By The Other Guy | August 18, 2020
One of the most powerful Cosa Nostra Families to ever operate within the Mafia’s national orbit was the Upstate New York clan headed by boss Stefano Magaddino.
Born in the infamous Mafia dominated fishing village of Castellammare del Golfo in the northwestern tip of Sicily, Magaddino came from a well-known and notorious family of mafiosi dating back several centuries.
After immigrating to America in the 1910s he was quickly assimilated into a growing Castellammarese community developing in the Williamsburg-Ridgewood section of Brooklyn, and another along Elizabeth Street up through First Avenue in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
During this time Magaddino and his uncles the Bonventre brothers were fighting a rival Castellammarese faction who had immigrated as well. It was an old-world vendetta originally started back in Sicily that had raged in Trapani province and now continued to America.
The Buccellato clan was a powerful mafia group who also maneuvered for control of the towns rackets and were at constant odds with the Magaddino and Bonventre families.
During this protracted conflict in Sicily back in 1916, Stefano’s brother Pietro Magaddino was shotgunned off his horse one day while riding in the mountains of Castellammare. His assassination was thought to have been the work of capo Francesco Buccellato and soldier Camillo Caiozzo. Many killings between the factions took place in Castellammare.
Once they settled in America both mafia factions maintained the vendetta in this country as they had back in the “old country.” As the years passed Magaddino got word from his allies back in Sicily that one his brother’s suspected killers Camillo Caiozzo had sailed to New York City.
In time he was able to track Caiozzo down and in 1921 Magaddino orchestrated Caiozzo’s murder in South Jersey to avenge the longstanding vendetta and his brother Pietro’s murder.
Authorities soon uncovered the facts of the homicide which lead to the arrests of Magaddino, Bonventre, and a group of their associates for the Caiozzo murder after a coconspirator named Bartolomeo Fontana confessed to Caiozzo’s murder and named Magaddino and other higher ups in the Castellammarese hierarchy as having ordered him to do it.
Side Note: Over the course of a decade or so over 125 murders committed across the country were attributed to this group who called themselves “The Good Killers.” Most of these murders took place in New York, New Jersey, and Detroit. Many Buccellato’s were killed in both New York City and Detroit, as well as others on both sides of the conflict.
In fact in 1923 Caiozzo’s cousin, mafioso Pietrino Caiozzo was also lured to New Jersey were he was shot six times and killed by two unknown gunmen on a street corner in the City of Elizabeth. This was thought to have been yet another vendetta killing between the clans.
In time the strength of the Buccellato faction was eliminated in America, but their clan would continue to thrive back in the Trapani Province of Sicily. To this day there are Buccellato family members who are part of the local Castellammare del Golfo cosca.
Magaddino and the others would all later be exonerated of the killings in open court with the exception of Bart Fontana who received a life sentence.
But the tremendous law enforcement pressure brought to bare on Magaddino would eventually convince him to flee the New York City area and relocate up to the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area where fellow “Men of Honor” welcomed him into their ranks.
Another close Magaddino associate was the Castellammarese Gaspare Milazzo who also fled the city as well for the greener pastures of Detroit, Michigan. Once there Milazzo would also rise to power until his later assassination.
Magaddino chose to permanently settle in Buffalo where he was immediately elevated into a newly emerging borgata which had formed within the large Sicilian colony of expatriates from around Palermo and Castellammare del Golfo.
He became a key aide de camp to Buffalo bosses Giuseppe (Joe) Di Carlo and fellow Castellammarese Angelo (Buffalo Bill) Palmieri.
Magaddino would rise to become the underboss, and eventually be named the boss over the entire Mafia network controlling not only the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, but all of Upper Western New York State as well.
Side Note: Stefano Magaddino arguably became one of the longest tenured mafia bosses in United States history. Magaddino was boss for almost 40 years.
It was a wide, sprawling territory that encompassed the Cities of Utica-Rome, Rochester, Syracuse, the Albany District and everything in between.
Magaddino also controlled the adjoining area of Erie, Pennsylvania, as well as the Cities of Toronto and Hamilton in Canada and their surrounding territories.
Side Note: With the formation of “The Commission” in 1931 (which was the Mafia’s equivalent to a national board of directors), Magaddino became a leading Commission member sitting at that table. As the years passed and Lucky Luciano was deported in 1946 and Vito Genovese was jailed in 1959, it led to Magaddino becoming the senior member on the Commission…that alone made him one of the most important mafioso in the nation, if not the entire Italian underworld.
Digressing a bit, between 1929 and 1931 another battle would rage within the nationwide Italian underworld for supremacy over who would rule the Sicilian brotherhood in America. Two major powers opposed each other, New York City boss Giuseppe (Joe the Boss) Masseria and his stubborn archrival Salvatore (Don Turiddo) Maranzano.
Masseria had declared death to all those of Castellammarese heritage after the clan had repeatedly resisted his heavy-handed rule and extortionate demands for tribute money and subservience for the privilege to operate in America.
As a proud Castellammarese mafioso and one of their top leaders in the United States, Steve Magaddino threw his full support behind their clan leader Turiddo Maranzano and his fellow countrymen. Magaddino dutifully sent money, arms, and fighting troops on a weekly basis for nearly eighteen months while the gang-war raged on.
The gang war took place in several major cities but New York was ground zero in the battle.
Magaddino sent dozens of his loyal armed soldiers down into the bloody battleground that became New York City to augment their fellow paisani who were based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan’s Little Italy districts. This is where most of the Castellammarese members were based out of and where most of the fighting would take place.
Other Castellammarese bosses like Gaspare Milazzo in Detroit, Giuseppe (Joe) Aiello of Chicago, Salvatore Sabella of Philadelphia, as well as other sympathizing borgatas in cities across the country did the same. Some would send thousands of dollars a week in cash to support the fighting troops, others sent manpower. Some sent both.
The end result was that although the Masseria troops were said to have outnumbered the Maranzano clan five to one, they were fighting the tightly-woven Castellammarese who were a dedicated and resourceful borgata of loyal fighters. And the Castellammarese faction was fighting for a cause…their honor and their very lives!
To that end Masseria was eventually assassinated in a Brooklyn restaurant by his own followers who wanted the war to end. His top aide Lucky Luciano and several young followers had made a deal with Maranzano to kill Masseria so the war could end. So one afternoon after a leisurely lunch at Scarpato’s Restaurant in Coney Island Masseria’s young protégés shot him to death at the luncheon table.
This murder would indeed end the bloody war, with the Castellammarese finally declaring unmitigated victory.
With this victory a major overhauling took place with a new amalgamation and renewed declaration of all Mafia clans throughout the country who recognized Maranzano as “The Boss of All Bosses” or “Capo di tutti Capi.”
Maranzano in turn named the top mafiosi who would head the brotherhood in each given city and helped to design their hierarchical structure based on the old Roman legions of Caesar. A structure that holds to this day.
Side Note: Maranzano typically named men who had been his loyalists during the war. Many were of Castellammarese heritage themselves.
For his loyalty, Stefano Magaddino was officially named the formal “Father” or “Representante” of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Family of the newly formed Cosa Nostra (“Our Thing” in English).
After Maranzano’s murder, Magaddino’s cousin Giuseppe (Joe) Bonanno would also named a boss. He was named to lead the former borgata that Maranzano had previously controlled in New York City. Bonanno became one of the youngest bosses in the country.
Magaddino in turn named his upper “cabinet” with a Sottocapo (underboss), a Consigliere (advisor) and several Capo di decina (crew leaders). In time they augmented their troops by inducting more men into the brotherhood as Soldati (soldiers) who they deemed fit and worthy of the position.
Side Note: This model was said to have been the design of Maranzano himself. He was said to have modeled the Family structure after the old Roman legion troops under Julius Caesar that he had studied. All Cosa Nostra Families generally follow this design.
At their 1950s-1960s peak the FBI and other authorities have estimated the total Buffalo membership at approximately 100-125 or so formally inducted (made) mafiosi. Other estimates claim a lower membership of approximately 50-60 formal members.
The Magaddino Family of LCN was active in nearly all criminal pursuits; alcohol bootlegging, bookmaking, policy, floating dice and card games, shylocking, extortion, truck hijackings, fencing stolen goods, stock-securities and currency counterfeiting, large international narcotics (heroin and cocaine) smuggling and distribution, cigarette bootlegging, labor-union racketeering, and business infiltration.
They held ironclad control over Laborer’s Local # 210 of Buffalo. They also ran Local # 66 of the Hotel & Restaurant Employees Union (AFL-CIO) through his son-in-law Jimmy La Duca who was the secretary-treasurer of the union, as well as several other labor unions in the Albany and Utica areas specializing in the commercial construction field.
In the early 1960s the FBI planted an illegal “bug” in Magaddino’s business office that recorded hundreds of hours of him “holding court” with his disciples. But much of it was spoken between the mafiosi in the archaic Sicilian dialect of Castellammare. Between the language barrier that created and Magaddino’s thick accent even when trying to speak in English, the amount of useful information gleaned by the feds was somewhat negligible.
Additionally, the old mafioso constantly talked in circles and generally alluded to things, rarely speaking straight forward which made it very hard to understand the subject matter being discussed…it was the classic talk of the mafia. Speak but say little!
Magaddino himself held business interests in Camelia Linen Supply Co., a major supplier to restaurants and other businesses in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, the Magaddino Memorial Chapel Funeral Home, real estate, and a wholesale liquor distributorship. Many of his top staff were also well entrenched in legitimate business.
Underboss John Montana is a perfect example of this infiltration and focus on gaining an aire of legitimacy.
Although one of the most important of mafioso for upwards of 50 years in the Buffalo area, Montana was so well respected that he was actually named “Businessman of the Year” by the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.
He was ostensibly the wealthy owner of a string of taxicab companies including the Van Dyke Taxi Company, a wholesale liquor distributorship he named Frontier Liquor Corp., and the Empire State Brewery, Montana Motors which was a large automobile dealership, horse stables, real estate investment firm, insurance brokerage firm, and several other such above board ventures.
He had always been one of the top bosses of this network but stepped down not to expose himself to law enforcement scrutiny. His attendance and capture by the New York State Police at the infamous Apalachin Mafia Summit on November 14, 1957, would cause innumerable damage to Montana’s reputation and nullify much of his previous value to the borgata.
With no prior criminal arrest record and such a sterling reputation, at one time Montana actually ran for public office serving two terms as a city councilman. He also made an unsuccessful bid as a Congressman for the U.S. House of Representatives, and might have gone on to seek future political office.
The Family was augmented by members hailing from Castellammare del Golfo, Alcamo, Caltanissetta, Palermo, and other areas of Sicily. They also had a solid contingent from Calabria, especially their Canadian based faction members.
Side Note: Even today some 60 years later the Buffalo Family has strong connections into Canada to several small Calabrian N’drangheta clans that are technically still under the protection and flag of the Buffalo Family of LCN.
The Luppino and Papalia clans among several others looked to Magaddino for his support, and vice versa during his tenure.
In 1963, famed informer Joseph Valachi exposed Magaddino as the boss of Upstate New York before a U.S. Senate Rackets Committee. He also spoke of a vast international heroin network that smuggled the drug into the United States through Canada. He described how Magaddino ruled over the territory and received a $1,000 to $2,000 per kilo “tribute” on all drug shipments transported through his acknowledged fiefdom.
Valachi also described the gruesome torture murder ordered by Magaddino against one of his own disciples for threatening the mafia boss.
What remained of Albert Agueci’s corpse was found in an abandoned field in Upstate New York. The medical examiner determined that he had been beaten unmercifully. That the victim had been tortured before he was manually straggled and his body doused with gasoline and set ablaze. It was meant to send a chilling message to others in the underworld who would dare think about informing or disrespecting the hierarchy in any way.
Brothers Albert and Vito Agueci were Italian nationals who had immigrated to Buffalo years earlier. They ostensibly ran a bakery, but in truth were key couriers and distributors of heroin within a vast mafia controlled network headed by Vito Genovese, Magaddino and several other New York bosses.
Upon Vito Agueci being arrested during a major sweep that also nabbed Valachi and many others, he soon started complaining out loud about how Magaddino had not hired an attorney to defend him, and had not sent any money to support his wife and kids while he was imprisoned awaiting trial.
He tried calling Magaddino direct and making contact through others. His frustration grew to the point that he wrote several damning letters to Magaddino from jail threatening to expose their entire network and name names unless he was bailed out immediately if not sooner!
Vito soon got a response but not the one he’d hoped for. His brother Albert’s mangled corpse was Magaddino’s answer to the letters…Vito Agueci seems to have gotten the message after that. He shut his mouth and did his time.
Steve Magaddino ruled his troops for over three decades. His was a mostly heady rule with few obstacles in his way. But one major bone of contention became a “tit for tat” competition between he and his New York City-based cousin, Family boss Joseph Bonanno.
By the early the 1960s there was a clearly growing animosity between the cousins. It became evidenced in surreptitious recording the FBI made from that illegal listening device placed in Magaddino’s “inner sanctum office.” Other bugs strategically placed around the country at other mob strongholds also bore out Magaddino’s resentment toward Bonanno for encroaching on what he perceived to be his “territory.”
Previous to that time Magaddino viewed all of Canada as his sole domain. Although his Buffalo/Niagara Falls territory most closely touched the Hamilton, Toronto-Ontario sections of the country, the fact that Bonanno was looking to establish a “decina” in Montreal was still way too close for comfort for the old mafioso.
It seems that a few years earlier Bonanno had sent his trusted underboss Carmine (Lilo) Galante and a small contingent of their soldiers up into Canada to make contacts and establish a new beachhead and regime in Montreal.
Of course, we now know that Galante was very successful in allying with the Calabrian born Cotroni brothers in developing what became a major Bonanno faction in Montreal that holds to this day. The Cotroni Regime led by Vic and Pepe Cotroni became a major force in the Canadian underworld and often conflicted with Magaddino Family interests.
This was especially so because both the Magaddino and Bonanno Families represented the interests of the various smaller Calabrian mafia clans that had earlier settled the territory. Magaddino providing protection to the Luppino, Violi and Papalia clans among several others. While the Bonanno flag was flown by the Cotroni and Violi factions.
It became a major bone of contention between the two that would later encourage Magaddino to largely betray his cousin and side with other members of the Mafia Commission in New York leading to Bonanno’s expulsion from Cosa Nostra…I’m sure that no love was lost between the blood cousins for years thereafter.
One single event would change Stefano Magaddino’s destiny and that of the Buffalo Family forever.
During a police investigation in late-1967 into 1968 probing the borgata’s gambling network, authorities raided numerous locations looking for gambling records and other evidence. The locations raided included several Magaddino family residences, his funeral home and linen supply company.
Investigators hit upon a treasure trove of interesting documents and some bundles of cash totaling $35,000 in several desk drawers at the Magaddino funeral home. But more importantly the raiders uncovered a another hidden stash totaling $521,000 in cold cash neatly stacked in rubber-banded $10,000 bundles at his son Peter Magaddino’s home.
This raid took place shortly after Magaddino had just made an announcement to the membership that this Christmas season would be a bleak one because the borgata’s coffers was depleted. So instead of large percentages of racket profits being paid out to the various capos and soldiers as in years past, nobody had received a dime.
When it was later revealed that Magaddino actually had over $550,000 in cash stashed in his home the whole time nearly the entire borgata rebelled against him, his brother, son and son-in-laws.
Side Note: A half-million dollars in cash in the 1960s was the equivalent of maybe $5,000,000 today. And that was only what was lying around his house. Imagine how much more he probably had buried away. It was a major embarrassment to say the least, and became the catalyst for an major uprising by his previously loyal rank and file membership.
Under Joe Todaro’s tutelage and leadership the Buffalo Family would enjoy a mostly stable existence for the next several decades while he was at the helm.
Magaddino was soon voted out of office by the borgata. After his forced retirement as head of the Family the Buffalo mob continued under several controversial interim leaderships and splintered factions until a quiet, low profile capo named Joseph (Leadpipe Joe) Todaro Sr. was elected to lead the troops.
Todaro seems to have been a well liked boss and successful Capo. But even without considering the vast profits he received as boss of the Family, the Todaro’s became rich people on their own.
With the help of his son Joe Jr., father and son became very wealthy business entrepreneurs after creating and later expanding a small chain of pizza parlors started in 1957 he named La Nova into a multimillion-dollar a year business.
Today, the Todaro family runs several Buffalo locations and the La Nova Pizza-Chicken Wing chain grosses well over $25,000,000 annually.
In time the wealth this legitimate string of pizza businesses generated for them rivaled anything their rackets ever brought in. La Nova is considered the country’s largest independent pizzeria chain.
In recent years the borgata has generally seen its fortunes and health plummet much the same as most other Mafia Families across the United States.
But despite vastly reduced membership and shrunken racket opportunities, the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Family is still chugging along.
They still operate on both sides of the United States/Canadian border.
In fact law enforcement has recently documented new activity attributed to the Family in the narcotics and labor union fields, as well as the formal “induction” to soldier status of some new blood thought to have been brought into the borgata…if true, it could be a positive sign of things to come for the Buffalo Family.
The sons of a former Canadian-based caporegime later murdered named Paolo Violpi are said to have grown up in their father’s image. And today they are said to be among those at the helm of the Buffalo/Niagara Falls Family. History often repeats itself…and that is especially so in Cosa Nostra. Domenico Violi, Giuseppe Violi, and their cousin Rocco Luppino are reputed to be current members.
The Magaddino Family flow chart below represents their reputed formal inducted membership for the50 year period from approximately 1931 through 1981.
Not all those listed was necessarily inducted or served during the same time periods. But all mafiosi listed were active at some point during this era.
In any given time period, this borgata was thought to have had about six caporegime’s overseeing as many “crews.”
Stefano (The Old Man) Magaddino
Angelo (Buffalo Bill) Palmieri
Giuseppe (The Old Man) DiCarlo Sr.
Joseph (Leadpipe Joe) Todaro Sr.
Salvatore (Sam) Pieri
Frederico (Lupo the Wolf) Randaccio
Giovanni C. (Big John) Montana
CAPO DI DECINA
Rosario (Roy the Clam Man) Carlisi
Joseph Falcone Sr.
Benjamin (Benny) Nicoletti Sr.
Samuel (Toto) Lagattuta Sr.
Salvatore (Sam) Rangatore Jr.
Giuseppe (Joe the Wolf) DiCarlo Jr.
Albert (Babe) Billiteri
Matthew (Steamboat) Billiteri
Salvatore (George Raft) Bonito
Joseph (Joe Bongi) Bongiorno
Calogero (Charlie) Bordonaro
Ignazio (Harold) Bondonaro
Simone (Buffalo Joe) Borruso
Paolo (Bobby Ross) Briandi
Rosario (Bobby) Brocato
Charles A. Montana
Vincent (Jimmy) Caci
Charles (Bobby Milano) Caci
Salvatore (Sam Camps) Campanella
Steven (Flattop) Cannarozzo
Benedetto (Benny) Carcone Sr.
Steven (The Whale) Cino
Joseph (Joe D) DiBenedetto
Salvatore (Sam) DiCarlo
Vito (Buck Jones) Domiano
Vincenzo (Jimmy) Femia
Joseph Fino Jr.
Samuel (The Farmer) Frangiamore
Dante (Danny) Gasbarrini
Serafino (Sam) Grio
James V. Laduca
Samuel Lagattuta Jr.
Vincent (Jimmy) Luppino
Antonio (Nino) Magaddino
Peter A. Magaddino
Peter J. Magaddino
Rosario (Ross) Mancuso
Dominick (Dom Mantell) Mantele
Filippo (Philly) Mazzara
Salvatore (Sam) Miano
Pasquale (Patty Titters) Natarelli
Benjamin (Sonny) Nicoletti Jr.
Paolino (Paul) Palmieri
Robert (Bobby Snowball) Panaro
Donald (The Turtle) Panepinto
John (The Enforcer) Papalia
Anthony (Lucky) Perna
John (Johnny Rai) Pieri
Pascal (Baggy Pants) Politano
Calogero (Charlie) Polizzi
Angelo (Tony) Rizzo
Salvatore (Sam) Rizzo
Giuseppe (Joe) Ruffino
Giacomino (Jake Russo) Russolesi
James (Westfield Jimmy) Salamone
Salvatore (Sam) Salli
Daniel (Boots) Sansanese Sr.
Daniel Sansanese Jr.
Joseph (Chicago Joe) Sciales
Andrea (Andy) Sciandra
Edward V. Scillia
Salvatore (Sam) Scro
Vincent (Jimmy) Sicurella
Giuseppe (Don Pepe) Sottile
Benedetto (Benny) Spano
Michael (Mikey Torch) Tascarella
Joseph Todaro Jr.
Antonino (Nino Trufio) Trifio
John (Peanuts) Tronolone
Most of the men listed below were considered “associates” during this era of the Family, some being more closely tied in than others. A few may have actually been “made” members. Several others did get inducted years later.
Anthony (Tony) Falange
James (Julie) Caputo
Benedetto Carcone Jr.
Daniel (Boone) Domino
Gaetano (Chooch) Miceli
Michael D. Perna
William (Billy the Kid) Sciolino
William (Billy) Lupo
Thaddeus (Teddy the Goose) Wedalowski
Arnoldo (Lalla) Rondina
Charles (Chickie) Fiorella
Frank (The Blaze) LoTempio
Elia (Al Decker) Di Chirico Sr.
William L. Spaulding
Joseph (Joe Snow) Panaro
Robert A. Bonner
Salvatore (Sam) Pugliese
Frank (Whitney) Jacobi