After Apalachin, FBI Targeted Boss Carlo Gambino

The following is based on Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino's FBI files.

The Apalachin Meeting marked a major turning point in FBI history.

America’s premiere law enforcement agency could no longer bury its head in the sand about organized crime. With the raid in upstate New York, it was clear that a national crime syndicate operated inside the United States.

The FBI, following the Apalachin Meeting, shined a bright spotlight into Cosa Nostra boss Carlo Gambino's past,
Carlo Gambino, around the time of his coup into power.

J. Edgar Hoover realized that the Mafia not only existed but posed a national security threat of inconceivable proportions. This was due largely to its ability to corrupt America’s duly elected officials.

Immediately, the FBI sought to gain intelligence on who exactly made up this criminal entity.

Luckily, they had state and city crime files to examine. Additionally, the FBN, the now-defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics, had been investigating the Mafia for decades. The Feds coopted the FBN’s files as well.

A top target was Carlo Gambino, boss of the Gambino crime family, one of New York’s Five Families.

The FBI launched a herculean effort to build a comprehensive profile of Gambino. In addition to expanding an investigation of the man, the Feds also began researching Gambino's criminal record, which was quite lengthy by the time of the hastily put-together Mafia "summit" at mobster Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara's home on November 14, 1957.

Gambino was considered a top narcotics dealer and had overseen a drug ring that stretched from Palermo, Sicily, to America, supposedly in partnership with Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, though the Federal Bureau of Narcotics' Harry J. Anslinger tended to over-hype Luciano's influence for reasons known only to himself.

"Carlo Gamino with RM," sent to me by private owner....

There was an ongoing effort to deport Gambino from the U.S., though Italy didn't go out of its way to voice much support. From the 1950s until his death, Gambino was always in critical condition, or so he told law enforcement through his doctors and attorneys. He had "convenient" health problems that helped get him out of a number of jams. Also assisting him: The INS actually feared that he'd die while in their custody. At least this was the reason cited in FBI filings regarding why Gambino was never deported. (It's also believed he bribed two U.S. Senators.)

Gambino did have true medical problems, though, as evidenced by scars on his body. He had a scar on his chest as well as two on his back, one over each kidney, the result of medical operations. His facial scars, one on his lower lip and another on the side of his famous "hawk" nose, obviously didn't stem from a surgeon's scalpel.

The Apalachin meeting, which was said to focus on drug dealing, also had on its agenda a more immediate concern.

As part of Vito Genovese's plot to remove a key enemy and solidify his power in the mob, Anastasia was hit in 1957 in the barbershop of the Park Sheraton hotel in midtown Manhattan. Genovese had taken Gambino into his confidence to thwart his rivals on the Mafia Commission, and the meeting upstate was to introduce both men as new bosses.

A young Carlo Gambino 

Genovese was the collective Mafia Commission's obvious major concern at the time. He'd ordered the hit on Frank Costello, who survived and was definitely known to have backed the hit on another boss, Anastasia. Nevertheless, not long after his formal "coming out" he was arrested and imprisoned. He remained a powerful mob boss whose very word sent men on the street to their deaths, Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo among them. Another order that Genovese passed on too late (depending on who you ask) concerned a soldier known as "Joe Cago."

The mobsters at Apalachin probably didn't appreciate (or have cause to) news of Gambino's rise to power, though he quickly fashioned himself into a force to to be reckoned with inside America's Cosa Nostra.

While the Feds indeed put Gambino under the glass in 1957, it wasn't until five years later that they realized Gambino was a much, much bigger fish than even they'd first thought. According to a memo from May 1962, the quiet, 5'7" Sicilian with the nose of a hawk suddenly transformed into a priority for J. Edgar Hoover's G-men.

It is imperative that every effort be made to establish highly confidential coverage of Gambino in view of his position as a "Commission" member and his obvious importance as a top leader in the criminal organization controlled by the "Commission." Considerable information has been developed recently indicating that Gambino is of key importance at the top level in the organized crime underworld in this country as an arbitrator and consultant....

Because of Gambino's key position on the "Commission" it is of utmost importance that we obtain the desired coverage of his activities, enabling us to stay currently informed on his contacts with some of the most important racket figures in this country.

Gambino served for two decades as the absolute ruler of his family (and had a strong influence on other families, including the Genovese family). Low key and secretive, he set the standard followed by countless other mobsters of his day (and probably these days.) Still, while he lived relatively modestly he was indeed of legendary wealth, stashing cash, jewels and other valuables in safety deposit boxes in banks spread across New York City. He also was renowned for his ability to put together up to $10 million in cash at a moment's notice.

The FBI referred to him as "Boss of Bosses" of "LCN" and "the most powerful racketeer in the country."

They certainly knew enough about him to designate him as such.

Copy of chart presented at Valachi hearings. 


Gambino's career in the Mafia extended back to the 1920s, when he arrived in America having been a stowaway. He disembarked in Norfolk, Virginia, in December of 1921 (we incorrectly reported the year as 1931), from the S.S. Vincenzo Florio.

The first mention of him by law enforcement was in the form of a memo by the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol Tax Unit in November of 1934, included in the FBI's 1957 filings. It read in part:

Since the coming of Prohibition, there has been in the City of New York and vicinity and extending into the State of New Jersey a notorious, daring group of bootleggers known as the GAMBINO outfit. The principal members of this outfit are: CARLO GAMBINO; his brother PAUL GAMBINO; and their cousin ANTHONY GAMBINO.

Gambino, in 1935, appeared at the U.S. embassy in Montreal, Canada to formally request a visa, but was denied. Nevertheless, he crossed back into America. He never left (except for that trip he made to Sicily in 1948 to meet his brother, who'd fled U.S. law enforcement, and Charlie Lucky, according to the FBI files. Oh, you didn't hear about that one? Neither did we.

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 conducted by the Bureau of Narcotics after 30 some odd Sicilians had been smuggled into the United States aboard the SS Panormus at the Port of Philadelphia during May 1948, disclosed that CARLO GAMBINO was involved in the smuggling of these aliens and that some of these aliens in turn had smuggled substantial quantities of heroin into the United States as payment for being brought into the country.

"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."

Gambino was married on December 5, 1926 by Pastor A.R. Cioffi in Brooklyn, where Gambino hung his hat for most of his life (he took up residence in the Bronx once).

Gambino walked out of Lewisburg having served around four days of a 22-month sentence.

He was arrested in 1930 in Boston for "a handkerchief game and a pill game," which was later noted as simply a "handkerchief pill game." In researching this, we could find no definition of what the hell this was. It was larceny, though, and it did saddle Gambino with a prison sentence.

Sort of...

GAMBINO was sentenced to serve 22 months on May 19, 1939, at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by US District Judge GEORGE WELSH (Indictment #7609) plus pay a fine of $2,500 for conspiracy to violate the Internal Revenue Liquor laws. He was committed to the US Penitentiary, Lewisburg, on May 23, 1939, and released on bail on May 27, 1939, pending appeal. By letter dated January 21, 1941, the Penitentiary was advised the Clerk of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, that Judgment was reversed and a new trial ordered.

So he served four days, walked out, and TWO YEARS LATER a letter arrived ordering a new trial.

Story continues below....

We learn in later documents that those four days were likely the only time Gambino spent behind bars.

The results of the new trial were not reflected in the files at Lewisburg.

Gambino also was arrested for bootlegging and tax evasion in 1937 and 1938, for example, but always paid his way out of prison via a fine (and whatever was handed under to the table to whomever). Also in his favor, wiretapping was then illegal. Therefore, attorneys were able to quash indictments based on evidence from wiretaps. This legal gambit plunged Simone Rizzo DeCavalcante aka "Sam the Plumber" deeply into hot water in the 1960s, as noted in New York's Four Crime Families?

FBI files also noted that Francesco "Frank" Scalice (also spelled Scalise), Anastasia's underboss, shot dead by two gunmen in a fruit store in the Bronx months before Anastasia's death, had Gambino's name on a piece of paper found on him. (Two hitmen... shot in a fruit store -- well, among fruit.... Sound familiar?)

Would this have added impetus to Gambino's decision to order the hit on the Mad Hatter? We can only wonder...

This information, again, was compiled in 1957, after Apalachin.

That same year, on December 9, Gambino thwarted immigration's efforts to deport him by entering a hospital for surgery. (In a somewhat comical episode, the FBI noted that agents tried to arrest Gambino, only they couldn't find him. They called his house and whoever answered the phone said, "He's not here." The Feds, without a warrant, couldn't search Gambino's residence, though they were certain he was either holed up inside or on the lam. Turned out, he was in the hospital.)

Gambino was off limits to law enforcement because he was going under the scalpel of Dr. Samuel A. Thompson at the Flower Hospital on Fifth Avenue and 106th Street, presently known as the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center.

Hoover himself, in a memo, pegged Gambino's chances of living as "not good." Wishful thinking on Hoover's part, or was he merely relaying what the good doctor had told him? Hoover, as is known, had problems recognizing the Mafia publicly because he wanted not one iota of attention to be diverted from what he considered the true menace to America: Communism.

That is, until he realized, following Apalachin, the extent of the mob's ability to corrupt politicians. This helped to sway his thinking that the Mafia was indeed a menace capable of subverting the U.S. government's rule of law. Back then, anyways.

Certainly that is not the case today.


  1. Definately the most interesting and low key of all of the old style bosses,would love to see a movie about him or a really good book.

  2. I did know actually! I read this on Friends of Ours at the back end of last year. Still - great reading as always, Ed. Gambino and Gigante are the mafioso I'm most interested in. Interesting to read Genovese's kiss of death is debated - I've always thought Genovese was a poor boss after that and the infamous meeting. I wonder whether the Genovese family hoodwinked Gambino with the front boss or if he really was in control.

  3. The only other boss I can say was even remotely close to Don Carlo's status, while remaining elusive to law enforcement, was Big Tuna....but that was in Chicago not The Big Apple.

  4. Minor correction, If you read the FBI files it says Gambino first entered the country on December 23, 1921, not 1931.

  5. Gambino was a great boss but a story I read in Joe Bonannos bio made me look at him a little differently then everyone else, in it Bonanno talks about Gambino being Anastasias capo but flunkie, he said Anastasia sent him on an errand and Gambino messed it up and when he came back Anastasia raised his hand to bitch smack him n Gambino just stood there with that Mona lisa smile. I think that's why when he became boss the old time bosses like Bonanno had no respect for him.

  6. Very powerful Boss. Gambino was a low-key boss. He lived in a modest house and was very low profile. The only real evidence of vanity was his license plate on his Buick, CG-1. Nice story Ed.

  7. Carlo G. did not wake up one morning and call a meeting of the top guys in his family and decide that Eboli had to go. There were the usual sit downs involved and the higher-ups in the Genovese knew what was coming down and maybe even did the hit for Gambino. Those were very different times. If you walked into an Italian neighborhood and they didn't know you they would look at you like you were the elephant man. God forbid if a non-Italian stranger would ask for directions. They wouldn't even talk to them. Gambino did not dictate who the Genovese boss would be. There's a lot of treachery in that life. Funzi Tieri was a class act and very shrewd, even more shrewder than Gambino. Gambino was at the right place at the right time. Don Vito was by no means stupid. When he went to hide in Italy he took over the black market, had Mussolini wrapped around his pinkie, and after Mussolini went down, the wiggled his was into the US Army as an interpreter. Even the heavy hitters that are out there today, and I may have mentioned some on my responses here and there, couldn't shine these guys shoes.

  8. From what I've seen and heard I'm of the opinion that Big Tuna was of equal status or even bigger than Gambino. My opinion is the real mob died with these guys. I once saw somewhere that when a Chicago heavy passed away, some bookie started dating his girlfriend, not his wife. The dead wiseguys crew had the bookie whacked. They reasoning was that it was ordered from the grave. That's old school cosa nostra.
    The Chicago mob has been written off too soon. They still got their hands in public contracts and unions in the windy city. it's just not in our faces like years ago.

  9. Do you think that's the same as Carlo just smiling when that drunk soldier start mouthing off at him in public? Smile, stay calm....get them later. That seems like it was Carlo's way of working. Whether it shows he had balls or not, I don't know. Maybe balls would have been whacking Anastasia there and then.

  10. Another would be tocco from detroit who died a year or two ago and was boss for almost 3 decades and I believe onlyy served 2 years in jail in operation gametax

  11. I think it's waaay different, your talking about being humiliated in front of a bunch of made men, men at the time who would die before they would let that happen to them, you have to remember, at that time it was alll about honor, I will say this though, I bet Gambino had that Mona lisa smile when Genovese told him he can whack Anastasia lol

  12. Did you know (I didn't) that Gambino went to Sicily in the 1940s and smuggled 30 frigging Sicilians into America? Supposedly he was paid in heroin, and ran a drug ring from Palermo to New York? He was sentenced to 22 months for some kind of "handkerchief and pill" scam, did about four days at Allenwood and walked out because the jury verdict was overturned?? Some unbelievable shit in his files! Still sorting it all out.....

  13. I don't know but remember Bonanno tried to murder Gambino and Luchese....only they chose Joe Colombo!

  14. YES!!! You are correct.... I'm revising this and expanding it. Been wading through his files....

  15. That's my point Ed, Bonanno, Profochi had no respect for him, if you get a chance read Bonannos bio, he had 25 years more experience as a boss than Gambino, the guy was a boss at 26, think about that, that's unheard of! Not just a boss but an effective boss, the guy went untouched n unheard of for decades! He was so strong that when they found out he wanted to kill those bosses they couldn't kill him cause they knew he knew how to go to war, everyone looks at Bonanno at the backend of his life but he was the man for a long time, don't forget he lived to be 95 n died in his bed like Gambino with only doing 18 months of jail, pretty impressive!

  16. But hindsight is 20/20. Bonanno wrote his memoir after all the incidents he wrote about actually occurred.... He lost his seat and was run out of New York. The Commission, led by Gambino, almost ordered his end and, as I wrote about previously, nearly redistributed his family. So Bonanno had an opportunity to bitch slap his enemy if he chose.

  17. Mona Lisa smile. So true gonna steal that for my rewrite.

  18. Amazing stuff. Carlo's my "favourite" - if such a term is applicable.

  19. Not only is the Big Tuna close to Gambino but he's over him, think about it,he ran Chicago from the 40s until he died in 92, that's a 5 decade run, Gambino only had a 20 year run, ran the whole Chicago to where Gambino ran one family n had influence on others, Chicago also ran all the mid west Milwaukee, Kansas city, Detroit, and on top of it the man never did a day in jail, hands down he's the top boss of all time!

  20. Ed,
    Gambino importing zips is no secret, but I was not aware of it going as far back as the 1940's. I'm not surprised as these Sicilians are the wily coyotes of the mafia. They are the originators. While eventually Neapolitans and Calabrese came into the fold, there were still factions and favoritism in their hearts. When push comes to shove Sicilians (the ones born there or raised with dialect Sicilian speaking parents) only trust Sicilians. Angelo Bruno supposedly had a ban on narcotics, but he was very cozy with Cherry Hill Gambinos and Carl himself. He had to be getting a piece in my opinion. I was unaware of all the other stuff you mentioned. Good find. I wish you luck with these Mafia Dead Sea Scrolls.
    All the original zip bosses had there personal branch of unknowns way back when. The Genovese family which was and still is, I think, predominantly Neapolitan developed that secret boss thing after Genovese went down. There was always a rumor that the drug bust that took Genovese and Co. down was a setup by none other than Don Carlo himself to get Genovese out of the way, the only non-Sicilian boss on the commission at the time.
    From what I have been told by some really old time Sicis is years ago if you were being groomed for the mafia in Sicily, they would give you a couple of errands to do and see how well you did. From there, they would give you a little more. Then, sometimes even set you up or let you go down for the fall to see how you conduct yourself in jail. If all goes well and you are a true Mafioso then you're made. I have no clue if this happens today. One thing is for sure in Sicily, unless you are related to royalty, you are not getting made unless you've done some jail time, and I'm not talking about six months.
    If the new administration of the Gambinos are the real bosses and not caretakers, you may see an even bigger resurgence in years to come. The Gambinos still dominate much of the construction industry in New York. If they are not the real bosses and just caretakers, maybe create a coup.
    God Bless, Ed. Thanks for the info. Sorry about the rant, but as the Baptist ministers say, when you're in the spirit, let if flow.

  21. Loving the updates to the story Ed

  22. yea juniors been quiet lately wonder why lol hes afraid that the rest of his 302s will come out you know the ones alite (carnisi) did not give out the ones someone else has waiting for the right moment waiting for junior to make that mistake and bad mouth him them BAMMMM the 302s that are not published lmmfao will be

  23. Ed, great update.

  24. Old school, an old new Irish guy who worked for my dad told me the story about the church that got robbed and how Gambino put out the word to find the culprits....stop me if you heard this one....and the perps got strangled with rosary beads.....I have my doubts about this by I don't think beads are strong enough to choke a man with and also I've heard this one where profaci was the boss who ordered the hit....

  25. Lou, did you read roemers book, the genuine godfather? accardo had guys faces burned off with acetylene torches! Also I read that the Chicago outfit let an associate who trafficked in drugs do his time and then killed him in front of his wife and kids when he got out.....

  26. Jereme from DetroitApr 8, 2015, 11:11:00 PM

    "Who'd of thought the king of the volcano lived in this place"

  27. Thanks (all of you). It's long, tedious and repetitive but I was amazed to find such interesting insight. I thought I knew most of what was worth knowing about Gambino but I truly enjoy losing myself in these pages and pages. I may start doing these kinds of stories based directly on mining FBI files for these interesting nuggets heretofore mostly forgotten and unknown.

  28. The church is called Regina Pacis on 65th Street in Brooklyn. I've been to many a weddings and funerals there. I usually would capitalize the word church, but in this case I leave it lower case because the funding of this church came from Joe Profaci himself, supposedly known for smuggling heroin via his many olive oil businesses. I think they used to call him the olive oil king. Maybe Ed knows about that. I believe the crown of the Madonna was stolen or something to that effect. I don't know if it was made of real gold and precious jewels, but it was definitely made with fine materials and worth big bucks. Supposedly, he used the Gallo gang to find the thieves and take care of business. If you look to the ceiling like in many Catholic churches there is a mural of a heavenly scene, Profaci had himself as a youth painted in the mural. He also bought Theodore Roosevelt's house in upstate New York and had his own chapel built there. For me, the guy is burning in hell. I don't know how the thief or thieves was killed. I doubt that rosary beads were used.

  29. Yea I read his book! The Big Tuna was amazing! At their peek the outfit had 10,000 bookie joints plus took over the wire business which was the only way at the time to get results on any action like horse racing, he had the movie unions n the casinos in Vegas, New York isn't that much bigger than Chicago n yet it took 5 family's to run NY to hold the peace to where it was only the outfit in Chicago which means their family was waaaay bigger than any one family in NY n maybe as big as all combined,,for one man to be supreme of alll that n never to do ONE day in jail n die in peace at home makes him hands down the greatest mob boss of all time!

  30. There is a huge mob presence here in Detroit and they are very powerful. They are very good at flying under the radar.

  31. There is a huge mob presence here in Detroit and they are very powerful. They are very good at flying under the radar. Perhaps you could do a story on The Detroit Partnership sometime Mr. Scarpo.

  32. I wouldn't call their presence huge. Powerful, under the radar, and rich in history, absolutely. Step away from the east side and most don't even know we have a mob. Its not uncommon for a bookie to not even know he's paying a mobbed-up guy. What are they now, back up to 30 made guys? Even the arrests about 6 years ago, the feds went out of their way to say it wasn't a mafia case, despite the last names of Tocco and Giacalone of two defendants. New boss Jackie Giacalone was acquitted then. If you've been around the streets, you'd know the Giacalone name more so than the Tocco name. Rich in history: Jackie is the nephew of Tony Giacalone, was who Hoffa was meeting on his last day. And Jackie's father Vito was the only Detroit leader with no alibi when Hoffa went missing. When Tony Zerilli went live with his own Hoffa broadcast he said it was Jackie that told him what happened to Hoffa. Recently deceased boss of 30+ years, Jack Tocco's brother, Tony, and Tony Zerilli both married daughters of Joe Profaci (both women are still alive as well as the disgraced Zerilli). But you still won't find many around that even know these names. The only other newsworthy case was the two zip brothers that beat a new restaurant owner with a bat for opening across the street from their restaurant two years ago.

  33. I've met Tony Giacalone when I was very young I barely remember it. He used to come in the club my gramma worked at. Also, my grammas brother, my great uncle was very close with Billy Jack. And I recall the incident with the bat and the new restaurant owner.

  34. I used to work for a union construction company out of sterling heights I won't mention the company's name for obvious reasons but their main office is on 16 mile west of van dyke. The owners name is the name of the company. We built freedom hill park and some other things while I was with them. I met a few interesting guys in that time. Also, I did a little work at the transfer station in Detroit on clay. Met a few interesting fellas there as well.

  35. If you havent yet, you should delve into your family's background, sounds connected. These guys didn't trust just anyone!

  36. I know a little bit. Just what's been passed down. I've found some things online about my great uncle, my grandfather and my great grandfather. Little bits n pieces. I'm gonna look into it a little more soon.

  37. silver fox charlieApr 11, 2015, 8:04:00 PM

    oh boy im hearing more 302s are on there way and yes juniors the ones that weren't published should knock his book out the picture smile for the cameras now john jr gotti

  38. Did you get the job from your family? I would've guessed your background came from the produce business at Eastern Market.


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