting Moore about the relationship on August 19, Moore stabbed him. Moore would have gone to prison for the stabbing, but Romanello refused to cooperate with prosecutors and went into hiding rather than appear in court.

In the note passed by Everdeane, Frieda Horner expressed an interest in returning to Moore. What Moore thought of the idea was never revealed; he had no time to express it.

At about eight-forty, three Madden men, reportedly John Vincent "Hoppo" McArdle (also called Thomas McArdle, some say he became known as "Hoppo" or "Hoppy" because of opium use, while others suggest the nickname sprang from a leg disability), Arthur "Jimmy Ward" Bieler and William Mulhall, entered Otner Brothers saloon (also known as Nash's saloon), 640 Eighth Avenue just north of Forty-first Street. McArdle pointed out Moore, and Bieler drew a pistol and fired two bullets into Moore's chest.

The Madden men quickly left the saloon, headed south on Eighth Avenue, turned west on Thirty-ninth Street and disappeared into some tenements near Ninth Avenue.

In his final seconds, Moore turned, moved through a side door and staggered up a stairway leading to apartments over the saloon. He collapsed and fell dead on the stairs.

Early accounts
Early accounts of the "Patsy Doyle" killing contained a number of details later shown to be errors.

New York County Coroner Israel Lewis Feinberg repeatedly pulled the investigation in an incorrect direction by insisting that the shooting death of Moore was connected somehow with the murder of independent poultryman Barnet Baff at West Washington Market a few days earlier. Feinberg's efforts resulted in a number of confused press accounts. The local press proved itself capable of confusing things all on its own.

The morning after the murder, the Brooklyn Standard Union reported that Moore was killed following a drunken squabble over the Great War, recently erupted in Europe.

Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 29, 1914.
The New York Times reported that Moore was killed as he was on his way out of the saloon and that he was attacked by five gunmen. The idea that Moore was leaving probably grew out of his final position on the stairs. Feinberg later resolved the issue by indicating that Moore moved out of an unconscious reflex after being shot.

The New York Sun described the attack as a two-way gunfight, in which Moore's attackers were fired upon and wounded by some of Moore's men.

Investigation
While the coroner continued to try to link the Moore and Baff murders, the police were convinced that Moore was killed as the result of West Side gang warfare. They initially took six witnesses in for questioning. These included saloon staff and proprietor Morris Otner (Morris partnered with his brother Oscar in a number of alcohol-related businesses in Manhattan). These witnesses were released after questioning.

Detectives then began rounding up Gophers gang members. By the end of the month of November, nine gang members were in custody, held at the West Thirty-Seventh Street Police Station as material witnesses. Police attention then turned to several women who had knowledge of the Moore killing.

These women were Horner, nineteen, of 355 East Eighty-first Street; Everdeane, of 355 West Forty-third Street; Mrs. Edwin Hill, twenty-six, of 2299 Eighth Avenue; Mary O'Donnell, twenty-six, of the same Eighth Avenue address; and Josephine Moore of West Twentieth Street.

Hill and O'Donnell appear to be the women who were speaking with Moore at the saloon when he was summoned to the telephone call. Horner and Everdeane were the women who had jilted Moore and Mott in favor of Madden gangsters. Josephine Moore identified herself as the widow of the slain man.

Fear, jealousy and a bit of chivalry merged into detectives' working theory of the case, though vengeance and underworld rivalry were probably bigger factors. Detectives reasoned that Horner and Everdeane had been threatened by their ex-lovers. They and Buckley communicated the threats to Madden's gang. Madden supposedly sought to protect the women - and avenge harms previously done to them - by acting against Moore and Mott. Madden hoped to use the women to locate his targets and hold them in place while he dispatched gunmen to eliminate them.

Looking into Moore's background, police found that he previously lived in Brooklyn, where he was briefly associated with the Red Onion Gang of Myrtle Avenue. He reportedly had been convicted of selling narcotics (one source says he was convicted of carrying firearms) around 1912 and served a prison sentence. Following his release from prison, he moved to Manhattan's West Side, where some said he associated with the Hudson Dusters gang and others indicated his membership in a branch of the Gophers at war with Madden.

On December 16, 1914, indictments for first-degree murder were returned against Owen Madden, Arthur Bieler and John McArdle. William Mulhall had escaped. The indictments were announced by Assistant District Attorney Walter Deuel at a long-delayed inquest presided over by Coroner Feinberg.

Owen Madden
 First trials
The first Gopher defendants to be tried were Bieler and McArdle, charged with direct involvement in the killing of Moore. Their cases went before Judge Thomas Crain in General Sessions Court early in 1915.

Bieler employed a bit of trickery to ensure that neither he nor McArdle would be convicted of first-degree murder and face the death penalty. He offered to make a full confession and assist in the prosecution of the other defendants in exchange for a plea deal on the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.

The deal was arranged. and Bieler was convicted and sentenced to eighteen years in prison. He was brought to the witness stand to testify about McArdle's role in the crime. But Bieler's testimony put the entire blame for the Moore murder on himself. He claimed that McArdle, unaware of Bieler's anger toward Moore and unaware that Bieler was armed, merely pointed out Moore for him. Bieler stated that he was carrying a pistol not intending to use it against Moore but for personal safety at a dance later in the evening. (Gang violence frequently erupted at dances, also known as "rackets.") When he approached Moore, Bieler said, a shot was fired at him and he drew his weapon and fired it in self-defense.

McArdle was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. Bieler was received at Sing Sing on March 26. McArdle was received there on April 7.

NY Evening World, May 24, 1915

Madden trial
Owen Madden's murder trial began May 24 in General Sessions before Judge Charles Nott. He was charged with ordering and supervising the murder of Moore. He was represented by attorney Charles Colligan, a former prosecutor.

Assistant District Attorney W.H.L. Edwards delivered the opening statement for the prosecution. In it, Edwards said Madden set out to kill Moore because he considered him "a rat." According to Edwards, Madden was known to have said, "I have had it planned to croak Patsy Doyle because he is a squealer... When he had a fight he called a cop and I wouldn't dare trust him."

The state's key witnesses were "Willie the Sailor" Mott, Margaret Everdeane and Frieda Horner. While they had sought Madden's protection from Moore and Mott, Everdeane and Horner evidently did not want to see anyone killed. Their feelings about Madden and his gang changed abruptly following Moore's death.

Mott testified that he personally saw Madden waiting across the street from the saloon where Moore was shot. Everdeane and Horner told of their changing relationships with West Side gangsters. Everdeane said she responded to Mott's threatening letter by going to Madden's gang hangout, a lunchroom at Thirty-third Street and Tenth Avenue and speaking about it directly to Madden. Madden then hatched the plan to attack Moore and Mott in the saloon.

According to her testimony, Mott saw her in the saloon and immediately took her outside. That may have saved his life.

Horner testified about the conflict between Moore and Madden. She said that, when Moore was released following the Romanello stabbing, Madden sent him a note revealing that "Madden had got him out of trouble..., so that he could have the pleasure of getting Patsy himself."

Horner admitted that she telephoned Moore at the saloon the night he was killed.

On cross examination, prosecutors established that Horner had altered her story between the McArdle and Madden trials. Horner said that she lied in the earlier case but was being truthful in the Madden trial.

Madden (back row, center) and his Gophers.

Bieler and McArdle were brought from Sing Sing by the defense to testify that Madden was not near saloon when Moore was shot. Madden gangsters Owen Lawlor, "Dodie" Fitzsimmons and Martin Ellis testified that Madden had not been aware of Mulhall, Bieler and McArdle heading out to the saloon because Madden was not at his lunchroom headquarters that night.

As the defense brought its case to a close on May 31, Madden took the stand in his own defense. He claimed that he had not been involved in the Moore shooting and had not been near his lunchroom or the saloon that night. That Saturday night, he went to a dance at Park Avenue and Fifty-first Street and then to another dance in the Bronx. He returned to Manhattan about two o'clock the next morning.

Madden got into an argument with prosecutor Deuel during cross examination. He stood up and accused the assistant district attorney of trying to frame him: "I'm not getting a fair chance. Why can't you give me a fair show? You might as well take me out and kill me and get it over with!" The gang boss completed his outburst by kicking over the witness chair. Judge Nott ordered that Madden be taken out of the courtroom and then called a recess.

The defendant was more composed when court resumed. He answered most of the questions put to him on cross examination by claiming he did not remember.

Madden's jury went into deliberations on June 2. After seven hours, the verdict was returned.

NY Tribune, June 3, 1915 (shows Madden, Everdeane, Horner).

Conviction and sentence
Reporters noted that Madden seemed anxious about the verdict and then relieved to learn that he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter. That conviction called for a lengthy prison sentence but removed the possibility of an end in the electric chair.

He was sentenced on June 8. Before announcing the punishment, Judge Nott spoke to Madden, discussing his foreign birth (he was born in Leeds, England, to Irish parents) and his youth in New York City. Two versions of the judge's remarks were published in the press.

The New York Sunday News quote - containing an error about Madden being born in New York -  read:
You are a young man, only 23 years old. You were born and brought up in a great city with good schools for your education and every chance to be a comfort to your family, but you chose deliberately a career of crime. Such a course brings its own reward and you are to receive it now. You meet the fate of all who choose to make of themselves menaces to the public welfare and nuisances to the citizens of New York.

The New York Press recalled the statement differently but perhaps more correctly:
The sentence I am about to pronounce is going to be such that I hope it will be a warning to men of Madden's class. He had all the advantages of an education in this city, coming here as a small lad, but he disregarded those advantages. He belongs to a class that has for years terrorized the section in which he lives. He did not work, and in some way or another he lived. I have examined the testimony in the case thoroughly and I find no extenuating circumstances. Madden has been such a pest in the neighborhood and an annoyance to God-fearing and honest citizens that I feel, however disagreeable the circumstances, I must give him the limit.

Judge Nott sentenced Madden to the maximum penalty allowed under the law, a period of ten to twenty years in prison. Madden began his term at Sing Sing on June 16.

Perjury
But the story of the "Patsy Doyle" murder case does not end there. In October, the state's key witnesses against Madden changed their views of events and supported Madden's request for a new trial.

Interestingly, Margaret Everdeane and Frieda Horner, the women who had been involved with Moore the faction and then switched to the Madden group and then testified against Madden at trial, went to Judge Nott and admitted to lying on the stand. (This was a more troublesome position for Horner, who had admitted to lying in the McArdle matter before reversing herself in the Madden case.)

Even Moore's buddy, "Willie the Sailor," recanted. He claimed that he lied about seeing Madden near the saloon when Moore was killed. He did so, he told Judge Nott, because that is what Assistant District Attorney Deuel wanted him to say. Willie Mott, removed from duty in order to participate in the case, was prepared to say whatever was necessary in order to get out of the trial and back aboard his ship. Mott revealed that Deuel paid him $60 before the trial as compensation for the pay he was losing as a Navy gunner.

Everdeane and Horner told the judge that they, too, were compelled to testify falsely by Deuel. Everdeane claimed that Deuel wrote out her testimony and delivered it through a Marian M. Goldman, who instructed her to memorize it.

Judge Nott saw no reason to believe the recanting witnesses. On November 4, he denied Madden's request for a new trial and denounced Everdeane, Horner and Mott for falsely accusing public officials of wrongdoing. That day, Everdeane and Horner were arrested on perjury warrants and locked up in the Tombs prison. They were indicted on charges of perjury a few days later. (The outcome of the perjury cases is unknown.)

Madden
Owen Madden did not serve his entire prison term at Sing Sing. His registration card for the U.S. World War I draft was filed from Auburn State Prison. He was soon transferred back to Sing Sing and then was paroled from there in 1923, after serving about seven years of the ten-to-twenty-year sentence.

His time in prison kept him from the underworld hazards and the underworld rewards of the opening years of the Prohibition Era. But he was released just at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. Madden became a part owner of a number of popular Harlem entertainment spots, including the famous Cotton Club. It is said that he became involved in organizing bootlegging activity and gambling.

In the early 1930s, Madden was sent back to Sing Sing for a year as a parole violator. Following his release in July 1933, he turned his attention to the spa city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. That city - specifically 506 West Grand Street - was his home for much of the rest of his life. He died of lung disease at Hot Springs on April 24, 1965.


Sources:

  • Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing, 1928, p. 352-355.
  • Levins, Peter, "Justice versus Owney Madden," New York Sunday News, Nov. 6, 1932, p. 52.
  • "Arthur Bieler," World War I Draft Registration Card, No. 606, Sing Sing Prison, Westchester County, New York, June 5, 1917.
  • "Doyle witnesses give Baff clues," New York Tribune, Dec. 7, 1914, p. 12.
  • "Dry padlocks snapped on nine wet doors; 'Owney' Madden's 'Club' is one of them," New York Times, June 23, 1925, p. 23.
  • "Gangsters seek writs to gain their freedom," New York Evening World, Dec. 14, 1914, p. 4.
  • "Gangsters take stand to prove alibi for Madden," New York Evening World, May 28, 1915, p. 12.
  • "Girl acted as lure in a gang killing," New York Times, May 27, 1915, p. 20.
  • "Girl admits luring a man to his death," New York Press, May 27, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Girl death Delilah to 2 gang Samsons," New York Press, May 28, 1915, p. 12.
  • "Girl says she lied when told to do so at murder trial," New York Evening World, Oct. 7, 1915, p. 2.
  • "Girl tells how gang victim was lured to death," New York Evening World, May 27, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Girl tells jury she gave signal for gang murder," New York Evening World, May 26, 1915, p. 1.
  • "Girl's taunt sent gunmen to killing," New York Times, May 28, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Girls arrested for perjury in murder case," Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 4, 1915, p. 10.
  • "Girls in Owney Madden case indicted," New York Evening World, Nov. 8, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Girls link murders of Baff and Doyle," New York Sun, Dec. 7, 1914, p. 12.
  • "Guards district attorney," New York Times, May 29, 1915, p. 11.
  • "James Ward," Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter, no. 65324, received March 26, 1915.
  • "John McArdle," Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter, no. 65887, received April 7, 1915.
  • "Killed gunman and then danced, Bielder asserts," New York Evening World, March 18, 1915, p. 8.
  • "Madden convicted of manslaughter," New York Sun, June 3, 1915, p. 14.
  • "Madden gets limit for gang murder," New York Press, June 9, 1915, p. 14.
  • "Madden gets ten to twenty years," New York Tribune, June 9, 1915, p. 16.
  • "Madden on trial as promoter of murder," New York Sun, May 25, 1915, p. 11.
  • "Owen Madden," World War I Draft Registration Card, No. 255 (No. 123 N.Y. City is written on top), June 5, 1917.
  • "Owen Madden sentenced," New York Sun, June 9, 1915, p. 7.
  • "Owen V. Madden," Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter, no. 66164, received June 16, 1915.
  • "'Owney' Madden arrested in Baff murder quest," New York Tribune, Dec. 1, 1914, p. 14.
  • "Owney Madden goes on trial for murder," New York Evening World, May 24, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Owney Madden is put on defensive," New York Sun, May 28, 1915, p. 5.
  • "Owney Madden, 73, ex-gangster, dead," New York Times, April 24, 1965, p. 1.
  • "Owney Madden, found guilty in gang killing, escapes chair by manslaughter verdict," New York Tribune, June 3, 1915, p. 14.
  • "Owney Madden's girl witnesses held for perjury," New York Evening World, Nov. 4, 1915, p. 8.
  • "Says love led to band murder," New York Herald, May 25, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Shot dead by five men," New York Times, Nov. 29, 1914, p. 13.
  • "Shot dead in row over armies of war," Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 29, 1914, p. 1.
  • "Slayer, he tells jury, but it finds his friend guilty," New York Herald, March 19, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Takes back testimony against Owen Madden," New York Sun, Oct. 19, 1915, p. 5.
  • "Ten trapped in Baff murder," New York Tribune, Dec. 17, 1915, p. 5.
  • United States Census of 1920, Westchester County, Town of Ossining, Enumeration District 159, Sing Sing Prison.
  • "William Moore," New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 33926, Nov. 28, 1914.
  • "Woman held as Doyle witness; hunt gangmen," New York Sun, Nov. 30, 1914, p. 5.
  • "Woods to direct detective bureau," New York Tribune, Dec. 10, 1914, p. 3.

25 November 2019

Bringing Joe Valachi's memoirs to the Web

The 1000-plus page memoirs of Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi are valuable source material for organized crime historians. The manuscript, entitled "The Real Thing - Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra," is one of just three authoritative inside sources on the Mafia during the period of the 1930-31 Castellammarese War (the others are published autobiographies, Vita di Capomafia by Nick Gentile and A Man of Honor by Joseph Bonanno). The Valachi memoirs were consulted and quoted by author Peter Maas for his 1968 book, The Valachi Papers, which grew into a 1972 Charles Bronson motion picture. Until now, these Joseph Valachi papers could only be accessed through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. I have been working to change that.

I first published a couple hundred pages of the manuscript on the mafiahistory.us website some years ago. The pages were acquired through the assistance of another Mafia historian, who requested anonymity. In summer 2019, I visited the JFK Library to access the remaining thousand or so pages. Since that time, I have been processing and formatting the pages for the web in small batches. At this moment, visitors to mafiahistory.us can access the first 500-plus consecutive pages of The Real Thing and an additional 80-plus scattered pages of the rest of the manuscript.

Copyright of the Valachi memoirs has been a concern. While the papers have been in the custody of the United States government and accessible to the public for decades since their official 1980 donation, the JFK Library has provided no clear guidance on any possible copyright holder. Following my summer 2019 visit to the library, I submitted a Freedom of Information request for access to the internal library paperwork relating to the memoirs. After some initial hesitation, the National Archives agreed to publicly release the "Deed of Gift" and "Donor File" relating to the memoirs. Transcriptions of these documents also have been added to the mafiahistory.us website.

The documents establish that the papers were donated to the library by Peter Maas on Christmas Eve of 1980. Maas stated his wish that they "be made available for research as soon as possible, and to the fullest extent possible." A New Year's Eve, 1980, memorandum indicates that Valachi intended at one time to publish his manuscript. Instead, the memoirs were used as source material for Maas's book, and Valachi received a payment of $75,000 for his story. Following Valachi's death in 1971, his estate went through normal probate procedures. "According to Maas' attorney, no question from Valachi's heirs about the rights to the manuscript or copyright arose during the settlement of the estate," the memorandum states. "Maas, therefore, has had the manuscript and accompanying transcript since 1965 without anyone questioning his right to the material."

This history and Maas' donation appear to place ownership of the memoirs clearly in the hands of the National Archives and the American people. In doing the work of bringing the memoirs to the Web, it is my hope to achieve Maas' goal of making them available for research "to the fullest entent possible."

Visit the Entrance Page for "The Real Thing: The Autobiography of Joseph Valachi" on Mafiahistory.us.

19 November 2019

Eight guilty of serving on Mafia ruling council

On this date in 1986...

New York Times

A Manhattan federal jury on Nov. 19, 1986, convicted eight defendants of serving on a Mafia-commanding board of directors known as "the Commission." The convictions, reached on the sixth day of deliberations, concluded a ten-week racketeering trial.

The defendants included three men authorities identified as bosses of New York-area crime families: Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, 75, of the Genovese Crime Family; Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, 73, of the Lucchese Crime Family; Carmine "Junior" Persico, 53, of the Colombo Crime Family. (It was later learned that Salerno was serving as a screen for the actual Genovese boss at that time, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante.)

Galante
The others convicted were Gennaro "Gerry Lang" Langella, 47, and Ralph Scopo, 58, of the Colombo Family; Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro, 72, and Christopher "Christie Tick" Furnari, 62, of the Lucchese Family; Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, 38, of the Bonanno Family.

The jurors found the defendants guilty of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. They found all but Indelicato guilty of extortion, extortion conspiracy and labor payoffs. They found Corallo and Santoro guilty of loansharking conspiracy and Indelicato guilty of participating in the Commission-authorized 1979 murder of Carmine Galante.

Two months later, Judge Richard Owen sentenced Indelicato to forty years in prison and sentenced each of the other defendants to a century behind bars.

The Commission Case began with arrests and arraignments back in February, 1985. Rudolph Giuliani, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said he was inspired to initiate the case after reading a discussion of the Commission in Joseph Bonanno's 1981 autobiography, A Man of Honor. He decided to apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against the panel of organized crime leaders.

Dellacroce
The list of original defendants included Salerno, Corallo, Santoro, Furnari, Langella and Scopo, as well as Philip "Rusty" Rastelli, boss of the Bonanno Crime Family; Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, boss of the Gambino Crime Family; Gambino underboss Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce. A superseding indictment in June 1985 added Persico and Stefano Cannone to the case, bringing the number of defendants to eleven.

Dellacroce died of natural causes on Dec. 2, 1985. Castellano was murdered in Manhattan two weeks later. Cannone's death, reported in the press in January 1986, apparently occurred in September 1985.

When Rastelli, who was being tried in Brooklyn on a separate matter, was severed from the case, prosecutors added Indelicato to the list of defendants, as the sole representative of the Bonanno Family.

The trial began with jury selection on September 8, 1986.

11 November 2019

Two killed at Castellammarese colony in Brooklyn

On this date in 1917...

Two men were shot to death at a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, street corner late Sunday afternoon, November 11, 1917. Authorities surmised that the double-killing stemmed from a Mafia feud.

The victims were residents of the neighborhood, largely a Sicilian colony populated by immigrants from Castellammare del Golfo: Antonino Mazzara, thirty, lived at 230 North Fifth Street, and Antonino DiBenedetto, forty-three, lived at 343 Metropolitan Avenue.

Witnesses saw the two men at about five-thirty that afternoon, speaking with two others on North Fifth Street just northwest of the intersection with Roebling Street. As two teenage girls walked by, they overheard an argument. They recalled that one of the men threatened, "If you don't tell us, we will kill you."

Moments later, there were gunshots. New York Police Detective James Kenny, walking home at the end of his workday, was on Roebling Street approaching North Fifth when he heard four rapid shots, a pause and then three more shots. As Kenny reached the corner, he saw two men on the ground and two others, with guns in their hands, running northwest in the direction of Driggs Avenue. He ran after the gunmen.

One fled through the hallway of a building and got away. Kenny caught up with the other at Driggs Avenue. He overpowered and disarmed the man, using a choke hold and an arm twisting move to bring him to his knees and cause him to drop his firearm. The gunman was later identified as Antonio Massino, twenty-seven, of 165 East 112th Street in Manhattan. Massino's firearm was a magazine-fed pistol. Reports indicated that its magazine was empty.

The sound of the shots brought hundreds of area residents onto the street and caused police officers Wagner, Clancey and Reilly of the Bedford Avenue Station to rush to the scene. Acting Police Captain James Green sent in reserves to disperse the crowd. An ambulance was summoned. Mazzara, shot through the heart, was already dead when it arrived. DiBenedetto, shot above the heart and in the neck, survived just a bit longer. He succumbed to his wounds within minutes of his arrival at Eastern District Hospital, then located about a half mile away on South Third Street.

Police Captain Daniel Carey and a number of detectives came out to search the area. In a vacant lot near the intersection of North Fifth Street and Driggs Avenue, beside a school construction site, they found two loaded shotguns and an empty guitar case. They concluded that the guns had been brought to the location in the case. But only geography linked the guns to the killings of Mazzara and DiBenedetto.

Manhattan police officials were notified of the murders and of the arrest of Massino. Manhattan Detective Marci was put on watch at Massino's building on 112th Street, in case his accomplice showed up. At about 2:30 the next morning, the detective observed a man approaching the building cautiously, looking up and down the street, and then dashing for the entrance. Marci placed the man under arrest. The suspect, identified as Giuseppe Martinnico, thirty-three, of 90 Main Street in Jersey City, New Jersey, was found to be in possession of a handgun very similar to the one found on Massino.

The two girls who witnessed the argument before the shooting were unable to identify the suspects. Police brought Antonino Mazzara's brother Joseph to the Bedford Station to look over the suspects. Joseph said he did not remember ever seeing the men before. Massino offered a weak explanation for running from a murder scene with a gun in his hand. He had armed himself after recently receiving two threatening letters, and drew the firearm to protect himself after hearing shots fired.

Sources:
  • Antonino DiBenedetto, New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 21982, Nov. 11, 1917.
  • Antonio Mazzara, New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 21983, Nov. 11, 1917.
  • "Double murder due to feud, police say," Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 12, 1917, p. 4.
  • "Two die in street after seven shots," New York Herald, Nov. 12, 1917, p. 14.
  • "Two killed in street battle," Brooklyn Citizen, Nov. 12, 1917, p. 2.
  • "Two men are held on homicide charge," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 12, 1917, p. 4.

05 November 2019

'Mafia Cop' Eppolito dies in federal custody

Eppolito
[From Mob-News blog
Louis Eppolito, 71, a former New York Police detective who was convicted of committing murders for organized crime, died Sunday, November 3, 2019, at the Tucson Medical Center in Arizona, according to published reports.

The inmate locator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirms that Louis Eppolito, register number 04596-748, died November 3, 2019. There is no indication of the cause of death.

Eppolito and his former NYPD partner Stephen Caracappa were sentenced in March 2009 to life in prison, following a 2006 conviction for participation in mob murders, attempted murders, racketeering and conspiracy.

Caracappa
Caracappa died in the federal detention center at Butner, North Carolina, on April 8, 2017. (See "'Mafia Cop' Caracappa dies in prison.") The cause of his death also was not released, but Caracappa had earlier requested a release from prison on the grounds that he was suffering from cancer.

Their trial revealed that Eppolito and Caracappa, both highly decorated law enforcement officers, secretly worked with Lucchese Crime Family leader Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. They received a retainer of $4,000 a month to provide him with police data and to help arrange mob murders. Authorities charged that they received a $65,000 bonus for personally handling the murder of a mobster during a phony traffic stop.

The 2006 convictions of both men were thrown out by the trial judge, who decided that the statute of limitations on their more serious federal offenses had already expired. A federal appeals court reversed that decision in September 2008. They were sentenced to life in prison on March 6, 2009.

Eppolito, son of Gambino Crime Family member Ralph Eppolito, authored (with Bob Drury) a 1992 autobiography entitled, Mafia Cop: The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob."

See other Mob-News posts on the Mafia Cops.

Sources:

29 October 2019

Intimate family portrait, detailed Mafia history

[Disclaimer: The author provided me with several revisions of Colorado's Carlino Brothers before publication. I contributed edit suggestions and provided a foreword to the book.  - TH.]
 A decade ago, Mountain Mafia: Organized Crime in the Rockies by Alt and Wells first put the Colorado underworld on the map. Now, author Sam Carlino has provided the map with important connections between Denver and Pueblo Italian-American racketeers and national organized crime leaders.

https://amzn.to/2WmNdKR
His just-released book, Colorado's Carlino Brothers: A Bootlegging Empire (The History Press), is at once an intimate family portrait and a detailed Mafia history. The author deftly tracks the development of the regional crime family before and through the Prohibition Era, revealing its proper place in the national scene, while providing personal insight into his ancestors, who were members and leaders of the organization. The author's unique perspective helps to fully develop and humanize the book's primary subjects, brothers Pete (the author's grandfather) and Sam, and reveals the often painful impact of their career choices on their extended families.

The book deals in depth with the career and murder of early Pueblo Mafia leader Pellegrino Scaglia, the long and violent Carlino-D'Anna rivalry, the successful infiltration of the Carlino operation by an undercover federal agent and the Denver police raid that exposed a budding regional bootlegging syndicate. It explores Pete Carlino's travels to Mafia home cities in the Midwest and the East in a seemingly desperate effort to strengthen his position at home. And it chronicles the tragic and bloody ends of the Carlino faction leaders.

But its most momentous revelation concerns a link between Pete Carlino and the powerful but short-lived New York City-based Mafia boss of bosses, Salvatore Maranzano.

The author uses some circumstantial evidence and a long-forgotten ("missing link") news source to build a convincing case for a connection between the two old-school "Mustache Pete" Mafiosi. For researchers of underworld history, this heightens the importance of the often overlooked Colorado underworld. It also adds greatly to the significance of the nearly simultaneous murders of Maranzano and Carlino, occurring 1,800 miles apart on September 10, 1931, and may be viewed as supportive of the legendary "Night of Sicilian Vespers" purge of Maranzano loyalists.

From Colorado's Carlino Brothers
Carlino Bros. contains a wealth of photographs supporting its history text. These include family photos, gangland group shots, mug shots, news photos, scenics, document images and newspaper clippings.

The author's deep affection for the subjects of the work and his joy at having discovered their true stories - long-closeted skeletons and all - are evident in his selection of family images, in his commentary in the "Introduction," "Conclusion" and "Special Thanks" sections of the book, and certainly in his decision to share with the reader the often praised Carlino family recipe for spaghetti sauce.

Colorado's Carlino Brothers was released October 28, 2019, in 160-page paperback and Kindle editions.

25 October 2019

Anastasia delayed, did not escape death in 'chair'

On this date in 1957...

Perhaps Albert Anastasia was fated to die in "the chair."

The longtime New York-area underworld figure, who maneuvered his way out of an appointment with the Sing Sing Prison electric chair in 1922, met his end in the barber's chair thirty-five years later on October 25, 1957.


Anastasia, born Umberto Anastasio in the Calabrian village of Tropea back in 1902, reached America in 1917. He was serving as a deck hand on a tramp steamer when he jumped ship at New York harbor. He and brothers Giuseppe and Antonio settled in Brooklyn, and all went to work at the docks. (Brother Salvatore moved from Italy to New York and entered the priesthood.) Anastasia entered into a waterfront rackets partnership with Giuseppe Florino, who sometimes used the alias "Speranza."

Broken appointment

In spring of 1921, Anastasia and Florino both were convicted of the May 17, 1920, shooting murder of George Turello. Brooklyn Supreme County Justice Van Siclen sentenced the two to be executed in Sing Sing's electric chair on the week of July 3, 1921. They were placed in the prison's "death house" on May 25, 1921.

Anastasia (left) and Florino. New York Daily News.

Legal appeals succeeded in winning a new trial for Anastasia and Florino and, after a period of six and a half months in Sing Sing's "death house," they were transferred to the custody of the Kings County sheriff on December 10, 1921. (Newspapers of the time reported incorrectly that their death house stay was between seven months and eight and a half months.) Due to missing and suddenly uncertain witnesses, the state's murder case against the two men fell apart and they were set free.

Anastasia and Florino immediately went back to work, intimidating longshoremen and eliminating rivals. They were routinely suspected in gangland killings during the Prohibition Era. While Florino gradually faded into the background, Anastasia emerged as a top Brooklyn underworld figure. He was brought into a sprawling Brooklyn and Bronx Mafia organization commanded at the time by Al Mineo - it later became known as the Gambino Crime Family - and led its strong non-Sicilian faction. After a couple of decades, he attained the top spot in the organization after eliminating its Sicilian leaders, brothers Vincent and Philip Mangano, in 1951.

However, it seems Anastasia's date with "the chair" was not canceled but merely postponed.

Barbershop diagram. New York Times.

Chair No. 4

At seven o'clock on the morning of October 25, 1957, Anastasia left his home, 75 Bluff Road in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in a blue 1957 Oldsmobile registered to his chauffeur and bodyguard Anthony Coppola. Coppola was apparently not with him. Anastasia's movements that morning are not entirely known. The car was parked at Corvan Garage, 124 West Fifty-Fourth Street in Manhattan at twenty-eight minutes after nine. Anastasia entered Arthur Grasso's barbershop in the Park Sheraton Hotel, Seventh Avenue and Fifty-fifth Street, at about ten-fifteen.

A regular at the shop, Anastasia exchanged greetings with the owner, who manned a cashier's stand near the entrance. Anastasia then moved toward Chair No. 4, where his barber Joseph Bocchino worked. Anastasia hung up his topcoat, brown suit jacket and hat and took a seat in Chair No. 4, requesting a haircut.

Bocchino set to work. He was clipping the hair on the left side of Anastasia's head, when two men, faces partly covered with scarves, entered the barbershop from a doorway connected to the Park Sheraton lobby. One of the men quietly instructed  Grasso, "Keep your mouth shut if you don't want your head blown off." Grasso made no sound.

The men advanced with drawn handguns to positions behind Anastasia and opened fire. With the first shots, Anastasia jumped up from the chair, breaking through its footrest. He stumbled forward, crashing into glass shelving in front of a mirror, and then fell to the side, landing and expiring between Chairs 2 and 3. Of ten bullets fired in the attack, five hit their target. Two entered Anastasia's left hand and wrist, which apparently had been raised in an effort at self-defense. One slug penetrated his right hip. One entered his back. The last cracked through the back of his head.

AP photo.

The gunmen silently strode from the shop. Two handguns were later recovered from the area - one a .32-caliber and the other a .38-caliber. One was found in a vestibule of the Park Sheraton. The other turned up in a trash receptacle in a nearby subway station.

Press accounts of the underworld assassination noted that, about three decades earlier, underworld financier Arnold Rothstein had been killed within the same hotel, though it was known at that time as the Park Central.


Investigation

Investigators questioned known underworld figures, including Anthony "Augie Pisano" Carfano, Mike Miranda, Pete DeFeo and Aniello Ercole, as well as Anastasia business partner Harry Stasser.

In the evening of October 25, Anthony Coppola surrendered himself for questioning. Coppola admitted being in the area of the Park Sheraton about forty minutes after his boss and friend was murdered. Without much explanation, Coppola said he intended to meet Anastasia at the barbershop but learned of the shooting on his way there and retreated. He picked up the blue Oldsmobile where Anastasia left it and drove it home to 450 Park Avenue, Fair View, New Jersey. He later had another person drive it back to Manhattan and leave it in a Centre Street parking lot across from the Criminal Courts Building, where it was taken for examination by police.

New York Times
Early press reports suggested that Anastasia was killed in revenge for a recent unsuccessful attempt on the life of Manhattan-based boss Frank Costello. It was noted that Anastasia increased his force of bodyguards immediately after a shot fired at Costello's head resulted in just a superficial wound. These reports misinterpreted the evidence, as it later became clear that Anastasia and Costello were closely allied.

Anastasia's killers could not be identified. There were strong indications that Carlo Gambino, who later became boss of Anastasia's crime family, had been involved in setting up the assassination. Some reports claimed that Joseph Profaci, boss of his own Brooklyn-based crime family, and enforcer Joe "Jelly" Giorelli were also involved.

Anastasia
Investigators learned that Anastasia was planning to establish a private gambling empire in Cuba, effectively invading established underworld territory controlled by Meyer Lansky and Tampa Mafia boss Santo Trafficante and financially supported by Mafia leaders across the U.S. Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan learned that Anastasia met with Lansky and allied gangster Joseph "Joe Rivers" Silesi shortly before he was killed and was warned at that time to stay out of Cuba. That put Lansky, Silesi and Trafficante on the list of suspects.

Early in 1958, the FBI received information indicating that Anastasia had been put on the spot by an Irish criminal organization feuding with him over control over the New York waterfront rackets.

In 1963, authorities heard that Anastasia's killers were gangsters "Joe Jelly" Giorelli and Ralph Mafrici. Giorelli, a top man in the Gallo faction of the Profaci Crime Family, had been missing and presumed dead since the Gallos openly broke with their boss in 1961. This information likely grew out of barroom bragging by "Crazy Joe" Gallo, in which he claimed that his crew was responsible for the Anastasia assassination. Additional reports pointed to Costello rival Vito Genovese as the prime mover of the Anastasia killing and the attempt to kill Costello.

In the autumn of 2001, journalist Jerry Capeci reported that all the earlier suspicions were off the mark. According to Capeci, Anastasia was shot by Stephen "Stevie Coogan" Grammauta and Arnold "Witty" Wittenberg, guided by gangster Stephen Armone. The group was assembled, Capeci said, by a Carlo Gambino ally named Joseph Biondo.

See also:


Sources:

  • Albert Anastasia fingerprint record, Nov. 19, 1953, Anastasia FBI file.
  • Berger, Meyer, "Anastasia slain in a hotel here' led Murder, Inc.," New York Times, Oct. 26, 1957, p. 1.
  • Capeci, Jerry, "The Men Who Hit Albert Anastasia" Gang Land column, Oct. 18, 2001.
  • Cook, Fred J., "Robin Hoods or real tough boys? Larry Gallo, Crazy Joe and Kid Blast," New York Times, Oct. 23, 1966, p. Mag 37.
  • Emrich, Elmer F., "Mafia," FBI report, file no. 100-42303-536, NARA no. 124-90110-10079, April 10, 1959, p. 43-44, 58-59.
  • Evans, C.A., "Albert Anastasia," FBI Memorandum to Mr. Rosen, Oct. 29, 1957.
  • FBI memo, Havana 94-13, March 6, 1958, Albert Anastasia FBI file.
  • Freeman, Ira Henry, "Brothers Anastasia - toughest of the toughs," New York Times, Dec. 14, 1952, p. E10.
  • Marino, Anthony, and Sidney Kline, "Anastasia slain as he feared," New York Daily News, Oct. 26, 1957, p. 3.
  • Meskil, Paul, "Yen for Cuba cash doomed Anastasia," New York World Telegram & Sun, Jan. 9, 1958, p. 1.
  • Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter entries for Alberto Anastasio, number 72527, May 25, 1921, and Giuseppe Florino, number 72528, May 25, 1921.
  • Van`t Riet, Lennert, David Critchley and Steve Turner, "'Lord High Executioner' of the American Mafia," Informer, June 2015, p. 5.
  • "2 held in grocer's murder," New York Tribune, Aug. 18, 1922, p. 20.
  • "3 sentenced to chair by Brooklyn judge," New York Tribune, May 26, 1921, p. 5.
  • "Albert Anastasia," FBI report, Nov. 15, 1957, p. 1, 10, Albert Anastasia FBI file.
  • "Albert Anastasia: Top Hoodlum," FBI memorandum to Mr. Rosen, Oct. 25, 1957.
  • "Another victim claimed in Degraw Street feud; two suspects in toils," Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 17, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Arrested for murder committed last May," New York Daily News, March 7, 1921, p. 3.
  • "Capture alleged slayer," New York Evening World, March 18, 1921, p. 4.
  • "Charged with murder," Brooklyn Citizen, March 7, 1921, p. 1.
  • "F.B.I. giving Hogan Valachi details," New York Times, Aug. 8, 1963.
  • "Found shot near home, man dies in hospital," Brooklyn Standard Union, May 17, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Held for 1920 Brooklyn murder," New York Times, March 7, 1921, p. 11.
  • "Hold Giuseppe Florina for Turello shooting," Brooklyn Standard Union, March 7, 1921, p. 4.
  • "Police hunting hired killers in murder of gangland chief," New Brunswick NJ Daily Home News, Oct. 26, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Quiz murder suspect for crime of year ago," Brooklyn Daily Times, March 7, 1921, p. 1.
  • "Two men held in murder of man shot at party," New York Daily News, Aug. 18, 1922, p. 9.
  • "Two who escaped chair are now held in Ferrara murder," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 17, 1922, p. 2.

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...


15 October 2019

Wealthy Los Angeles-area Mafia leader vanishes

On this date in 1931...


L.A.Times, Oct. 18, 1931

Joseph E. Ardizzone, wealthy southern California ranch owner and Mafia chief, left his Sunland, Los Angeles, home about six-thirty in the morning of October 15, 1931, to visit relatives in Etiwanda. He was never seen again.

A day later, his brother Frank reported him missing. Police were informed that Ardizzone was making the trip from his Mount Gleason Avenue home to the Cuccia ranch at Etiwanda in order to pick up a cousin, Nick Borgia, who had recently arrived from Italy. Ardizzone was driving a dark blue Ford coupe.

Ardizzone was described as forty-five years old (he was almost forty-seven), five feet eleven inches tall, 220 pounds, with brown eyes and gray hair. When last seen he was wearing a brown suit, brown tie and brown felt hat.

After searching the approximately fifty-mile route for almost a week, authorities had not turned up a single clue relating to his disappearance. Local police theorized that Ardizzone had been "taken for a ride," murdered and buried in a remote section of desert.

The Los Angeles Times noted that Ardizzone was known "as a man who settled many of the differences which existed from time to time among local Italian residents."

Targeted earlier

The newspaper also recalled that he had been the apparent target of an assassination attempt earlier in the year. In March, when Ardizzone and companion Jimmy Basile were starting home to Los Angeles from a dinner at Rosario DeSimone's home in Downey, they were overtaken on the Downey-Vernon Road by a large sedan. Shotguns fired at them. Basile was killed, and Ardizzone was seriously wounded.

Ardizzone staggered back to the DeSimone home with seven wounds in his back. DeSimone's son Leon, a doctor, administered first aid and summoned an ambulance to take Ardizzone to Hollywood Hospital.

Authorities speculated that Ardizzone and Basile were targeted as the result of a vendetta stemming from the recent killing of Dominic DiCiolla, described as the "king" or "czar" of the Little Italy underworld at Los Angeles' North End.

Around the same time, a number of Italian Americans disappeared and were presumed murdered in a war over liquor rackets.

Underworld boss

Many today identify Ardizzone as one of the earlier Mafia bosses in southern California. Born in November 1884 in Piana dei Greci, Sicily, Ardizzone crossed the Atlantic in 1899, first settling in New Orleans. Within a few years, he relocated to the Los Angeles area.

Ardizzone emerged victorious in 1906 from a gang war with the forces of George Maisano, though the conflict took the life of Ardizzone cousin Joseph Cuccia. Ardizzone was suspected of the June 2, 1906, fatal shooting of Maisano. (Maisano died of his wounds at the county hospital on July 28.) Authorities could not locate him until spring 1914. At that time he was charged with the 1906 murder. However, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence, after witnesses refused to testify against him.

Later in the 1910s, the Ardizzone underworld faction warred with a Matranga faction. That conflict resulted in several killings in 1919.

Jack Dragna
Ardizzone may have been forced out of an underworld leadership position by the arrival of New Orleans Mafioso Vito DiGiorgio. DiGiorgio appears to have had the backing of powerful eastern Mafia leaders as he attempted to unite the Los Angeles area factions. His May 13, 1922, murder in a Chicago poolroom, may have permitted Ardizzone to return to a boss role.

In the mid-1920s, Ardizzone partnered with Ignatius "Jack" Dragna in an organization called the Italian Protection League. Dragna was president of the league, while Ardizzone was its treasurer. The league's purpose was uncertain, but may have related to bootlegging activities and to a defense of local racket territories from outside influences.

DiCiolla, killed early in 1931, may have been one of the outside influences. It appears that DiCiolla had been friendly with the Genna Mafia in Chicago before relocating to Los Angeles.

The disappearance of Ardizzone left Dragna in command of the Mafia of Los Angeles.

Sources:
  • "Another gang killing hinted," Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1931, p. 3.
  • "Arrest clears old mystery," Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1914, p. 10.
  • "Black Hand in new slaying," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 26, 1919, p. 1.
  • "Bootleg gangs open new war," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 18, 1931, p. II-2.
  • "Domenico 'Dominic' DiCiolla," Findagrave.com, Feb. 8, 2011, accessed Jan. 1, 2016.
  • "Federal agents strike hard blow at racketeering by sweeping rum raids in North End," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1931, p. II-2.
  • "Fruit peddler shoots another," Los Angeles Herald, June 3, 1906, p. 5.
  • "Gang war killers known," Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1931, p. 8.
  • "Gang war stirs police crusade," Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1931, p. II-2.
  • "Injuries are fatal after three months," Los Angeles Herald, July 29, 1906, p. 3.
  • "Italian surprises surgeons," Los Angeles Herald, June 28, 1906, p. 7.
  • "L.A. rounds up 21 men for deportation as criminals," Oakland Tribune, March 29, 1931, p. 9.
  • "Liquor-racket murder solution likely as Italian underworld 'boss' aide talks," Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1931, p. 2.
  • "More racket violence feared as asserted gangster vanishes," Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1931, p. II-2.
  • "Police trail the murderer," Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 26, 1906, p. 8.
  • "Search futile for Ardizzone," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1931, p. II-8.
  • "Seek for assailant," Los Angeles Herald, June 9, 1906, p. 7.
  • "Slain boss of racketeers buried in costly coffin carried by pallbearers in tuxedos," Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1931, p. 2.
  • "Three fined as shooting sequel," Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1931, p. II-3.
  • Giuseppe Ardizzone Declaration of Intention, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 13512, July 14, 1920.
  • Giuseppe Ardizzone Petition for Naturalization, District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 9738, Aug. 9, 1922.
  • Joseph Ernest Ardizzone World War I Draft Registration Card, Los Angeles County, Sept. 12, 1918.
  • Reid Ed, The Grim Reapers: The Anatomy of Organized Crime in America, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1969.
  • Tiernan, M.L., He Never Came Home: The Mysterious Disappearance that Devastated a Family, The Early History of Sunland, California, Vol. 5., Amazon Digital, 2014.
See also:

14 October 2019

SoCal rackets bosses tried in federal court

Long-awaited trial reveals Mafia informants

On this date in 1980...

Shocking revelations from turncoat witnesses were widely expected as five southern California Mafia leaders were brought to trial at Los Angeles federal court on October 14, 1980. It had taken three years and three different sets of indictments to bring the case into court.

Charged with racketeering and other offenses were Dominic Phillip Brooklier, 66, of Anaheim; Samuel Orlando Sciortino, 61, of Rancho Mirage; Louis Tom Dragna, 59, of Covina; Michael Rizzitello, 62, of Los Angeles; Jack LoCicero, 68, of Los Angeles. Brooklier, also known as Dominic Brucceleri and as Jimmy Regace, had been regional Mafia boss since the 1974 death of Nick Licata.

Charges specifically related to conspiracy in the murder of San Diego Mafioso Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero - Bompensiero's role as an informant allowed his murder to be viewed as interference in a federal criminal investigation - and to attempts to extort money from regional gamblers and pornographers.

Brooklier, Dragna, Sciortino, Rizzitello

Turncoats
The trial featured testimony from Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno and Harry Coloduros, former underworld figures who sought government protection. Both admitted to participating in underworld plotting to kill Bompensiero after it was learned that Bompensiero was assisting federal investigators.

Coloduros also revealed that he worked with Los Angeles boss Brooklier and underboss Sciortino to plan the extortion of sports bookmakers. He recalled conversations with the crime family leaders at a city alley and at an underworld "picnic." They decided in summer 1973 to demand an up-front payment from bookmakers of $5,000 and a weekly payment of $300 a week until the beginning of football season, when the amounts would increase to $10,000 and $500. The income was to be evenly split between Coloduros and the crime family leadership.

The attempt to extort pornographers in the region brought Mafiosi in contact with an FBI undercover "sting" operation - a phony company known as Forex, which was said to be making a great fortune selling pornography to South America. Crime family leaders felt that Bompensiero had pushed them toward Forex and became suspicious of Bompensiero.



Fratianno revealed that he had been supplying information to the FBI since about 1970 but began fully cooperating late in 1977, when he faced multiple charges and learned that his underworld associates were planning his murder. He said he testified in exchange for immunity from the death penalty.

Fratianno recounted some local Mafia history and described his own induction into the Los Angeles-based crime family. He had been endorsed for membership in the late 1940s by the influential and well-traveled mobster Johnny Rosselli (often spelled "Roselli"). The crime family boss at that time was Ignatius "Jack" Dragna.

Bompensiero
Fratianno testified that Brooklier and Sciortino, while serving sentences in prison in the mid-1970s, determined that Bompensiero needed to be killed and communicated that to acting boss Louis Tom Dragna (nephew of earlier boss Jack Dragna). Louis Tom Dragna told Fratianno, then serving as acting underboss, of the decision.

Dragna then arranged to elevate Bompensiero to the position of crime family consigliere, as a ruse to cause him to lower his guard. Fratianno scheduled daily phone communications about crime family business with Bompensiero and insisted that Bompensiero use a payphone near his San Diego home for the calls. The routine telephone calls provided a means for locating and isolating Bompensiero. Bompensiero was murdered at the payphone on February 10, 1977.

Bompensiero
Fratianno testified that the killing was performed by Thomas "Tommy Fingers" Ricciardi. Ricciardi, who reportedly described the killing as "beautiful," was an original codefendant in the case against the southern California Mafiosi but died during heart surgery before trial.


Trial surprises
The federal trial ran until the end of the month and included a number of revelations by and about informants within the Los Angeles Crime Family. FBI Special Agent John Barron testified that defendant and one-time acting boss Louis Tom Dragna revealed his own leadership of the organization and the membership of others during a three-hour meeting at Barron's home on October 14, 1976. The agent found the information shared in that session helpful but never heard from Dragna again.

The prosecution's final witness, FBI Special Agent John Armstrong, surprised the defense by stating that Bompensiero, long a leading figure in the California underworld, had been feeding information to the Bureau over a period of eleven years, from 1966 to 1977. The extent of Bompensiero's dealing with federal agents had been unknown to that time.

Attorneys delivered their final arguments on Friday, October 31, and Monday, November 3. Attorney Donald Marks, representing defendant Sciortino, convincingly argued that evidence in the case implicated a Tucson, Arizona, criminal organization led by former Brooklyn, New York, boss Joseph Bonanno in the murder of Bompensiero. Notes found in Bonanno's garbage indicated his knowledge of the San Diego killing.

Convicted and sentenced
U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. turned the matter over to the jury of seven women and five men. The jurors struggled to reach verdicts. Through a ten-day period, they reviewed testimony, reheard the judge's charge and attempted to convince the judge they were deadlocked. Hatter repeatedly sent them back to their task.


On November 14, the jury returned convictions on racketeering counts against all five defendants, but acquitted on a federal obstruction of criminal investigation charges related to the slaying of informant Bompensiero. Despite acquittal on the murder-related counts, lead prosecutor James D. Henderson celebrated the verdict. Obstruction of criminal investigation was a relatively minor offense. It was punishable by no more than five years in prison, while the racketeering counts carried maximum penalties of twenty years apiece.

Jury foreman William Wasil told the press that the panel discounted the testimony of turncoat Fratianno, using it only when it was corroborated by other evidence, and had concerns about evidence linking Bonanno, rather than southern California leaders, to the Bompensiero murder.

Brooklier
Judge Hatter set sentencing for January 1981 and allowed all five defendants to remain free on bail. On January 20, 1981, he announced the following sentences:
  • Brooklier - four years in prison for conspiracy, racketeering and one count of extortion. Hatter said he weighed Brooklier's age and health in calculating the sentence.
  • Sciortino - four years in prison and a $25,000 fine for racketeering. Hatter said he considered reports that Sciortino plotted to bribe a former judge in the case.
  • Dragna - two years in prison and a $50,000 fine for conspiracy and racketeering. The judge acknowledged that Dragna had made an effort to extract himself from involvement in the underworld and establish a successful dressmaking business.
  • Rizzitello - five years for conspiracy, racketeering and one count of extortion.
  • LoCicero - two years for conspiracy, racketeering and one count of extortion.

The defendants remained free on bail during the appeal process. The last appeal was exhausted in February 1983, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the case. On April 25, 1983, Judge Hatter ordered the five to report to prison. Brooklier, Sciortino, Rizzitello and LoCicero were ordered to report by June 27. Dragna was allowed some additional time. The judge ordered him to report by June 11.

But that was not the end of the matter. In mid-October of 1983, three years after the trial, Judge Hatter reconsidered the Dragna sentence. The judge found the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' plans to send Dragna to a medium security prison in Texas incompatible with his recommendation that Dragna be kept in a low-security institution. Hatter remedied the matter by changing the sentence to the $50,000 fine and just one year in a local community treatment facility. Dragna was permitted to leave the facility during the daytime to tend to his business.

Sources:

  • "Ex-hitman to testify against Mafia bosses," Lompoc CA Record, Oct. 15, 1980, p. 5.
  • "Informer tells Mafia life and death," Escondido CA Times-Advocate, Oct. 17, 1980, p. 20.
  • "Jurors in Mafia trial get weekend respite," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 8, 1980, p. 31.
  • "Mafia chieftains' conspiracy case goes to jury in LA today," Napa CA Register, Nov. 3, 1980, p. 27.
  • Blake, Gene, "Agent claims Dragna admitted Mafia ties," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 25, 1980, p. 14.
  • Blake, Gene, "Five convicted in Mafia case," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 15, 1980, p. 1.
  • Blake, Gene, "Five reputed Mafia figures sentenced," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 21, 1981, p. 3.
  • Blake, Gene, "Fratianno scoffs at L.A. Mafia's effectiveness," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 23, 1980, p. 3.
  • Blake, Gene, "Hit man bares Mafia secrets," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 17, 1980, p. 1.
  • Blake, Gene, "Mafia figure's aid to FBI for 11 years told," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 30, 1980, p. 1.
  • Blake, Gene, "Mafia jury hears final arguments," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 1, 1980, p. 22.
  • Blake, Gene, "Racketeering trial jury reports snag," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 1980, p. 3.
  • Chrystal, Chris, "Feds say witnesses will tell story of Mafia crimes in California," Ukiah CA Daily Journal, Oct. 15, 1980, p. 9.
  • Deutsch, Linda, "Five guilty of racketeering, innocent of murder," Palm Springs CA Desert Sun, Nov. 15, 1980, p. 1.
  • Deutsch, Linda, "Informant takes stand, links 2 to mob actions," Palm Springs CA Desert Sun, Oct. 15, 1980, p. 4.
  • Morain, Dan, "U.S. judge orders 5 convicted mobsters to report to begin serving prison terms," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 1983, p. II-3.
  • Welkos, Robert, "Judge tosses out racketeers' term," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 18, 1983, p. II-1.