by The Other Guy | March 27, 2020
The Gallo-Profaci War, that was seeded in late 1959 and would start in earnest in late 1960 and later rage through 1963, claimed scores of lives and left many more wounded, as gunmen from both sides went out daily to stalk their prey.
Joe Profaci and his soldiers and associates, who outnumbered the Gallo brothers and their gang five to one dominated the warfare. At the height of the warfare, the Gallo gang had holed up at their headquarters at 51 President Street, in the Red Hook neighborhood, down by the docks of the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn. This was where they “hit the mattresses”, all living together within this compound for their mutual safety.
In fact, one entire block of President Street would be cordoned off with cars, and makeshift blockades. 51 President Street had chicken wire on the windows to prevent against Profaci forces lobbing a hand grenade or Molotov cocktail through a window. And guards armed with high powered rifles watched the entire street from the rooftop 24/7 to prevent against sneak attacks.
This was the mob landscape of 1961-1963. It was in this atmosphere that carloads of gunsels from both factions would roam the streets daily searching each other out for assassination.
Part of this twisted conflict was that many of these gunmen were stalking young men that they had known and been the best of friends with all their lives. School mates, neighborhood buddies, guys who’d dated each other’s sisters, went bar hopping together and robbed with, were now at each other’s throats and doing their best to kill one other.
Over the course of this protracted street warfare, many men would die. Many others would be wounded. And still others would just disappear off the face of the earth… leaving to speculation their fate. The daily newspapers reported on much of the battle. But there were many other incidents that never hit the papers.
Beatings, shots pegged at guys that missed, attempted murder plots that fizzled, etc.
Brooklyn was ground zero in this underworld battle. But all the boroughs and even the Long Island suburbs would be drawn into the action so to speak.
Carmine (Junior) Persico started out in concert with his buddies Larry and Joey Gallo in their complete dissatisfaction with the way their boss, Giuseppe (The Old Man) Profaci hoarded all the racket profits, doling out what they felt was the smallest of stipends to his loyal soldiers and minions and heavily “taxing” his rank and file on any profits they made.
The Gallos, Persico, and many others within the borgata all pulled together in a major revolt that would rock the Family to its very core. Several top caporegime along with many key soldiers plotted against Profaci and his established hierarchy to literally seize the borgata out from under him and the other old “Mustache Petes” in power, whom Profaci had entrusted to oversee his racket domain.
In a semi-well orchestrated “coup”, they sent several teams of their men out and kidnapped several top targets. They successfully snatched Salvatore (The Sheik) Mussachio, Frank Profaci, Giuseppe (Joe Malyok) Magliocco, Joseph Colombo and John Scimone. These men represented the underboss, consigliere, several top capo’s and Profaci’s driver-bodyguard. They had also intended to seize the old man himself, and had reportedly just missed snatching him at his New Jersey compound.
Unprecedented in their audacity, moxie and sheer balls, the Gallo Gang, with Larry Gallo as their spokesman, laid out their gripes and voiced their dissatisfaction to Joe Profaci and later to the entire Commission who had tried to intercede in this crazy conflict before things got anymore out of hand than they already were.
For his part, Joe Profaci stated that he would unequivocally not negotiate with the rebels until all his men were released from captivity. Only then would he sit down and negotiate a amicable settlement for all.
In a sign of good faith, the Gallo’s released all their “prisoners”. The old man had given them his word, so they felt that they had the upper hand and things would get better from this point forward.
…..big mistake! With the release of his brother Frank, brother-in-law Magliocco, in-law Mussachio and his other men, Giuseppe Profaci declared unmitigated war against all the rebels. He gave the order for them to be wiped out!
Profaci was nothing if not one of the shrewdest and most veteran of mafioso to ever operate in this country….he was a “Fox”. He had been through all this before, having been an active participant and tactician during the Castellammarese War of 1929-1931. He had led his own borgata for over thirty years. He was a formidable opponent.
Before and during the conflict that was to come, he had sent emissaries out to several key rebels that he badly needed back into his fold to both bolster his troops and to weaken his enemy. Nicholas (Jiggs) Forlano – a capo and top loanshark who controlled millions of dollars “on the streets” was one who he wooed back. Another was Carmine (Junior) Persico, who although young, was a vicious street fighter and led a large contingent of like-minded capable young hoodlums.
There were several others…. in fact, so as to both test his true loyalties and utilize his services, Profaci would assign Persico as the lead torpedo to wipe the Gallos and their followers off the face of the earth. From one of their best friends and allies, Junior became their worst nightmare. The rest is consigned to mob history……
What follows is a verbatim chronology of the fighting that would all but consume the Brooklyn underworld for years to come. In fact, this split in the borgata would reverberate throughout this Family for decades to come. And could arguably be viewed as the genesis and original crack in the Family’s armor that would seed two more internal gang-wars in the early 1970’s and again in the early 1990’s.
Chronology of a Gang War!
The seeds of warfare….In 1959, a well-known, respected Brooklyn racketeer named Frank (Frankie Shots) Abbatemarco, a veteran Profaci hood and top policy banker in South Brooklyn was shot to death inside Cardiello’s Tavern by two ski-masked gunmen who pumped multiple shots into his head and torso. Abbatemarco was dead before he hit the floor.
Underworld legend has it that Larry and Joey Gallo were the men behind those ski masks. Joseph Profaci is said to have ordered the killing because Frankie Shot’s had failed to pay the proper amount of tribute Profaci demanded from his troops. And although the Gallo brothers were said to have actually been “under” Abbatemarco in the hierarchy and liked him, you follow the bosses directions and orders when told to do something.
As is traditional in the Mafia, the shooters usually inherit all or part of a mob guys holdings after they kill him as a sort of reward and mob style incentive program. For this “piece of work” as well as many others performed by the young mafiosi, the Gallo’s were said to have been promised a part of Frankie Shot’s numbers business by Profaci.
But afterwards, Profaci parceled out this policy network among himself and several old-time “compare” of his. The Gallos were incensed. This act, as well as other demands made on them by Joe Profaci such as heavily taxing them on their very limited income from jukebox-vending routes, truck hijackings, extortions, burglaries and other activities infuriated them.
In time, after conversing with many other soldiers within the Family ranks, they all realized and many came to feel that they were being used and abused by Profaci and the other old Mustaches in the borgata.
The resentment was smoldering and starting to build, and a rebellion was soon in the making. The following list names many of the combatants and subsequent victims of this protracted battle…. it was not a pretty sight. And unlike the movies, there was nothing romantic about it. Many a friend and family member was lost. And unlike the celluloid version of these types of experiences, there are no winners in this sort of thing!
August/1961 – Joseph (Joe Jelly) Gioeli – his killing was pivotal in weakening the Gallo gang because Joe Jelly was considered one of the most deadly torpedos in the Family. He simply disappeared one day. Several days later his topcoat wrapped with fish inside was thrown onto the street in front of the Gallo headquarters from a moving car. The message?…… Joe Jelly sleeps with the fish! Mob lore states that Jelly was taken out on a fishing boat with Sally D and Junior, under the guise the three would go deep sea fishing….but only two came back. [This infamous incident would be recreated numerous times over the years in films and cinema, the most famous of which was in The Godfather movie.]
August/1961 – Larry Gallo – after much strife, tension and deadly conflict, a peace pow-wow was organized between the two factions to try and come to a fair settlement in the Sahara Lounge one afternoon in Brooklyn…..but it was a trap. In the darkened tavern, Larry Gallo suddenly had a garrot looped over his neck with Carmine (Junior) Persico and Salvatore (Sally D) D’Ambrosio on opposite ends tugging. Gallo avoided death by seconds when a patrolman on his stroll happened in. The would-be killers raced out, with Sally shooting the cop in the face as they did. [This is another infamous incident recreated in the movie The Godfather.]……it is said that from this incident is how Carmine (Junior) Persico got his other nickname … “The Snake”, for his duplicity in “double-banking” the Gallos.
September/1961 – While out nightclubbing one evening at the famed Copacabana in Manhattan, Gallo associate Sidney Slater was physically assaulted by Jiggs Forlano, Junior Persico and his buddy Dominick Montemorano. Jiggs slugging Slater in the face repeatedly while the other two held Slater against a hallway wall. Jiggs was wearing a ring with a steel bailing hook on it, badly gauging Slater’s cheek and eye. They only stopped because it was a public place and they drew attention to themselves in the packed nightclub.
Note: Not all Profaci soldiers and captains were active in the conflict. Several highly respected members, Profaci sympathizers at that, showed respect to the Gallos while trying to amicably settle the feud. They talked honestly and were straight shooters with them (pardon my pun). And the Gallo gang showed their appreciation by never targeting them for assassination. And most of the older members sat on the sidelines thereout the conflict.
Note: One of these was said to have been Sonny Franzese. Although I’m sure he did what was ordered of him by Joe Profaci, the Gallo’s never targeted him per se. He allegedly helped try and negotiate a truce.
September/1961 – Charles (Ruby) Stein – the biggest loanshark in NYC in partnership with Jiggs Forlano. They had an estimated $5,000,000 on the street….Gallo hoods tried to snatch Stein off a midtown Manhattan Street. Kidnapping him would have been a coup for them, for ransom or maybe to kill him…. well, regardless of their intentions. Ruby fought, kicked and screamed his lungs out, fighting for his life! He successfully fought them off.
September/1961 – Starting up his car one day, Carmine Persico almost bought the farm. The Gallo’s placed a bomb under his hood connected to his engine. Upon starting the engine the bomb exploded, completely wrecking his car. Persico miraculously walked away with only a concussion and minor scrapes and bruises…. it seems that the way the bomb was placed, the brunt of the trauma force blew downwards blowing a huge thirty-foot crater into the pavement. Had it blown upwards Junior Persico would have been vaporized….. lol, one lucky guy that Junior!
October/1961 – Another early killing was that of soldier and Gallo rebel Joseph (Joe Mags) Magnasco. He had the temerity to accost his former capo Harry Fontana on the street one day by Harry’s social club. Once it got heated and he put his hands on Fontana, Harry’s brother Sally pulled a revolver and shot Magnasco dead.
October/1961 – Having been stalked to his Astoria, Queens residence, Nicholas (Jiggs) Forlano was set upon while in his car parked at the curb by two Gallo gunmen. They opened up a volley of shots, emptying both guns into his car. Miraculously, Forlano was not hit even once by bullets. He said that he scrabbled back and forth between the front and back seats, successfully ducking his would-be killers…It was one of several attempts the Gallo’s made on his life.
November/1961 – Profaci button man John (The Soldier) Guariglia and his associate Paul Ricci are shot to death in Ricci’s Hi-Fi Lounge in Bensonhurst by Gallo shooters. Law enforcement suspected Gallo hoods Michael (Mike Rizzi) Rizzitello and Louis Castiglione in this double murder and several other killings including the attempt on Jiggs Forlano. Rizzi later fled to California where he would reside for the rest of his life becoming affiliated with the Los Angeles Family.
December/1961 – With a Profaci gunman disguised as a woman to try and “cop a sneak” on him, a shotgun is fired at Larry Gallo while he was driving. He was not hit.
January/1962 – Gallo hoods Michael and Philip Albergo discovered their car had a flat tire one morning (it had been ice picked). While the brothers changed the tire at the curb on a Greenpoint Street, they were set upon by Profaci gunmen in a passing car who pegged shots at them. Both were wounded in the arms and shoulder but survived.
March/1962 – Joe Profaci’s son Salvatore is shot at while driving on a Brooklyn street. He’s not hit.
May/1962 – While walking along busy President Street after purchasing cans of paint to redo their living quarters at the Gallo clubhouse, Profaci gunmen did a drive-by pegging shots out their car window at Angelo Parfumi and Larry Carna. Carna got hit in the ankle by what was suspected to be a ricochet slug.
October/1962 – Soldier Marco Morelli and associate Anthony DiCola, Profaci loyalists were two more victims of the warfare. Both mysteriously disappeared from their usual Brooklyn haunts. They were never seen again.
May/1963 – Then in a reversal of fortunes, Profaci crew members Alphonse (Funzi) D’Ambrosio and his pal Carmine Persico were caught short one afternoon just after getting into Junior’s car. A windowless panel truck roared down the street abruptly cutting in front of them. The panel trucks rear doors swinging open and Gallo gunmen opening up with carbine rifles. Funzi was hit in the arm and shoulder. But Junior caught it the worst, being hit in the hand, shoulder and neck. One slug traveled through his torso and neck settling in his mouth. Another ripped through his hand crippling him for life….. but both survived.
Note: Junior Persico’s reputation for invincibility skyrocketed after this event. Some calling him “Immortal”.
May 10, 1963 – Top Profaci capo John (Johnny Bath Beach) Oddo – Gallo gunman firing from a green panel truck peppered his car one day in the Gravesend section. The entire front grill of his car was hit but he luckily walked away unscathed.
June 6, 1963 – Emilio (Emil) Colantuono – a local businessman and Gallo sympathizer is gunned down in the street as he left his home at 7007 Narrows Avenue, in Brooklyn. It’s alleged that although not a full fledged hoodlum, he provided money to the Gallo’s to help finance the war, and to help operate their rackets.
June 13, 1963 – Vincent DiTucci is shot to death. He was a suspected Profaci hood. Members of the Gallo faction were suspected and questioned about this homicide.
June 19, 1963 – Alfred Mondella (41) was shot to death while sitting on a beach chair on the sidewalk in front of his home at 541 9th Street one day by a lone gunman who casually approached the unwitting Mondello. An unemployed longshoreman, Mondella was suspected of supplying guns and ammo to the Gallo gang.
July/1963 – Gallo hood, strong-arm man and Longshoreman Ali Hassan (Ali Baba) Waffa became another victim. He was shot and killed coming off the gangplank of a cruise ship one afternoon while disembarking in Hoboken, NJ. Joseph (Joe Yak) Yacovelli and Carmine (Sonny Pinto) DeBiase were alleged to have been the gunmen.
August 9, 1963 – Joseph (Joe Bats) Cardiello – a veteran Profaci soldier shot to death as he drove in his car on a Brooklyn street. It was in his tavern that Frank Abbatemarco had been set up and killed back in 1959. Originally a Profaci stalwart, He had switched alliances several times and it’s believed the Gallo’s had hit him.
Also on August 9, 1963 – Profaci hoods Anthony (Fat Tony) Regina and John (Moose) Battista got their chance to strike at the Gallo’s out in Suffolk County on Long Island. One of the last killings in the war, Regina and Battista caught up to a automobile carrying several Gallo members driving on Route 347 in Port Jefferson. Pulling alongside, they sprayed a volley of shots directly into the car killing Louis (Cadillac Louie) Mariani and wounding Francis (Tony) Getch…. Both Regina and Battista would later be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a life term in state prison for murder.
After months of wrangling and tense negotiations, on September 3, 1963, Joe Magliocco was said to have called a captains meeting to announce his resignation as Acting Boss. (He has been ordered to do so by the Commission).
The gang war would eventually end… not by a mutually agreed upon truce being ironed out, or an unconditional surrender with a white flag being hoisted up, but rather just kind of petering out. Joe Profaci would die from cancer in 1962. His underboss and temporary successor Giuseppe (The Fat Man) Magliocco would die of heart failure less than a year later. Joey Gallo would be taken off the streets by an extortion conviction shortly thereafter and sent up the river on a 7.5-15 year stretch, and several other key combatants just kind of faded off from active fighting….. so the issues at the base of the conflict to begin with was never really settled to either sides satisfaction. And further adding to this lack of zeal was Larry Gallo dying from cancer in 1968.
The second round of this bloody internal conflict would take place soon after Joe the Blond Gallo was paroled from jail. He was now even more frustrated by his lack of position – both in “financial status” and “underworld status” within the borgata. And all those years in “stir” only added to his frustration and resolve to get what he felt was due him and his. When released from his extortion sentence, Joey was flat broke and his crew wasn’t faring any better.
He wanted desperately to be a boss. In fact, he wanted to be THE boss….. and in witnessing his contemporary and former adversary Joey Colombo rise to the position of “Representante” of the entire Family was more than Gallo could take. He immediately sent out feelers about the way things stood. Joe Colombo beat him to the punch though.
Upon hearing that Joe Gallo had hit the streets, Colombo sent several emissaries with $1,000 cash in an envelope along with best wishes for Gallo now that he was home. Although $1,000 was probably valued at fifteen times what it is in today’s economy (perhaps $15,000), Gallo considered it a slap in the face and immediately demanded to be elevated to a “captain” status and given a solid slice of all Colombo Family racket operations…..
“Joey the Blond” or no Joey the Blond…or maybe a better handle would have been the “Crazy Joe” Gallo moniker he’d earned years before. You DO NOT demand or talk to a Family Boss in that manner if you wanna stay upright and among the living and breathing!…. luckily Joe Colombo half ignored and dismissed Gallo as being the same old Joey he’d known from years before. Colombo had tried to placate Gallo but now chose to just put him on the back burner, but keeping a watchful eye out for him nonetheless.
Before long, Gallo started his bullshit again. Shaking guys down who were “on record” with other wiseguys, “pushing in” on various businesses and rackets that he had no business putting his nose into. And just generally making a nuisance of himself with his gang.
By this time Colombos multimillion dollar Italian-American Anti-Defamation League was in full swing. It had grown to epic proportions within the short time it had been in existence. Gallo ordered his minions to threaten, intimidate and encourage various neighborhood shop keepers throughout the city to take down the league’s promotion placards, window stickers and not contribute money donations to the league. To pay Gallo their “tribute” instead. This would be one of the key catalysts to seed disharmony within the ranks. And, of course, after Joe Colombo’s attempted assassination at Columbus Circle that fateful June afternoon in 1971, which would leave Joe a virtual vegetable for the rest of his life, the gloves finally came off.
From that moment forward, there would be a type of gorilla mob warfare the likes of which had not been scene in years. Bodies would be strewn on the streets for several years to come….. it culminated with the infamous 1972 gangland-style killing of Crazy Joe Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House in the wee hours of the morning when Gallo, his brand new wife and her teenage daughter from a previous marriage, along with Gallo’s bodyguard that evening, “Pete the Greek” Diapoulos and his girlfriend, after a night of partying at the famed Copacabana Club in midtown Manhattan decided on a late night meal. Driving right into the “Lion’s Den” in typical Joey Gallo bravado fashion, they chose to eat down off Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
Arguably the single most dangerous place in the city for Gallo to show his face. Every single block was chock full of mob social clubs, mafiosi hanging out on every corner, and ground zero for New York’s Five Families. He was a marked man. And he knew it…. he should have known better!
Word soon spread of his arrival to the neighborhood. A Colombo associate immediately ran to a Colombo social club on Mulberry Street reporting the news. A frantic call was made to Joseph (Joe Yak) Yacovelli, at that time the acting consigliere for that crew. Yak gave the ok, green lighting what would happen next…. Carmine (Sonny Pinto) DiBiase, Philip (Fat Foongy) Gambino and two brothers known as Cisco and Benny – the LoCiceros of Brooklyn, immediately grabbed several handguns and automobiles…a “work” car and “crash” car, and off they went!
Within minutes, the two wheelmen pulled to the curb, and while waiting with their motors running, the two torpedo’s Sonny Pinto and Foongy came in pistols ablazing. It was over within a minute…… tables turned over, food, glass and plates strewn across the floor, blood all over the place, thick gun smoke and the smell of gun powder permeating the air, women screaming…and Joey staggering out through the clam house doors, full of holes, stumbling into Mulberry Street where he collapsed at the curb.
The gunmen had escaped within seconds. No witnesses! Nobody in that neighborhood had seen a thing…. through over 100 years of history in Little Italy, there never had been any witnesses! The neighborhood was famous (or infamous) for being D&D (deaf and dumb) when it came to taking care of its own. Omertà at its finest. Even the legitimate people who lived in the neighborhood would never speak to cops or reporters about guys from there. After all, they might have been gangsters, but they were our gangsters…Fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, and close friends. The area always policed itself….. always!
Side Note: Over the next five years or so, there would be at least a dozen additional gangland shootings and murders of Colombo or Gallo hoods. At least some of which were direct fallout from the war. A few other killings seem to have been a “jockeying” for positions of power within the unsettled borgata, and others were of suspected police informants.
The following listed killings were considered direct fallout of the war. A “house cleaning” of Gallo dissidents so to speak;
1972 – Four innocent Jewish businessmen eating in a midtown restaurant were shot and killed in a horrible case of mistaken identify. A Gallo gunman mistook them for Allie Boy Persico and associates. Also that year, Gennaro (Fat Jerry) Ciprio was shot dead while leaving his Italian delicatessen in Brooklyn, and within a year, Louie (The Syrian) Hubela would also be at shot and wounded.
1974 – Gennaro (Jerry) Basciano and Sammy Zahralbam were both shot and wounded, but survived. In other incidents, Joey Gallo’s nephew Stevie Cirillo was shot dead in a gambling den, and Gallo stalwart Frank (Punchy) Illiano was shot and wounded in another incident.
1976 – They finally caught up to Gallo soldier John (Mooney) Cutrone. He was shot to death on a Brooklyn street one afternoon.
Many of these other killings had their genesis in various power plays, lingering jealousies and other private matters that played out:
• Dominick Famulari
• Dominick (Big Dom) DeAngelis
• Richard Grossman
• Emanuele (Nello) Cammarata
• John (Johnny Tarzan) Lusterino
• Gaetano (Tommy) Barbusca
• John Coiro
• Anthony (Tony Long) Ricciardo
• Salvatore (Sally Boy) Albanese
By the late-1980s, the Colombo Family had reconstituted itself very well. The mid-1970s throughout the entire decade of the 1980s had been heady times for all Cosa Nostra. The five borgata’s had all stabilized but certainly the Colombo mob had solidified and expanded itself tremendously. To the point that although it’s official hierarchy; the boss, underboss and consigliere had fallen with the 1985 Commission case as had the other four crews, business carried on as usual through a stable “acting” hierarchy drawn from the ranks of its most capable “capo di decina” and soldiers.
All was good. Members and associates alike were earning well. Lucrative rackets were being developed and expanded daily. And with few exceptions, there had been relative peace and harmony within. Like I said, all was good!…..
Acting boss Victor (Little Vic) Orena, Sr., tapped by Persico himself to lead, seemed to be well-liked by the troops. His second, underboss Benedetto (Benny) Aloi and consigliere Jimmy Angellino, rounded out an “Acting” administration second to none.
But as will happen when you’re dealing with mountainous piles of cold cash, handled by greedy and dangerous men, the seeds of disharmony and Machiavellian machinations are never far behind.
Part three of the Profaci-Colombo saga will be written about in a future post of mine. But suffice it to say, that the third Colombo War would have its genesis in the basic greed inherent in most human beings. Men who should have known better had they bothered to stop and study their borgatas previous mob history. Certainly Aloi had been groomed by his father Buster and knew their history. As had Orena, a distant Persico cousin, who had come up under the old timers as well.
There is an ancient phrase. A proverb if you will, that states “those who choose to ignore history are doomed to repeat it!” ……no truer words have ever been spoken, especially when it comes to the underworld.
Until next time….. Buono Notte!
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