The Powerful Lucchese Family

The Lucchese crime family is an organized crime family based out of New York that is a part of the Mafia or Cosa Nostra. They are one of the “Five Families” and have a seat on the mafia’s Commission. They originated in the early 1920’s and beside the Castellammarese War, maintained a low profile under reign of mafia bosses Tommy Gagliano, and their name sake Tommy “Three Finger” Lucchese.

 In the 1950’s and 1960’s Lucchese turned the family into one of the most powerful families in New York. He worked closely with Gambino family boss Carlo Gambino and earned a seat on the Commission. Lucchese died of natural causes in 1967 and control of the family went to Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo. Corallo was very secretive and held the title of boss for many years. He was tried and convicted in the famous Commission case in 1986.

Early History

Since its inception and particularly during the Gagliano and Lucchese rule, the Lucchese family was known as one of the most peaceful of crime families. That all changed when Corallo was sent to prison and placed Vittoria “Vic” Amuso in charge of the family. Amusa promoted Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso to underboss and together, the two led one of the bloodiest reigns in Mafia history. Fearing for their lives, many Lucchese associates turned informant including the highest ranking mobster in years Alphonse “Little Al” D’Arco the acting boss of the Lucchese family in 1991. Almost the entire hierarchy of the Lucchese family was tried and sent to prison on his testimony. It nearly brought the Lucchese family down.

The Lucchese family has history that dates before World War I to the Morello gang in East Harlem. Gaetano “Tommy” Reina, a previous member of the Morello gang started his own gang during the Mafia-Cammora War but kept a low profile choosing to expand his activities instead of joining the war.

During prohibition after years of controlling the ice business in the Bronx, Gaetano became a powerful force. He aligned his gang with Joseph Masseria, who at the time was the most powerful mafia boss in New York. They worked together during the Castellammarese War when Masseria was fighting against Maranzano but when Masseria started demanding tributes, Reina considered changes sides to Maranzano. When Masseria learned of Reina’s possible betrayal, he hired Vito Genovese to assassinate Reina. On Feb 26, 1930 Reina was shot and killed.

Tommy Lucchese

Maranzano won the war in 1931 after Masseria was murdered. From that point on Maranzano declared himself the boss of bosses and began to reorganize the American Mafia into 24 different organizations that would be known as “Families”. He also reorganized the gangs of New York into “Five Families” that were headed by Maranzano, Joseph Profaci, Tommy Gagliano, Lucky Luciano, and Vincent Mangano. Gagliano received the old Reina gang with Tommy Lucchese as his under boss or second in charge.

The reorganization was welcomed by many of the families. They were in need of organization to lessen the deadly conflicts taking place on a weekly basis. However, when Maranzano declared himself the boss of all bosses, a Lucky Luciano associate presumably under the orders of Luciano murdered Maranzano in his office.

With Luciano now the most powerful mobster in New York and the United States, he built on Maranzano’s restructuring and formed a ruling body in place of the Boss of Bosses position. His ruling panel (The Commission) had a seat for many of the mafia families across the U.S. including the Five Families as the most powerful. The Commission was built to resolve all families’ disputes. Any high ranking assassinations or contracts for assassination had to be voted on and approved by the commission before it could be carried out. The first members included the Luciano family boss Lucky Luciano, Mangano family boss Vincent Mangano, Gagliano family boss, Tommy Gagliano, Profaci boss, Joseph Profaci, Chicago Outfit boss, Al Capone, and Bonanno boss Joseph Bonanno.

Although he kept a very low profile, Tommy Gagliano ran the family as boss with Tommy Lucchese as his underboss until Gagliano’s death in 1951. Upon his death Tommy Lucchese took over the family and renamed it the Lucchese Family. He appointed Stefano LaSalle as his underboss. Lucchese’s claim to fame during his reign was controlling the Teamsters Unions, and in large part the importing and exporting of garments into New York. With each import and export, Lucchese received a cut. He continued to operate as Gagliano did keeping a low profile. By 1962 with Luciano deported, Lucchese and new Gambino family boss Carlo Gambino had control of the Commission. The Lucchese family was one of the strongest families in the United States. At the time of Lucchese’s death from a brain tumor in July 1967 the Lucchese family had over 200 made members and thousands of associates.

In 1937 heroin labs were discovered in Marseille, France. They were run by a French mafia who had it in

Carmine Trumanti

mind to spread the drug around the globe. By the 1960’s, heroin was pouring into the United States and new acting boss replacing Lucchese, Carmine “Mr. Gribbs” Tramunti was part of the leadership that smuggled the drug in. By 1969, France was supplying 80-90 percent of the heroin smuggled into the United States according to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Tramunti was making millions each year and the FBI noticed. He was eventually convicted of financing the import of heroin in a famous trial dubbed the French Connection but not before 70 million dollars worth of seized heroin was stolen from the evidence room of the NYPD and replaced with flour.

After Tramunti’s conviction, Anthony Corallo took over as boss of the Lucchese family. Corallo was an intelligent and private businessman. He much like Gambino family boss John Gotti Sr. managed to stay out of prison most of his life. He dodged convictions so many times; he earned the name “Tony Ducks.”   Corallo didn’t speak about business in public but on a car phone owned by his bodyguard and chauffer. He feared the FBI would be listening and instead drove around the city and conducted meetings. The FBI, aware of Corallo’s tactics finally managed to sneak a bug into the Jaguar and taped many of his conversations where Corallo spoke about loan sharking, illegal gambling, and drug trafficking. Corallo was arrested along with the bosses of the other five families and put on trial. The trial would become legendary as the Mafia Commission Trial. He was convicted on January 13, 1987 and sentenced to 100 years in prison, where he died in 2000.

 

Vittorio Amuso replaced Corallo as boss of the family in 1987. Over the next three years, Amuso and his underboss, Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso led one of the most violent reigns in mafia history. Their biggest rival was Gambino family boss John Gotti. Upset that Gotti assassinated previous Gambino boss Paul Castellano, Amuso and Casso ordered a hit on Gotti. On April 13th1986, a car bomb planted on Gotti’s car killed Gambino underboss Frank DeCicco but missed Gotti.

Amuso didn’t stop his murderous attempts on rivals. When the Jersey faction of the Lucchese family refused to give 50% of their profits up to Amuso as tribute, he ordered the entire group killed. After being summoned to a meeting in Buffalo, the Jersey crew went into hiding.

Having to flee from the government themselves in 1990, Amuso and Casso appointed Alphonse “Little Al” D’Arco as acting boss of the family. Over the next few years the two men ordered the deaths of several men. In some situations they succeeded but many of the hits were botched. Several members turned informant fearing for their lives bringing further pressure on the family.

The planned executions hit a boiling point when D’Arco was set to be killed at Manhattan hotel. D’Arco saw a gunman hide a gun in his belt and walk into the bathroom of the lobby. Realizing this it was a set-up, D’Arco turned himself into authorities becoming the first boss of a New York crime family to turn informant.

Amuso continued to run the family from prison. He placed several men in charge over the years and with their help managed to increase profits for the Lucchese family to several hundred million per year.

In 2006, former underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso still serving his life sentence provided information to the FBI that revealed two New York City police detectives acted as mafia hitmen in the 1980s and early 1990s. Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa participated in eight murders from 1986 and 1990 receiving $375,000 in bribes and payments from Casso. In 2006 both retired detectives were sentenced to life in prison.

Amuso remained boss from prison until 2012. It’s unclear how much influence he had as he appointed a three man ruling panel in 2003 that directed much of the family business. It has been reported that Steven Crea, former Lucchese underboss recently paroled from prison is the new boss of the family. The Lucchese family is reported to have 100 made members making it the third smallest of the five families in New York.

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