Salvatore Luisi – “Salty Of Coney Island”

By The Other Guy | April 13, 2020

Salvatore (Salty) Luisi was born on July 6, 1916 and raised at 1516 Neptune Avenue in Brooklyn where he grew up in the Coney Island section. He later moved to 1757 79th Street.

During the 1983 Senate hearings his current address was listed as 1875 E. 38th Street, Brooklyn.

NYCPD # B-176163

Luisi was named by informant Joseph Valachi as a formally inducted soldier in the Vito Genovese Family in 1963, during his Senate testimony before the McClellan Committee.

He most likely served in one of the Brooklyn regimes, possibly under Gaetano (Toto) Marino, Gaetano (Toddo Del) Del Duca, or Frank (Funzi) Tieri.

Authorities named Luisi as being active in narcotics smuggling and opium/heroin distribution over the years. He was also listed as a “KG” – known gambler by police in Brooklyn where he primarily operated.

In January of 1939, as a young 22-year-old hoodlum, he was among an older gang of drug traffickers who smuggled $150,000 worth of opium aboard a Ocean freighter from Europe onto the Brooklyn docks. They attempted to bribe a policeman who pretended to be corrupt in order to extract the large narcotics load off Pier 2 at 39th Street in Brooklyn.

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Police laid a trap for the smugglers but when they closed in for the arrests a gun battle ensued between the hoodlums and federal agents. Over 50 shots were fired and patrolman James Bute’s hand was grazed by a bullet in the fracas before they subdued the suspects.

Three Brooklyn mafiosi were apprehended and five more men were nabbed aboard the Italian ship “Ida” in Hoboken, New Jersey. Nine additional suspects were also slated for arrest. Agents later scoured the New Jersey and Brooklyn docks in search another second drug haul which was valued at $250,000 and also had been brought in by the gang.

Arrested on the Brooklyn piers was tavern owner Luigi Esposito, longshoreman Frank Visciano, and restaurant waiter Luisi, who were in possession and loading the four large tins containing over 100 pounds of the raw narcotic into their car.

Later in April of 1939, eight of the men pled guilty in federal court to narcotics smuggling charges and were immediately remained to jail. They admitted to bringing in $50,000 of opium and conspiring to smuggle another 123 pounds of crude opium for eventual processing into heroin.

Five of the men were Italian nationals working aboard the Italian freight liner; Bruno Pozzecco, Giovanni Abba, Giacomo Bucavetz, Antonio Ossich, Pietro Bressa. The others were Esposito, Luisi and Visciano.

1958 – “Salty” Luisi was arrested along with 118 other mob-affiliated Brooklyn gamblers during a massive campaign by the NYPD to crack down on gambling racketeers in the borough. Police Public Morals conducted over 200 surprise raids at bars, restaurants and candy stores.

A week earlier 162 suspected policy operators was nabbed in another huge sweep across Brooklyn. The gamblers were variously charged with vagrancy, bookmaking, policy, and operating dice games. Luisi, charged with vagrancy, was also grilled about his knowledge of a local double murder.

In 1961, Luisi was among a half dozen fraudsters arrested for operating crooked dice games that fleeced big businessmen, diplomats and high society people of over $40,000 in one month.

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Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan announced the roundup after the six threatened and tried to force a businessman to cough up $21,000 he lost in a dice game called “Razzle” which the gamblers ran one evening at the Hotel Pierre in midtown Manhattan.

Under police surveillance, they were arrested at Sabell’s Nightclub in Coney Island after they coerced wealthy securities dealer Michael Riordan, and charged with grand larceny, attempted extortion and conspiracy counts. Named in the indictment were Bert Lee Jr., Teddy Price, Charles Rhine, Frank Sommo. They were insurance salesmen, stockbrokers and small businessmen who had teamed up with hoodlums Anthony Nasti and Luisi to lure various “suckers” into the crooked games.

Side Note: Bert Lee Jr’s real name was Bertram Lebhar of Weehawken, New Jersey. He was a prominent radio sports announcer of the era who had lost $900,000 to the hoods. He became involved by steering wealthy people to the rigged games in order to work off his own debt to the gamblers.

Salvatore “Salty” Luisi died uneventfully in 1990. His passing drew little public attention. He had already been semi-retired and off the underworld scene by the time of his death.

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