Mob Hitman Who Likely Killed "Tony Bender" Dies

"Kayo was an animal on a leash for [Bonanno capo Joe] Zicarelli and others. 
All they had to do was unsnap the leash and he'd kill for the fun of it."
 -- Federal agent

"Kayo" Konigsberg struggles with detectives.

An 89-year-old mob hitman who was probably responsible for the murder of Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo, a high ranking Genovese crime family capo, died in late November, about two years after finishing a 50-year prison sentence.

Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg died five days after his 89th birthday and was buried in Florida, where he'd been living in a nursing home and terrorizing his fellow residents.



Konigsberg had been convicted for committing a 1961 hit ordered by Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano. The target was a popular Teamsters official named Anthony "Three Fingers" Castellito who posed a threat to Tony Pro’s control of the union. On June 6, 1961 Konigsberg and others committed the murder. Salvatore Briguglio, a member of the hit team, was killed while under indictment for the murder. In 1978, Provenzano was sentenced to life for his part in the Castellito murder..

Kayo is alleged to have killed as many as 20 others, including Strollo, as a member of Bonanno capo Joe Zicarelli’s Bayonne, New Jersey-based crew.

According to a story published in the August 9, 1968 edition of Life magazine, both police and federal agents considered Kayo "the most dangerous uncaged killer on the East Coast."

"Kayo was an animal on a leash for Zicarelli and others. All they had to do was unsnap the leash and he'd kill for the fun of it," a federal official told Life Magazine.

Konigsberg shot and/or strangled his victims with his bare hands. He created a specialized business for himself, taking over deadbeat loans from loan sharks. He "joyfully went about squeezing cash from the borrowers, sometimes by beating them with ball bats and chairs." 

Kayo didn't like being arrested.

Eventually, he went on trial for extortion and was convicted. He initially tried to plead insanity, but a psychiatrist testified that Kayo was quite sane.

In 1964, while in prison, Kayo hinted that he'd be willing to talk to the Feds about Cosa Nostra business. One year later, he did, telling Justice Department officials he could bring them to a Mafia "cemetery" in New Jersey. He told them that he himself was responsible for a dozen bodies buried there. The long-missing Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo was among them.

Strollo, a legendary member of the Mafia from its formative years, was named a capo for Lucky Luciano and underboss Vito Genovese. He took over the Greenwich Village Crew, which operated illegal gambling in New York's Greenwich Village and in other parts of Lower Manhattan. On June 18, 1936, Luciano was arrested and put away. Vito Genovese became acting boss and named Strollo as his underboss. This lasted only a year because Genovese, facing a murder indictment, fled to Italy.

Vito had wanted Strollo to assume control of the family for him, but Frank Costello took over and designated Willie Moretti as underboss.

Decades later, in 1959, Strollo -- who'd supported Genovese when he returned from Italy with a deadly focus on retaking his position from Costello -- joined in a conspiracy against Genovese. After a secret meeting with boss Carlo Gambino, Strollo allegedly participated in a plot to set up Genovese on a drug trafficking conviction. In 1959, Genovese was sent to prison for 15 years on narcotics trafficking charges.

The imprisoned Genovese allegedly decided to kill Strollo. One theory is that Genovese learned that Strollo had betrayed him -- although it also has been alleged that Genovese may have believed that Strollo had cheated him out of his share of the proceeds from narcotics trafficking.

On April 8, 1962, Strollo disappeared after leaving his Fort Lee, New Jersey home. His remains were never recovered and no one was ever charged in his disappearance.

The Strollo murder may have been solved thanks to Kayo -- however, the Feds did not take him up on his offer at the time due to his "outrageous demands for concessions and leniency." Federal officials decided Kayo had made up the story to try to talk his way to a pardon.

However, certain mobsters who learned of Kayo's offer took steps that indicate Kayo's info was on the money.

As Life reported:

"...the gangsters knew precisely what Kayo could reveal--and what to do about it. Accordingly, on April 5, 1964, a man named Joe Celso, 50, took note of an ad placed by a farmer who wanted to sell a frontloader - a sort of mechanical scoop. Celso drove to the farmer's yard in a black Cadillac. With Celso was a swarthy, well-dressed man who remained in the car. Celso asked the price of the frontloader. Expecting that he would have to dicker with the buyer, the farmer said, "$1,000." Without a word, Celso returned to the Cadillac, whispered to the swarthy man and returned to the farmer to drop ten $100 bills into his hands. Celso asked that the frontloader be delivered the next day to his chicken farm north of Lakewood. "Come along and show me how to run it," said Celso. The farmer did so.

Almost three years elapsed before Kayo was brought from prison in New York, in February 1967, to be tried for extortion. He was convicted and faced additional sentences of up to 174 years.

Again he sought leniency by offering to talk about the gang cemetery. It was, he said, on Celso's chicken farm - at the site of an illicit whisky still once operated by Zicarelli. The bodies, said Kayo, were in the wooden mash pit of the still. One, he said, was that of Strollo.

Kayo led FBI agents to the mash pit. Close by he pointed out the graves of two more victims, Angelo Sonessa and Kenneth Later, whose bodies were indeed unearthed and identified by the agents. But in the pit itself the diggers found no bodies. Authorities are now convinced that the corpses of Strollo and the others had been disinterred and buried in other places at about the time Celso bought the frontloader. But they did turn up one piece of evidence at the pit: a pair of orthopedic shoes. These were traced to the Jerry Miller I.D. Shoe Company of Brockton, Mass. Officials of the company said the shoes had been ordered by Dr. Leon Linsen, of Bayonne. And Dr. Linsen said he had obtained them for Bernard O'Brien.
Kayo, around time of his release.

Kayo was released in June from Mohawk Prison in Rome, N.Y., where he'd been held for nearly a half-century after being sentenced for the Castellito killing. The former Teamsters official's body was allegedly buried in New Jersey but never found.

[To read a transcript of Kayo's parole hearing, click here.]

He had been locked up since 1963, and was denied parole seven times since 1998. He  had been housed in the prison hospital for nearly two years, which likely allowed for the decision for his release.

The octogenarian showed no regrets at a parole hearing.

“This is over 50 years old. When does it end? I mean you can’t keep holding it against somebody for 50 years, 60 years, and say the crime was this or that,” he said.

Comments

  1. Underboss?!?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I saw that too....It's a story from another blog. Frank wasn't made even.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Susan DeSantis FerrittoDec 8, 2014, 5:31:00 PM

    Hey Ed: I was living in Vegas and dating Ronnie Bluestein when his brother "Frankie Blue was shot to death in his car". When the dust settled, I went with Ron to pay my last respects to his parents Mr. and Mrs. Bluestein at their home. Ron and his parents would swear that Frankie was set up by the cops. When the family had the opportunity to examine the bullet riddled car Frankie was driving, they found the pizza all over the front seat that he was bringing home to his girlfriend. Ron claims there was no gun in Frankie when he was slaughtered that night. Susan DeSantis Ferritto

    ReplyDelete
  4. The only made guy in Vegas in the Hole in the Wall crew was Tony the Ant, himself the boss of Vegas for the Chicago Outfit. No one else around Tony the Ant in Vegas were made, they were a bunch of free lance burglars, and he turned some of them into his own personal killers. And as for Frank Culotta and Michael Spilotro, they weren't made either. A bunch of "disorganized Cowboys"

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yep -- though Frank told me Spilotro had a couple of Outfit guys out there with him once in a while -- Spilotro used the Hole in the Wall gang to do his heavy lifting -- he himself wasn't even allowed in the casinos!

    ReplyDelete
  6. They had a beautifull thing out there and it went
    to shit and why is that? Philly

    ReplyDelete
  7. I believe you, those cops and the big mouth who flew to Chicago to threaten the Outfit bosses.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ed, Outfit guys in Vegas in this case means "it's the dead of the winter in Chicago, Vegas looks like a great place to pass time" Ed, the Outfit guys weren't out there but to get out of the cold of Chicago, they weren't out there on family business. Did the come by to socialize with Tony the Ant, yes, but no business. And there's a reason for that, let's leave it at that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Because Tony the Ant and his Hole in the Wall gang were completely out of control, and with Tony's bad temper he didn't exactly fit in with the local political types or the law enforcement officials. It was almost like he was trying to piss people off. The whole Vegas crew that Tony had out there were wild cowboys, including Tony. That's why Tony and his brother got whacked.
    Tony's management skills were to murder.
    Not exactly a ticket to success.

    ReplyDelete

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