Umberto Anastasio was born September 26, 1902 in Tropea, Italy. He was one of 9 brothers and 3 sisters. In 1919 Umberto and 3 of his brothers working a freighter deserted the ship in New York and soon started working as longshoreman on the Brooklyn docks. On March 17, 1921 Umberto was convicted of murdering fellow longshoreman George Turino and Albert “Lord High Executioner” Anastasia was born.
Rising in power quickly on the waterfront Albert aligned himself with guys like Joe “The Boss” Masseria, Lucky Luciano, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese and Frank Costello. During this time the Castellammarese War broke out. When Luciano came up with his plan to end the war he talked to Albert about going against his boss Joe Masseria. Albert stated that he would kill anybody he had to in order to make his friend Lucky the boss. After Masseria was killed they then set their sights on Salvatore Maranzano.
Lucky was now the unofficial boss of bosses. As a thank you for his help, Lucky named Albert the co-head of Murder Inc. (along with being the underboss of the Mangano family) with Louis Lepke. Albert was now the leader of some of the most ruthless men in New York. It takes a special kind of guy to keep that kind of crew in line.
In 1942 Albert joined the Army in order to escape investigations that were going on surrounding Murder Inc. He trained soldiers in how to be longshoremen. Not only did he escape the investigation but he obtained a U.S. citizenship. Albert obtained an honorable discharge in 1943.
Albert went back to work as the Mangano underboss. Supposedly the two, Albert and Vincent, had a long standing feud. Some say that Vincent didn’t like the fact that Albert was so close to Lucky and Costello and really hated when they used Albert’s services without going through Vincent first. Or maybe Albert just made him nervous. Who knows? Either way, early in 1951 Vincent Mangano went missing and a short time later Vincent’s brother Phillip turned up dead in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn. Coincidence? Probably not. Now Albert was boss.Let’s fast forward to 1957. Big year in mob history. If you read my column last week I’ll spare you the details on the attempted hit on Frank Costello. If you didn’t read it, go read it. It’s good. Five months after the Costello attempt, his old friend Umberto Anastasio, aka Albert Anastasia was gunned down while taking a shave inside the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop.
Now the reason for this column. Why was he gunned down and by who was he gunned down. Most people I think believe it was Vito Genovese’s doing in order to protect himself from a possible war against Albert in retaliation for Costello.
Maybe it was Carlo Gambino’s doing in order to gain control of the Mangano family. At this point he was underboss. I think he was certainly involved although it remains to be seen who the ring leader was but my guess is Genovese.
There is also talk that Anastasia was trying to make moves in Meyer Lansky’s casino in Cuba. Not to get side tracked but there is a point to this. Meyer was an associate of the Luciano family. We all know how that works. This means that a piece of whatever he made got kicked up to the Luciano boss. The Luciano bosses at that time were Frank Costello and then Vito Genovese. You think Don Vitone was going to let anyone put their hands in his pocket? Not in a million years.
Ok, so who pulled the trigger? I believe that the most accepted group is from Gambino’s camp. Steven Grammauta, Arnold Wittenburg and Stephen Armone. Whether Gambino himself was behind the hit or if it was Genovese working along with Carlo, either way, these guys could have been the shooters. Then there are the Profaci guys. Crazy Joe Gallo and Carmine The Snake Persico were both rumored to have been the triggermen. I believe both men supposedly said they did it but that means nothing. Who knows, maybe the Iceman or Frank Sheeran did it.
One thing I recently learned is that the weapons used in the shooting were apparently kept in a room at the Park Sheraton Hotel. There was a boxer, Joe Busso, who had a fight that night at Madison Square Garden so he got a room at the hotel. His manager was Andrew Alberti who was not only a boxing manager but a member of Anastasia’s family. Supposedly they used Busso’s room to store the weapons. This would obviously sway things toward Gambino being involved as Gambino was Anastasia’s underboss.