Anastasia Loyalists Faced Gambino's Wrath

Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce was born on March 15, 1914, in New York City and died on Dec. 2, 1985, in New York City.

He took to "the life" with vigor. First arrested at 16, Dellacroce swiftly went about establishing a solid criminal portfolio for himself, making it as diverse as he could. He was charged with a range of crimes and was in and out of prison most of his life. He'd served one-two year bids for assault, armed robbery, drug dealing.

But Dellacroce, a work in progress, eventually specialized in murder. And for that, the Feds never really touched the longtime Gambino crime family underboss.

Aniello Dellacroce
Neil Dellacroce

Serving as Carlo Gambino's underboss, then Paul Castellano's, Dellacroce lived a life of what can only be chronicled as unimaginable violence.

As protégé to the "Lord High Executioner" himself, Albert Anastasia, Dellacroce was a Murder Inc. button man. He learned how to administer death by some of the best practitioners.

Neil, as he's affectionately called even today, is best remembered in the zeitgeist for his role as John Gotti's mentor in the last decade of his life. Documentary footage depicts him as an old, frail-looking grandfather dying of cancer.

Owing to the poor judgment and basic stupidity of one of his own proteges (Angelo Ruggiero, aka Quack Quack, so named because he tended to waddle when he walked), the old-school gangster historically headquartered in Manhattan's Little Italy (specifically out of the Ravenite social club) was denied the simple luxury of dying in peace.

Dellacroce, who intimately understood Cosa Nostra, was placed (and not for the first time) in the position of opposing a sitting boss; he mounted a challenge, feeble though it was, to Paul Castellano by stalling the handover of wiretap transcripts of Ruggiero's conversations.

The Tall Guy, Aniello Dellacroce

On top of that, Dellacroce faced two major racketeering indictments, including the Commission Case. (A thoughtful Rudolph Giuliani, then United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, rolled the cases into one for Dellacroce's convenience.)

The longtime Cosa Nostra boss avoided that particular trainwreck by dying.

It's ironic, the notion of Neil protecting a drug dealer.

Dellacroce knew better than most rank-and-file Mafiosi that certain transgressions required the ultimate punishment. Dellacroce also probably knew that many Mafiosi -- including some otherwise good men -- were brutally murdered for breaking laws that were, at best, selectively enforced.

It's not like the mob created the Magna Carta, in other words. Don't talk to cops, don't deal drugs, don't fool around with another guy's woman, etc. (See mob hypocrisy in Castellano story.)

Dellacroce knew the price paid by made men who broke the rules.

Such men were one of the reasons why the Mafia required Murder Inc.'s services.

The Mob's Inhouse Hit Squad

Albert Anastasia, as a member of the Mangano crime family, headed up Murder Inc. with Louis (Lepke) Buchalter. 

The group consisted mainly of Jewish mobsters (to confuse their mostly Italian victims). However, a contingent of Italians also was part of what Abe Reles (who created the crew in the first place) called "The Combination." (See The Canary Sang but Couldn't Fly: The Fatal Fall of Abe Reles, the Mobster Who Shattered Murder, Inc.'s Code of Silence.)

Anastasia seemed to have stumbled upon his true calling.

“Anastasia liked killing and when it looked as though he might be put on trial for murder, he wiped out witnesses and their families to protect himself. When (Charles) Luciano wanted to kill his rivals in the Castellammarese War, it was Anastasia who leapt at the chance of killing Joe the Boss – he was one of the four-strong murder squad,” noted Tim Newark in The Mafia At War: Allied Collusion with the Mob.

(Nevertheless, in 1942, the U.S. army drafted Anastasia, and at a camp in Pennsylvania he served as a technical sergeant, training soldiers how to be longshoremen. He "served with distinction and was even awarded U.S. citizenship at the end of his stint in 1944." -- Newark.)

Selwyn Raab, in Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, described how Anastasia, a Calabrian native, went on to make an indelible mark on New York’s Mafia due to "his psychopathic enjoyment of watching suffering victims die."

“He relished the private honorific his mates bestowed on him, “the Executioner,” which the press later transformed into “Lord High Executioner,” borrowing the title from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.”

Law enforcement was unable to determine the precise number of murders committed by Murder Inc. The body count is believed to have reached 60, though some believe the total surpasses 100.

Murder Inc.’s efficiency coupled with legends regarding the "Mob’s matchless death platoon reinforced in America’s underworld the terrifying effect of a Sicilian proverb:

 “Between the law and the Mafia, the law is not the most to be feared.”

Dellacroce, as an executioner for Murder Inc., would've been experienced at doing things like: carving out eyeballs, slicing off testicles, driving ice picks through ear canals and into brains, etc.

He's been described as somewhat similar to Anastasia: Dellacroce also supposedly liked to watch his victim’s eyes change as they slipped from warm life into cold death.

How do you think Dellacroce acquired the infamous stare that so chilled certain law enforcement members and at least one newspaperman?

This video includes Joe Coffey's "Dellacroce's eyes" monologue.
It's 34 minutes into the video.

Killing One of the Mob's Most Feared Bosses

Killing Anastasia was no trivial matter. Men like Anastasia are the reason why to this very day the Mafia is viewed the way it is, namely as the most violent and powerful organized crime group in America.

It was the killings of yesterday that enable bosses like Philadelphia's Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi to manage things in recent times without pulling the sword from its scabbard.

The former chief of Murder Inc. didn’t hesitate to kill, whether it was a witness poised to put him in jail or a boss who he despised and knew would forever block him from rising in the hierarchy. Anastasia slaughtered on the street or -- as was the case with Vincent Mangano -- made victims disappear. (The body of Mangano’s brother, Phil, was found.)

Santo Trafficante once told Frank Ragano why victims of mob executions sometimes vanished.

“First of all, if there’s no body, the police have a harder time finding out who did it,” Trafficante told him. “And number two, some guys do things so bad, you have to punish their families after they’re gone.”

When the victim vanished, his family could not hold a wake or funeral, and they'd be unable to collect life insurance until the legally mandated seven years had passed -- the amount of time needed for a missing person to be legally declared dead.

Don Carlo.

In 1957, Joseph (Joe the Blond) Biondo and underboss Carlo Gambino conspired to assassinate Anastasia in Manhattan’s Grasso’s Barber Shop, which Anastasia frequented on a daily basis.

Joseph Valachi had interesting insight into the Gambino takeover of the Anastasia crime family.

Valachi expressed the belief that Gambino ordered the murder only because he had the support of other Mafia bosses, chiefly Vito Genovese.

"Without Vito backing him, Carlo never would have went for it," Valachi said. "But he had a good excuse... Albert was losing at the tracks, he was there every day, and was abusing people more than ever on account of that.”

On the morning of October 25, 1957, Anastasia relaxed in a barber’s chair. (As was the case with Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel, Anastasia was not alone when he was hit, as many of you no doubt believe.)

Nephew Vincent Squillante, who handled garbage-carting shakedown rackets for Anastasia, sat beside him and the two chatted when two gunmen entered the barbershop in the Park-Sheraton hotel.

They fired five bullets into Anastasia’s head and chest with such precise aim that -- as Anastasia lunged at the mirror and then collapsed (and the duo disappeared into the crowded hotel lobby) -- Squillante, inches from the target, was completely unharmed.

That didn't stop him from running like hell, however.

“Lemme outta here!” he yelled and bolted out the door onto the street.

The Mad Hatter’s cadre of loyalists quaked with rage when they heard of the daring daylight hit.