Search Results for: joe valachi

Joe Valachi – The First Rat

Joseph M. “Joe Cargo” Valachi ranks as one of the most notorious Mafia informants, the first mobster to acknowledge, in public, on television, under oath, that Cosa Nostra is real. Long before Sammy “The Bull” ratted out John Gotti, Valachi’s turncoat testimony gave a face to a Mafia the public knew nothing about.

Joseph Valachi, who also used the aliases Charles Charbano and Anthony Sorge, was born September 22, 1903, in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. His parents were Italian immigrants and his father was a mean drunk.

Valachi got started as a criminal by joining a gang known as the “Minutemen” because its members could execute burglaries within a minute. He drove the getaway car, and he was prized for his fast escapes.


Valachi earned a few early beefs. He was charged with grand larceny in 1921 and in 1923 he served nine months in jail for attempted burglary after a robbery went bad. When he got out, the gang had moved on, so he started a new one.

During the final years of Prohibition, Valachi found work with the Reina crime family, one of the five families of New York City (it’s now the Lucchese family). He became a soldier and was there during the Castellammarese War, one of the bloodiest periods in U.S. Mafia history.

The war started when Salvatore Maranzano, head of one New York family, resisted attempts by another boss, Joe Masseria, to consolidate all families under his control.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano

Charles “Lucky” Luciano

Valachi picked the winning side, fighting for Maranzano. Masseria was murdered at a Coney Island restaurant in 1931, likely at the decision of Charles “Lucky” Luciano and his associates.

Maranzano appointed Valachi one of his bodyguards, but the job didn’t last. Maranzano was also killed, again on the word of Luciano, who immediately took his place as head of the new Luciano crime family.


Valachi stuck around. Unlike other famous names in organized crime history, he was never much of a climber. He remained a soldier in the Luciano family (now known as the Genovese family) for almost 30 years after his boss’ rise.

In 1959, that streak ended and Valachi was sented to 15 to 20 years in prison on a narcotics conviction. He was sent to the same prison where fellow mobster Vito Genovese was incarcerated. In 1962, while they were serving there together, Genovese supposedly gave Valachi the “kiss of death” because he suspected Valachi of informing.

Most notorious Mafia figures make headlines and live in memory because of what they do while they’re in the mob. Valachi won his fame for what he did outside Cosa Nostra.

No one knows for sure why he decided to turn on his Mafioso friends. Valachi claimed he did it because he wanted to help the public and because the mob had ruined his life. But he may have had ulterior motives based on his own criminal history.


According to Valachi, he panicked when Genovese kissed him and murdered a fellow inmate he mistakenly believed had been sent to kill him. Now, facing the death penalty, Valachi may have agreed to testify in order to secure a life sentence and protection instead.

In any event, he squealed to everyone: the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Justice Department, the FBI and, in testimony broadcast on radio and television, to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The information was moderately useful in investigations and prosecutions of Mafia figures, and it helped solve several murders. More significantly, it painted a detailed picture of the mob in America and revealed far more than anyone else had ever dared to share about organized crime, including its Italian name, Cosa Nostra (translated: “Our Thing”).

Valachi described the history of the mob, its membership, its inner workings and its language. He also described its organization, from soldiers on the bottom to caporegimes (lieutenants) in the middle to bosses at the top, with the so-called Commission moderating disputes between the nation’s major crime families.

Above all, he served as vivid evidence to a skeptical public that the Mafia is a very real thing. Robert Kennedy cited Valachi’s testimony as “the biggest single intelligence breakthrough yet in combating organized crime and racketeering in the United States.”


Valachi spent the rest of his life in prison, fearing for the $100,000 contract Genovese put out on his life. He wrote his memoirs, initially with the encouragement of the U.S. attorney general. But the Justice Department changed course and ultimately blocked publication of the book, in part because of protests by Italian-American groups.

Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson played Joe Valachi, in the 1972 film The Valachi Papers

Another writer, who had interviewed Valachi in prison, used much of the same information as the basis for a biography, The Valachi Papers, published in 1968. That was later made into a movie starring Charles Bronson.

Prison life was difficult for Valachi, who tried to hang himself with an extension cord three years after his testimony. But no one ever carried out the anticipated hit: He died of a heart attack at the Federal Correctional Institution, La Tuna in Anthony, Texas on April 3, 1971.

The name “Valachi” still evokes images of his blunt testimony and revelations. Mafia rats became more common after his appearance, though it took many years before the feds were regularly able to turn mob informants.

Joseph Valachi’s remains are buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Lewiston, N.Y.

Gaetano “Tommy” Lucchese – Lucchese Family Namesake, Part I

 Gaetano Lucchese was born on December 1, 1899 in Palermo Sicily and immigrated with his parents Giuseppe and Maria in 1911. They settled in East Harlem, an Italian neighborhood of Manhattan where Lucchese’s father worked as a laborer hauling cement. Lucchese worked in a machine shop to help this family earn money until an accident amputated his right thumb and forefinger in 1915.

When Lucchese turned 18 years old he started a window cleaning company which dubbed as an extortion racket for the 107th St. gang to which he was a member. Any business that refused to use his service had their windows broken. His closest friends Charlie Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky were also a part of the gang and specialized in burglarizing stores, stealing wallets, and smalltime gambling. Though they form the gang themselves they operated under the protection of Bronx-East Harlem boss Gaetano “Tom” Reina, a well-established gangster.

In 1920 Lucchese was arrested for auto theft. The arresting police officer compared Lucchese’s deformed hand with that of professional baseball pitcher Mordecai “Three- Finger” Brown. The police officer nicknamed Lucchese “Three-Finger Brown” and cited the name as a Lucchese alias. Despite his disdain for the nickname, it stuck for the rest of his life, however most of his associates called him, “Brown” for short.

In January 1921 Lucchese was convicted of the auto theft and sentenced to three years and nine months in prison. He served 13 months at Sing Sing Correctional Facility before being paroled. It was Lucchese’s first and only conviction of his life. After his release from prison in 1923 he returned to his old friends Charlie Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky, who had become friends with another Jewish gangster named Arnold Rothstein.
In late 1927 Lucchese was arrested under the alias of “Thomas Arra,” and charged with receiving stolen goods. Law enforcement released him pending trial but he never returned. On July 18, 1928 he was arrested along with his brother-in-law Joseph Rosato for the murder of Louise Cerasulo a smalltime hood. The charges were dropped six days later.

The beginning of the 1930s brought about the Castellammarese war between two rival crime bosses in New York, Giuseppe “Joe the boss” Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. The Reina gang aligned themselves with Masseria, however Reina secretly changed his allegiance to Maranzano because Masseria demanded large tributes of Reina’s rackets. Reina’s second in command, Tommaso “Tommy” Gagliano found out about the change in allegiance and told Masseria about Reina’s betrayal. On February 26, 1930 a Masseria gunman named Vito Genovese shot and killed Reina outside his girlfriend’s apartment. Masseria then made his ally Joseph Pinzolo boss of the Reina gang, ignoring Gagliano’s good deed.

Gagliano, furious about not being promoted boss of the Reina family and formed a splinter group within the gang. Luciano, Stefano Rondelli, Domincik Petrilli, and Joseph Valachi joined Gagliano in their hatred for Pinzolo.

Valachi testimony

Valachi testimony

Seven months after Reina’s murder, Pinzolo was lured to a Manhattan office he shared with Lucchese at 1457 Broadway. (The two men were partners in a “wind break” business known as California Dried Fruit Importers, which skirted the prohibition law. Wind breaks were blocks of crushed grapes that could be reconstituted by setting them in water. Fermentation would then yield wine.) Upon entering his office Pinzolo was shot and killed by Girolamo Santucci or Dominck Petrilli. Masseria then appointed Gagliano as the new gang boss.Law enforcement suspected Lucchese as being involved in the murder and issued a warrant for his arrest. On September 8, 1930 he turned himself into the police but grand jury failed to indict him on the murder charge citing lack of evidence. (Joe Valachi later testified that “Bobby Doyle” Santucci killed Pinzolo.)
By this time Charles Luciano had grown in strength and secretly plan to end the Castellammarese war. He began negotiating with Maranzano to end the war with Masseria and persuaded Gagliano and Lucchese to secretly switch sides to Maranzano.

Before Maranzano and Luciano could eliminate Masseria, they needed to get rid of powerful Masseria-allied, “Manfredi family” (later called the Gambino family) boss Alfred “Al Mineo” Manfredi. On November 5, 1930 Manfredi and his underboss Steve Ferrigno were murdered in the Bronx by Gagliano and Maranzano gunmen.

Maranzano then declared himself as “Capo di tutti capi” or boss of bosses. He placed Luciano as his second-in-command and divided the gangs into five separate families. The former Reina gang became one of the five crime families in New York City, with Gagliano as its boss and Lucchese as the underboss.

In September 1931 Luciano completed his mission in ending the Castellammarese war and sent a hit squad comprised of Jewish hitmen dressed as policemen and Federal Internal Revenue Service agents to Maranzano’s office where he was murdered. After Maranzano’s death, Luciano created the national Mafia Commission hosting leaders of all the crime families in the United States. Their primary objective was to settle family disputes and prevent organized crime wars.

On January 25, 1943 Lucchese was naturalized an American citizen. It took an additional seven years to secure a certificate of good conduct from the New York State parole Board. A few years later he would attend the mob Havana Conference in Cuba as Gagliano’s representative.

Gagliano Tomb Inscription

Gagliano Tomb Inscription

By the early 1950s Lucchese appeared to be a successful vice president of garment factory on E. 9th St., but behind-the-scenes he controlled established Garment workers unions, Longshoremen unions, and Truckers unions. He also influenced several New York City government officials and the local entertainment industry. As part owner of Casino de Paris, Music Hall he could be seen dining with Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin.

Lucchese had established himself as a powerful businessman, entrepreneur, controller of unions, and friend of the entertainment industry. He was one of the most powerful mafioso in the country and soon would become even more powerful.

 During a July 1958 Senate hearing Lucchese stated that Gagliano died on February 16, 1951 however historians believe Gagliano actually died on February 16, 1953. It’s been speculated that Gagliano retired in 1951 and turned leadership over to Lucchese, but the family kept it secret to prevent law enforcement or media scrutiny. Whether it was 1951 or 1953 Lucchese was now boss of the Gagliano’s and with approval of the commission the family was renamed the Lucchese crime family.


FBI Documents

Albert Anastasia –

Carlo Gambino –

Joe “Junior” Gotti –

Mafia Monograph, 1958 –

Bugsy Siegel –

Anthony Salerno –

Thomas Ryan Eboli –


Blackwell, J. (2008). Notorious New Jersey. New Brunswick, NJ: Rivergate Books.

Capeci, J. (2004). The Complete idiot’s guide to the mafia. New York, NY: Alpha.

Caruso, D. (2008). No more tomorrows. WestBank Publishing.

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder and the birth of the American mafia. United Kingdom: Simon & Schuster.

DeMeo, A. (2003). For the sins of my father: A mafia killer, his son, and the legacy of a mob life. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Ferrara, E. (2011). Manhattan mafia guide: Hits, homes & headquarters. Charleston, SC: The History Press.

Giuliani, R.W. (2002). Leadership. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Helmer, W.J. & Mattix, R. (2007). The complete public enemy almanac. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing.

Linnett, R. (2013, forthcoming). In the godfather garden: The long life and times of Richie “the Boot” Boiardo. New Brunswick, NJ: Rivergate Books.

Mustain, G. & Capeci, J. (1993). Murder machine.  New York, NY: ONYX.

Maas, P. (1997). Underboss. New York, NY: Harper Torch.

O’Brien, J.F. & Kurins, A. (1991). Boss of bosses – The fall of godfather: The FBI and Paul Castellano. New York, NY: Dell Publishing.

Sifakis, C. (2005). Mafia encyclopedia. New York, NY: Facts On File.

Smith, G. (2006). Mob cops. New York, NY: Berkeley Books.

Thayer, T.W. (2011). The New York mob: The bosses. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Journal Articles

Albanese, J.S. (2000, November). The causes of organized crime: Do criminals organize around opportunities for crime or do criminal opportunities create new offenders? Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 16(4), pp. 409-423.

Blakey, G.R. & Blakey, J.R. (1997). Civil and criminal RICO: An overview of the statute and its operation. Defense Counsel Journal, 64, pp. 36-

Gordon, P.J. (2005). Gotti, mob funerals, and the catholic church. Journal of Catholic Studies, 44, pp. 253-276. [Separate Attachment]

Sabot, J. (1993, Fall). Expert testimony on organized crime under the Federal Rules of Evidence: United States v. Frank Locascio and John Gotti. Hofstra Law Review, 22, pp. 177-227. [Separate Attachment]

Jacobs, J.B. & Gouldin, L.P. (1999). Cosa Nostra: The final chapter? Crime & Justice, 25, pp. 129-189. [separate attachment] [great source & useful bibliography]


Three slay man in street and flee. The New York Times, October 11, 1928.

Importer shot nine times. The New York Times, October 12, 1928.

Perlmutter, E. (1951, April 1). Story of Murder, Inc.: Big Business in Crime. The New York Times.

Mangano killing motive; prosecutor studies possibility of mafia vengeance. (1951, April 29). The New York Times.

U.S. files suit as first step to deport Albert Anastasia. (1952, December 10). The New York Times.

Anastasia admits evading U.S. taxes. (1955, May 24). The New York Times.

Anastasia gets year in tax case. (1955, June 4). The New York Times.

Anastasia wins plea. (1955, September 20). The New York Times.

Police photograph funeral of Scalice. (1957, June 23). The New York Times.

Freeman, I.H. (1957, October 26). Anastasia rose in stormy ranks. The New York Times.

Perlmutter, E. (1957, October 29). Anastasia is buried in stark ceremony. The New York Times.

Scalise inquiry begins. (1959, April 7). The New York Times.

Sketches of 13 seized in Queens raid. (1966, October 1). The New York Times.

Lubasch, A.H. (1972, May 3). Reputed crime leader indicted for tax evasion. The New York Times.

Pileggi, N. (1973, January 8). Anatomy of the drug war. New York Magazine.

Lubasch, A.H. (1973, February 11). Dogged I. R. S. inquiry on Dellacroce’s spending habits led to his conviction; investigation widens. The New York Times.

Lubasch, A.H. (1973, March 13). Mafia figure gets 5-year sentence. The New York Times, p. 35.

Lubasch, A.H. (1977, December 16). A reputed mobster’s 2d tax trial ends in a mistrial. The New York Times, p. 47.

Lubasch, A.H. (1977, May 4). Reputed organized-crime figure charged with running a $10 million yearly racket. The New York Times, p. 29.

Lubasch, A.H. (1978, February 22). A gambler linked to mafia accepts plea-bargain deal; sentencing April 12. The New York Times, p. B12.

Lubasch, A.H. (1980, July 1). Frank Tieri is arrested as a boss of ‘La Cosa Nostra.’ The New York Times, p. B1.

Lubasch, A.H. (1980, October 28). Prosecutor portrays Tieri as ‘boss’ of ‘La Cosa Nostra.’ The New York Times, p. A28.

Lubasch, A.H. (1980, October 30). Tieri, 76, collapses at his federal racketeering trial. The New York Times, p. B7.

Lubasch, A.H. (1980, November 12). A witness describes Tieri as mob ‘judge.’ The New York Times, p. A28.

Lubasch, A.H. (1980, November 22). Tieri convicted of being a leader of crime family. The New York Times, p. 25.

2 held in murder of auto mechanic. (1975, July 6). The New York Times.

Gage, N. (1976, October 16). Carlo Gambino, a mafia leader, dies in his Long Island home at 74. The New York Times.

Thomasson, R.E. (1976, October 17). Hundreds at rites for Carlo Gambino; police snap photos of the visitor. The New York Times.

Chambers, M. (1976, October 19). Gambino funeral subdued, with few crime figures. The New York Times, p. 43.

Gage, N. (1976, October 24). A Gambino who’s who, who isn’t. The New York Times.

Cohen, R. (1977, February 24). The inside story on selection of a new mafia chief; how Carmen Galante was made mafia chief. The Washington Post, p. B1.

Seigel, M.H. (1978, August 6). Gambino’s heir as crime chief yet to emerge; senate hearings begin. The New York Times, p. 1

Babock, C.R. (1979, May 16). 2 alleged Gambino family members are indicted. The Washington Post, p. A.9.

Hudson, E. (1979, May 16). Reputed leader in crime family seized in 1974 slaying of bookie. The New York Times, p. 25.

Beck, M. (1979, July). Death of a godfather. Newsweek, p. 34.

Raab, S. (1981, June 13). Gambino crime ‘family’ reported dominant now. The New York Times, p. 26.

Frank Perdue meets the godfather. (1983, July 5, 1983). New York Magazine, pp. 28-29.

Lubasch, A.H. (1984, March 31). Reputed leader of a crime family is indicted by U.S. The New York Times, p. 1.

McFadden, R.D. (1984, April 9). 5 ex-city policemen investigated in reported sale of data to mob. The New York Times, p. B3.

Raab, S. (1984, May 21). The drug pipeline: From Europe to New York. The New York Times, p. A1.

Lubasch, A.H. (1984, November 2). Man termed an underboss of crime ‘family’ is seized. The New York Times, p. B3.

Blumenthal, R. (1985, December 4). Aniello Dellacroce dies age 71; reputed crime figure. The New York Times, p. B5.

Smothers, R. (1985, December 5). Witness testifies Castellano is the successor to Gambino. The New York Times, p. B15.

Smothers, R. (1985, December 11). Key Gambino trial witness admits lying to jury. The New York Times.

Raab, S. (1985, December 17). Authorities foresee power struggle. The New York Times, p. B4.

McFadden, R.D. (1985, December 17). Organized-crime chief shot dead stepping from car on E. 46th St. The New York Times, p. A1

Roberts, S. (1985, December 18). Respectability and crime: Private life and violent death of Paul Castellano. The New York Times, p. B8.

Selwyn Raab, S. (1985, December 18). Expert says crime family chiefs sanctioned slaying of Castellano. The New York Times, p. A1.

Raab, S. (1985, December 20). 9 linked to mafia are accused of bilking legitimate businesses. The New York Times, p. A1.

Raab, S. (1985, December 27). Authorities now say a slain mafia aide was a major target. The New York Times, p. A1.

Alpern, D. (1985, December 30). A godfather’s fall: Mob under fire. Newsweek, p. 20.

Pileggi, N. (1986, January 6). After ‘Big Paul’: The mob’s new direction. New York Magazine.

Rangel, J. (1986, April 1). Second person in Gotti’s case is now missing. The New York Times, p. B1.

Trial and Terror: A victim’s memory is mugged. (1986, April 7).  TIME, 127(14), p. 29.

O’Connor, C. (1986, April 28). The mob’s Mr. violence? Newsweek, p. 40.

Hevesi, D. (1986, June 14). Police hunt reputed mob officer reported missing for past week. The New York Times, p. 32.

Mansley, J. (1986, June 14). The new don holds court. Courier-Mail.

Mansley, J. (1986, June 17). New ‘don’ is dressed to kill – or be killed. The Advertiser.

Daly, M. (1986, June 23). The new godfather: The rise of John Gotti. New York Magazine, pp. 25-39.

U.S. judge rejects bid to free Gotti associate. (1986, June 28). The New York Times, p. 50.

Bail is revoked for crime figure. (1986, July 1). The New York Times, p. B20.

Raab, S. (1986, September 14). Supplier of concrete to city had link to crime figure. The New York Times, p. 42.

Raab, S. (1987, March 14). A weakness in Gotti case. The New York Times, p. 1.

McFadden, R.D. (1987, March 14). Cultivating a commanding presence both inside and outside courtroom. The New York Times, p. 32.

Buder, L. (1987, March 14). Gotti is acquitted in conspiracy case involving the mob. The New York Times, p. 1.

Buder, L. (1987, May 30). Former court clerk admits giving information to mob. The New York Times.

Buder, L. (1987, June 2). Three defied drug-dealing ban by Gambino family, jury is told. The New York Times, p. B5.

Buder, L. (1987, September 30). Trial of Gambino figures starts with depictions of leaders. The New York Times.

Raab, S. (1987, October 22). With growing reputation, Gotti’s swagger is bolder. The New York Times, p. B1.

Buder, L. (1987, December 23). 4 convicted at mob trial in Brooklyn. The New York Times.

Buder, L. (1988, February 10). A 10-year term given by judge to crime figure. The New York Times.

Raab, S. (1988, February 16). Gotti’s brother called rising star in Gambino mob. The New York Times, p. B3.

Lubasch, A.H. (1988, April 1). Abduction of man in ’75 recounted by witness. The New York Times.

Howe, M. (1988, April 7). Fugitive in a mafia case turns up dead. The New York Times, p. B3.

James, G. (1988, August 30). Man linked to John Gotti is slain on Brooklyn street. The New York Times, p. B3.

Raab, S. (1988, December 2). Mafia gang indicted in east side terror. The New York Times, p. B1.

Raab, S. (1989, January 24). Gotti is seized in ’86 shooting of union chief. The New York Times.

Raab, S. (1989, April 2). John Gotti running the mob. The New York Times, p. 30.

Glaberson, W. (1989, May 28). After 15 months, mob trial nears end. The New York Times.

Glaberson, W. (1989, June 29). Seven guilty in racket case at mob trial. The New York Times.

Buder, L. (1989, December 6). Angelo Ruggiero is dead at 49; longtime associate John Gotti. The New York Times, p. D27.

Raab, S. (1990, December 13). Gotti accused of role in Castellano slaying. The New York Times, p. B1.

Specter, M. (1990, December 13). ‘Dapper don’ Gotti indicted in N.Y. The Washington Post, p. A3

O’Brien, J.F. & Kurins, A. (1991, May 21). Conversations with the godfather. New York Magazine, pp. 30-38.

Lubasch, A.H. (1991, August 3). Words from Gotti’s mouth: Secret tapes of inner circle. The New York Times, p. 23.

Raab, S. (1991, November 15). How Gotti’s no. 2 gangster turned his coat. The New York Times, p. B1.

Stanley, A. (1992, February 17). For Gotti in latest trial, confidence and caution. The New York Times, p. B3.

Sullivan, R. (1992, February 23). 2 Gambinos go on trial, very quietly. The New York Times, p. 33. 

Lubasch, A.H. (1992, February 27). Witness describes scene at murder of Castellano. The New York Times.

Hevesi, D. (1992, April 3). A need for security kept numbered jurors cloaked in anonymity. The New York Times.

McFadden, R.D. (1992, April 3). For Gotti prosecutors, hard work and breaks pay off in conviction. The New York Times, p. A1.

Raab, S. (1992, April 3). As a Caesar goes, so goes his family. The New York Times, p. B2.

Raab, S. (1992, April 4). Wanted: A mob boss without the flash. The New York Times, p. 25.

Blumenthal, R. (1992, April 5). How tapes and a turncoat helped win the war against Gotti. The New York Times, p. 30. 

Lubasch, A.H. (1992, June 24). Gotti sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The New York Times, p. A1.

Lubasch, A.H. (1992, June 26). Reputed mobster guilty in six narcotics murder. The New York Times, p. B3.

Sullivan, F. (1992, September 22). 2 Gambinos are seized in Florida. The New York Times, p. B1.

Lubasch, A.H. (1992, November 7). Juror is convicted of selling vote to Gotti. The New York Times, p. 25.

Witchel, A. (1992, November 12). Back on the street with: Curtis Sliwa; not invincible, but standing fast. The New York Times, p. C1.

Raab, S. (1995, January 24). Defector says bomb that killed underboss was meant for Gotti. The New York Times.

Blum, H. (1999, September 1). The reluctant don. Vanity Fair.

Magnuson, E. (2001, June 24). Hitting the mafia. Time Magazine.

Duffy, Peter (2002, February 17). City lore; Willie Sutton, urbane scoundrel. The New York Times.

Feurer, A. (2002, June 13). Diocese of Brooklyn denies funeral mass for Gotti. The New York Times.

Hewitt, B. (2002, June 24). The last don. People Magazine, 57(42), pp. 159-161.

Capeci, J. (2005, February 3). Massino’s tips lead the FBI to dig deep. The New York Sun.

Lombardi, J. (2005, May 21). The dumbest don. New York Magazine.

Hirschfeld, N. (2007, January 7). A father’s grief, a father’s rage. The New York Times.

Cornell, K. (2009, January 8). Gotti hit of ‘acid’: Son’s killer in vat. New York Post.

Capeci, J. (2009, November 30). Greg DePalma, pal of Sinatra and Willie Mays, dies in prison. Huffington Post.

Capeci, J. (2010, November 8). Frankie Loc: John Gotti whacked Louis DiBono, not me. The Huffington Post

Online Profiles

Albert Anastasia – –

Al Capone –

Al Indelicato -

Benjamin Ruggerio –

Carlo Gambino

Britannica –

Biography Channel – –

Bruno, A. (n.d.). The Gambino family. Crime Library. Retrieved from

John Gotti, Sr.

May, A. (n.d.). John Gotti, the last mafia icon. Crime Library. Retrieved from

Gribben, M. (n.d.). The myth of mob gallantry. Crime Library. Retrieved from

Joe Gallo

Wikipedia –

Roy DeMeo

Ramsland, K. (n.d.). Roy DeMeo. Crime Library. Retrieved from –

Joe Valachi –

Bugsy Siegel –

The Biography Channel Profile –

Vincent Gigante –

Neil Dellacroce –

Paul Vario –

Ruggiero Boiardo

Newark “Godfather” FBI Files –

Joe Magliocco –

Lucky Luciano –

Britannica –

Crime and Investigation Profile –

Luciano Trial Materials – –

Joe Masseria

Britannica Profile – –

Joe Adonis

Mafia History Profile, September 09, 2006 –

Frank Costello

Britannica Profile –

Greg Scarpa

Ignazio Lupo –

Jimmy Burke –

Thomas DeSimone –

Tommy Lucchese –

Other Government Documents/Reports

New Jersey Commission of Investigation. (1990). Overview of organized crime. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Commission of Investigation. [Available at]

New Jersey Commission of Investigation. (2004). The changing face of organized crime in New Jersey. Trenton,

NJ: New Jersey Commission of Investigation. [Available at]New York State Organized Crime Task Force. (1990). Corruption and racketeering in the NYC construction industry. [available for purchase]

Pennsylvania  Crime Commission. (1990). Organized crime in Pennsylvania: A decade of change. Conshohocken, PA: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. [Link to PDF –]

Court Opinions

United States v. Doto, 110 F. Supp. 518 (S.D.N.Y. 1953).

United States v. Genovese, 133 F. Supp. 820 (D.N.J. 1955).

United States v. Reina, 242 F.2d 302 (2d Cir. 1957).

United States v. Aviles, 274 F.2d 179 (2d Cir. 1960).

United States v. Costello, 352 F.2d 848 (2d Cir. 1965).

United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739 (1987).

United States v. Salerno, 868 F.2d 524 (2d Cir. 1989).

United States v. Salerno, 937 F.2d 797 (2d Cir. 1991).

United States v. Gigante, 925 F. Supp. 967 (E.D.N.Y. 1996).

United States v. Gigante, 982 F. Supp. 140 (E.D.N.Y. 1997).


Five Families – Origins

After the death of Giuseppe Masseria in the Casellammarese War, the organization of the “Families” was initiated in 1931 by Salvatore Maranzano.  Maranzano is also credited for creating the familiar Mafia hierarchy of the boss (capofamiliglia), underboss (sotto capo), advisor (consigliere), captain (caporegime), soldier (soldato) and associates.  Maranzano placed himself at the top of the hierarchy, declaring himself as the capo di tutti capi or “boss of all bosses”.


The succession of Maranzano by Charles “Lucky” Luciano ushered in management by a Board of Directors known as “The Commission” which was made up of the Five New York Families  plus the Chicago Outfit and Buffalo family.  Lucky Luciano was anointed Chairman of the Commission.  The original members of the Commission were of course bosses at the time.



Valachi testifying before the McClellan Commission

The public acknowledgement of the “Five Families” was actually introduced in 1963 at the Valachi hearings.  At that time the families were identified as Gambino, Genovese, Profaci, Lucchese and Bonanno.  Subsequently the Profaci family was renamed Columbo family in deference to alleged boss Joseph Columbo.


The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas, 1972

The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas, 1972

Joseph Valachi’s “disclosure’s” were written down in minute detail in an extensive 1,100 plus page manuscript entitled The Real Thing.  This included the history of the mob, its structure and leadership of the Five Families at the time.  Author Peter Maas had the task of editing the original manuscript and interviewing Valachi in his cell.  In opposition to the publication of the book the American Italian Anti-Defamation League promoted a national campaign against the book on the grounds that it would reinforce negative ethnic stereotypes.  Eventually Maas was allowed to publish a third person account based on his interviews with Valachi.   The Valachi Papers was published in 1968 and made into a film starring Charles Bronson in 1972.



Genovese Family – One of the “Five Families”

Joseph Masseria

The Genovese crime family is one of the “Five Families” of New York and one of the most powerful organized crime families in the nation. Only the Gambino and Chicago Outfit are larger in terms of made men and associates.

The family was founded after Charles Lucky Luciano in the 1930’s but was renamed after Vito Genovese took over in 1957.  The Genovese are special that they have only had five members turn states evidence in their history. Their allegiance to Omerta has proven to keep them away from prosecution and maintain their strength in New York and surrounding areas. However, in years past the family was a bit of a laughing stock as they were led by Vincent “The Chin” Gigante who wandered the streets dressed in a robe in an effort to feign a mental handicap for the ever present FBI. The Chin died in 2005.

Early History

The Genovese family was established as the Morello gang around 1892 running out of the Bronx and East Harlem. They were originally called the 107th street mob established by Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio “the Wolf” Lupo. They were involved in extortion, kidnapping, and robbery.

As their enterprise grew, Morello was faced with territory conflicts with the immigrant gangs from Naples, Italy. The Camorra and the Morello gang initially worked together but after Morello and Lupo received lengthy prison sentences for extortion in 1909, the Camorra seized the opportunity and systematically began killing off the remaining Morello family gangsters, and taking over their rackets. This resulted in what’s known as the Mafia-Camorra War from 1914-1918. By the middle of 1918 many of the Camorra on the losing end of the war, were either killed or in prison thus ending the war. Although the Morello’s won the war, they received a devasting blow when boss Nicholas Morello was killed in 1916.

The Morello family tried to regain its foothold during prohibition, but by the early 1920’s the gang no longer existed. Giuseppe Morello and Lupo were released from prison and fled to Italy under threat from rival Salvatore D’Aquila.  That left the door open for Joseph Masseria boss of the Masseria family to assumed control of the remaining Morello members and their rackets. Masseria needed as much fire power as he could handle as his biggest rival, Salvatore Maranzano boss of the Castellammare del Golfo Sicilian organization in Brooklyn was looking for a fight.

By 1928, the war between Masseria and Maranzano had begun. More than 60 members from both sides were dead. It appeared there would be no end with both families having recruited more soldiers during the war, but on April 15th 1931, the war took a sudden turn when Masseria was murdered in a Coney Island restaurant having been set up by Lucky Luciano and his crew.

As it turned out, Luciano was upset with Masseria for some time. Having been neutral during the war, Luciano met secretly with Maranzano to plot Masseria’s assassination. Masseria’s death affectively ended the Castellamarese War leaving Maranzano in control of New York.

Maranzano didn’t waste any time in restructuring the Italian-American gangs of New York into five new families. With that change Maranzano appointed himself as the Boss of all Bosses. For his help, Luciano was appointed boss of the Morello/Masseria family. However, Luciano and other bosses privately objected to Maranzano’s role. Maranzano soon found out about the detractors and ordered a hit on Luciano. It wasn’t to be. Luciano had the wheels in motion to take control from Maranzano. On September 10, 1931, Jewish gangsters Meyer Lansky, and Tommy Lucchese on orders from Luciano murdered Maranzano in his office. With his death, Luciano became the most powerful gangster in New York.

Realizing the strife between the families, Luciano and his crew created a governing body for the five families. The commission consisted of one leader from each of the five families, the Chicago Outfit headed up by Al Capone, and the Magaddino crime family of Buffalo New York. Luciano and his crew effectively controlled the commission for many years but he succeeded in keeping the commission together. It still stands today, although it’s unclear who is represented by each family.

As head of the Morello/Masseria family, Luciano first appointed Vito Genovese as his underboss, or second in command, and Frank Costello as his Consigliere, or advisor. When they were in place he renamed the family to the Luciano family.

In 1936 Luciano was convicted of pandering and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison. He continued to control the family from prison but the day to day activities were handled by underboss Vito Genovese. His activities were short lived as he was indicted on murder charges in 1937 and fled prosecution to Italy. Advisor or Consigliere, Frank Costello, was soon appointed as acting boss by Luciano.

Luciano was released from prison in 1946 and immediately deported to Italy after the United States government struck a deal with him to help protect the ports on the east coast from German attack subs. Luciano – still in control of the docks along the east coast- allowed the military to make moves to secure the port, but the need never transpired as Germany surrendered shortly after. Luciano never set foot on U.S. soil again.

With Luciano and Genovese in Italy, Frank Costello was in complete control of the Luciano crime family. With his keen business sense, Costello managed to increase the Luciano reach to include control over much of the bookmaking, loan sharking, and racketeering activities throughout New York. He is also attributed with being one of the first families to have a presence in Las Vegas after approving Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel to expand the family business in Southern California to build the first modern casino resort in Las Vegas. When Siegel failed to open the resort on time, his mob investors allegedly sanctioned his murder.

After a 20 year run, Costello faced a formidable opponent in Vito Genovese who was extradited from Italy to New York and beat the 1936 murder charge. With nothing hanging over his head, Genovese was determined to take back control of the family he’d fled almost twenty years before. With help from Mangano crime family underboss Carlo Gambino, they hired Vincent ‘the chin’ Gigante to assassinate Costello. Gigante shot Costello in the head but Costello survived. To prevent retribution from Costello ally Albert Anastasia, Gambino gunmen stalked and killed Anastasia thereby opening the door for Carlo to become boss of the Mangano family. Costello had no support after Anastasia’s murder and retired surrendering the Luciano family to Genovese.

After taking control of what was now called the Genovese crime family, Vito Genovese organized a conference to legitimize his new position. He called in over 100 mobsters from around the country to Appalachian, New York, and a farm owned by Joseph Barbera’s family. Unfortunately for the gangsters, the local law enforcement was tipped to the meeting after a chance sighting of several expensive limousines driving in the country. They surrounded the farm and arrested many of the gangsters as they tried to run. Many of the arrested blamed Vito Genovese who evaded capture by running through the woods. Several of the high ranking mobsters on the Commission were upset at the exposure the Appalachian meeting gained in the public. Carlo Gambino, a one time supporter of Genovese used Appalachian to turn against him fearing he became too reckless. Gambino, Frank Costello, and Tommy Lucchese lured Genovese into a drug distribution scheme that eventually ended with Genovese being arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In June 1962 the word Cosa Nostra became a household name when Genovese family soldier Joseph “Joe Cargo” Valachi agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors against the Genovese family. He testified in a public hearing about the day to day activities of the Cosa Nostra and revealed much of their secrets. The joke was on Valachi though because his testimony did not lead to any convictions.

After Genovese was sent to prison in 1959 leadership created a secret “Ruling Panel” that would lead the

Vito Genovese

family in his absence. The first panel included Tommy Eboli, Gerardo Catena, and Phillip Lombardo. They also appointed a “Front Boss” to act as the official boss of the family. When Genovese died in 1969, Phillip Lombardo was his successor and Tommy Eboli was the front boss. In an attempt to take over the Genovese family, Gambino boss Carlo Gambino loan Tommy Eboli millions of dollars on a drug scheme. By 1972 Eboli had failed to pay back the money so Gambino had him murdered.

With the front boss position open, Frank “Funzi” Tieri was chosen to be the new front boss, and a new ruling panel was put in place. This second panel consisted of Catena, Michele “Big Mike” Miranda, and Lombardo. In 1982, Tieri was convicted and sent to prison under the RICO act, and Lombardo the official boss of the family retired leaving the slot to Vincent “Chin” Gigante.

Gigante ran the family behind the shroud of the front boss for three years until a Genovese associate turned informer and identified Gigante as the real boss of the family. After the outing Gigante retired the position of front boss and formed a new position called the “street boss”. Gigante wanted to insulate himself from the FBI as must as possible. The street boss would run day to day operations with Gigante making all the decisions. Wise the way of the FBI Gigante knew his street boss would be found out one day, so instead of delivering his directions straight to the street boss, Gigante used messengers. As a result, Gigante only spoke directly with a few close associates including his two sons. All other business was completed using a messenger. He also ordered his entire family to never speak his name out loud. Anyone who was caught saying his name was to be killed on the spot. Instead, they would point to their chin or make a ‘C’ with their hands.

In 1985 with the murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano, Gigante gained control of the commission and was the most powerful boss in New York. He would remain the most powerful until the FBI finally tried and convicted him to 12 years in prison in 1997. He died of heart disease while still serving his sentence in 2005.

Today, the Genovese family is considered to be one of the strongest in New York. They have approximately 250 made men and 14 active crews. Their associates could be in the thousands, and according to the FBI they have not had an official boss since Gigante. Instead, their caporegime run the day to day business with a few capos’s holding the most power in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Hit Counter provided by Skylight