Missing Rochester Boss Paid Price For Threatening Buffalo Chieftain Stefano Magaddino

So what happened to Jake Russo, then?

Stefano Magaddino never met a dollar he didn't covet.



Did he become part of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, as one of many rumors making the rounds after his 1964 disappearance alleged?

Not according to new claims that Russo was done in because he dared to threaten a boss who made unreasonable demands of him. Stefano Magaddino, the ruthless, Buffalo-based mob boss whose influence extended from parts of New York (including Rochester) and Pennsylvania to Toronto for more than 30 years, was legendary for his stinginess and cruelty.






Threatening Magaddino to his face about how you planned to undermine him was tantamount to signing your own death warrant.

Magaddino was "the Undertaker" because of his Niagara Falls funeral home, but also because of his knack for ordering murders. A Sicilian immigrant, Magaddino, cousin to Joseph Bonanno, smuggled liquor across Lake Ontario from Canada during Prohibition.


In 1963, while out on bail, Magaddino associate Albert Agueci had threatened the boss for not using his connections to help Albert and his brother after they were busted for drugs.

Albert threatened to go to the FBI and start filling them in on everything if Magaddino didn't help. Magaddino had been well aware of the Agueci brothers' narcotics business and was glad to pocket their tributes. But Magaddino couldn't have cared less when the cops busted the two.

And once Albert issued his threat, it was all over for him. He was found dead a few days later, his body badly burned and missing 40 pounds of flesh, which had been sliced off. Both arms and legs were broken, as was his jaw. The sawing, cutting and breaking had been done while Albert was alive. He had been strangled to death, then doused with gasoline and set afire.

The moral of the story? Threaten Stefano Magaddino and not even God the holy father could help you.


The Democrat & Chronicle recently reported that based on videotaped interviews with former Rochester mob consigliere Rene Piccarreto Sr. before his 2014 death, Jake Russo had been strangled in the basement of a restaurant in downtown Rochester run by Frank Valenti, who took control after Russo vanished.

Piccarreto had finished a prison sentence for racketeering in 2007 and moved to California, where he was interviewed by local filmmakers. The video was shared with Piccarreto's family in Rochester, who allowed the Democrat and Chronicle to watch some of them. The reporters weren't allowed to copy the videos.

As per Piccarreto: Shortly before Russo’s disappearance, he had argued with Magaddino, who had suddenly decided he wanted a larger cut from local Rochester gambling operations.

"He told Jake, 'I want to see $200 a week here,'" Piccarreto said. "... Jake told him at that point ... 'Steve, I can't give you $200 a week if I haven’t got it.' The old man said, 'I want to see $200 a week — every week.'" (In current dollars, $200 would equal about $1,600.)

Piccarreto, who went with Russo to the Buffalo meeting, said that Russo had implied to Magaddino that he'd go directly over his head to "the Commission in New York (City)" to tell them of Magaddino's unreasonableness.

"When Jake challenged him that way, (Magaddino) knew he had a problem with Jake Russo," Piccarreto said. "When we got in the car, I said 'Jake, you made a mistake. You should have never forewarned this guy what we were going to do.'" Not long thereafter, on Sept. 12, 1964, Russo vanished.

Russo had brothers in charge of some of Rochester's illegal crap games, and Magaddino somehow believed that Russo was giving his brothers too large a cut.

It wasn't so, Piccarreto said in the video interview. For a time the games weren't bringing in a lot of cash. Russo only made sure that his brothers and others at least took home enough to survive.

"Greedy old man that (Magaddino) was, he said: 'I don't want to hear anything about your brothers, taking care of your brothers,'" Piccarreto said.

Then Magaddino suddenly demanded an extra $200 weekly, even after Russo said there wasn't enough money to pay that amount.

After that meeting, Magaddino sent some of his guys to Rochester to keep an eye on gambling activities.

"The old man told these guys that he sent from Buffalo, his henchmen, 'Check (Russo) out and see what he's doing.'"

Piccarreto said he's sure there was no evidence that Russo was shafting Magaddino.

Magaddino had made up his mind regardless: Russo had had the balls to challenge him, and he would die for it.

On Sept. 11, 1964, Russo got a call to meet Valenti for dinner the next day. He left his house Sept. 12, telling his wife where he was going. He never returned.

The next day Phyllis Russo called her husband's friend, Rene Piccarreto, who had not been at the meeting. But Piccarreto was sure that Magaddino had gotten just what he wanted: Russo was dead, and Frank Valenti was again in charge.

Piccarreto later learned more. "They took him downstairs (at the restaurant). They had a few guys there. They choked him and then they wrapped him up and buried him. That's the demise of Jake Russo."

Shortly after Russo was gone, Piccarreto and his friend, Samuel (Red) Russotti, were summoned to a meeting with Magaddino. Piccarreto believed it would be his doom, and that he’d never return from that meeting. (Russotti would become the local mob leader after Valenti was later forced out of town.)

The meeting was in a Magaddino-owned restaurant that was closed for the afternoon. Magaddino had Piccarreto sit in a chair in front of him and asked for proof that Russo had been stealing from the gambling operations.

"Jake Russo, what did he do with all that money?" Magaddino asked.

"He didn't have any money. What are you talking about?"

"You're a liar," Magaddino said, stabbing his finger into Piccarreto's chest.

"I said, 'Steve, I'm not a liar,'" Piccarreto said in the videotaped interview.

Magaddino was surrounded by gunsels, and Piccarreto sensed that the truth had finally sunk in. "There was no reason to kill (Russo), outside of he was going to take him down in front of his peers from New York."

For decades, Rochester had been a major hub for organized crime activity , but after Russo's disappearance, and with the subsequent ascension of Frank Valenti, Rochester entered its most notorious era. Bombings, arsons, killings, and wholesale theft, greed, and corruption would ultimately speed up the eventual downfall of the mob there.



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