Born in Calabria, in southern Italy on September 26, 1902, Albert’s birth name was Umberto Anastasio. His parents were Raffaelo Anastasio and Louisa Nomina de Filippi.
Raffaelo was a railway worker who died after World War I, leaving behind nine sons and three daughters. Albert’s brothers included Salvatore, Frank, Joseph, Gerardo, and Tony Anastasio who he was closest to. When Albert was 15 years old he took to the sea with his brother Tony working for a shipping company. When they made it to the Brooklyn port, the two boys left the ship and headed into Brooklyn set on starting a new life. Soon, both found jobs working as longshoremen on the Brooklyn waterfront. The year was 1917.
From the time he landed in the United States, Anastasio wanted to be a gangster. To avoid bringing shame upon his family he changed his name to Anastasia, so when he was identified in the newspapers as part of a criminal organization his family named wouldn’t be dragged through the mud. Despite his name change, his brother Tony kept the Anastasio name and would later become one of the leading racketeers who controlled the docks in Brooklyn.
On March 17, 1921 Anastasia was arrested for the murder of Joe Torino after a dispute over the right to unload ships with precious cargo. Witnesses described the killing where Anastasia, a man with incredible strength, stabbed and strangled Joe with no regard for onlookers. Anastasia was convicted and sentenced to death. He was sent to the notorious Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York to await execution. Due process in the 1920’s was scheduled and meant to expedite. Anastasia continuosly filed petitions for a retrial during his incarceration. Shortly before he was to be executed, he won a new trial when some of the witnesses reversed their statemetns. Four other witnesses, who provided the most damning testimony during his first trial had disappeared. Anastasia was released from custody in 1922 at the age of 20 to await a new trial. The new trial was never held.
By the late 1920s, Anastasia had become a top leader of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), controlling six union local chapters in Brooklyn along side his brother. He allied himself with Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, a powerful gang leader in Brooklyn and became close associates with future Cosa Nostra bosses Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello.
By 1930 the Castellammarese War was in full swing with mafia boss Salvatore Maranzano fighting for control over New York rackets against the powerful Joe Masseria. Both sides suffered serious casualties but momentem shifted when Lucky Luciano, who looked to take over the rackets himself, secretly aligned himself with Maranzano and conspired to kill Masseria. Luciano outlined his plot to Anastasia, who joined him and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in the plot. Anastasia who had been waiting for eight years for Luciano to be in charge declared he would “kill everybody” he was asked so Luciano could be on top.
Shortly after his restructing in September 1931, Maranzano was himself murdered on Luciano’s orders leaving Luciano the most powerful boss in the United States.To avoid the power struggles and turf disputes that led to the Castellammarese War, Luciano established the National Crime Syndicate, consisting of the major family bosses from around the country and the so-called “five families” of New York. The Syndicate was meant to serve as a governing body to solve disputes, distribute territories, and regulate lucrative illegal activities such as racketeering, and gambling.
Meanwhile in 1932, Anastasia was indicted on charges of murdering another man with an ice pick, but the case was dropped due to lack of witnesses. The following year he was charged with another murder, but again no witnesses were willing to testify and the case against him was dropped. Free of any court appearances and indictments, Luciano looked to repay his friend for his loyalty during his assault on Masseria and Maranzano and offered him the position of chief of Murder Inc., the commissions enforcement arm. Murder Inc., was a service for hire where connected men requested Anastasia’s assistance in completing open murder contracts.
Anastasia worked along other notorious murderers like Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and Abe (Kid Twist) Reles who was ruthless and somewhat irresponsible. It was Kid Twist who eventually brough Murder Inc., to the front doorstep of the FBI when he was busted and decided to talk instead of facing the death penalty. Reles implicated Anastasia and Buchwalter as the heads of Murder Inc. and claimed they had killed more than 63 people.One day Reles, who was in protective custody awaiting trial where he would testify in open court against Anastasia and Buchalter, mysteriously went out a window and fell to his death. That left the prosecution with little evidence against Anastasia. Buchalter was eventually tried and convicted. He was the only gangster to ever get the chair.