Monday, November 28, 2016

Fidel Castro, Pain in Mob's Collective Ass, Finally Dead

Fidel Castro died on Friday, Nov. 26th,
"I’m going to run all those fascist mobsters, all those American gangsters out of Cuba."

Meyer Lansky supposedly was the first to realize the possibilities Cuba afforded the mob. Santo Trafficante Junior was close behind him.

The offshore tropical island was the perfect platform for smuggling, among other things.

Cuba also made an excellent vacation destination, where a gambling industry to match Las Vegas could thrive -- minus the attention U.S. operators tended to attract from certain federal agencies, like the FBI.

Unlike in Vegas, the mob could invest its gambling proceeds into entities like corporations and financial institutions, thus laundering it and profiteering from what wouldn't be classified as illicit earnings.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Lucky Luciano

Charles (Lucky) Luciano was born Salvatore Lucania, today, Nov. 24, in 1897 in Lercara Friddi, Sicily.

He's considered the father of organized crime in the United States. Historians in recent years have worked to put the iconic mob boss into proper perspective, as his personal impact on America's Cosa Nostra had been appreciably exaggerated for the greater part of the 20th century. The bogus Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, by Martin Gosch and Richard Hammer, certainly didn't help matters. (As unbelievable as it sounds, some of today's foremost organized crime writers still reference it.)

Charles "Lucky" Luciano
American Mafia founding father.
Consequently, we compiled this "updated" Luciano sketch. It's certainly not comprehensive, but it's substantial enough.


Christian Cipollini, an award-winning author and comic book creator, has written two books about Luciano, Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend and LUCKY (with Evgeny Frantsev as illustrator), along with two other works, Murder Inc. and Diary of a Motor City Hit Man: The Chester Wheeler Campbell Story.



"Luciano's legacy is today almost as convoluted as it was before The Last Testament book clouded the historical truth even more," he said. 

"Shall we set the record straight? Lets! On WWII, Lucky, as we know, was indeed a figure involved in the Government/Mob alliance. Did he win the war? Probably not. He was involved, but to what extent he assisted is still rife for debate. However, in his own words (definitely not from the contentious Last Testament) to journalist Oscar Fraley in 1960, Luciano gave the following version of how he attained a commutation from prison:

"I told my lawyers to get everything they could on a certain man. They had a book full of stuff. Then my lawyer walked in, and threw it on his desk, and told him if I wasn't deported, anything to get out of prison, this would be made public information. They think I was bad, they should have seen what we had on him, this honorable public servant." - Charles "Lucky" Luciano's version of events as told to reporter Oscar Fraley in 1960 (Fraley recounted the story again in 1962).


Clip from Star-News, Feb 19, 1962


He organized the murders of two egomaniacal earlier "bosses" (Joseph (Joe The Boss) Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano) to pave the path for a new, more racially diverse Cosa Nostra-driven underworld.

Was there a National Crime Syndicate created in 1929 in Atlantic City, New Jersey? I don't buy it.

The press caught wind of mob-related activity occurring in Atlantic City that dreaded year (1929 marked the stock market collapse and the beginning of the Great Depression), and in the decades since, that "summit" seems to have grown exponentially in importance.

All the attendees were from Chicago.

"... almost every newspaper of the day noted that the mobsters met in Atlantic City over May 1929 with the far more limited objective of ironing out differences in Chicago," David Critchley writes in The Origins of Organized Crime in America.

Our occasional contributor Tony Sokol believes the Atlantic City conference was a big deal, writing as recently as October 2014 about the event:

The Big Seven Group was tired of all the bombings and waste that came in the wake of the Volstead Act when everyone was jockeying for position. They brought down costs and gave general protection and order to the bootleg industry. The Big Seven was Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lansky’s operations as well as Enoch "Nucky" Johnson and Abner "Longy" Zwillman’s outfits from New Jersey, Moe Dalitz from Cleveland, Waxey Gordon and Harry "Nig" Rosen of Philadelphia, Danny Walsh represented for Providence, Rhode Island. Johnny Torrio was a kind of consigliere but Al Capone was too busy dealing with the North Side Gang after he sent Dean O’Banion some flowers, collect. Although he did attend the Atlantic City Conference of 1929, as photos attest, right after Arnold Rothstein died. The Combined was started around 1927, but didn’t solidify until 1928.

Den of Geek, which ran the story as part of its HBO Boardwalk Empire coverage, included the infamous "phony" photograph. Some believe this photo of Al Capone and Enoch Johnson (his real name) is a fake.

There is something wrong with this photo, in my opinion.... Capone looks superimposed beside Johnson, two photos cropped into one. What do you think?




Capone made no attempt to hide his presence. He was seen attending the Dempsey-Tunney championship match.

He departed the "summit" early.

"Al Capone unfolded the specifics of what occurred a day later to the Police Commissioner in Philadelphia. The Atlantic City meeting was one of several that had been held to avoid further warfare in Chicago, an aim made more urgent in the wake of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that February. Meeting in the resort were “‘Bugs’ Moran and three or four other Chicago gang leaders, whose names I don’t care to mention,” Capone added. 
The Chicagoans were gathered in Atlantic City “to bury the past, and forget warfare in the future, for the general good of all concerned.” 
“Some of the biggest men in the business in Chicago were there,” Capone continued, in order to “stop all this killing and gang rivalry.”


Luciano also sat at the head of the table during 1931's historical carving up of America's crime families, foremost New York's Five Families. (He himself was named boss of one of them, which was later renamed the Genovese crime family, which is considered today to be the most powerful Mafia crime family in America). The 1931 syndicate still operates today following the same structural dictates, if only in New York and outlying areas.

Luciano's word is still law in the New York Mafia, as one mobster told us last November for a story:

"They can replenish when they see fit but they have to stay within the quotas set by Luciano," said the source, a longtime Queens-based wiseguy.

The wily Sicilian Mafioso from Lercara Friddi (about 28 miles southeast of Palermo) is credited for his inventive use of a new Mafia Commission to oversee the crime families on a national level to prevent the bad-for-business shooting wars. (Nicola Gentile, an early Mafia figure who penned a detailed memoir, noted the existence of two previous Commission-like associations; Luciano seems to have been the force behind the combining of the two groups, as well as maximizing use of this new institution to replace an older, very troublesome one, the "boss of bosses" role, which had a 100 percent mortality rate.)

And, as we later explore, Luciano may have been the first American mobster who sought to replenish his coffers following Prohibition's end by establishing a major drug trafficking enterprise. This new theory poses that the Mafia had actually avoided drugs prior, deeming it an unworthy business for so-called Men of Honor. Drugs as well as a massive takeover of New York City-based prostitution enterprises (the latter would eventually lead to Luciano's historic conviction), based on this theory, were the direct result of Luciano.


Luciano's criminal career in New York City came to an abrupt end in 1936 when mob-busting prosecutor Thomas Dewey sent him up the river precisely for consolidating and controlling New York's prostitution trade, though it has been widely believed that Dewey had trumped up the prostitution charges having failed to nab the high-profile gangster on anything else.

And until his dying day, during all the years he lived in exile in Italy, Luciano was forever bedeviled by drug-trafficking allegations.


Americanized Mafia?
While "Charles Luciano is said to have "Americanized" the Mafia, the seeds were actually planted by his boss, Joe Masseria."

So wrote C. Alexander Hortis in The Mob and the City, one of the more recent and widely lauded revisionist works about the American Mafia's early years.


One of the most innovative recent works
on the New York Mafia's formation.

The Mob and the City truly was an eye-opener for this blogger, specifically Hortis's groundbreaking research that redefined the two rival bosses who created and ran the major New York mob clans that finally clashed.

Combined, they became the raw material from which the Five Families were created in 1931.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH Alex Hortis on the Mob and New York City


Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria was not the ignorant illiterate that earlier mob historians characterized him as, perhaps to provide a more dramatic counterpoint to rival Salvatore Maranzano? As Hortis highlights, Masseria was actually somewhat innovative. He was not interested in where his Italian recruits hailed from (just so long as they were Italian; it took Luciano and his cohorts to work closer with gangsters of other ethnic groups, most famously Jewish mobsters like Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel.)

Still, Masseria had built a "mob meritocracy in his new Masseria Family," as Hortis noted.

READ Excerpt from Novel About Meyer Lansky, Greatest Jewish Gangster

Once Salvatore Maranzano assumed control of Brooklyn's Castellammarese clan following Nicola "Cola" Shiro's "disappearance," Maranzano sought to limit membership primarily to Sicilians specifically from Castellammare del Golfo.

READ Bugsy Siegel DID NOT Invent Las Vegas

"Joe the Boss" busied himself with finding capable, talented men, recruiting  "the best bootleggers and racketeers he could find."

Not Salvatore Maranzano
This is NOT Salvatore Maranzano's picture. 


He also wasn't concerned about who could piss farther (in a manner of speaking). Giuseppe Morello, the first boss of bosses, worked as Masseria's consiglieri following the Clutch-Hand's 1920 release from prison. Masseria had formerly worked as a gunsel for Morello, but the change in dynamic didn't stop the two men from later establishing a fruitful relationship.

READ Iconic Maranzano Photo a Fraud

Joe The Boss "benefitted from Morello's deep experience and connections. The remnants of the old Morello Family were reconstituted as part of the Masseria Family. Masseria also recruited new talent like Charles Luciano, who proved himself to be a savvy and cool-headed bootlegger on the Lower East Side. Along with able Sicilians like Morello and Luciano, Masseria welcomed into his ranks Neapolitans like Vito Genovese and Joe Adonis; Calabrians (from mainland Italy's southernmost province) such as Frank Costello and Frankie Uale; and American-born men like Anthony “Little Augie Pisano” Carfano."

"By the late 1920s, the Masseria Family became a thriving, multifaceted crime syndicate... Masseria's broad confederation held interests in everything from the (illegal liquor trade,) Italian numbers lottery (and) the Brooklyn waterfront labor-union locals taken over by mobsters Vincent Mangano and Albert Anastasia."

New York police detectives identified "Joe the Boss" as the gangster who was "the biggest of  'em all."

As for Morello, he remained quite a formidable Mafioso. When Joe the Bosss and Salvatore Maranzano finally started shooting it out for control of New York City's sizeable underworld, the Sicilian Maranzano clan knew enough to target Morello first and foremost.



Lucky's birth record.


As for Luciano's earlier biographical sketch, we present this fortuitous find from a few days ago.

A July 2014 New York Times story noted that:

Salvatore Lucania showed promise. At 8 years old in 1905 he arrived from Palermo, Sicily, and by the time he was a teenager he was earning $6 a week as a shipping clerk for the Goodman Hat Company in Lower Manhattan. Within five years, he had gotten a 33 percent pay increase as a laborer for the Gem Toy Company. The following year, he was supporting himself, making $8 a week, plus tips, as a barber.
Those tips must have been pretty hefty. Or, he must have lived very frugally. Or, maybe, he was just lucky.

By June 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, he had done so well for a 38-year-old with a sixth-grade education who last held a full-time job in 1922, that for the last seven months he had been living at the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Those biographical insights into the man, who would go on to become the powerful crime boss best known as Charles (Lucky) Luciano, were gleaned from newly digitized New York State Department of Corrections inmate records that were previously available only at the state archives in Albany.

The records, including files from Newgate in Greenwich Village (1797-1810), the first New York State penitentiary and the inspiration for the phrase “up the river”; Clinton (1851-1866, 1926-1939); and Sing Sing (1865-1939), will be available free to New York residents from Ancestry.com later this month. (Ain't free today, however.)
Prison records from San Quentin and Folsom, both in California, are also being digitized....
Sing Sing



Luciano’s details were recorded on Sing Sing’s receiving blotter after he was sentenced in 1936 for profiting from a prostitution ring. (He had only a watch and $199.40 in cash with him when he was admitted.) The blotter describes his “true name” as Lucania. In the records, the mob boss says he occasionally attended church and attributes his crimes to “innocence.”
Among others on the Sing Sing roster are Louis (Lepke) Buchalter. Described as an unemployed clerk, he was admitted in 1918 at age 18 after being convicted of grand larceny. 
His personal habits are described as “temperate,” a condition that apparently changed as he matured. In 1944, after being convicted of murder as the head of the mob hit squad Murder Inc., he was executed at Sing Sing. ...

READ New York's Original Five Families

Did Luciano Assist U.S. War Effort?
What can be stated with absolute certainty is that World War II was Lucky's ticket out of prison, but also out of America. He won his freedom, but spent it in useless exile in Italy.

The Mob promised to protect the vital New York docks after the American government sought the Mafia's assistance following the sinking of the SS Normandie in New York harbor. The Fed's had seized the French vessel while it was docked in New York. (The Brits and Americans weren't keen on the idea of a French navy after Adolf Hitler's successful blitzkrieg conquered the European nation. In fact Winston Churchill ordered the sinking of the French fleet in 1940, fearing what would happen when it fell into Hitler's hands. Known as The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, or the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir, the Royal Navy bombed the French Navy (Marine nationale) at its Mers El Kébir base, off French Algeria. A battleship sank, five additional vessels were damaged and 1,297 French servicemen died.)





The SS Normandie was renamed the USS Lafayette. It caught fire in 1942 during its conversion to a troopship, or troop transport vessel, and was lost. The official investigation later found no evidence of sabotage. However, Naval Intelligence immediately thought that the ship had been sabotaged by Axis sympathizers. The U.S. was deeply concerned about Nazi espionage at the time. Earlier that very year, U-boats had ferried German spies to Long Island, then to Florida, with express orders to damage America's war-making capability. The spy/saboteurs were all caught and tried at FDR's behest by military tribunals. Six were summarily executed.

Read more about it here.

The Navy, New York State and Luciano concluded a deal under which Luciano ally Albert Anastasia, who controlled the docks, allegedly promised no strikes by dockworkers during the war.  Luciano allegedly provided the U.S. military with a list of names of Sicilian Mafia contacts who promised to  assist the Allies amid the pending invasion.

The 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily, Operation Husky, was a major campaign. The Allies retook Sicily from the Axis, primarily fighting the battle-hardened Wehrmacht. A large amphibious and airborne operation, it lasted six weeks.

Luciano's assistance to the war effort is questionable today. The book to read is Tim Newark's The Mafia at War, though he lamentably cited The Last Testament.

Two considerations about Luciano regarding his alleged WWII assistance:

  • In 1947, an Operation Underworld naval commander discredited the value of Luciano's wartime aid; and
  • A 1954 report ordered by then-Governor Dewey revealed that Luciano had indeed provided valuable service to Naval Intelligence.

ITEM: The following was recently published on Loyola University's The Maroon, titled Opinion: The Mafia played an integral role in increasing heroin’s popularity.

The story assigns a new role to Luciano as finding a way to fill Prohibition's void.

The Maroon noted:

"... Briefly, prohibition was recognized to be so harmful to society that on Dec. 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment. The re-legalization of alcohol immediately made the bootlegger obsolete, (except in certain rural areas...). Heroin remained prohibited. 
"The sudden loss of bootlegging money created a fiscal crisis for the Mafia. This was solved by Charles “Lucky” Luciano... Previously the Mafia, following its own internal moral code, had not been involved in the narcotics trade or in prostitution. Luciano changed that definitively, and integrated narcotics and prostitution: heroin was much easier to smuggle than booze, being much lighter and many times more valuable than illegal alcohol, and prostitutes deliberately addicted to heroin could be easily controlled. By 1935, in New York City alone, Luciano controlled about 200 brothels and 1,200 prostitutes, bringing in more than $10 million a year. However, Federal and state law enforcement, led by Thomas Dewey (later a presidential candidate in 1948), prosecuted Luciano on sixty-two counts of forced prostitution, as he was convicted and sentenced to thirty to fifty years in prison.

Latter Years in Exile
Luigi Barzini in his 1964 landmark book The Italians (which I believe was a stronger-than-ever-recognized influence on Mario Puzo's The Godfather, which I may argue in another post) wrote about Lucky Luciano and the American Mafia in a none-too-flattering manner.

"There are Americans who believe that criminal groups in their country belong to the Sicilian mafia, are in effect overseas branches of the main organizations, and they are all directed by orders from Palermo. This myth is shared even by some naïve American criminals of Italian descent, who learned it from reading the newspapers. They sometimes land in Sicily believing not only that they belong to the società but that they have a high rank in it. At most they are uomini rispettati like all moneyed foreigners. Soon enough most of them discover to their dismay that they are considered merely strangers by the real amici."

When one of these gullible Americans, namely Lucky Luciano "arrived in Palermo, the police official who had to watch his movements said: 'He believes he is a big shot in the Mafia, the poor innocent man.' ..."

"(Real Sicilian mobsters, whom Luciano treated like friends) "swindled him out of fifteen million lire by persuading him to invest in a caramel factory. The partnership was rigged in such a way that the more money the factory made the more Lucky Luciano lost. Thus was the mastermind of the American underworld treated in his native island by the real Mafia."








Has the Mafia Resurged Post-9/11?

It's been 10 years since Selwyn Raab, now 82, published his seminal work on American organized crime:  Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires.

And, according to Rolling Stone magazine, he's updating it.

But you wouldn't know it based on the title Rolling Stone hid this news nugget under, Is the American Mafia on the Rise?





The Mafia's obituary seem to be written every few years....

The fact is, the American Cosa Nostra was organized specifically to perpetuate itself. No matter how many single individuals are knocked out of the box by death or prison, the structured institution itself, currently pegged at about 8,000-strong (including inducted members and associates), continues. And learns.

The key factor now is anti-terrorism, which is benefiting the Mafia in New York the same way it was able to hide in Communism's shadow for the greater part of the 20th century.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Genovese Crime Family's Springfield Crew Prospered Under "Skyball" Scibelli

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli
"Skyball" Scibelli 

In 1961, from a telephone booth at Providence Hospital, a Roman Catholic nun dropped the proverbial dime on Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli, then a young hoodlum whom she apparently earmarked for redemption, at least so it seems, based on the good sister's actions.

The more immediate prompt for the call was that the nun knew that Scibelli was running an illegal gambling ring.

Apparently, divine intervention and the related jail time weren’t enough to dissuade him from running the rackets for the Genovese crime family in Springfield, Mass., which included parts of two bordering states as well.

Scibelli was a low-profile gangster who ran the Genovese crime family's outpost quietly during a time of relative peace and prosperity, neither of which lasted very long after the old-school Cosa Nostra boss died.


Scibelli’s criminal record dates back to 1932. Among the crimes he went to prison for were extortion, illegally selling liquor -- and providing illegal "gaming on the Lord’s Day,” according to law enforcement documents.

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli took over the Genovese crime family's Springfield Crew following the death of Salvatore "Big Nose Sam" Cufari.

But that would come later. Back in the early 1960s, Scibelli and one of his cohorts had to go through the courtroom process of grinning and bearing it. The good sister dropped the dime, remember?

Skyball was vilified in the courtroom -- subjected to the lawful equivalent of the fire-and-brimstone sermon, by a furious judge who didn't like the Mafia or mobsters or gangsters or whatever you wanna call them.

"We don’t want bookies," Judge William E. Nolen thundered at Scibelli (and co-defendant Paul "The Penman" Cardaropoli.)
"We don’t want cheap ones or prosperous ones here, and we aren’t going to have them."

But they did have them; law enforcement did all it could to stop that simple fact, but failed.

Even today, nearly 70 years later, there's enough guys ready, willing and quite able to assume control of that longtime outpost of the Genovese crime family.

Both Scibelli and Cardaropoli were sentenced to 19 months in jail each back in 1961. Not even two years, the sentence was considered "stiff" for the time.

Kingpin of Organized Crime in Massachusetts

Scibelli grew up in Springfield’s South End neighborhood.

He ignored the judge’s admonition and eventually went on to run "Springfield" for the New York-based Genovese crime family from the early 1980s until 1998, two years before his death in 2000 at the ripe age of 87 of natural causes.

But he was arrested at least once more prior to his ascension. Convicted of illegal gambling again, he got one month less than in his 1961 sentence.

By 1978, Scibelli was winding up the last three months of the sentence in a Hartford halfway house.

Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli prospered as boss of the Springfield Crew.


Some thought his reign had reached its conclusion about 10 years before it actually did.

The Hartford-Courant seems to have believed Skyball was finished when it published what reads suspiciously like the Springfield crew's obituary. However, it dutifully noted that the Genovese mobster was clearly taking a dive to save his brother.

"I'm going to fight this the American way. With lots of lawyers and lots of money."
 
--Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli


Officials Say Scibelli Sentencing Ends Era For Mob was the headline of the Dec. 14, 1987, story, that proclaimed: "75-year-old Francesco "Skiball" (sic) Scibelli showed he was the loyal Mafia lieutenant he once proclaimed.

"In an unusual plea-bargaining session this fall, Scibelli, an old man with a history of cancer and other ailments, agreed to plead guilty to racketeering charges and go to prison for a maximum of nine years on the condition that he would not have to admit being a member of the New York-based Genovese crime family or even acknowledge the existence of the secretive La Costra Nostra, or Mafia.

"Part of the plea bargaining with federal prosecutors also resulted in a promise that his younger brother, Anthony "Turk" Scibelli, 73, who has even more serious health problems, would receive a suspended sentence for his admitted role in a multi-million-dollar gambling operation that extended beyond western Massachusetts to eastern New York and northern Connecticut."

"As relatives wept, Scibelli, a short, conservatively dressed man with thinning white hair, showed little emotion Thursday as he was sentenced in Springfield's U.S. District Court to six years in prison.

"In a gesture of holiday good will, U.S. District Judge Frank Freedman allowed the family man to begin his term on Jan. 11."

"Don't worry about nothin'. I'll be OK," the older Scibelli told a well-wisher while strutting out of a packed courtroom.



Scibelli's sentencing "ended an era for organized crime in the three-state area, at least as it concerned his faction of the mob, which authorities said controlled illegal gambling here for the past decade."

The case against Scibelli and his crew -- a total of eight men -- resulted from a 1984 FBI investigation that utilized wiretap recordings in both Springfield and at a New York City Genovese crime family social club. None of the evidence was ever played in court for the jury because all the men had copped to plea bargains.

Conversations caught on tape included one meeting between Scibelli and Genovese front boss Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno during which the former bragged to the latter. Skyball was making generating steady cash for the crime family's coffers.

"We're doing good up there," Scibelli told Salerno, according to the FBI tapes."You know, running the thing there, you got me. I'm being a good capo."

In another discussion recorded for posterity, Scibelli talked about gamblers who weren't making good on their losses.

"We oughtta break their heads."


Read Springfield Mob Shooters Needed "'to Get Better at Head Shots"



By 1975 Scibelli was overseeing a large illegal gambling operation based out of the Terra Mar Yacht and Tennis Club, in the shoreline town of Old Saybrook, Conn., where he owned two homes.

State troopers raided the Terra Mar gambling site and Scibelli made an elaborate escape (he went out the back door).

He was not charged in connection with that operation.

Scibelli, who didn't say a word during any of the formal proceedings gave the Courant an interview from the Terra Mar club (which no longer exists).

"(The police) have harassed me all my life, just because my name's Scibelli," he said. "I'm not a bad man. I live for my kids I want them to start life off right. They are all going to be lawyers."

During the same interview, it was noted that the federal grand jury indictment had named him the "kingpin of organized crime in Massachusetts."

To which Skyball replied: 

"I'm going to fight this the American way. With lots of lawyers and lots of money."



Monday, November 21, 2016

Feds Hold Genovese's Springfield Chief Indefinitely in Brooklyn

Five reputed members of the Genovese crime family's "Springfield Crew" were arrested in August as part of the "East Coast LCN Enterprise" case that alleges wide-ranging Mafia-related activity in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida (and New Jersey, supposedly).

Four of the five Springfield Crew members have been released on bail; the one Genovese associate still being held is Ralph Santaniello, 49. Believed to be running the Springfield Crew for the Genovese crime family, he was transported in October to New York City for a hearing that is not slated to occur anytime soon. He is the only mobster arrested in August who wasn't granted bail. Others being held were already imprisoned when the indictment came down.

Ralph Santaniello is the reputed boss of the Genovese crime family's Springfield Crew
Why is Ralph Santaniello still being held in Brooklyn?

Santaniello is running Springfield reportedly with the backing of his father, Amedeo Santaniello, a longtime Springfield mobster and a former confidante of Genovese boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, now deceased.  Also backing the younger Santaniello is longtime area tough guy Albert Calvanese, a convicted loan shark who, like Santaniello, the father, is not charged in the "East Coast LCN Syndicate" case.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

8th Gangland Hit in 18 Months -- What's Going On In Aussie Underworld?

Image of Pasquale "Tim" Barbaro's dead body, face-down in a foot path in Sydney, Australia.
Barbaro, felled by gunfire, wasn't active in the Ndrangheta, though his family
is well established in Calabrian Mafia.


Pasquale "Tim" Barbaro was running for his life when a bullet dropped him flat. And dead.

Barbaro -- an Aussie who belonged to a fierce Ndrangheta clan known in Italy for drug trafficking, weapons dealing, and murder -- was gunned down this past Monday in Sydney at around 9:40 pm local time.

At the time of his death, Barbaro reportedly wasn't active in the Ndrangheta. He allegedly was more of a freelance gangster focused on drug dealing and extortion. (He also may have been a high-echelon informant, which possibly could be the motive for his shooting death, though motives are not in short supply in this case.)

He'd escaped a similar fate nearly a year ago to the very date when he miraculously survived a hail of gunfire in Leichhardt, a Sydney suburb.

Barbaro was shot dead as he departed associate George Alex's Earlwood home. He's lost family members prematurely, including his grandfather and a cousin. Both were murdered.

"One of his notorious mates, construction industry figure George Alex" and Barbaro "had enjoyed dinner" prior to the murder, the Sydney Morning Herald noted yesterday.

"There is nothing to suggest Alex was involved in his death."

At least one gunman leaped out of an Audi four-wheel-drive and opened fire on Barbaro. Witnesses heard as many as seven shots fired as the gangster hollered "open the door!" before he was struck down dead.

Police found the heavily-tattooed man sprawled face down on a footpath.



Chantal, Barbaro's girlfriend, was a professional dancer.

Pasquale "Tim" Barbaro was out on $350,000 bail; he'd been arrested on drug-related charges. He was known to regularly visit Alex, a close friend as well as an associate.

The hit was carried out hours before telephone recordings of Barbaro speaking to the head of a Middle Eastern street gang were to play at a trial in Sydney court. This currently is considered a coincidence, however.

The trial involves Farhad Qaumi, head of street gang Brothers 4 Life, who is being charged with a 2013 murder. Barbaro is not believed to have incriminated Qaumi. The two didn't know each other well, published reports noted, although surveillance footage caught them sitting together engaged in conversation at The Star casino in 2014 (see picture below).


Retaliatory Strike?

Barbaro was a suspect in last month's murder of rival gangster Hamad Assaad, law enforcement officials allege. Assad, in turn, was suspected of masterminding the failed attempt on Barbaro's life last year, the Daily Mail reported.

Farhad Qaumi, head of the Brothers 4 Life Blacktown chapter, and brother Mumtaz Qaumi is on trial in the superior court of New South Wales (NSW) for plotting the December 16, 2013, execution of construction industry figure Joe Antoun, 50, who was gunned down on his Strathfield home's doorstep in front of his family.


CCTV footage shows Brothers For Life leader Farhad Qaumi (left) and Pasquale Barbaro at The Star casino in January 2014.
Brothers 4 Life boss Farhad Qaumi (left) with Barbaro at The Star casino in 2014.

"A member of the Barbaros, of Griffith Calabrian Mafia fame, the clan have long been known to law enforcement authorities as one of the major organised crime families," noted the Sydney Morning Herald in a story that described Barbaro's slaying as "inevitable."

"Originally from the Calabrian township of Plati, known as Italy's "kidnap capital", the Barbaros rose to prominence during the Woodward Royal Commission when they were found to have been the principals behind Griffith's marijuana industry."

The Ndrangheta, which originated in Italy's southern Calabria region, currently controls the European cocaine trade and is considered one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world. It is deeply entrenched in Australia and Canada (and supposedly the United States, according to foreign-newspaper reports). The group's presence in New York has been confirmed.




Evil Life: The True Story of the Calabrian Mafia in Australia specifically focuses on the Ndrangheta's history in Australia, from the 1920s to the present.

As for the Ndrangheta and its vast outpost in Canada, alongside the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, there's highly credible and well-written books available, such as The Sixth Family and Mafia Inc.

According to current information, 31 Ndrangheta clans operate throughout Australia. They report to five clans located in Calabria (really nine clans, as marriage has served to expand and integrate).

Calabrian law-enforcement officials view the Barbaros, who are established in Plati, Calabria's capital, as major players in drug and weapons trafficking, notably to Spain and Colombia.

They also are known for murdering a lot of people.


One of Barbaro's Hotties...

Barbaro was headed home to see his girlfriend at their Harrington Park home when he was gunned down. According to the Daily Mail, she "has broken her silence, saying she is grieving for her dead lover and feels deeply sad for his family." 

Her name is Chantel Baptista. She was a professional dancer and says she was in a relationship with Barbaro when he was slain Monday night.

Ms. Baptista reportedly lived with Barbaro when he was slain.

Barbaro, 35, reportedly was living with Baptista in Sydney’s south. The young woman’s mother lives there too.

"Pictures show her to be a social butterfly who is regularly showered in compliments for her bikini photographs," the Daily Mail noted, adding that she previously worked as a contract dancer at The Act, an operation located in the United Arab Emirates.

Acquaintances said Ms Baptista was reluctant to speak publicly - after other media wrongly identified another woman as Barbaro’s girlfriend.

Chantal, saying she's Barbaro's girl, decided to speak out....

The young beauty is voluptuous and curvy and of Portuguese descent. She told the media that she was "distressed" by her boyfriend’s killing. 





Barbaro was rumored to be a high-ranking informant, which could be a motive if any of the criminal organizations he was linked to had found this out.

According to the Herald story from yesterday, however, Barbaro may not have been an active Ndrangheta member when he was slain:

"Tattooed, pumped up at the gym, flashing gleaming Rolex watches and driving only the most showy and expensive cars such as his $2 million black Lamborghini, he traded off his infamous family’s links to the Mafia even though he had distanced himself from that particular criminal group," the Herald noted.

The Strike Force Osprey was established Thursday to investigate Barbaro's murder. Sydney's gangland death toll has reached eight in the past 18 months.

Barbaro was previously married and has two children. He supposedly has a list of girlfriends. 

Sorry, Chantal...


Law enforcement officials and cops meet where Barbaro was shot dead.

Called “The Boss," Barbaro lived in Leichhardt’s Italian Forum. He was known to wear a bullet-proof vest (though he didn't wear one on Monday night when he was killed). His bodyguard "The Shadow" tailed him.

"Barbaro was what he looked like, a well-connected gangster on the rise as he played the tough-guy game with Sydney’s other underworld figures" as they sought to earn out of Sydney's low-class Kings Cross section. An inner-city locality and Sydney's infamous red-light district, "The Cross," as locals call it, is bounded by places like Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay and Darlinghurst.

The Cross, Sydney's Redlight Section

For years it's reputed to have served as a stomping ground for gangsters.

The post-WWII return of local troops from the nearby naval base supposedly helped ignite the region's general decline into a destination where illicit gratification is available on tap.

Today, it is home to gyms, supermarkets, bakeries, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, as well as brothels and strip clubs.





Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Philadelphia Mob Boss's Memoir Slated for Big Screen

A film based on the pending memoir of onetime Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Ralph Natale is due to hit your local multiplex, an exclusive Deadline report noted. (The story also noted that Leonardo DiCaprio is going to star in an untitled mob film for Showtime; we are working on getting further details.)

Natale is working with New York Daily News reporter Larry McShane (a 35-year newspaperman who also wrote Chin, a Vincent Gigante biography) and Dan Pearson, who produced I Married a Mobster.

Many believe Ralph Natale, who is writing his memoir, was a front boss for Joey Merlino


The Last Don Standing (the book is slated to debut on March 31; no date for the film's release has been provided) recounts the story of Natale's life, focusing on his rise and fall in the Philadelphia Costra Nostra. He's earned the sobering sobriquet of being the first Mafia boss to flip and testify as a federal witness.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rare Photo Captures "Zu Cola" Gentile's 1937 Drug Bust

Zu Cola was a member of what later became the Gambino crime family.
"Zu Cola" Gentile, left, with hand over face during a most ignoble moment in his bio, the 1937 drug arrest.
 (Thanks to Christian Cipollini for picture.)


AMENDED, EXPANDED
If ever there were a Zelig in the American Mafia, his name was Nicola "Zu Cola" Gentile.

Gentile is a significant source of information about the American Cosa Nostra's early years. The unique role he played expanded his knowledge. He was a sort of mobile troubleshooter who'd swoop in wherever and whenever needed. Mobsters all over the country frequently required his services.

He published his memoirs, Vita di Capomafia, in Italy in 1963. That year, Joseph "Joe Cago" Valachi appeared before Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan's Permanent Subcommittee, aka the McClellan hearings.

Many view the book as important as most other major sources of the Mafia's early years. It's up there with The Valachi Papers and Joseph Bonanno's Man of Honor memoir.

Born in Siculiana, Sicily, on June 12, 1884, Gentile arrived in the U.S. at age 19. As Mike Dash noted in The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia, "According to his own account, given decades later when he was in his seventies and no longer had a lot to fear, he emigrated to the United States in 1903, lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, and was initiated into what he called the onorata società—the Honored Society, the Mafia—in Philadelphia two years later. Later Gentile moved to Pittsburgh, where he joined another Mafia family, and he spent time in San Francisco and Chicago, too."

Gentile's role uniquely evolved, however. He became a kind of consiglieri-at-large. Dash, in The First Family, identified Gentile as an "American Mafia killer and diplomat whose smooth journey through half a dozen U.S. families gives vital insight into the fraternity in (Giuseppe) Morello’s time."

Gentile's memoir.

Gentile was a troubleshooter, negotiator, messenger and mediator. He also was a member of what became the Gambino crime family.

His memoir offered a wealth of information about the various mobsters in power back then, including Morello and the very mysterious Salvatore D'Aquila, among them.

He wrote about the existence of two Mafia Commission precursors formed before 1909. Members of the first body included only the most powerful bosses.

The second "Commission" Gentile described as much larger. He called it a “general assembly,” with maybe 150 delegates. This group supposedly met to carry out specific duties. Among them were electing capos during emergencies and approving or denying murder requests.

The Clutch-Hand

Gentile "revealed the Clutch Hand as the most senior, most powerful Mafioso in the country, and probably no one in the Italian underworld was better placed to know the truth.... In his youth, the Agrigento man was arrogant and tough—”the classic raw material of the Mafioso”—and he soon built a reputation as a killer, ingratiating himself with his fellow Sicilians in Pittsburgh by violently subduing the local Neapolitans... But Gentile was something of a diplomat as well, with contacts among members of the Mafia in many cities, and one of the Mafiosi with whom he was acquainted was Giuseppe Morello. There is no reason to doubt a man of his seniority and experience when he described the Clutch Hand as “boss of the bosses of the honorable society when I first entered it.”

Giuseppe Morello, considered first Mafia boss of bosses.

Gentile's "memoirs describe (Mafia crime) families in New York, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, in Pittsburgh and Chicago.... Kansas City and San Francisco were also mentioned; Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, and Wilkes-Barre were not, though there is independent evidence of Mafiosi operating in these districts from the first years of the century. In another decade families would be established in several other large cities—Cleveland, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Buffalo...."

As for the two early committees, Gentile viewed them as unnecessary, though ineffective may be the more-accurate descriptive.

A young "Zu Cola," as he was known.

Gentile was "more scornful of the general assembly, which was, he said, “made up of men who were almost illiterate. Eloquence was the skill that most impressed the hall. The better someone knew how to talk, the more he was listened to, and the more he was able to drag that mass of yokels the way he wanted.”


D'Aquila, Boss of Bosses

One figure about whom Gentile wrote was Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila. Apparently, Gentile is one of the only sources of information about this Cosa Nostra boss.

Noted Dash of D'Aquila:

"Ruthless Palermo Mafioso and cheese importer who kept a low profile and headed his own family in Harlem from at least 1912 in rivalry to Morello’s. After the Clutch Hand’s imprisonment, had himself declared America’s boss of bosses in succession to him; later arranged for Morello and Lupo to be sentenced to death. Shot dead in 1928 ambush and succeeded by Masseria."

"D’Aquila was a dangerous man: arrogant, ambitious, and feared rather than respected by his men. He was efficient, too, and with Lupo and Morello out of the way wasted no time in turning his own family into the strongest cosca in the city. D’Aquila achieved this feat in part by attracting defectors from New York’s other Mafia gangs; most came from the Morellos."

C. Alex Hortis, in The Mob and the City also detailed D'Aquila based on Gentile's information.

"The capo di capi of the American Mafia between 1910 and 1928 was an extraordinarily secretive man by the name of Salvatore “Totò”D'Aquila," Hortis writes. 

"He spent the majority of his life in Palermo, Sicily, when that city was swarming with rival clans. Barely 5 feet, 2 inches tall, D'Aquila had a penchant for dressing well and speaking smoothly. Soon after disembarking, he became a confidence man in Manhattan, talking his marks out of their money. D'Aquila gradually established himself as a gang leader with a base of power in East Harlem. 

"When Giuseppe Morello went to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for counterfeiting in 1910, Salvatore D'Aquila became capo di capi at the nadir of the Sicilian Mafia in the second decade of the twentieth century, only to see its fortunes reverse during Prohibition. Flush with cash, Totò D'Aquila moved his family to an elaborately furnished house across from the Bronx Zoo. By outward appearances, D'Aquila was a quiet family man with successful business ventures in real estate, olive oil, and cheese importing. Behind the scenes, it was a different story."

Gentile, Hortis adds, noted how in the "1920s, D'Aquila significantly expanded the reach of the capo di capi. 

"D'Aquila became “very authoritative,” enlisted a “secret service” of spies, and brought trumped-up charges against rivals. Other informants confirm that D'Aquila presided over trials of mafiosi who allegedly broke rules of the mob. With D'Aquila acting like a kind of judge, the trials were held before the “general assembly” of Mafia representatives from clans across America."

No source is perfect, however. David Critchley noted in The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931 that: "Even the experienced Nicolo Gentile was taken in by the great Purge myth of 1931 when stating, “60 fellows destined to die. My name also appeared on this list.”... Nevertheless, such sources supply essential material."

Christian Cipollini, the author of several award-winning organized crime nonfiction books, plus a new graphic novel about Lucky Luciano titled LUCKY, sent us the above photograph of Gentile's arrest.


Zu Cola, Cipollini noted, "wasn't a household name like a lot of his friends and enemies of the time were."

"However," he added, "the truth of organized crime history is that the characters some would call 'secondary' were really quite major.

"Gentile was definitely a big deal. The mob-at-large seemed to rely on him quite a bit for his negotiation skills. Ironically, or perhaps not ironic, the guy negotiated himself out of a death sentence, so I'd say that's pretty significant and one can understand why the underworld would respect that kind of individual."

Gentile, a high-profile figure in the underworld during his heyday, was the target of several hit attempts.


One of his more dramatic close calls occurred when Salvatore Maranzano invited him to attend the new boss of boss's self-coronation in Chicago (after Joe "The Boss" Masseria's murder).

Pittsburgh Mafia boss Giuseppe Siragusa had made accusations against Gentile, so he was supposed to participate in a sort of underworld trial that could have concluded with his execution. But first, Gentile met with host Al Capone to deny the charges.

Zu Cola then threatened to behead anyone who didn't believe him.

However, as Cipollini continued, "the most profound reason Gentile is a crucial subject within organized crime history is because of his personal memoirs and the published book that surfaced about ten years or so after that.

"His memoir truly helped people understand what took place in that criminal world, especially with regard to the 1931 purge or 'Night of the Sicilian Vespers' as legend dubbed it. His notes, along with the later-published book Vita Di Capomafia provided insight that basically filled in some blanks and/or was corroborating to Bonnano's and Valachi's versions of how, for example, Luciano and his pals changed the entire mob structure in 1931.

"In my opinion, Gentile's telling of the history is likely more accurate than Valachi's."

Gentile, having aligned himself with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, played a role in Luciano's narcotics operation. He was arrested in New Orleans in 1937 on drug charges. (Photo atop this story captures Gentile's arrest in New Orleans; he'd leave the U.S. within a year.)

Gentile decided he'd had his run in the United States; he fled to Sicily out on $15,000 bail.

About the time of his escape to Sicily, Gentile decided to write about his Mafia experiences.



Vinny Basciano Wins His Nickname!

Former (or current) official Bonanno crime family boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, above, is looking worthy of the nickname he so despised.

Longtime reader/commenter David Gizewski sent us the photo. Thank you, David.





Former (or current) official Bonanno crime family boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, above, is looking worthy of the nickname he so despised.

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