By The Other Guy | October 3, 2020
Joseph (Joe the Wop) Cataldo was born on November 16, 1908 in the little village of San Fele in Potenza, in the Campania region of Southern Italy. He immigrated to this country as a boy, and was naturalized at 26 years old on January of 1934.
As a young man he resided in Downtown New York. By the early 1950s he was living at 59 West 12th Street on Manhattan’s Lower West Side, a largely Italian district. Cataldo would live and operate in this Downtown Greenwich Village area nearly his entire life.
He stood a squat 5-feet 6-inches tall and weighed 180 pounds. He was bald on top with blackish/grey hair on the sides, and brown eyes. Not to disparage his looks, but Joe the Wop wasn’t getting called to play any Hollywood leading man roles anytime soon.
FBI # 5035653, NYCPD # B-251041
A well-versed mafioso in nearly all street rackets, Joe the Wop nonetheless seemed to gravitate to, and be most comfortable operating in a wide variety of bars and nightclubs, B-girl clip joints, homosexual bars, as well as popular music venues throughout Manhattan.
He main bailiwick being the Greenwich Village section on Manhattan’s Lower West Side. Over the years Cataldo also bought into or infiltrated several top named venues in Midtown Manhattan around the Times Square area as well.
One of the most popular nightclubs he owned was Tony Pastors located at 130 West 3rd Street, which was among the top Greenwich Village entertainment venues for many years. Several other top Village nightclubs and watering holes were the El Dorado, and The Heat Wave.
Another of his hidden ownerships involved Chandler’s Restaurant located at 49th Street on the East Side of Midtown in which Cataldo was alleged to hold an interest.
Joe the Wop was also known for holding very lucrative concessions in various top Manhattan nightspots such as the hat check room, valet parking, cigarette concessions, caricature sketching, and on-sight photographers.
Although technically married for years to a woman named Thelma West who he had a child with, Cataldo was rarely home and mostly lived by himself or shacked up with various girlfriends from time to time.
By the mid-1960s, informants had told FBI agents that Joe the Wop was currently residing uptown with a showgirl and making himself scarce. He was rarely seen at his old Greenwich Village haunts anymore.
Joe the Wop was, in fact, a longtime, well-documented member in the old Luciano/Genovese Family. He served for years as a “soldier” within the regime of capo Anthony (Tony Bender) Strollo.
Although maintaining a soldier’s rank throughout his mob career, Cataldo was nonetheless a very influential hoodlum who had his manicured fingernails in many important Mafia pies through his many decades of service to the borgata.
Joe sported a criminal record that only listed a few arrests for criminally receiving stolen goods, and a grand larceny charge.
But his true racket repertoire consisted of gambling such as horse bookmaking, policy and crap games, shylocking and extortion, illegal unlicensed after-hour nightclubs, and alleged prostitution rackets.
And according to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), the precursor organization to the DEA, as a key member of the Anthony Strollo regime he also operated for years as a major heroin trafficker in tandem with other crew members and associates.
It was thought that as a wealthy mafioso, Cataldo served as both a financier-smuggler of narcotics shipments, as well as a wholesale distributor in concert with Strollo and Vito Genovese himself.
Among his closest associates in the mob besides his capo di decina Tony Strollo was:
-Vincent (Vinny Bruno) Mauro
-Innocenzio (John the Bug) Stopelli
-Alfred (Butch) Faicco
-Ignazio (Joe Curly) Agone
-Joseph (Joe Beck) Lapi
-Vincent (Chin) Gigante
-Mario (The Shadow) Gigante
-Ottilio (Frankie the Bug) Caruso
-Armando (Petey Herman) Perillo
-Joseph (Joe Cago) Valachi…among many others not named.
Most of those named were indeed major national, or international traffickers of heavy narcotics.
Joe the Wop had a big reputation in the New York underworld, and across Cosa Nostra in general. He was also said to have played a key role in the management of several Cuban casinos during the mob’s heyday back in Havana.
It was said that on one such trip to Havana that FBI agents had tracked, Cataldo had received a VIP welcome, being picked up in a Cuban government vehicle and given an escort through customs directly to his hotel by top Cuban officials.
The agents also documented that Joe the Wop was met at the airport by the U.S. Representative Victor Anfuso representing Brooklyn, NY, and a Cuban congressman who had converged on the airport to welcome them both to Cuba.
During this particular stay in Cuba it was also documented that he was chauffeured around the island in a Cuban government issued car the entire time he was in that country.
This little foray exposed the close relationship between the Italian mob, certain American politicians, and top Cuban officials all collaborating together as though it was just another day at the office.
At about this same time back in New York City,
Federal law enforcement authorities discovered a top NYC political figure named Carmine DeSapio using his influence to try and swing a horse racing license for a new Flats Horse Track to be built in New York on behalf of a business group that had approached him.
DeSapio told this investment group that all negotiations between he and them should be handled through his close friend Joseph Cataldo.
Side Note: It was discovered that Joe the Wop belonged to DeSapio’s Greenwich Village political club and was considered a big man among its members.
In that era Carmine DeSapio was among the top leaders of the old Tammany Hall political machine, and one of the most important and powerful politicians in all New York City for that matter.
If you view old photos of Carmine DeSapio, you would swear that he was a mafioso himself. His manner of dress, dark glasses, general demeanor, even the way he carried himself and spoke.
It would not surprise me if he was. Lol…he was at least a mob “associate” and mafia sympathizer for sure.
By the 1970s, Cataldo was thought to have relocated entirely down to South Florida where he continued to ply his trade in semi-retirement in the Miami Beach area.
Through informants, the FBI also learned that Cataldo attempted to dabble in stolen stocks and the securities rackets.
There are a few conflicting reports on the exact date of his death, but I do believe that soldier Joseph (Joe the Wop) Cataldo died in the year 1980. If this is correct then Cataldo was approximately 72 years old when he died.
This article was originally posted “here“