On this date in 1987...
Retired Buffalo Mafia member Sam DiCarlo, brother of the notorious Joseph DiCarlo, died March 27, 1987, in Miami, Florida, at the age of 82. While often in the shadow of his better known brother, Sam DiCarlo was an influential underworld leader and participated in some of the more important Mafia events in U.S. history.
Born Salvatore DiCarlo on April 2, 1904, he was the fourth child (third son, after Francesco and Giuseppe/Joseph Jr.) of Giuseppe and Vincenza Grasso DiCarlo of Vallelunga, Sicily.
At the age of two, "Sam" crossed the Atlantic with his mother and siblings. Giuseppe DiCarlo had made the trip the previous September, settling in a New York City colony of Vallelunghesi that included the related Mistretta, Muscarella and Bonasera clans. Giuseppe was late meeting his family at Ellis Island, and the first meal eaten in America by Vincenza and her children was the boxed lunch provided by the immigration center.
The family lived briefly in Brooklyn and then moved in 1907 to Manhattan's East Harlem. Giuseppe DiCarlo commuted to work at a Manzella grocery business, 190 Elizabeth Street, between Spring and Prince Streets. Giuseppe was friendly with Pasquale Enea and Isidoro Crocevera, associates of local Mafia leader Giuseppe Morello. In summer 1908, apparently with the blessing of Morello, Giuseppe DiCarlo became boss of the Mafia organization in Buffalo, New York (he had been a regular visitor to the city since March 1907), and resettled his family there.
The Buffalo area was home to large numbers of Sicilian immigrants from the inland Vallelunga-Valledolmo area (where the provinces of Palermo and Caltanissetta meet) and the coastal city of Castellammare del Golfo (province of Trapani). Castellammarese Mafioso Benedetto Angelo Palmeri, likely a Giuseppe DiCarlo acquaintance from their time in New York City, soon moved into Buffalo and became a key figure in the DiCarlo underworld administration. (Palmeri later married into the Mistretta family, relatives of Vincenza Grasso DiCarlo.)
Sam and the other DiCarlo children grew up in comfort, thanks to their father's position. But the family was not immune to tragedy. Francesco just reached the age of eighteen when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 1917. He died of the disease in March 1918. The following year, Vincenza, age forty-six, died following cancer surgery.
Sam was in his early teens when brother Joseph (four and a half years older than Sam) became an aide to their father in the early days of Prohibition. Joseph was involved in a shooting incident in August 1920 that left one man dead and one man wounded. The wounded man was Vincent Vaccaro, connected with local Black Hand extortion rackets. The dead man was eventually identified as Giuseppe DiCarlo's old friend Isidoro Crocevera. Police pieced together enough about the incident to decide that it was related to a squabble over bootlegging proceeds. Joseph DiCarlo was charged with first-degree assault in the shooting of Vaccaro. Vaccaro's brother Anthony was charged with Crocevera's murder. Witnesses refused to cooperate with authorities, and the charges were later dropped.
Sam got into trouble with the law at about the same time. At the age of sixteen, he and a nineteen-year-old friend were arrested for assaulting two young women. Charges were dismissed.
Giuseppe DiCarlo died July 9, 1922, at the age of forty-eight. The cause of death was reported as acute pulmonary edema. Ill (and likely depressed) for years, with diabetes and heart and kidney problems, he had recently pulled out of a number of legitimate businesses and spent his time at a "country home" in Bowmansville, New York. His death left the Mafia of western New York leaderless.
Sam was eighteen and Joseph was twenty-two. Buffalo Mafia leaders considered installing Joseph as the new boss, but decided he did not have the maturity for the position. Angelo Palmeri was given the nod instead, perhaps as a sort of regent for Joseph. Joseph's path toward the top spot in the organization set up by his father was blocked by the Buffalo arrival of Stefano Magaddino later in 1922. Palmeri turned power over to the more senior Castellammarese Mafioso.
Joseph viewed Magaddino as a rival and an obstacle and spent the rest of his life trying to build an underworld organization of his own. Sam DiCarlo, however, seemed to have an easier time finding his place in a crime family run by Magaddino. He became a Magaddino ambassador, representing his boss at national Mafia events.
During his underworld career, Sam DiCarlo was arrested twice at Mafia conventions. The arrests helped to reveal the interstate nature of organized crime many years before the famous gathering at Apalachin, New York.
Sam was arrested along with more than twenty other Mafiosi from around the country at the Cleveland Statler Hotel in December of 1928. That gathering, held following the New York murders of Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila and Brooklyn leader Frank "Yale" Ioele, was probably intended as a coronation of the Mafia's new supreme arbiter, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. (Some disagree with this view, noting that Masseria and his known associates were not among those arrested at the Statler Hotel. But, with Masseria kin living in Cleveland, his presence among the out-of-town visitors at the hotel would have been odd.)
In the summer of 1932, Sam DiCarlo was found with gathered Mafiosi from around the country in New York City. At the time, Sam was free on bail pending his appeal of a year-and-a-day federal sentence for interstate transport and possession of a stolen automobile. He was taken into custody as New York police investigated the ice pick murder of visiting Pittsburgh crime boss John Bazzano. A loose-cannon in the Mafia, Bazzano had recently ordered the killing of several Neapolitan associates, apparently as a form of ethnic cleansing in his underworld organization. Bazzano was called to New York by Mafia higher-ups to answer charges. His answer was deemed insufficient, and he was executed.
Sam's appeals kept him out of federal prison long enough to attend the summer 1933 wedding of his sister Sarah to Cassandro "Tony the Chief" Bonasera. A member of the Brooklyn-based Profaci (later Colombo) Crime Family, Bonasera was one of the Mafiosi rounded up following the murder of Bazzano.
Frustrated by Magaddino's increasing power and influence in western New York, Joseph DiCarlo began to search for greener pastures. In the mid-1940s, he established himself as leader of gambling operations in the City of Youngstown, Ohio. He was assisted in that role by his brother Sam, two brothers-in-law of the Pieri family and John "Peanuts" Tronolone (later Mafia boss of Cleveland). The DiCarlo brothers within a few years also involved themselves in gambling rackets in Miami Beach, Florida.
These rackets were exposed through the Kefauver Committee hearings of the early 1950s. Sam DiCarlo and John Tronolone were arrested together at a Miami Beach barbecue restaurant on New Year's Eve, 1953. They were charged with running a gambling house, gambling and bookmaking. Joseph DiCarlo was arrested a few days later.
|John "Peanuts" Tronolone and Joseph DiCarlo|
The U.S. Senate's McClellan Committee opened hearings into organized crime in summer of 1958. As it did so, it published the names of 135 individuals who were found to be attendees or associates of attendees of the November 1957 Apalachin meeting. Joseph and Sam DiCarlo were included on that list.
Sam DiCarlo, in his mid-fifties, seems to have made it a point to avoid public scrutiny following the McClellan Committee revelations.
The underworld career of his big brother Joseph was far from over. In the late 1960s, Joseph DiCarlo returned to Buffalo to aid and advise the Pieri faction in a revolt. Under the leadership of Sam Pieri and Joseph DiCarlo, the Mafia organization within the City of Buffalo broke away from the regional Mafia of western New York commanded from the Niagara Falls area by Stefano Magaddino. Diminished in power and influence, Magaddino died after a heart attack in 1974.
Sam DiCarlo was the longest-lived of his siblings. Sarah DiCarlo Bonasera died October 19, 1975, in Brooklyn at the age of seventy-three. After more than a decade as consigliere of the Buffalo Crime Family he helped build, Joseph DiCarlo died Oct. 11, 1980, at the age of 80.
A resident patient of the Four Freedoms Manor facility in Miami, Sam DiCarlo died at the age of eighty-two following a stroke.
Read much more about the DiCarlos,
Magaddino and the Mafia
of western New York in
DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. 1, to 1937, by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.
DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. 2, from 1938, by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.