Sicilian Mafia Reached Its Worst When Corleonesi Ruled Commission

"Everything is a message, everything is full of meaning in the world of Cosa Nostra, no detail is too small to be overlooked.”
--Giovanni Falcone

Luciano Leggio, Corleonesi leader who took control of the Commission.

One of the Sicilian Mafia’s most prolific killers was Giuseppe "Pino" Greco (January 4, 1952 – September 1985), aka The Shoe. Born in Ciaculli, an outlying town in Palermo province, he joined the Sicilian Mafia and by the 1980s, sat on the Commission when it was ruled by his uncle, Michele Greco, the Ciaculli boss. Greco’s Ciaculli family, to use the common American term, was closely allied with Salvatore (Shorty) Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, leaders of the Corleonesi, first as Luciano Leggio's direct underlings, then on their own following Leggio's 1974 arrest.

Pino was Riina’s favorite hit man. In fact, Riina manipulated Greco and some of his blood relations in the Mafia to knock out Palermo rivals of the Corleonesi. Pino Greco may have killed as many as 80 people. In 1981, his victims included two of the Sicilian Mafia's most powerful Palermo bosses, Stefano Bontate, head of the Santa Maria di Gesù family, and Salvatore Inzerillo, boss of the Mafia clan in Passo di Rigano. The deaths kicked off what's known as the Second Mafia War. The war was Totò Riina and the Corleonesi’s effort to destroy their Mafia rivals, primarily the Palermo-based Sicilian crime families ruling the Commission. Riina also wanted a piece of what's known as The Pizza Connection, or Transatlantic Syndicate, as John Dickie refers to it. Riina would  eventually take an ownership position in the massive heroin trafficking scheme stretching from Palermo to the Corsicans in France to the Gambinos and Bonannos in New York via Montreal.

Riina had a taste for irony based on some of the circumstances of some hits (or it was simply the handiwork of fate). For example, shortly before his death, Inzerillo had acquired a bullet-proof car. On May 11, Inzerillo was gunned down in Palermo while leaving his mistress's house. He was walking to the bullet-proof vehicle when Greco opened up on him with his trusty AK-47, his primary weapon, the same weapon used to kill Bontate. The same weapon he frequently used.

Salvatore Inzerillo, boss of the Passo di Riganos, was so shot up, some reports noted, that the bullets rendered him almost unrecognizable.

When a younger Inzerillo later thundered about revenge, Greco chopped off his arm, the one attached to the hand that would've fired a gun at Riina.

New York's Gambino Crime Family
Inzerillo mobsters, on the verge of extermination by the ruthless Corleonesi, fled to as far away as New York. A deal was allegedly worked out that allowed the surviving Inzerillos to take refuge under the Gambinos' flag with the proviso that none of them or their offspring ever returned to Sicily. 

Frank Cali, allegedly boss of the Gambino crime family today, is related to the Inzerillos through marriage. He married Rosaria (called "Roseanne"), sister of Pietro (Tall Pete) Inzerillo, a Gambino mobster during former Gambino capo Michael DiLeonardo's time. Both Tall Pete and Rosemary were born in New York City, according to Mikie Scars. "Tall Pete," said DiLeonardo, using Pietro's nickname, "is of the bloodline of the Inzerillos of Sicily."

After Totò Riina and other hardline Corleonesi like Leoluca Bagarella were arrested, the Inzerillos started returning to Sicily.

Sicily's Second Mafia War
The 1981 killing of Bontate, boss of the Santa Maria di Gesù family in Palermo, is recognized as the first shots of the Second Mafia War. How many were killed during the course of the war?According to some academics, between 500 and 1,000 were slain in the war's first two years.

As part of Rome's efforts to end the Mafia War, they appointed an army general to get to work. Pino Greco and a team of shooters promptly killed him months after his appointment.

On May 1, 1982, General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa was appointed prefect for Palermo to stop the Second Mafia War. He was murdered in Palermo on September 3, 1982, on Riina’s orders. (The way the hit was carried out foreshadowed the murder of Giovanni Falcone some 10 years later.) Pino led the team of Mafia shooters, personally participating in the hit—considered one of the Sicilian Mafia’s most audacious. The General and his second wife were driving through the city at night when gunmen (on motorcycles and in one vehicle) forced them off the road. The mobsters used their car to ram the General's car and trap Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, his wife, and a police guard inside the vehicle. What raced through their minds as the shooters assembled themselves? Pino, armed with a Kalashnikov, leaped onto the hood of the crash car to better aim downward at the General and began firing. 

When the shooting stopped the three inside the car were shot to pieces and were quite dead. 

Pino Greco also allegedly participated in many of the murders committed in Filippo Marchese’s Room of Death. The garrote was allegedly the weapon of choice for murders  committed in the apartment. Think of Roy DeMeo and the apartment behind the Gemini Lounge.

After the Second War, Pino was feeling strong having killed so many. Gaining his own seat on the Commission, he didn’t realize he’d been a pawn of Riina’s. He believed his reputation was the truth. He felt entitled to ignore his uncle, Michele Greco, a Palermo boss (derisively referred to as “the Pope”). Michele Greco also was nominal boss of the Sicilian Mafia Commission, marking a return of the Palermo families to power that was short-lived.

Pino Greco began thinking he was superior to his uncle and other Commission members and stopped attending Commission meetings. His underlings grew concerned for their own welfare when Pino Greco stopped attending the meetings, a blatant sign of disrespect. The Shoe didn't fail to show his outright contempt for the entire Sicilian Mafia. His men approached Riina with their concerns. Riina, seeking to offer his  "help," got them to kill Pino Greco. Riina was a genius at playing people, especially when the game was to play them against one another. He was able to knock out many an enemy, as well as potential threats, using indirect means. Eventually, members of more than one Mafia family turned on their own boss and killed him in an effort to place themselves in Riina's good graces. The effort generally failed.

Riina even killed the Corleonesi's most proficient killers -- well before they could even ponder their own aspirations in the hierarchy.

The May 1992 killing of prosecuting judge Falcone—followed by the murder of judge Paolo Borsellino two months later—outraged Italians. Riina wanted to decapitate Italy's anti-Mafia campaign. But Riina also was also seeking revenge by taking out two of the chief architects of Italy's Maxi Trial, the largest criminal trial against the Sicilian Mafia ever. It took place in Palermo, commencing on February 10, 1986, and ending on January 30, 1992.

The Corleonesi began striking back in the loudest and clearest ways imaginable. And there were "messages" in some of the hits' details, for those who cared to look for them. For example, instead of killing Falcone in Rome, which would've been much easier, Riina ordered it done in Sicily, the region forever linked to the Mafia.

But for probably the first and only time, Riina miscalculated. While the killings certainly struck terror in the hearts of a nation, the Italian Government responded by launching one of the largest mob crackdowns ever. Seven-thousand Italian soldiers marched across Sicily and arrested Riina, the Sicilian Mafia’s “boss of bosses” in January of 1993. (Baldassare Di Maggio, a Mafioso-turned-informer led authorities to one of Riina’s hideouts. Riina had been lamming it for more than 20 years.)

Italian investigators had rapidly identified Riina as the man who gave the orders to kill Falcone (and Borsellino and god-knows-how-many others). In November 1993, as the number of unsolved Mafia homicides mounted, and faith in Italy’s public institutions continued to erode to historically low levels following a colossal corruption scandal, anti-Mafia investigators issued an indictment that included a startling level of detail. Selwyn Raab, writing for the New York Times, noted that anti-Mafia investigators “rarely painted such a comprehensive picture of the way a crime was committed or the actual identity of those who carried it out.”

After returning to Sicily from Rome, Falcone was killed during the drive along the four-lane highway that stretched from Palermo's airport to Palermo. An armed escort was ahead of him. The bomb, hidden in a culvert over which the roadway ran, was detonated via cell phone while Falcone and his entourage were driving across the culvert. The explosion destroyed about a third of a mile of roadway.

American FBI agents identified DNA samples from cigarette butts collected by police on a nearby hilltop where a group of mobsters waited to detonate the bomb. The DNA was found to belong to Antonio Gioe, who later committed suicide in prison. Connecting Gioe to the other plotters and Riina took no time at all thanks to the network of informants working with anti-Mafia investigators.

Toto Riina.

Riina wanted only his closest and most trusted men involved in the plot to kill Falcone, the probe quickly learned. Riina gave his personal driver, Salvatore Biondino, the job of coordinating the assassination. Riina brother-in-law Leoluca Bagarella was charged with participating in the conspiracy, as was Salvatore Sbegli, who built the detonator used to explode the bomb. Gioacchino La Barbera, also charged in the indictment, followed Falcone's car as it sped toward Palermo, in direct communication with the plotters. Men had also tailed Falcone while he was still in Rome.

Today Falcone is remembered, in large part, for encouraging mobsters to break omerta, the traditional oath of silence, which protected Sicily's gangsters from prosecution for decades. After Falcone’s murder, the number of informers increased noticeably. Riina himself also is said to have helped fuel the surge in informants; specifically, it was fear of Riina's ferocious rule of the Sicilian Mafia that caused "made men" to go to anti-Mafia investigators in droves and become pentiti, simply to escape Riina's inevitable wrath, which finally died with him.