"Punchy" Illiano, Part of Gallo Crew, Died Yesterday

Frank "Punchy" Illiano, above, a Brooklyn capo with the Genovese crime family, died Monday, January 6, at age 86 of natural causes in New York. Cosa Nostra News learned this directly from a personal friend of the elderly gangster, who noted that Punchy was "very well-respected."

We have since learned that Illiano had been ill for the past two years of his life, and had been suffering nerve damage ever since he had been shot by a sniper in 1974 during the second of the two Gallo wars.

Illiano supposedly was standing at a hot dog stand when someone with a rifle shot at him from either a rooftop or upper-story window.

The New York Post reported that his funeral will be at St. Stephen Church in Carroll Gardens on Saturday. We've learned Illiano will be cremated.

According to a New York Times article, an imprisoned Vincent "The Chin" Gigante named both Illiano and Lawrence J. Dentico as interim street bosses in 1998 after former acting boss, Dominick Cirillo, had suffered a heart attack earlier that year. At the time, the Genovese family was "the nation's most powerful Mafia group, law enforcement officials and investigators [said]." The article further noted that, according to the FBI and state agencies, the Genovese family was the largest in the country at the time, with 200 to 250 made members and around 1,000 associates.

According to law enforcement sources quoted in the story, Illiano, and Dentico, were "expected to be advisers to the family's capos, or captains, who supervise about 20 individual mob units, or crews. The investigators said that Mr. Dentico and Mr. Illiano would probably try to resolve disputes between crews or conflicts with the four other major Mafia families based in the New York area."

Since 2010, Illiano had been operating a crew with Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. The crew runs gambling and loan sharking operations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Illiano served as a top lieutenant to the Gallo brothers in their two wars with family boss Profaci, then Carmine Persico.

Punchy acquired his nickname from his earlier years, when he was a boxer. (Many other members of the Genovese clan spent time in the ring, in fact, including Gigante, Quiet Dom Cirillo and Little Augie Pisano.)

In the mid-1970s, as per a peace agreement made with Carmine Persico, the Genovese family welcomed Illiano, Albert Gallo and other Gallo Crew members into its ranks. Punchy and Kid Blast had previously established a good relationship with Genovese bosses like Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello and Gigante. Illiano and Albert Gallo soon became made men, and Illiano also was appointed a capo.

Illiano began his criminal career as a member of the Gallo crew in the Profaci crime family, later known as the Colombo family. By an act of fate Illiano became part of a street crew that would twice go to war against Cosa Nostra bosses; Punchy remained loyal to Joe and his brothers up until the end.

Some believe that Illiano was among the hit men who killed Albert Anastasia in 1957 -- the same year that the disastrous Apalachin conference took place, in part to address the Anastasia hit. (But the winning, theory holds that Gambino drug dealers close to Carlo Gambino carried out the hit.)

The first Colombo war started in February 1961, when the Gallos kidnapped several family leaders to force boss Joseph Profaci to distribute profits more fairly. Profaci agreed to a settlement to gain his loyalists' release, then later in 1962 tried to murder Larry Gallo at a meeting in a bar.

Albert, left, and Crazy Joey Gallo.

In 1965, Iliano and 14 other crew members pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in regard to the gang war and were sentenced to six months in prison.

The second Colombo war began after the 1971 shooting of boss Joseph Colombo. Many mobsters suspected Joey Gallo was behind the killing. In 1972, gunmen assassinated Gallo while he was dining at Little Italy's Umberto's, which was secretly owned by Ianniello, who said he was in the kitchen at the time, and said he didn’t see anything. He also claimed to have had no prior knowledge of the hit.

(Gallo brother Larry, had already died in his sleep of cancer, in 1968 in a Long Island hospital.)

Illiano and Albert Gallo sought to avenge Joey's murder, importing a hitter that very same year -- only the shooter bungled the hit.

Then, in 1974, there was a brief civil war within the Gallo crew itself as John "Mooney" Cutrone, onetime close confidant to Larry and Joey, and his faction staged an uprising against Albert, whom they considered a bad leader unable to earn. Cutrone, who some thought was the rightful heir to Joey Gallo, and his men eventually rejoined the Colombo family under Persico.

Illiano and Albert Gallo joined the Genovese family with the remnants of their crew.

According to the Times story, Illiano had been arrested 17 times (as of July 1998) on charges including rape, assault and bookmaking. He was acquitted on most of them, with his longest stint in prison being six months.

"Confidential New York Police Department reports assert that he has been active in gambling and loan-sharking rackets in Brooklyn and that he is suspected of siphoning funds from street fairs in Brooklyn controlled by the Genovese family."

Another Times article, published in February of 1962, noted that, one month earlier, Illiano and six other Gallo crew members had rescued six small children from an apartment filled with smoke caused by a mattress fire. The crew noticed the nearby fire when they walked out of a restaurant on President Street, which is where the Gallo headquarters was located. The men rushed into the building and smothered the fire with their jackets while reaching for the children -- who ranged in age from 10 months to six years old -- all of whom were safely rescued.

Larry Gallo, who would later die of lung cancer, refused treatment for smoke inhalation, the Times article reported.


  1. I thought Chin Gigante was credited with the Anastasia "shave."

    1. Love you too. Do they still call you "Tits" or "Candy Mouth?"

    2. The Chin shot Costello -- and missed...

    3. Missing though still wounding him in the head, of course

  2. The Blast, Punchy, Bender, Gigante - The Neapolitan connection.
    I have a lot of respect for Punchy, because he honored his roots. He used to have a restaurant on Columbia Street called 215. The jukebox was full of all the great Neapolitan singers, and he had the panorama of Napoli painted on the wall. R.I.P.
    Definitely a dying breed.
    Anonymous - Old School.

  3. RIP Punchy...you were always a gentleman to me, generous, charming and very handsome! I'll always remember you and your style and swagger.

  4. R.I.P Frank 'Punchy , you were one of the last old timers left in carroll gardens and one of the last of the gallo crew of the past , My last memories of you will be sitting in quench one night when me , J ,b ,G , and A B. ALL IN YANKEE HATS AND DARK JACKETS WERE LOOKING IN THE WINDOWN OF THE BAR , I HAD TO LAUGH CAUSE YOU DID NIOT RECONIZE US AND MIGHT OF ASSUMED A HIT WAS GONNA GO DOWN WITH THE IDENTICAL ALFITS ,LMAO , but yep set ya a drink at quench i remeber that last ,, CASA ROSA was great when you had it ,, and you were another fella with charactor to walk court street every day as i came up ,, no doubt Carroll Gadens will miss you .....

  5. R.I.P.my freind you will be missed.My condolences to your family. You always looked out for your freinds.

  6. I'm late to this, so you might not even see the comment but do you give any credence to the account of Joe Gallo's death offered by Frank Sheeran? 'I heard you paint houses' puts out a good argument for him being a lone gunman in that shooting. Thanks.

    1. I see every comment, anon. This is a story near and dear to my heart. I can say with 100% certainty that I was the first to break the news of Punchy's death -- yet no one credited me for breaking this news. I am familiar with "Paint Houses" and do believe the theory has merit. I also don't believe Punchy and the Gallos and/or Carmine Persico killed Anastasia.


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