Nicola Gentile Key Player in Building American Mafia

Nicola "Nick" Gentile was a Sicilian Mafioso who traveled around the United States to witness many pivotal moments in the formation of the American Mafia. He knew firsthand many of men who established the foundation for Sicilian-based organized crime here.

Nicola Gentile's memoir about the formation of the
American Mafia is unavailable in English....

Born in the southern Sicilian community of Siculiana in 1884, he arrived in the U.S. at age 19. Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri were his chief American home bases.
He was a trusted confidant of New York Mafiosi from the early 1900s through the Castellammarese War, and was also called upon to mediate a dispute between the Morello-Lupo clan and boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila in the 1920s.

He mediated disputes in Chicago and Los Angeles, even in New York City, the Mafia's capitol.

Gentile briefly served in leadership roles for the Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh Mafia families. Pittsburgh bosses Gregorio Conti and John Bazzano, and Cleveland bosses Joe Lonardo and Frank "Ciccio" Milano were trusted associates.

More than once, mob assassins stalked him. The most dramatic confrontation occured when Gentile was called to  Salvatore Maranzano's Chicago underworld coronation at the conclusion of the Castellammarese War.

Pittsburgh boss Giuseppe Siragusa made secret accusations against Gentile, and Gentile was summoned for a sort of trial that could have ended with his execution. In a separate meeting with host Al Capone, Gentile denied the charges and threatened to behead any person who said otherwise. 

Capone, impressed by Gentile's balls, made the ruling in favor -- and Nicola carried the day.

In 1937, he fled to Sicily in the face of a narcotics-related indictment.

After World War II, when Luciano was deported to Italy, the U.S. narcotics enforcement agents believed Gentile joined him to arrange a drug smuggling operation that extended from Sicily to the U.S. The FBI reported that Carlo Gambino was another participant in a drug smuggling ring with Luciano.

According to the FBI files:
"During the spring of 1948, reliable information obtained from a Bureau of Narcotics source indicated that CARLO GAMBINO travelled clandestinely to Palermo, Sicily, where he joined his brother, PAUL GAMBINO, who had fled to Italy to avoid prosecution in a Federal alcohol tax case. The GAMBINOS were reported to exercise control over the narcotic smuggling activities between the Mafia element in Palermo and the United States on behalf of SALVATORE LUCANIA and during 1948, both GAMBINO brothers met with LUCANIA at the home of their relatives in Palermo, Sicily. ...
"Investigation further developed the information that among those interested in the smuggling of these aliens was a representative of the Santo - Serge Trading Company, 196 First Avenue, New York city. This company is operated by SANTO SORGE, an intimate associate of SALVATORE LUCANIA, and it will be recalled that immediately prior to his apprehension at the Apalachin meeting JOSEPH BONANNO was observed at Palermo Sicily, in the company of SANTO SORGE."

It could be theorized that Gambino, Bonanno, Luciano and possibly other bosses were involved in one major smuggling ring, Santo Sorge being a common denominator. Whatever the case, Gambino was considered a top narcotics dealer and had overseen a drug ring that stretched from Palermo, Sicily, to America, The Federal Bureau of Narcotics' Harry J. Anslinger tended to over-hype Luciano's influence, however.

Gentile eventually decided to write about his Mafia experiences. In 1963 Vita di Capomafia hit bookstores' shelves in Italy (the same year Joe Valachi appeared before the American public to expose America's Cosa Nostra after Vito Genovese deemed him a rat and ordered his murder.)

The published version, co-written with a journalist, included and expanded upon material from an earlier manuscript that America's intelligence community got hold of and translated into English.

The book was a hot item for Italy's media as it prompted widespread newspaper coverage at the time.

Gentile's early manuscript, the published book and articles were used by U.S. law enforcement officials as corroboration for Valachi's testimony, some allege. Most likely, bits of Gentile's work were provided to Valachi to fill gaps in his knowledge of the Mafia or to help jog his memory, some theorize.

Also Greg Scarpa was providing the FBI with information; it's been alleged he too was tapped to supplement Valachi's knowledge. Those "family trees" hanging on the walls were rather extensive for one man's memory.

The Mafia condemned Gentile for writing the book. His death was ordered for violating Omerta. 

The hitters, oddly, chose not to shoot the man, however. It's weird but true that Gentile was allowed to die of old age. Now this scenario is ludicrous. Shooters were routinely killed for disobeying orders -- so they must have carried out a true order....

The death went unnoticed by the American press but Gentile lives on as a reference for such mob scholars as John Dickie and Alex Hortis.