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

16 June 2018

Top New England mobsters targeted

On this date in 1989:
In the late morning of Friday, June 16, 1989, "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, a rising star in the Patriarca Crime Family, was walking through a House of Pancakes parking lot off Route 1 in the Boston suburb of Saugus, Massachusetts, when two gunmen opened fire on him from a passing automobile. 
 
Salemme
Salemme scrambled for cover and rushed inside a Papa Gino's pizza shop about thirty yards away. As he did so, the gunmen's car turned and made a second pass, firing more shots at the fleeing Mafioso.

"Cadillac Frank," wounded and bleeding, ran to the rear of the pizza shop, yelled out, "Call the police!" and collapsed near the door to the men's room. He regained his composure and his footing. Returning to the front of the shop, he sat down at the first table. He had been struck twice by the slugs fired at him - once in his chest and once in his left leg. As he waited for police and paramedics to arrive, he calmly pressed his windbreaker jacket against the chest wound to slow the flow of blood.

The authorities found the gunshot victim uncooperative. He refused even to identify himself. When asked who shot him, Salemme answered, "No one." Salemme was taken to AtlantiCare Hospital in Lynn, Massachusetts. Later in the day, doctors graded his condition as "guarded but stable." Investigators knew of Salemme's connections to organized crime, but they weren't sure what to make of the murder attempt. Things became somewhat clearer that afternoon.

End of the Wild Guy
Shortly after three o'clock, two fishermen discovered a dead body partly submerged in the Connecticut River at Wethersfield, just south of Hartford, Connecticut. Police arriving at the scene found that the male corpse was fully clothed and still in possession of a wallet. Cards inside the wallet belonged to William P. "Wild Guy" Grasso of New Haven.

Grasso
Further investigation positively identified the dead man as Grasso, considered the number-two man in the Patriarca organization, behind only Rhode Island-based boss Raymond "Junior" Patriarca in importance.

An autopsy revealed that Grasso had been killed by a single gunshot to the base of his skull. The medical examiner concluded that the gunshot had been fired at least twenty-four hours before the body was found.

 When the news of Grasso's murder was released, Connecticut's United States Attorney Stanley A. Twardy, Jr., noted that the "Wild Guy" was "the single most influential organized crime figure in Connecticut." Twardy also commented that he could not rule out a connection between the murder of Grasso and the attack on Salemme.

Detectives kept watch for familiar underworld figures at Grasso's funeral on Tuesday, June 20. Hundreds of people filled St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in New Haven for a Mass of Christian Burial, but no known Mafiosi were seen. The funeral cortege included fifty cars. Grasso was buried at All Saints Cemetery in his hometown, sharing a grave with his wife, who died a year earlier. He was survived by a son, three brothers and two sisters.

'Best thing that ever happened'
Grasso, a New Haven native and once a member of the New York-based Colombo Crime Family, became a member of the New England organization after serving time in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for creating a garbage hauling monopoly in southern Connecticut. His cellmate at Atlanta was "Junior" Patriarca's father, notorious New England crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca. Grasso emerged from prison as a trusted aide of the elder Patriarca.

Grasso later referred to his Atlanta sentence as the "best thing that ever happened to me."

When Raymond L.S. Patriarca died in 1984, "Junior" Patriarca became boss and Grasso became underboss, directly overseeing New England Crime Family rackets in Connecticut. Grasso aggressively expanded his territory from New Haven, across the southern portion of the state into Fairfield County, up into Hartford and beyond into the Springfield, Massachusetts, area, stepping on many mobsters' toes along the way. New York Mafiosi had long dominated in Fairfield County, several crime families had interests in Hartford, and Springfield was known to be the territory of a faction of the powerful New York-based Genovese clan.

'Kill or be killed'
Authorities quickly understood that the moves against Grasso and Salemme were designed to weaken the administration of "Junior" Patriarca. But it took some time before they could piece together just what was going on.

The loss of Grasso was keenly felt within the New England Mafia. No one within Connecticut's branch of the organization had Grasso's combination of ability and loyalty. According to FBI sources, the Patriarca administration appointed a Rhode Islander, Matthew L. Guglielmetti, to oversee rackets in the Nutmeg State. Nicholas L. Bianco, another Rhode Island resident, was elevated to the position of underboss.

In 1990, federal prosecutors began dismantling the New England Mafia through successful prosecutions. In the process, they learned that brothers Louis and Frank Pugliano, Gaetano Milano and Milano's longtime friend Frank Colantoni, Jr., participated in the killing of Grasso. Believing that Grasso was planning to murder them, they set to the job of eliminating him first.

Grasso funeral (Courant, June 21, 1989)
They set up a phony underworld meeting in Massachusetts on June 13, 1989. With Louis Pugliano at the wheel of a van, they picked up Grasso to take him to the meeting. While driving along Interstate-91 in Connecticut, Milano fired a single shot into the back of Grasso's neck. The group deposited Grasso's body at the Connecticut River.

At his sentencing in 1991, Milano told U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas that he felt the killing of Grasso was necessary: "It was kill or be killed."

A like-minded group in Massachusetts was found to be behind the attempt on Salemme's life. Authorities learned that Enrico Ponzo and Vincent Michael Marino were the gunmen who attacked "Cadillac Frank."

U.S. prosecutors assembled convincing cases against the New England Mafia rebels (Ponzo was able to avoid capture until early in 2011) and much of the crime family leadership. But an important part of the story remained unknown to them and to the American public. It was unknown because agents of the FBI were keeping it secret.

FBI sparked rebellion
Years later, it was learned that some in the FBI had worked with informants within the New England underworld to create a destructive rivalry within the Patriarca Mafia organization. Seeds planted by the FBI convinced groups within the Connecticut and Massachusetts branches of the organization that the Patriarca administration was planning to eliminate them. That prompted them to act against Grasso and Salemme, and it also figured in several other murders.

Defense attorney Anthony Cardinale revealed in a 1997 affidavit that intentional FBI activities caused the plots against Grasso and Salemme and that the FBI knew of the plots but kept silent about them for a period of sixteen months. FBI improprieties were documented in the following years.

One of the mobsters involved in the FBI efforts was Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio. The FBI actively hid Mercurio's involvement in instigating the anti-Grasso plot while others were tried and convicted for it. Mercurio was never charged in connection with the killing. He died in Florida in late 2006 while in the witness protection program.

The revelations of FBI involvement and coverup led to revised sentences for a number of those convicted in the early 1990s.

Sources:
  • "Garbageman backs attempt to regain 'stolen' customer," Bridgeport CT Post, Nov. 7, 1968, p. 20.
  • "Police confirm reputed crime boss a homicide victim," Associated Press, June 17, 1989, apnews.com.
  • Cullen, Kevin, "Two men linked to mob shot in separate attacks," Boston Globe, June 17, 1989, bostonglobe.com.
  • Hays, Constance L., "A mob leader in New England is believed slain," New York Times, June 17, 1989.
  • Foderaro, Lisa W., "Mob leader's slaying may signal power struggle," New York Times, June 18, 1989, p. 31.
  • Mahony, Edmund, "Hundreds attend rite for Grasso," Hartford Courant, June 21, 1989, p. 1.
  • Gombossy, George, "Magistrate may free mob suspects on bond," Hartford Courant, March 31, 1990, p. C1.
  • Mahony, Edmund, "Two plead guilty to racketeering charges in surprise move," Hartford Courant, May 2, 1991, p. C1.
  • Barry, Stephanie, "Mob killer may get out early," Springfield MA Republican, Sept. 22, 2008, masslive.com.
  • Christoffersen, John, "Judge reduces mobster killer's sentence," Norwalk CT Hour, Oct. 9, 2008.
  • Marcus, Jon, "Attorney says FBI encouraged mob shootings," New Bedford MA SouthCoast Today, Jan. 10, 2011, southcoasttoday.com.
  • Guilfoil, John M., "Fugitive mobster found in Idaho," Boston Globe, Feb. 9, 2011, boston.com.
  • Mahony, Edmund H., "The Mob in Connecticut: Grasso's reign of terror," Hartford Courant, April 26, 2014, courant.com.

15 June 2018

Attorney cannot free himself from murder case

[Following is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution.]

Leibowitz
The first-degree murder trial of Charles Sberna and Salvatore Gati was set to begin before Manhattan General Sessions Judge James G. Wallace on the morning of Wednesday, June 15, 1938. They were charged with causing the death of Police Officer John H.A. Wilson during an attempted robbery of a precious metals refining business in September 1937. A key component of the case was missing, however. Gati’s defense attorney, the celebrated Samuel Leibowitz who had never lost a client to the electric chair, was not in court.

Leibowitz was, in fact, in a different court in a different New York borough, representing a Brooklyn client accused of extortion. A clerk from Leibowitz’s office appeared before Judge Wallace to apologize and to explain that Leibowitz's partner Vincent Impellitteri would handle the Gati defense as soon as he was finished with the racketeering trial of Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro in federal court.

Assistant District Attorney Jacob Rosenblum, lead prosecutor in the Sberna-Gati case, protested that the involved attorneys were given plenty of notice of the trial date and that Leibowitz had only two days earlier committed himself to the Brooklyn extortion case.

Rosenblum
Judge Wallace understood that Leibowitz was trying to wriggle free of his obligation to represent Gati. When assured by the clerk that Impellitteri should be available by early July, if not sooner, Wallace responded, “As I understand, [Leibowitz] was the one that was retained... He cannot divorce himself of responsibility by assigning somebody else.”

“I would like to see Mr. Leibowitz when he concludes his case this afternoon,” Wallace told the clerk. “You will instruct him to come here. I would like to talk to him about his case.”

At twenty-five minutes after four that afternoon, Leibowitz showed up in Wallace’s courtroom. The defendants and the prosecutor also were present. Assistant District Attorney Rosenblum kicked off the discussion by saying he had received word that both prosecution and defense in the Brooklyn extortion case had delivered their summations, and a jury verdict could be expected the next day. Rosenblum saw no reason that the Sberna-Gati trial could not begin on the seventeenth.

Wallace turned to the truant defense attorney: “What about that, Mr. Leibowitz?”

Leibowitz attempted to sidestep the question. He spoke of Impellitteri’s work on trial preparation and asked that the case be put over at least until the middle of the following week. Rosenblum countered that Impellitteri was not the attorney of record for Gati and was not even associated with Leibowitz’s office at the time Gati acquired his defense counsel.


(Rosenblum’s own interest in the matter is uncertain. There was no obvious benefit to tangling with the far more experienced Leibowitz rather than Impellitteri. Rosenblum may have looked forward to the new challenge. Leibowitz had not defended a first-degree murder case in New York since District Attorney Thomas Dewey appointed Rosenblum to lead the Homicide Bureau. In recent months, Rosenblum had compiled a perfect record of convictions in eight first-degree murder trials. Or, possibly, Rosenblum knew his case against Gati was airtight and would surely ruin Leibowitz’s spotless trial record.)

Salvatore Gati

Judge Wallace asked Gati who was hired as his defense attorney. Gati said Leibowitz was hired and was paid a retainer for his services. That resolved the matter as far as the judge was concerned, but not Leibowitz. The defense attorney produced the written agreement signed by Gati and showed it to the judge. Leibowitz composed the agreement when he first heard rumors that Gati's fingerprint was perfectly preserved in molten wax that had fallen onto Officer Wilson's handgun at the time of his murder. The document granted Leibowitz the permission to withdraw from the case if the rumors turned out to be true.

“Those papers are just for the eyes of the Court,” Leibowitz said. “I do not want to have them made public in the newspapers.”

Wallace looked over the document and told the defense attorney, “I direct the trial to proceed on Friday and that you represent this defendant.”

For Leibowitz, the matter still was not closed. He requested a conference with the judge and the assistant district attorney, out of the hearing of the press. He then explained his concerns:


I told Mr. Rosenblum two months ago that if [Gati’s] fingerprints were on the gun I will absolutely not try the case, and under no circumstances did I want to defend him... I will under no circumstances defend a man, with his fingerprints on the gun, who is guilty of murder. Mr. Rosenblum said that two days before trial, he would make an appointment, so that we could have an inspection of the gun and our expert could look at it and examine whether it has his fingerprint. Now, we have been trying to get a look at this gun for a long while. On Monday of this week, Mr. Rosenblum made an arrangement with Mr. Impellitteri to have the gun examined, and why that was not done I don’t know. ... Now, Your Honor, if this man’s fingerprint is on this gun, I have not got the kind of energy, or the kind of interest in the man’s case. I am willing to return the fee...

The judge noted that Leibowitz was retained before the fingerprint became an issue. “[Gati] has been locked up for ten months charged with a serious offense. The case ought to be tried… I think you have a moral and a legal obligation to defend this man.”

Fingerprint just forward of cylinder

Rosenblum acknowledged that his office had conversations with defense counsel about viewing Police Officer Wilson’s handgun and the fingerprint on it. He noted that, while he was not required to do so (under the "discovery" rules of that era), he would make the “voluntary contribution” of allowing defense access to that evidence once the trial date was established.

Leibowitz, apparently already convinced that the fingerprint was genuine, abandoned discussion of evidence accessibility but continued to protest: “I do not find that I can give this man the kind of zeal, the kind of energy, the kind of devotion that a lawyer should give to a man who is on trial for murder.”

Gati fingerprint

“Is it your theory that you never represented anybody except a man who was innocent?” Wallace asked.

“I have never had a case yet where it was claimed by the prosecution that the fingerprint of my client was on the incriminating instrument… Witnesses may be mistaken. But I don’t know of a case yet where there has been a mistake on the part of fingerprints…,” Leibowitz argued. “I do not feel that the Court should ask a lawyer to represent a man, especially where his life is at stake, where the lawyer’s heart is not in the case… If convicted, he is going to the electric chair, and I do not think he should be represented by counsel who at least has not got the interest of the client at heart.”

Wallace would not budge:

You are an able and experienced trial counsel having defended a great number of persons for murder in the first degree. Moreover, I do not think that in all of the cases in which you went to the jury that your defendant was innocent, but that you felt merely that he was entitled to a trial to the best of your ability, and I feel that you can give this man an adequate and proper defense. Therefore, I direct, inasmuch as he has expressed an opinion that you were to try the case, that you proceed with this trial on Friday.

The conversation was over, but Leibowitz’s frustrations related to this trial were just beginning.

Read more:

Wrongly Executed?


11 June 2018

Informer issue scheduled for fall 2018

The next issue of  

Informer: 
The History of American Crime 
and Law Enforcement 

is scheduled for release in the fall of 2018. Information for crime history writers, advertisers and readers is available on the Informer website.

05 June 2018

Buckshot finishes Tampa big shot

On this date in 1950:



James Lumia, businessman, gambling rackets boss and Tampa Mafia leader, was in his car, double-parked on 19th Street near Harper Street(*) in the Palmetto Beach neighborhood south of Ybor City. The headquarters of his gasoline and oil distributing company was close by. It was about 10 o'clock Monday morning, June 5, 1950, and he had stopped to give some instructions to employees Fernando Gil and Gaspar Montes, parked in a Chevrolet pickup used for oil company maintenance work.

James Lumia
As he spoke to the men through the passenger side window of his new, green, Chrysler sedan, a blue Ford pulled alongside and slightly in front of him. The driver of the Ford tapped his horn, causing Lumia to turn to his left and look out his window. A man rose from the Ford's back seat and fired a shotgun into Lumia's face.

The buckshot blast tore off the top front of Lumia's head, leaving a five-inch wound that stretched from "an inch or so below his eyes to some distance above the hair line." Blood, flesh and brain tissue were splattered about the inside of the vehicle. The gunman's car then drove off. In a futile effort to save his boss, Gil climbed into the driver's side of Lumia's car, pushing Lumia just enough to the right to allow him space on the seat, and raced off toward the hospital. Montes got the attention of off-duty Hillsborough County, Florida, Deputy Sheriff George Penegar, who was driving by, and told him to follow the gunman.

The speeding Chrysler caught Penegar's eye, and the deputy sheriff pursued it rather than the Ford. He stopped Gil at the busy intersection of 19th Street and Adamo Drive. Penegar seized a pistol found in the vehicle and called for an ambulance.

It took Lumia's forty-seven-year-old body nearly a half hour from the time of the shooting to acknowledge what was obvious to everyone else: Lumia was dead. His breathing reportedly continued for about fifteen minutes after he reached the hospital.

Lumia's funeral was held on Wednesday afternoon, June 7. He was entombed in the family mausoleum at L'Unione Italiana Cemetery.

Traffic is directed around the Lumia automobile.

Police investigators were quickly frustrated. Gil and Montes said they could not recall any helpful details about the gunman's car or its occupants. Their instincts for self-preservation may have clouded their memories.

There was reason to believe that the brothers of crime figure Jimmy Velasco, shot to death in 1948, had set up the killing of Lumia to avenge Jimmy. When Jimmy Velasco's accused killer, Joseph Provenzano, was brought to trial in 1949 (he was acquitted), Velasco's widow testified that Lumia was a leader of a regional gambling syndicate and an enemy of her husband.

Detectives questioned Roy and Arthur Velasco about the shooting of Lumia. Though neither was at all upset at learning of Lumia's demise, each provided alibis. The possibility that Lumia had a falling out with underworld figure Salvatore "Red" Italiano could not be pursued, as Italiano was known to be away in Italy, arranging wine deals for his Tampa business.

Lumia's name had been mentioned in the press recently in connection with the trial of several - including Roy and Arthur Velasco - who were accused of plotting to kill Hillsborough County Sheriff Hugh Culbreath. Defense attorneys suggested that the plot against Culbreath was fabricated by Lumia, Italiano and Primo Lazzara, working with Culbreath, in order to halt the Velasco brothers' investigation into Jimmy Velasco's murder. The defense wanted to call Lumia, Italiano and Lazzara as witnesses, but they could not be located. The trial was paused on May 11 at the request of the defense. At the time Lumia was murdered, he was scheduled to appear as a witness when the trial resumed in mid-June.

Lumia was known to be well connected politically and was found to have close acquaintances in the Mafia across the U.S. Within the Tampa area, Lumia had kinship ties to the Diecidue and Antinori clans. It was later revealed that the godfather of Lumia's son was Pittsburgh Mafia leader John LaRocca and that LaRocca attended the wedding of Lumia's daughter. (Pittsburgh area Mafia leader Gabriel Kelly Mannarino later served as godfather to a Lumia grandchild.) Upon the arrest of southern California crime boss Jack Dragna, Lumia's telephone number was found to be in Dragna's possession.

The interior of Lumia's Chrysler is examined.

Local police Chief J.L. Eddings told the press of rumors that Lumia worked in the background of the regional gambling syndicate. He noted, however, that Lumia had never been arrested.

A week and a half after the Lumia murder, with the investigation going nowhere, Chief Eddings announced his resignation. The fifty-year-old Eddings indicated that his doctor required him to take a long rest. In the same period, Hillsborough County Sheriff Culbreath and State's Attorney J. Rex Farrior were criticized for underworld links and failure to resolve a series of gangland killings.

Lumia was discussed when the U.S. Senate's Kefauver Committee investigated the impact of interstate rackets on Florida. One witness brought before the committee, the ex-wife of Deputy Sheriff DiLorenzo, said her ex-husband appeared to know about the Lumia murder before it occurred. She said Anthony DiLorenzo was familiar with Santo Trafficante and Primo Lazzara and served as a messenger between law enforcement and organized crime. The deputy sheriff indicated beforehand that he had some role to perform in connection with the Lumia murder. He told his wife that he wished he could get out of it, but "he was in it so deep that he couldn't get out." DiLorenzo allegedly told his wife years earlier that Lumia was "getting too big and someone had to stop him."

(*) These Tampa streets, 19th and Harper, no longer intersect.

Sources:
  • Images from June 6, 1950, issue of Tampa Tribune.
  • "Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce," Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, U.S. Senate, 81st Congress, 2d Session, and 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Part 1-A Florida, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951, p. 39-44.
  • "Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce," Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, U.S. Senate, 81st Congress, 2d Session, and 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Part 1-A Florida, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951, p. 49.
  • Forsyth, Thomas G. III, "Gabriel Mannarino," FBI report, file no. 92-2914-351, NARA no. 124-10277-10007, June 26, 1969, p. 2.
  • Voege, Robert A., "Sebastian John La Rocca," FBI report, file no. 92-2940-33, NARA no. 124-90104-10151, July 9, 1958, p. 11-12.

  • "Golden wedding today," Tampa Tribune, Aug. 12, 1945, p. 29.
  • "Funeral notices," Tampa Tribune, April 25, 1947, p. 2.
  • "Defendants accuse sheriff of frame-up," Palm Beach FL Post, May 12, 1950, p. 11.
  • "Rodrigez charges 'frameup,'" Tampa Tribune, May 12, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Tampa murder plot suspects charge sheriff with frame-up," Tampa Tribune, May 12, 1950, p. 12.
  • "Tampa gambler murdered," Orlando FL Evening Star, June 5, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Lumia killed; described as gambling boss," Binghamton NY Press, June 5, 1950, p. 14.
  • "Gambler slain in gang-style," Franklin PA News-Herald, June 5, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Funeral notices," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 2.
  • Murray, J.A., "Two men in blue car...," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Warren silent on slaying of Luma; warning recalled," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • Abbott, Bill, "Lumia's slaying 15th spewed on Tampa by flaming gang guns," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "None of 15 gambling slayings here ever solved," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 6.
  • "Fla. gambler is killed by gun blast," Shreveport LA Times, June 6, 1950, p. 15.
  • "Lumia murder may again baffle Tampa police force," Orlando FL Evening Star, June 6, 1950, p. 11.
  • "Tampa gang style killing puzzles police," Fort Lauderdale FL News, June 6, 1950, p. 13.
  • "Slaying of Lumia baffling to police," Tallahassee FL Democrat, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Tampa gaming czar is slain," Palm Beach FL Post, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Tampa chief of police resigns," New York Times, June 16, 1950, p. 20.
  • "Crime probe of Miami underway," [Salem OR] Daily Capital Journal, Dec. 29, 1950, p. 2.
  • "Text of Rex Farrior's sworn statement to senators is released," Tampa Times, Feb. 22, 1951, p. 1.

31 May 2018

He fought the law, and the law lost

Chicago Outfit boss DiFronzo,
89, dies following illness

John DiFronzo, reputed boss of the Chicago Outfit, died Sunday, May 27, 2018, at his home in River Grove, according to published reports. (Chicago Tribune reports he died May 28) He was eighty-nine years old.
DiFronzo

Criminal defense attorney Joe Lopez told the media that the crime boss suffered with Alzheimer's disease and had been "extremely ill."

DiFronzo was widely suspected of involvement in the brutal 1986 murders of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro (depicted in the film Casino). His role was discussed during the 2007 Family Secrets trial of Outfit leaders. But DiFronzo was not a defendant in Family Secrets, and federal prosecutors were unable to assemble a convincing case against him.

Attorney Lopez told CBS-Chicago that DiFronzo's greatest achievement was "beating the G."

The press frequently referred to DiFronzo as "No Nose." The nickname sprang from an attempted robbery back in 1949, though the details of that story are disputed. Some sources say DiFronzo jumped through a window to escape capture and had a piece of his nose sliced off by the breaking glass. (Actually, he neither jumped through a window nor escaped, but a glass injury cannot be ruled out.) Others say a bullet fired by a police officer tore off the nose...

Read a biography of John "No Nose" DiFronzo
on the American Mafia history website.


See also:

12 May 2018

'Lucky' transferred at request of spy agencies

On this date in 1942...

The Mafia boss widely known as Charlie "Lucky" Luciano was transferred between prisons in New York State at the extremely curious request of representatives from the United States Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

Salvatore "Charlie" Lucania, whose surname was mangled by police and press through the years to become "Luciano," was moved on May 12, 1942, from Clinton Prison at Dannemora to Great Meadow Prison in the hamlet of Comstock, New York.

Lucania was serving a 30- to 50-year sentence imposed June 18, 1936, eleven days after his conviction on state compulsory prostitution charges.

Following sentencing, his first stop in the New York State prison system was Sing Sing Prison in the Westchester County village of Ossining. He was admitted there on June 19, 1936. Within a week, prison Assistant Physician James A. Kearney made an issue of Lucania's past history with narcotics. Kearney recommended that Lucania be transferred to Clinton State Prison in the northern New York village of Dannemora (Clinton County), a facility better able to handle inmates with addiction and psychiatric problems.

Lucania arrived at Clinton Prison on July 2, 1936. He spent most of the next six years in a desperately humdrum existence within the Clinton Prison walls. He was largely out of touch with his underworld associates. While his brother Bert regulary made the difficult journey to remote Dannemora to visit with him, Lucania saw other visitors, including his own attorneys, far less frequently.



Lucania's situation improved following a Feb. 9, 1942, ship fire at a North River pier in New York City. The recent Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor had brought the U.S. into World War II, and authorities were concerned about the presence and activities of enemy agents within America's borders. The fire, which destroyed a former French ocean liner the Navy was converting into a U.S. military troop transport, was initially thought to be the result of sabotage. Though the fire was later determined to be accidental, the incident caused the Navy ONI to resort to unconventional means to secure U.S. ports.

Gurfein
Understanding organized crime's control of dock unions, ONI Captain Roscoe C. MacFall, Commander Charles Radcliffe Haffenden and Lieutenant James. O'Malley, Jr., sought underworld assistance. They approached Frank Hogan, Manhattan district attorney, and Murray I. Gurfein, assistant D.A. in charge of the Rackets Bureau, seeking an introduction to the Mafia. Gurfein and Haffenden became the primary contacts between the D.A.'s office and ONI as the government established a relationship with racketeers.

Gurfein put Haffenden in touch with Joseph "Socks" Lanza, who controlled unions at the giant Fulton Fish Market, then located at the east end of Manhattan's Fulton Street (moved late in 2005 to its current location in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx). Lanza, a member of Lucania's crime family, suggested that ONI involve Lucania in its security arrangements.

Haffenden called on former Lucania defense attorney Moses Polakoff to open discussions with the Mafia boss. Apparently uncomfortable with the idea - Polakoff had not spoken with Lucania since an August 1939 visit to Clinton Prison - the attorney suggested using Lucania's close associate Meyer Lansky as an intermediary.

Lyons
Lansky was brought in on the discussions in April. He agreed to assist but noted that it would be a problem to travel the great distance to Dannemora. In the same month, Commander Haffenden submitted a written request for Lucania to be transferred to a more easily reached institution. The request was sent through Lieutenant Commander Lawrence Cowen of ONI in Albany to New York State Corrections Commissioner John A. Lyons. Cowen refused to leave the document with Lyons. After Lyons read it, Cowens took it back and destroyed it.

Commissioner Lyons met with Murray Gurfein to discuss the matter on April 29, 1942. Gurfein recently gave up his position as assistant district attorney to join the Army's Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the wartime precursor of today's CIA. On May 6, Lyons issued an order to transfer Lucania to Great Meadow Prison. While still some distance from New York City, Great Meadow was easily accessible and sat only a short drive from the underworld's summer playground in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Lyons then met directly with Great Meadow Prison Warden Vernon A. Morhous to discuss the extraordinary bending of prison rules relating to visits to Lucania. Lyons said the rules regarding visitor logs and visitor fingerprinting were to be waived and visitors were to be allowed to speak in complete privacy with Lucania. Morhous was told that the only records should be separate memos he submitted to the corrections commissioner recording the date and length of the visits.

To keep the arrangements with ONI secret, Lyons called for a number of other prisoner to be moved between Clinton and Great Meadow at the same time as Lucania's May 12, 1942, transfer.

Great Meadow Prison


The impact of this U.S. intelligence program is uncertain. It is probable that some measure of labor peace on the docks was achieved through cooperation with the underworld. There is reason to believe that ONI interests were discussed - if not enhanced - by Lucania, Lansky, Lanza, Frank Costello, Brooklyn underworld powers Joe "Adonis" Doto and Albert Anastasia, West Side underworld leader John "Cockeye" Dunn and others. Some of those crime figures met directly with Haffenden.

As Haffenden's role at ONI changed, the focus of his relationship with crime bosses also changed. During 1942, Haffenden was removed from the ONI's security-oriented B-3 Section to its "Target Section," responsible for collecting strategic intelligence on possible Allied invasion sites. After the transfer, Haffenden sought to acquire information from Lucania and his Mafia colleagues that might be helpful in the planned invasion of Sicily. Michele "Mike" Miranda and Vincent Mangano became participants in that discussion.

Lansky
It seems unlikely that any significant contribution to the Allied war effort was made by Lucania during this phase - records relating to the secret project were destroyed following the Allied victory. But Lucania remained at Great Meadow Prison and continued his private visits with mob colleagues through the end of the war. Later visitors included Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Guarino "Willie Moore" Moretti, The final known visit - last of twenty-two outlined in records pieced together by state authorities and the FBI - occurred with Meyer Lansky and another visitor who was not named on Nov. 29, 1945, more than three months after the final Japanese surrender.

Four days later after that visit, the Board of Parole issued a favorable recommendation on a plan to commute the remainder of Lucania's prison sentence and deport him to Italy. On Jan. 3, 1946, Governor Thomas E. Dewey officially commuted the remainder of the sentence upon the condition of deportation. Lucania was transferred back to Sing Sing Prison on Jan. 9. A parole was granted on Feb. 2, and Lucania was transferred to Ellis Island. On Feb. 8, he was placed aboard the S.S. Laura Keene at Pier 7, Bush Terminal in Brooklyn. The ship left harbor on Feb. 10 and reached Italy seventeen days later.

Haffenden's connections to Lucania and his associates were later criticized by U.S. officials. Exposure of the favors he granted the crime boss resulted in a Navy censure. On May 31, 1946, evidence of corruption caused Haffenden to lose his postwar job as New York City commissioner of Marine and Aviation.

For more on this subject:

"When Lucky was locked up," American Mafia history website.

11 May 2018

1978 murder of Rochester's Sammy G.

Gingello
Reporter Gary Craig of the Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle recently wrote about the mysterious spring 1978 gangland murder of Sammy Gingello.


See: "40-year mystery: Where were the police when mobster 'Sammy G' Gingello was murdered?" by Gary Craig


A bomb exploded beneath Gingello's car early on April 23, 1978, taking the life of the notorious Rochester gangster. Gary Craig reports that two city police investigators, assigned to shadow Gingello, were given that night off.

Less than three months earlier, a Gingello murder conviction was overturned in court. He was released from custody, along with codefendants Rene J. Piccarreto, Richard Marino, Samuel "Red" Russotti and Thomas Marrotta, after the court found that evidence against them had been fabricated. A sixth codefendant, Eugene DiFrancesco, continued to be held in custody on unrelated charges. The group had been convicted of the murder of Vincent "Jimmy the Hammer" Massaro.

Gingello and codefendant Piccarreto also had been recently acquitted of conspiracy to bomb public buildings and the residence of a local union leader.

From the time of Gingello's release, five murder attempts were made against him in what became known as the "A-B War" or "Alphabet War" within Rochester's divided underworld.

For more on this and related subjects:


DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Vol. II, From 1938, by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

05 May 2018

1891 grand jury indicts bribers, defends killers

Says number involved in Crescent City lynchings
makes indictment, prosecution impossible


On this date in 1891...
A grand jury, tasked with examining the March 14 riotous attack on Orleans Parish Prison that left eleven inmates dead, issued a final report that not only refused to indict any involved in organizing and performing the prison break-in and killings but also rationalized and defended the acts of those who took the law into their own hands.


(Pittsburgh Dispatch coverage from May 6, 1891, shown at right.)



An execution squad cornered its helpless
targets in the prison yard and opened fire.

The prison raid occurred the morning after a trial jury failed to convict nine men accused of conspiring in the Mafia assassination of local Police Chief David C. Hennessey. Six defendants in that case were acquitted. A verdict could not be reached on the remaining three. The defendants all were held in the prison overnight, March 13-14, to await the dismissal of a related charge in another court.

Parkerson
The verdict was widely considered a miscarriage of justice achieved through jury bribery. A group of civic leaders let by William Stirling Parkerson gathered as a "Vigilance Committee" on the evening of March 13. They arranged for a mass meeting of local citizens the next day and published an inflammatory ad in local newspapers: "All good citizens are invited to attend a mass meeting on Saturday, March 14, at 10 o'clock a.m., at Clay Statue, to take steps to remedy the failure of justice in the Hennessy case. Come prepared for action." The ad was signed by the committee members.

According to reports, the organizers also selected an execution team of at least a dozen men, provided them with repeating rifles and instructed them on the list of prisoners who were to be killed.

https://amzn.to/2roAxEh
On the morning of March 14, thousands of citizens turned out for the meeting, assembling around the statue of Henry Clay, then positioned in the center of Canal Street's intersection with St. Charles and Royal Streets. Parkerson and other Vigilance Committee leaders made fiery speeches and then organized a march to the Parish Prison, positioning execution team members at the front. When refused entry into the prison, a door was broken down and the execution team was sent inside. Parkerson's committee positioned guards at the broken door to ensure that the assembled mob was kept out of the prison.

Though deliberately planned and carefully executed, the killings at Orleans Parish Prison were classified as lynchings - casualties of irrational mob violence. The incident has since been regarded as the largest lynching in American history. Of the eleven men killed within the prison walls, just six had been among the defendants in the recent trial. The other five were accused Mafia conspirators who had not yet been brought into court. Most of the victims were immigrants from Italy, though a majority had achieved or taken steps toward U.S. citizenship.




As it probed the complete breakdown of local law and order, the grand jury heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses through a period of more than three weeks. Long before its findings were made public, there were indications that the panel would take no action against anyone involved in the March 14 killings. The only indictments it returned during its investigation were against six individuals accused of plotting in the selection and bribery of assassination trial jurors: private detective Dominick C. O'Malley, Thomas McCrystol, John Cooney, Bernard Claudi, Charles Granger and Fernand Armant.

O'Malley
Developments were closely followed around the globe. In advance of the grand jury report, Italy issued a treaty-based demand that the U.S. federal government take action to bring to justice the perpetrators of the March 14 violence and called for reparation payments. When Secretary of State James G. Blaine responded that the federal government had no authority to interfere in the Louisiana matter, Italy withdrew its ambassador to the United States, and newspapers wondered about the possibility of war.

The panel's final report, delivered to Judge Robert Hardin Marr on May 6, 1891, decided that the March 14 raid on the prison was "directly traceable to the miscarriage of justice as developed in the verdict rendered on March 13." It criticized abuses of the jury system by the Mafia secret organization and its associates in the New Orleans community.

The grand jury harshly criticized the combined interests of private detective O'Malley and defense attorney Lionel Adams, who represented the assassination trial defendants: "Such a combination between a detective and a prominent criminal lawyer is unheard of before in the civilized world, and when we contemplate its possibilities for evil we stand aghast."

It accused several on the assassination trial jury of selling their verdict: "...the moral conviction is forced upon us that some of the jurors impaneled to try the accused on the charge of assassination of the late chief of police were subject to a money influence to control their decision. Further than this, we may say it appears certain that at least three, if not more, of that jury were so unduly and unlawfully controlled."

The grand jury referred only in the most glowing terms to those who participated in the break-in at the prison and the killings of helpless inmates held there. It justified the March 14 violence as a correction of wrongdoing:

It is shown in the evidence that the gathering on Saturday morning, March 14, embraced several thousands of the first, best, and even the most law-abiding of the citizens of this city, assembled, as is the right of American citizens, to discuss in public meeting questions of grave import. We find a general sentiment among these witnesses and also in our intercourse with the people that the verdict as rendered by the jury was contrary to the law and the evidence and secured mainly through the designing and unscrupulous agents employed for the special purpose of defeating the ends of justice. At that meeting the determination was shown that the people would not submit to the surrender of their rights into the hands of midnight assassins and their powerful allies.

The grand jury dismissed as impossible the notion of bringing any charges against the March 14 killers, as it was a popular movement and prosecutors could not hope to bring an entire city to trial. The panel claimed to be unable to determine the identities of the vigilante leaders:

We have referred to the large number of citizens participating in this demonstration, estimated by judges at from 6000 to 8000, regarded as a spontaneous uprising of the people. The magnitude of this affair makes it a difficult task to fix the guilt upon any number of the participants - in fact, the act seemed to involve the entire people of the parish and City of New Orleans, so profuse is their sympathy and extended their connection with the affair. In view of these considerations, the thorough examination of the subject has failed to disclose the necessary facts to justify this grand jury in presenting indictments.

The grand jury included foreman W.H. Chaffe, Geo. H. Vennard, O. Carriere, D.R. Graham, David Stewart, T.W. Castleman, G.A. Hagsett, Jr., W.L. Saxon, E. Gauche, A.S. Ranlett, G.C. Lafaye, H. Haller, John H. Jackson, W.B. Leonard, P.J. Christian and Emile E. Hatry.

Coverage of the grand jury report and U.S.-Italy relations:
  • "The grand jury," New Orleans Daily Picayune, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "The grand jury," New Orleans Times-Democrat, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "Can't indict a whole city," New York Evening World, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "Popular will pleaded," New York Sun, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "That grand jury report," New York Times, May 7, 1891, p. 1.
  • "Lynching all right," Pittsburgh Dispatch, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "No indictments," Pittsburgh Post, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "No consolation for Italy," Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle, May 6, 1891, p. 1.
  • "The diplomatic controversy...," Glasgow Scotland Herald, May 5, 1891, p. 6.
  • "Italy in a hurry," Marion OH Daily Star, April 1, 1891, p. 1.
More on this subject:


Deep Water:
Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia

by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon

28 April 2018

JFK wait extended three and a half more years

President orders that some assassination files
remain sealed at least until October 26, 2021

Due to lingering "national security, law enforcement and foreign affairs concerns," many documents relating to the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy will remain hidden from public view at least until Oct. 26, 2021.

All related documents were scheduled for release on Oct. 26, 2017, according to a deadline set by Congress in 1992. In advance of the deadline, National Archives made 3,810 pages available to the public. On the deadline date, another 2,891 were released, but many thousands more remained hidden.

At that time, President Donald Trump allowed six months - until April 26 - for federal agencies, including CIA and FBI, to do a final review of the withheld papers and make their arguments for any continued secrecy.

The archives released more than 28,000 pages - many containing redactions to maintain the secrecy of portions of pages - during November and December of 2017.

On April 26, the archives released 18,731 documents (a press release puts the number at 19,045), many with redactions.* Another 520 records remain entirely sealed.
 
The President stated in a memorandum that continued secrecy of the withheld documents and redacted portions of documents "is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure." He ordered that agencies conduct additional reviews of the records over the next three years, leaving open the possibility that some will remain secret even after 2021.

Online records:

Related posts:

See related article:
* Many of these pages are duplicates of previously released pages with some of their earlier redactions restored.

20 March 2018

Owner's killing is start of Murder Stable legend

On this date in 1912, Mrs. Pasquarella Mussone Spinelli was shot to death in an East Harlem structure later dubbed "the Murder Stable."

NY Herald, 21 Mar 1912
Just before 6 p.m., Mrs. Spinelli, a resident of 335 East 108th Street in East Harlem, went across the street to the stable she owned and managed in order to do her nightly check of the horses boarded there. Her daughter, Nicolina "Nellie" Lener (also spelled "Lenere") watched from the front window as her mother crossed the street. Nellie noticed some odd movement near a lantern positioned some distance from the entrance. A short time later, Nellie heard gunshots and saw two men rush from the stable and down the street toward Second Avenue. She recognized one of the men as Aniello Prisco.

Prisco, known locally as "Zoppo" (Italian term meaning "lame") or "the Gimp," was the terror of East Harlem. He led a gang that was suspected of murders, robberies, extortion and other offenses. He acquired his nickname and his distinctive gait in the spring of 1909, when he unwisely provoked a gangster known as "Scarface Charlie" Pandolfi. Pandolfi expressed his displeasure by firing a dozen slugs into Prisco's body. Doctors managed to save his life, but had trouble mending a badly shattered bone in his left leg. When the bone healed, the left leg was inches shorter than the right one.

Many suspected that Prisco had been planning an attack against Pasquarella Spinelli due to a bloody incident about five months earlier. On October 29, 1911, Nellie was alone with twenty-four-year-old Prisco underling Frank "Chick" Monaco. Monaco reportedly tried to rob Pasquarella Spinelli's safe, and Nellie responded by picking up a kitchen knife and stabbing Monaco repeatedly until he was dead. An autopsy found that Monaco died of a hemorrhage following stab wounds to the lung and the heart. A coroner's jury found Nellie not guilty of any wrongdoing, but Prisco had a different opinion. The shooting death of Spinelli appeared to be Zoppo's revenge.

Spinelli
Death of Harlem's 'Hetty Green'

A crowd quickly assembled in front of the stable. When authorities arrived, they found Mrs. Spinelli dead of gunshot wounds. Her body was resting on a ramp that led to the building's second floor. One bullet had struck her in the neck. Another had penetrated her right temple and lodged in her brain.

Following a post-mortem examination, a death certificate, issued in the name of "Pasqua Musoni Spinelli Lener," officially established the cause of death as "pistol shot wounds of brain (homicide)." The document stated Mrs. Spinelli's age as 57. It noted that she was born in Italy to Tommaso and Concetta Musoni and spent the last 21 years in the United States.

Press reports of the killing labeled Spinelli the "Hetty Green" of Harlem's Little Italy. The reference, far more easily understood in 1912 than it is today, was to Henrietta Robinson Green. Nicknamed "the Witch of Wall Street," Green was a wealthy and notoriously miserly businesswoman who gathered riches through work, investments and inheritance. Newspapers noted that Pasquarella Spinelli was the richest female in Harlem and owned stores, markets and tenement houses in addition to the stable.

Spinelli was buried on March 23, 1912, at St. Michael's Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were handled by Anthony Paladino of East 115th Street.



Spinelli's story

Mrs. Spinelli's background is a bit hazy. The few available records indicate that she was born in the mid-1850s in the Naples area of Italy and traveled to America in 1892, settling in Manhattan. The 1905 New York State Census located her, then 49, at 345 East 109th Street with husband Pietro Spinelli, a fish dealer, and children Tommaso, 19, and Nicolina, 16.

Nellie Lener
When the federal census was taken five years later, Pasquarella showed up at 2097 First Avenue, between 107th and 108th Streets. The census indicated that she was living with her husband Pietro, the fish dealer, and her daughter Nicolina Lener, 19. Curiously, Pietro's name in this document is written as "Solazzo" rather than Spinelli. The federal census revealed that Pietro was Pasquarella's second husband, and Nicolina Lener was Pietro's step-daughter. Apparently, Pasquarella had been married previously to a man with the surname Lener, with whom she had children Nicolina and the older Tommaso (no longer living with her by 1910) and possibly others. (The census record states that Pasquarella gave birth to seven children and had six children living.)

One candidate for the role of Pasquarella's first husband was a blacksmith named Tommaso Lener, who was born in Caserta, Italy, a short distance north of Naples, in 1865, traveled to the U.S. in 1895, and at the time of his 1906 naturalization petition was living at 301 East 109th Street. (For some reason, during the naturalization process, New York County Justice Samuel Greenbaum suspected Lener of underworld connections. Greenbaum asked if Lener's naturalization petition witness, insurance broker Salvatore Tartaglione was a member of the Mafia. Tartaglione said he was not.) What became of blacksmith Tommaso Lener is not known.

Monaco
In the brief period between the 1910 Census and Spinelli's murder, it appears that she separated from her fish-dealer husband Pietro, moved in with daughter Nellie at 239 East 109th Street, where Chick Monaco was stabbed to death in 1911, and then moved again with Nellie to 335 East 108th Street.

Arrests

Within a few days of Spinelli's death, police arrested Luigi Lazzazaro, 58, of 337 East 108th Street. Lazzazaro was a business partner of the victim, and Nellie Lener said she saw him standing outside the stable's entrance while two other men murdered Spinelli inside. Lazzazaro was charged with acting in concert with the killers, though he denied knowing anything about the murder.

Prisco was not arrested for Spinelli's murder until June. By then, witnesses were so intimidated by the gangster that no convincing case could be made against him. All suspects in the Spinelli murder were released.

Many killings

Newspapers reported that Nellie, fearing for her life after openly accusing Lazzazaro and Prisco, went to join relatives in Italy. Reports indicated that, even across the Atlantic, Nellie was not safe. It was rumored that she soon died under suspicious circumstances.

Prisco
Aniello Prisco did not live for very long after Spinelli's murder. During a December 15, 1912, attempt to extort money from Giosue Gallucci, an East Harlem entrepreneur with strong underworld and political connections, Prisco was fatally shot through the head by a Gallucci aide.

Additional killings over the years helped give the Murder Stable its violent reputation. Lazzazara, who became the facility's sole owner after Spinelli's death, was fatally stabbed near the stable early in 1914. Mafia boss Fortunato "Charles" LoMonte took charge of the building and operated his feed business from the location. He was shot to death near the stable in spring of 1914. Mafia-linked East Harlem businessman Ippolito Greco became the stable's owner. Greco was shot to death as he left the building for home in November of 1915.

The legend of the Murder Stable continued to grow. It became linked in tales to the Morello-Terranova Mafia clan, as well as to Ignazio "the Wolf" Lupo. While embellishing its history, writers also frequently assigned new addresses for the building, moving it up and down in East Harlem to suit their stories.

(Visit the full article on Pasquarella Spinelli's Murder Stable on The American Mafia history website.)


Sources:

  • Death certificate of Frank Monaco, Bureau of Records, Department of Health of the City of New York, registered no. 32570, Oct. 29, 1911.
  • Death certificate of Pasqua Musoni Lener, Bureau of Records, Department of Health of the City of New York, registered no. 9128, March 20, 1912.
  • Death certificate of Aniello Prisco, Bureau of Records, Department of Health of the City of New York, registered no. 35154, Dec. 15, 1912.
  • Naturalization Petition of Tommaso Lener, Supreme Court of New York County, Bundle 299, Record 74, index L 560, March 26, 1906.
  • New York State Census of 1905, Manhattan borough, Election District 5, Assembly District 33.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Hindoustan, departed Naples, arrived New York City on July 6, 1892.
  • Trow's General Directory of the Boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx, City of New York, Vol. CXXIV, for the Year Ending August 1, 1911, New York: Trow Directory, Printing and Bookbinding Company, 1910.
  • United States Census of 1910, New York State, New York County, Ward 12, Enumeration District 339.


  • "Murdered in vendetta," New York Tribune, March 21, 1912, p. 2.
  • "Woman murdered to avenge death of band leader," New York Herald, March 21, 1912, p. 1.
  • "'Will kill me,' cries girl, mother slain," New York Evening Telegram, March 21, 1912, p. 1.
  • "Arrest victim's partner," New York Sun, March 23, 1912, p. 1.
  • "Man held in stable murder case," New York Herald, March 24, 1912, p. 1.
  • "Held as woman's slayer," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 24, 1912, p. 58.
  • "Miss Nellie Lenere," New Castle PA Herald, March 29, 1912, p. 8.
  • "Notorious gunman arrested," New York Call, Oct. 4, 1912, p. 3.
  • "'Zopo the Terror' dies as he draws weapon to kill," New York Evening World, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 6.
  • "Blackhand king shot dead when he demanded $100," Bridgeport CT Evening Farmer, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Blackmailer killed as he made threat," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 4.
  • "Man is found dead with bullet holes in his head," New York Press, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Prisco, lame gunman, meets death at last," New York Sun, Dec. 17, 1912, p. 16.
  • "'Zopo the Gimp,' king of the Black Hand, slain," New York Tribune, Dec. 17, 1912, p. 16.
  • "Kills gangster to save uncle," Wausau WI Daily Herald, Dec. 23, 1912, p. 8.
  • "35 are caught in Black Hand bomb round-up," New York Evening Telegram, July 26, 1913, p. 3.
  • "Cycle of murders," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 20, 1914, p. 3.
  • "Shoots man and woman and makes his escape," New York Evening World, May 23, 1914, p. 2.
  • "Passersby shot in duel," New York Sun, May 24, 1914, p. 7.
  • "Lamonte dies of shot wound," New York Sun, May 25, 1914, p. 5.
  • Thomas, Rowland, "The rise and fall of Little Italy's king," Fort Wayne IN Journal-Gazette, Dec. 12, 1915, p. 33, Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 12, 1915, Sunday Magazine p. 4.
  • "'Murder Stable' around which Baff case centres is scene or cause of 14 deaths," New York Herald, Feb. 13, 1916, p. 1.
  • "Record of deaths in murder stable," Niagara Falls Gazette, April 12, 1916.
  • "Patriotism, pacifism, anarchism, meet here," New York Times, Jan. 6, 1918, p. 12.

19 February 2018

NYPD head exposes Petrosino secret mission

Petrosino
Bingham
On this date (February 19) in 1909, New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham spoke with news reporters about the absence of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino from police headquarters. The conversation may have led to Petrosino's assassination.

NY Evening World
19 February 1909
Bingham initially claimed not to know Petrosino's precise whereabouts and then suggested that the Italian-born detective and longtime leader of the NYPD's "Italian Squad" might be on his way across the Atlantic to meet with Italian police officials. The commissioner announced that he appointed Petrosino to the leadership of a privately funded "Secret Service" designed to enable the deportation of many Black Hand criminals, Mafiosi and Camorristi operating in New York's Little Italy communities. (Lieutenant Arthur Gloster took over temporarily as administrator of the Italian Squad.)

The information was widely published, exposing what was supposed to be a secret mission by Petrosino before that mission had even begun.

Less than a month later, on the evening of March 12, 1909, Petrosino was shot to death by Mafiosi in Palermo, becoming the only NYPD officer to be killed in the line of duty on foreign soil. Petrosino was unarmed. Evidence indicated that he was going to meet someone he believed to be an underworld informant when he was killed just outside the Garibaldi Gardens at Palermo's Piazza Marina.

Almost immediately, Petrosino's assassination was used by politicians to score points in a local government struggle in New York.

Commissioner Bingham blamed city alderman for Petrosino's death, charging that their lack of financial support for his Secret Service plan left Petrosino vulnerable. City officials, particularly those backed by the Tammany Hall Democratic machine, placed the blame on Bingham. Alderman Reginald S. "Reggie" Doull stated, "The blame for Petrosino's death attaches directly to Police Headquarters. It was from the Police Department that the news of Petrosino's departure to Italy leaked."

Doull labeled Bingham "the most profane incompetent that holds office in this city today."

Political pressure mounted for Bingham's dismissal. On July 1, Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr., succumbed and replaced Bingham with First Deputy Commissioner William Frazer Baker. At that moment, Detectives Antonio Vachris and John Crowley were in Italy, attempting to complete Petrosino's secret mission.

The change in police leadership resulted in Vachris and Crowley being called home. They reportedly returned with Italian police records that could be used to deport hundreds of Italian-born criminals who had settled illegally in New York. The records were shelved and the deportation effort initiated by Bingham and Petrosino was abandoned. 


Sources:
  • Barzini, Luigi, The Italians, New York: Atheneum, 1964.
  • Critchley, David, The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931, New York: Routledge, 2009.
  • Flynn, William J., The Barrel Mystery, James A. McCann Company, 1919.
  • Lardner, James and Thomas Reppetto. NYPD: A City and its Police, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000.
  • Petacco, Arrigo, translated by Charles Lam Markmann. Joe Petrosino. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.
  • Peterson, Virgil W. The Mob: 200 Years of Organized Crime in New York, Ottawa Illinois: Green Hill Publishers, 1983.
  • Pitkin, Thomas Monroe and Francesco Cordasco. The Black Hand: A Chapter in Ethnic Crime, Totowa NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1977.
  • Smith, Denis Mack, A History of Sicily: Modern Sicily After 1713, New York: Dorset Press, 1968.
  • White, Frank Marshal, "Italians seek protection against Black Hand," New York Times, Sept. 4, 1910, p. Mag 5.
  • "Secret service formed to hunt the Black Hand," New York Evening World, Feb. 19, 1909, p. 6.
  • "Bingham gets his fund," New York Sun, Feb. 20, 1909, p. 3.
  • "New secret service to fight Black Hand," New York Times, Feb. 20, 1909, p. 2.
  • "Secret police fund," New York Tribune, Feb. 20, 1909, p. 5.
  • "Il delitto di Palermo," Corriere della Sera, March 14, 1909, p. 4.
  • "Petrosino shot dead in Italy," New York Sun, March 14, 1909, p. 1.
  • "Petrosino slain assassins gone," New York Times, March 14, 1909, p. 1.
  • "Police seek plotters," New York Times, March 14, 1909, p. 2.
  • "Detective Petrosino Black Hand victim," New York Tribune, March 14, 1909, p. 1.
  • "Vachris would go to Sicily," New York Times, March 14, 1909, p. 2.
  • "Il delitto di Palermo," Corriere della Sera, March 15, 1909, p. 4.
  • "Arrests in Petrosino case," New York Sun, March 15, 1909, p. 1.
  • "L'uccisione di Petrosino a Palermo," Corriere della Sera, March 16, 1909, p. 4.
  • "Vote against Bingham," New York Tribune, March 24, 1909, p. 5.
  • "Mayor removes Gen. Bingham from office," New York Tribune, July 2, 1909, p. 1.
  • “Vachris coming back," New York Times, Wed. July 21, 1909, p. 1.

30 January 2018

When 'Lucky' was locked up

Salvatore Lucania, widely known as Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, late in 1931 became the most powerful crime boss in the U.S. He personally commanded a sprawling New York-based Mafia organization, held one of seven seats on the Mafia's ruling Commission and maintained valuable alliances with non-Italian racketeering organizations across the country.

Less than five years after achieving gangland eminence, however, Lucania was taken into custody on compulsory prostitution charges. Due to the efforts of Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey, Lucania spent most of the next decade - from the prime years of his life into middle age - behind prison bars.

Held at Clinton State Prison beginning in the summer of 1936, he was largely out of touch with the rich criminal empire he assembled and remote from friends and family. He depended upon pennies earned through manual toil and occasional contributions from relatives and associates to finance his many purchases through prison commissaries.

Yet, even during a lengthy and humiliating prison stay, Lucania found a way to make himself important. In the spring of 1942, Lucania convinced New York County prosecutors, New York State corrections officials and the United States Office of Naval Intelligence that he was indispensable to the U.S. war effort.

In the remaining years of World War II, Lucania arranged for a more convenient placement at Great Meadow Prison in the Lake George area and for suspension of visitation rules and recordkeeping. He managed in those few years to build a reputation for patriotic service that led to a 1946 commutation of sentence.

Very few official records remain of Lucania's long term in state prisons. From the period before 1942, only a small collection of documents is held at the New York State Archives. These include receiving blotter pages, health and psychiatric reports, visitor logs and financial transactions that shed some light on his brief time at Sing Sing Prison and his longer incarceration at Clinton Prison. From the period between his 1942 transfer to Great Meadow Prison and his 1946 parole and deportation, even less survives. Some details of these later years were pieced together when the State of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Navy looked into Lucania's alleged contributions to the war effort. Wartime records of the Office of Naval Intelligence, which could have provided the most useful window into Lucania's service, were deliberately destroyed.

Available details of Lucania's time in prison and related events have been assembled into a 1936-1946 timeline on The American Mafia history website. These details range in excitement level from hum-drum to spectacular. Quotes from documents and links to documents - including all available pages of the Clinton Prison files - are included.

See: "When 'Lucky' was locked up."

25 January 2018

Stroke complications take Capone

Al Capone, notorious Prohibition Era gang boss of Chicago, died January 25, 1947, at his south Florida home. Dr. Kenneth S. Phillips, who had treated the retired crime figure for years, announced that death was caused by pneumonia and heart failure, complications of a recent stroke.

Miami Daily News
For many years, Capone had dealt with the symptoms of advanced syphilis. Immediately upon the November 1939 expiration of his long prison sentence for tax evasion, Capone was admitted into Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore for treatment of paresis. The former gangland boss, burdened with an ailing body and a failing mind, never returned to command the Chicago Outfit organization he built during Prohibition, instead moving into a quiet Florida retirement.

Capone suffered an apoplectic stroke at about four o'clock in the morning of January 21, 1947, just a few days after his forty-eighth birthday. It was feared that the unresponsive Capone would soon die. At six o'clock, a Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor William Barry, went to the twenty-five-room estate, 93 Palm Avenue on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay, to administer the last rites. Newspapers learned of the stroke and scrambled to cover the final moments of Capone's life.

By eight o'clock that morning, Dr. Phillips saw some signs of improvement in his patient. At the family's request, the physician became a spokesman, delivering health updates to the swarm of reporters gathering outside the walls around the estate. Capone regained consciousness later in the day, and Dr. Phillips reported to the press that he could speak, though the doctor urged him to remain quiet and rest.

Dr. Phillips told the press on January 23 that Capone continued to show progress in his recovery. The doctor expressed concern that the stroke might leave Capone paralyzed on the left side. "It'll be two or three days before I can tell conclusively about his condition," Dr. Phillips said. "He's doing just about the same and it looks like he is out of danger if there are no unforeseen complications."

The possibility of pneumonia was discussed early the following day. Dr. Phillips reported that Capone was "harboring considerable lung congestion." The patient's condition worsened quickly. Dr. Phillips rushed to Palm Island that afternoon and returned with Dr. Arthur J. Logie, a Miami-based chest specialist, that evening.

Dr. Logie met with reporters as he left the estate. The specialist's prognosis was grim. "I doubt very seriously if there is a chance for recovery. It is impossible to say how long he will last. His lungs are pretty well filled... Both lungs are badly congested and his heart has begun to fail."

The doctors administered oxygen, using tanks and equipment brought to the Palm Island home. Press reports the following day suggested that Capone would already be dead if not for the oxygen pumped into him during the night.

Dr. Phillips and Capone's wife and son were with Capone when he died in his bed at twenty-five minutes after seven on Saturday night, January 25. As he passed, his wife collapsed and required the attention of Dr. Phillips. The doctor emerged from the estate with news of Capone's death at about eight-thirty.

Capone was survived by his wife and his son, both of his parents, two brothers and a sister. His body was taken to the W.L. Philbrick Funeral Home at Miami Beach. Reports indicated that Louis Rago, funeral director at 624 N. Western Avenue in Chicago, flew to Miami Beach to take charge of arrangements, as the family wished for Capone to be buried in a plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago.

Sources:
  • "Ex-Gangland chief rallies after stroke," Moline IL Dispatch, Jan. 22, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Hint Capone's left side may be paralyzed," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 24, 1947, p. 6.
  • "Doctor speeds to bedside of Al Capone," Miami Daily News, Jan. 24, 1947, p. 23.
  • "Al Capone hit by pneumonia, heart weaker," Baltimore Sun, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 3.
  • "Al Capone gets pneumonia, doctor doubts recovery," Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Capone dying, doctor says," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 1.
  • Sosin, Milt, "Capone under oxygen mask, hovers on brink of death," Miami Daily News, Jan. 25, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Capone dies at island villa," Miami Daily News, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Al Capone dies in Florida villa," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Al Capone, gang czar, dies," Des Moines Register, Jan. 26, 1947, p. 4.

See also:
Writers of Wrongs: "Out of prison, into hospital."