Bio Bunk: No Way Snake Whacked Mob’s Executioner

Two men, with scarves draped across their faces, clambered into the shop and opened fire on a relaxing Anastasia. Anastasia allegedly lunged at the mirror in which he saw the shooters’ reflections.
Anastasia whacked by Gambino drug dealers--not Persico/Gallo faction.
Albert Anastasia (Umberto Anastasio, Sept. 26, 1902 – Oct. 25, 1957) was one of the most ruthless and feared Cosa Nostra mobsters in U.S. history, bar none.

A co-founder of LCN, Anastasia during the pre-war years ran Murder Inc., a group of primarily Jewish hit men always on call. He was boss of what became the Gambino crime family in 1957, having killed his boss, Vincent Mangano. Anastasia's own execution in a midtown barbershop is one of the most spectacular mob hits ever. It was the most high-profile "hit" since the big mob war of the 1930s. And Carmine "the Snake" Persico and the Gallo brothers had nothing to do with it.

One source told Cosa Nostra News: "Joey Gallo went around after the Anastasia hit telling people to call he and his pals the 'Barbershop Quartet.' That means nothing. I have had guys intimate to me that they clipped a certain guy, when I knew for a fact they had nothing to do with it."

It is all about the credit. The Gallos and Persico claimed credit for the hit for decades. Carmine actually was a latecomer, supposedly confessing to a relative in the early 1980s that he was a member of the hit team, when he was hiding out in this relative's Long Island house while the Snake was on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, which was a Mafia first. It was one of these relatives who dropped the dime on the Snake, probably tiring of his bullshit stories about the old days.

I am reminded of the JFK assassination. I don't for a moment believe the mob did it -- but they wanted to do it, they benefited from it enormously and it really gave them juice to have certain people think that they had done it. And it was not like anyone has ever been able to say with 100% assurance that they didn't kill JFK. However, I believe in the lone nut theory, having read Case Closed by Gerald Posner, which all who are interested in the topic should read.

Jerry Capeci, I believe, was the first to ID the men who really killed Anastasia, using law enforcement sources.

The bottom line is, Profaci was an ally of Anastasia – which is the first tip off that something is amiss with Gallo's bragadiccio. And before you tell me about the Persico-Gallo faction waging war against boss Profaci, remember this was in 1957, before the trouble came to a head with those upstart Mafioso.

The villain behind the mask in this case, as I noted in an earlier post, was Vito Genovese, who wanted control of the Luciano family. To do that, Genovese needed to kill Frank Costello first, who was keeping an exiled Lucky’s chair warm.

But if Genovese took out Costello, Anastasia – the “Mad Hatter” and “Lord High Executioner,” who could make made men shit their pants simply by the way he chose to dangle a cigarette from his lower lip -- would kill Genovese, possibly with his own bare hands, before Costello had turned cold.

Genovese slyly turned politician, using Anastasia's own brutal behavior to bludgeon him with, winning over his supporters by describing Anastasia as a madman killer, which he was, having ordered the murder of a citizen who turned in bank robber Willie Sutton, among many other things.

Genovese also noted that Anastasia had been selling memberships to his crime family, $50,000 a button. This enraged high level mobsters. It caused Anastasia underboss Carlo Gambino to "close the books" for nearly 20 years, to weed out these fake mobsters. This particular crime of Anastasia, selling "buttons" (a lieutenant was actually behind the scam, though the Mad Hatter must've been aware, and profited from it), was likely one key reason why, over time, Don Vito was able to win over Gambino. The fact that Carlo was next in line also likely played a part in Gambino's decision to organized the very public murder of his boss. Checkmate.

In early 1957, Genovese decided to move on Costello. We all know how that turned out – hit man Vincent Gigante only winged Costello, in the head. Joseph Bonanno would later assume credit for stopping Anastasia from immediately taking Genovese to war in response. Believe this or not; Bonanno assumed credit for a lot of things, except arranging for the flooding of the U.S. with heroin.

Oct. 25, 1957, Anastasia entered the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel (now the Park Central Hotel, on 56th Street and 7th Avenue) in midtown. Anastasia's bodyguard walked out of the shop, leaving Anastasia unprotected. Two men, with scarves draped across their faces, clambered into the shop and opened fire on a relaxing Anastasia. Anastasia allegedly lunged at the mirror in which he saw the shooters’ reflections. Then, the dying mob boss fell to the floor and breathed his last. (There were three men on the hit team; the third man presumably was waiting in the car, or acting as lookout.)

The Anastasia murder generated a tremendous amount of press coverage as well as a major police investigation.

Over time, speculation on who killed Anastasia focused on Profaci.

The Profaci theory is that Genovese gave the Anastasia murder contract to Joe Profaci, who passed it on to mobster "Crazy Joe" Gallo. However, detractors say that it was illogical for Profaci to kill Anastasia. Profaci was allied with Bonanno and Anastasia against Genovese, Costello, and Thomas Lucchese. By killing Anastasia, Profaci was eliminating an ally. 

The winning theory is that Gambino drug dealers did the deed as per Capeci's research, which is based on facts, not barroom bragging. Specifically Carlo Gambino used Gambino drug dealers from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to kill Anastasia: Stephen Armone, Steven Grammauta, and Arnold Wittenberg.

“According to knowledgeable sources on both sides of the law, the killing was carried out by a three-man hit team selected by then-capo Joseph (Joe the Blonde) Biondo, who became Gambino's underboss and remained in the post until shortly before he died in 1966,” Capeci wrote. 

The primary shooter, sources said, was Stephen (Stevie Coogan). Grammauta, then 40, was convicted of heroin trafficking eight years later.

Stephen Armone, then 57, was the leader of the crew.

“Sources said that Armone's younger brother, Joseph (Joe Piney) Armone – an early member of the Dapper Don's plot to kill Paul Castellano three decades later – was selected for the hit but was nabbed on a drug charge and replaced by brother Steve,” Capeci wrote.
I ran this by Sonny Girard, one-time mobster, now writer for his feedback, which dovetailed nicely with my own research.

"The reason Anastasia got hit is more interesting than who did it. Albert was selling buttons for $50,000 a pop. That's why Carl closed the books, which remained closed till his death [in the mid-1970s]. He wanted to cleanse the ranks of the unworthy by attrition."


  1. There has been speculations over whether the Anastasia killing was a hit sanctioned by the Commission or not. I believe it was.
    After the botched Costello hit, the two most feared mob bosses at the time was eyeing eachother. According to a FBI document, an informant claimed that Vito Genovese had told Anastasia not to interfere with Genovese´s plans of getting rid of Costello. "Mind your own business or you will be next" Genovese supposedly said to Anastasia who was furious. To avoid a clash of the titans and for the sake of peace, the Commission ended the problem by ordering Anastasia´s death. Apparently, Anastasia had no supporters left at the table where the Commission members sat.

    Right after the hit, Carlo Gambino was appointed the provisional boss by the Commission during a meeting in Livinston, NJ. A three year term was issued and in 1960, Gambino was officially made the new boss of the Family.


  2. I thought Vinny Chin did it.

  3. Bio said that persico had to do a hit in order to get made...They're not gonna give such an important to an unproven {at that time} killer...They're gonna give it to trusted and proven tough guys !!

    1. wrong u are junior was killing guys since he was 16 years old he enjoyed it,Joe Jelly,and Persico killed him but loud mouth gallo was saying that he did it,but jelly did,being that Jelly was with the gallos he figured he can take some credit'

  4. Good point....Carlo Gambino knew if the hit on Umberto failed and Anastasia survived, chances are it would've been the end of Gambino. His life was at stake so he would've picked the best men for the job. Interesting he chose the family's drug dealers. Carlo was obviously tight with the shooters on a personal basis. Drugs are a fringe business, almost taboo in the mob. The shooters were loyal to Gambino and because of the sensitive business they were in Gambino must have trusted them to keep their mouths shut even if the hit succeeded. Things were dicey then on many levels. Carlo must've loved it when Gallo assumed credit.


Post a Comment