Ignazio Lupo was born to a middle class family in Province of Palermo, Sicily on March 19, 1877. From an early age he was involved in crimes ranging from simple robbery to theft. In 1889 Lupo is believed to have committed his first murder when a man named Salvatore Morello (unrelated to the Giuseppe Morello family) was found dead. Lupo reportedly shot him after Morello attacked him with a knife. The investigation led to Lupo and charges were filed, but at the advice of his parents, he fled Italy traveling across the globe through Liverpool, Montreal and Buffalo before ending up in New York in 1898. Italian courts convicted him in absentia of murder on March 14, 1899.
Once he was settled in New York Lupo joined his cousin and opened a store in Manhattan. In 1902 his father joined him where they opened a retail grocery store on 39th street between 9th and 10th avenues. Lupo was only 25 years old and in control of two stores and a bar across from one of his stores, but he wasn’t satisfied. His next move was to prey on Italian immigrants in what is known as Little Italy. There Lupo used Black Hand tactics from Italy to extort money from the weak and joined forces with fellow Italian gangster Giuseppe and Nicholas Morello and their brothers through marriage, Vincenzo and Ciro Terranova.
Over his lifetime, Lupo was expected to have taken part in 60 murders. Many went unsolved but rumblings on the street often pointed to Lupo and the Morello-Terranova faction.
On July 22, 1902 grocer Giuseppe “Joe the Grocer” Catania was stabbed and later died from his wounds after he spoke about his association with Lupo and Morello and a counterfeiting operation they established. His body was found a day later stuffed in a potato sack. His throat had been slit from ear to ear.
On April 14, 1903 Benedetto Madonia, a stone mason from New York became one of the first victims of the
“barrel murders” made famous by the Provenzano crime family in New Orleans and adopted by the newly formed Morello crime family in New York. Madonia, was found stuffed inside a barrel of sawdust after his throat had been slashed and his body stabbed more than 20 times. Several Morello crime family members were arrested under suspicion of murder, but it was Morello hitman Tomasso Petto who eventually held but released in January 1904 due to lack of evidence. Lupo and Morello were said to be accomplices but never charged.
In November 1909 Giuseppe Morello and several of his conspirators are arrested for counterfeiting after the police raid a Highland, NY home. Lupo is arrested at his home two days later and formally charged with extortion and counterfeiting on January 9, 1910. The trial began just seventeen days later.
After nearly a month’s long battle between the prosecutors and mafia attorneys, Judge Ray of the U.S. Circuit Court issued two hours and 35 minutes worth of instructions to the jury to aid them in their deliberations. They were sent to decide the fate of the accused on February 19, 1910 at 2p.m. and returned with a verdict at 3:15p.m., the same day. All were found guilty with no one receiving less than a 15 year sentence. Both Morello and Lupo received 15 years and a $500 fine. Lupo was sent to the United States Penitentiary at Atlanta, GA, as inmate #2883 on February 20, 1910.
While in prison, Lupo was far from a model prisoner. On June 23, 1910 he was placed in solitary confinement, placed on a restricted diet, and lost 20 days of “good time” when he tried bribing a prison guard to mail unauthorized letters. In February 1911 he received another three days solitary confinement and restricted diet for antagonizing another inmate. Lupo was said to have been laughing, talking, and making hand signs, commonplace in today’s prison system. October 1913 he is warned for disorderly conduct. January 1915 he reprimanded for spitting on the prison floor, and August 1915 he receives five days solitary confinement and restricted diet for renumbering his prison uniform.
December 1916 Deputy Warden Brock of Atlanta Prison is murdered by inmates. At a deposition, Lupo is questioned about his involvement in the crime. He denies even knowing about the murder, however other inmates place him “six feet away” while the crime was committed. He was even said to have known about the plot and positioned himself to witness the slaughter. No charges are ever filed. Lupo was released from prison on June 30, 1920 after his sentence was commuted to time served.
After his release from prison, Lupo went back to Italy for a couple of years. Upon his return he was briefly detained by immigration but released after convincing them he was now a wine exporter. He reestablished himself in mafia life but never to the level he obtained prior to his prison term. He was a shell of his former self but still feared by other gangsters and the newly created commission as a hot head that brought down too much heat for being a murderer. In the early 1930’s it’s widely believed the commission stripped him of all his rackets leaving him with only one small Italian lottery in Brooklyn.
In an effort to make more money and get back what he lost to the commission, Lupo began extorting local Italian bakeries. On October 8, 1930 he murdered bakery owner Roger Consiglio.
July 16, 1935 law enforcement finally caught up with Lupo and charged him with extortion. For the past several years he had been working to persuade the local bakeries to join his “union” aka protection. One year later Franklin Roosevelt deems Lupo a menace and in violation of his terms of conditional release and sends him back to prison to finish his sentence on the counterfeiting charges from 1909. Upon his admittance to prison a local newspaper had a short blurb about the prisons newest inmate.
“Atlanta penitentiary gates clanged yesterday on Ignazio (Lupo the Wolf) Saietta, oldest living public enemy in the United States. The grizzled Mafia terrorist, now in his sixtieth year and reputed to have banked in Italy more than $3,000,000 gleaned from New York rackets, was returned to the prison on a warrant signed by President Roosevelt.” (Prison shuts again on Lupo the Wolf. (1936, July 16)).”
Lupo served ten more years in prison and was released back to society in 1946. He died a virtual unknown on January 13, 1947.