Author: The New York Mafia

The Narcotics Racket

By The Other Guy | August 8, 2020

Intercepted in Northern Italy, a 4,626 lb. load of pure cocaine
Intercepted in Northern Italy, a 4,626 lb. load of pure cocaine

There has been much written about the narcotics trade through the years, and anything I say here is but a bleep in its vast and sordid history on the world stage.

Narcotics in all its various forms has seemingly been around forever. The narcotics trade across the world is an incalculable multi-zillion dollar underworld industry. NOTHING can match its allure and unbelievable quick profits. 

Unfortunately that allure has also brought a lot of misery to our populous the world over. A misery that few other substances or products have ever matched.

The variety of narcotics and other illegal substances available is almost breathtaking in its scope. 

Marijuana that is grown in the fields of Colombia, Mexico, Jamaica, Australia, the United States, and a variety of other countries and locales has been a staple since the beginning. The “training wheels’ 

Hashish grown in the fields and mountains of Nepal, Morocco, Turkey, and Iran to name but a few of its origin points.

Barbiturates (downers or goof balls) such as Phenobarbitals (Yellow Jackets), stimulants (uppers) such as Amphetamines (Black Beauties), synthetic narcotic pills (Oxycontin), or hallucinogens such as Acid or Mescaline which are manufactured in laboratories the world over.

These little capsules and pills have changed in popularity over time. But for every era there is always a “new” inventive substance to addict people. In the 1970s it was the Rorer-714 Quaaludes as a popular “downer”, “Black Beauties” as a powerful stimulant, and the well-known “Yellow Jackets”, etc. During the Hippie era the craze were the psychedelics such as “Acid.”

Today it is the synthetic narcotic pill OxyContin and all its various spinoffs. 

Heroin, Morphine and Opium grown across the world in such countries as Turkey, China, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina to name but a few. This narcotic drug of course has the most deadly of reputations…and for good reason.

Its addictive qualities have “captured” the souls of untold millions of unfortunates who have fallen victim to its deadly grip through the ages. 

Cocaine has also always been a highly sort after drug since at least the late 1800s. But since the early 1970s has seen a tremendous resurgence across the world. In the last fifty years it has arguably become the drug of choice.

Whether its the lower class drug user, the solidly middle-class blue and white-collar workers, or the so-called high class “beautiful people”, its false allure as a “safer” powder to casually enjoy has helped it to explode in popularity….and South America’s drug merchants and Cocaine kings have made sure to capitalize on it. 

A extra dangerous spin-off product from Cocaine has been “Crack,” which is a smokeable form of the drug and even more addictive than Cocaine itself…There is just no end to the diabolical minds of drug merchants. “Where there is a will there is a way”…and when there’s big money involved there is always a will!

There are a host of other illicit products that have been marketed for many decades. Collectively, whether they are natural or man-made substances, the drug business taken as a whole is a medley of varied and very profitable sub-industries that has become the scourge of mankind the world over!

And it knows no boundaries or ethnicities. Every country of the world has its drug problems. Every country has their own drug merchants and traffickers. And every country has a segment of its people who “indulge” in various drugs and narcotics. It will always be that way. That fact pretty much guarantees that there will also always be men willing to risk it all and traffic drugs to make the millions that potentially await them.

The United States is no different. In fact in some ways because we are a wealthy country our drug problem has been far worse because of a greater access to money in which to indulge peoples curiosities and habits. 

There is no end to people willing to engage in drug dealing because of the enormous profits involved. But Cosa Nostra, better known the world over as the Mafia has been at the forefront of certain types of narcotics trafficking for many decades.

Side Note: Although they generally go where the money is, Italian organized crime mostly traffics and deals in Heroin, Cocaine, and Marijuana. Occasionally you will come across “connected guys” who dabble in other drugs, but primarily the three I mentioned have traditionally been their bailiwick.

Among the first recognized major Mafia-connected narcotics rings operating in America was a massive multi-state heroin and opium smuggling ring nabbed in 1937 down in Texas and Louisiana with direct ties to their Mafia headquarters based in New York City. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (FBN), which was the precursor of todays Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), had been tracking the ring’s movements for several years.

In 1937, the FBN dispatched multiples teams of narcotics agents to execute a major sweep against dozens upon dozens of top narcotics importers and dealers, as well as several addicts in Galveston and Dallas, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, and many other cities across the nation including the west coast.

News of the 1937 nationwide bust!

Those arrested and indicted, 74 defendants in all, included the infamous Nicola Gentile who was a major Sicilian mafioso on both sides of the Atlantic, and a key operative of the Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cleveland, and New York City D’Aquila (Anastasia) Families, as well as the San Francisco borgata. 

Others included Galveston mafioso and nightclub owner Sam Maceo, another Houston mafia soldier and nightclub owner named Vincent Vallone, Texas mafia capo Biagio Angelica, New Orleans soldier Onofrio (Nufio) Pecoraro, and New York City D’Aquila Family soldier Alfonso Attardi among many others. Most defendants in the case either pled out or were convicted after trial and served long prison sentences.

Side Note: It is interesting to note that both Nicola Gentile and Alfonso Attardi eventually became “confidential informants” after their narcotics arrests in this case. Attardi was one of the very first documented “made member” informants.

By the late 1940s several years after WWII, the Italian Mafia in Sicily and French Corsican gangsters started to collaborate for the importation of raw opium base from Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and several other middle-eastern countries into Europe.

Texas mafioso - Vincent Vallone
Texas mafioso – Vincent Vallone

The French and Corsican underworld became the recognized experts in the conversion of this opium into the finest white powdered heroin known to mankind. They offered a purity that was rare to find. Because of the high quality of their product, the French/Corsican mob was soon able to corner the market. They were mainly headquartered in the cities of Marseilles and Paris, France. From there they coordinated multimillion-dollar heroin networks that saw their product exported across North America.

Their best customers being the Italian Mafia. The French and Italians are very similar in cultures and mindset to begin with…Corsicans, who are a blending of Italian and French blood who most often have Italianate surnames, are the closest thing to being 100% Italian/Sicilian themselves. For them, it was a match and a partnership made in Heaven by the angels. For law enforcement it was a match made in Hell by the devils!

From the early 1950s forward, untold thousands of kilograms of the purest heroin known to mankind was manufactured from pure opium gum base, packaged, and smuggled by air, ship, and shore, into the number one marketplace in the world, the United States of America.

Texas mafioso - Sam Maceo
Texas mafioso – Sam Maceo

This first early partnership would become the benchmark and “model”, setting the tone and format for the smooth continuing operation of an underground narcotics smuggling and importation system that would be duplicated thousands of times in the decades to come.

Many varied “sub-partnerships” and “combinations” were formed between the Sicilian Mafia as the initial contractors and buyers, the French-Corsican mob as the chemists and suppliers, and the American Cosa Nostra Families as the final destination of the product.

The Cotroni brothers based in Montreal, Canada, became one of the most important conduits between the players. Led by the Calabrian racketeer Vittorio (Vic the Egg) Cotroni and his two brothers Giuseppe (Pepe) and Frank, the Cotroni mob became the “brokers” and middlemen who were entrusted to coordinate much of this white powder for over three decades.

The infamous “French Connection” heroin ring bust of 1972, which was made famous through a book and movie of the same name, was in reality and fact only one branch of a massive multi-faceted network of international narcotics merchants who had been in operation for many decades before the monumental indictment took place, and have continued the heroin flow for many decades since that time.

Calabrian boss - Vittorio (Vic) Cotroni
Calabrian boss – Vittorio (Vic) Cotroni

The French Connection was a collaboration of the Corsican underworld and New York’s Mafia Families to import multiple shipments of heroin into the ports of New York City. It operated smoothly for years until their dismantling and indictment.

In subsequent years the successor organization was the “Sicilian Connection”. Which in essence was the “next generation” of the old French Connection, only this time the chemists and processing laboratories, as well as the international smugglers who ferried the heroin into the United States were of Sicilian origin. 

Years earlier the French has been the origin source of opium base which their chemists converted into heroin, negotiating its purchase and price from Turkish opium merchants.

They then sold to Italian nationals who were narcotics violators who either made arrangements to smuggle the contraband through American customs themselves for resale to American born narcotics violators, or in the alternative disposed of their product in Europe, leaving the problem of the smuggling logistics to American Cosa Nostra members who then collaborated with their “amici” to coordinate the trans-shipping. 

Giuseppe (Pepe) Cotroni
Giuseppe (Pepe) Cotroni

As the years passed, the Sicilians started to become the chemists themselves and made arrangements with Middle Eastern drug lords for direct purchases of raw opium for conversion.

Soon, throughout the hills of Sicily and Calabria in Southern Italy clandestine drug laboratories started popping up as the different Mafia clans established their own networks for the purchase, conversion, packaging and ultimate wholesale distribution of heroin. This has now gone on for decades. In the year 2020 it is still going on, although not at the pace it once did.

A perfect example of this process is to review what later become infamously known as “The Pizza Connection”.  This case was in essence the exposure of just one Mafia narcotics operation (although admittedly a huge network), led by Cinisi Family boss Gaetano (Tano) Badalamenti. He and his Cosa Nostra confederates developed a massive international heroin ring that operated in Italy, Germany, The United States, Argentina, as well as many other countries.

After smuggling the narcotics into the United States, they used pizza parlors and Italian restaurants sprinkled throughout the country as storage depots and distribution points to their mob associates and drug buyers. Authorities later stated that this network alone had smuggled over $1.6-Billion dollars in narcotics during its years in operation (approximately a decade).

Boss - Gaetano (Tano) Badalamenti
Boss – Gaetano (Tano) Badalamenti

Side Note: Although always an available product, Cocaine became all the rage again by the early 1970s. Over the next three decades, cocaine would surpass heroin as the most popular of narcotics. It became a widely used drug that knew no boundaries. Where heroin always had a bleak and deadly reputation. Cocaine had just the opposite.

It’s use by all social strata continues today as a largely harmless drug whose moderate use is safe. Hollywood stars, politicians, big business people, “The beautiful People”, and common folk alike have tried it. Unfortunately, any drug is not a good thing. And certainly, Cocaine is no different in that respect.

Drug cartels in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, and a host of other South American countries are of course the “sources” of this white powder. As years have passed they have made connections to Italian Mafia groups and are now often times in partnerships with the Mafia for worldwide distribution. 

By the mid-1980s Tano Badalamenti and his associates had been rounded up and later jailed, receiving decades-long prison sentences. But in their place other Sicilian clans soon started operating throughout Palermo and its outer territories.

A good example of this would be the Gambino brothers network. Originally based out of the Palermo area, the three brothers; Giovanni, Giuseppe, and Rosario Gambino, immigrated to New York City where they joined the infamous Carlo Gambino Family of LCN (they were distant cousins of the boss himself).

In years to come, they would be exposed as the leaders of a massive Heroin smuggling network from Sicily to America. For over 30 years, from the 1960s through the 1980s they imported thousands of kilograms of the deadly powder into the United States.

After many repeated law enforcement assaults on both sides of the Atlantic, the Sicilian mafia found themselves on the ropes. Many of their smuggling networks had been busted up and dismantled.

But as only the mafia can, soon another Italian mafia-styled organization in the Southern Italian region of Calabria stepped up to fill the void created by the vacuum. Known as the N’drangheta, today the Calabrian mafia has become the major traffickers of both heroin and cocaine throughout the world. 

By either directly smuggling the heroin into America for later resale, or negotiating with both American and other Sicilian born traffickers on European soil, these drug networks oversee the smooth transfer of thousands of kilograms of both heroin and cocaine into many European countries and the United States.

This last scenario of leaving the logistics of actually smuggling the narcotics into the states brings less profit to Calabrian and Sicilian traffickers, but also much less risk as far as a loss of their financial investment and/or possible arrest. By negotiating the sale of the heroin or Cocaine shipment on European soil, it became the problem of the American buyer to figure out how to safely smuggle the drug shipment across the U.S. border into the states.

Depending upon the mafiosi involved and their nerve, abilities, and greed, it is often much safer to stay in the shadows and make less but be safe. 

Side Note: Many of the following methods described are still utilized today.

Some handled the powder from “cradle to grave.” In the old days they or their representatives would fly to France or Italy to make a multi-kilo deal at rock bottom prices. They would then utilize a variety of methods to try and smuggle the “junk load” back into the states.

They often employed the method of convincing an innocent older Italian couple or other immigrants to please transport a suitcase back to the United States that a “cousin” would retrieve from them once they arrived (a common practice in the old days). 

Side Note: Unbeknownst to the innocent couple the suitcase had a “false bottom” stuffed with several kilos of heroin inside.

Another favorite method was to bribe merchant seamen (many of whom were former mafia-connected criminals themselves) to secret a stash of heroin into the hull of the ship, or within their personal living quarters during a overseas trip from Le Harve’, France or another such European port into New York Harbor.

Once docked in a New York port the seaman (who have port credentials) was automatically and quickly cleared through “customs”. He simply walked down the gangplank and delivered the “package” to a predestined local address to get paid his envelope of cash for his services.

With the advent of air travel, the same scenario was proposed and often accepted by pilots and stewardesses alike. They simply carried several kilos of heroin or cocaine onto the plane in their carryon bag.

Once they landed at their destination, whether it be JFK International Airport, Newark International, Chicago’s O’Hare, or any number of airport terminals, they slung the bag over their shoulder and walked off the plane. With their automatic clearance, they were mostly above reproach from customs agents. These two schemes worked like a charm for many decades.

Of course, there was also the popular cross-border smuggling. From Canada down into New York’s border cities of Buffalo, Lake Champlain and other cities on the United States’ northern borders.  Or from Mexico up into Texas, Arizona, and California. By car, bus, truck, train, and later elaborate tunnels that were dug so as to ferry large shipments of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Smugglers are nothing if not ingenious when it comes to making money…and this is big money indeed!

With Cuba, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and other such Island territories and countries so close to Florida, it was and is common for smugglers to run speed boats (called cigarettes), fishing boats, or personal luxury boats back and forth with shipments of drugs. Another often used method was to fly small personal aircraft into desolate makeshift landing strips or drop waterproof packages of drugs into the ocean for retrieval by watercraft. 

For every single load of drugs that may be intercepted by U.S. Customs Agents and the U.S. Coast Guard in these waters, or at the various airports and land border crossings, multiple loads make it safely through. 

Another major smuggling scheme has been to bury narcotic loads deep inside the huge commercial shipping containers arriving at Port Newark in New Jersey or other U.S. ports across the United States. The sheer volume of these steel containers arriving daily, as well as the wealth of varied legitimate products contained inside them prohibits customs agents and the FBI from successfully intercepting most narcotics shipments.

Coupled with the inferior laws the U.S. had on the books during this time, the 1940s through the 1950s saw an explosion of heroin smuggling and nationwide trafficking by many mafiosi belonging to Families throughout the nation. Some borgatas specialized in the trade and were knee-deep in it such as the Genovese, Bonanno and Lucchese Families of New York. But most Families if not all had at least some representation in the narcotics racket.  

Side Note: In the 1950s word was that the enticement was so great to get involved in the drug trade that one crew, the Chicago Family, actually went so far as to supplement any of their soldiers who had been known to previously sell narcotics with a $250 per week “salary”, with the admonition that death awaited them if they continued to traffic in Heroin.

It was said to have mostly worked because in future years there was a large reduction in narcotics arrests and convictions of “made” Chicago members.

For instance, the Profaci Family under founding boss Giuseppe (Joe) Profaci dissuaded his troops from active involvement in the heroin trade. But he still dabbled in it by authorizing a small contingent of his followers to traffic. In the late 1940s-early 1950s his boyhood friend from back in Villabate, Sicily, mafia boss Antonio (Nino) Cottone was suspected by the FBN as the source of Profaci’s drugs.

News story of Chris Rubino’s Murder
News story of Chris Rubino’s Murder

A notorious narcotics dealer and Profaci subordinate named Cristoforo (Chris) Rubino was eventually indicted on heroin smuggling and the wholesale distribution of the drug to local dealers with a drug network stretching out to California.

The informer Chris Rubino shot dead!
The informer Chris Rubino shot dead!

During the investigation, narcotics agents were able to intercept a large shipment of “oranges” from Sicily that in fact contained multiple “fake” wax oranges that had a hollowed-out center which had been stuffed with bags of heroin…there is no end to the creativity of narcotics smugglers.

Side Note; Rubino was later gunned downed on a Brooklyn street corner after he had been indicted for trafficking and the underworld suspected he had turned federal informant. 

In 1959, Family boss Vito (Don Vitone) Genovese was indicted in a massive multi-Family narcotics conspiracy along with top members of the Lucchese, Bonanno, and Gambino mobs.

Some of the top names in the case included top capos and bosses John (Big John) Ormento, Carmine (Lilo) Galante, Joseph (Joe Beck) Di Palermo, Salvatore (Tom Mix) Santoro, Natale (Joe Diamond) Evola, and soldiers Cosmo (Carlie) DePietro and Anthony (Tony) Mirra to name but a few. They and many other affiliated mafia soldiers and their top henchmen were charged with operating a nationwide heroin distribution ring for nearly ten years. 

Several interlocking related heroin conspiracy cases spun off of this indictment. Collectively dozens upon dozens of mafiosi from across the country were either indicted or exposed as narcotics smugglers and distributors over the course of five years or so.

Don Vitone Genovese
NYC boss Vito (Don Vitone) Genovese

Genovese and the others would all later be convicted, with Vito receiving 15 years in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. He would die there as would several of his codefendants. But their jailing’s did little to dissuade others from future involvement in narcotics. There is just way too much money in the drug racket for it to be ignored.

With the intense and sustained law enforcement crackdowns on Cosa Nostra over the last few decades throughout Italy, the United States and Canada, the Mafia is not what it once was.

The gap that has been created by these arrests and probes has allowed other ethnicities and drug organizations to crop up and become firmly established in the narcotics trade. Colombians, Mexicans, Cubans, Blacks, Chinese, Middle Eastern nationals, motorcycle gangs, street gangs, and other independents have all joined the worldwide “business” known as drug dealing. 

Whether it is the actual manufacture, smuggling, wholesaling, right down to street distribution networks that sell $10 bags of Heroin, all have attempted to grab their piece of the pie so to speak. Because the narcotics trade is indeed so big and a worldwide enterprise, no one single entity or organization could ever harness it all…so there is enough room at the racket table for all to eat.

Bonanno underboss Carmine Galante
Bonanno underboss Carmine Galante

Italian organized crime in all its various forms has always been but a small part of this underworld narcotics mosaic. Still, Cosa Nostra, N’drangheta and the Camorra attract the most attention and subsequent news print. They always have and probably always will simply because the public the world over is captivated with this Italian phenomena. 

The Italian Mafia sells newspapers, books and tickets for gangster movies like no other underworld entity. People are addicted with its culture, customs, funny nicknames, the seeming ease by which they ply their trade and live their lives.

The fact that they can kiss their children at the dinner table over a plate of macaroni after having just garroted a rival or stool pigeon an hour earlier. Mafiosi are a unique composition like no other ever seen. They have been romanticized almost to the point that they can do no wrong. But as I say in truth they have always played only one role in a myriad of roles connected to the drug trade. 

And although they admittedly were once probably the single most pivotal player on the field, every single ethnicity plays a part. French, Turkish, Iranian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Colombian, Mexican, Greek, Israeli, Russian, Argentinian, Canadian, etc., I could go on and on because there is no end to the major “players” deeply connected to this racket.

Drugs are big business! Because of it there will always be legions of men of all ethnicities willing to risk it all for the potential of the big profits it offers. Regardless of how dangerous it is, or how many years in prison a conviction for drug trafficking may bring.

Until next time, “The Other Guy”

This article was originally posted “here

The Jukebox & Vending Machine Racket

By The Other Guy | August 2, 2020

Illegal video gambling machines, a cash cow for the mob!
Illegal video gambling machines, a cash cow for the mob!

One of the easiest and most profitable “semi-legitimate” businesses the mob ever developed was the coin-machine industry.

Starting right after the repeal of the alcohol Prohibition in 1931, racketeers of all stripes started looking for other revenue streams now that bootlegging liquor was a thing of the past.

Many turned to gambling which had always been around but had never been a developed to its full potential as a premier racket. Bookmaking on horses, baseball, basketball, and other sports soon became the “go to” racket operation many engaged in.

A “Joker Poker” machine screen
A “Joker Poker” machine screen.

Bookmaking became a popular vocation, as bookies accepted bets on nearly everything that moved.

Alongside that was the policy racket or numbers lottery, a hugely popular game of chance mostly played in the poorer sections of the city. The Italians had always run their own lottery with the winning number being drawn weekly from Italy and telexed to the states.

There were also punchboards, high-stakes card and dice games, and many other casino-type games.

But of all these variations on gambling probably the simplest gambling racket of all became slot machines, or “one-armed bandits” as they were commonly referred to.

New York City became ground zero for the slot machine racket in America, and although many racketeers of all ethnicities and Italian mafiosi alike would profit from slot machines, the biggest and most important mafioso of all had to be Francesco (Frank Costello) Castiglia, the longtime “consigliere” and later “acting boss” of the most important Mafia Family in the nation, the Luciano Family.

The iconic Costello was a racketeer businessman of epic proportions who was a visionary in several racket fields, not the least of which was the coin-machine racket, and most specifically slot machines.

By the mid to late 1930s, Costello unquestionably became the kingpin of the slot machine rackets in New York City. He literally had thousands of these “one-armed bandits” operating throughout the five boroughs. In years to come, he expanded across the country and was partnered with many varied racketeers in states as far away as California in slot operations.

Slot-machine kingpin Frank Costello
Slot-machine kingpin Frank Costello

Candy stores, coffee shops, diners, bars, restaurants, pizzerias, dry cleaners, factories, and many other retail locations too numerous to name, not to mention illegal speakeasies and after-hours clubs, and underground slot machine dens.

The incentive for the shop keeper was most often a 50/50 split of the gross revenue the machine brought in weekly. This could amount to a huge payday depending upon the location in question. Some locales were popular enough to support several machines.

In other situations, shop keepers were sometimes “convinced” to install the machines and received no percentage of its revenue. The business owners were happy to comply so as not to incur a hoodlum’s rathe. To keep on their good side so to speak.

In time the fledgling coin-machine industry would grow to tremendous proportions nationwide, through no small measure of the underworld.
It would expand into the newly designed “music box” business. Jukeboxes as they became known held all the popular music of the day.

The small records the machines held were accessible for a nickle or a dime for several songs worth. By the 1950s a quarter typically bought you three songs that would drop down and play one after the other in succession.

Jukeboxes became all the rage of the era. Suddenly any little neighborhood tavern or corner pub could instantly be turned into a dance haven and entertainment Mecca. With one simple silver quarter dropped into the slot, an otherwise quiet, nondescript watering hole became the next best thing to live entertainment…it was a great thing. And the mob had made it happen!

The ever popular pinball machine
The ever popular pinball machine

Along with music, the “pinball” game machine also became a very popular pastime. Machine manufacturers soon designed many different types of pinball games to entice patrons to keep on dropping those quarters into the slot. Players tried to accumulate “points” on the machine which could be converted into more free games, or redeemed for money, drinks or a small prize from the saloon or shop keeper.

Enter the automatic cigarette machine, and pretty much any given location could be turned into a one-stop entertainment emporium.

Let’s take a typical neighborhood bar for instance. Between the music, games, cigarettes and liquor, what more did you need? And your local mob-connected vending machine distributor supplied it all…”one-stop Mafia shopping” as it were.

From the Family bosses and hierarchies right on down to capos, soldiers and associates, literally hundreds of New York’s mob guys went into the vending machine field.

This was mirrored in borgatas across the country. Nearly all 26 officially recognized Cosa Nostra Families operating in the United States in that era ran jukebox and vending machine companies of varying size and dominance.

These companies were usually owned or controlled by the top hierarchy figures of each Family.

In truth, years earlier several Commission meetings had been convened for this very reason, in order to discuss a Cosa Nostra wide directive from the Commission bosses to the “Representante” of each borgata so his Family would now close ranks and join a concerted effort for nationwide Mafia domination of this industry…within several years time the industry was knuckled under the heavy hand of America’s mafiosi….It was an auspicious accomplishment, to say the least.

An illegal “Joker Poker” gambling den
An illegal “Joker Poker” gambling den

Side Note: Top mafia leaders often officially owned and operated vending companies. Some good examples of this was New England boss Raymond Patriarca who owned Coin-O-Matic Distributors in Providence, Rhode Island;

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania boss Sebastiano John La Rocca owned Keystone Sales Co., and the Keystone Cigarette Vending Company in Johnstown. La Rocca and underboss Mike Genovese also owned Coin-Machine Distributors, and L. & G. Amusement Co., both of Pittsburgh.

These were but a few of many similar jukebox-vending firms the Pittsburgh mob held interests in. They had a virtual lock on that city’s vending industry;

As the recognized capos and longtime bosses of Utica, New York, the Falcone brothers (Joe and Sal) controlled jukeboxes and slots in that Upstate region for many years;

New Orleans, Louisiana boss Carlos Marcello owned the Pelican Vending Co., a massive slot machine and vending company that oversaw thousands of coin-operated devices throughout the state and adjoining territories. He partnered with New York boss Frank Costello in these operations;

Baltimore, Maryland’s resident capo Luigi Morici and his successor Frank Corbi operated a jukebox-Vending firm for decades;

The Chicago Family underboss Anthony (Joe Batters) Accardo held near iron-clad control over the jukebox and vending machine field through his capo di decina Guiseppe (Joey Glimco) Glielmi who was their resident labor-union specialist and top industrial racketeer.

Glimco held sway over many Teamster Union locals in various industries including Jukebox Workers Local # 134. The Chicago crew were deadly in their control of this racket.

The entire state of Illinois was locked down by the mob. Even in the little ole city of Springfield, under the shadowy boss Frank Zito, the mob ran vending machine rackets. Zito himself owned Modern Distributors Inc., the largest vending machine company in Springfield.

Old fashioned cigarette machine
Old fashioned cigarette machine

I could go on and on with a list a mile long of mafiosi and their associates who ran vending companies across the country…but I think you get the idea.

By the early 1950s, the FBI and local law enforcement authorities were documenting widespread ownership, control or otherwise domination of this entire business.

During a major probe of the vending machine industry in Washington, D.C. in 1959, U.S. Senate racket investigators had called the entire nationwide industry “the racket-infested coin-machine business is rotten from top to bottom.”

The coin-machine industry became a “racket industry”, and was labeled so by law enforcement because of several key factors that made this particular type business very attractive, and tailor-made for racketeering and Mafia infiltration.

It is easy to understand when considering that the vending machine business offered the mob these factors and benefits:

a) A 100% COD business (no receivables), ALL cash (coins). The vending business was perfectly poised and easily lent itself to both sales-tax and income-tax evasion. It was one of the easiest businesses to “skim” from. For many years it was an unlicensed and unregulated business with no oversight or governmental regulations.

b) Racketeers always look to monopolize any business they engage in, to stifle legitimate competition through the use of fear and intimidation. Trade associations and labor unions especially formed to govern the jukebox and vending industry were used as a whip to either organize vending rivals forcing their operating costs to rise, or to drive them from the business. This monopolistic control also later helped with setting price control. Coercion and extortion were the tools most often used to control the business.

c) Once the mob monopoly was established, the underworld was able to designate controlled territories and jurisdictional areas to “carve up” territory amongst mafiosi. A typical goal in any mafia dominated activity.

A typical jukebox play list, notice the old Elvis Presley songs
A typical jukebox play list, notice the old Elvis Presley songs

d) Often times small businesses are in need of money to operate. Vending companies commonly extended loans to these establishments, getting paid back through the weekly revenue the machines generated. These “loans” were often shylock loans which more often than not bound the “location” to the vendor for life. Not to mention it was a great way to expand into the loanshark racket.

e) The type business where machines were placed were typically nightclubs, bars, taverns, restaurants, diners, pizzerias, retail stores, etc., which often lent themselves as gateways and springboards to other mob activities such as bookmaking, numbers, shylocking, stolen goods, untaxed cigarettes, narcotics, etc.

f) Untaxed cigarettes. The bootleg cigarette racket was perfectly suited to compliment the vending machine racket. Cigarettes smuggled in from southern states were often affixed with counterfeit tax stamps and sold as legitimate smokes through the thousands of Mafia controlled cigarette machines located throughout the city. It made an already very lucrative business even more attractive to mobsters, allowing them to get top dollar for a product they bought dirt cheap.

g) Some of the more creative wiseguys I’ve known would even go so far as to send out “raiding” crews or “theft” crews to locations where legitimate rival vendors had their machines placed. These teams of young hoods would simply walk into a tavern or diner, announce that they were sent from the rival vending company to restock, adjust or “fix” the machine on premises, and then just strap the machine to a hand dolly and roll it out of the location, lift it into a work van and take off…the result was twofold.

The racketeer vending company built up his stock of expensive jukeboxes, cigarette and pinball machines by stealing and not buying his supply of machines…a great way to save money and expand your stock. This tactic also helped to quickly destroy the competition by costing them a ton of money to constantly have to replace the stolen machines.

h) Jukeboxes were a very lucrative part of the coin-machine business. Not only because they generated a lot of quarters, but also because they could be used as a vehicle to help push the career of many young aspiring singers by controlling the volume of times their songs would be played, thereby expanding their popularity. Many mob guys were able to “sign” contracts with future singing stars because of the influence they had with jukebox distribution and record playing to make the songs “hits.”

Classic Pinball arcade games
Classic Pinball arcade games

i) Similar to untaxed cigarettes, the ability to stock jukeboxes with counterfeit records, or “fugazy 45s” was a big edge that mob guys had over legitimate jukebox operators. Legitimate music records were not inexpensive to buy. The need to constantly upgrade and rotate records to keep the most popular songs in stock on a jukebox route was always a financial challenge. With the ability to buy cheap counterfeits, mob operators were able to cut their overhead tremendously.

j) By the mid-1970s, video game machines came into existence. They quickly became the equivalent of super computerized pinball machines. One of the first being named Pac-Man. Besides the tremendous craze they became overnight on their own, machine manufacturers soon experimented and came up with a modern day slot machine, or “one-armed bandits.” These slot machines had bill-acceptors built into them that could accommodate a $1, $5, $10, or $20 dollar denomination note…the rest is history!

Forget all about the year 1935, and boss Frank Costello with his thousands of one-armed bandits placed all over The Big Apple because these new video gambling machines would soon eclipse anything the modern mafia had seen previously. They quickly became one of the biggest cash cows for the mob. Known variously as Joker-Poker, Eight-Line, Lucky Seven, Blackjack, and a host of other gaming variations, these machines became the rage across New York City and the entire nation.

It was very commonplace for these video slots to generate a weekly profit of from $1,000 up to $5,000 net per machine. It a mob guy had 5-10 machines out there working for him, he could become a wealthy hood in no time. And there were plenty of mafiosi who had a lot more than just 5-10 slots placed on the street. As the old adage goes, “everything old becomes new again.”

Old-fashioned classic jukebox
Old-fashioned classic jukebox

k) The usual percentage split between a location or “stop” was 50/50 in cash between the vendor and business owner. But because it was all cash and automatic “counters” could be manipulated, a scheming vendor could easily shortchange a location. It was another way for a vending company to constantly gain “the edge.”

l) Another lucrative scheme that was plied by some unscrupulous vending operators and hoodlums was to advertise through a fugazy vending company and frontman “routes for sale.” Maybe a cigarette route, or combination cigarette and pinball game route.

It is common knowledge even among legitimate people how financially lucrative and easy the vending machine business is to operate. Because it is mostly an “owner absentee” business, there was no shortage of eager, small business investors to plunk down a bundle of cold, hard cash in order to purchase a 10, 15, or 20 machine route that was alleged to be already established and supposedly returning a solid, hefty weekly profit to whomever was lucky enough to quickly get in on the ground floor of this easy “gift” of a business.

Of course, once the investor did, the lucrative “stops” his route had turned out to be anything but lucrative at all. They were mostly low revenue, “dead” locations that couldn’t generate four cents.

The volume of sales the buyer “clocked” for several weeks before purchasing the route had been staged by the sellers, with the vending firms minions dropping tons of coins into the machines daily to give a false impression that the route was a busy and lucrative operation.

The buyer may have purchased the route for $30,000 to $150,000 or better, depending upon the sales pitch and number of machines “put on the street” operating. The going rate was usually a 50% down payment on signed contract with monthly installments for the balance. Once the buyer fell behind on his notes (which they always did), the noteholders would then confiscate the machines and “route” back from the purchaser….and sell it all over again!

New York City and it’s outer suburbs such as Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island, and Westchester County to the north had a plethora of racketeers, known hoodlums and noted mafiosi front and center in the vending machine business from the start.

The laundry list that follows, although quite extensive, is but a small sampling of the mafiosi and mob associates who have engaged in jukebox and vending machine racketeering through the years.

I tried listing and categorizing according to Family so as to better lay out the underworld landscape of this lucrative racket. We start with The Luciano/Genovese Family:

• Vito (Don Vitone) Genovese – This man needs no introduction. He held interests and partnerships with many of his Family’s members in various jukebox firms, but his main company was the Tryan Cigarette Service that held a virtual lock on distribution to nearly all establishments in Lower Manhattan. He was partnered with the Eboli brothers in this venture.

• Francesco (Frank Costello) Castiglia – The original consigliere and later acting boss to Lucky Luciano, at one time he controlled the largest network of slot and vending machines in the country. A renowned and highly respected racketeer whose far-flung slot machine enterprises were legendary, both in the New York metropolitan area, as well as Las Vegas, California, and Louisiana. Over the years junior partners of his were Philip (Dandy Phil) Kastel, Meyer Lansky, and boss Carlos Marcello.

Acting boss Gerardo (Jerry) Catena
Acting boss Gerardo (Jerry) Catena

• Thomas (Tommy Ryan) Eboli – A longtime capo who rose to become the underboss/acting boss for Vito himself. Eboli owned and operated the Tryan Cigarette Vending Service (in partnership with Vito Genovese), which was a major distributor of jukeboxes and cigarette machines in Manhattan, especially Downtown Manhattan’s Greenwich Village area. He was also partners in many other smaller vending machine routes with various mob affiliates.

• Gerardo (Jerry) Catena – Long considered one of the most important and influential mafiosi in America, Catena was also one of the wealthiest mobsters in all of gangland. He was a legitimate stockholder in Bally Corp., which then as now was a multi-billion dollar medley of corporations that held vast interests in the manufacture and sale of Bally brand jukeboxes and slots.

They also own gambling casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and many other off-shore casinos. Catena held the rights for exclusive control and distribution of all Bally jukeboxes, and slot machines in the New York and Tristate area. He was the principal owner of Runyon Sales Co., another major jukebox-vending and slot machine company based on 11th Avenue in Manhattan around midtown, he held court from Bally’s headquarters for decades.

• Consigliere Michele (Mike) Miranda and capo di decina Antonio (Tony the Sheik) Carillo – They were partners for years in a large jukebox vending firm based off Queens Boulevard in Rego Park named Local Vending Corp., 78-18 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst. Their soldier Ciro Perrone was one of their jukebox “salesman.”

Side Note: Iconic Genovese business associate Alfred (Al) Miniaci and his family owned the Paramount Vending Corp., in New York for many decades. Miniaci was a legendary figure in the coin-machine industry, and Paramount Vending was indeed paramount as a leading distributor in the metropolitan area. Although not a hoodlum himself, Miniaci was said to be “with” Benny the Bum DeMartino of East Harlem. Miniaci worked hand in glove with wiseguys his whole career.

Vending machine kingpin Al Miniaci

• Benjamin (Benny the Bum) DeMartino – A top soldier who was later elevated to a capo who owned Benjamin Vending Co., and National Vending Corp., both in Westbury, LI. Benny the Bum was a major shylock who used his money lending business to expand his vending business, and vice versa.

• Theodore (Teddy the Bum) DeMartino – Older brother to Benny and a top soldier in his own right. “The Bum Brothers” were known to be active in the jukebox rackets. Teddy was a convicted truck hijacker and strong-arm soldier in the Harlem faction of the borgata.

• Joseph (Joe Bari) Dentico – The older brother of the better-known future capo Larry Dentico. Before his death, Joe was very active in the narcotics traffic. Dentico was also a known vending machine racketeer with interests in at least one jukebox firm.

• Joseph (Joe) Ragone – Top mob associate and a known narcotics dealer. He was partners with his brother Gaspare in a Bronx vending machine firm, Rag Vending Co.

• Angelo (Charlie Four Cents) Salerno – A top Harlem soldier who was partners with his son Fat Freddy Salerno, Jerry Catena, and others in several major vending companies; Young Distributors of 375 11th Avenue, Runyon Sales Corp., 593 10th Avenue, and Atlantic-New York Corp., of 843 10th Avenue, all of Manhattan.

• Joseph (Joe Cago) Valachi – The notorious soldier who later turned informant. A prolific heroin dealer and enforcer under underboss Tony Bender Strollo, he also owned a jukebox-vending route in the Bronx.

• Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello – He was involved in vending machines through subordinates and mob partnerships in his myriad of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and skin joints in Times Square.

• Michael (Mike Rosie) Maione – A soldier in the regime of Pasquale (Patsy Ryan) Eboli, this old-time convicted bootlegger and counterfeiter was also active in the jukebox rackets in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan area in the late 1940s-1950s era.

• Philip (Big Farvel) Kovolick – He was an early entry into the vending rackets. A close associate of Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Longy Zwillman, Abe Gordon, and other top hoods, Kovolick became an official of Teamster Local #805, which was formed by mob elements to take control of the fledgling vending machine industry in NY/NJ. He was a point man of sorts for the Jewish mob under Lansky, and helped run vending machine rackets for years before relocating to South Florida.

The Anastasia/Gambino Family

• Capo John (Johnny Dee) D’Alessio – Along with his brothers Alex and Mike and his uncle the notorious Alexander (The Ox) DeBrizzi owned and operated the King Vending Machine Co, the most dominant vending firm on Staten Island.

• Alfred (Big Freddy) Eppolito – A longtime soldier, Eppolito owned Colonial Enterprises, a jukebox distributor at 605 Grand Ave., Brooklyn.

Soldier- Joseph (Joe the Blond) Gallo
Soldier- Joseph (Joe the Blond) Gallo

• Agostino (Augie) Amato – He and his sons were major distributors of jukeboxes and cigarette machines down in Miami, Florida. He operated the Cigarette Service Co. Amato was an original member and later became a very respected capo who had moved to Florida by the early 1950s where he established himself as a top loan shark and vending racketeer. He was an intimate of both Carlo Gambino and Philadelphia Family boss Angelo Bruno who was another top vending rackets boss in both Philly and South Florida.

• Carmine (The Doctor) Lombardozzi; he was well known to control jukebox operations for his Family in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

The Profaci/Colombo Family:

• Salvatore (Sam) Badalamenti – Low-key Profaci capo who owned an interest in Caruso Music Co., a Rego Park, Queens jukebox firm.

• The Gallo Brothers…and we’re not talking Ernest and Julio of the famous winemaking family here.

Joseph (Crazy Joey), Albert (Kid Blast) and Larry Gallo were deeply involved in Brooklyn’s jukebox rackets. They even started a jukebox and vending machine owners association to try and better corral extortionate control over the industry.

Jukebox Union racketeers and convicted extortionists Ernie Zundel and Joe DeGrandis.
Jukebox Union racketeers and convicted extortionists Ernie Zundel and Joe DeGrandis.

They held sway for a time over Teamsters Local # 266 through mob associate Joe DeGrandis, Ernest Zundel, and labor union racketeer Vincent (Jimmy Unions) Amalfitano.

Joey and Larry Gallo were even once subpoenaed before a 1957 U.S. Senate Rackets Committee by Senator Bobby Kennedy to testify about their knowledge and attempts to extort fees from jukebox vending operators in Brooklyn. Both repeatedly pled the Fifth Amendment of course.

In 1960, DeGrandis, Zundel, and Joey Gallo were convicted in Mineola and Brooklyn of extortions related to the shakedown of a jukebox machine executive and were each sentenced to 7-1/2 to 8 years in prison. Gallo received 7-15 years in state prison on a another related extortion case.

• Pasquale (Fat Patty) Catalano – A Queens-based soldier in the Family, Catalano held an interest in a Long Island vending machine company with Stanley Nankoff, a longtime mob-connected industry figure and former partner of Genovese boss Tommy Eboli.

The Gagliano/Lucchese Family

• Savino (Sam) DeBendictus – A convicted bookmaker, hijacker and mob associate who owned several vending companies; G & F Vending Co., and Grand Vending, both of Hicksville.

• Felice (Philly Black) Falco and James (Jimmy Black) Falco – Originally based out of East Harlem and Corona, the “Black Brothers” were important policy racketeers who later expanded into the Queens and Long Island vending rackets. Philly Black was the righthand man to Tony Ducks Corallo, future boss of the Family.

The Falco’s actually once hid Corallo from Senate Rackets Investigators who had subpoenaed him to testify. The Falco’s were also related through marriage to the notorious capo Ettore (Little Eddie) Coco.

• Capo Samuel (Big Sam) Cavalieri – One of the top policy racket kingpins along 1st Avenue in East Harlem. He was a longtime member who was influential in the jukebox racket and later was involved in corruption in the laborers and bricklayers union.

• Frank (Frankie Dio) Dioguardi – A top-ranked associate-member of the Lucchese mob, and brother of labor racketeers Tommy and Johnny Dio. Frankie had relocated down to Miami by the early 1950s. He engaged in many rackets such as shylocking, extortion, gambling, and narcotics. He also operated several jukebox and cigarette machine businesses that he later sold and then stole back the “stops”.

He and his brother-in-law, mobster Anthony Sutera, operated Sunny Isles Vending Co., 17308 Collins Avenue, Miami. This firm owned 53 cigarette machines which they placed throughout the Miami area. He repeatedly sold and resold the same routes. Dio was eventually investigated for income and sales tax evasion related to these businesses. Frankie Dio was notorious as a cheat and schemer.

The Bonanno Family did not have as many interests in the vending field. But although they were not as heavily engaged in vending rackets as their mob contemporaries the iconic capo Joseph (Bayonne Joe) Zicarelli, a veteran member based in New Jersey did own a piece of a cigarette machine distributor in West New York, New Jersey.

• A second mob figure from this crew was Frank V. Lupo – A little-known capo in the Bonanno Family who operated Mayfair Music Co., of Middletown, in Upstate New York that was known to dominate the vending field in that section. Lupo, who had convictions for policy, possession of a pistol, and disorderly conduct, was one of the first mob guys to establish jukeboxes up in Orange and Rockland Counties.

• Veteran Bonanno soldier Vito Militano worked closely with Lupo in this vending firm. Militano had convictions for policy operation (twice) and possessing a blackjack.

Jukebox racketeers – Bonanno soldier Vito Militano and associate Edward Grispo seen here after a policy arrest.

There have been other mob guys…many others mob guys in this field. Nearly all 26 borgata’s throughout the country had jukebox and vending machines networks operating to one degree or another in their respective territories for upwards of fifty years.

But with the advent of modern technology, as well as the steep decline in smoking habits, by the early to mid-1980s, continuing up to the present day the vending machine business started to wane.

Soon, personal music devices such as piped-in music, Walkman’s, to the current iPod craze, and laptops provided personalized music at the touch of a button. It made jukeboxes become obsolete. People can now carry music right in their pocket.

Cigarettes are no longer the allure they once were. Some people still smoke but not nearly at the volume they once did. So that end of the vending business collapsed as well.

And as for that old classic the pinball game, shuffleboard games, even video games such as the early Pac-Man and other such diversions that consumers loved to play at their local gin mills?

With the advanced technology of PC’s, laptops and online gaming available today, game aficionados don’t even have to get off their couch. They literally have thousands of the most interesting and sophisticated games known to mankind at their fingertips.

With the development of “online gambling websites”, a bettor doesn’t have to jump in his car and drive to a legal casino, or even his friendly neighborhood illegal slot machine parlor down the block anymore. He can just click into one of these popular sites, pledge up a credit card and he’s on his way to playing a wide variety of cyber slot machines, dice or card games, roulette, or any number of other casino-style gambling he wishes…it is a very different world nowadays!

Mob-buster Senator Bobby Kennedy

Today, the only type of automatic vending machine still thriving are food, snack, coffee and soda machines…but these were never mob dominated and are not conducive to racket control. They are mostly distributed by major corporations.

…As the old saying goes, “nothing good lasts forever.” The mob had one hell of a good thing going for many decades, but as with everything else in life, its time and era has passed. Technology curbed this racket, and the entire industry for that matter much more efficiently than anything Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his Senate Rackets Committee could have ever done.

Today, the one coin-operated device that is still a huge money-maker for the underworld are the “joker-poker”, blackjack and other gambling-type machines that mob guys still place in private social clubs and underground gambling dens.

Although these are still extremely profitable, even those operations are a far cry from the volume of machines and revenue once placed “on the streets” by the various borgatas and independent racketeers.

As I stated above, the online version of these slot machines has reduced street volume by a large measure. It’s mostly the older gamblers who aren’t computer savvy who frequent these type of slot machines.

By and large the jukebox, pinball, and cigarette-vending machine industry has gone the way of the dinosaur…and it’s not coming back anytime soon!

Until the next time, “The Other Guy”

This article was originally posted “here

The Cigarette Bootlegging Racket

by The Other Guy | July 29,2020

Old-fashioned type cigarette machine
Old-fashioned type cigarette machine

This was a racket scheme that started way back in the 1960s in New York City and a few other northeastern states that had started taxing cigarette sales heavier.

Under the guise of dissuading the public from the newly discovered unhealthy consumption of tobacco, certain states began to levy a heavy tax on retail cigarette sales.

It also became a good excuse as another major revenue producing source for New York State. By heavily taxing the sale of tobacco, the state coffers swelled with many additional millions that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Collectively between the federal, state, and city taxes imposed, racketeers soon saw the potential for big profits by smuggling cartons of cigarettes up from several southern states where the tax levy was negligible.

By 1965, it had become a somewhat steady racket for organized crime. And by 1967, it had become the rage for certain mafia “crews” and individual mob guys to specialize in “cigarette bootlegging”, or “butt-legging” as it was now being called.

Many states became subject to cigarette smuggling but with their heavy tax levies, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were among the top states losing the most tax revenue because of the bootlegging.

Side Note: Cigarette smuggling is a pervasive problem not only in the United States but in Europe and other countries as well.

For instance, in Italy, illegal cigarette smuggling has been a major multimillion-dollar racket for the Italian Mafia for many decades since at least the late 1940s. Only with their entrance into narcotics manufacturing (heroin) and international smuggling in the early-mid 1950s did the Mafia’s interest in cigarette smuggling somewhat subside.

But even with that shift in focus, there were some mafia crews who continued solely with the cigarette racket. The Neopolitano Camorra were firsts among equals when it came to the cigarette trade.

Map of state to state tax disparity
Map of state to state tax disparity

At that time, the tax in North Carolina was only .2 cents per pack, while New York State’s tax was .15 cents per pack. New York City excise taxes were another .4 cents per pack, plus a special nicotine tax of another .4 cents per pack totaled .23 per pack. Smuggled by the truckload, big profits could be had by the smugglers.

In 1967, it was estimated that nearly half of all cigarette sales in New York City were “bootlegged.” State authorities estimated the loss of tax revenue to the state exceeded well over $400,000,000 a year.

Depending upon who was doing the smuggling, the bootleggers could run up anywhere from a car trunk full to a truckload into the city. Cars, panel vans, 16’ footers, 24’ straight trucks, and even tractor-trailer loads was not uncommon.

As the problem became more pervasive and law enforcement started to crack down, other methods had to be employed by the smugglers to evade the state troopers or various task forces that had been formed to specifically try and combat this growing problem.

Soon, specially designed trucks with elaborate camouflage were made so as to trick investigators. These designs ran the gamut from having a tractor-trailer loaded front to back with legitimate products such as a load of foodstuffs or pallets loaded with boxes (several pallets of which would contain the cigarettes), to 40-foot moving vans full of household goods that had the front of the trailer loaded top to bottom with cases of cigarettes.

The wealthier and more sophisticated racket guys built even more elaborate designs. Some had trucks built with false bottoms or fake walls that shortened the length of the inside of the truck. Behind the false front wall would be stacked top to bottom with butts, the rest of the inside would be filled with regular merchandise. It was hard to tell that the inside was shortened.

One police stop along the interstate of a seemingly normal flatbed truck carrying a full load of lumber was discovered to actually be a hollowed-out facade. When the cops got up close they sensed something was wrong.

The lumber (although actual wood) was not loose individual pieces but all connected together as one. Upon playing with various switches and release levers, they soon discovered the lumber was not full-length pieces as it would seem.

It was a huge boxed out hatch that popped open, revealing hundreds of cases of cigarettes. This single load was worth well over several hundred thousand dollars once sold on the streets of New York…whoever was behind the scheme were very creative wiseguys indeed!

Butt-Smuggling was big business!
Butt-Smuggling was big business!

Remember, that back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, cigarettes were still a tremendous rage among the general public. Most people smoked. It was considered normal and few thought twice about the potential health risks involved.

That made for a tremendous market for racketeers by which to dispose of their “product.” Men, women, and teenagers across the larger spectrum of society thought nothing of lighting up. In fact, it was often considered very “en vogue” to smoke.

Just check out any old movie and you’ll see all your favorite old movie stars and leading men and women smoking their heads off. From Frank Sinatra in “Tony Rome”, to Sean Connery in “James Bond” and Dean Martin in “Matt Helm”, it was considered “cool” to smoke.

Free advertising for the mob as it were. Wiseguys couldn’t have asked for anything more!

Once the cigarettes had reached the city it was as easy as pie to distribute them. Everybody likes to save money…Everybody!

I don’t care if the customer was a housewife, a postal employee, blue-collar construction worker on a job site, or a white-collar button-down executive on Park Avenue, they all wanted to save money on a product they consumed daily.

Hell, even some cops, judges and the judiciary would quietly buy the bootlegs…it was no big thing!

Side Note: Because smuggling cigarettes seemed like a harmless activity, albeit criminal, many policemen and others in law enforcement often took a very lax approach to investigating and arresting those involved.

Wiseguys and racketeer smugglers were also often able to bribe many cops because of this innocent Damon Runyon perception of those engaged in the racket.

These untaxed cigarettes would often be sold by hustlers and others streets guys out of car trunks or sold wholesale to the owners of neighborhood candy stores, groceries and bodegas, area taverns and coffee shops, dry cleaners, etc.

And at each level of sales, everybody made money along the chain of distribution.

There were even some mob guys who handled the racket from top to bottom, from smuggling them up into the Northeast from wholesalers down in North Carolina to the actual street distribution and final sales.

But the more common method for the bigger operators, at least, was to lay out the financing for the initial purchase of a truckload. Then have several “overseers” handle the actual logistics of purchasing and smuggling the cigarettes into the city, and then quickly distributing the whole load out to prearranged “wholesalers” who bought in bulk.

These distributors would then dispose of their loads by breaking down the shipment into a smaller amount of cases and selling through their own established network of “salesmen” to the public. Individual cartons of 10 packs per carton which was very common to buy.

Confiscated smuggled cigarettes
Confiscated smuggled cigarettes

Another major outlet for Italian organized crime was through the individual sale of single packs of cigarettes. They were able to accomplish this through their almost ironclad control of the vending machine business. An old, dependable standby and a time-honored underworld racket.

Along with the mob’s control over, and their supplying, to restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other retail establishments jukeboxes and pinball games they also commonly distributed cigarette machines.

In fact, cigarette machines were one of the more lucrative type vending machines they handled. As I discussed earlier in this expose, the sheer popularity of smoking cigarettes demanded that type of wide distribution.

The smoking public wanted the convenience of throwing a few coins into a nearby machine and having their favorite brand drop down through the slot for a quick and easy nicotine fix as it were. Whether it be a pack of Marlboro, Parliament, Camel, or any other number of brands these machines carried, cigarette machines became a major outlet for bootleggers.

Side Note: It had been well documented that major racketeers and mafiosi were often at the top of the vending racket. Genovese bosses Tommy Eboli, Gerardo Catena, Mike Miranda, among many others held ownership in Tryan Cigarette Service, Runyon Sales Corp., and Bally Corp., respectively. These companies were among the largest vending machine outfits in the Big Apple.

There were literally hundreds of other mafiosi from all Five Families, as well as other top mafiosi throughout the country who dominated this field. Buttlegging and vending machines went together like “bread and butter.”

Most vending machine racketeers were not smugglers themselves but were allied with mob guys who were. But of the ones who did operate both rackets, it became an extremely lucrative racket field of endeavor.

A “cradle to grave” kind of thing where they were able to buy the smokes down south for a pittance, and then got top dollar up in New York through “retail” sales in vending machines. This provided a huge profit margin to work off of. What could be better, right?

Well, I’ll tell you what could be better! The fact that up until the later 1960s, the smuggling and sales of untaxed cigarettes was only a misdemeanor in New York City and New York State. Other states had the same toothless laws on the books as well.

For many years smuggling was not even considered a priority by law enforcement. Most guys who were even arrested got off with a simple violation or misdemeanor conviction. Ninety-nine percent of those convicted paid only a small fine and received either a clean dismissal or at worst a probation or “suspended” sentence of 60 or 90 days to 6 months.

Of the notorious few who had such a long criminal record of repeat cigarette smuggling arrests and convictions, the most anybody got was a bullet in the can (1 year in jail)…but that was a rare occurrence.

News reports of cigarette smuggling
News reports of cigarette smuggling

A good example of this is when reviewing the arrest statistics for 1970. Of the 141 arrests made for either transporting, possession, or sale of untaxed cigarettes made that year only one person received a jail sentence. Thirty-nine defendants were fined between $5.00 and $250.00 each, charges were dismissed outright against 82 defendants, and the remaining cases were pending.

Now, I ask you, with that kind of potential profit structure built-in and the minor fines and risk involved, is it any wonder cigarette smuggling became a popular racket back then? Of course not! I’m actually surprised that even more mob guys didn’t delve into the racket because of this.

After several major racket probes and empaneled subsequent grand juries, state legislature was finally enacted to make the smuggling, possession, or sale of untaxed cigarettes a felony. But even then the maximum penalty was only four years imprisonment…It changed little.

It was popular enough that each of the Five Families had various soldiers and associates who did indeed dabble in the racket. There were certain crews or individual mobsters who more or less specialized in smuggling. Paramount among the Five Family structure was the Colombo, Lucchese and Genovese Families.

The Colombo Family was probably the most deeply enmeshed in the racket. Their involvement has been well documented over the years. And although many Colombo associates handled untaxed cigarettes, undoubtedly any list of “first among equals” would have to include mob figure Anthony Granata.

Based out of Brooklyn, Granata became a notorious figure to authorities regarding smuggling. He was arrested numerous times on cigarette smuggling related charges. He controlled a huge network of smugglers who handled their own A to Z organization for the wholesale purchase and ultimate disposal of an untold number of truckloads of butts over a series of years.

An example of one of his arrests was in March of 1973. Granata and five in his crew of smugglers were arrested for transporting 11,000 cartons of cigarettes from Weldon, North Carolina into New York. Police arrested the six as they were unloading the truckload of illegal smokes into a Flatbush, Brooklyn warehouse.

The Brooklyn District Attorney estimated that Granata’s ring had cost the city and state $11,000,000 a year in sales and excise taxes. They were all charged with possession of untaxed cigarettes, and Granata was additionally charged with having offered a $7,500 bribe to one of the arresting officers.

Smuggler Anthony Granata nabbed!
Smuggler Anthony Granata nabbed!

It was Granata’s sixth arrest for cigarette smuggling. NYS had previous tax assessments and civil judgments against him for a whopping $2,500,000 related to his smuggling convictions. But because he ostensibly owned no assets, not a red cent had ever been collected from him.

Prosecutors said that Granata’s ring smuggled an average of 100,000 cartons per week into New York, for a steady loss of $230,000 in tax revenue. They would typically sell to consumers for $3.70 per carton as opposed to the normal price of from $4.70 to $5.00. They already had a solid profit built into the $3.70.

As a comparison, in North Carolina, a retail pack sells for .29 cents. In New York, that same pack sells for between .65-70 cents…a huge markup and disparity because of the heavy tax levy imposed. Organized crime worked the spread.

Law enforcement authorities said that Granata controlled a thirty-man organized crime smuggling ring that operated six days a week dispatching truck drivers down to North Carolina on a rotation to haul back 100,000 cartons a week. This went on for many years.

To show the extent of his operation, within one seven-month period from September 1966 thru April 1967, the Granata gang moved over 1,109,920 cartons into New York.

Treasury agents crack down!
Treasury agents crack down!

Another spinoff operation of Granata’s was that of Joseph (Sam) Pontillo. He was a top subordinate of Granata who later handled part of the day-to-day operations once Granata became too “hot.”

Pontillo was nabbed in 1968 with 2,200 cartons of smokes in New Jersey. In 1969 he was arrested again in possession of 3,600 cartons of untaxed cigarettes after leaving a “drop” in New York.

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina was the most popular location to buy the cigarettes. They had the lowest prices because of the low .2 cent taxes there. But other cities and states such as those of Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina were also good sources for smugglers, especially after federal officials began investigating and cracking down on North Carolina’s distributors.

Millions upon millions of dollars in bulk sales that the Sales & Excise Tax-Task Force investigators say cost the city of New York millions in lost revenue.

By the late 1970s, the tide had started to turn with the passage of a new law making it a federal crime and an automatic felony for the possession or transportation of more than three hundred cartons of illicit cigarettes across any state line. A crime now punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine on each count.

With the passage of this new law in November of 1978 to combat the smugglers, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) of the U.S. Treasury Department now had jurisdiction.

The result was an all-out assault like never before by both local, state, and federal authorities on the traffickers. “The Federal Cigarette Bootlegging Contraband Law” slowly but surely started to yield the desired results.

A prime example of this was in 1980. Two top Colombo Family associates were nabbed along with seven other bootleg ring members on federal charges for the transportation and possession of untaxed cigarettes.

Charged with operating a major multimillion-dollar a year Mafia-run cigarette smuggling and distribution network, they both were immediately jailed on $250,000 bond by a federal judge.

Future Colombo Family “soldier” Joseph (Joe Legs) Legrano, and Family “associate” Vincent (Jimmy G) Gati, both of Staten Island, were picked up in connection with the alleged $13,000,000 bootlegging operation that NYS Taxation and Finance Commissioner James H. Tully Jr., said had defrauded the State of New York of more than $5,000,000 in taxes over a period of four years.

Now, it could be argued that Granata, Legrano, and those like them were doing the general public a big favor by saving the average person a shitload of money. A “Robin Hood and his Merry Band of Hoodlums” sort of thing… But somehow I don’t think the authorities saw it quite that way. Lol

Another big spinoff racket seemingly created overnight became the hijacking of tractor-trailers coming into the New York and Tristate area carrying loads of legitimate cigarettes from major manufacturers. The Philip Morris Company, the A.J. Reynolds Tabacco Company and other national brands that shipped their products into the region became major targets of professional thieves and mob truck hijackers.

Always a specialty of the mob to begin with, grabbing a tractor-trailer filled with a $300,000 or $400,000 load of legitimate cigarettes became easy pickings. Snatching trailer loads of cigarettes on an almost weekly basis became big business for mob hijackers.

Buttleggers get nabbed!
Buttleggers get nabbed!

Surnames that would later on become well known in gangland were involved in illegal cigarette trafficking almost from the beginning. A few good examples of this were the aforementioned future Colombo soldier Joseph (Joe Legs) Legrano, Joseph(Crazy Joey) Gallo, Gregory Scarpa Sr., Joseph (Joe Lane) Gentile, and Rosario (Black Sam) Nastasa.

Not to be outdone by their mafia contemporaries, Lucchese Family soldier Michael (Big Mike) LaBarbara was a well-known hood who also dabbled in the untaxed-cigarette trade, which he had an arrest for by the mid-1960s.

LaBarbara was tied into the Paul Vario regime, a notorious capo who within a decade would gain infamy with his disciple Jimmy (The Gent) Burke, who was another cigarette hijacker, for their involvement in the $5.8-Million dollar robbery at JFK International Airport in Queens, NY.

Other Vario crew members active in cigarette bootlegging included soldiers Bruno Facciolo and Danny Cutaia from the Canarsie section of Brooklyn who ran distribution rings in that area of Kings County.-Lucchese mobster Savino (Sam) DeBendictus was a convicted mob hijacker and gambler also deeply immersed in the vending machine rackets. He owned two vending firms in Hicksville, Long Island.

The veteran Lucchese soldiers, brothers James and Felice Falco, aka Jimmy and Philly Black, were also engaged in the vending machine racket in Queens and Long Island for decades. They operated in the regime of Tony Ducks Corallo and later Ettore (Eddie) Coco.

In 1971, future Lucchese bigwig Aniello (Neil) Migliore was tied to the cigarette smuggling trade as a “behind the scenes” financier.

In an extensive Newsday expose on the racket, Migliore was said to be the money man behind a multimillion-dollar North Carolina to New York City trafficking ring that ran a steady suitcase filled with $100,000 down to wholesalers on a regular basis in order to purchase and then smuggle back in false bottom trucks full truckloads of smokes.

And of course, if Migliore was involved then his longtime capo and direct superior Joseph (Joey Narrow) Laratro was as well. No doubt Laratro was the real source of funds that fueled the operation.

The wealthy Laratro had relocated down to Hallandale, Florida in 1971. Nonetheless, Neil continued to oversee their rackets and dutifully reported to Laratro on a monthly basis for years thereafter.

Another important facet of the racket was the stealing of state-issued cigarette “tax stamp” machines. By snatching these “official” state-owned machines the bootleg racketeers could now attach a legitimate tax stamp to each pack or cigarettes…that made them “golden.”

In time, the more sophisticated of the gangs even started manufacturing their own machines to produce “counterfeit” tax stamps for the same purpose. It allowed the traffickers to now sell seemingly “legitimate” cigarettes through the thousands of vending machines the mafia controlled throughout New York City, its neighboring territories, and adjoining states.

A tax-stamp counterfeiting machine
A tax-stamp counterfeiting machine

Now, instead of having to surreptitiously sell unstamped cartons of cigarettes out of car trunks, gas stations, candy stores and bars at cut-rate bargain prices, the bootleggers could now get top dollar for their product by selling them right in the open to the public and charging full retail prices for a pack from cigarette vending machines…this was a major score and a half!

For many years cigarette bootlegging became one of the most profitable and low-risk underworld rackets around. It was often likened to what alcohol bootlegging had been for the underworld back in the 1920s.

But as time passed the steady use of the newly enacted “RICO Law” of 1970 (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) would slowly become the deterrent law enforcement had always sought to finally help stem the flow of the illegal cigarette trade.

By the early 1980s, cigarette bootlegging by Cosa Nostra no longer held the same allure as it once did for them.

Between the newly discovered health hazards of smoking, coupled with new national campaigns to dissuade the public from its use, the consumer desire wasn’t there any longer…It became the old law of “supply and demand.”

Regardless of the mob’s desire to continue the racket, the profit was just no longer there for them. When the racketeers considered their vastly reduced consumer base and the now draconian penalties of up to twenty years in prison under the RICO statute, the cigarette bootlegging racket soon faded out.

Postscript

As a devout mob researcher and historian, I consider the decline of the cigarette bootlegging racket a prime example of the smaller “footprint” that Cosa Nostra in general has today.

The Mafia has always survived and thrived because it was willing and able to provide an eager public with services the American people much desired, but that the United States government denied them.

Harkening all the way back to 1920 with the newly enacted Volstead Act that made the manufacture, possession, or sale of alcoholic beverages illegal. Liquor bootlegging became the catalyst and “cash cow” for over a decade to make many a racketeer very wealthy men while keeping the American public “wet” so to speak.

Likewise, because the pastime of gambling was an illegal activity denied to the public…enter the mob!

Whether it was the policy game (numbers), horse and sports betting or varied casino games, racketeers provided a key service and product that people wanted. The gambling “business” made millionaires out of many racket guys and made for steady and lucrative mob careers.

Pornography was another major cash cow for the mob. Sex sells whether it’s legal or not. Always has and always will. And for many decades it was a multimillion-dollar racket. Nearly all mob crews had some representation in the skin trade.

Illegal narcotics is another of many other products that was outlawed to a desiring public, which in turn gave many Cosa Nostra figures an opportunity to make big money.

Today, it is a very different story. Between “Lotto”, the Daily Number and a hundred other variations the government runs, the numbers racket is dead. OTB, or the off-track betting business has been legal for upwards of fifty years. So the horse business went out the window. And sports betting is on its way to become legal.

Everywhere you turn there is another legalized casino popping up. Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Upstate New York, Connecticut, Florida, etc….So mob guys who ran illegal floating dice games and underground casinos are like fossils today.

With the advent of the internet and the general legalization of the pornography industry, it went mainstream. The profit in it went out the window. The allure of it being an illicit, underground product provided by the underworld became a thing of the past. Although it’s still somewhat of a seedy trade, today many major legitimate companies and businessmen produce these films and photos. Click on the net and it’s right in front of you…for free no less!

Marijuana is now legal in many states. Pills and other narcotic type drugs are also easily accessible. So even the drug dealers are getting a run for their money.

Between online “Pay-Day” loan companies, credit card companies who beg you to open an account and take one of their cards, banks and so many other legal sources for money, even the neighborhood shylock has stiff competition today.

It is almost comical when you really think about it. What it really comes down to is that when the government wasn’t “in the business”, any of the above named industries were categorized as a “vicious racket” that preyed on an innocent public.

But once the government decided to go into that given “racket”, suddenly it was no longer a “vicious racket that preyed on the public and ruined lives”, but a wonderful “business” now able to generate a new revenue stream of taxes and employ thousands of people.

The narrative soon turned to a dialogue encouraging these activities in order to benefit and fund school budgets, build roads, etc. What happened? The moral abyss that they portrayed the dreaded gambling racket or liquor trade to be is no longer?

It has now somehow become an above board and wholesome activity that is encouraged and advertised nationwide on television, billboards, the internet, newspapers, and a hundred other ways in order to reach the public so they spend their money?

THIS is the duality and hypocritical position of our government. When they are not doing it, those who do are labeled “racketeers and hoodlums”. Once the government jumps into the water, then it’s all good and holy! …Lol, what a crock of shit huh?

Most importantly is that once they legalize a given former “racket”, they make sure to pursue any individual still involved in that activity with a vengeance…. arrest and conviction is the name of the game.

They try and jail people for doing the same exact thing that they do. Under the false pretense of “Law and Order.” I guess the government is like the Mafia in that regard. They wanna dominate the field. They don’t like the competition! 😎

Until next time…”The Other Guy!”

This article was originally posted “here

Protected: Garbage Racketeering

By The Other Guy | July 24, 2020

A smaller type sanitation truck
A smaller type sanitation truck

One of the more important industries that the underworld, and more specifically Cosa Nostra, has infiltrated over the years has been the rubbish removal industry.

A vital industry at that, garbage hauling or the “carting industry” is a pivotal function of any major city or jurisdiction. An important necessity in the daily lives of both urban and suburban residents, one could not imagine life without the removal of the daily waste and rubbish that every human being steadily creates.

It is an unspoken service that we seldom even think about. But when we do, you quickly realize what a mess we would have on our hands if removal of our daily garbage was not disposed of quickly and properly.

Many municipalities handle their own garbage removal with a city-run sanitation department. For instance, the city of New York has the NYC Sanitation Department, run as a formal department much the same as the NYC Fire Department and NYC Police Department.

It is a civil service job. After 20 years or so, these city employees are entitled to a pension like any other city worker. New York City residents all pay a small annual fee built into their tax bill that goes to pay for this weekly service.

A typical private sanitation truck
A typical private sanitation truck

But we are only talking about the garbage generated by New York City’s private residents. All commercial garbage, the waste that is generated by a million businesses both large and small, throughout Manhattan and its four outer boroughs and outer suburbs have always been privatized.

A bevy of literally hundreds of private garbage removal/carting companies have controlled this segment of the industry since day one. And literally millions of small and large businesses and major corporations depend on this steady, unwavering service.

Many of New York’s suburban areas such as Long Island, Westchester, and other municipalities have contracted out both residential and commercial garbage pickups to private companies for decades. They felt it relieved the financial burden on local governments as well as the complex logistics required to operate such a sprawling, monolithic government department.

Many cities and municipalities in other states have also “privatized” this industry. They outsource this service the same as New York does through an annual bidding procedure where private carters put in secret “bids” to service certain neighborhoods, towns, or sections of the city.

The awarded contract typically goes to the lowest bidder. It could be a contract for one year, two years, or even five years. It depends upon the bylaws put in place by those in local government. For instance, many townships within the counties of Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island have always had private carting firms pick up their trash.

Enter the mob!

The Italian underworld, better known as the Mafia or Cosa Nostra, has always been in the garbage removal business. I believe it’s because many early Italian immigrants gravitated to this industry for whatever reason they did soon after arriving at Ellis Island.

Starting with the “rag trade” way back when, mostly because it was inexpensive and simple to get into, “rag pickers” as they were known, slowly gravitated to hauling away garbage and debris for customers by horse and wagon within the five boroughs back in the early 1920s.

Garbage truck compactor
Garbage truck compactor

Through the decades this eventually morphed into all facets of traditional garbage hauling of both residential and commercial rubbish.

Another tremendous spinoff business of the original rag pickers was one that would evolve into the lucrative “junkyard” business. And a spin-off of that was, of course, the scrap-metals industry.

Collectively, the different facets of these sub-industries have evolved into an almost incalculable multibillion-dollar per year industry.

During the early 1970s, another tremendous spinoff industry took flight. With the constant increase of industrial evolution, the production of toxic wastes became a major ecological concern for not only the United States but the world over.

From this, the toxic waste disposal industry was born and expanded to epic proportions. And with it the costly logistics of proper disposal of these noxious fumes and dangerous, potentially deadly chemicals.

And of course, with an ecology-minded public the government soon encouraged crafty businessmen and carting companies to expand into the “recycling business” which today is paramount to the health of any city, town, or other jurisdiction the world over.

All these combined industries soon became a very valuable commodity for organized crime. And although there have been many varied independents as well as loosely“connected” racketeers of every ethnicity that were drawn to the big profits to be made, no entity or group would become more involved than the mafia.

Cosa Nostra today, as back then, is without a doubt the dominant force in all those sister industries. If they are not directly involved in company ownership as many mafiosi are, then nearly all industry-wide companies and individuals out there operating do owe allegiance to one mafiosi or another, in one way or another, to one borgata or another.

a private garbage truck-compactor
A private garbage truck-compactor

For many decades, it was nearly impossible for carting companies within certain key Mafia dominated cities or states to be in that business without paying homage to the boys.

Whether it was by joining an industry “trade association” that a mob guy started or a mobbed-up labor union that controlled the drivers and helpers who operate the garbage trucks, rubbish weight scales and depots, or garbage dumps and landfills, Cosa Nostra’s hand was nearly always in the pot.

But aside from assessorial services and associations, many mob guys actually own or have investments in garbage carting firms, scrap metal companies, and even the landfills that are so pivotal to the industry for dumping and legal disposal of the rubbish and waste products collected.

Even on its own, when completely operated on the “up and up”, the carting business has always been a highly lucrative industry to be in.

Additionally, with their shark-like business acumen and ability to “cut corners” to gain an edge, the soldiers and associates of Cosa Nostra have created a veritable goldmine for themselves throughout the decades. This is true not only in New York City and its outer environs, counties and jurisdictions, but many other states as well.

Law enforcement in the neighboring states of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have all repeatedly investigated the deep penetration that Italian organized crime has made over time into their states.

All of these states have witnessed first hand the stranglehold Cosa Nostra and it’s loyal minions have achieved in this industry over its citizenry. This absolute control that has been demonstrated by the Mafia has generated riches for organized crime to the tune of untold billions (not millions) in garbage dollars over the years.

For many decades now, they have exhibited a monolithic stranglehold and dominion over this entire industry that has virtually smothered and “aced out” any potential competition as only Cosa Nostra can do.

What I have complied below, although very extensive, is but a short list of the literally hundreds of mob-connected carting firms that have operated throughout New York City, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut for decades.

Additionally, this expose names many of the more prominent garbage racketeers and mafiosi who have controlled things in the business from the inception of this industry.

A pivotal control unlike anything ever witnessed before. That even for the Mafia has been a monumental achievement.

Here is their story!—


Back in the early 1950s, the fledgling New York City suburbs of Nassau and Suffolk Counties were just first starting to grow.

They were expanding with a young and very enthusiastic population of newly returned WWII ex-GI’s who had just arrived home to America’s shores after fighting the longest, most deadly and protracted battle the world has ever known.

Business and commerce were matching them neck and neck to try and accommodate this new surge of young blood. It became the single greatest catalyst for Long Island to grow at such an enormous pace. A fast and steady pace that many times resembled a sprint, allowing Long Island to grow in 40 to 50 years time a total population of over 3,000,000 residents.

With this population boom came many businesses to service these new residents, and of course with this commerce came the need for garbage pickup, from both these new small businesses and the many tract homes being put up in towns like Levittown, Elmont, Franklin Square, New Hyde Park, and a hundred other neighborhoods like them.

Many garbage carters who were already in the business back in the five boroughs expanded into Long Island. Similar situations developed in both Westchester County, as well as varied townships in Northern New Jersey.

With these new garbage carters came the competition among them to see who was going to “rule the roost”, and dominate the carting industry landscape.

This soon led to what Newsday, The NY Daily News, and other tabloids referred to as “garbage wars” between rival carting companies. Territory takeovers, smashed windshields, punctured garbage truck tires, truck bombings and arsons, beatings, sugared gas tanks, and other terror tactics were soon employed by mob-connected rubbish removal firms in an attempt to drive out the legitimate companies, and stifle any competition.

Even among themselves, various hoodlum garbage operators went to war against one another in a bid to win “contracts” and score “stops”. It often turned violent, and the mob warfare soon came to the attention of the local district attorneys of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Side Note: A “stop” is industry lingo for a commercial garbage hauling customer. Carting firms look to place “containers”, various sized garbage collection “bins”, at different retail locations which are used by local businesses to load the debris generated by their business. It is typically a weekly service provided by the garbage carter for a set monthly fee.

Angelo (Fat Angelo) Garofalo
Angelo (Fat Angelo) Garofalo

The first of these “garbage wars” erupted in the mid to late 1950s between rival mobbed-up garbage disposal companies in Western Suffolk County.

Two of the prime antagonists in these conflicts were the Garofalo brothers. Hoodlum associates connected to the Colombo Family, Vincent and the rotund Angelo (Fat Angelo) Garofalo operated several interrelated carting companies.

Among their main companies were Garofalo & Son Carting Co., ABC Sanitation Co., Royal Sanitation Co., all of Commack. V. Garofalo Inc., of Wantagh, and V. & D. Carting Corp., of Holbrook. They ran several other garbage companies as well, but regardless of the names, all roads led back to the Garofalo’s.

The Garofalo brothers were also active in truck hijackings, shylocking, burglaries, gun running, and fencing stolen goods.

By the mid to late 1960s both Garofalo’s had turned federal informant. They testified in several criminal trials, one of which was against their Colombo Family hijacking codefendants, soldier Anthony (The Gawk) Augello and his partner Frank (The Bug) Sciortino.

Another important mafia connected garbage firm was Riteway Carting Co., of Terryville. This company was owned and operated by the Carione brothers. Mob associates Frank, Anthony, and Joseph Carione were allegedly backed by Colombo soldier Andrew T. Russo, an important member who also happened to be the first cousin of captain Carmine (The Snake) Persico.

Vincent Garofalo
Vincent Garofalo

Frank Carione was also the president of the Suffolk Cartmen’s Assn., the dominant industry trade group and “whip” used by the Colombo mob to control Long Island’s garbage industry.

Carione’s Gambino Family contemporary was Gennaro (Jerry) Mancuso, who was president of the Nassau Intercounty Cartmen’s Assn. Mancuso, a soldier under Carlo Gambino, was also the brother of mob soldier and garbage rackets figure Aniello (Wahoo) Mancuso and the nephew of top garbage rackets boss Vincent (Jimmy Jerome) Squillante and his brother Nunzio Squillante.

Mancuso also worked in tandem with an old-time mafioso from Elmont, Long Island, named Pasquale (Patsy) Crapanzano, who was secretary-treasurer and business agent of Teamsters Local #27, which organized several garbage carting firms and had “sweetheart contracts” with them.

Over the years, the Mancuso’s, Squillante, and Crapanzano used their leverage to offer protection to garbage carters in order to shake them down for regular extortion payoffs.

Gennaro (Jerry) Mancuso
Gennaro (Jerry) Mancuso

Several other Anastasia/Gambino mafiosi involved in garbage carting extortion include Bronx-based capo Rocco Mazzie and policy racket kingpin Samuel (Sammy Schlitz) Schlitten who were involved in a department store garbage-shakedown case.

There were many other mob affiliates in the carting business in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, most of whom were tied to the Colombo Family.

Good examples of these mobbed-up individuals were Vincent (Jimmy Brown) Muce Jr., a quiet, low-keyed Colombo soldier who lived in Franklin Square. He was the son of veteran Sicilian-born mafioso Vincenzo Muce of Brooklyn, a contemporary of Mafia boss Giuseppe Profaci.

Jimmy Muce, a convicted truck hijacker, was the owner-operator of Jim’s Sweeping Service, A. & J. Rubbish Removal Co., and the Shore Sanitation Co., all based out of a truck depot in Franklin Square.

Andrew T (Andy Mush) Russo, a Farmingdale resident who was mentioned above, was a “sleeper” soldier of the old Profaci/Colombo Family. He was the owner-operator of A. & S. Carting Co. of Valley Stream. Russo was also the overseer of the Long Island garbage rackets for his cousin Carmine Persico who would later go on to become the overall boss of the Colombo Family.

Vincent (Jimmy Brown) Muce
Vincent (Jimmy Brown) Muce

Side Note: From time to time deadly violence would sometimes erupt in the Long Island carting business. One incident took place in 1981 with the shooting death of 49-year old garbage company owner John Montesano who had become an informer some years earlier with his testimony, sending several mob figures to jail. He owned the Taurus Waste Disposal Company.

Montesano was shot in the head and neck with a .22 caliber automatic as he emerged from his Sayville home early one morning as he walked to his car to drive to work.

His brother was Anthony (Tony Monte) Montesano, also a carter and the owner of Bellmore based East Meadow Sanitation Co., Tony Monty Carting Corp., and Colombo mob affiliate. Anthony continued his association with mob guys after his brother’s killing. He understood that his brother John had “gone bad” and done the wrong thing.

During the 1960s and 1970s era, other important names were Colombo associate Salvatore Spatarella, who later led the Suffolk garbage association and got himself indicted, as well as Joseph (Joe Mooney) Petrizzo.

Petrizzo was an associate of both the Colombo’s and Wahoo Mancuso. He was another top garbage racketeer for years until he fell on loanshark and related extortion charges during a probe into industry corruption, bid rigging, collusion, coercion and extortion.

Frank (Frankie the Bug) Sciortino of the Colombo Family owned Star Carting Corp., of New Hyde Park. He was arrested in 1969 for coercion and attempted extortion after a diner owner made a complaint to the Nassau District Attorney’s office that Sciortino had threatened to burn down his restaurant unless the man switched rubbish removal companies and gave Star Carting the “stop” to haul his garbage.

As the decades passed, the Colombo Family’s dominant hold over Long Island’ carting industry loosened, and by the early 1980s forward the Gambino and Lucchese Families became the more dominant mob forces ruling the roost.

Lucchese soldier Salvatore Avellino, aka “Sal the Golfer”, had become overseer for Lucchese boss Antonio (Tony Ducks) Corallo.

A Saint James resident, Avellino was installed by Corallo. He was entrusted to control both a garbage carters association, and the monthly “shake” of over 50 association member companies of “dues” and the resulting “skim” off rubbish removal contracts that the association had helped put in place.

Avellino had also established several major private carting firms that he and his family members owned and operated throughout Suffolk County. One of the largest being the SSC Carting Corp., and Salem Sanitation.

Collectively, Avellino’s series of companies were worth many millions of dollars. They generated upwards of $20,000,000 a year in gross revenue. He and the firms he controlled were a major force within the Island’s carting business.

Everybody knew it too, including both federal and local investigators.

The monthly envelopes he brought into the borgata were a major source of income to both the Lucchese hierarchy and several top Gambino Family bosses including Paul Castellano as well. This two-borgata partnership had been in place for years.

It had made Sal Avellino and several Lucchese associates wealthy men in the process as well.

Over the last 50 years, many criminal investigations into garbage industry corruption and racketeering have been initiated at both the county and federal level. Each probe produced some arrests, indictments, and subsequent jailings of guilty mob figures and corrupt businessmen alike.

Yet, the underworld seemed to never skip a beat. The mob collected its tithe, and the industry stayed knuckled under its thumb. It was the way it has always been, and the way it seemed it would always be.

But by the early-1980s, a small blood family of legitimate garbage operators, who ran a “mom and pop” rubbish removal company out of an East Northport truck base, decided that they didn’t wanna maintain the status quo and didn’t wanna play ball with the mob. The Kubecka family were “rebels” so to speak, intent on bucking a well-oiled system that had been in place for decades.

Richard Kubecka and his brother-in-law Donald Barstow just didn’t understand and just didn’t care how things worked. And they weren’t gonna play by the “old boys network” thing as they were expected to.

In truth, the Kubecka family, whose father had originally started the small family-owned business, had been providing tidbits of information to local police authorities for years. But they had seen no real change accomplished.

So, by the early 1980s, his son and son-in-law decided to contact the FBI and would soon become top informants for both the Suffolk Rackets Squad and federal prosecutors who were hoping to build a major case against the mob.

In hindsight, the men were very altruistic but also extremely naive and ignorant to think that they could get away with something this bold against the Long Island Mafia, right in the mob’s own backyard.

The rest was almost predictable. After repeated offers to join the association which the Kubecka’s spurned, a long series of many warning and veiled threats to stop going after other garbage firms’ established customers and “stops” were initiated by the mob and various association carting members, which the Kubecka’s mostly ignored.

Their continued habit of disrespecting mobbed-up association members by constantly underbidding the competition in order to grow Kubecka Carting at the expense of the association’s dues-paying members was really getting out of hand now and eventually became more than any self-respecting mafioso could take.

Even after repeated vandalism to their trucks, arsons, and other property damage in several attempts to try and dissuade the Kubecka’s from their pigheaded and uncooperative ways, the men still wouldn’t listen to reason.

Then word trickled down from several sources that indeed the Kubeckas were “rats”. So, on top of all their other transgressions, now they were police informers as well. They were providing a steady stream of sensitive information to law enforcement authorities and tried their best to put the association in hot water and get nice people arrested.

There seemed to be nothing left to talk about. The rebel Kubecka’s had “placed the last straw on the camel’s back” as the old saying goes. The camel’s back was now broke!

After a high-level sitdown with Family boss Vittorio (Little Vic) Amuso and underboss Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, the decision was now made at the highest level…Therebel carters had to go. The Kubecka’s were gonna get clipped!

Amuso and Casso were nobody to be playing with. They were both well known in the underworld and law enforcement alike as bloodthirsty hoods. Kubecka and Barstow had signed their own death warrants…and death it would be. A gruesome death at that!

One early summer’s morning on August 11, 1989, at the Kubecka Carting company dispatch office, shortly after the last garbage truck had just left the yard to do its daily run, several compact Mediterranean-looking men with unfamiliar faces rushed into the office.

Suffolk County homicide detectives later estimated it was all over in less than a minute. Kubecka and Barstow were repeatedly shot in the face, head and body, killing them both instantly.

With a getaway car at the ready, the killers raced out from the murder scene and disappeared as quickly as they had appeared…police and federal investigators almost immediately determined it was a professional gangland killing all the way!

Almost just as quickly, suspicion fell on the Avellino brothers and their Lucchese Family associates.

It would take several more years to develop the information, but in time, newly minted Mafia defectors explained to the FBI the “whos, whats, wheres, and hows” of why they were killed that fateful day.

Side Note: In 1991, star informant former Lucchese Family “acting boss” Alphonse (Little Al) D’Arco and several other top Family defectors provided a blow-by-blow account of the Kubecka murder plot.

In 1993, with the ammunition now in their hands, authorities brought a sweeping indictment against capo Salvatore Avellino and his kid brother, soldier Carmine Avellino, fellow soldiers Frank (Frankie Pearl) Federico, Rocco Vitulli and others.

In time, all would eventually be tried, convicted and sentenced to long prison sentences. But the Kubecka family was still dead! …so what was the gain?

There have been many, many other incidents and decades-long documentation of the mob’s infiltration and racketeering in Long Island’s private garbage industry.

Suffice it to say, that although the underworld stranglehold on the industry in not nearly what it once was, there are still many mobbed-up players and carting companies today that are owned by “the boys”.


Now to head a bit north…The mobbed up county of Westchester is another suburb well-known for its deep ties to the Italian underworld. Both lower and upper Westchester County as well as Putnam County and beyond have been bastions of Mafia residency and areas of operation alike for many years.

Nicholas (Cockeyed Nick) Rattenni
Nicholas (Cockeyed Nick) Rattenni

Mob guys have always successfully operated a bevy of rackets up that way but certainly, the private garbage disposal business has always been a first among equals and a favorite of theirs as far as racket revenue producers go.

The laundry list of major mafiosi and racketeers who have chosen to have a direct “hands-on” open approach to the business is surprising. Through both documented direct ownership, as well as hidden control, many top bosses of the Genovese and Gambino Families alike have overseen this lucrative market for many decades.

Among the Cosa Nostra luminaries who have graced the area’s underworld stage over the years were none other than top Genovese Family figures Sabato (Bo) Milo, Thomas (Tommy Marlow) Milo, Louis (Babe) Milo, Nicholas (Cockeyed Nick) Rattenni, Mario (The Shadow) Gigante, Tobias (Toby) DeMiccio, Vincent (Jimmy) Angelina, and Matteo (Matty Brown) Fortunato.

Each of whom was named by mafia soldier turned top informer Joseph (Joe Cago) Valachi way back in 1963 during his publicized testimony before Bobby Kennedy’s Senate Rackets Committee.

And of course at its core back within the City of New York’s Five boroughs, the Mafia has dominated the commercial garbage hauling industry with a chokehold for many decades. No other major city has ever been under the Mafia’s grip tighter than Gotham.

From the early 1900s through today, Cosa Nostra has been able to do in New York what no other Mafia borgata has and that is to maintain a strong presence within its given landscape.

New York’s Five Families are not even close to what they once were decades back. But their presence is still felt, especially in certain key business sectors, the garbage industry being one of them.

Joseph (Joe Shep) Schipani
Joseph (Joe Shep) Schipani

Traditionally, the Genovese and Gambino Families had the most clout within the city. The likes of top Genovese figures such as soldiers Joseph (Joe Shep) Schipani, Joseph (Little Joey) Pagano, Ottilio (Frankie the Bug) Caruso and capos Gaetano (Toddo) Marino, Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello, and Alphonse (Allie Shades) Malangone were deeply entrenched garbage racketeers to name but a few.

For years, Schipani controlled the “Manhattan Cartmens Association” from his base in the old 4th-Ward. He dictated and divvied up control throughout the city over garbage “stops” and carters alike. In Brooklyn, it was a similar situation under the watchful eye of Marino and Malangone.

One of the richest and most powerful of the Genovese garbage racketeers was Angelo Ponte. He is from a blood family that owns many multimillion-dollar parcels of real estate and the famed Ponte Ristorante based in Downtown Manhattan. He controlled a series of major rubbish removal firms that were key industry players for decades.

Closely tied in to boss Vincent (The Chin) Gigante himself, it is debatable about whether Angelo was actually an “inducted soldier” himself or a high-ranked associate. He nevertheless was a pivotal figure in Manhattan’s trash removal rackets.

Some other iconic mafiosi tied to the garbage removal field were:

Ottilio (Frank the Bug) Caruso
Ottilio (Frank the Bug) Caruso

Family boss Vito (Don Vitone) Genovese. He held partnership in the Colonial Trading Co, and Waste Paper Removal Co., garbage removal, a scrap-paper collection and recycling firm respectively, both located on Manhattan’s Lower West Side.

East Harlem-based soldier Theodore (Teddy the Bum) DeMartino owned Teddy’s Carting Service of 325 E.117th Street, Upper Manhattan.

Downtown Manhattan-based soldier Frankie the Bug Caruso held hidden partnership in the New York Carting Co., of 643 East 13th Street, Manhattan, a large commercial rubbish removal form active in midtown.

A little-known sleeper soldier was Joseph (Joe) Marone, a top narcotics trafficker who owned a part interest in Melrose Salvage Co., a scrap metals firm located at 405 East 107th Street, East Harlem.

Another top figure from the Lower Westside was Capo Peter DeFeo, who operated the Ross Paper Stock Co., at 151 Mercer Street in Manhattan, which was a scrap- paper recycling firm.

Joseph (Joe) Marone
Joseph (Joe) Marone

Low-profile East Harlem mafioso Michael (Slim) Picone was owner and operator of Cancro Ash Removal Corp., located at 428 E. 108th Street.

Not to be outdone, among the early ranking Gambino mobsters who preyed on the industry was none other than the vicious Bronx-based 1950s garbage racketeer Vincent (Jimmy Jerome) Squillante before his untimely disappearance and presumed murder some years later.

Other Gambino figures included capos James (Jimmy Brown) Failla, Joseph (Joe Z) Zingaro, and soldiers Pasquale (Patsy) Crapanzano, and James (Jimmy Surprise) Feola.

They worked in tandem with top Jewish hood and Teamsters Union boss Bernard (Bernie) Adelstein. For many years, he headed Local #813, which was an important Teamsters Local that controlled the drivers and workers in New York’s garbage industry.

Theodore (Teddy the Bum) DeMartino
Theodore (Teddy the Bum) DeMartino

Local #813 was utilized as the tool or “whip” to successfully shakedown and extort many carting firm owners for monthly envelopes. The fear of a crippling labor strike by the union was usually enough to ensure payment.

Side Note: Proof positive of the huge profits connected to the garbage business and the subsequent importance and value placed on it by mobsters was the disappearance and presumed murder of longtime Gambino soldier and garbage racketeer “Joey Surprise” Feola in 1965.

Conversations later “bugged” by the FBI in the offices of New Jersey mob boss Sam DeCavalcante revealed that Feola was “clipped” for trying to muscle in on a lucrative garbage contract at E.J. Corvettes Department store from another mafia Family.

Boss Carlo Gambino ordered his execution to appease the other borgata’s bosses.

In fact, from his own words caught on tape, it seems the “hit contract” had been farmed out to Sam’s crew. DeCavalcante talked in hushed tones and in obscure language about the mechanics of the killing.

Vincent (Jimmy Jerome) Squillante
Vincent (Jimmy Jerome) Squillante

But from what the agents listening in could gather, Feola was shot to death and then put through a garbage disposal to get rid of the evidence. I bet “Joey Surprise” got the surprise of his life (or death as it turned out) with that one!

In more recent years soldier Joseph (Joey Cigars) Francolino Sr. became the top overseer over many carting companies for his borgata, not only in New York but northern New Jersey as well. He was later one of many top wiseguys convicted in 1987 on state garbage racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Together, these men held sway over a cadre of lesser mob lights and underworld associates throughout Manhattan and its four outer boros that controlled literally hundreds of garbage carting firms, scrap-metal companies, recyclers, and other supporting accessorial business firms. A multi-billion dollar conglomerate that was and is one of New York’s most vital industries.

As recently as 2013 up in the northern suburb of Portchester, New York, 32 people were arrested, including 13 members and associates of three Families on garbage racketeering charges after a three-year federal probe.

Matthew (Slim) Picone
Matthew (Slim) Picone

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, George C. Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Commissioner George N. Longworth of the Westchester County Police Department announced charges against 32 individuals as part of a multi-year investigation into organized crime’s continued control over large segments of the commercial waste-hauling industry in the greater New York City metropolitan area and parts of New Jersey. 

The main indictment charged 12 mob defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise that asserted illegal and extortionate control over commercial waste-hauling companies and 20 other associate defendants with individual acts of extortion, loansharking, narcotics, and other crimes related to those activities. 

The far sweeping probe also reached into Westchester and Rockland counties along with Nassau County on Long Island and Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey.

Joseph (Joey Cigars) Francolino

The indictments contended “that members of the racketeering effort avoided any official connection to the waste disposal businesses they controlled because they were either officially banned from the waste hauling industry or unlikely to be granted the necessary licenses required to do business in the waste hauling industry because of their affiliations with organized crime.

Leaders of the criminal operation concealed themselves behind waste disposal businesses that were officially owned and operated by others who were able to obtain the necessary licenses because they had no known affiliations with organized crime.”

The indictments included five reputed “soldiers” and a number of mob associates of the Genovese, Gambino, and Lucchese Families including top ringleader Carmine (Papa Smurf) Franco, Anthony (Poochy) Pucciarello, Howard Ross, Anthony (Tony Lodi) Cardinalle, Peter Leconte, Frank Oliver, Charles (Charlie Tuna) Giustra, soldier Dominick (Pepe) Pietranico, soldier Joseph (Joe Sass) Sarcinella, William Cali, Scott Fappiano, soldier Anthony Bazzini, Joseph Antico, Vincent Dimino, and Pasquale Carbone.

Charges included RICO conspiracy, restraint of trade, collusion, coercion, extortion, attempted extortion, mail and wire fraud, loansharking, arson, interstate transportation of stolen property, assault, cigarette smuggling and related sales-tax evasion, narcotics conspiracy (cocaine), possession of guns, thefts and business fraud.

The investigation was the latest effort by federal law enforcement authorities to rid the region’s trash industry of organized crime.

Thomas Milo Jr.
Thomas Milo Jr.

Another such probe back in the late 1990s resulted in charges against 7 men and 14 companies. Genovese mob associate Thomas Milo, head of Westchester’s biggest firm, Suburban Carting, was jailed, and the county took significant steps to try and regulate the mob-dominated industry.

Five years after that in the mid-2000s, a similar probe by the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut resulted in 29 arrests in connection with commercial trash routes and affiliated rackets up in Fairfield and Putnam Counties.

A multimillionaire Genovese associate named Jimmy Galante who owned more than 20 carting companies was sentenced to 87 months in prison and forced to give up his 20 companies. Tommy Milo was accused of being Galante’s silent partner in the case and also pleaded guilty, serving another term in federal prison.

Iconic Genovese underboss Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello also figured prominently into this investigation. It was alleged by prosecutors that he and the Family hierarchy back in New York City got fat monthly envelopes from the Connecticut trash hauling rackets under Galante’s and Milo’s control for many years.

Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello
Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello

Side Note: Although prosecutors didn’t publicly mention it at the time, Tommy Milo is directly related to iconic 1960s Genovese soldiers Sabato (Bo) Milo, Louis (Babe) Milo, and their brother, capo Thomas (Tommy Marlow) Milo of Westchester, who I mentioned earlier in our story. The Milo family was still active over 60 years later…nothing changes in gangland!

In New Jersey, the Genovese Family has been the most visible mob entity. From early on they boasted almost total domination over carting in the northern and central parts of the state.

Among that borgata’s members closely connected to the industry was consigliere Louis (Bobby) Manna, and waterfront bosses Tino Fiumara, Michael (Mikey Cigars) Coppola, and Lawrence Ricci. Both Manna and Fiumara doubled as general rackets overseers in the Garden State, with garbage rackets squarely within his bailiwick.

An early established New Jersey mafioso was Carmine (Big Yak) San Giacomo. Based in Newark, he dated to the days of Willy Moretti and Longy Zwillman. Big Yak owned the San Giacomo Paper Corp., and Cornwall Paper Mill Co., of Newark. These firms were waste paper removal and recycling businesses.

The notorious Genovese soldier John (Johnny D) Digilio was also very involved with waste disposal rackets before his murder in 1988. Likewise, there have been many gangland killings in New Jersey over the years that investigators directly tied to the garbage carting industry.

Just scratching the surface of the many New Jersey gangland killings tied to the industry over the years were the murders of garbage carting executives Alfred DeNardi, Gabriel San Felice, and Crescent Roselle, in 1976, 1978 and 1980 respectively. Each was shot down while competing for business and garbage “stops” at the time of their killings.

Another high profile murder was that of mobbed-up lawyer George Franconero, coincidently the brother of singer Connie Francis, who was also killed during this same period. It was thought that he had turned informant and was providing evidence about underworld involvement in the waste industry.

They join a long list of carters, mob associates and corrupt businessmen alike who fell victim to industry troubles, which included several “garbage wars” to see who would come out on top to dominate the business, the killing of various informants and malcontents, and other semi-related reasons.

Back in 1981, it was exposed by the FBI and other federal investigators that the Vito Genovese Family was behind a massive toxic waste explosion that took place at the storage yard and buildings of Chemical Control Corporation, right over the bridge from Manhattan in the city of Elizabeth.

EPA investigators, fire marshalls, and federal agents later said the fire raged for over 15 hours despite multiple fire departments and engine companies all fighting the monumental explosion and subsequent blaze. Thick black plumes of smoke cascaded up into the sky that evening and for several days there afterward.

It was later discovered that Chemical Control Corp., had illegally stored hundreds and hundreds of full steel drums of deadly toxic waste on their business property, instead of paying to legally truck it away and dispose of it in a licensed and safe, legitimate manner.

To have accumulated this huge volume of drums was a conscious decision made over several years by the company owners so they could save millions of dollars in legitimate EPA dumping fees.

It also later came out that Chemical’s principals accepted toxic waste from other source companies and carting firms in a cost-cutting racket scheme.

Side Note: It was later thought by authorities that either the explosion happened by accident from all the open and unsafe drums being carelessly stored there, or the mob decided to get rid of any evidence by setting the fire themselves. Either way, because of the sheer volume of deadly toxic waste products involved, the damage to the environment was almost incalculable.

Before long deep organized crime ties were exposed. A known New Jersey Genovese associate-member named John Albert was connected to the firm as the day to day mob manager or overseer.

Joseph (Joe Beck) Lapi
Joseph (Joe Beck) Lapi

In a classic mob business infiltration and takeover bid, the wiseguys were thought to have first infiltrated the firm through loansharking, and later taken over complete control.

Further digging revealed that a top Genovese “elder statesman” and capo named Joseph (Joe Beck) Lapi was making regular weekly visits out to the Elizabeth plant. It was thought that Lapi had lent over $100,000 in loan shark money to the business.

Federal agents later traced regular cancelled checks from Chemical Control’s checkbook to a wholesale fish dealer in Downtown Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market.Lapi was known as the “kingpin” and overseer of the Market for his borgata, and was thought to hold a hidden ownership in that business.

Several additional canceled checks had also been endorsed by another soldier within Lapi’s regime named Frank Vispisiano, a well-known hoodlum from Downtown Manhattan. Federal investigators viewed it as yet another tie to Lapi.

Ultimately Albert was subpoenaed, and later indicted on multiple counts related to the explosion and fire, as well as the overall conspiracy. But Lapi escaped any prosecution by passing away in early 1980.

As late as 2019, the New York City legislature was still attempting to draft a proposal to try and give “teeth” to a watchdog committee previously created to oversee and police the private garbage hauling industry, in what is yet another attempt to route out corruption and the mob’s presence.-

The New York underworld are crafty characters to say the least. I think that’s been well proven out through previous decades. And with the prospect of billions of dollars at stake, I don’t imagine that they’ll be dissuaded from the carting and recycling industries anytime soon!

…Until next time, “The Other Guy!”

This article was originally posted “here

The DeCavalcante Family of New Jersey

By The Other Guy | July 18, 2020

The City of Elizabeth, New Jersey
The city of Elizabeth, New Jersey

With a current population just shy of 130,000 residents, the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey, located in Union County, is the fourth largest city in the entire state of Jersey.

Proximity within the Tristate area
Proximity within the Tristate area

Originally called Elizabethtown, it was founded back in 1664.

It is a geographically small city less than 14 square miles in size and has as its neighbors the towns of Linden to its southwest, Roselle and Roselle Park to the west, Union and Hillside to its northwest, and the bustling City of Newark to the north.

The Elizabeth River separates it from the adjoining City of Bayonne, and the County of Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs.

The sections of Elizabeth and Linden have a very diverse populous, but Italians are, and have always been, a dominant ethnicity in the areas population. So much so, that the Italian City of Ribera, Sicily, is named a “sister city”.

Strategically placed on the map

Elizabeth is a highly industrialized area, that hosts important shipping operations, including the huge Port Newark/Elizabeth Marine Terminal, with its sprawling acreage and large facilities for containerized shipping.

The area also supports many major manufacturing and distribution facilities, for both local and nationwide companies, in many varied industries.

It is a vibrant and important gateway to industry and commerce for both the States of New Jersey, its New York neighbor, and for that matter the entire nation.-It is also a very important area for the Mafia!

In fact, the Northern New Jersey area has played a pivotal role in Cosa Nostra since its very inception in this country.

In particular, the city of Elizabeth, and the semi-suburban bedroom community of nearby Linden, have played host to the only homegrown mafia borgata in the entire state, the DeCavalcante Family of LCN.

Nicola (Nicky Dell) Delmore
Nicola (Nicky Dell) Delmore

Founded by Sicilian boss Stefano Badami, and later passed into the capable hands of Filippo Amari, by the late 1940s what later became known as the Sam DeCavalcante Family eventually came to be dominated by Nicola Delmore, better known as “Nicky Dell”, an important early Garden State bootlegger during the Prohibition times around the late 1940s.

Delmore would run a small and successful, but little known borgata.

The borgata boasted seven crews: four regimes operating in North Jersey, two in New York City (Astoria and Brooklyn), and one based out in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Side Note: By the early 1970s they had a crew operating in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area of South Florida as well.

The DeCavalcante’s maintained an ironclad grip over Laborers Union Local # 394, and it’s sister Local, Asbestos Workers Local # 1030, both of the International Brotherhood of Laborers & Hod Carriers of America.

These labor unions gave the borgata a strong base from which to operate their labor racketeering and extortion schemes for almost seven decades.

The town of Elizabeth
The town of Elizabeth

Spreading their tentacles out from their headquarters in Elizabeth, the DeCavalcante’s oversaw operations in over four eastern states.

In addition to the rackets named above, the Family was active in:

• Waterfront ILA rackets operated off the Brooklyn and Northern New Jersey docks. Several key members were tied to the International Longshoreman’s Union such as capo Vincent (Jimmy) Rotondo, and soldiers Angelo and Umberto Gallo.

• The smuggling of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana up from South Florida and Florida Keys.

• Various robbery and heist gangs over the years including heist teams headed by New York-based capo Frank Cocchiaro, soldier Louie Telese, and others.

• Stock and securities frauds, which were perpetrated by the Family’s resident stock fraud specialist, Philip Abramo, and several of his minions who ran stock brokerage houses in Manhattan that defrauded the public of untold millions during their operation.

Aerial view of the City of Elizabeth
Aerial view of the City of Elizabeth

• An extensive numbers-lottery, or “policy” gambling ring that coursed through several counties in Northern New Jersey and Upstate New York. Sam DeCavalcante was himself the “banker” who funded any “hits”, or winning policy numbers that had to be paid out to bettors. He oversaw a $20,000,000 a year betting operation the Family had controlled for many years.

• They organized several floating dice games, and Italian Ziganette card games that various members ran in both New Jersey and New York City.

The borgata was also known to “shakedown” and extort a “Mob Tax” from any independent game operators in their territory that they stumbled onto. In 1968, DeCavalcante, Vastola and fellow soldier Daniel Annunziata were arrested for demanding and extorting $20,000 from a group of gamblers who were running an illegal dice game in Trevose, Pennsylvania.

The mob figures were all later convicted on extortion charges, but won the case on appeal.

• Another occasional endeavor was operating so-called “bust outs”, or fraudulent bankruptcies of businesses. Over the years this type of racket was perpetrated against various manufacturers and suppliers in the music record industry, wholesale food suppliers, major household appliance factories, and several other industries.

Several key members of the borgata were involved in these type schemes over the years.

• In the early 1960s, mob associate and future member Gaetano Vastola was also arrested for “trademark infringements”, after he was nabbed in Brooklyn with over $500,000 in “bootlegged”, or counterfeit record labels of popular singing stars. He later pled out and received a one year suspended jail sentence and fine. But it was a lucrative racket while it lasted.

Likewise, Corky Vastola also became hooked into Roulette Records, a major Manhattan-based record label. For years, he listed his occupation as that of “talent agent” for Mecca Records. He also listed employment as a talent “scout”, concert promoter, and songwriter.

Gaetano (Corky) Vastola
Gaetano (Corky) Vastola

He successfully infiltrated the music industry and became a major player for decades, even being credited with co-writing the lyrics for several major pop recordings of the 1950s-1960s era including The Valentines song “Lily Maebelle”, The Cleftones hit song “You Baby You”, and The Wrens “Hey Girl.”

Vastola operated a popular New York City-based talent business called Queens Booking Agency, which booked many top headline entertainers such as comedian Red Foxx, and singers Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and the iconic Sammy Davis Jr., into top venues over the years like Atlantic City Casinos, The Nassau Coliseum, and The Garden in Midtown Manhattan.

• Carpenters Union – Another mob scheme the Brooklyn faction of the borgata operated on more than one occasion was a carpenters union shakedown racket. Soldier

Corky Vastola utilized a Long Island based member of his personal crew to influence the New York-New Jersey carpet installation business.

Mob associate Jesse Smith was Assistant to the President of Brooklyn based Local # 2241, of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, Joiners, and Floor Coverers of America (AFL-CIO). This “hook” often put them in a position to extort payments from various “carpet laying firms” looking to avoid labor disruption of their work crews.

In 1968, both Smith and Vastola were indicted by the FBI for the $500,000 “shakedown” of a Georgia carpet manufacturing company. They threatened the president and executive vice-president of Barwick Mills Inc., of Chamblee, Georgia, a firm that did an annual business of over $150,000,000. in textiles and carpets.

They were told that unless they paid the $500,000 to the mobsters, their two southern plants would be organized, and union carpet layers would refuse to handle company goods in the Tristate area.

The hoodlums were charged with conspiracy to violate the anti-extortion laws, and violation of the Taft-Hartley Act, which makes it a crime for a union official to demand money from an employer.


Later Delmore’s ill health would force his semi-retirement and by the early 1960s he had appointed and installed his devoted nephew Simone DeCavalcante to act in his stead as the “acting boss”.

Boss - Simone Rizzo DeCavalcante
Boss – Simone Rizzo DeCavalcante

By 1964, with the death of Delmore, his nephew Simone (Sam the Plumber) DeCavalcante would be selected as the new boss of this Family. He would quickly utilize his position and popularity to help expand the influence and geographic reach of this borgata.

Although a small membership, they had a reach into metropolitan New York City where they ran several regimes, Waterbury, Connecticut, where co-underboss Joseph (Joe Buff) LaSelva operated a crew, and South Florida where additional members lived and operated.

The Family was active in many of the traditional rackets such as gambling, shylocking, labor union racketeering and corruption, extortion, and narcotics.

Joseph (Joe Buff) La Selva
Joseph (Joe Buff) La Selva

Important members over the years have included underboss Francesco (Big Frank) Majuri, capo di decina Luciano (Big Louie) Larasso, Frank (Frankie Coch) Cocchiaro, Vincent (Jimmy) Rotondo, and soldiers Robert (Bobby Basile) Occhipinti and the notorious Gaetano (Corky) Vastola.

As his key aide Robert Occhipinti, who although not an inducted member at that time, was Sam’s blood cousin, trusted associate and appointment secretary of sorts. Anyone who needed to see DeCavalcante was required to go through Bobby Basile to set up a meeting.

He also forged closer relations to other bosses, especially New York’s Carlo Gambino and Joe Colombo, who headed the former Mangano/Anastasia and Profaci Families respectively.

One of the larger mafia organizations in the country, the Gambino Family boasted a roster of almost 300 mafiosi. Like wise, the Colombo outfit had upwards of 150 men. It was a wise move, which augmented Sam’s influence with the national Commission.

Francesco (Big Frank) Majuri
Francesco (Big Frank) Majuri

Because although his Family didn’t have a seat on the Commission itself, his close friendship with Carlo as a senior member enabled Sam’s otherwise small voice and mafia footprint to be recognized. It likewise gave him much more respect and influence.

No better example of this was during the mid-1960’s “Banana War” that raged between opposing factions of New York’s Bonanno Family.

The Commission bosses themselves chose Sam DeCavalcante to act as a mediator in order to encourage Boss Joe Bonanno to appear before the Commission body. This was requested of him to answer questions and defend himself from accusations that he plotted the murders of fellows commissioners Carl Gambino and Tommy Lucchese.

Luciano (Big Louie) Larasso
Luciano (Big Louie) Larasso

Bonanno, for his part, resisted all efforts by Sam and several others to come in. But it also showed the higher profile that Sam started to play within Cosa Nostra, that he of all people should be picked for this assignment so to speak. I’m sure Gambino’s influence played into this selection.

But his growing influence was a double-edged sword that cut both ways. With his growing status came much more law enforcement scrutiny.

Soon, Sam would face tremendous public exposure after a hidden microphone or “bug” installed by the FBI back in the early-1960s which was placed inside Sam’s office at the plumbing wholesale contracting firm he was partnered in. This microphone would spell his doom.

In 1969, after Sam had been indicted for extortion, his lawyers petitioned prosecutors to provide all “discovery material” related to the case, including any electronic surveillance they had on his client. The federal government surprisingly complied, releasing 12 volumes containing some 2000 pages of DeCavalcante’s “bugged” conversations to the general public.

Robert (Bobby Basile) Occhipinti
Robert (Bobby Basile) Occhipinti

It was a media disaster for the mob boss. Almost immediately, every major newspaper across the country was carrying daily frontpage transcripts of sensitive underworld conversations DeCavalcante had had with various mafia subordinates and other mob bosses…it was a major embarrassment!

Then on January 2, 1970, the other shoe dropped. Sam DeCavalcante was indicted along with 54 of his minions on interstate gambling charges for operating a multimillion-dollar illegal lottery network. He would eventually plead guilty to a federal gambling conspiracy and received a 5-year prison term and $10,000 fine.

When it was released to the general public under the “Freedom of Information Act” by court order, major newspapers across the country carried front pages stories and printed the exact FBI transcripts for reading.

A book aptly named “The Mafia Talks” was released by 1969. It was a recreation of DeCavalcante’s banter with his mob disciples and other top mob figures of the New York-New Jersey underworld.

Frank (Frankie Coch) Cocchiaro
Frank (Frankie Coch) Cocchiaro

Many of the Family’s previously unknown rank and file members were exposed and became targets of FBI probes. Central among these mafiosi were:

• Frank (Frankie Coch) Cocchiaro – Originally from Astoria in Queens, Frankie and his brother Carmelo (Melio), a crew soldier, were very active in the Queens/Brooklyn regime that Frankie eventually came to lead.

Although a well-known Queens hoodlum, Cocchiaro took on more importance in the eyes of the FBI after being named on the tapes as one of Sam’s “capo di decina”.

Vincent (Jimmy) Rotondo – Based in Brooklyn and became a top official in a Brooklyn local of the Longshoreman’s Union, Rotondo was exposed as a Family soldier.

• Pietro (Pete) Galletta – He was a previously unknown “sleeper” who resided out in Suffolk County, Long Island. He and his brother Giuseppe, also a soldier, were outed on those FBI transcripts.

• Another key hoodlum who was only an associate at the time the “bug” was in place was Gaetano (Corky) Vastola. He would become a notorious mafioso in years to come after exposure on those transcripts.

Vincent (Jimmy) Rotondo
Vincent (Jimmy) Rotondo

Vastola was even later indicted with his brother-in-law, Family soldier Danny Annunziata and DeCavalcante for extortion after it came out on the tapes that the trio had shaken-down operators of an illegal dice game.

This FBI probe also uncovered the Family’s influence in the State of Connecticut where they actually ran another small regime headed by Michael (Mickey Poole) Puglia.

In fact, the entire Nutmeg State was overseen for their Family by a rare second “underboss” who resided there. Joseph (Joe Buff) LaSelva and his brothers operated from their base in the Waterbury section. They too would soon come under the scrutiny of the federal government.

There were many other members and mob associates alike who’s hair turned white after being “outed” as members of the underworld…and they were not alone. Many police officials on the take, corrupt politicians, and government officials were also drawn into future investigations because of the “Sam the Plumber Tapes”.

Sam surrendered to prison and ended up serving approximately 3-years of the 5-year sentence. DeCavalcante kept Riggi as his acting boss even after Sam was released on parole.

Michael (Mickey Poole) Puglia
Michael (Mickey Poole) Puglia

He left Riggi in charge of things up north. This arrangement worked very well, with Sam allegedly receiving 10% off the top of all Family racket operations…and although DeCavalcante maintained his lofty position as “Representante”, Sam the Plumber was now semi-retired from active duty.

With that said, John Riggi’s power would increase with every year that passed. He was a well-respected, capable and no-nonsense mafioso cut from the “old cloth”.

Riggi’s main activity and function had always been to oversee his borgata’s control over labor unions and labor rackets in the construction industry of Northern NJ and metropolitan NY.

He also became the “go-to” guy related to any union activity for the Family regardless of what industry was involved.

New Jersey’s Restaurant and Bartenders Union (AFL-CIO), and the International Longshoreman’s Union (ILA) on the North Jersey docks as well as Local # 1814 in Brooklyn and on the Staten Island waterfront were two more industries affected by this mafia network.

Girolamo (Daddy) Palermo
Girolamo (Daddy) Palermo

Assisting Riggi in these endeavors were a small cadre of men he had appointed to serve as his “cabinet”. Among his closest aides and associates were: Salvatore (Little Sal) Timpani, Paul Farina, Joseph (Jojo) Ferrara, Jimmy Palermo, and (Big Frankie) Cocchiaro.

There were others whom he rotated around through the years as needs various arose.

By the late-1970s early 1980s, Riggi had become the official recognized head of the Family.

Unfortunately his accession correlated perfectly to the renewed vigor of the FBI and its local law enforcement partners in targeting the American Cosa Nostra.

John M. Riggi Sr. would soon have a large bullseye drawn on his back.

Through the 1970s and early 1980s this criminal network continued to thrive. Riggi was widely recognized and respected at “sitdowns” and mutually partnered in criminal endeavors with the NYC Families.

In December of 1985 Gambino boss Paul Castellano and his freshly appointed underboss Tommy Bilotti were assassinated in midtown Manhattan. Once the smoke cleared, John Gotti emerged as the boss of that borgata. It would also spell a problem for the New Jersey Family.

Gotti heavy-handedly soon started throwing around his weight and newfound power as boss of the largest mafia group in the nation.

Salvatore (Little Sal) Timpani
Salvatore (Little Sal) Timpani

What it meant for the DeCavalcante crew was that the new Gambino boss targeted them to eventually be absorbed as a “weak sister” to serve under the Gambino’s. A “satellite” so to speak instead of having independence as one of the twenty-some-odd such entities in the nation.

It did not sit well with Riggi, his hierarchy, or their rank and file membership. It was considered a major slap in the face, and very disrespectful to put it mildly.

But with a total formal membership smaller than even 1 single large crew of the Gambino Family’s 22 such regimes, there wasn’t much Riggi could do about it unless he wanted to start a bloody conflict they would surely lose!

So with his tail between his legs “Boss” John Riggi aka “John the Eagle”, embarrassingly acquiesced and was soon reporting to Gotti the way a lowly crew captain would report to his boss…he seemingly became “John the Parakeet” overnight.

Gotti gained no friends with the DeCavalcante crew I can assure you that.

Stefano (The Truck Driver) Vitabile
Stefano (The Truck Driver) Vitabile

Not that it would matter anyway, because within a few short years a series of very serious Rico indictments would decimate their ranks both in New York and New Jersey.

In the ensuing years, federal prosecutors continued to pummel the DeCavalcante’s with arrests and indictments as they did with the other NYC area Families. The difference being was that Jersey didn’t have the “deep” talent bench some of the other borgata’s had.

The result was a near-fatal death kneel for them, forcing Jersey to install incapable leader after incapable leader from the thin ranks they had left. They ended up in total disarray.

Today, they are but a wisp of their former selves and hang by the proverbial thread. At last glance Charles Majuri, son of former underboss Frank Majuri, was said to be heading what’s left of their troops.

As for John Riggi? Originally such a careful mafioso, John Riggi would end up falling hard on conspiracy and murder charges. In fact, several massive indictments were filed against him and scores of their key associates with a laundry list of typical mafia-type rackets.

He ended up serving several decades behind bars, finally gaining parole in 2012 when he was already a frail old man.

Many in Riggi’s top “cabinet” who assisted him in the hierarchy watching over the troops such as longtime consigliere Stefano (Steve the Truck Driver) Vitabile and their captains fared no better.

Dozens of their soldiers and associates were also jailed. Many served decades-long prison terms themselves.

I’m sure that others such as onetime underbosses and acting bosses Jimmy “The Gent” Rotondo, “Johnny Boy” D’Amato and “Fat Louie” Larasso wished they’d been imprisoned.

Each was slaughtered by their supposed “blood brothers” in various Macchiavellian self-serving plots in order to seize or hold on to power, or to satisfy Riggi and the powers that be at the time.

Boss John Riggi Sr. died in 2015 at age 90, almost three years after his release from jail.

The borgata he left behind is in sorry shape…but such is the plight of today’s mafiosi. It is a bad career choice at best for today’s young Italian men.


The Simone DeCavalcante Family

circa 1965-1995

R = connotes Rat/Informant
K = connotes Killed
+ = elevated to hierarchy

Boss
Simone DeCavalcante

Acting Boss
John M. Riggi Sr.

Underboss
John M. Riggi Sr. (acting)
Frank Majuri
Joseph LaSelva (CT)
Vincent Rotondo K

Consigliere
Frank Majuri
Stefano Vitabile

Former Representante
Filippo Amari
Nicholas Delmore
Giacomo Amari (acting)


Capo di decina

Joseph Caruano
Frank Cocchiaro
Paolo Farina
Joseph Giacobbe
Francesco Guarraci +

Luciano Larasso
Joseph Lolordo
Girolamo Palermo
Francesco Polizzi
Michael Puglia


Soldiers

Gaetano Alessi
Virgil Alessi
Frank D’Amato
John D’Amato + K
Daniel Annunziata
Philip Abramo
Anthony Capo R
Antonio Caruso
Salvatore Caternicchio
Carmelo Cocchiaro
Russell Cocchiaro
Joseph Colletti
Peter Colletti
Joseph Collina
Louis Consalvo
Carmelo Corsentino
Carlo Corsentino
Nicholas Cottone
Francesco DeCavalcante +
Louis DiGiovanni
Rudolph Farone
Joseph Ferrara

Giuseppe Galletta
Pietro Galletta
Angelo Gallo
James Gallo
Umberto Gallo
Francesco Gatto
Charles Giacobbe
Lawrence Giacobbe
Joseph Guerrieri
Joseph Ippolito
Giovanni LaMela
Philip LaMela
Joseph La Sala
Anthony LaSelva
Thomas LaSelva
Charles Majuri +
Anthony Mannarino
Joseph Merlo Sr. +
Joseph Merlo Jr.
Michael Merlo
Joseph Miranda +
Frank Nigro

Daniel Noto
Robert Occhipinti
Vincent Palermo R +
Francesco Paparatto
Nicholas Quarino
Gregory Rago
Emanuele Riggi Sr.
Emanuel Riggi
John Riggi Jr.
Vincent Riggi
Dominick Rizzo
Anthony Rotondo R
Frank Salerno
Joseph Scalfani
Giuseppe Schifilliti
Joseph Sferra
Gennaro Sortino
Charles Stango
Antonio Staiti
Louis Telese
Salvatore Timpani
Gaetano Vastola


This article was originally posted “here

The Simone DeCavalcante Family

Circa 1965-1995

By The Other Guy | July 13, 2020


Since the 1930s, this small Cosa Nostra group is the only true resident Mafia borgata to have ever been solely based in the State of New Jersey.

With an active membership originating in Ribera, Sicily, that ranged from thirty to forty-five inducted mafiosi at their 1960s peak, the DeCavalcante’s were always the smallest active Family in the Tristate area. The chart created below represents this membership over a forty year span, from the years 1965 through 1995.

For much of its existence, this borgata has always had the benefit of a very capable leadership. From early bosses Filippo Amari and Nicholas Delmore, to Simone DeCavalcante and John Riggi, they operated successfully.

And for over four decades they prospered…but as with all Cosa Nostra in recent times, the federal onslaught brought down on the DeCavalcante mob in the 1990s through the 2010s has devastated their ranks, and imprisoned many of their more capable members.

Infighting, jealousy and murder plots among the membership would also eat away at this once proud Cosa Nostra Family.

Here is what the Family looked like before the destabilization of Federal investigations, prosecutions, and subsequent imprisonments.


R = connotes Rat/Informant
K = connotes Killed
+ = elevated to hierarchy

Boss
Simone DeCavalcante

Acting Boss
John M. Riggi Sr.

Underboss
John M. Riggi Sr. (acting)
Frank Majuri
Joseph LaSelva (CT)
Vincent Rotondo K

Consigliere
Frank Majuri
Stefano Vitabile

Former Representante
Filippo Amari
Nicholas Delmore
Giacomo Amari (acting)


Capo di decina

Joseph Caruano
Frank Cocchiaro
Paolo Farina
Joseph Giacobbe

Luciano Larasso
Joseph Lolordo
Girolamo Palermo
Michael Puglia


Soldiers

Virgil Alessi
Frank D’Amato
John D’Amato + K
Daniel Annunziata
Philip Abramo
Anthony Capo R
Antonio Caruso
Salvatore Caternicchio
Carmelo Cocchiaro
Russell Cocchiaro
Louis Consalvo
Carmelo Corsentino
Carlo Corsentino
Rudolph Farone
Joseph Ferrara
Giuseppe Galletta

Pietro Galletta
Angelo Gallo
James Gallo
Umberto Gallo
Charles Giacobbe
Lawrence Giacobbe
Joseph Guerrieri
Giovanni LaMela
Philip LaMela
Joseph La Sala
Anthony LaSelva
Thomas LaSelva
Charles Majuri +
Joseph Miranda +
Frank Nigro
Daniel Noto
Robert Occhipinti

Vincent Palermo R +
Emanuele Riggi Sr.
Emanuel Riggi
John Riggi Jr.
Vincent Riggi
Dominick Rizzo
Anthony Rotondo R
Frank Salerno
Joseph Scalfani
Giuseppe Schifilliti
Joseph Sferra
Charles Stango
Antonio Staiti
Louis Telese
Salvatore Timpani
Gaetano Vastola

This article was originally posted “here

Frank Sciortino aka “Frankie the Bug”

By The Other Guy | July 12, 2020


Frank (Frankie the Bug) Sciortino – aka “Little Frankie”- was born on April 4, 1932, in Brooklyn’s East New York section to Salvatore and Agnes Sciortino. He married young, and by the mid-1950s had relocated his wife and kids out to 1659 Stewart Avenue in New Hyde Park section of Queens.

By 1960, he had moved again to 66 South Bay Avenue, a waterfront neighborhood in Massapequa on Long Island.

With his continued success, by the early-1980’s he again relocated his brood but this time to Nassau County’s Gold Coast community of Brookville. He purchased a beautiful stone and brick longline ranch at 18 Ormond Park Drive, situated on two acres. This is where he would reside for the rest of his life.

Sciortino nabbed for a shooting

The way Sciortino acquired his nickname was twofold. He was very small in stature at approximately 5-foot 3-inches tall and weighing 130-pounds. But also because in his younger days while coming up in the underworld his wild antics led his friends to jokingly call him a “bug job”. A mob moniker that would fit him well.

He had thinning dark-brown hair receded in front, brown eyes and soft-round features that often deceived people who met him. Coupled with his small stature and easy demeanor, it belied his position as a potentially dangerous guy.

Over the course of his mob career he was picked up numerous times on a litany of charges, not the least of which was the 1966 shooting of the Bridgeport, Connecticut discount house treasurer for Bankruptcy Sales, Inc., who Frankie shot in the neck in a hijack-shylock money dispute that obviously got out of hand.

An all-points police bulletin was put out on him almost immediately thereafter…Little Frankie was a character indeed!

As a young man, he listed his job as working in automobile sales in Brooklyn. By the age of 25 years old he was employed as a used-car salesmen at a Nassau County car lot.

He was arrested there in 1957 for extortion, felonious assault and possession of a .25 caliber handgun after another man swore out a criminal complaint that Frankie had pulled out a gun and threatened his life in a loan dispute.

He started out as a mob associate of several crews in Brooklyn but would form a lifelong connection to the Brooklyn based borgata of Joe Profaci. In later years this group would become better known as the Joseph Colombo Family.

Because of an early friendship with Bonanno capo Nicholas (Nick the Battler) DeStefano, he was often misidentified as an affiliate of that Family by the authorities and the daily newspapers.

Held for a gun and threat
Held for a gun and threat

But in truth, he was originally close to senior Gambino capo Ettore (Terry) Zappi, who Sciortino would eventually become a neighbor of, and who was the one to encourage him to move out to the Island. Zappi helped him find the home in Massapequa, and the financing required for the down payment.

By the 1950s he was firmly allied with the Profaci/Colombo crew as an associate. He operated under Anthony (Tony the Gawk) Augello, a notorious soldier serving within Long Island’s Franzese regime, one of the deadliest factions of that Family.

Through the years the FBI officially listed Sciortino as an “inducted” soldier, and authorities said he served alternately in the regimes of Sonny Franzese, capo Pasquale (Patty) Amato, Victor Orena Sr., and in his later years under Vic Orena Jr.

In 1969, Sciortino was nabbed with two associates for operating what Suffolk County prosecutors called a charity fraud scheme since 1967. Operating the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Fund of Babylon, they were accused of selling tickets for a phony raffle that offered tickets for non-existent grand prizes.

Also in 1969, as though Frankie didn’t already have his hands full fighting the fraud case, he was picked up by Nassau Rackets Squad detectives for threats he had made to the owner of an area diner.

The fake charity scam
The fake charity scam

In a failed attempt to secure the diner location as a “stop” for a carting firm he owned, The Bug had warned diner owner George Doukas that his property would be damaged, and his eatery burned to the ground unless he acquiesced to Sciortino’s demands to hire Star Carting as his garbage hauler. Frankie the Bug was subsequently charged with attempted coercion and extortion. He faced 11 years in prison for that little foray.

While out on double bail in the charity fraud and garbage coercion-extortion cases, he was arrested again in 1970, this time with Tony the Gawk for receiving a tractor-trailer load that was hijacked back in 1965 which contained a shipment of garments stolen in interstate commerce. Going over state lines made it a federal offense, bringing in the FBI.

After several weeks of surveillance, the Suffolk District Attorney’s Rackets Squad working in conjunction with federal authorities moved in, nabbing all the hijackers at a “drop” they operated at a warehouse and garbage-truck depot in Commack, Long Island.

In 1965, the very first arrests related to this case for criminally receiving $26,000 in hijacked goods had been lodged against Angelo Garofalo and his brother Vincent. They were well-known garbage racketeers on the Island, and suspected mob associates.

The Garofalo brothers were soon outon bail. Within a few years (in 1970), Sciortino and Augello, as well as another Colombo hood and convicted hijacker by the name of Joseph (Joe Red) Conigliaro, got swooped up on a federal arrest warrant by the FBI for the hijacking of the same shipment.

Attempted coercion
Attempted coercion

They were each charged with the federal crimes of theft of an interstate shipment, criminally receiving stolen goods and conspiracy. Sciortino was held on a high $50,000 bail. Augello was already behind bars serving a jail sentence on other charges.

It seems that both Garofalo brothers had quietly turned rat shortly after their arrests in 1965, but their cases were put on the shelf with a series of supposed long “legal delays” without them coming to trial or a final court disposition… it was because they had both “flipped” to the government and had been working to reduce their penalties by providing information to Suffolk and federal law enforcement about organized crime on the Island.

After a short trial, with Fat Angelo (450-plus pounds of rat meat) and his scumbag brother Vinny the garbage man testifying for the prosecution, both defendants were quickly convicted.

The case would be drawn out by“The Bug and The Gawk’s” lawyers until all appeals were exhausted, then they both rolled it up and went into the can. They had faced 20 years in prison. I believe Augello and Sciortino got sentenced to 7.5-15 years, and 5 years respectively.

The fake charity scam
The fake charity scam

Somewhere along the line Sciortino befriended an up and coming soldier named Vito (Little Vic) Orena. They would form a close bond, working in tandem over the years in a variety of racket schemes. Sciortino would eventually “officially” affiliate with Orena, becoming a member of his personal crew.

By the mid-1980’s they would grab hold of Long Island’s vast newly organized bootleg-gasoline rackets. The gas-tax evasion scheme was originated by the crew headed by iconic capo/underboss John (Sonny) Franzese. Orena and Sciortino quickly filled a void left after Franzese, his son, and many crew associates had been jailed on racketeering charges.

The feds had successfully busted up the Franzese daisy-chain network of cooperating front “shell” companies needed to help facilitate the gas scheme. Federal officials later said that Sciortino and Orena were two of several mafiosi from several of New York’s borgatas to see the potential and grab hold of a mostly already established fraud network, and then ran with it.

They glommed most loose ends before other Families could move in, with Frankie serving as the designated Colombo Family pointman.-Side note: it couldn’t have come at a better time for Sciortino, who’d only been released from prison a few short years earlier. He was always a good earner, but after doing years in stir he had depleted his bankroll considerably.

They reestablished the racket design and groundwork needed for reshuffling hundreds of millions of gallons in tax-deferred, untax-paid petroleum so as to confuse the IRS taxmen, successfully skimming all tax profits instead of declaring the revenue collected and forwarding the tax debt into the government… As they say in the vernacular “the rest is history!”

Several wholesale gasoline distribution companies were then utilized by the Orena faction of the Colombo Family to dominate the petroleum industry throughout the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

This multimillion-dollar racket network brought in untold millions in profits to four of the cities five borgata’s, but a first among equals was the Colombo Family headed by boss Carmine (The Snake) Persico and his troops.

Side Note: The fifth borgata, that of the Bonanno’s was barred from participating in the scheme by the Commission, who had earlier declared them “persona non grata.” A designation that would hold for some years to come.

The result was within weeks of their coup, hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits were again pouring into the Colombo coffers weekly. Only this time much of it was flowing into Frankie the Bug’s pockets and that of his partner and direct superior Little Vic Orena.

The Bug also became the liaison man between the Colombo “brigade” and the point men assigned to handle the gas rackets in the other three families.

Men like Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso of the Lucchese’s, Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli and his partner Anthony (Tony Pep) Trentacosta for the Gambino’s, and Joseph (Joe Glitz) Galizia for the Genovese…the mafia essentially formed a “gas rackets panel” of soldiers who were “specialists” for their respective mob Family.

The result was a massive criminal conspiracy generating money the likes of which hadn’t been seen by law enforcement since the 1920’s Prohibition era. It would make Sciortino a millionaire many times over. And a very popular guy within the Colombo hierarchy.

In addition to gas-tax bootlegging, Frankie the Bug was a very active hoodlum who engaged in a wide range of other rackets to earn over the years; policy, card games, shylocking, strong-arm tactics, extortion, labor shakedowns, garbage racketeering, truck hijackings, and frauds.

He had a police file that spanned forty years and included over fifteen arrests on such serious charges as:

-1952 – attempted assault

Nabbed with guns

-1954 – felonious assault

-1955 – grand larceny

-1957 – possession of a gun, felonious assault, and attempted extortion

-1966 – assault with intent to commit murder

-1969 – felony possession of dangerous weapons (6 handguns)

-1969 – attempted coercion, and attempted extortion

-1969 – conspiracy, grand larceny (charity fraud), promoting gambling, falsifying business records

Attempted coercion
Attempted coercion

-1969 – federal liquor law violations

-1970 – truck hijacking, and grand larceny

-1979 – racketeering and RICOconspiracy

-1990 – grand larceny, wire fraud, gasoline sales-tax evasion and conspiracy

-1990 – labor extortion, and RICOo conspiracy

-1993 – murder, and conspiracy to commit murder

-1995 – illegal possession of multiple firearms by a felon

….He served numerous prison terms on convictions stemming from the above arrests, which aggregated to over 20 years behind bars.


In addition to his racket operations, Sciortino was always interested in legitimate business. Over the decades he held ownership, or was a partner in numerous businesses to put his racket profits to work. Listed among them were:

• The Chateaubriand Restaurant and Lounge, in New Hyde Park, NY

• Star Carting Co., a private garbage disposal firm based on Denton Avenue in New Hyde Park

• The Colonial Inn, a large hotel-motel, and several other large motel complexes and properties down in South Carolina and the Daytona Beach, Florida areas.

• He also had extensive real estate holdings on Long Island, Manhattan, South Carolina, and South Florida.

By the late 1980’s, and again in 1991, Sciortino had been indicted in relation to the gasoline tax-evasion scam, and a separate shakedown and labor-extortion racket he perpetrated with his partner Vic Orena against air-freight companies operating inside JFK InternationalAirport in Jamaica, Queens.

Side Note: By 1987 Orena had been elevated by the imprisoned Persico to lead the Colombo troops as it’s “acting boss”.

The FBI coordinated early morning raids against twenty suspects. These included top members and associates of the Colombo and Lucchese crime Families. A group of Israeli racketeers who they worked in tandem with, and were subservient to the Italians were also grabbed in the counties of Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.

Among the suspects seized that morning besides Sciortino was associate Frank Campione, capo Victor (Vic Jr) Orena – son of Little Vic, soldier Joseph (Chubby) Audino, and 14 members of the Russian-Jewish mob.

Side Note: In essence the Colombo Family was actually “shaking down” the Russian-Jewish racketeers for 1.5 cents per gallon of gasoline they sold for the right to operate in mafia controlled territory.

Sciortino was nabbed by two teamsof federal agents who descended on his Brookville compound just as he and another mobster, future soldier Frank (Frankie Camp) Campione, were leaving in Campione’s Cadillac with Frank behind the wheel.

Agents dragged the men out of the automobile at gunpoint, threw them to the ground while frisking them for weapons, then cuffed them and hauled them away to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn by the old Bush Terminals to await arraignment…it was over in seconds.

Sciortino and Campione were charged with various RICO counts of conspiracy, racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud, sales excise tax and income tax evasion, and grand larceny.

They joined a small cadre of hoodlum associates also nabbed that morning. Prosecutors charged the mobsters had evaded a whopping $34-million in gasoline excise taxes by skimming .14 cents off every gallon of gasoline sold over three years by operating a complex “daisy chain” of fictitious companies that had disguised the final destination of the fuel and the taxes due. They each faced up to 30 years in prison.

They were initially held in high bail by prosecutors who said they were dangers to the community. But most defendants would eventually make bail.

After reviewing the indictment and discovery papers the wiseguys realized that the feds had them dead to rights. They all pled out, with Sciortino receiving 60 months and Orena Jr. 51 months in federal prison. Campione took 30 months. The others got similar terms.

Side Note: The feds also confiscated $1.7 million that was hidden in safety deposit boxes, $1.2 million from public bank accounts, $1 million in a stockpile supply of gasoline, and a luxurious yacht valued at $500,000.

While The Bug was still out on bail at home awaiting his surrender to prison, he got indicted again. This time it was for a major Colombo Family extortion racket directed at air-freight companies at JFK Airport.

Charged with extorting $200,000 from three Kennedy Airport freight-forwarding firms from 1983 to 1985. Federal Strike Force prosecutors successfully argued that Sciortino and his associate Frankie Cammarano were dangers to the community and should be denied bail. Sciortino was also specifically charged with threatening a potential witness with violence if he testified against him.

Cammarano eventually got out on $50,000 bail, but Sciortino was detained without bail as a dangerous felon and organized crime leader. They would both end up pleading out, with Sciortino getting more years added to his previous plea agreement with prosecutors.

Side Story: On May 2, 1989, a mob-linked Brooklyn businessman named Michael Markowitz was shot to death as he drove down a Mill Basin street in his sparkling new Rolls-Royce. As his car smashed into two parked ones, the forty-three-year-old Markowitz had staggered out of the driver’s side door and collapsed to the pavement. He was “dead on arrival”, (DOA) to the hospital.

A notorious Russian born gasoline wholesaler, Markowitz had pled guilty to evading Federal, New York State, and Florida excise and sales taxes. He had agreed to repay $5,000,000 and was subsequently sentenced to a mere six-months house arrest, and five years probation afterward.

As part of his plea agreement, he had secretly cooperated with federal prosecutors investigating gasoline bootlegging and tax evasion by the mafia.
Another Brooklyn gas distributor named Philip Moscowitz was strangled back in 1987, after he was also suspected of having become a rat.

Fast forward to 1993. Frank the Bug was quietly serving the multiple prison sentences imposed on him earlier. Doing “good time” in the federal penitentiary with other wiseguys when one day, federal agents came and hauled him out, flying him back to New York City for arraignment on a new case…and a very serious case at that!

He was charged with the contract murder of Russian Jewish racketeer Mike Markowitz back in Brooklyn in 1989. Prosecutors alleged that Sciortino orchestrated the gangland killing at the behest of his superiors in the Colombo mob, who had suspected Markowitz of being an informer.

The prevailing theory was that Frankie the Bug had used several of his young crew associates to shoot Markowitz twice in the head and chest to insure his silence, so as to protect everybody from future arrest. He faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

Of course, prosecutors prayed that Sciortino would fold, “roll over” and play ball with the government. That would have enabled the feds to take down many more key members of the Italian mob once and for all….but if that was their hopes and plans, they were sadly mistaken.

Frankie the Bug Sciortino held strong. And although they did their best to sweat him for many months, the case against Sciortino was not strong, and eventually the feds were forced to drop their prosecution against him…Frankie got very lucky with that one!

Frank Sciortino was finally released from federal prison in 1999. He had served almost 11 years on this last go around. He returned to his loving family, and did his best to maintain a low profile. Frankie still had “federal paper” with several years worth of parole. So he avoided mob figures, and mob watering holes alike.

He would get to spend the next 20 years operating his legitimate businesses and enjoying life on his bucolic sprawling Brookville estate, surrounded by his devoted wife, daughters, son, and grandchildren.

Like so many others in New York and across the country in recent months, he contracted Coronavirus. At 88 years of age, a frail and elderly Frank Sciortino succumbed to this deadly scourge of a disease within several days of contracting it. He died on April 23, 2020.

What a lifetime in New York’s underworld rubbing shoulders with New York’s most deadly mafiosi could not do to him, an invisible deadly little bug did.

“The Bug” was done in by THE bug. RIP Frankie!


This article was originally posted “here

The Loansharking Racket

By The Other Guy | July 9, 2020

Cartoon of a Loan “Shark”

It is said that the gambling business, in all its various forms, is the very lifeblood of organized crime.

Bookmaking on horses and sports, the policy or numbers lottery business, dice and card games, slot machines, and a variety of other games of chance became the most important and prominent racket after liquor prohibition ended in 1931. It remains so to this day.

But if gambling is number one, then nipping at its heels close behind is shylocking, which without a doubt is number two as the top revenue producer for the mafia today, as it has been for many decades.

In fact, gambling and loansharking go together like “peanut butter and jelly”. They naturally complement one another and follow suit. Often, after a betting customer gets in over his head with gambling debts, he will be referred to a local shylock to borrow the money needed to pay off his bookie.

If the bettor is what we call a “DG”, or degenerate gambler, this can often times become a vicious cycle, in that time and again he’ll repeat this process until the gambler is so in debt that he can never get out from under the money he owes out.

Because as soon as he does get “even”, he jumps right back into the shit, betting his balls again on credit with money he may not have, to back up his bets if he loses. He then has to try and secure another loan from the loanshark to square up the bookie again.

Tools of the Trade

A “shy book”, a Louisville Slugger, a bankroll of cold cash,
and a blackjack

This process is often how a bettor ends up with a mob guy as a partner in his business. It may be the only way to settle all his debts. If he doesn’t have a business, he may become obligated and compelled to come up with another way to pay off his debts.

Prime examples of this would be a guy who’s a truck driver for a freight company. He’ll advise his bookie or loanshark of a good “manifest” he may be carrying with a valuable load of electronics like televisions or computers, sneakers or shoes, expensive clothing, frozen seafood, a truckload of razor blades, etc.

The mob guy may not be a hijacker himself, but he’ll usually know where to go to set up the hijacking. The driver is then involved with what we call a “give up”. A pretend hijacking where he might later tell police that four unknown black guys accosted him on the highway or at a truck stop, pulled guns on him, tied him up and then stole his load.

Or the guy works in a jewelry store, or another high-end type business that he’ll help set up for a burglary or robbery. He essentially becomes the “inside man” that provides the much needed floor plan, the best times to hit the business when there is a stockpile of cash available, or information about the alarm system, etc.

He may leave the backdoor unlocked or the alarm off so as to ease the thieves way into the shop. In this way the bettor will get a credit against his delinquent “account” with the mob. So the wiseguys get their money, and he doesn’t get his head cracked open…everybody’s happy.
Except of course the freight company, jewelry store, or the insurance company that paid off on their insurance policy claim.

Many wiseguys and racketeers actually prefer the loanshark business to bookmaking or other type gambling rackets. This is primarily because it is a much easier business to get into, and much easier to run on a week to week basis.

Side Note: True wiseguys and racketeers don’t typically refer to the business as loansharking. That is a term that the police, the media, and the public call it. In the street, it’s called “shylocking.” And a guy who’s in that business is quite simply referred to as a shylock, or a “shy.” The process of loaning out money is called having money “on the street.” And the interest rate they charge is called the vigorish, or “vig” for short.

To be a bookmaker a guy needs to have a “wireroom” or an “betting office”. He’s gotta rent a location under a surreptitious name, rent telephones, hire telephone “clerks” to man the phones, subscribe to a daily “line” so he can move the oddsmaking accordingly and balance his books to try and swing a profit, keep intricate records on the wins and loses, deal with the “runners” or sub-bookies who feed customers into his “office”, settle up weekly by either paying or collecting from the players which requires a collector or maybe several, to meet up with the various customers and his runners, etc etc. It is a time consuming and intricate process.

A large bookmaking business can often involve hundreds of people. Even a medium-sized gambling operation can involve 40-50 individuals. It creates a lot of exposure and increased risk of arrest.

Another constant headache for the bookmaker is the fear of police raids on his call center (office) where they are answering the phones and recording the bets. In the old days, bookmakers had to pay off the local police precinct to try and avoid such raids. Or they had to constantly relocate to new apartments or locations to try and stay one step ahead of the vice cops.

Another part of the gambling business is that often times even the bookmaker himself may be in need of a shylock. Because contrary to popular opinion the bookie does not always win. In fact, quite often he may go into the “red” as we call it. This can last a week or two. Or he could have a real bad streak where he stays in the red for months on end.

This can lead to the bookie getting “busted out”, where he blows his whole bankroll and needs to borrow from a shylock in order to pay off his winning bettors to stay afloat himself.

Side Note: Don’t get me wrong here, bookmaking is a fabulous business. And done right, a potentially very lucrative business. It’s just a lot more involved and detail-oriented than loansharking is.

I’ve seen bookmaking offices that went into the hole for hundreds of thousands of dollars with shylocks until their streak changed and they made a comeback. It is a common occurrence in the underworld. In fact, bookmakers often make the best customers of shylocks.

As repeat “preferred” customers, bookies will usually be able to “buy” the money at lower rates than a regular borrower would. They usually pay anywhere from 1% to 2%. Whereas a regular loanshark customer typically pays anywhere from 2% up to 5% on the loan.

But we’re talking weekly here! This is not household finance! Depending upon the size of the loan, who’s doing the borrowing, the amount of risk involved for the shylock, and the purpose of the loan, all these factors will make a big difference in the rate that will be charged.

Additionally, the most important factor in the shylock’s decision to even consider giving out the loan to begin with will be the borrowers perceived ability to repay the debt.

If he is a solid businessman with extensive fixed assets, and he wants the loan for a lengthy period of time, the shy may be more willing to extend a larger loan at a lower interest rate. This is because the likelihood of repayment is almost guaranteed, and the shylock knows that his money is gonna be out there working for him steadily “on the street.” It’s almost like a steady weekly paycheck that he can count on.

Likewise, if the guy is a repeat customer who has a good record of repayment, the shylock may provide the money needed at a bit lower rate as a reward and incentive for this repeat trade.

But if the guy is a first-time borrower, and especially if the borrower wants the money for a high-risk venture such as buying a load of narcotics for resale, a large wholesale load of illegal fireworks for the upcoming July 4th holiday, a load of “swag” or truckload of stolen goods, or another such illegal or high-risk endeavor, the shylock will almost definitely charge a higher rate of return. A percentage rate of 3% to 5% (or more) weekly interest will be the norm for this higher risk type loan.

Contrary to popular belief most shylocks or loansharks are not looking to crack your head or put a guy into the hospital because you missed a payment. The shy only wants to get paid with as little hassle as possible. He wants to keep the money moving, in circulation so as to keep the profits steadily rolling in.

It is just a “business” to him, plain and simple, and he wants to run his operation as smoothly as he possibly can, with as little exposure to law enforcement as he can. With that in mind, a smart shylock will often times require a new borrower to have a “co-signer” for the loan.

Much like a legitimate bank would, a borrower will be denied the loan unless he can come up with a guy who will “vouch” for him. The voucher will guarantee the borrower’s performance and stands wholly responsible for the debt if the original borrower “lays down”, or fails to pay back the money according to the agreed upon time and payment schedule.

The guy who vouches is usually the same guy who brought the borrower around in the first place. After a borrower has successfully repaid the loan, the next time he comes back for another loan he may not be required to have someone vouch for him again. Because he has proven himself so to speak.

But any smart shylock worth his salt uses this process to protect his money, especially if it’s a large amount of money being requested. The shylock is also doing the borrower a big favor because it will rarely come down to “brass tacks” where the guy gets a beating because the other guy who stood up as a guarantor will be compelled topay off the loan before things get out of hand.

Side Note: But at the end of the day, the understanding by the borrower that he has made a handshake and unwritten agreement with the shylock to “do the right thing” and repay the money he borrowed looms supreme. Everybody at that table understands that whether specifically stated or implied, in the background is always the potential for violence if the borrower tries to get cute, or doesn’t repay the loan.

He’s ready for batting practice!
He’s ready for batting practice!

There is an old saying that a mafioso once told a potential borrower when the man asked if the shylock would require any collateral for the loan. The mafioso simply stated “your body is your collateral.” …I think that pretty much sums up the mentality and position of the mob on this subject.

In reality, and quite contrary to popular belief, there is very little actual violence associated with the loansharking racket. Usually, the underlying threat of violence and understanding by the borrower that if he doesn’t pay back the money there will be dire consequences for him is enough to ensure repayment.

Most borrowers are smart enough to understand who they are doing business with, and are not willing to “test the waters” to find out if the loanshark has enough muscle to collect. The only time a loan customer might push the envelope is if he perceives that the loanshark is “weak”, and can’t enforce collections.

But remember that even a seemingly mild-mannered shylock who may be small in stature becomes a giant with a baseball bat in his hands or a set of brass knuckles or pistol.

That frail old man that you borrowed from, who’s money you took that might look like a pushover and a sucker to you. If you think that you just made some quick cash, and that you don’t have to pay him back? …think again! Lol

Because that soft-spoken old man might just be a “goodfellow”. A “made guy” who you best not be fucking with, or a racketeer tied into a Mafia Family.

He’s most likely got the backing he needs to send out a couple of “young bucks” to crack your head wide open for you if you don’t pay him!

Now for a breakdown of the interest rates. As I mentioned above, shylock rates usually run anywhere from 1% up to 5% weekly. This provides the shylock with a nice return on his investment of from 52% (1%), up to 260% (5%) annually. Provided of course that the loan is out for a full 52 weeks of the year.

Smaller loans, especially ones requested for a short duration of only a few weeks to month or so, usually command a higher rate of interest. 4-5% weekly is the norm. Larger loans that are wanted for a longer period of time such as six months to a year or better, will be charged at a rate of 2% to 4% weekly. But again it’s all up to the discretion of the shylock.

As I stated above, the allure of the loanshark business, aside from the enormous profits that shylocking provides, is the relative ease by which a good shylock can operate. All he really needs is a bankroll of money (or a source for the funds thereof). A small notebook to keep track of the loans he has out “on the street”, and possibly a blackjack or baseball bat to ensure collections if it ever comes to that…and of course the balls to swing that bat if push ever comes to shove. He’s now in the loansharking business!

As far as finding customers? That’s the easiest thing in the world. Everybody wants money. Everybody needs to borrow at one time or another. Everybody!

The real issue is his ability to separate who he will lend to, and who he will deny a loan to. A shylock who lends to anyone and everyone won’t be in business very long.

Likewise, even with the people he chooses to lend to, he needs to have good judgment to be able to determine how much money he will give them, regardless of how much money they originally asked for, and under what terms and conditions he will lend it.

Side Note: There is another common way shylocks charge. It’s called a “knockdown loan”. Say for instance a guy borrows $1,000. The shy may tell him he needs to repay $130 a week for 10 weeks. After which the total loan has been satisfied and the borrower owes nothing more. The $100 a week going towards the $1,000 principal, and the $30 going toward the vigorish.

At the end of ten weeks the shylock got back his original $1,000 plus a $300 profit. He conceivably could put the same $1,000 out five times in a year. With a $300 profit each time, the shy would net $1,500 profit by years end. That equates to a 3.0% weekly profit, or 156% annually.

This type of shylock loan is very common with smaller sized loans. With larger loans, the straight weekly vigorish type loan is more traditional.

The terms of a loanshark
The terms of a loanshark

There are small shylocks with only a few loans out that may aggregate to no more than $10,000 to $50,000 totally out in loans. He may only provide loans of $1,000 up to $5,000 or so, and he’ll charge a top dollar at 4% to 5% weekly interest to borrow.

Then there is what I’d consider to be a medium to relatively large shylock, with a “shy book” of anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 “on the street.” This sized shy-book may have anywhere from twenty to forty customers, or more on average. Again, rates may run the gamut from 2% up to 5% weekly, depending upon the size and duration of the loan, and other factors involved.

And then of course there are the major shylocks who have out on loan anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000 or better any given day of the week…but those guys are rare.

Above the three levels, I just described we have what we call a “Shylock’s Shylock”. Guys who primarily lend only to other shylocks. He is essentially a wholesaler of money to others in the trade.

A shylock of this importance often has out on loan $1,000,000 or better on any given day of the week. There are some major loanshark wholesalers of money who literally have several million dollars on the streets daily.

They typically charge rates that are considered low by underworld standards and are reserved for those highly trusted shylocks who are the “creme de la creme” of the loansharking business. This rate is only offered to other top guys, not run of the mill shylocks.

At this last level, the bankroll is usually provided by a top-ranked, wealthy wiseguy. He may be a made guy, a captain, or more likely the boss of a Family who lends at “wholesale” rates to his trusted capos, soldiers, and top associates. Sometimes even made guys in other Families.

A boss usually charges anywhere from 0.5 point a week (mostly to his capo di decina), up to 1.0 percent weekly to goodfellows. The equivalent of a 26% to 52% net profit annually. For doing nothing…and the money at this level is absolutely guaranteed. There are no excuses accepted. No lay downs, no bullshit. Between one another, goodfellows have to pay other goodfellows regardless. It’s just the way it is.

Side Note: On that note, all made guys and even mob associates know that they are absolutely responsible every step of the way when borrowing from the Family. Regardless whether their borrower leaves town, dies, or otherwise stiffs them. They alone are solely responsible to repay all monies they borrow from the borgata.

More than one knockaround guy has gotten himself clipped for not adhering to this unwritten rule!

In turn, other wiseguy’s who “buy” the money at that rate usually do so because they are pushing it out to their people (regime soldiers and crew associates who are smaller sub-shylocks) at 1.5%, 2%, or even 2.5% weekly interest or “vigorish” as it’s called in the business. These smaller shylocks will ultimately push it on the street to their borrowers at a typical rate of 3-5% a week.

These borrowers can be small businessmen; cab drivers, bartenders, restaurant owners, longshoremen, deli owners, dry cleaners, etc.

There are also many white-collar, well-heeled clients as well. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, judges, big businessmen, real estate speculators, construction companies, dress manufacturers, etc…you’d be amazed at the wide spectrum of people who come to shylocks.-At each respective level along the way, each tier of loanshark adds his percentage of profit on top of whatever he himself may be paying, so as to insure a built-in profit for himself.

Now the real “cream” in the business is when a given loanshark has both the “In” and the “Out” for the money. Meaning that he has his own personal bankroll, and doesn’t need to reach out in order to borrow money to fund his loanshark business. He had the “In” so to speak. He uses his own money, thereby keeping any extra interest he’d normally have to pay a larger shylock when borrowing.

And he also has the “Out”, meaning that he has his own network of steady borrowers who seek him out for loans. Thereby often allowing him to bypass a middleman loanshark or “steerer”, who has customers he brings to the table, which then requires a sharing of the “vigorish” every week between them.

He has both the “In” and the “Out”. A loanshark with even a medium sized “shy book”, who controls all aspects of the business can become a very wealthy guy, in a very short period of time.

For instance, a loanshark who has say $100,000 out “on the street”, at a conservative 3% weekly vigorish rate generates $3,000 per week, every week, 52 weeks of the year. That aggregates to $156,000 gross profit in just one year’s time. If he doesn’t touch any of that money, the second year he’ll be able to push out $256,000 in cash to his network of borrowers. (his original $100,000 bankroll, plus the $156,000 first years profit).

Using that same 3% weekly interest figure, but now with $256,000 out on loan, he’ll be pulling in $7,680 every single week. By the end of the second year, he would have grossed a profit of $399,360. If you add that to the $256,000 he put out in loans, he now has a total bankroll of $655,360 by the end of his second year in business.

By the start of his third year, if he’s even able to push out all $655,000 of his accumulated cash, the happy shylock will be rolling in the green. Because at that same 3% rate, the weekly turnaround is a whopping $19,660 in cold cash every single week! And that’s just the interest on the loans, it doesn’t include payback for any of his principal bankroll.

At the end of that third year, over $1,022,000 in interest alone would have been paid back into the shylock’s pockets. And of course, that’s not including the original $655,000 previously accumulated over the past two years’ time. Collectively, he now has over $1,677,000…and he hasn’t even pushed out a penny for year number four yet!

In my country? Where I come from? That’s a lot of money! In a very short period of time.

I won’t even bother to do the calculations for the end of year four. I’m afraid my calculator would blow up. Lol…but you get the idea right?

In my humble opinion, pound for pound, “shylocking” or loansharking is the single best business the underworld ever invented. Tremendous profit potential, quick and easy mode of operation, with a steady weekly profit which rivals that of narcotics and gambling, but affords much less of a chance for investigation and arrest.

With narcotics, there are often big profits, but also a huge risk of arrest, almost certain conviction, and the heavy, heavy penalties that are meted out. Decades in prison.

Gambling offers huge profits as well. But number one, you don’t always win. There is also the intricate network of constant daily interactions required between players, runners, sub-bookies, and the office in order to run a smooth and profitable bookmaking operation. It is also a very seasonal business, which constantly ebbs and flows profits. And when the “office” goes into the “red”, there are no profits to be had until the office gets even again. Once they win back all that’s been lost to players, only then can the “earn” resume.

There is also a huge overhead required to run a large bookmaking business…No such animal when loansharking!

The loanshark racketeer enjoys a steady, weekly profit. One that he can most readily be assured of. He mostly operates out of his pocket, and he can operate very surreptitiously all by himself. At best he may partner with another shylock, thereby pooling their resources and customers.

Bigger loansharks usually have one or two tough kids around them. These “kids” are often utilized to make the rounds for the weekly collections.
They are also available in the very rare instance that a customer needs to be roughed up in order to keep any recalcitrant borrowers in line so to speak.

If that even becomes a necessity, usually one good slap in the face is sufficient to ensure timely payment from even the most difficult borrower.

Now every once in a while a loan customer reaches a point where he cannot pay any longer. He has been bled dry. Maybe the guy has been paying for several years, or longer.

He had already paid the principal amount that he borrowed many times over. For instance on a $5,000 loan at 5%, if he’s kept it for two years he’s already paid into the shark $26,000 over 104 weeks.

A smart shylock will either completely stop the clock, or reduce his payments to maybe 1% weekly, which still brings in $50 every single week, or $2,600 annually. Or he may set a schedule for final payoff of $100 for a year, thereby retrieving his original investment. It is the smart move. It is the classy move!

Dumb loansharks, guys with no heart who are vicious, will demand the borrower continue paying the full amount. They may bang him around a bit in order to scare him into paying. Bad, bad move!

They think they’re tough guys, and wanna flex their muscles. The poor sucker is crying to you to be reasonable and yet they still wanna bleed the guy.

It’s a real bad move because those are the customers who become desperate. They feel they have no where to go, no one to turn to for help.
Now if a borrower if lucky enough to be friendly with a wiseguy, he may run to him for help…that the best case scenario for both the shylock and the borrower.

There will usually be a “table” where they “stop the clock” as a courtesy from one knockaround guy to another. And a repayment schedule will be set. No more vigorish. Any money paid to the shylock from that point forward goes towards the principal so that within a short period of time, the debts paid off. End of story.

But what happens if the borrower is not lucky enough to know a street guy?

Then you’ve forced this poor guy to either become a “lambster”, where he takes off and goes into hiding, or worse. He becomes the guy who screams law!

And therein lies the problem. The shylock gets pinched, and the customer is backed into a corner where he needs to point a finger and testify against his shy. Most customers do not wanna go that route.

They know they sought out the shylock to begin with for a loan, not the other way around, and have a sense of fair play. They were willing to do the right thing.

The asshole shylock forced the guy’s hand. The shylock now has only himself to blame for being too greedy and pigheaded.

But this is a rare scenario, most times things are worked out to everybody’s satisfaction. The transaction goes smoothly, and things end on a high note.

A smart, savvy shylock knows this, and wants the repeat business from his customers. He’s not there to bust people up or terrorize them.
He wants them to borrow, pay, and come back again…it is a business, like any other business. And done correctly there have been knockaround guys who have been in the trade for many decades. And their customers love them.

In short, the business of “usury” as it’s called on the penal books, is one of the oldest, tried and true money makers for the underworld.
Not only for Cosa Nostra, but for a wide range of ethnic groups ranging from Jewish hoodlums, Greeks, Irish, to independents alike.

Side Note: The word “shylock” is actually derived from the famous Shakespeare play “The Merchant of Venice.” The part of Shylock was that of a lecherous money-lender in the ancient City of Venice, Italy. He told his borrower victim that he would take a pound of his flesh for the money he was owed.

So shylocking, or usurious money lending, is almost as old as father time itself.

Up until 1965, usury wasn’t even considered a felony. It was a Class A misdemeanor which usually resulted in nothing more than a small fine and no jail time. A rarely prosecuted crime to begin with, at best an offender faced a maximum one year in jail in extreme cases.

After it became a felony, it was still a little prosecuted offense. In rare cases that a hood was even arrested for usury, the offender faced a maximum of five years in prison. But again, most received a slap on the wrist, or possibly one year behind bars at the most.

In a case where violence was involved in the offense. Where maybe a borrower was beaten in an attempt to collect the debt, only then jail was a real threat. Many notorious mafiosi, or the more violent loansharks actually got the five years…but there weren’t many victim borrowers willing to get on a witness stand and point a finger at their shylock.

In cases with violence, prosecutors also had the option of charging defendants with the more serious crime of extortion. An extortion conviction, back then as today, gave exposure of up to twenty years in jail. But rarely did anyone get the full twenty. Five years, or a “pound” as we say, was the usual.

Even with today’s much tougher penalties being meted out under the Rico law, which now imposes the severest, draconian penalties compared to decades ago, loansharking is often times still less of a penalty than many other crimes such as narcotics, robberies, fraud schemes, and sometimes even gambling cases.

Most “extortionate credit transaction” indictments (the technical term used under Rico to charge a defendant), result in those convicted receiving anywhere from one to five years in prison. In more severe cases, penalties as high as ten, fifteen, and twenty years have been dished out by the judge. But those are rare, extreme cases.

In review, loansharking has always been, and still is, a lucrative racket practiced the world over by a plethora of individuals from every background and social strata.

Whether it be the infamous Cosa Nostra in the United States, the Sicilian Mafia, Japanese Yakuza, Russian Mob, Chinese Triads, the old Jewish mobs of the 1940s, the Irish mobs, a single independent-minded racketeer, or nearly any other group you could possibly imagine, usury is as old as time itself…and I don’t imagine it’s going anywhere, anytime soon!

Until next time, The Other Guy!


This article was originally posted “here

The Patriarca Family of New England

By The Other Guy | July 3, 2020

“La Pigna” or pignoli cone is a symbol of hospitality and welcome in Italian. It is the arch that all who visit Federal Hill first see when driving through Atwells Avenue.

The tiny state of Rhode Island, wedged between Connecticut and Massachusetts, is one of five such states that comprise what is recognized as the New England region. It is located in the extreme northeastern portion of the United States.

Rhode Island has the distinction of being the smallest geographically sized State in the Union. With only 1,060,000 residents, it is the seventh least populated state, but uniquely is also the second most densely populated.

Providence, Rhode Island

It is bordered by Connecticut to the West, Massachusetts to the North and East, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south via the Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound.

It also shares a small maritime border with New York. Providence is the state Capitol and it’s most populous city.

Rhode Island comprises a total of approximately 1,214 square miles. It is 48 miles in length, and 37 miles wide.

Although landlocked on three sides, it has nonetheless garnered the nickname “The Ocean State” because of the many bodies of water running through its geography.

It is an important and vibrant little State, to both America’s history and economy nonetheless.

Aerial view of Providence

Rhode Island also has the honor of being, pound for pound, the most heavily populated state of residents claiming Italian ancestry.

Nearly one in five Rhode Islanders proudly trace their lineage back to either Italy or Sicily. That makes the Ocean State the most heavily concentrated Italian area in the entire country.

Because of the state’s strong Italian representation, by 1950 Italians were able to get a hometown boy named John Pastore elected as the first Italian-American ever selected to the United States Senate.

In fact today, the overall New England region’s populous of descendants of Italian immigrants are more than 10 percent of its total population, within every New England state except Vermont and Maine.

Every New Englander can recognize the voice of Don Orsillo, Joe Castiglione, or the Magliozzi brothers.

The city of Providence from afar.

Tens of thousands attend the region’s 45 Italian “festas” annually, from Our Lady of Assumption in Portland, Maine, to Saint Bartholomew in the city of Providence itself.

Italian-Americans have undeniably heavily influenced New England’s food history as well.

Boston’s North End brought us the Prince Spaghetti Company, Pastene brand tomato sauces, Dragone cheese, and the first Italian café, Cafe’ Vittoria, way back in 1929.

Not to be outdone, the Nutmeg State’s John Bello of New Britain, created SoBe brand beverages. Another Connecticut hometown boy named Frank Pepe, claims to have invented the popular “white clams apizza”, which he serves at his famed Frank Pepe Pizzeria in New Haven.

A typical Providence street scene

Even little ole’ Maine has its Italianate claim to fame. The popular Amato’s Italian delicatessen up in Portland claims to have originated the “true” first Italian sandwich.

In 1880, the first wave of 1,000 Italian immigrant families came to Boston. Others soon followed. They settled into the various Little Italy’s that sprang up.

In Connecticut, they had the Front Street section in Hartford, Central End in Bridgeport, and Wooster Square in New Haven.

Massachusetts had the famous North End of Boston, Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, and Springfield’s South End section.
And of course the City of Providence has it’s Federal Hill neighborhood.

The gateway arch over Atwells Avenue is a landmark. It is a pignoli cluster acting as a welcome to all who visit.

Although no longer in existence, at one time even out of the way cities like Burlington, Vermont, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine, could claim their own Little Italy sections as well.

These statistics would also bode very well of course for its resident Cosa Nostra Family, who would draw its members and associates from this Italian populous.

The Raymond Patriarca Family of LCN would continue to replenish its ranks from the steady flow of young Italian hoodlums drawn to it though the decades.

Side Note: Few American cities ever had such a tightly knit Cosa Nostra structure as the mafia in New England. Both Providence and Boston were chock full of capable, and very willing Italian hoodlums.

This provided a rich underworld tapestry by which to design a small, but highly organized and tightly run borgata. One that Raymond Patriarca would rule over with an iron fist for over three decades.

THIS IS THEIR STORY!


1963 - New England Family chart
1963 – New England Family chart

The New England Family of (LCN) held sway over Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and parts of eastern Connecticut (where they shared jurisdiction mainly with the Genovese Family, and to a lesser extent the Gambino and Colombo mobs).

Coin-O-Matic Vending - Atwells Ave.
Coin-O-Matic Vending – Atwells Ave.

Their longtime “Representante”Raymond Patriarca, ruled this fiefdom for decades from his vending machine headquarters at the Coin-O-Matic Distributors Co., 168 Atwells Avenue, in the largely Italian Federal Hill neighborhood-based in Providence, Rhode Island.

From this “Little Italy” section he ruled a 50-70 member Mafia Family that New England’s underworld quite simply referred to as “The Office”.

Boss Ray Patriarca ruled with an iron hand. He was assisted by a very capable, low-key underboss and close confidant named Henry (The Referee) Tameleo.

His Providence-based “cabinet” included several veteran Caporegima and soldiers like John (Candy) Candelmo, Ilario (Larry Baione) Zannino, Mickey (The Wiseguy) Rocco and Louie (The Fox) Taglianetti to name but a few.

Underboss - Gennaro (Jerry) Anguilo
Underboss – Gennaro (Jerry) Anguilo

In their sister city of Boston, his underboss became Gennaro (Jerry) Anguilo. A millionaire many times over, Anguilo owned a palatial oceanfront compound up in the exclusive neighborhood of Nahant.

With his five brothers as his closest helpers and aides (all highly trusted soldiers by the way), Anguilo would run a tight ship up in Beantown for their borgata. Another of Anguilo’s closest aides was Peter Limone.

The Family had a large contingent of soldiers divided under several Capodecina up that way, and Jerry oversaw them all for Raymond.

He operated out of a headquarters located at 98 Prince Street in the North End Little Italy section. From this building, the Anguilo brothers ran a huge gambling and loanshark network for decades.

There were many other Boston hoods who congregated up in the heavily Italianate North End section. This Little Italy played host over the years to such well-known mafiosi as capos Ilario (Larry Baione) Zannino, Joseph (Joe Burns) Anselmo, Frank (The Spoon) Cucchiara, and Michael (Mickey the Wiseguy) Rocco.

The Anguilo brothers
The Anguilo brothers

They oversaw regime soldiers like Rudy Sciarra, Ralph (Ralphie Chong) Lamattina and his brother Joseph (Joe Black) Lammatina, John Cincotti, Anthony (Little Bozo) Cortese, Joseph (JR) Russo and his half-brother Robert (Bobby Russo) Carrozza, and Anthony (Maxie Baer) Cataldo, among many others.

A young Frank (The Spoon) Cucchiara
A young Frank (The Spoon) Cucchiara

In later years, Patriarca elevated a tough, volatile hood from Hartford, Connecticut named Billy (The Wild Man) Grasso, who oversaw the Nutmeg State for Patriarca. He also helped govern the cities of Providence and Boston from afar as well for awhile.

But there also always existed strong underworld competition for racket control and power from a large Irish gang that was initially under the leadership of an old-time Irish hood named Bernie Mc Laughlin. In years to come, the notorious James (Whitey) Bulger would also rise to power within the Irish section of South Boston.

Although a dangerous hoodlum who was well respected within Boston’s underworld, Bulger would also later be exposed as a decades long top FBI informant. His rackets partner Steve (The Rifleman) Flemmi, and Steve’s brother Jimmy (The Bear) Flemmi, were later exposed as longtime FBI snitches as well.

Ilario (Larry Baione) Zannino
Ilario (Larry Baione) Zannino

Side Note: Way back in December of 1931, the top Irish gang boss in Boston was Frankie Wallace. He headed a volatile gang of Irish roughnecks in South Boston called the Gustin Gang.

A typical hardheaded Irishman, Wallace demanded an appointment with what he perceived to be a bunch of “Johnny come lately’s.” Smalltime Italian “greaseballs” who were starting to operate heists, liquor bootlegging, smuggling, and other rackets in what he considered to be Irish territory.

He called for a meeting two days before Christmas with who he perceived to be the head “Spaghetti Snapper”, Giuseppe (Joe) Lombardi.

When Wallace and his two Irish toughs, Barney Walsh and Timmy Coffey showed up at Lombardi’s business, the C. & F. Fish Importing Co., inside the Testa Building in the North End to set these Dago’s straight once and for all about who the boss of the Boston area was, they were cut down in a hail of bullets by Lombardi’s soldiers who were hiding in a stairwell.

Early police lineups of New England‘s Italian hoodlums and mafiosi. If you note some of the names, you notice many top future mafiosi among them
Early police lineups of New England‘s Italian hoodlums and mafiosi. If you note some of the names, you notice many top future mafiosi among them

It is mafia legend that the notorious Frank Cucchiara and Salvatore Cangemi were two of those mafiosi hiding in that stairwell the day the Irish gangsters were slain.

Regardless, from that day forward, all of New England’s underworld realized that a new day had dawned. The dreaded Sicilian Mafia was now in town, and like it or not, all would capitulate to it…nobody would ever dare fuck with the Italians again!

New England had no shortage of hoodlums. There were also several Portuguese based gangs vying for control of the area’s organized crime rackets too!

These “independent” gangs and hoodlums were often violently at odds with the Italian mob. And over the years many gangland murders would result from these conflicts.

Side Note: Alhough a small borgata, they were very active in most known rackets.

Early police lineups of New England‘s Italian hoodlums and mafiosi. If you note some of the names, you notice many top future mafiosi among them.
Early police lineups of New England‘s Italian hoodlums and mafiosi. If you note some of the names, you notice many top future mafiosi among them.

First starting with bootlegging back in the 1920s, they soon became a dominant force in New England’s varied gambling rackets, loansharking, extortion, truck hijacking, big-money burglaries, safe cracking, and armed heists, counterfeiting, stock thefts and fraudulent securities, as well as many other “blue collar” street operations.

New England’s Italian mob were not a bunch of shrinking violets by any means. They were a volatile bunch of tough street hoods who more than held their own in territory disputes against all comers.

They had to be! Because Boston’s underworld, and that of its outer territories and other New England States, was filled with competition from a plethora of other gangsters, racketeers, and tough criminals of every size, stripe, and ethnicity.

Although the competition was dominated by the Irish mob in South Boston, other groups such as Portuguese, Germans, Jews, and even other Italian hoods who operated independently from the “Mafia” per se, were constantly knocking on its Cosa Nostra door in an attempt to encroach on its rackets and jurisdiction.

Early police lineups of New England‘s Italian hoodlums and mafiosi. If you note some of the names, you notice many top future mafiosi among them.
Early police lineups of New England‘s Italian hoodlums and mafiosi. If you note some of the names, you notice many top future mafiosi among them.

And although few would openly fuck with the Patriarca Family throughout the decades, these “other” gangs of hoodlums, best described as “flies constantly swarming around”, needed to be swatted and quashed now and again by Ray Patriarca and his loyal soldiers in order to keep the balance of power that the mafia had achieved in Boston and Providence.

Capo Raymond Patriarca was a very intolerant mafioso. And he was not one to be trifled with, especially when it came to his money, or proper mafia protocol. The boss ordered many a gangland murder in his day, and all of New England’s underworld knew better than to fuck with him…Well almost everybody!

Despite all the various crews and independent gangs active in New England through the years, none could match the Italians in cohesion, structural ability, brotherhood and solidarity…or their capability for organized murder.

With its Roman-legion like design and hierarchical structure, the mafia in Providence, like that in virtually all the cities it operates in, dominated the city’s underworld.

And despite many of these devious, dishonorable “independents” also working hand in glove with the Irish-dominated Boston office of the FBI, to try and destroy the Italians up on Federal Hill, the Patriarca Family kept on chugging along like the “Little Mafia Engine” they were.


Ray Patriarca
Ray Patriarca

Raymond L.S. Patriarca – aka “Raymond Loreto Salvatore Patriarca (TN) and “John D’Nubile” – was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on March 17, 1908.

Patriarca as a rising young hoodlum
Patriarca as a rising young hoodlum

He would become notoriously known by R.I. State Police # 7150, FBI # 191775, and MA-State Police # 30408.

When he was almost four years old, his parents moved the family to nearby Providence in Rhode Island. This is where he and his brother Francis Joseph Patriarca would remain and operate from for the rest of their lives.

He resided at 18 Golini Drive in Johnstown, and later 165 Lancaster Street in North Providence.

As a young adult, he later married the former Helen Mandella, and in 1945 they would have one son they named as his namesake, Raymond Patriarca Jr.

Raymond Patriarca stood 5-feet 7-inches tall and was a slim 158 pounds. He had jet black-slicked back hair, dark wolf-like eyes, and an olive complexion.

The mafioso also always seemed to have a perpetual snarl or sneer whenever caught on camera. Many say it was indicative of his salty and curt demeanor.

The undisputed boss of New England!
The undisputed boss of New England!

He would garner a tough reputation early on in his “career” as a hood not to be trifled with. This reputation would serve him well as his rose up into the hierarchy of the Italian underworld, until he became “capo” or the overall boss of the resident mafia Family governing all of New England.

It was a position he’d hold for upwards of 30 years.

By the 1920s he was a rough street hoodlum who was active in armed robberies, safe cracking, liquor bootlegging, truck hijackings, and even prostitution, for which he had an arrest.

He police record started in 1926, and included such charges as violation of the Mann Act, white slavery, assault with a dangerous weapon, grand larceny, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit murder.

Boss - Filippo (Phil Buccola) Bruccola
Boss – Filippo (Phil Buccola) Bruccola

Dating back to Prohibition, Boston’s Filippo (Phil Buccola) Bruccola was the original mafia boss of the area. Ray Patriarca served loyally under Bruccola for many years.

By the early 1950s law enforcement pressure would encourage Phil Bruccola to leave New England and the United States altogether and return to his native Sicily. It was at this point in time that Patriarca is thought to have been elevated to the boss position over the entire New England Family of Cosa Nostra.

Side Note: An early mafioso said to have been boss even before Bruccola was the Sicilian Gaspare Messina. Allied with Salvatore Maranzano, he was active during the Castellammarese War period.

Side Note: Helping Patriarca’s early rise to the top of the underworld food chain was his ability to “reach” area politicians. This was evidenced when he received a pardon from Massachusetts’ Governor Charles F. Hurley back in 1938.

Original boss Gaspare Messina
Original boss Gaspare Messina

Sentenced to a 3-5 year prison term for his armed robbery conviction of a Brookline, Massachusetts jewelry store, the 30-year old Patriarca was pardoned within three months of being sent away.

It later led to a political scandal after it was exposed that Governor Hurley’s personal counsel Daniel Coakley, wrote repeated glowing letters to the parole board praising the young hoodlum’s character which later led to his release. Coakley was eventually impeached for his efforts on Patriarca’s behalf.

Nonetheless, this “connection” and ability to “reach” into high places served the mob boss well in later years. It is well documented that Patriarca used these various hooks to achieve his goals through his tenure.


It was documented by the FBI that Patriarca also enjoyed a close, personal relationship with New York boss Frank Costello that is also believed to have helped his rise to the top of the heap.

A roundup of Providence hoods. Rudy Sciarra on left. Louie Mannocchio second from the right
A roundup of Providence hoods. Rudy Sciarra on left. Louie Mannocchio second from the right

One of the first things that Patriarca did was to relocate the borgata’s headquarters and base of operations to the City of Providence.

He would base himself out of a nondescript little storefront along Atwells Avenue in the Little Italy section of Federal Hill.

Coin-O-Matic Vending Co., was a jukebox, cigarette and pinball machine distributor that dominated the Rhode Island area. It also served as the headquarters for New England’s mafia.

“The Office”, as the New England mafia was referred to, would notoriously operate from this location for decades. All of New England’s hoodlums and racketeers, independent or otherwise, knew the dreaded Italian mob ruled from there. In time this address would gain a notorious reputation.

Side Note: It became so well known that by 1962 or so, the FBI installed several “bugs” within the back office at Coin-O-Matic Distributors. For the next several years federal authorities would listen in on Patriarca and the New England Mafia, getting more than an earful of helpful tidbits by which to further investigate the Italian underworld.

1938 - Patriarca under arrest
1938 – Patriarca under arrest

Among the more high profile mob notables who frequented Coin-O-Matic as daily visitors was Louis (Louie the Fox) Taglianetti, Enrico (Henry the Referee) Tameleo, John Candelmo, Frank (Butsey) Morelli, Anthony (Tony Canadian) Sandrelli, Rocco Palladino, veteran mafiosi Frank (The Spoon) Cucchiara and Joe Lombardi.

Side Note: While listening in on Ray Patriarca and his associates, the FBI discovered that the New England Family was represented before The Commission by New York’s Joseph Profaci Family.

This alliance forged an extremely close bond between the two borgatas, so much so that during the infamous Gallo-Profaci War of 1961-63, Patriarca send one of his key men, Nick Bianco, down to Brooklyn in order to try and bring peace between the warring factions. But it was not to be.

By the mid-1970s, Bianco relocated back up to Providence where he ended becoming one of their top bosses in future years.

A unique feature about this Family was that with the exception of the vending machine business, which was a semi-legit mob dominated industry to begin with, during his long tenure as boss heavy infiltration into legitimate businesses and industry was never a major focus of Patriarca or his overall membership per se.

Circa 1980s - The New England Mob
Circa 1980s – The New England Mob

Side Note: As stated above, many of his men weren’t business-oriented, but Patriarca himself did have numerous legitimate holdings. These included D. & H. Construction Co., Miehle Fabric Co., and Cadillac City (a Cadillac dealership), all of Providence.

They seemed to have prided themselves on staying within the confines of engaging in street operations such as gambling, shylocking, extortion, hijacking, and big-money heists and burglaries.

They also held sway over several labor unions such as the mob dominated International Laborers & Hod Carriers Union – Local #271 of Providence. But overall, they didn’t have as heavy a focus on unions as some of their mafia contemporaries in other cities.

Side Note: In fact, during an intense early 1980s deep-cover FBI investigation into the Boston faction of the Patriarca Family, an FBI “bug” installed in the inner office of underboss Jerry Anguilo’s Prince Street headquarters picked up a conversation between Anguilo and his minions lamenting about the stability of their position and the good insulation he felt they had against any possible RICO conspiracy charges.

Capo - Ilario (Larry Baione) Zannino
Capo – Ilario (Larry Baione) Zannino

The underboss praised his troops for keeping their activities confined to gambling, loansharking, extortion, hijacking, and other street rackets. He felt that they were not a “corrupt organization”, had not infiltrated or corrupted legitimate business enterprises, and therefore could not be charged under the newly enacted RICO law of 1970.

Of course, Jerry was wrong. But during its early implementation by prosecutors, the RICO statutes were indeed confusing. Anguilo and his entire regime were later indicted and convicted on RICO. Jerry received 45 years in prison. His brothers didn’t fair much better.

By the early 1960s, another primary racket was the counterfeiting, forgery, theft, and fencing of blue chip stocks and securities. The New England Family under Patriarca’s watchful eye became notorious in this activity.

The one racket, albeit very lucrative, that New England’s mafiosi and associates generally shied away from was drugs. Narcotics was not a thing encouraged by the boss. In fact, at one point it was no-uncertain death for any mob soldier who violated this firm edict.

Rat - Joseph (The Animal) Barboza
Rat – Joseph (The Animal) Barboza

In the early 1950s, a dim-witted Portuguese hood by the name of Joseph (The Animal) Barboza became an active street tough and sometime enforcer for Boston’s mafia.

By 1967, he had also become a key informant against boss Raymond Patriarca, and several key members of his Family.

Also known as “Joe the Baron”, the hulking Barboza was a volatile, small-time enforcer best known for committing assaults, burglaries, robberies, shakedowns and extortions of area businesses such as bars and clubs. He headed a small band of like-minded hoodlums.

Barboza was also willing to perform beatings and killings at the drop of a hat, or at the behest of mafiosi in the hopes of one day being accepted as a full-fledged mafia member (which of course was not a realistic option because of his Portuguese heritage).

Opinion piece on who will be the boss
Opinion piece on who will be the boss

It’s alleged that he performed upwards of 15 to 20 killings in his day. And although that number may be a bit of a stretch, Barboza unquestionably committed numerous violent acts on behalf of himself or his mafia benefactors.

After being jailed on multiple charges by late 1966, Barboza expected Patriarca and his mafia disciples to bail Barboza out of jail, and provide him with the best legal defense lawyers.

When that wasn’t immediately forthcoming, a disenchanted Barboza started making rumblings from behind bars that if the mafia knew what was best for them, they’d send Barboza’s family money, hire him a top lawyer and starting treating him with the respect he felt he deserved.

The result was predictable. Especially when dealing with the short-tempered, potentially vicious Patriarca, who was well known for immediate reprisals against all those who displeased or fell afoul of him.

Two of Barboza’s gang members arrested with him had been bailed out already. But Barboza himself was being held on a whopping $100,000 bail (a huge sum in 1966).

Ralph (Ralphie Chong) Lamattina
Ralph (Ralphie Chong) Lamattina

To help their fearless leader, The Animal’s associates Arthur (Tash) Bratsos and Tommy DePrisco were going around town shaking down area businesses; bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and other hoods, for bail money to get Barboza released from the lockup.

Within only a few weeks time they had aggressively raised $59,000 in cold cash thus far, and were pushing anybody and everybody to raise the rest.-One chilly November evening Bratsos and DePrisco decided to pay a heavy-handed visit to the Nite Lite Cafe, a notorious mafia hangout on Commercial Street in the North End.

It was managed and secretly owned by a mafia soldier named Ralph (Ralphie Chong) Lamattina, who served under capo Ilario Zannino.

Bratsos and DePrisco had tried to shake down the wrong place. Each was summarily shot dead. Bratsos shot twice in the back of his skull, DePrisco four times to the head and body.

Lamattina and company dumping the corpses in the back seat of Bratsos’ black Cadillac, then abandoning the car in Irish town of South Boston.

Acting on a tip, within days homicide detectives descended on the Nite Lite Cafe searching for evidence. They discovered Lamattina in the bar. They also discovered that somebody had tried using solvent to wash blood stains off the front sidewalk. Inside the cafe, they found bullet holes in the walls and a carpet still damp with blood.

A further combing of the premises unveiled a spent bullet, and bullet casings. Which when later tested was determined to have been fired from the murder weapon.

Lamattina was hauled in for questioning, as were over thirty other top mafia members. They were grilled about the double murder, as well as the now missing $59,000 bag of cash.

The FBI immediately started working on the imprisoned Barboza psychologically in order to break down his morale, and to convince him he was a dead duck if ever released back on the streets. They encouraged him to “flip” to the government, and testify against his former mafia associates.

Simultaneously while all this was happening, within three months of the murders another Barboza crew member was gunned down. This time it was Joe Amico who was tracked by mafia assassins and shot to death in Revere.

Barboza was eventually convicted on weapons possession charges and got 5 years in Walpole State Prison. Back to back with that, mafia soldier Ralph Lamattina pled out to being an accessory after the fact to the murders of Bratsos and DePrisco. He took it on the chin for the Family, receiving a 10 to 14 year sentence instead of ratting.

Underboss - Enrico (Henry) Tameleo
Underboss – Enrico (Henry) Tameleo

That was all well and good, but it didn’t matter anyhow. Because by mid-1967 Barboza was spilling his guts talking about mob murders.

Barboza was filling up FBI pads with tales about the slayings of burglar Teddy Deegan in 1965, boxer Rocco DiSeglio in 1966, and Providence bookmaker Willie Marfeo. And he was just getting started.

He soon began to name names, and important names at that. Barboza pointed his finger directly at Family boss Raymond Patriarca and his top men.

In a series of unprecedented events, especially for the New England mob, in June of 1967 Patriarca, consigliere Henry Tameleo, and Louis Greco were indicted for the murder of Marfeo.

Two months later in August, Jerry Anguilo and three other mafiosi were nabbed for the DiSeglio killing.

And then in October that same year, Tameleo and soldiers Peter Limone, Ronald Cassesso, and Joseph Salvati, were among six mafiosi charged with killing Deegan.-Barboza’s revelations would turn the New England underworld on its head.

Framed by the FBI
Framed by the FBI

At the subsequent murder trials that followed, Anguilo and company would be acquitted of the DiSeglio murder after the jury refused to believe Barboza’s testimony.

But the results in the next two trials for the murders of Marfeo and Deegan played out very differently.

Patriarca was incensed at his plight. He was angry that Barboza and his lawyer of record John Fitzgerald were playing footsie with the feds.

He was especially enraged that Fitzgerald had snubbed the mafia’s approach to him, and their offer of $25,000 to his client to renege on his accusations of murder against them. Fitzgerald also made the grave mistake of coaching and encouraging Barboza to help the FBI.

Just before the start of Patriarca’s murder trial, one afternoon as the attorney got into his automobile and stuck the key into the ignition, a dynamite bomb caused an explosion that torn the car apart, and hurled Fitzgerald from the wreckage tearing his right leg off in the process.

Mob rat Joseph (The Animal) Barboza being sworn in to testify on a bible so he can lie through his teeth!
Mob rat Joseph (The Animal) Barboza being sworn in to testify on a bible so he can lie through his teeth!

After that, the FBI thought better of their protective custody of their star stool pigeon. They immediately moved Barboza under heavy guard to the Army Base at Fort Knox.

The rest is the stuff of mob legend. Barboza’s trumped-up testimony (all lies as it were), led to the false convictions of all the mafiosi. Patriarca received 5 years for conspiracy. The others received what amounted to life sentences for murder.

All served decades in prison. Several defendants died behind bars while serving their terms.

Joe Barboza’s testimony later encouraged others to come forward and make deals with the government as well.

Informer Vincent (Fat Vinny) Teresa
Informer Vincent (Fat Vinny) Teresa

By the late 1970s, Boston mob songbird Vincent (Fat Vinny) Teresa, grandson of old-time mafioso Santino (Sandy) Teresa, turned informer and became a devastating witness against the underworld, the New England mob in particular.

He also testified against members of the Colombo and Genovese Families, and Meyer Lansky in Florida.

Teresa repeatedly gave open court testimony against many various mafiosi. He also testified before Congress in regard to mob infiltration into stock thefts, counterfeiting and frauds in the securities industries.

Decades later, secret FBI documents released under the newly enacted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), revealed that the Boston office of the FBI, and Special Agent Paul Rico, among other FBI agents had unlawfully collaborated with Barboza to give false testimony against men the FBI knew were innocent. The feds justified it with the attitude of “who cares they’re just mafiosi and gangsters anyway.”

Brought before an even-handed federal judge, the wrongly convicted were immediately released from custody.

Barboza wrongly convicted (clock wise from top L) Louis Greco, Henry Tameleo, Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone
Barboza wrongly convicted (clock wise from top L) Louis Greco, Henry Tameleo, Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone

After a civil court case for wrongful imprisonment, Peter Limone and the other survivors of this FBI conspiracy were subsequently awarded a record breaking, whopping $101,000,000 in damages and reparations.

Unfortunately, Tameleo and others had since died, so their families and estates were posthumously awarded many millions of dollars each.

The FBI was chastised by the judge for their unconscionable actions that rose to a level of gross illegality, and a wanton bias against Italians.

In the decades that followed, many additional undercover probes would expose the deep influence of the Mafia in New England.

The Anguilo brothers, Larry Zannino, Raymond Patriarca Jr., and a host of others would go down in a string of racketeering investigations that would help break the mob’s power and influence, not only in Providence and Boston, but in many cities across the country.

MAFIA STYLE PAYBACK!…


Postscript

The Patriarca Family would finally catch up with Joseph (The Animal) Barboza in San Francisco, California, where he had been relocated by the U.S. Marshall’s Service and living anonymously under the WITSEC program (Witness Protection Program).

In 1976 after tracking his movements, Mafia assassins lay in wait for the stool pigeon. As Barboza left his apartment heading to his car, he was cut down by four shotgun blasts at close range…and that was that as they say in the business!

Decades later Boston capo Larry Zannino was caught on an FBI surveillance tape discussing the Barboza killing. He praised Family soldier Joseph (J.R.) Russo as the expert marksman who filled the contract…I’m sure JR more than earned his button on that one!

Until next time…The Other Guy!


The Raymond Patriarca Family

Circa 1950 – 1985

Here is the known and suspected membership for the 35-year span 1950 through 1985 era. Not all those named operated at the same time period.


Boss

Raymond L.S. Patriarca

Underboss

Gennaro Angiulo

William Grasso

Frank Morelli

Enrico Tameleo

Consigliere

Frank Cucchiara

Joseph Lombardo

Joseph Modica

Former Representante

Filippo Bruccola

Gaspare Messina

Capo di decina

Anthony Della Russo

Samuel Granito

Francesco P. Intiso

Peter J. Limone

Louis Manocchio

Michael Rocco

Edward Romano

Joseph Russo

Louis Taglianetti

Ilario Zannino

Soldati

Antonio Anguilo

Donato Angiulo

Frank Angiulo

Michele Anguilo

Nicolo Anguilo

Joseph Archille

Philip Baiona

Dominick J. Biafore

Nicholas Bianco

Americo Bucci

John Candelmo

Alphonse Capalbo

Robert Carrozza

Vincent Carrozza

Ronald Casseso

Anthony Cataldo

Salvatore Cesario

John Cincotti

Anthony Cortese

Salvatore D’Aquila

William DelSanto

Vito DeLuca

Robert DeLuca

Biagio DiGiacomo

Louis Failla

Vincent Ferrara

Frank Forte

Cono Frizzi

Theodore Fuccillo

Pasquale Galea

Nicolo A. Giso

Matthew Guglielmetti

Frank Imbruglia

Dominick Isabella

Antonio Lamattina

Joseph Lamattina

Ralph Lamattina

Albert Lapore

Edward Lato

James Limone

Antonio Lopreato

Frank Marrapese

Angelo Mercurio

Joseph Morelli

Joseph Napolitano

Orlando Napolitano

Rocco Palladino

Francis J. Patriarca

Raymond Patriarca Jr

Joseph Pepino

Americo Petrillo

Warren Picillo

Charles Quintana

Alexander Rizzo

Santo Rizzo

Alfredo Rossi

Richard Ruggiero

Santino Ruggiero

Francis Salemme

Anthony Sandrelli

Anthony Santaniello

Leo Santaniello

Rudolph Sciarra

Alfred Scivola

Henry Selvitella

Joseph Simonelli

Anthony Spagnolo

Anthony St. Laurent

Dominic Teresa

Nazzareno Terruso

Carmen Tortora

Albert Vitali

Known Family Associates

Joseph Alimonti

Guy Amorello

Jason Anguilo

John Attiano

John (Itsy Bloom) Blaine

William Cass

Salvatore Cesario

Carmelo Coco

Sam Cohen

Peter DiCarlo

Anthony DiPierto

Louis Greco

Anthony Indelicato

Angelo Isabella

Dominick Marangelli

Bernie McGarry

Alfredo Morelli

Alphonse Napolitano

John Nazarian

Elliot Price

Joseph Purpura

Danny Raimondi

John Ricci

Frank Romano

Samuel Rosenkranz

Angelo (Monge) Rossetti

Angelo Rossi

John Rossi

Carmine Ruggiero

Abe Sarkis

Jack Salemme

Joseph Salvati

Gennaro Selvitella

Skinny Spinale

Joe Sullivan

Alfonso Torsiello

Antonio Vellucci

John Vitello

William (Willy Coops) Vitiello

Charlie White

Israel Yarchin

Guido Zarlenga


Note: The New England Family’s estimated average was approximately 50-70 formal inducted members at their 1960 peak.


This article was originally posted “here

Nostra Bella Paese, Piccolo Italia

By The Other Guy | June 29, 2020

New York City - Little Italy
New York City – Little Italy

The late 1800s, into the early 1900s were a very pivotal era for European immigrants, whether they be Irish, Jewish, or Italian nationals.

They each came to America seeking a better life than the poverty and famine they’d known all their lives that they left behind in their beloved homelands. Mostly destitute lives that they now hoped to scratch and claw their way out of.

The cobblestone streets of Little Italy held a magic all its own. The barrels on the flatbed wagon, the formal dress and top hats if the day. Wow! Simply magical.
The cobblestone streets of Little Italy held a magic all its own. The barrels on the flatbed wagon, the formal dress and top hats if the day. Wow! Simply magical.

Their arduous journey would require enduring the worst possible conditions imaginable. Fathers and mothers with their infants and young children. Elderly grandparents, young and old single people alike traveling alone, all stuffed in the bowels of a damp freighter, amid their own excrements, with little food except for hard bread and water, while sailing the vast expanse of the deep blue Atlantic Ocean, in route to the “New World.”

The harshest of conditions: minimal food and provisions, embarrassingly being forced to go to the bathroom in front of each other in a smelly bucket that was passed around. Sickness and disease all around them, loneliness, famine, and more.

Often hundreds would be jammed into cramped quarters like so many heads of cattle. They sometimes had to pile on top of one another, or jammed shoulder to shoulder with hardly enough room to stretch their legs and arms in the damp, dark hull of the ship.

They were treated as “freight” or cattle, as opposed to human beings with feelings, dignity and respect. Cramped quarters with no sunlight or fresh air to breath for weeks on end.

A 1920s street scene featuring street traffic and the typical fashion of the day. Notice how it was so common for people to walk in the center of the street. So few owned automobiles that it didn’t even matter.
A 1920s street scene featuring street traffic and the typical fashion of the day. Notice how it was so common for people to walk in the center of the street. So few owned automobiles that it didn’t even matter.

There were many who didn’t survive that journey. And of the ones that did, who were lucky enough to even reach America’s shores, sailing through New York’s Ellis Island to view Lady Liberty proudly holding her torch of freedom in her raised hand, many were so exhausted and beaten down by the time they arrived, that they could hardly form a smile on their sunken, impoverished faces.

For although they had now arrived to the New World, where the streets were said to be “paved with gold”, most were more frightened than excited by the prospect of starting anew in a strange land, where they couldn’t speak the language and had no idea of its customs or what may lay ahead.

The Italian immigration experience accounted for a huge influx of these early newcomers. They would disembark at New York’s Ellis Island, and go through a rigorous, and often times embarrassing, lonely experience, which served as their first contact with “la americani”.

They were held in quarantine for weeks, sometimes many months, before being released onto New York’s crowded streets.
Most were quickly drawn to neighborhoods throughout the city that became known as “Little Italy’s”. Areas where their fellow Italians had settled before them.

Young Italian teenagers hawking fresh hot loaves of Italian bread on a street in New York’s Little Italy. Note the Avallone Bicycle Shop in the background, and the heavily mustached immigrant in the foreground.
Young Italian teenagers hawking fresh hot loaves of Italian bread on a street in New York’s Little Italy. Note the Avallone Bicycle Shop in the background, and the heavily mustached immigrant in the foreground.

The two largest and best known of which were in Manhattan itself. One was up in East Harlem along First, Second, and Pleasant Avenues.

The other was Downtown on the Lower East Side, bordered by the Bowery and Canal Street, right on up through Houston Street to approximately 15th Street, off First Avenue.

Once there, most settled into rooming houses, or small cramped apartments with family and relatives. Or with “amici” from the old country, who provided shelter and food until the newcomers became adjusted to their new surroundings.

It was a good thing too. Because more often than not, they were faced with a tremendous prejudice and bias against them.
Greaseballs, Dagos, Wops, and Spaghetti Benders were among the favorites names and epithets hurled their way by the Irish, Germans, and English who came before them.

Jobs were very scarce. Good jobs almost unheard of. Many Americans wouldn’t even rent an apartment to an Italian family.

Circa 1940s - at its peak, New York’s Little Italy hosted the “Festa di San Gennaro”, the largest and most elaborate Italian Street feast in all of the United States. It ran for almost 15 city blocks in length, and was 4 blocks wide...
Circa 1940s – at its peak, New York’s Little Italy hosted the “Festa di San Gennaro”, the largest and most elaborate Italian Street feast in all of the United States. It ran for almost 15 city blocks in length, and was 4 blocks wide…

There was no such thing as health insurance or a welfare system. Not that Italians would ever accept welfare anyhow. The Italian people were much too proud for any of that!

They dug holes. They cleaned sewers. They worked as scours on garbage tugboats, and on sanitation gangs on the city’s streets…and those were the lucky ones!

Because by and large many couldn’t even find work at any wage. And if they did on occasion, It was for a single days labor at slave wages, typically at the hands of some Irish work boss, who treated the Italian worker as lower than dirt. Hence the term “Dago”, which meant “work for the “day”, and then “let go”.

Many Italians were looked upon as no better than a negro. With our typical darker Mediterranean olive skin, dark hair and eye color, we were often cast as “white ni- – – rs.

Side Note: Most of these arriving Italians were either from Sicily, or the Southern Italian regions of Campania and Calabria…the forgotten “il Mezzo Giorno”, or “The Half Day”.

They were the other half of Italy’s people who had long been forgotten and discarded by the snooty north, the “Alti Italiani”, or “High Italians”, as we Southern Italians disparagingly referred to them as.

Pushcarts were a common sight in Little Italy, not only along Mulberry Street, but throughout the entire area. Many an immigrant eked out a living by pushing the their cart all day long hawking his wares, whether it be fruit and vegetables, clothes, or whatever else he could buy and sell.
Pushcarts were a common sight in Little Italy, not only along Mulberry Street, but throughout the entire area. Many an immigrant eked out a living by pushing the their cart all day long hawking his wares, whether it be fruit and vegetables, clothes, or whatever else he could buy and sell.

You see in Italy’s history, we had what was known as “The Kingdom of the Two Italy’s”…A more appropriate terminology might have been “the haves and have nots!”

The wealthier and better educated Italians, the northern half of the country, often looked down on the poorer southern half of its populous.

In addition, no government help, financial or otherwise, was typically ever forthcoming from the powers that be up in Rome. It was as if the South was discarded. And this mentality was reflected in the services that the Italian government provided the south, or should I say the lack thereof.

So, it was a blessing that many had connections to their former countrymen who had arrived before them, and formed this human platform by which the newest immigrants could attach themselves, and help springboard into a secure lifestyle…but it wasn’t easy..Because many an immigrant struggled even with such connections and “ties that bind”.

Side Note: We learned to help ourselves, and each other. Because outsiders, which included the government and all strangers were not to be trusted! Only immediate family and the closest of friends, or “amici”, could be depended upon in times of real need…THIS is also one of the pillars that “the brotherhood”, or Mafia, was built around. To take care of our own people. Our own problems…it is a very Italian based mindset!

In truth, the Mafia in many ways is just one small facet and extension of the Italian mentality. It was formed in part to combat these prejudices. To even up the “playing field” so to speak, in order to give a downtrodden people the upper hand.

A 1920s photo of a typical Italian neighborhood combo bakery-sweets shop, the S. Gennaro Napoli “cosa dolce” shop.
A 1920s photo of a typical Italian neighborhood combo bakery-sweets shop, the S. Gennaro Napoli “cosa dolce” shop.

It was built on a foundation of the Italian pillars for love of family, respect for our elders and superiors, cohesion and solidarity between our family and close amici, tenets of the Catholic Religion, and us helping one another in times of need, etc… it may be a corrupted version of those traits, but the brotherhood was built on them nonetheless.

I have gathered together some very unique old photos that I think help to capture the flavor and mood of the day. Many of these classic pictures were taken back in the early 1900s through 1920s era.

I followed up with several snapshots through the 1950s to 1970s era, while these classic Little Italy neighborhoods were still mostly intact and retained the flavor and essence of what Little Italy was, and had meant to people, not only to Italians but to New York’s general populous as well.

Little Italy is as much a part of the intrinsic fabric of The Big Apple as Chinatown, Greenwich Village, or any other section ever was.

1950s - Summer in NYC’s Little Italy
1950s – Summer in NYC’s Little Italy

In fact, its values are national in scope because so many millions and millions of Italians who later fanned out to other parts of the country had first settled into its environs.

Side Note: For lack of a better word, they were in essence ghettos. Italian ghettos, but ghettos nonetheless. Yet we never thought of them like that. Because we Italian people always took great pride in our neighborhoods and kept our neighborhoods “spic and span” clean. These areas were vibrant Meccas of Italian life.

Little expresso cafes and family-run restaurants that served the most delicious foods and delicacies one could imagine. Neighborhood shops and stores of every stripe that catered to every need it’s residents had.

Butcher shops with the finest cuts of meat, fresh fish stores, salumerias, fruit and vegetable stands, pizzerias, candy and fountain shops, cafes and delicious Italian bakeries that sold fresh, hot bread and the finest of pastries.

Pharmacies, barbers, beauty shops, and stores that sold imported Italian-fashion clothes and shoes, laundromats, dry cleaners and expert tailors, book stops, real estate offices…the list of thriving small businesses in these Little Italy’s was seemingly never ending.

My own immediate family, as well as those of untold thousands of other Italian families started out in these areas, before later fanning out to the outer boroughs and suburbs of Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey.

The boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx had many such pockets of strong Italian neighborhoods.

1950s - Italian Festa in Cleveland’s Italian section.
1950s – Italian Festa in Cleveland’s Italian section.

The Bronx had its Arthur Avenue and Morris Park sections. Brooklyn had it’s Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Red Hook, Downtown Brooklyn, and Williamsburg sections, to name but a few. Staten Island had its South Shore and many other pockets of Italians.

Queens had its Ridgewood, Maspeth-Middle Village, Corona, Astoria, Jamaica, and South Ozone Park sections.

Others journeyed to the Northern areas of the state such as Troy, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, and the City of Buffalo, where each had its own version of a Little Italy.

Many Italians would make the additional trek to other states, drawn by the prospect of blood family and friends, or the possibility of steady employment, where “Little Italy’s” and “Little Sicily’s” had similarly formed.

Good examples of this exodus are Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island. The Italian stronghold of Bloomfield in Pittsburgh. Boston’s North End, South Philadelphia’s Italian Market section, The Hill and Mayfield Road section of Cleveland, Southeast Baltimore’s Little Italy, and Chicago’s Little Sicily on the Near North Side.

Florida had it’s Tampa, San Francisco’s had its North Beach and Wharf area, and so on.

Side Note: If you notice, these locations correlate almost perfectly with cities across the country where the mafia formed “borgatas” or Families. Twenty-six such Families, and many more satellite regimes and outposts in various smaller locales and towns. Nearly everywhere a major “Little Italy” sprung up, a correlating mafia network formed as well. It’s just how things were back in the old days.

Many who became members were drawn from our family and friends. Fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, boyhood buddies. It was a common neighborhood occurrence and just the way life was…it was no big deal to us.

If there was only one photo available to explain what New York’s Mulberry Street area looked like, THIS would be it! Note the laundry hanging out of the apartment windows and along the fire escapes. The vendors pushcarts all loaded lining the curbs, the horse and wagon ready for local deliveries, and residents going about their day.
If there was only one photo available to explain what New York’s Mulberry Street area looked like, THIS would be it! Note the laundry hanging out of the apartment windows and along the fire escapes. The vendors pushcarts all loaded lining the curbs, the horse and wagon ready for local deliveries, and residents going about their day.

As the Italians assimilated into this country, becoming better educated and rising in wealth and status, they and their children would move out from these original Little Italy’s to purchase their own homes in the outer suburbs and counties.

They had achieved “The American Dream” as the old saying goes.

But their hearts always remained back in the original little apartments and tenements they grew up in, back in the respective Little Italy neighborhoods of their youth.

Because those walls still echoed the hallowed voices of their grandmothers and grandfathers, moms and dads, uncles, aunts, cousins and childhood friends of yesteryear.

Sitting on the stoop, or on beech Chairs on the sidewalk was a favorite pastime in Italian neighborhoods. Especially during the hot summers before air conditioning was invented.
Sitting on the stoop, or on beech Chairs on the sidewalk was a favorite pastime in Italian neighborhoods. Especially during the hot summers before air conditioning was invented.

A simpler time for sure. And I think quite possibly a purer time as well. When Family was closer and more involved in each other’s lives.

We lived in the same apartment house as my grandparents, three of my uncles and aunts, and a small tribe of first and second cousins.

Directly across the street lived three more uncles and aunts, and another half dozen cousins to boot! And within six, seven blocks were even more relatives.

And in between all that resided hundreds of families of friends who either hailed from the same villages back in Italy and Sicily as my grandparents and parents and uncles, or had lived in our same New York neighborhood for 40-50 years. They were like family…”ah bella paese!”

The result was a cohesion and love expressed for each other, that mere written words that I’ve put down on this page cannot properly begin to properly convey, or do justice to.

Side Note: Lol…I know that this is a website devoted to all things Mafia. And that our readers follow my stories hoping to learn more about various mafiosi, the organization, and “the life.”

Knockaround, neighborhood guys sitting outside on folding chairs in front of a Little Italy social club. A very typical street scene on Mulberry Street. Note the tracksuits and sneakers...these fellas don’t look like 9 to 5’ers if you ask me. Lol
Knockaround, neighborhood guys sitting outside on folding chairs in front of a Little Italy social club. A very typical street scene on Mulberry Street. Note the tracksuits and sneakers…these fellas don’t look like 9 to 5’ers if you ask me. Lol

But I want you all to know that although these neighborhoods were typically chock full of mafiosi, many of whom were indeed top bosses of Cosa Nostra nationwide, our neighborhoods were so much more than the Mafia.

Nearly everyone I knew, if not in the brotherhood themselves, had a connected father, grandfather, uncle, brother or cousin. Friends? Lol…hundreds of mafiosi were around our neighborhood daily.

Everybody got to know everybody over the years. And if you didn’t know the guy direct, you knew his cousin or your friend knew his cousin. Lol…

Many grew up in the area. It was a generational thing. They still lived or owned businesses there. Operated private social clubs, which they frequented daily in order to operate their rackets.

Even after they started making big bucks and moved their wives and kids to the suburbs out on Long Island, Jersey, and Westchester, most wiseguys still had family back in the old neighborhood. So many of them still came back constantly, daily in fact. It was like they’d never left.

You didn’t even need to own a telephone to contact anybody because all you needed to do was walk down the block to the corner and speak with the guy in question. Or ask where he was, and be directed to where he was hanging out in the neighborhood.

I hope you enjoy these photos. I know I did. And I hope that some of the flavor of these wonderful old neighborhoods come through a bit on these pages. Enjoy!

Footnote:

Ignazio Saietta aka “Lupo the Wolf”, one of the most important early mafiosi in New York, lived and operated primarily in Downtown’s Little Italy.

Ciro Terranova aka “The Artichoke King”, and his half brothers the Morello’s, lived and operated up in East Harlem’s Little Italy.

Giuseppe Morello aka “The Clutch Hand”, was one of the most important of mafiosi in all of America. He lived and operated in both Harlem and Downtown Manhattan.

Giuseppe Masseria aka “Joe the Boss”, was a Downtown guy himself. He would rise up to dominate most of New York City.

Salvatore Maranzano aka “Don Turiddo”, and his Castellammarese amici were based in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But he too operated in Downtown’s Little Italy neighborhood.

There were thousands more…men with surnames such as Luciano and Genovese of Mulberry Street, Lucchese and Costello of East Harlem, Gambino and Profaci of Brooklyn.

These men were neighbors to all the residents of various Little Italy’s throughout the five boroughs. And it was a daily occurrence to see them, bump into them and converse.


This article was originally posted “here