Joseph Anthony “Joe” Colombo Sr., Founder of “The Italian-American Civil Rights League”

      Joe Colombo was born in Brooklyn on June 16, 1923. Much of his early life is unknown; he lived with his parents, and had no other siblings. His father was a member of the American mafia until his murder in 1938. In his younger years Colombo held several legitimate jobs. He spent time in the U.S. Coast Guard, had jobs as a longshoreman, and in worked in a meat packing company. His last legitimate job was selling real estate.

      By the late 1950’s Colombo was fully involved as an enforcer for the Profaci crime family in New York. The Profaci’s were a tough family known as one of the “five families” of New York, and also held a seat on the mafia’s national commission.  As an enforcer Colombo‘s job was to collect money owed to the family and to take part in physical work ordered by his capo or higher ups. Colombo proved early on to be efficient in collecting money and extorting for the family and was quickly “straightened out” or officially inducted in the Cosa Nostra.

     During his career in the mafia, Colombo had several ‘scares’ or close calls. In one situation Colombo and other members of the Profaci leadership were kidnapped by a feared and disgruntled capo in the Profaci family, Joe Gallo. At the time, Joe Profaci, the boss of the family had been requesting larger tributes from Gallo, and the feud grew. Gallo wasn’t the only capo to have increased ‘taxes’ by the boss, but he made the biggest beef because of it. After holding the men for several weeks, an agreement was finally made where Profaci would lessen the tributes owed by Gallo, and Colombo and the other hostages were released. By the end of the year however, Profaci would renege on their deal and the first Colombo war started.

     On June 6, 1962 Joe Profaci died of liver cancer, and long time consigliere Joseph Magliocco took over as boss of the Profaci family. As boss, Magliocco pursued Gallo and his allies attempting several hits but none were successful. One such plot by Magliocco involved murdering the entire commission including Bonnano crime family boss, Joe Bonanno, Lucchese crime family boss, Tommy Lucchese, and Gambino crime family boss, Carlo Gambino. Magliocco handed the contract to Joe Colombo, who promptly revealed the plot to Lucchese and Gambino. With the admission, Magliocco was forced to retire, and Colombo was rewarded for his loyalty to Cosa Nostra and handed the Profaci family renaming it the Colombo crime family.

      At 41 years old, Colombo was the youngest crime family boss in the nation. He was also an avid supporter of Italian-American rights spending countless hours lobbying for equality. In early 1970 Colombo created the Italian-American Civil Rights League. He immediately went after the federal government citing several instances where they purposely prevented Italian-Americans from equal liberties in the work force. His work generated a massive response from the Italian-American community and with their support; Colombo’s league became the rally cry for action. On June 29, 1970 50,000 people showed up in Columbus Circle in New York City for an “Italian-American Unity Day” rally. Several U.S. Congressmen attended the event. Soon after, the League grew national attention, which was good for Italian-American’s but bad for the American mafia and the commission noticed. In November 1971 the League drew further publicity when Frank Sinatra headlined at a sold out show in Madison Square Garden. Later that year and into 1971 Colombo himself appeared in television interviews and speaking appearances for the League. In spring 1971 Paramount Pictures was forced to halt filming of “The Godfather” due to overwhelming sediment from the Italian-American community. Movie producer Albert Ruddy met with Colombo and agreed to excise the terms “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” from the film in exchange for the League’s backing. Colombo agreed and filming resumed.

     Colombo planned on building on his success with the League from the first Columbus Day rally and announced a second annual rally to be held on June 28, 1971 much to the displeasure from the commission. Prior to the rally the Colombo family nemesis, Joe Gallo was released from prison. During his time in prison, Gallo had spent his time building relationships with the other families and Harlem and Bedfod-Stuyvesant gangs of African-American descent. Upon his release, Colombo set up a meeting with Gallo to bury the hatchet so-to-speak, but Gallo refused. It’s said Colombo was going to offer Gallo $1000 to keep the calm. Gallo responded with $100,000 and the meeting never happened. A murder contract was immediately issued on Joe Gallo.

     On March 11, 1971 Colombo was convicted and sentenced to two and half years for perjury after lying on a real estate application many years before. His sentenced was delayed pending appeal.

     On June 8, 1971 Colombo arrived at his second annual “Italian-American Unity Day” rally. Thousands were in attendance along with Congressmen and entertainers. As Colombo was introduced and made his way to the stage, he was shot several times by an African-American man named Jerome Johnson who was wearing journalist credentials. He held a camera in one hand, and a pistol in the other. Several men including Colombo’s son jumped on Johnson however before they could wrestle him to the ground Johnson was shot three times in the back by an unknown African-American assailant who then fled on foot along with a women who initially arrived with Johnson. Neither was found.


Colombo being loaded into an ambulance after being shot.

Although he was shot several times at point blank range, Colombo survived the assassination attempt but never regained consciousness. He remained in a vegetative state until his death nearly seven years later when he died at his estate on May 22, 1978.

     Colombo’s murder was never solved, however because it was an African-American who committed the crime, and another who killed the gunmen, it’s believed Joe Gallo was to blame. Year’s later news emerged that Carlo Gambino was angered at Colombo’s actions and orchestrated the plot to kill Colombo. The NYPD largely influenced by the powerful Carlo Gambino eventually concluded that Jerome Johnson acted alone.

Frank “Frankie Shots” Abbatemarco – The Precurser to the Profaci-Gallo War

Frank “Frankie Shots” Abbatemarco had no idea when he left his favorite watering hole at 8 p.m. on Nov 4, 1959 that he was walking into an ambush.

Frankie Shots was born in 1899 and grew up in Red Hook Brooklyn with the Gallo family. Not much is known about his early childhood, but by the late 1920s, Abbatemarco had been arrested several times and spent a couple of years in prison on a narcotics rap.

By the early 1930s, Abbatemarco was running numbers for the newly appointed boss of Brooklyn, Joseph Profaci and he was a huge success. Each week Abbatemarco kicked up thousands of dollars to the boss of the family.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s Abbatemarco had risen in the Profaci crime family (now the Colombo crime family) to the level of captain and one of the largest earners in the family and certainly in the South Brooklyn numbers rackets. Abbatemarco and his crew pulled in $2.5 million a year, nearly $7000 a day at its peak.

By the late 1950s, Profaci’s tribute demands were causing an uproar among the Profaci crime family members. As customary, captains and their crew kicked up a portion of their earnings that eventually reached the boss of the family. However, Profaci’s demands were becoming excessive and many of the members of the family had begun to resent the tribute payments. The tipping point came when Profaci added a $25 monthly tribute from each member of the family to be paid directly to him.

The Profaci crime family crew leaders saw this as a slap in the face and just another way for Profaci to fund his extravagant lifestyle with mansions in Florida and New Jersey.

One of the first crews to stand up against this latest tribute was the Joe Gallo crew led by the infamous Crazy Joe Gallo.

Joe Gallo

Joe Gallo

In the beginning of 1959, Gallo and his crew began denying tribute payments to Profaci. Around that time Abbatemarco’s rackets had begun to falter due to several law enforcement raids. When he was approached by Gallo to begin denying the tributes, Abbatemarco saw an opportunity to catch up and thus agreed to stop payment for a short time. After all, until that point no one had been killed for not kicking up payment under protest.

By October of 1959, Abbatemarco’s “back taxes” or late tributes had amassed to $50,000, yet Gallo had convinced Abbatemarco to stand his ground under the relentless effort to pay up from Profaci.

It turned out to be very bad advice.

On the night of Novemeber 4, 1959, Abbatemarco pulled open the front door of Cardiello’s Tavern, a saloon owned by his cousin, and was met by two armed men dressed in topcoats and fedoras. The front glass of the tavern shattered as bullets began to fly.

Abbatemarco stumbled back after being hit at least once, turned and ran back into the tavern for cover. The two men pursued while continuing to fire and unloaded six more shots into Abbatemarco before escaping. Abbatemarco died on the saloon floor.

With Abbatemarco’s murder, thus began a series of kidnappings on the part of Gallo in retaliation of the Abbatemarco murder and eventually the Profaci-Gallo war that would last until Profaci’s death on June 6, 1962 after succumbing to liver cancer.

Benedetto “Benny” Aloi – High Profile Defendant in the Infamous 1990’s “Windows Case”

Benedetto “Benny” Aloi was born on October 6, 1935 and had one sibling, a brother named Vincenzo “Vinnie” Aloi.  His father, Sebastian “Buster” Aloi was a soldier in the Profaci crime family and is responsible for bringing his sons into the La Cosa Nostra.

Aloi spent much of his childhood like any other child hanging around his brother and friends and working his way through school. On occasion Aloi would visit his father at the local Profaci hangout where he would run errands and learn about the life of a goodfella.

By his twenties, Aloi was fully integrated in the Colombo crime family formally the Profaci family. By that time his father was a caporegime and handed Aloi and his brother several enterprises to control. One of the most profitable was a garment trucking business that provided substantial income to the Colombo family.

By his thirties, Aloi was one of several hundred mafioso in the sights of the FBI. On November 19, 1974 Aloi and over 150 other members of La Cosa Nostra were indicted on perjury charges.  Aloi was one of a few that were never tried.

By the 1980’s Aloi who had risen to capo was being tracked again by the FBI when it was alleged that he was a involved with a capital finance group that would lend money at extremely high interest rates. The case never made it to court.

Aloi biggest threat came in the infamous “Windows Case” in the early 1990’s. The windows case involved four of the five New York crime families that used their control over the construction unions and local contractors to fix the price of their bids to the New York Housing Authority. During that time the authority was entrenched in a thermal window pane project that would provide new windows to thousands of homes in the projects of New York.

In May 1991, Aloi, now consigliere of the Colombo family was convicted on one count of extortion and one count of conspiracy. As a high profile defendant and convicted criminal, Aloi received five times the amount of time expected and was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison. He was released after serving his sixteen year sentenced and subsequent half way house time on May 18, 1991. It had been 18 long years since he had been free and the time behind bars had taken its toll. Aloi was 74 years old when he was released; far too old to get back in the family and learn the ways of the twenty-first century mafia. He officially retired as caporegime and lived out his days in seclusion. He died on April 7, 2011.

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