Getting Made By Anastasia In 1953: Anthony Ruggiano Jr. Interview, Part Two

"There are two more members that are talking," from Joe Valachi's autobiography, as quoted by journalist Jack Anderson in an article published in 1963.

Fat Andy and Tony Lee.
Fat Andy and Tony Lee.

Before Anthony Ruggiano (Senior, aka Fat Andy) could get made in 1953, his name had to go around to the other New York families to solicit any possible objections.

There were objections--two, actually--one of which required then-boss Albert Anastasia to win a sitdown with the Genovese family (or the then-Luciano family).

As noted, Fat Andy and partner Tony Lee met Carmine (Charley Wagons) Fatico after they robbed his card game, but Fatico decided to hire them rather than kill them.

For this, the previous story, and the rest in this series, we are using information provided to us by Anthony Ruggiano Jr. In the next installment Anthony will address your comments...

Profaci family member John Sonny Franzese put in a claim over Fat Andy, who, Franzese argued, belonged to him. Around then Franzese (still an active mobster in the Colombo family today) was becoming "the fastest growing and most prominent loan shark in the Greater New York area." Franzese also was known for an alleged crafty ability to dodge arrests for murders by making the bodies disappear. Investigators in 2006 recorded him describing his favorite method, which included dismembering the body in a kiddie pool, cooking the parts in a microwave, and then stuffing them in the garbage disposal.

Fat Andy and Sonny were good friends, and Franzese left it up to Ruggiano himself, who decided to stay around Charley Wagons Fatico.

Larry Baccala
Fat Andy and Sonny also had been close with Larry and Junior Abbandando, both sons of the infamous Frank the Dasher, the contract killer with Murder Inc., who was known to stab his victims through the heart with an ice pick. (The Dasher was executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing in February 1942.)

Larry Abbandando, also known as Larry Baccala (his mother owned a store that sold baccala), had been especially close with Fat Andy. Larry wound up with Sonny Franzese and his Profaci family crew. Decades later, in the 1970s, Fat Andy and Gambino underboss Neil Dellacroce sought to get Larry released from Franzese so they could make him with the Gambinos. Franzese, however, refused, and Larry was never made before he died. Fat Andy and Sonny remained close nevertheless.

Sonny's attempt to claim Fat Andy when his name made the rounds enhanced Ruggiano's prestige.

Genovese soldier Anthony Carillo, aka Tony The Sheik, was out for blood, however. He raised a formal beef with Anastasia to stop Fat Andy's induction, if not his life, arguing that Fat Andy didn't deserve to become a member because he and Tony Lee had robbed card games he ran in East New York.

Tony The Sheik was the original owner of Don Peppe's restaurant, not Genovese capo Ciro Perrone, who inherited it.

Carillo's complaint was problematic for Ruggiano, and required the intervention of the Lord High Executioner himself.

"They had a sitdown," Anthony Junior told us.

The sitdown was held in Manhattan. In attendance were Anastasia, Armand (Tommy) Rava, Tony the Sheik, Charley Wagons, Tony Lee, and others.

Anthony Ruggiano Senior
Anthony Ruggiano Sr. in his 20s, shortly after he was straightened out.

Fat Andy sat at a table near the table where Anastasia and Tony the Sheik sat. He overheard the discussion.

"He's an animal," Carillo said of Fat Andy, and an animal shouldn't become an amico nostra.

Anastasia, not missing beat, shut down Carillo by arguing: "Who do you want me to straighten out? Priests?"

Later, Anthony Junior and his family often went into Manhattan for dinner at Don Peppe's. Tony the Sheik would always come over and greet the Ruggiano family at their table. "He's my best friend," Carillo would tell Fat Andy's family as the two shook hands. Then when the restaurateur walked away to greet someone else, Fat Andy would dismiss him with a wave of his hand saying, "Sure, he's my best friend now, but years ago he tried to get me killed."

Shortly before Fat Andy and Tony Lee had robbed his game, Fatico had been bumped up in his crime family and was charged with overseeing the family's operations in Brooklyn’s East New York section.

The neighborhood was a blend of one- and two-family row houses, apartment buildings, and factories for light industry. East New York was thriving territory for the New York families, with illegal bookmaking openly conducted in storefront clubs and pool rooms. (John Gotti's family moved there when he was 12.) Those days, in places like East New York, Cosa Nostra had a relatively free hand owing to the general ineffectiveness of the  FBI and the corruption of the local police.

Fatico wa s promoted by Albert Anastasia, who became boss in 1951 after Vincent Mangano was made to disappear and his brother-consiglieri Philip was shot three times in the head and dumped near Jamaica Bay in the Bergen Beach section of Brooklyn, where he was found on April 19, 1951.

Anastasia has grown into an almost mythological figure, a super-villain who killed tens of thousands, as NYPD detective Ralph Salerno seriously argued. To calculate Anastasia's rightful place in the underworld, read Thomas Hunt's King of the Brooklyn Docks, which notes: "Though history has focused on his explosive brutality and his short fuse, Anastasia was arguably a criminal visionary. With his Brooklyn friends Joe Adonis and Vincent Mangano, Anastasia brought a never-before-seen level of organization to waterfront labor racketeering."

Anastasia put his pants on one leg at a time. He also seemed to be fair-minded, as per Joe Valachi, who provides a detailed description of how Anastasia officiated at a sitdown involving Joe Cargo and wiseguy Frank Luciano.

In 1947, Valachi, a member of what became the Genovese family, and Frank Luciano, a soldier with the Mangano family (later the Gambino family) argued, and Valachi knocked Luciano out.

"He was robbing me blind," Valachi would say of the brawl.

Valachi hurriedly took a trip to Greenwich Village to see Tony Bender, aka Anthony Strollo, who was his capo (or "lieutenant, " as Valachi called him) at the time.

“Well, you are on the carpet,” Bender told Valachi. “There is going to be a table. Frank has reported that you beat him. It will be at Duke’s. I’ll let you know the date.”

Valachi was terrified. Attending the sitdown for Frank Luciano, he knew, would be Mangano family underboss Albert Anastasia, who was known as a hot head with a quick trigger finger.

“Now, I got to worry,” Valachi said. “And who can blame me. Everybody knows that Albert is a mad hatter. With him it’s always kill, kill, kill, if somebody came up and told Albert something about somebody. He would say, ‘Hit him! Hit him!’ At the table there was no telling how he would be.”

When Valachi arrived at Duke’s, Tony Bender met him at the bar. "Remember one thing, don’t talk at the sit-down while Albert is talking. You know how he is, so hold your tongue.”

Bender led Valachi to a large table in the back. Sitting there was Luciano and Anastasia. Valachi did not like the look on Anastasia’s face.

As soon as Valachi sat in the chair, Anastasia laced into him. “What the fuck’s the matter with you?” Anastasia said. “You’ve been in this business of ours for over twenty years. There is no excuse for you.”

Valachi opened his mouth to say something in his defense, but he remembered what Bender had told him, so he held his tongue. Anastasia saw Valachi was about to say something, and he banged his hand on the table. “Now shut up, I tell you!” Anastasia said. “Like I said, you should know better. You know you can’t take the law into your own hands. You know you could start a war with the kind of shit you just pulled.” Anastasia paused, and then he nodded his head. “Okay, now what do you have to say for yourself?”

“Albert, this guy was clipping me bad,” Valachi said. “He put the place in the hole for over $18,000.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Anastasia said. “From being right, you wind up being wrong.”

After some more back and forth, Anastasia got to the point he was waiting to make.

“Okay, I’ve already looked into this myself,” Anastasia said. He told Frank “I know what’s been going on. You’ve been robbing your partner, Frank. And that ain’t no good.”

Then, as Valachi looked on in amazement, Anastasia decreed that Luciano would have to turn the place entirely over to Valachi.

When Fat Andy was made in 1953, the ceremony took place in a restaurant located over the 59th Street Bridge in Manhattan. The Patch was owned by Charley Wagons Fatico.

Fat Andy was made the same year Anthony Junior was born.

Anthony (Tony Lee) Guerrieri -- the same Tony Lee who went on trial in 1990 with John Gotti for recruiting The Westies to shoot union official John O'Connor in the ass in 1986 -- was made three years later, in 1956. (Anthony Junior, who was in the process of getting a divorce from his first wife, was staying with Tony Lee when he was arrested for the John O'Connor shooting.)

He had had a choice, Tony Lee, as the Genovese family wanted to recruit him also. But he chose the Gambino family in order to remain close to Fat Andy, his partner. (Thinking we'll just stick with current names for the crime families, as it might be less confusing to read.)

Also, Anthony told us that Tony Lee was among the last members of that family to be made by Anastasia before he was gunned down in 1957 in the Park-Sheraton barbershop.

 Bruce Cutler, John Gotti, Tony Lee
Tony Lee, far right, John Gotti, middle, Bruce Cutler.

During his time in the mob, Fat Andy had involvement in seven murders.

"He did a lot of work for the family," Anthony Jr. said in testimony once.

"He killed somebody with a fellow named Joe. He killed a florist in Brooklyn. He killed three people in a warehouse that was robbing crap games.

"He killed somebody with me . . . and they had this guy Irish Danny killed behind the Skyway Motel on Conduit Blvd."

Of those murders, we focus on the florist, who, working with Anthony Junior, we believe we have identified as Alfredo "Freddie the Sidge" Santantonio, who had a long rap sheet with arrests in Florida and New York for narcotics, armed robbery and assault.

"On July 11, 1963, two men wearing makeup disguises entered the Flowers By Charm flower store in Brooklyn, New York, and fired five bullets at the owner before fleeing. Lying dead on the floor was forty-year-old Gambino Crime Family member Alfredo Santantonio," wrote Edmond Valin on The American Mafia website.

Santantonio had been a major informant for the FBI, as revealed in files released in 2013, as Valin wrote in Two Gambino Family informants had very different fates.

Santantonio gave the FBI extensive details on the Anastasia shooting and its aftermath, as well as how the killing was handled internally by the top bosses of the New York families:

The murder of Anastasia was orchestrated by Gambino Crime Family members Joseph Riccobono, Joseph Biondo and Charles Dongarra, after they were warned by a snitch in the Anastasia camp that he intended to kill them. 

The trio along with Gambino Crime Family members Joseph Gallo and Andrew Alberti decided to act first in self-defence. 

Dongarra told Santantonio the actual shooters were Gambino Crime Family member Stephen "Stevie Coogan" Grammauta and his associate, Joseph Cahill. Grammauta was a heroin dealer in the crew of Steve Armone.

(Michael (Mikie Scars) DiLeonardo has told us: "The shooters on the (Anastasia) hit team were Steve Armone, Stephen "Stevie Coogan" Grammuata and another guy; I don't know his name."

(Gang Land News reported that Gambino ordered Joseph "Joe the Blonde" Biondo and Stephen Armone to murder Anastasia. Armone reportedly chose his brother Joseph to join them. But he'd been arrested on drug charges and was being held, so Grammauta joined the hit team.)

Riccobono, Biondo, Dongarra, Gallo, Alberti and Armone were all originally from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Santantonio said the killers targeted Anastasia at the hotel because they knew he frequented the hotel barbershop. The guns used in the murder were hidden in the hotel room of boxer Johnny Russo, the nephew of Gambino Crime Family member John "Johnny Connecticut" Russo.

After the shooting, Grammauta and Cahill took the subway home.

After the murder, Riccobono, the ringleader, reached out to Gambino Crime Family caporegime Domenico Arcuri to declare that he represented the group that killed Albert Anastasia. Riccobono didn't divulge the names of anyone else in the group. He asked Arcuri to alert the other caporegimes in the crime family.

Riccobono also contacted New York bosses Thomas Lucchese and Vito Genovese to request a meeting to explain the reasoning for the murder.

Riccobono had to appear before an underworld "trial" at the estate of Genovese Crime Family caporegime Richard Boiardo in New Jersey. Representatives from all the New York City crime families were there including Carmine Galante, Thomas Lucchese, Vito Genovese, Tommy Rava, Johnny Robbilotto, Joseph Biondo and many others. Riccobono spoke on behalf of the group. He explained the reasons for the murder and said he would take full responsibility if the group was out of order. Santantonio said Riccobono was able to persuade the bosses that the group acted in self-defense and was cleared of any wrongdoing. Everyone in the group was pardoned, including the shooters, Grammauta and Cahill. (From 
Two Gambino Family informants had very different fates.)

Santantonio also provided details about what happened to Tommy Rava. The Anastasia loyalist disappeared sometime after Anastasia was killed. (We previously wrote about Rava, but at the time we hadn't known about Santantonio or his information.)

Tommy Rava
Tommy Rava

Anthony Junior related to us that "on the day Albert got killed my father and Tony Lee were driving into the city to meet him. They heard about the shooting on the car radio and they pulled over and called Neil Dellacroce.

"Tony and Neil and my father — they all went on the lam because they thought Gambino would kill them. That whole crew with Tommy Rava was scattered," Anthony told us. Other crew members who went on the lam included Mike Tali, John Riboloto, and Frankie Martin.

Then a meeting was set up between the Rava faction and the man who became the new boss, Carlo Gambino. It was slated to take place at Grand Central Station.

"They all figured they would be safe there in such a public place," Anthony told us.

The Rava faction planned to execute Gambino at that meeting at Grand Central Station.

Certain armed members from the Rava crew arrived at the station and waited for Gambino to show up so they could kill him. ("It was a suicide mission," Anthony said.)

Gambino never showed up.

Instead, an old timer who was close to Neil Dellacroce arrived in Gambino's place. (Anthony Junior didn't know his name; he was known only as the old timer in stories told to him by his father and Dellacroce over the years.)

The old timer told the Rava faction at Grand Central Station that they all had to come in.

Arrangements were made for each member of Rava's crew to meet personally, one at a time, with Carlo Gambino at his home in Brooklyn.

"They thought they would all be killed," Anthony said, but they went anyway.

"They went in one at a time to the basement. Gambino told them he understood and would take them all in with him – he explained that he knew that they were just soldiers following orders from Albert, and that they had done what they needed to do. And now they were with him, Carlo."

Carlo also made Neil a captain. Later, Dellacroce became underboss.

"Their captain Tommy Rava got invited to go to Florida and was never seen again," Anthony told us.

What? Rava went to Florida?

News to us... We adjusted our research efforts accordingly and found Santantonio.

The florist who may have been killed by Fat Andy had "cleared up the mystery of former Gambino Crime Family member Tommy Rava, who disappeared sometime after Anastasia was murdered."

From Two Gambino Family informants had very different fates:

"Rava had competed with Carlo Gambino to replace Anastasia. According to Santantonio, Joseph Indelicato and Thomas Altamura murdered Rava at a funeral parlor in Florida. They put Rava in a body bag, stuck him numerous times with an icepick and dumped his body in the ocean."

Put below in the comments anymore questions for Anthony, and in the next story, Part Three, we'll start addressing them...

The Charley Wagons Days: Anthony Ruggiano Interview, Part One

In The Street Robbing, Pillaging, Plundering: Anthony Ruggiano Jr. Interview, Part Three

Who Fat Andy Loved; John Gotti's Other Side: Anthony Ruggiano Junior, Part FOUR