New York's Four Crime Families?

A small-time dice game caused a mob boss's defense attorney to take a huge gamble.

He lost.

As a result, on June 10, 1969, 12 volumes (more than 2,000 pages) of conversations between various mobsters and New Jersey crime boss Simone Rizzo DeCavalcante were released to the public. A book was issued as well. Sam the Plumber: The Real-Life Saga of a Mafia Chieftain condensed the voluminous disparate recorded discussions and provided context.

Sam the Plumber preferred to be called "The Count."

DeCavalcante, who oversaw New Jersey-based gambling, loansharking and labor racketeering from an office in Kenilworth, preferred his mob nickname, "The Count," to the one saddled on him by the press: "The Plumber." However, at least one New York Times article written during his heyday probably put a smile on the respected mob boss's face. It described him as "the smartest and smoothest and least vicious of the aging Mafia leaders in the East."

"Sam the Plumber" had never spent a single night in jail, but that changed in March 1968, when he was indicted following his efforts to mediate a dispute among mobsters over a small illegal dice gambling operation. DeCavalcante's mediation helped scale down a necessary tribute payment to $12,000 (from $20,000). Sam pocketed $3,800 for his effort.

"You know, they were going to give the guys in Canada away to Buffalo."

DeCavalcante's lawyer (former assistant U.S. attorney Sidney Franzblau) filed a slew of pretrial motions to request any electronic surveillance evidence that law enforcement had acquired during the course of its probe of DeCavalcante. The lawyer counted on his efforts to quash the indictment and get the case against the mob boss dropped as had happened in many major cases of that era. The reason: the bugs planted in the Plumber's office were illegal (and part of a larger FBI intelligence-gathering effort focused on the mob following the televised Valachi hearings) and couldn't be used in court.

However, in this instance, the government decided to make an exception. It released all its electronic surveillance recordings -- and the dozen volumes of transcripts were made available.

"I've never heard of the government releasing such information before," a dazed Franzblau remarked for posterity.

The conversations disclosed many major mob revelations. Sam the Plumber, despite the small size of his South Jersey-based crime family, cast a large shadow in the underworld. He was a mediator in many instances for other Mafia bosses, including those based in New York.

Johnny Pops...woulda, coulda.....

DeCavalcante, in fact, had been consulted during the so-called "Banana War," which concluded with the New York Mafia's Commission expelling boss Joseph Bonanno from his position as overlord of the crime family that still carries his name.

However, according to Sam the Plumber's recorded conversations, the Commission almost went a step further.

The bosses then sitting at the table had discussed distributing Bonanno's territory (meaning we likely would be referring to New York's "Four Families").

"You know, they were going to give the guys in Canada away to Buffalo," DeCavalcante was recorded saying. In other words, the Bonanno family's Montreal faction was nearly given to Stefano Magaddino, then the powerful boss of the crime family based in Buffalo, New York.

The Commission, some forty years prior to Joe Bonanno's power play against bosses Carlo Gambino and Thomas Lucchese, had allowed Bonanno to take control of Calabrian and Sicilian organized crime operations in Quebec, including Montreal, while Bonanno's cousin, Magaddino was given free reign to reap the profit's from the Mafia in Southern Ontario, including Toronto and the important port city of Hamilton.

If Montreal, the key to the Bonanno family's highly lucrative drug business for decades, had been given to Magaddino as the Commission had considered, it would have had "far deeper ramifications for organized crime in North America than anyone, except for the mischievous Stefano Magaddino, probably realized," as noted in  The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto.

Had the Commission chose that course of action, Magaddino would've consolidated power over both territories, something the Rizzuto clan achieved in the 1990s, decades earlier. Had that happened "so early in the game," Magaddino's clout would've likely increased exponentially and his man in Canada at the time, Johnny "Pops" Papalia, could have become "one of the richest and most important gangsters on the continent."


  1. What's the status on the buffalo crime family now?

  2. Oldtimers living off social security. Same as in Hamilton once Pops was popped.

  3. Ed, disagree with on the Status of Buffalo family, being from Canada, I spent a lot of time there till recently, as the woman I was dating lives in Buffalo, and even had two cellphones, one the regular Canadian one, the one being a Buffalo based 716 area code. The Buffalo Crime Family is alive, well, and earning. They have about 15 made guys, plus many associates. Met several "guys" while there at a couple different fine dining restaurants, and they seem to be prosperous, and living well. They no longer control Ontario, but they don't need to.They're in their own little world in Buffalo, and they like it that way. Also heard they have a lot going on in Vegas, with a highly respected made guy located out there from Buffalo.
    Living off Social Security, hardly.

  4. Ed I wanted to comment on the other post but too much chat was going on so I commented here I wanted to ask what's up with dominick cicale you of all people gotta know that no matter what the circumstances are he's still a rat the lowest people I don't care about changing his life around every rat says that who cares it's bullshit , I just gotta ask you personally that do you feel that guys like us who value respect and honor should show sympathy or empathy to rats because whatever their reason for testifying it's their fault they say they got betrayed but no one would betray dominick or any rat if they chose a different life anyway ?? Just want your opinion ed -Anthony D

  5. Well I don't doubt that there's guys there earning but there is nothing very recent that I could find on them. New England I know quite a bit is going on.....this is why I asked you to email me! ;-)

  6. Anthony, I have no "street cred" nor do i claim to. So why am I here? Why am I here? To create content for a blog; to build my brand via ebooks and even to try to take it all to the next level by having a live Internet event.... It appears there is a market for what I'm doing. I keep saying I'm a journalist not to brag but to make clear I am objective or try to be. Tell me more about who you are and why you feel the way you feel. I'm asking because I'm curious. Why should I have allegiance to an ongoing criminal enterprise? I'm fascinated by the Mafia... I have been and forever will be ....but I am always curious to know who my readers are.

  7. You can email me if you want to at ... I am sincere.

    Then again... If I were earning off the street and if Omerta were my creed I'd want to distance myself from any evidence of it ...... so I'd insulate myself from it publicly as much as possible. In other words I'd say the same thing....

  8. I lived there for 5 years in the 90's and still have friends out there, the Arm or mob in buffalo is still active but not the powerhouse it once was, I met a few good people out there and still talk to them and they tell me that there are a few capable guys out there and in the last 10 years or so they have been building up. The Arm was very powerful under Maggadino before it split and I doubt they can ever be that big again but I'm sure they will try lol..........thanks Ed

  9. I meant you and me guys like us meaning just other Italian Americans very fascinated by the mob I didn't mean "us" in a connected way I just was asking how you felt about rats I know it doesn't affect you like you said, I know their not your allegiance but I meant don't you think ratting on someone is unjust when you are the reason you are in trouble not taking responsibility for your actions ? I was asking if you agree that if you choose that life it's not fair to rat on people when the only person to blame (in some cases) is yourself for getting in trouble and taking someone else down is wrong ? Not trying to talk bad about dom or anyone just in general any rat

  10. Honestly, why do my personal feelings matter? I'm half Italian and half German... should I support the WW2 Nazi regime too? That's ridiculous, isn't it? I agree....

    I can't afford to hide behind a moral judgment on this question. I'm trying to build a blog and a business. I'm trying to offer something unique to my readers...I'm also trying to make this a fulltime job for myself. This is not a hobby.

    The question I am more interested in discussing is, what do you think of this blog and the stories I write?

    I addressed two sides of where I stand on this issue in my comments to the story previous to this one. I poured my heart out in the heat of the moment. My grandfather's friend was Phil Lucky BTW. But I'll try to add more dimension to what I said if you'd really like me to...

    I don't like rats. They even have a problem on some level with their actions. I despise Hector Pagan, who really pulled some dirty business but that was the Feds' fault.... also Joe Massino, Frank Lino... guys who lived most of their lives in that thing then flipped after decades of reaping the benefits.. but if any one of them ever called me one day to talk, what would you do if you were me? What would you want me to do if you were you? Seriously...

    Another factor is that once I get to know them, many of them become more than just a name, they become friends.... and I cease having a one-dimensional view of them... I know more to the story.. not that it matters but I also don't feel I am entitled to judge them because I never walked in their shoes...

    See my comment in the boxing story too, Anthony...

  11. 15 guys.......a glorified crew!

  12. And I know for a fact, Anthony, that things aren't always black and white to the guys themselves. The "Papa Smurf" garbage case provoked by the pedophile Hughes -- there was a guy in that case who flipped -- basically for nothing, because the case imploded -- it mostly bankrupted some of the guys indicted (not the top guys, who have fortunes).... I was talking to someone and he told me in so many words he understood the guy, why he did what he did, etc. So in other words, some guys involved or formerly involved or whatever know there are specific circumstances in each case....and it's not black and white...

  13. There's only 275,000 people in Buffalo, 15 guys in a fair number for a small place like Buffalo. Not a lot of guys keeps the thought of rats to a minimum. Sometimes a "core" group is better.

  14. That Buffalo crew gotta be tough to deal with the winters they have up there. In the past 20 years or so it's been a trend for some of their crew to make their way out west, Arizona and L.A. and Vegas.

  15. Yea I understand what you mean I was just asking your opinion because the blog is so interesting I wanted to know what you, the writer's thoughts were. how many times can you read a good story or book and acually talk to the writer? not often so your opinion to me was just out of curiosity sorry if I put you on the spot like that I didn't mean to but when you said "what would I do if you were me?" and guys like the ones you named like Massino and all them talked with you? honestly I wouldn't judge them I would talk to them and get information about them, knowing that their insight would make my blog more credible and factual than any mob news out there having real talks with guys like dom and them I might not agree with the choice to flip but couldn't deny a interesting story to write about good talking to you always a great read -Anthony D


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