The previous articles in the series talked about the “old” Sicilian mafia, the emergence of mafiosi in New Orleans and Chicago, “dry law” and “conference” in Atlantic City, Al Capone and gang wars in Chicago. Now we will talk about the mafia clans of New York.
The first mafiosi of New York
The first famous New York mafiosi (and the founders of the first mafia family of this city) are Ignazio Sayetta and Giuseppe Morello.
Giuseppe Morello, known in the criminal environment under the nicknames "The Old Fox" and "The Grasping Hand", is the stepson of an influential mafioso from the city of Corleonese who moved to the United States. He and his two brothers were admitted to the "honor society" in Sicily. Zuseppe had to leave for America in 1892 after a criminal case was opened against him in Italy for counterfeiting local money. Initially, he ended up in New Orleans, but three years later he moved to New York, where he met his brother, Antonio, who was engaged in extortion among the Italian immigrants of East Harlem (this area was then purely Italian). Tony Morello was cruel, but not very smart. The family's affairs went much better when it was headed by Giuseppe. It happened in 1898 - after the elder brother was killed in one of the "showdowns".
Giuseppe Morello, foto 1902
This family also included Giuseppe's half-brothers by mother, whose surname was Terranova - the sons of the stepfather of the Morello brothers. Note that they were all "real" Sicilian mafiosi.
Ignazio Sayetta, whom his accomplices called Lupo (Wolf), was also forced to the United States - in 1899: he fled to this country from Sicily after he killed a man there.
Having looked around at a new place, he created a gang of his fellow countrymen on the island of Manhattan. This criminal "gang" was founded by immigrants from Sicily, who at home were not part of any of the "families" of the mafia. Therefore, it was still impossible to call this gang a mafia. However, in 1902, a fateful meeting took place: Zuseppe Morello opened a store in a building that belonged to Sayetti. The fellow countrymen quickly found a common language, and after Ignazio's marriage to Salvatrice Terranova (in 1904), the Scienti and Morello families united, forming a single mafia clan. They now controlled Manhattan, the South Bronx and East Harlem. The main areas of activity of the new clan were extortion, the organization of illegal lotteries, usury, robbery and counterfeiting of dollars. The money obtained in this way was legalized through shops and restaurants belonging to the "family". In 1905, Giuseppe Morello was named the Capo di Tutti Capi ("boss of bosses") of New York.
This is how the Morello mafia "family", now known as Genovese, was born - one of the five mafia clans of modern New York.
The trademark of the Morello clan was the dismemberment of the corpses of enemies, the remains of which they sent in barrels by mail to other cities (to non-existent addresses) or simply threw into the sea. These murders were organized by Ignazio Sayetta: experts believe that there were at least 60 of them. Sayetta's stable on 125th Street was said in the early XNUMXth century that she "saw more corpses than horses."
However, Ignazio Sayetti and Giuseppe Morello were imprisoned in 1909 not for murder or racketeering, but on charges of counterfeiting. The leadership of the clan was taken over by Nicolo Morello, he was helped by his half-brother - Ciro Terranova, who was called the "king of artichokes": he controlled all the grocery stores in New York.
Ciro Terranova, "king of the artichokes"
By the way, the famous Frank Costello began his career as a subordinate of Chiro.
Nicolo Morello was killed in 1916 in the "war" ... between the Mafia and the Camorra! (well, where else would they meet, besides New York?). But the Camorra is a loose conglomerate of individual gangs (we'll talk about it in other articles). And therefore, when one of the reputable Camorrists, Ralph Daniello, being arrested, "handed over" many of the leaders of these gangs to the police, the Camorra "fell down." But the mafia "families" were much more stable structures. The number of Italian emigrants, including immigrants from Sicily, grew steadily. Among them were members of mafia "families" from other cities on the island. The new mafiosi were categorically not satisfied with the leading position of the Morello clan. Moreover, Giuseppe Morello had no worthy successors. After the death of Nikolo, his half-brothers - Vincenze and Ciro Terranova, in the early 1920s, one of the bosses of his own clan ousted from the leadership. It was the famous Giuseppe Masseria, who arrived in New York from the Sicilian town of Marsala in 1907. He was then subordinated to Salvatore Lucania, better known as Lucky Luciano.
Masseria was now the "boss" of Manhattan. Brooklyn was "held" by another former capo of the Morello clan - Salvatore D'Aquilo, who came to the United States from Palermo, who announced that he was the "boss of the bosses" from now on. His "heirs" founded the famous Gambino family in New York. Gaetano Reina, from the Morello brothers' hometown of Corleonese (his sister married Vincenza Morello), took over the Bronx and East Harlem. The "heirs" of this gangster are members of the "Lucchese family".
Released from prison, Giuseppe Morello tried to regain the title of "boss of bosses". He won over to his side Umberto Valentino of the D'Aquilo clan and tried three times to kill Masseria. In the end, Masseria pretended to want to come to an agreement, but Valentino, who came to meet with him, was killed by "triggermen" (those who "always have their finger on the trigger"), led by Salvatore (Lucky) Luciano. Masseria divided his "possessions" into two parts: Lucky Luciano became the "governor" of Manhattan, and Frankie Weila, who in 1920 killed Jim Colosimo, who headed the "Black Hand" of Chicago, was assigned to control Brooklyn. After that, Morello recognized Masseria's supremacy, agreeing to the third position in the mafia hierarchy as Consigliere - “advisor” or even “mentor”, who usually acts as an arbiter in disputes between members of one clan and negotiates with representatives of other “families”.
The Castellamarian War and the Americanization of the Mafia
In 1925, Salvatore Maranzano, a native of the Sicilian city of Castellammare del Golfo, appeared in New York. It is believed that he was sent to the United States by the "godfather" of the Sicilian mafia, Ferro Vito Cascio, who decided to take over the self-imagining "families" of the New World.
The Aiello family, whose Chicago branch was described in the article "With a kind word and a pistol." Alphonse (Al) Capone in Chicago, was also a native of Castellammare and was an ally of Maranzano. The future heads of the two mafia families of New York - Joe Profaci and Joseph Bonanno fought on his side.
Maranzano acted decisively and aggressively, crushing the "clients" of other "families" and trying to win over people from hostile clans to his side. He made an attempt to recruit Luciano, but set unacceptable conditions for him: to refuse cooperation with two Jews, unworthy of a true Sicilian. And these Jews were not just anybody, but Meyer Lansky and Ben Siegel Bugsy. Luciano refused - and did not regret it: the guys were "correct" and did not disappoint.
On suspicion of cooperation with Maranzano, Gaetano Reina was killed on February 26, 1930: the killers were again led by Lucky Luciano, Vito Genovese became the direct executor, who later twice headed this "family" (after Luciano's arrest and in 1957-1959) and even gave her name. And this despite the fact that he himself was not a Sicilian.
Vito Genovese, a Campania native who came to the United States in 1913. His brother Michael became a mafia boss in Pittsburgh
The Maranzano family responded by killing Giuseppe Morello on August 15, 1930. And on April 15, 1931, Masseria himself was liquidated. "Sentenced" by his own deputies - Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovezi, who entered into an agreement with Salvatore Maranzano. The future "stars" of the American mafia - Bugsy Siegel, Alberto Anastasia and Joe Adonis (according to another version, Siegel was "assisted" by Sam Levine and Bo Weinberg) played the role of the killers. Luciano invited Masseria to a restaurant and went to the toilet at the agreed time. During his absence, Masseria was shot.
The reason for the murder of Masseria was his "old regime": he was a typical representative of the so-called "Mustache Petes" who wanted to live in America as in Sicily. "Mustache" did not want to cooperate with outsiders and take part in new and very interesting "business projects". Luciano, on the other hand, was an ardent supporter of the reform proposed at the "conference" in Atlantic City by Alphonse Capone ("Sicilian family principles interfere with business"), and even, it is believed, came up with the name Cosa Nostra. This was discussed in the article "With a kind word and a pistol." Alphonse (Al) Capone in Chicago.
Salvatore Maranzano, who was also "Mustached Pete", declared himself "boss of bosses". But he did not "rule" for long: on September 11, 1931, his throat was cut - also on the orders of the "great reformer" of the New York mafia Lucky Luciano. Following Maranzano, over forty more influential mafiosi from the "Mustache" were killed within 48 hours. Later Luciano and his entourage said:
"That was the time when we Americanized the mafia."
The main merit in this Americanization belongs to Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. It was they who became the founders of the new American Cosa Nostra, implementing the ideas of John Torrio and Alphonse Capone about the possibility of wide and close cooperation with people of non-Cilian origin.
Having completed the "cleansing of the territory", Luciano, in order to avoid new inter-clan wars, proposed to abolish the "title" of the "boss of bosses" of New York and divide the city between five Sicilian "families". His proposal was accepted, and the clans that then divided New York still exist. They are now known as the "families" of Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno (remnants of the powerful Salvatore Maranzano faction) and Colombo (formerly Profaci). At the same time, to resolve controversial issues, a "Commission" was created, which, in addition to the five "families" of New York, included the Chicago "syndicate".
We will talk about the five mafia "families" of New York in the next article. Let's finish this one with a story about Lucky Luciano.
Charlie (Lucky) Luciano
Salvatore Lucania, born in 1897 in the Sicilian town of Lercara Friddi, came to the United States at the age of 10. The family of the future "Don" was "proletarian", and the beginning of his life did not bode well for much success. Salvatore was a member of one of the teenage street gangs, where he met Tommy Lucchese, who later headed one of the five "families" in New York. Among other things, they took money from the Jewish "small things" - for not touching them: 10 cents per person per week. By the way, the leader of the rival Jewish gang (it was called The Bugs and Meyer Mob) was Meyer Lansky, Luciano's future friend and partner. From the age of 13, Salvatore worked as a courier in a hat workshop, and along the way he traded in drugs. For this he received his first prison term: he was sentenced to a year in prison, but released after 6 months - "for exemplary behavior." Then - work 10 hours a day for $ 7 a week.
But who provided periodic services to the Morello clan, an intelligent and intelligent guy attracted the attention of Giuseppe Masseria himself. Luciano could equally easily organize the murder of an unwanted person, invent a fictitious company called Downtown Realty Company, under whose auspices the clan launched a bootlegging business, or set up a pharmacy store to sell drugs. And for his inclination to dress smartly and expensively, Masseria called him "sissy." As you remember, it all ended with Luciano liquidating both Masseria and the head of the rival clan, Salvatore Maranzano.
It was through the efforts of Luciano that the so-called "Big Seven" was created - a gangster trust that took control of the entire alcohol trade in the United States during the "Prohibition". This trust included the Chicago Mafia Syndicate, the Independent New York Bootleggers (Siegel and Lansky's gang) and numerous smuggling gangs operating in New Jersey, Boston, Rhode Island and Atlantic City. Things were going so well that Luciano was appointed head of the "trust", and his closest associates were three gangsters of non-Italian origin.
The first of them was Benjamin Siegel (Shigel), nicknamed Bugsy (Insane) - a bootlegger, killer and one of the "pioneers" of the gambling business in Las Vegas, co-owner of the Flamingo casino.
Benjamin Siegel (Bugsy)
Flamingo Casino, archive photo
It was the construction of this casino that caused Siegel's death: the companions - Luciano, Costello, Genovese, Adonis and Lansky - suspected Bugsy of embezzling some of the funds and sentenced him to death by a majority vote (only Lansky was against). As a result, Siegel was shot dead in Beverly Hills on June 20, 1947. Currently, the casino building has been reconstructed, this is how it looks in a modern photo:
The second was Luis Lepke ("The Accountant"), a labor racketeer who collected tribute from New York City garment businesses, bakeries and restaurants, and taxi drivers. In addition, he was one of the leaders of the Murder Corporation (more about it later), in which he controlled the activities of Albert Anastasia. Edgar Hoover called him "the most dangerous man in the United States." In 1944, he was sentenced to death, becoming the highest-ranking mafioso executed to end his life in the electric chair.
E. Hoover personally escorts the arrested Luis Lepke
But Lepke started with petty thefts and during the first arrest he was shod in two left-hand shoes, which he pulled from a shop window.
The third (but in terms of significance and influence, of course, the first) is the famous Meyer Lansky (Suhovliansky), who was called the "Mafia accountant" in the FBI: one of the "founding fathers" of the gambling business in Las Vegas and a friend of Fulgencio Batista, under whom Cuba turned into an American gambling house and brothel. He was born in Grodno in 1902 and ended up in the United States in 1909.
By the way, even after the abolition of Prohibition, Luciano did not drink alcohol produced in the USA and did not advise anyone to do it: the ban on the production of alcoholic beverages was lifted, but the tradition of making low-quality "burda" remained. I cannot say how relevant this "advice" by Luciano is in our time.
After the abolition of Prohibition, Luciano organized and headed another structure of Cosa Nostra - the Big Six, whose leadership, in addition to him, included other very "authoritative" people. In addition to the already known to us Luis Lepke and Benjamin Siegel, one of the bosses of the "Big Six" was Francesco Castilla (Frank Costello - "First Minister"), who became the hero of several modern films about the mafia.
He was Calabrian, and therefore in the old "old regime" gangs he had no chance to rise to a command position. But in the international Cosa Nostra, Costello became one of the "greats" of the American mafia and the head of the "family", which would only later be called Genovese. He was a friend of the politician Jimmy Hines, who controlled the notorious Tammany Hall society of the US Democratic Party, which had operated in New York since the late XNUMXth century. He often acted as a mediator in negotiations between various clans.
Another boss was Abner Zwielman, who was called Longy ("Long") and "Al Capone of New Jersey." He started by selling fruit and organizing illegal lotteries, then became a major bootlegger, then - controlled the US textile industry (the so-called "labor racketeering"). He did not forget about charity, once donating 250 thousand dollars to improve the slum areas of Newark.
Abner Zwilmann, photo 1951
And Charlie Luciano at one time acted as the first "producer" of Frank Sinatra, giving him 50 thousand dollars to buy concert clothes, pay for the services of a professional recording studio and advertising.
When asked about his condition, Luciano usually answered:
“I have so many generous friends! I also run small business. "
During this time, he had a reputation for giving a girl $ 100 just for smiling at him.
Luciano got his nickname Lucky after he survived an attack organized on him by unknown persons in early 1929. He was arrested by the police as he staggered like a drunk, walking along the highway to Little Hugenot Beach in torn clothes. His face was covered in blood, and a puncture wound was found on his arm. Luciano himself gave the following testimony:
“I stood at the corner of 50th Street and 6th Avenue and waited for a girl I knew. Suddenly a car with curtained windows drove up to me. Three men came out of it. They drew their pistols and pushed me into the car, handcuffed me and gagged me with a rag. Somewhere outside the city, they stopped, pushed me out of the car, punched and kicked me for a long time, stabbed me, and tortured me with burning cigarettes. Then I passed out. They probably thought I was dead. Anyway, I woke up in the morning on Hugenot Beach. "
History very "muddy" and suspicious, in me it evokes parodic associations with the famous "fall from the bridge" of a drunken Yeltsin. It is clear that the people of Massario or Maranzano would not forget to make a control shot in the head. Perhaps Luciano ran into some "gopniks" who had no idea who exactly they "pressed".
Luciano also had another very successful business idea: to give discounts on the sale of drugs in poor areas. But he got caught on another: in the 30s. XX century, he owned 200 illegal brothels in New York. It was for their organization that Attorney Thomas Dewey was able to achieve his conviction.
In 1943, the US government turned to Luciano for help in organizing the smooth operation of the ports of New York, and then, at his request, the Sicilian mafiosi provided a warm welcome to the Americans during the landing on this island - Operation Husky. This was discussed in the article The "old" Sicilian mafia.
In 1930, Luciano was involved in the formation of another famous division of Cosa Nostra - "Murder Incorporated" (the name coined by journalists). The head of this organization was Calabrian Alberto Anastasia (Anastasio), nicknamed "The Mad Hatter".
Anastasia arrived in the United States either in 1917, or in 1919, and already in 1921 (at the age of 19) he was sentenced to death for murder. However, the lawyer found an insignificant procedural error in the case, Anastasia was released, and in 1922, when the proceedings against him were resumed, it turned out that not a single witness was already alive.
During Prohibition, Anastasia organized a gang of hijackers in New York - these bandits specialized in attacks on bootleggers, from whom they took smuggled whiskey and other alcohol. Another gang of hijackers was led by Abraham Reles, a Galician Jew also known as Kid Twist. He received this nickname for the fact that, despite his small stature (1 meter 60 centimeters), he easily "twisted" the neck of his victims. However, his beloved weapons there was an ice ax.
Gangsters Abraham Reles (left) and Buggy Goldstein
As you can imagine, Anastasia and Reles were enemies of the mafiosi of all clans, and it was a common task to destroy these gangs. But Luciano decided that he needed such fighters. He made an agreement with Anastazia, who in 1930 managed to unite all the hijacking gangs. The bandits under his control now received from Cosa Nostra a "salary" of $ 125 to $ 150 a month (approximately $ 3750- $ 4500 at modern exchange rates), plus bonuses for work performed. The "apprentice" who had not yet completed the tasks of Cosa Nostra, but took the obligation to fulfill the "order" at any time, was paid $ 50 a month (about 1500). Experts believe that over the next 10 years, members of Murder Incorporated have killed at least a thousand people.
Lucky Luciano's principles
From the article Mafia in the USA. Black Hand in New Orleans and Chicago you must remember that one of the principles of Cosa Nostra, developed by Lucky Luciano, was to honestly pay taxes on legal firms and businesses. We add that the American mafia, according to the US Department of Justice, already in 1977 had at least 10 thousand. So the taxpayer Cosa Nostra is large and, importantly, conscientious.
Another principle Luciano urged not to skimp on good lawyers. Luciano himself considered a certain Moses Poliakoff to be such (well, "Lucky" loved to work with Jews from the former Russian Empire).
The next principle is to trust only the members of Cosa Nostra.
The fourth called for sacred observance of the traditions of the Sicilian Omerta.
And the fifth read:
"Never take an act of violence against a government official, because the punishment will be severe, and such an act generates vigorous police action throughout the United States."
The reputable gangster Arthur Flegenheimer (nickname - Dutch Schultz) tried to violate this principle, who turned to the Murder Corporation with a request to eliminate the prosecutor of New York, Thomas Dewey (the one who managed to put Lucky Luciano himself in prison), who was interfering with him. The Corporation, in accordance with Luciano's principle, refused Schultz. And when he decided to deal with the prosecutor on his own, she eliminated him. Ironically, later the "savior" of Thomas Dewey - the triggerman Charlie Workman, who personally shot the "crazy" Schultz, was sentenced to 23 years in prison by the efforts of this particular prosecutor.
Thomas Dewey, New York Attorney, Governor of New York State, U.S. Republican presidential candidate
"Kid" Reles ended badly: being arrested in 1940, he turned in all the members of the Murder Corporation known to him, six of whom were later sentenced to death. Among them was the boss of the assassination team, Louis Buchal.
Reles did not manage to testify against Anastasia: in 1941, on the eve of the court session, he was placed in a hotel room, guarded by police officers. In the morning his corpse was found on the sidewalk: either he tried to escape, but fell off the windowsill, or was thrown out the window. The investigation did not come to an unambiguous conclusion.
Lucky Luciano's return to Sicily
In 1946, Luciano was released early with the official wording “for services to the United States,” but exiled to Italy. However, it was too early for him to retire. Luciano visited Argentina and Cuba (where he met Batista and his faithful companion - Joe Adonis), concluding several agreements with old and new acquaintances. Returning to Italy, he opened a sugar almond factory in Sicily (which also traded in cocaine). Other links in the new drug network were a home appliances store in Naples and a clothing and footwear export company in the United States. In collaboration with former New Orleans boss Silvestro Carollo ("Silver Dollar Sam", expelled from the US in 1947), Luciano forged ties with the gangs of the Campanian Camorra. Through their efforts, the port of Naples became a major transshipment base for the smuggling of cigarettes and drugs. However, he was drawn to the USA and New York, but Luciano did not manage to return there. In 1962, he died of myocardial infarction after meeting with director Martin Gauche, who was about to make a documentary about the mafia.
In the next article, we will finish the story about the mafia clans of New York.