On This Day in May…
Portella della Ginestra Massacre
On this day in 1947 we witnessed the Portella della Ginestra Massacre in which 11 people were killed with 27 more wounded. The motive; land reform. The event in Sicily is still steeped in controversy with many people blaming the Sicilian Mafia for perpetrating the attacks, others blaming the government. The main person who was held responsible was an Outlaw called Salvatore Giuliano and his men, Giuliano died a few years after the attacks at the age of 27. He was shot twice in his sleep. A real life Robin Hood.
Costello’s Botched Assassination
On this day in 1957 we witnessed one of the mobs most talked about botched assassination attempts. On May 2, 1957, Vito Genovese ordered Vincent Gigante to rub out Frank Costello, in a bid to take control of the family. Gigante shot Costello as he entered the lobby at 115 Central Park West, where he had an apartment in The Majestic, on the corner of 72nd Street, Manhattan. Just before Gigante fired his .38-caliber handgun he shouted to Costello: “Hey Frank, this one’s for you”. Costello moved to turn towards Gigante, causing the bullet to graze the right side of his head. Because Costello fell down, Gigante thought the mob boss was dead and left the scene. Costello refused to identify Gigante as the hitman. http://thencs.org/costellohitView more from this date in history
On this day in 1984 New Orleans Family member and narcotics dealer Onofio Pecoraro dies.
On this day in 1988 Paul Vario passed away at the age of 73 while serving time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Worth. Vario was a violent Lucchese Capo, who was responsible for bringing Henry Hill into the family, a move that would eventually lead to Vario’s prison time when Hill would testify against him and other mobsters in court. In prison, Vario lived on Mafia row, living lavishly, enjoying fine wine and food.
On this day in 1945 the boss of the Casalesi Clan was born. Antonio Bardellino was also one of last of the old style Camorra godfathers who operated throughout the 1980’s and would also be assassinated at the age of 43, in the month of May back in 1988. However, there are many mysteries surrounded his death with some believing he is still out there. According to testimony from his old friend Tommaso Buscetta, and ally Umberto Ammaturo, Bardellino is still out there,and has left power in the hands of the other families within the Casalesi clan in order to ensure the survival of his family. What do you think happened to Antonio Bardellino?
On this day in 1981, Philip Giaccone, a Bonanno capo who was know as The Priest was shot and killed by Joe Massino loyalists in a Brooklyn Nightclub. He was one of three capos killed that night, the other two were Trinchera and Indelicato. One of the gunmen was Vito Rizzuto, the Montreal mobster, and John Gotti was responsible for burying the bodies as a favor to Massino. A few weeks later Indelicato’s body was found. In 2004 the bodies of Trinchera and Giaccone were discovered after 23 years of lying undiscovered, the following year in 2005 Massino pled guilty.View more from this date in history
On this day in 1947 Carlos Marcello is voted in to take the place of deported boss Silver Dollar Sam Carollo over Sam’s son Anthony at the Black Diamond nightclub on Galvez St. in New Orleans.
Matranga vs Provenzano
On this day in 1890, at around midnight as they were heading home in a wagon from unloading a ship members of the New Orleans Matranga faction are ambushed at the intersection of Esplanade and Claiborne Avenue’s by members of the Provenzano faction. Though no one is killed Charles Matranga’s brother Antonio loses a leg from his wounds. Provenzano members would be arrested by Chief of Police David Hennessey and this would be one of the events leading up to his assassination on October 15 1890.
On this day in 2002 Messina Denaro, a Sicilian mobster who became one of the new leaders after the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano in 2006, received a life-time sentence (in absentia) for his role in the terrorist attacks of 1993 which killed 10 people and injured nearly 100 more. This came one year after the bombings of prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. He has been a fugitive since 1993 and is among the ten most wanted criminals in the world.
On this day in 1931 one of the early crime bosses, Carmelo Fresina, died at the age of 38. He was found with two shots to the head, near a river at Edwardsville, Illinois. Fresina reigned over the St. Louis, Missouri area with his gang, known to the police as the Pillow Gang. The name came about when a ‘sitdown’ went wrong, two of his associates were killed whilst Fresina took a few shots to the buttocks. He would then attend future sitdowns with a pillow that he would sit on.
On this day in 1928, in Brooklyn, the World would see the birth of The Grim Reaper. Greg Scarpa was a capo for the Colombo crime family and informant for the FBI. During the 1970s and 80s, Scarpa was the chief enforcer for Colombo crime boss Carmine Persico and is suspected to have committed a minimum of 50 murders from the early 1950s through 1992. In 1991 he survived an assassination attempt, when the Colombo family split into two factions when Vic Orena challenged for control of the family over Carmine Persico, this would spark one of the bloodiest wars of the late 20th Century. Scarpa was one of Persico’s strongest allies. In 1986, Scarpa was diagnosed with HIV and by 1993 his health had seriously decreased. He was blind in one eye, suffered with energy levels and then would go on to die from AIDS-related complications in 1994.
On this day in 1978 Giuseppe Impastato was killed during by a charge of TNT that was placed under his body during an election campaign. Impastato was a political activist who opposed the Mafia but his death was initially believed to be an act of terrorism, and then his death was down to suicide. It was only years later when a Cinisi mobster called Salvatore Palazzolo turned FBI informant and confirmed that the Mafia was behind the hit. Gaetano Badalamenti was eventually given a life sentence on April 11, 2002, over 20 years after Impastato’s death.
On this day in 1950 the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce began its work. It was better known as the Kefauver Committee and the hearings popularly known as the Kefauver Hearings, named after the Chairman, Senator Estes Kefauver. The Kefauver Committee held hearings in 14 major cities across the United States with more than 600 witnesses taking the stand. Many of the committee’s hearings were televised live on national television, providing many Americans with their first glimpse of organized crime’s influence in the U.S. The likes of Tony Accardo, Mickey Cohen, Frank Costello, Jake Guzik, Meyer Lansky, Paul Ricca, and Virginia Hill were called up, along with Enoch “Nucky” Johnson’s former policemen in Atlantic City. Estes Kefauver stood at the Chairman until stepping down on April 30, 1951. http://thencs.org/29DH59h
Big Jim Colosimo
On this day in 1920 the famous hit on Big Jim Colosimo took place inside his restaurant and nightclub at 2126 South Wabash. Big Jim didn’t see the potential in bootlegging alcohol which was starting to become big business after Prohibition came into effect a few months prior to hit death. This lead to an uprising in the South Chicago crime family.Johnny Torrio called Big Jim and told him a shipment was about to arrive at his restaurant, but when he got there it was an ambush. Colosimo was shot in the head and killed. Torrio allegedly brought in Frankie Yale to take out Colosimo but Al Capone has also been suggested as the trigger-man. http://thencs.org/1DY88BaView more from this date in history
On this day in 2002 we would see the passing of one of the original and first members of the Mafia’s commission, which was setup in the 1931 after the death of Maranzano and Masseria. Joe Bonanno stated that Maranzano was his hero and that he looked up to the crime boss who was assassinated by Lucky Luciano and his men in 1931, ending the Castellammarese War. Bonanno was one of the most successful and powerful Mafia bosses to date, and died at the grand age of 97 – with no attempt made on his life throughout his lengthy reign. http://thencs.org/29XhPxT
On this day in 1924 Michele Greco was born. Knows also as The Pope because of how he could mediate between different mafia families its no surprise that he became the head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission in the late 1970’s following on from Gaetano Badalamenti. He was eventually charged with 78 counts of murder, and given a life sentence. He died in 2008 at the age of 83 and never admitted his crimes nor his position in Cosa Nostra to the authorities.
On this day in 1998 Frank Ragano, a mob lawyer would pass away in Tampa, Florida at the grand age of 75. Ragano had worked on helping Santa Trafficante, Jimmy Hoffa, Carlos Marcello, Jimmy Burke, Henry Hill and many more mobsters over his career. Ragano was photographed having lunch with Trafficante, Marcello and other mob figures, and was identified by Time magazine as a “top Cosa Nostra hoodlum”. In 1994 Ragano released an autobiography co-written by Selwyn Raab called ‘Mob Lawyer’
On this day in 1998, at the age of 82, Frank Sinatra passed away. Many know Sinatra as one of the biggest singers of his time but in the 1940’s an incident started rumors that would question his involvement with the American Mafia, in particular his personal and professional links with the likes of Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, and Lucky Luciano.It is said that he had a strong friendship with Giancana, and according to Comedian Jackie Mason he received death threats and his hotel room was shot up in his presence after mocking Sinatra in a routine. The culprits were said to be mobsters under Giancana’s orders.The FBI kept Sinatra under surveillance for almost five decades beginning in the 1940s and had over 2,400 pages of records on Ol’ Blue Eyes.
On this day in 1934, in New Jersey, a future capo for the Genovese Crime Family was born. John Barbato, or Johnny Sausage as he was unfortunately referred to was a distant relative to Frank Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy, as well as being a distant cousin to Frank Costello.He became an associate in the 1940’s, and then sometime in the late 1970’s he became a made man in the family. He was sentenced in 2005 after admitting to his participation in an organized crime family but he did not name the Genovese family or acknowledge being a capo.He was released from prison 3 years later in 2008, at the age of 74.
On this day in 1957 one of the most famous Prohibition Agents would pass away at the age of 54. Known mostly for his efforts in the Chicago area Eliot Ness was a fundamental part of the Prohibition Bureau and was promoted to Chief Investigator in the early 1930’s.At a time where Al Capone had half the police force on his pay roll, Ness went through every Prohibition Agents records and pulled together a team of 9 reliable and trustworthy agents, called The Untouchables. Ness survived many assassination attempts and lost his close friend in one of them, but his efforts led the IRS charging Capone for 22 counts of tax evasion and 5,000 violations of the Volstead Act. By the late 40’s and 50’s his life had taken a dramatic turn as he would start drinking heavily, and getting himself deeper into debt. At one point he ended up selling frozen hamburger patties to restaurants. In 1957 he suffered a fatal heart-attack at his home and died. He also co-wrote the book The Untouchables, which was published a month after his death.
On this day in 1977 John Nardi, a Cleveland Crime Family associate was killed at the age of 61 from a planted car bomb. The force of the bomb blew both of Nardi’s legs off. As he was being pulled away from the car he said “It didn’t hurt”, and died a few minutes later.
On this day in 1946 Mikey Cigars was born in New Jersey. Michael Coppola as he is otherwise known is a Genovese Crime Family mobster who made national headlines when he went on the lam for 11 years to avoid a possible murder conviction.
On this day in 1938 Tony Spilotro was born. The Ant was an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and his main priority was to oversee and protect the Chicago Outfits operations in Las Vegas at that time. At the age of 48 he and his brother Michael were driven to a mob home in Bensenville, Illinois and were beaten to death in the basement. They were later transported to the cornfield in Enos, Indiana. It was some 26 years after his death that James Marcello (a Chicago Outfit front-man) was sentenced to life in prison, for the Spilotro murders. http://thencs.org/2a8qb29
On this day in 1928 Gaetano Vastola entered the world. Known also as Corky he was an underboss for the DeCavalcante Crime Family who were based in the New Jersey area. In the 1990’s he shared a prison cell with Gambino Crime Boss John Gotti, which almost lead to Vastola’s death when Gotti felt he would become a government informant and pressured the bosses of the DeCavalcante family to put a hit out on Vastola.Lucky for Vastola, FBI caught wind of the hit and prevented it. Vastola is 87 years old.
On this day in 1910 the Gentle Don was born in Villalba, Sicily. Angelo Bruno ran the Philadelphia Crime Family for two decades before he was taken out in true mob style back in 1980, with a shotgun blast to the back of the head. Bruno was a close associate to Carlo Gambino and he preferred to use bribery over violence, avoiding lengthy prison terms despite several arrests; his longest term was two years for refusing to testify to a grand jury. http://thencs.org/1PUvcb1View more from this date in history
On this day in 1940 a ruthless and cold-blooded mobster would be born. Anthony Casso would work his way up the mob ladder with a reputation as a violent and terrifying figure in the New York underworld, eventually confessing to involvement in Frank DeCicco’s death, Roy DeMeo’s death, and several attempts at John Gotti. Even though Amuso was the boss of the family, it was clear that Casso pulled the strings. Being at the top of a major crime family just fueled Casso’s aggression which in the end would be the downfall of him.
On this day in 1992 we would mark the passing of an all time great. The real Joe Batters passed away of heart failure in Barrington Hills, Illinois at the age of 86. Despite an arrest record dating back to 1922, Tony Accardo spent only one night in jail. He moved The Outfit into new operations and territories, greatly increasing its power and wealth during his time as boss. http://thencs.org/29Iy4NHView more from this date in history
On this day we also have the death of another major crime boss. In 1978 Joe Colombo would die of a cardiac arrest in Newburgh, New York. He was shot 3 times at point blank range to the head, at a 1971 Italian Unity Day rally as he was approaching the stage. Colombo didn’t die straight away, he spent the next 7 years paralyzed.The gunman, Jerome Johnson was then held to the floor and then shot by an unidentified man who then left the scene. Many, including the Colombo leadership believe Joe Gallo was behind the hit after being released from prison early that same year, but others believe Carlo Gambino gave the nod after Colombo spat in his face during an argument (Jerome Johnson was also spotted days earlier in a Gambino owned club). Either way, the Godfather movie would have caused major issues, due to its subject matter and the limelight Colombo was bringing with it. http://thencs.org/1edTpgU
On this day in 1992 the Italian prosecuting magistrate, Giovanni Falcone was killed by the Corleonesi in a car bomb that detonated on a motorway near Capaci. The hit was carried out a few months after the assassination of Salvatore Lima (Politician), and a few months before his colleague Paolo Borsellino.Falcone’s Wife Francesca Morvillo and police officers Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro and Vito Schifani were killed in the blast. The explosion was so powerful that it registered on local earthquake monitors. Falcone was 53 years old.
On this day in 1935 Piersanti Mattarella was born in Castellammare del Golfo, in Sicily. He was a politician who held the position of President of the Regional Government of Sicily during the last 1970’s.At the beginning of 1980, at the age of 44, Mattarella was gunned down by the Siclian Mafia while in his car. The motive was for his strong opposition against them and his passing of new laws that would hinder Mafia operations.He jokingly discussed with an inspector just before his death; “I told him to be careful because I ran the risk of ending up in a cement block”, at which he replied, “That’s not true, I’ll end up in the cement.”
On this day in 1925 the violent Chicago-based Sicilian mobster Angelo Genna was killed at the age of 27 in a Mafia shoot out against Chicago’s North Side Gang, over the death of Dean O’Banion in 1924. Angelo was one of 6 brothers and the head of the Genna crime family during the Prohibition Era. After his death in 1925 the remaining members were absorbed into the Chicago Outfit.On May 25th Bugs Moran, Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss chased down Genna until his car crashed into a light pole. The North Side car stopped alongside the accident and then pumped several bullets into Genna as he lay behind the wheel of his crumpled car. http://thencs.org/29OYvjQ
On this day in 1999 Wild Bill Cutolo, an underboss in the Colombo Crime Family was killed in the basement of a house, on orders from Alphonse Persico (the son of Carmine) who was acting boss of the Colombo’s at the time. Cutolo was a strong Orena loyalist in the 1991 – 1993 Colombo War, and after the War ended in a Persico win Cutola was demoted in the family to a solider. By the late 90’s Carmine Persico promoted Cutolo to underboss under his son Alphonse as a peace gesture.In the same year Alphonse was sentenced to prison himself, so with both the Persico’s behind bars they worried that Cutolo would try and make a bid to takeover the family unit. To avoid the takeover Alphonse setup a meeting which would end with the disappearance of Wild Bill. It was only 9 years later that his body was unearthed, when the police found a man wearing Italian loafers wrapped in a blue tarp that was missing a finger. The body was of 49 year old William Cutolo Sr.View more from this date in history
On this day in 1904 Vincent Alo was born, he was a key member of the Genovese Crime Family as well as being an associate to Meyer Lansky and a major influence in helping him to set up casino operations in both Florida and Cuba. Alo was described as being charming, intelligent and well liked by his associates. He started work on Wall Street at age 14, and by the time he was 22 he was a made man. He died of natural causes at the grand age of 96 after retiring from the family when he was in his 70’s! An underrated mobster?
Massacre of via dei Georgofili
On this day in 1993, in Italy, a Fiat Fiorino that was packed full of explosives, detonated, and killed 5 people, and wounded 48. The youngest killed was an innocent 9 year old girl. The attack was known as the Massacre of via dei Georgofili, and the Mafia were behind the attacks which brought down two buildings, and damaged others. In particular the Corleonesi led by Toto Riina. The motive for the attack was due to article 41-bis of the Prison Administration Act, where jailed mobsters would be put straight into hard prison regimes, including isolation.
On this day in 1946 Salvatore Contorno was born, also known as Totuccio. He is a former member of the Sicilian Mafia who turned state witness in October 1984, following the example of Tommaso Buscetta. He gave detailed accounts of the inner-workings of the Sicilian Mafia and his testimonies were crucial in both the Maxi Trial and the Pizza Connection trial. Despite turning into a police informant Totuccio still had Mafia blood in him, extorting and dealing, and he also survived several bomb plots in the 1990’s from the Coreonesi.
On this day in 1991, 80 year old John Tronolone passed away before he could start a 9-year prison sentence for accepting stolen jewelry from an undercover police officer in return for bookmaking and loan sharking debts. Tronolone was a Cleveland mobster who became boss of the Cleveland Crime Family in 1985 after the death of James Licavoli.
On this day in 1955 Louis Campagna suffered from a fatal heart attack at the age of 55. Campagna was also known as Little New York and served as a high-ranking member of the Chicago Outfit for over 3 decades. At one point in his early career, Campagna was Al Capone’s bodyguard.In 1927 Campagna attempted to raid a police station with 20 other Chicago mobsters in search of Joey Aiello. Aiello had attempted to kill Capone by asking his Chef at the Lexington to poison his food, but Campagna got wind of this.Upon entering the police station the officers spotted a handgun on Campagna and put him in the cell next to Aiello. An undercover policeman in a nearby cell heard the following exchange between Campagna and Aiello, in Sicilian. Campagna: “You’re dead, dear friend, you’re dead. You won’t get to the end of the street still walking.” Aiello: “Can’t we settle this? Give me fourteen days and I’ll sell my stores, my house and everything and quit Chicago for good. Can’t we settle it? Think of my wife and my baby.” Campagna: “You dirty rat! You’ve broke faith with us twice now. You started this, we’ll finish it.” Less than 3 years later Aiello was hit with over 50 bullets as he was leaving a Chicago apartment.
On this day in 1997 a Buffalo Crime Family capo by the name of John Papalia was shot several times in front of his business on Railway Street in Hamilton, as well as his right-hand man Carmen Barillaro who was shot two month down the line. The orders for the hit came from a rival gang called the Musitano’s in a pledge to take over Papalia’s business. Papalia was heavily involved in both the ‘French’ and ‘Pizza’ Connection which were two of the biggest drug operations ever seen.