Alias: Lord High Executioner, The Mad Hatter
Born: Friday September 26th 1902
Died: Friday October 25th 1957
Cause of Death:Assassination
Crime Family Association: Gambino Crime Family
Albert was born Umberto Anastasio, in Tropea, Calabria, Italy. His parents were Raffaelo Anastasio and Louisa Nomina de Filippi but the family went with his Fathers surname “Anastasio” until Albert decided to use “Anastasia” in 1921.
He was also part of a large family, having 8 brothers and 3 sisters, Albert himself was married to Elsa Barnesi whom he had a son by the name of Anthony Anastasia Jr.
Early Days & Escape from Execution
Just a year before Prohibition hit the shores of the US, Anastasia and three of his eight brothers arrived in New York City, where they would illegally enter the United States to begin their life of work.
After only being in the US for no more than two years Anastasia was already drawing the attention of the law and was in fact convicted of murdering longshoreman George Turino in March 1921 after the pair had argued.
Of course back then, the penalty was death and a long trip to Sing Sing State Prison where he would sit on Death Row until his execution.
Luckily for Albert he somehow (possibly through legal complications) managed to swing a retrial for 1922, and coincidentally the four main prosecution witnesses had disappeared in the time leading up to the newly scheduled trial. This resulted in Albert Anastasia walking free.
His life as a free man didn’t last too long though, as in June 1923 he was convicted again, this time for illegal possession of a firearm in which he would be locked away for two years.
Becoming Allies with Joe The Boss
As you can already tell Anastasia is quite a character and has had a few close calls in his time in the US, however by the late 1920’s he had worked his way up the International Longshoremen’s Association which resulted in his control of six union local chapters in Brooklyn.
It was during this time that Albert Anastasia would become connected with Joe “The Boss” Masseria and of course associating himself with the likes of Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, and most famous of all the chairman of the mob Charles “Lucky” Luciano
It was these powerful connections that helps Albert climb the ladder and virtually become untouchable. In 1928 he was charged with a murder in Brooklyn, but the witnesses either disappeared or refused to testify in court – which showed how he had progressed.
Joining Lucky Luciano
In 1930 we saw the assassination of two old time bosses who controlled the organized crime rackets in New York. First to be taken out was Joe The Bossin April of 1931who was lured into a meeting at Coney Island, Brooklyn. Half way through the meal that he and Lucky were having, Lucky excused himself from the table to visit the restroom.
The plan was then forged so that Anastasia, Genovese, Adonis and Siegel would rush the diner and take out Masseria. The plan worked perfectly and Joe was left dead holding onto a playing card, the Ace of Spades.
This would put an end to the Castellammarese War and would retain peace on the streets to avoid prying law officials’ eyes.
The Five Families
It was during this phase that Maranzano would then reorganize the mafia into five families. Anastasia was appointed the underboss of Vincent Mangano’s family, which today is known as the Gambino Crime Family.
Not long after the departure of Joe Masseria was the murder of Salvatore Maranzano who was a completely different character to Joe The Boss. Joe The Boss was a slob, Maranzano was respectable and well dressed.
In September 1931 Luciano’s men entered the offices of Maranzano and disposed of his bodyguards who weren’t armed at the time due to a new policy that Maranzano had enforced so that they wouldn’t be found packing nay firearms if searched by the law.
With the bodyguards out the way, Luciano’s men shot and stabbed Maranzano in his own office.
It was that Luciano founded the National Crime Syndicate which consisted of major family bosses from around the country as well as the Five Families of New York, with the aim to regulate lucrative illegal activities such as racketeering, gambling, and bootlegging.
Indicted Again, and Again
In 1932, Anastasia was once again in trouble with the law, and was indicted on charges of murdering another man with an ice pick. Funnily enough the case was again dropped as witnesses to the murder seem to disappear without trace.
The following year he was once again charged with murder; and again, there were no witness willing to testify.
Anastasia had become an important person to Lucky Luciano, and due to his loyalty he was placed in co-control of the National Crime Syndicates enforcement department, known to most as Murder Inc. He would share this role with Louis “Lepke” Buchalter who was a leading labor racketeer.
Murder Inc operated for almost a decade and in that time it us said that up to 1,000 murders were committed (that’s 100 a year) and most were never solved.
Anastasia was nicknamed the “Mad Hatter” and the “Lord High Executioner” during his leadership of Murder Inc, and hired killers to take out some of the orders as well as getting involved himself.
Albert’s business card that he carried around with him actually stated that he was a sales person.
Times Were Changing
With the 1941 arrest of Abe Reles on murder charges, law enforcement finally dismantled Murder, Inc. Abe Reles was responsible for providing hitmen to Anastasia during the Murder Inc years and it was Abe Reles who turned rat to escape the death penalty by turning in seven members of Murder Inc
One of the men he was about to implicate was Anastasia. Bad move. Anastasia had power and contacts and decided to put up a $100,000 reward to take out Abe Reles.
Abe Reles was then found dead, too many he had fallen from a hotel window but others say that his bodyguards cashed in on the reward and pushed him out the window.
The same happened a year later when another associate of Anastasia was about to turn rat on him, and again the man in question, Anthony Romeo, was found beaten and shot to death not long after.
The US Army is Calling
Anastasia played a big part during World War II, and it was he who originated the plan to win a pardon for Luciano by helping the war effort. America needed allies in Sicily to advance the invasion of Italy, and the desire of the Navy to dedicate its resources to the war, Anastasia orchestrated a deal to obtain lighter treatment for Luciano while he was in prison, and after the war, a parole in exchange for the Mafia protecting the waterfront and Luciano’s assistance with his associates in Sicily.
In 1942, Anastasia became the technical sergeant of the US Army, in a bid to move away from crime as investigations were currently taking place that could incriminate him.
The following year, iIn 1943, Anastasia received US citizenship and was honorably discharged in 1944 where he would eventually set up home in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Becoming The Boss
Anastasia was summoned by the US Senate in 1951, to answer questions about organized crime but he refused to comment on any of the questions that were put his way.
You have to remember that Albert Anastasia at this point was only an underboss to Mangano, and Mangano became very jealous of his connections with the likes of Luciano and Costello, to the extent they would often end in heated arguments and physical brawls.
In 1951 Vincent Mangano went missing, never to be found, and later in the same year the body of Philip Mangano was discovered in a wetland, shot three times. To this day no one really knows who did it, but the finger does point to Anastasia in some form or another.
The Commission met up and in the end with the help of Frank Costello, Anastasia was made the boss of the Mangano family, renaming it the Anastasia Crime Family.
I Smell a Rat!
In March 1952, Anastasia was once again reported to order the murder of Arnold Schuster who was a young lad who had witnessed a bank robbery and could identify the thief Willie Sutton. With the evidence that Arnold provided Sutton was arrested, and allegedly when Anastasia saw Arnold Schuster being interviewed on television, he said: “I can’t stand squealers! Hit that guy!”
The order was carried through in the same month when Arnold was shot to death on a Brooklyn street which resulted in a public accusation again Anastasia in 1963.
Genovese Looks to Turn Anastasia’s Support
Vito Genovese waned to take control of the Luciano Crime Family but in order to do so would need to kill Costello and Anastasia. To do this Vito tried to turn Anastasia’s supporters against him by labelling him as an unstable killer who threatened to bring pressure from the law to the Cosa Nostra.
The plan seemed to work, as over the next couple of years he won the support of Anastasia’s capo, the one and only Carlo Gambino, who he offered leadership of Anastasia’s Crime Family in return for his alliance. Vito also gained Meyer Lansky who was an influential part of the crime scene in those days, and the manager of Lucky Luciano’s business interests and affairs.
Anastasia’s Down Fall
Like many mobsters, greed some got the better of Anastasia which triggered Meyer Lansky in helping Vito Genovese. You see Lansky in the 1950’s controlled casinos across Cuba and offered the Cosa Nostra bosses lesser shares of his profits. However, when Anastasia demanded a larger share, Lansky refused. This lead to Anastasia starting his own casino racket in the same area as Lansky, helping him to come to an easy decision to give Genovese his full support.
After spending one year in federal prison in 1955 for tax evasion, and getting hit with a $20,000 fine, Anastasia was also close to losing his citizenship and getting deported.
Things took a turn for the worst in 1957 when Genovese moved on Costello. This saw Vincent “The Chin” Gigante make a hit on Costello, however due to Gigante shouting towards Costello something along the lines of “This is for you Frank” the hit was a fail. Frank Costello turned around at which point the bullet narrowly missed his head causing superficial wounding.
This was enough for Costello who then stepped down as boss and hand over the family to Vito Genovese who would rename the family after himself which it still holds today.
The Plot to Take Out Anastasia
1957 was certainly a busy time of the year and towards the end of it we would see the assassination of Albert Anastasia, in what would be one of the most high profile murders in the mobs history. The assignation would spark huge media and public interest.
On the morning of October 25, 1957, Anastasia went to a local barber shop in Midtown Manhattan for a shave I presume. Anastasia’s bodyguard parked the car in an underground garage and then took a walk outside, leaving Anastasia with no muscle behind him.
Completely defenceless and relaxing back into the barber’s chair, two men wearing scarves covering their faces burst through the front door of the shop, shoved the barber out of the way, and fired at Anastasia at point blank range.
It is said that after the first rippling of bullet that headed his way, Anastasia lunged at the masked men. Unfortunately for Albert he had actually tried to attack the killer’s reflections in a mirror, eventually he would drop down to the floor, dead.
However, the stunned Anastasia had actually attacked the gunmen’s reflections in the wall mirror of the barber shop. The gunmen continued firing and Albert Anastasia finally fell to the floor, dead.
As I said the murder sparked huge public awareness and a high profile police investigation would take place, although no one was convicted of the assassination.
Of course with a hit like this there are plenty of conspiracy theories, one of which was that Joe Gallo was the hit man for the Profaci Crime Family. The Profaci theory is that Genovese gave the Anastasia murder contract to Joe Profaci, who then handed it down to Gallo, who was believed to say to an associate at the time:
“You can just call the five of us the barbershop quintet.”
Aftermath, and Apalachin Meeting
On November 14, 1957 a meeting was set to take place, this was called the Apalachin Meeting which didn’t go to well.
It was the idea of Genovese to discuss the future of Cosa Nostra in light of his takeover, however the police noticed that these very expensive cars were all heading in the same direction and decided to investigate.
The meeting was then raided by the police and it was this point where the public started to get an insight into an organization that for so long had been secret.
Lansky, Luciano, Gambino and Costello could see the way that the Cosa Nostra was heading with Genovese at the helm so they decided to entrap Genovese with a drugs conviction. The actually ended up bribing a drug dealer to testify that he had worked with Genovese on a personal level.
This then lead to the conviction of Vito Genovese in 1958, where he would serve a 15 year prison sentence.