Giovanni Battisto Salvo – aka “Black Bart”, “Bart Salvo”, “Battisto Salvo”,“Bart Salva”, “John Battisto Salvo”, “Battisimo DeSalvo” – was born on February 23, 1906.
Growing up, he first lived at 645 East 222nd Street in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx. By 1940, he was residing at 195 Townsend Avenue in the Pelham section. In his later years, he relocated up to the Pelham Manor area residing in a spacious home at 35 Shore Road.
Salvo stood at 5-feet 8-inches tall and had a medium built frame, weighing in at 180-pounds. He had medium-light brown eyes, and an Italian, dark-olive complexion, with thinning grey-brown hair. He was well known as a dapper, flashy dresser, with white on white custom tailored shirts with long wiseguy “dagger” collars and silk ties he flipped, but left unknotted, “1940’s mafioso” style.
He liked to frequent the Park Inn Restaurant in the Bronx, and the Del Rio Bar & Grill, in Yonkers.
By 1931, he had married his wife Sadie (nee Lesnick), and by 1933, they had a started a family, having a daughter they named Merle Linda. They lived in a multi-family home shared with his father Paolo, mother Angelina (nee Salvo), sister Raffaele (Rae), her husband Pete Federico and their children.
-FBI # 297699, NYCPD # B-79837, KG # 1662
Salvo was an original Bronx-based, formally inducted soldier absorbed into what became the Luciano/Genovese Family of LCN during its formulation in the early 1930s. And although Battisto Salvo was a well-known racketeer and gambler in the Bronx for decades and had been arrested numerous times, he was only first formally “outed” by mafia informer Joseph Valachi in 1963 during his graphic testimony before the McClellan Committee in Washington, D.C. He was named as a mafia soldier on a chart created about that Family that became a gospel for law enforcement, used by many agencies over the following decades.
He concentrated his activities mostly on controlling the policy rackets and shylocking in the Bronx and Westchester section of New York City. His minions also ran several lucrative horse-betting operations over the years.
Bart was very close to Genovese powerhouse Vincent (Jimmy Blue Eyes) Alo, and served as his “aide de camp” and “acting captain” at one point in their mob careers.
His police record commences in 1927 with seven arrests for:
1927 – attempted assault
1930 (March) – felonious assault
1930 (July) – felony assault
1932 – suspicion of a felony
1932 – vagrancy, violating traffic laws
1933 – armed robbery with a gun
1935 – obstruction of justice (served 5 months in NYC jail)
…Salvo lived a charmed life, serving a total of only five months in prison during his almost 50-year mob career.
In 1925, a 19-year-old Salvo got very lucky when he was apprehended after passing a gas station attendant a counterfeit $20 note. The suspicious gas jockey wrote down the license plate of the car in which Bart and his buddy were driving.
When police tracked them down, Salvo successfully convinced police that he was not aware the bill was bogus. And because he had no other funny money on him when frisked, police released him without arrest.
In 1936, at 29- years-old, he was named as the “kingpin” of a large North Bronx policy ring by Mount Vernon police after a lengthy, well-publicized investigation into his alleged “kidnapping” by nine armed Jewish gunmen off a Bronx Street the previous August 19th.
The kidnappers originally demanded $25,000 for his release but later agreed to the reduced amount of $9,000, which, it’s said, that the borgata paid for his safe release to these “outlaws”. It was thought that he had been held in an apartment at 1687 Carter Avenue in the Bronx until his release August 22 after the money was paid.
Police suspected that he knew the true identities of the suspects but refused to help authorities identify the kidnappers, that the mob preferred to settle accounts their own way.
Authorities also strongly suspected, at the time, that this all tied into the Dutch Schultz murder, who had been killed just weeks previously in a New Jersey Chop House while dining with “friends”. Schultz had been the “numbers kingpin” of the Bronx, and his death was thought to have possibly been tied into Cosa Nostra seizing his policy business.
Salvo and his regime were thought to have been instrumental in strong-arming their way into near total control of the policy rackets in their area for the Family. After an in-depth investigation, police charged Salvo with “obstruction of justice” for stalling the probe.
Bart was held in a whopping $50,000 bail (a huge sum in the 1930s era). He was later convicted and sentenced to an indeterminate jail term on Welfare Island Penitentiary. They hoped that he would crack and name names…. but he never did.
But what did happen, was that within four short months of his abduction, four of the gangsters suspected in his snatching were slaughtered in the Bronx. Three others of the alleged gang were later convicted in the crime and sentenced to serve 50 years to life in prison. Had they not been nabbed by police and taken off the streets, it’s said they, too, would have met a grizzly end…. the last guy to “get it” (the eighth hood involved) would evade his fate for a few years more.
Side Note: Lewis Ellbroch, Fred Miller and Edward Knott were the three convicted and sent to jail.
In late 1935, 24-year-old Alfred Felice, who in later years would become much better known in the underworld as “Freddy Red Shirt”, was arrested for the daylight gangland murder of Harold Brooks.
It was thought that Brooks, an ex-convict, had been one of the kidnappers of Salvo. Brooks was shot down in the middle of Madison Avenue. It was in Brooks’ apartment that Salvo had been held during the kidnap plot.
Side Note: This incident is how Freddy Red Shirt “made his bones”. He was inducted into the Family shortly after these killings.
Two other men suspected in the kidnapping that were later tracked down and slain were Ben Holinsky and Frank Dolak. Three eyewitnesses picked Felice out of a lineup. He was held without bail, but later beat the case when all the witnesses got faulty memories.
Another was Irving (Red) Blauner who was taken for a ride and later found with two bullets in him, dumped in Central Park. He was the fourth payback killing.
It would take Black Bart and the borgata until 1939 to complete his murderous task of tracking and killing every single “bum” responsible for his embarrassing kidnapping that fateful day in 1935. But he and his “amici” did.
On January 10, police found the corpse of hoodlum Albert (Al the Plug) Schuman in a stolen auto parked in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He had been shot twice in the neck, and once square in the head that blew out his eyeball…several years earlier, he had been shot on Houston Street in Downtown Manhattan, taking four bullets to his back that nearly left him a cripple. They now finished him off, satisfying their “vendetta”.
A twenty-nine year old Brooklyn hood named Dominick Conti was arrested for the shooting of Schuman. He later beat the case.
Side Note: the ninth and last alleged member of the doomed kidnap gang was said to have been the notorious Louis (Shorty the Wop) Palermo. He was arrested, tried and convicted after his kidnap buddies testified against him in court. Palermo received 8-15 years in prison. Maybe he evaded death because he went to jail. Maybe he received a reprieve after a friendly mafioso pleaded for his life. Maybe because he was the only Italian involved, they spared him after hehelped set up the others for the kill to prove his fealty, or maybe it was a combination of the above.
But in later years, I know he operated and got indicted for Lower East Side dock rackets along with other Genovese members including Joseph (Socks) Lanza and Joseph (Joe Beck) Lapi.
In his early years as a young man, Salvo went partners with future Genovese “capo di decina” Tommy Milo in a used-car lot the operated at the corner of White Plains Avenue and Gun Hill Road.
Side Note: The above location was where he had been kidnapped from. They pistol whipped him and abducted him from the car lot.
In future years, he was listed as a corporate officer of P.J. Federico Inc., (a firm he partnered in with his brother-in-law Pete Federico), and Pagg Construction Co., both located at 30 Stevens Ave., Mount Vernon, NY. These firms were plastering subcontractors in the construction industry.
Salvo also reputedly controlled several funeral parlors in the Bronx, and was said to hold an ownership interest in a lighting and fixture company named Nulite Standard Lighting Co., of 309 East 47th Street, in Manhattan.
He was a documented “soldier” in the regime of Vincent Alo – identified by mob songbird Joseph Valachi in 1963 during Valachi’s testimony before the McClellan Committee in Washington, D.C.
Salvo was also a close friend, associate and business partner of Vincent Alo in the Bronx/Westchester gambling rackets for almost 50 years. Salvo served as Alo’s “eyes and ears” on the street due to Jimmy Blue Eyes residing mostly in South Florida since the early 1940s. It was also thought that Salvo had served as a trusted“acting capo” of the Alo regime for a time.
Salvo reportedly controlled collection of “protection” money from area bookmakers and policy racketeers under his regime’s control. Part of this money was used as payoffs to local NYCPD officers and detectives to protect their gambling operations from law enforcement harassment and subsequent arrest.
A primary Bronx bookmaker running horse race action for Salvo was alleged to have been James Fatigate, described as a major gambling figure and KG in that section of the city.
Two more important gamblers were Morris and Samuel Schlitten, better known as “The Schlitz Brothers”. “Sammy and Moishe Schlitz” were among the largest policy-numbers “bankers” in the Bronx. They operated under the auspices and protection of the Alo Regime and were said to have reported directly to Bart Salvo. They ran a multimillion-dollar numbers ring for decades, and were said to be the biggest non-Italian policy bankers in New York City.
Bart had several close aides and subordinates over the years that helped him run operations. In addition to those men were many top racketeers and bosses such as Lucky Luciano, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, Frank Scalise, and informer Valachi.
Among his closest associates were:
• Giuseppe (Joe Adonis) Doto – top original “capo di decina” under Lucky Luciano’s rule. Doto was later deported back to Italy where he lived the rest of his life. Salvo was known to make trips to Italy to visit Doto, bringing him funds. While there, Salvo was suspected by the FBN of negotiating narcotics transactions to be smuggled back into the States.
• Albert (Al Sappo) Viggiano – NYCPD # B-63604. He was a (KG) known gambler and “controller” for Salvo’spolicy operations, and had two gambling arrests. In 1966, he was grilled before a NYC grand jury investigating police bribery and corruption and pled the fifth to all questions. He operated Al & Al Service Station on Southern Blvd. in the Bronx.
• Francesco (Frankie) Alo – the kid brother of Vincent Alo. Frank was active as the overseer of a vast loanshark network headed by his brother operating in the Manhattan, Bronx and Westchester areas. He was one of several indicted in the 1940’s on usury and conspiracy charges for operating this multimillion-dollar loan racket ring.
• Morris (Moishe) Schlitten – aka “Moe Schlitz”. FBI # 208460E. Born 1919 in Manhattan. Resided at 305 West 86th Street, Manhattan. He later resided at 19-26 Parsons Boulevard, Bayside, Queens. The brother of Sam Schlitten, and considered his junior partner and subordinate. He had eight policy and bookmaking arrests since 1936.
• Samuel (Sammy Schlitz) Schlitten -aka “Sammy Shell”. FBI # 159741. He was considered the largest Jewish policy racketeer in the Bronx section, with an estimated total gross revenue of $5,000,000 a year.Identified as a direct subordinate of Bart Salvo, and under overall control of “capo di decina” Vincent Alo. He utilized his brother Moe as an overseer after he chose to relocate down to Florida by the early 1960’s.
• Dominick Di Mare – lived at 2529 Matthews Ave., in the Bronx where he also operated a popular barber shop on Aldus Street which was a front for a huge gambling business.He was the co-controller for a large segment of Salvo’s policy network later raided by the Vice squad, who said the ring operated with over 151 runners.
• Thomas Milo – top Genovese power in the Bronx/Westchester sections with his brother Sabato (Bo) Milo, sons and nephews. Controlled much of the private garbage carting business in the area, maintaining monopolistic type control and shakedown rackets. A top gambling figure and former bootlegger.
• Louis (Babe) Milo – aka “Louie Marlowe”. Tommy’s brother and his lifelong partner in the rackets. Babe handled the policy business for the Milo family, and was a (KG) with over 11 arrests for mostly gambling.
• Nicholas (Cockeyed Nick) Rattenni – aka “Nick Perry”. Another important soldier, who later rose to captain the regime. Heavily engaged in garbage racketeering, shylocking and gambling. A very wealthy mafioso, close friend and confidant of Acting Boss/Consigliere Frank Costello. He held valuable stock in Roosevelt Raceway that he later cashed out for over $1,000,000.
• Anthony (Fat the Butch) Di Costanzo – considered one of the top Westchester gambling figures. He was a partner in the Bronxville Bowling Alleys, and attempted to invest in other bowling alleys. He utilized Romeo Velonzi as his main assistant in operating bookmaking and floating dice games under Alo’s protection.
• Modeste (Mickey Morris) Barra – low key but important Bronx soldier and top counterfeiter specializing in U.S. postal stamps and currency. Held interest in several bars and a Florida construction firm through the years.
….Black Bart was well acquainted with most of the important mafiosi in the underworld of his era.
In July of 1964, Salvo’s policy bank was raided in Yonkers. Four law enforcement agencies coordinated to take down what they called a $3,000,000 a year policy bank, which was the tabulating and control center for the numbers racket. 209 envelopes containing over 250,000 “plays” or numbers slips were also seized in the raid. That represented only one day’s “play”.
Authorities said that the Westchester County raid was an attempt by the Genovese Family to evade police by relocating to the suburbs after the same bank had been shut down by four recent previous raids and arrests. The gamblers had rented a five-room apartment at 10 Nassau Road in the Crestwood Lake Garden Apt. complex.
The Westchester District Attorney’s Office, NYCPD Confidential Squad, Detective Division, and the Sheriff’s Dept., participated. They said the bank served some 30,000 daily bettors in the north and east Bronx, and grossed over $10,000 a day. They arrested Bernard Waring and Dominick DiMare, charging them with felony possession of policy slips, maintaining a place for gambling, conspiracy and operation of a policy bank. And assorted adding machines, and gambling paraphernalia were confiscated.
The bank was said to be under the control of Alo and Salvo, and both were named as top members of the Vito Genovese Family. In a previous raid against the same network, 48 policy runners, gamblers and mob bankers were nabbed.
Although he was very active throughout his entire underworld career, Bart kept a very low-keyed profile as he got better established. He was never again arrested from the mid-1930s on.
Giovanni Battisto Salvo died at the relatively young age of 66 in 1972.
I consider him to have been a real sharp guy, and a real good earner. But he didn’t live to really enjoy his achievements…this has just been another mob tale of the Big Apple.
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