Giuseppe “Joe” Profaci was born on October 2, 1897 in Villabate a province Palermo, Sicily. His life as a child is mostly unknown but he is suspected of having been associated with the Sicilian mafia and spent one year in a Sicily prison on theft charges.
On September 4, 1921 Profaci boarded ship bound for the United States. That same ship also carried Vincent Mangano, (future boss of the Gambino family) Phillip Mangano and their father. After 17 days at sea, Profaci landed on the shores of the United States and settled in Chicago where he opened a grocery store. . However, the business was unsuccessful and in 1925 Profaci relocated to New York, where he entered the olive oil export business. It was here he received the nickname ‘the Olive Oil king’ making Long Island his territory.
By 1927 Profaci had used his relationship with Vincent Mangano to form his own gang and build relationships with other gang leaders in New York. He expanded his business to include extortion, bootlegging and counterfeiting and by the end of 1928 Profaci became one of the most powerful gangs in New York.
As his power continued to increase, Profaci was one of several men to be invited to a mafia summit at the Statler Hotel in Cleveland on December 5, 1928. Cleveland mafia boss Joseph Porello hosted the meeting. Other attendees included Pasqualino Lolordo, representing Al Capone, and the Chicago Outfit, Profaci’s brother-in-law and underboss Giuseppe Magliocco and Vincent Mangano, then member of the Al Mineo family, and representatives from the Florida mob.
Cleveland police soon noticed or were tipped off about the gathering. Twenty-three men including Profaci were arrested on bootlegging charges from their respective states. Upon hearing of the arrests, Joseph Porello put up the money for bail for all but one of his associates who faced murder charges. Profaci wasn’t fazed by the arrest. He accomplished his goal of becoming a recognized mafia boss and went back to New York to expand his empire.
By 1931 Profaci led a very powerful gang involved in prostitution, loan sharking, narcotics trafficking, and numbers rackets. He remained neutral during the Castellammarese War and was rewarded with his own family during the reorganization led by Lucky Luciano. The Profaci family was also rewarded with a seat at the newly established Commission and was officially recognized as one of the Five Families of New York.
As Profaci grew his empire he was one of a handful of mafia bosses to keep legitimate business on the side to insulate himself from tax evasion charges which were, at the time, a favorite of New York prosecutors. He still maintained his olive oil business and during World War II where Italy was against the United States, olive oil was hard to come by so his business thrived. Over the years, Profaci owned and operated more than 20 legitimate businesses and employed hundreds of people in New York when employment was difficult to come by. He was also very close to the Bonanno family with the two leaders visiting each other often with their families. There relationship was strengthened when Profaci’s niece Rosalie and Salvatore Bonanno, married. Profaci was also related to Detroit leader Vito Tocco after his daughter married Tocco’s son.
Profaci kept several homes with one in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Miami Beach, Florida, and a 328-acre estate on Long Island that was previously owned by President Theodore Roosevelt. His estate had its own airstrip, and chapel. As a devote Catholic, Profaci gave thousands of dollars to Catholic charities. It is reported Profaci had a thief killed after he stole valuable jeweled crowns from the Regina Pacis Votive shrine in Brooklyn.�
In late 1959 Profaci ordered the murder of Frank Abbatemarco a Profaci associate because he didn’t pay his tribute to the boss. After his murder, Profaci ordered the killing of his son to prevent retribution. Profaci family member Joe Gallo and his two brothers intervened and refused to hand over Abbatemarco’s son in an attempt to take over the family. This led to the Gallo-Profaci war in 1960 where several men were kidnapped and killed. The Gallo brothers were backed by Carmine Persico, an upcoming gangster from the Profaci family and bosses Thomas Lucchese and Carlo Gambino. In May 1961 after a failed murder attempt on Gallo, he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison for extortion. Profaci was the victor. However on June 7 1962, six months after the death of Lucky Luciano, Joe Profaci died of cancer. He is buried at Saint John Cemetery in the Middle Village section of Queens.