Apalachin, NY: 14 November 1957

Apalachin, NY: 14 November 1957

The 1957 gathering at the home of “The Mafia’s Host,” Joseph Barbara, Sr., in Apalachin, New York, is the most consequential meeting that never even got started.

This month marks the 65th anniversary of a gathering of mafiosi from around the world in Apalachin, New York. On 14 November 1957, state police descended upon Joseph Barbara’s woodland retreat, arresting some sixty men: all of them professional criminals with connections to powerful Mafia Families. 

No event in American crime history rivals Apalachin for the impact the discovery had on law enforcement. Before Apalachin, Mafia was considered a type of gang, not a single entity. After Apalachin, the FBI pursued the Mafia as a national menace, and coordinated the previously disconnected efforts of local police.

Known and suspected attendees at the 1957 meeting in Apalachin include:

Northeast Pennsylvania

Joseph Barbara, Sr. boss 

Rosario “Russell” Bufalino, underboss and future boss 

Dominick Alaimo, capo

Ignatius Cannone, capo

Anthony F. Guarnieri, capo

James Anthony Osticco, capo

Angelo Sciandra, capo

Bartolo Guccia, soldier

Morris Modugno, soldier 

Pasquale “Patsy” Monachino, soldier

Salvatore “Sam” Monachino, soldier

Pasquale “Patsy” Sciortino, soldier

Salvatore Trivalino, soldier

Pasquale “Patsy” Turrigiano, soldier

Emanuel Zicari, soldier

Joseph Barbara, Jr., associate

Guy Pasquale, associate 

Bonanno

Joseph Bonanno, boss, Commission chairman

Frank Garofalo, vice capo

Giovanni “John” Bonventre, capo

Natale J. Evola, capo, future boss

Anthony Riela, capo/faction leader

Carmine “Lilo” Galante, consigliere

Gaspar DiGregorio, future boss

Genovese

Vito Genovese, boss

Gerardo “Jerry” Catena, underboss/faction leader

Michele A. Miranda, consigliere

Gambino

Carlo Gambino, boss

Joseph Riccobono, consigliere

Paul C. Castellano, capo, future boss

Joseph Biondo, future underboss

Carmine Lombardozzi, capo

Armand “Tommy” Rava; capo

Lucchese

Gaetano “Tommy” Lucchese, boss 

Stefano LaSalle, underboss

Vincent Rao, consigliere

Giovanni “John” Ormento, capo

Joseph Rosato, capo

Aniello Migliore, future capo

Profaci

Joseph Profaci, boss 

Joseph Magliocco, underboss, future boss

Salvatore Tornabe, capo

New Jersey

Frank Majuri, underboss

Salvatore “Charles” S. Chiri, capo/faction leader

Louis A. Larasso, capo

Anthony Riela, capo

Alfred Angelicola, soldier

Buffalo

Stefano Magaddino, boss

John C. Montana, underboss

Antonino Magaddino, capo, future consigliere

Rosario “Roy” Carlisi, capo

Domenic D’Agostino, capo

James V. LaDuca, capo

Sam Lagattuta, capo

Charles Montana, capo

Utica

Joseph Falcone, boss or capo

Salvatore Falcone, lieutenant

Rosario Mancuso, soldier

Rochester

Constenze “Stanley” Valenti, boss

Frank Joseph Valenti, underboss

Pittsburgh

John Sebastian LaRocca, boss

Gabriel “Kelly” Mannarino, capo, future underboss

Michael Genovese, capo

Philadelphia

Joseph Ida, boss

Domenic Oliveto, underboss

Cleveland

John Scalish, boss

John Anthony DeMarco, consigliere

Chicago

Salvatore “Sam” Giancana, boss 

Frank Ferraro, underboss

Anthony Accardo, consigliere

Rockford, IL

Joseph Zammuto, underboss

Springfield, IL

Frank Zito, Springfield, Ill., boss

Detroit

Joseph Zerilli, boss 

Anthony Giacalone, lieutenant/capo

Boston

Frank Cucchiara, consigliere

Springfield, MA

Salvatore Cufari, boss/capo 

Tampa

Santo Trafficante, Jr., boss

Dallas

Joseph Francis Civello, boss

Joseph Campisi, underboss

John Francis Colletti, soldier

Kansas City

Nicholas Civella, boss

Joseph Filardo, underboss

New Orleans

Joseph Marcello, underboss

Mario Presta, soldier

Milwaukee

Frank Balistrieri, underboss

Colorado

James Colletti, boss

Vincenzo Colletti, underboss

Los Angeles

Frank Desimone, boss

Simone Scozzari, underboss

San Francisco

James Lanza, underboss

San Jose

Joseph Cerrito, underboss

Montreal

Luigi Greco, underboss

Giuseppe Cotroni, capo

Agrigento, Sicily

Giuseppe Settacase, boss

When Albert Anastasia made his predecessor, Philip Mangano, disappear in 1951, the Commission granted him Mangano’s crime family. Vito Genovese killed Anastasia in October 1957 and forced Luciano boss Frank Costello, who was Anastasia’s ally on the Commission, into retirement. The reason most often cited for the 1957 meeting at Joseph Barbara’s home in Apalachin, New York, was to legitimize Genovese’s position. Carlo Gambino, who stood to take over Anastasia’s position, may have likewise sought the blessing of the other bosses.

Other matters that were most likely going to be discussed included the practical matters of splitting up Anastasia’s holdings, and settling the consequences of another murder: Gambino Family consigliere Frank Scalise. The presence of Giuseppe Settecase and a contingent from Montreal suggest that international narcotics traffic would also be discussed. The implications of the new Boggs-Daniel Act, imposing stricter penalties on heroin import, may have also been on the agenda.

Initially, the meeting was going to be held in Chicago, but at the urging of Stefano Magaddino, who said the country setting would help them elude surveillance by law enforcement, the meeting arrangements were given to the Northeast Pennsylvania Family boss, Joseph Barbara, and his underboss, Russell Bufalino. Magaddino, Barbara, and the Bonanno Family share a common hometown in Sicily of Castellammare del Golfo.

Joseph Barbara had frequent, large gatherings at his secluded home near the Pennsylvania border. He’d hosted the national meeting for several years running, as well as smaller, regional Mafia events. There was a national gathering at his home just the year before. Shortly after the 1956 event, Joe Barbara suffered a heart attack. A year later, when police questioned his guests, most replied they were visiting a sick friend.

The list of those arrested and suspected of attending, or planning to attend, the 1957 meeting includes kinship groups, alliances, faction leaders, in-group animosities, and some debated associations. The New Jersey contingent, for example, represented a series of overlapping regimes from different cities. Even the host’s position as the boss of his own crime family is debated, with some writers placing him under Magaddino. Likewise, many sources consider Utica a satellite of either Rochester or Buffalo, and Montreal as a faction of the Bonanno Family. A few representatives from small Families, like Frank Zito and the Rochester contingent, were ranking members of larger crime families. That Joe Civello allegedly represented both Dallas and the interests of Carlos Marcello in New Orleans at the Apalachin meeting muddies the waters of a similar debate. I consider Dallas a distinct crime family, but some believe it was controlled by Marcello in 1957.

Gangsters and mafia writers have expressed shock and dismay at the poor security which allowed New York State Police to discover the gathering at the Barbara home. Nothing like this had ever happened to the Mafia before. For so many high-ranking mafiosi to appear in one place, and to do this as often as they had, demonstrates their high degree of trust in the arrangements of their colleagues. That the prevailing image of Apalachin in history is of wise guys in expensive suits running through the woods from police, should be enough evidence that someone’s trust was misplaced.

There was a state police officer, Sgt. Edgar Croswell, who had been surveilling Joseph Barbara for years. By a lucky chance, Croswell was in the Parkway Motel in Vestal, New York, when the boss’ son, 21-year old Joseph Barbara, Jr. was seen crossing the parking lot toward the entrance. Croswell got out of view and listened while Joe Jr. booked rooms for his father’s so-called beverage conference attendees. (Barbara Sr’s legitimate source of income was a bottling company he started in the 1930s.) Finding nothing out of the ordinary at the bottling plant, Croswell and his partner went to the Barbara home.

The house was on 58 acres with access from a dead-end dirt road. In April 1950, the census taker found the road the Barbara family lived on unnavigable at his first attempt and had to return, presumably in drier conditions. He enumerated two households: the Barbaras’ 11-room house at 625 McFall Road, built in 1867, and a “shed” behind their house in which a driver for Joe Barbara’s beverage company lived with his wife and three young children, including an infant. (What the enumerator called a shed might be the summer house that was on the property in 2002, or its predecessor.) 

Croswell and his partner, Trooper Vincent Vasisco (this name is sometimes spelled “Vasisko”), got the backup of a federal alcohol tax unit, and checked out the former bootlegger’s gathering. Finding many out-of-state cars parked there, the New York state police began taking down license plate numbers. When Joseph Barbara’s wife, Josephine, saw the officers, she alerted the others. Pandemonium ensued. 

Some sixty men were arrested out of an estimated more than one hundred in attendance. Twenty of the men arrested were convicted of obstruction of justice, for not telling police what their meeting was about. Since there was insufficient evidence that anyone there was committing a crime, it was the panicked response of the Apalachin meeting attendees that incriminated them. Obstruction charges were overturned on appeal, but the damage was done. A global, criminal conspiracy called “Mafia” existed, and could no longer be ignored. Years later, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would admit he believed for thirty years that the Mafia did not exist. Apalachin was the first evidence he saw that changed his mind.

Joseph Barbara was charged with tax evasion the following spring. He lost his liquor license, and then his contract with Canada Dry. After avoiding testifying on the excuse of his poor health for two years, Barbara finally appeared before a state supreme court commission. Soon after, he suffered another heart attack, from which he died less than a month later. He was 54.

Sources

Blumenthal, R. (2002, July 31). For sale, a house with acreage. Connections extra.; site of 1957 gangland raid is part of auction on Saturday. The New York Times. Section B, Page 1. (Link)

Hortis, C. A. (2014). The mob and the city: The hidden history of how the Mafia captured New York. Prometheus Books.

Jenkins, G. (Host). (2019, November 4). Apalachin meeting: rounding up the mobsters, part 2 [Audio podcast episode]. In Gangland wire. https://ganglandwire.com/apalachin-meeting-rounding-up-the-mobsters-part-2/

Jones, T. L. Mob meeting at Apalachin. (2010, November 24). Gangsters, Inc. https://gangstersinc.org/profiles/blogs/mob-meeting-at-apalachin-the 

Joseph Barbara household, 1950 census. “Tioga, New York, United States Records,” images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QHJ-5QHW-SCYH : July 4, 2022), image 10 of 19; United States. Bureau of the Census.

Maas, P. (1968) The Valachi papers. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Philip Wilcox household, 1950 census. “Tioga, New York, United States Records,” images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QHN-PQHW-SZ4D : July 4, 2022), 

Sifakis, C. (2010). The mafia encyclopedia. P. 31. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/mafiaencyclopedi00sifa_0/page/31/mode/2up 

Wantuch, H. and Kline, S. (2015, November 13). Sixty-two top mafia leaders were seized in the Apalachin Meeting in 1957. Daily News (New York, NY). Originally published 15 November 1957. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/62-mafia-members-seized-upstate-ny-1957-article-1.2428519

Garbage hauling cartels: the dark matter of organized crime

Garbage hauling cartels: the dark matter of organized crime

“This targeted criminal cartel is a ‘black hole’ in New York City’s economic life. Like those dense stars found in the firmament, the cartel can not be seen and its existence can only be shown by its effect on the conduct of those falling within its ambit.” —Sanitation and Recycling Industry Inc. v. City of New York (1997)

You don’t usually see lawyers citing Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in their filings, but the crime in question had proven especially difficult to prosecute.

The waste hauling cartel in New York City is a corruption as old as the industry in which it is embedded. While it isn’t as old as the known universe, rackets like this one can be traced back to the origins of the Mafia in Sicily.

The city’s Law 42, enacted in June 1996, freed garbage collection customers from their contracts and created a list of individuals barred from the trade. A consortium of debarred waste haulers sued the city, claiming it violated their constitutional rights. (They lost.) The quote above comes from their federal appeal.

In his 2014 book, The Mob and the City, Alexander C. Hortis describes the origins of the most powerful Mafia Families in New York City as dock gangs who held the transportation of goods for ransom. The same extortionate practices were rampant in Sicily, where transport along poor and nonexistent roads, through bandit-ridden, unpoliced countryside, was recognizable as a cartel. Mule drivers, herders, and others whose livelihoods depended upon safe travel had agreements with the de facto leaders of the lands they crossed: whoever could guarantee their safe passage, or broker the return of stolen goods. 

This network represented a modest but dangerous market, impossible or impracticable for the outsider to enter. It allowed the rural entrepreneur to trade on his other assets, including his contacts, his guns, and his knowledge of the terrain. The stevedore of New York City engaged in the same practice in a landscape which only differed in its details. For all its streets and transport lanes, New York City was overcrowded and its docks routinely handled cargo far beyond their true capacity. Special handling was the only kind that would do for fragile, valuable, and fresh items, from imported liqueur to live chickens.

The transport of goods directly to the homes of consumers was a tremendous market in New York City. Early in the 20th Century, coal and ice deliveries were lucrative businesses, engaged in famously by mafiosi including Giuseppe Morello and his half-brother, Vincenzo Terranova. Fresh fruit and vegetables were another example of a market that grew in direct connection to the transportation network which delivered them. All of these industries required a great deal of labor, and Mafia-associated business owners could be found in cities all over the United States.

Waste removal has always been a necessary element of urban life. In New York City, it has traditionally been practiced by small “mom and pop” carting businesses. The debarred list produced in 1999 contains over 200 waste haulers’ names and dates of birth. Virtually every entry on the list has an Italian surname.

In August 2022 (just over a month before this was published), a Long Island gambling ring was broken up and eight men arrested, associated with two different New York City Mafia Families: the Bonanno and the Genovese. One man, Joseph Rutigliano, aka “Joe Box,” was still on the run a month later as I began researching this set of co-conspirators. I don’t usually work with such current subjects—they’re much more difficult to find genealogical information on—but this one got my attention.

While looking for more information on Rutigliano, I found his name on a list of commercial waste carters barred from licensure in New York City. “Joe Box” is not the same man who was barred from waste hauling in New York City—they’re not the same age—but there has been more than one notable Joseph Rutigliano involved in organized crime in New York. A third man with this name defrauded the LIRR for more than $400K and taught literally hundreds of his fellow retirees to do the same. (Read more about him on Patreon.)

Every one of the Mafia Families operating in New York City had a piece of the waste trade.

Noticing five men on the debarred list who shared the surname “Rutigliano,” I endeavored to learn whether and how they were related to one another, where in Italy their families came from, and how they entered the trade. Three are brothers John, Paul, and Salvatore Rutigliano, and two, George and Joseph, are father and son. Paul Rutigliano died last year. He and his brothers are from Brooklyn, sons of Victor Rutigliano, who came from Bisceglie, in Apulia, on the Adriatic coast. In the 1940 census, Victor ran a waste paper business with his brother-in-law, Peter Minutillo, and he continued to operate the business in 1950. 

Joseph Rutigliano is the son of George Rutigliano. They and their company, Rutigliano Paper Stock, were indicted for restraint of trade, grand larceny, and falsifying records. Since pleading guilty in 1996, Joseph has gone into business outside the city. He is a principal of both Coastal Distribution, a transportation, concrete works, and waste removal company based in Smithtown, on Long Island, and Coastal Distribution Paterson in New Jersey.

George Rutigliano, who started the family company in 1971, died in 2005. His father, Gioacchino, or Jack Rutigliano, was a barber who emigrated with his mother, Antoinetta Castellucci, and siblings as a teenager from their native San Severo, about 80 miles southeast of Bisceglie, in 1913. Jack’s father, Domenico Rutigliano, also emigrated; he died in New York City in 1942. Domenico was a miller in San Severo, where he married Antoinetta and where Jack was born, but he was originally from Terlizzi, where his father—Jack’s namesake—was a broker. 

The Rutigliano families involved in waste hauling come from Apulia, on the east coast of the Italian peninsula.
The Apulia region. San Severo is at the top center of this map. Bisceglie is on the coast between Trani and Molfetta. Terlizzi is due west of Bari, near the “heel” of the boot.
In this map of Italy, Apulia, on the east coast, is in green; Campania, the region of which Naples is the capital, is in red; Calabria is in yellow; and Sicily is blue.

Millers and brokers were among the wealthiest members of Italian society. Brokerage is positively associated with organized crime in southern Italy wherever mafias are endemic. However, the region shared by San Severo and Terlizzi does not have a native crime organization like the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria or the Camorra of Naples, that was active when the Rutigliano families lived there. (Since the 1980s there is a crime organization in Apulia, Sacra Corona Unita.)

Members of the Italian middle class of merchants and property owners who emigrated frequently started their own businesses. Barbers were important members of the community, in Italy and in America. They knew every man in town worthy of acquaintance. Their shops were nerve centers where men could meet and network, relax and be groomed, read the news, find work, housing, or a translator, pick up mail, and put their money for safekeeping. 

A barbershop is a territory, but since everyone needs to use it, and it is small and contained, it doesn’t require as much cooperation or effort to defend as a sales territory for ice, coal, or fruit. Or, for that matter, waste hauling. 

Residential customers in New York City have their trash taken for free by a municipal service, but businesses had to contract for waste hauling. Sources trace the entry of the Mafia into waste hauling to a 1956 change in city law that took away a loophole that gave free garbage hauling to businesses on residential blocks. 

Every one of the Mafia Families operating in New York City had a piece of the waste trade. They infiltrated the unions and trade associations, divided commercial waste customers into territories, and assigned them to carting companies. When a customer put out bids for trash services, carters cooperated by submitting inflated estimates, allowing the Mafia-appointed “owner” of the account to submit the winning bid. When carters intentionally underbid the owners assigned by the Mafia system, they were considered by their colleagues to be stealing. Despite the violent actions that were sometimes carried out to protect carting rights, these “thefts” were rampant: Rutigliano Paper Stock underbid competition to steal their contracts, and had other waste haulers who tried to take business from them. 

Writing about Law 42 in 1996, Selwyn Raab quoted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as saying the Mafia overcharging for waste hauling earned them $500M a year. The DOJ’s 1981 figure on the “mob tax” is an order of magnitude smaller, with only $45M of additional costs each year. Another consideration in comparing these figures is that commercial carting has been a more efficient industry under the Mafia than residential trash pickup controlled by the city, costing $185 per ton compared with the City’s Department of Sanitation’s costs of $431/ton.

The initial effects of Law 42 were to dramatically increase carting traffic on city streets, as the Mafia’s efficient system of territories was replaced with a free market. More than 25 years later, New York City still struggles to create the degree of order among waste carters servicing commercial accounts comparable to the system the Mafia maintained for forty years. Most recently, Mayor De Blasio created twenty “zones” for commercial waste haulers, a decision which drew protest from small carting business owners. The 2019 decision was initially going to be implemented this year, but the plans to roll out extend into 2024.

Image credits. Feature image produced by Dall-E 15 September 2022. First two maps from OpenStreetMap (C) under the Open Database License. Bottom map modified from Wikipedia under Creative Commons.

To support the work of Mafia Genealogy, visit us on Patreon.

Sources

The City of New York Business Integrity Commission. (2002, August 15). Decision of the business integrity commission denying the application of Capitol Carting Corp. for a license to operate as a trade waste business. NYC.gov [PDF] 

Colbeck. (2020, September 25). The Cosa Nostra candy store: organized crime and the waste collection industry. https://medium.com/limited-liabilities-by-colbeck/the-cosa-nostra-candy-store-organized-crime-and-the-waste-collection-industry-8f9e2ff62465 accessed 14 September 2022

Hortis, C. A. (2014). The mob and the city: The hidden history of how the Mafia captured New York. Prometheus Books.

Mack Smith, D. (1988). History of Sicily: Modern Sicily after 1713. Dorset Press.

Persons who have agreed not to participate in the waste collection, removal, or disposal industry. List of Debarred Individuals [PDF] 

Raab, S. (1996, June 19). Trash haulers face new list of charges about fees. The New York Times. NYTimes.com

Raab, S. (1996, August 10). City’s new waste agency flexes regulatory muscles. The New York Times. Gale [database].

‘Red flag’ raised over incinerator. (2002, November 15). Long Island Business News. https://libn.com/2002/11/15/red-flag-raised-over-incinerator/

Rutigliano Paper Stock, Inc., George Rutigliano and Joseph Rutigliano, Plaintiffs, v. US General Services Administration, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit Authority, US Dept of Transportation, and US Coast Guard, Defendants. (1997, June 10). https://case-law.vlex.com/vid/rutigliano-paper-stock-v-889783633

Waste mafia charged in New York. (2013, January 17). Waste Management World. https://waste-management-world.com/artikel/waste-mafia-charged-in-new-york/ accessed 14 September 2022

The valor of the don

The valor of the don

In the field of economics, valorization is anything done to increase the value of a product. In economics “value” is, of course, measured in dollars, so whatever you can do to get people to pay more for something is technically “adding value.” The value added might seem unethical, subjective, or appealing only to a small subset of people, but it doesn’t matter, as long as the people who find the product most valuable pay top dollar for it. Beanie babies, NFTs, fine art, old cars, real estate, reclaimed waste, mineral rights: it doesn’t matter. People will pay for something what it’s worth to them, and part of an estimation of value comes from the belief that it can be resold at the same price or a profit. Its continued value rests on there being more people who will buy it at those prices in the future. 

For centuries, it made sense for Sicilians to put their money on local power. The island was sparsely policed by the king’s forces. Justice was impossible; at best, a judicial win might be bought with an expensive attorney who could argue in any of the several courts. By the end of the 18th Century, the landowners were likewise untrustworthy. One family might own thousands of acres in the country, be responsible for the employment of hundreds, but they lived in the city and never met any of them. For a peasant who might literally have never seen a wheeled cart in their entire life, getting to Palermo to visit their employer with a grievance was only slightly more realistic than going to the moon. 

Any sense of continuity or security Sicilians had, came from themselves. Their kings and landlords personally ruled over them in theory, but in practice it was the gabellotti who determined who worked and who starved. Gabellotti were estate managers, hired from among the most notorious criminals. Thieves who could be relied upon to negotiate with or limit the damage done by other thieves were like an attack dog with whom a relationship is cultivated. The thief, whatever the arrangement, remains dangerous to deal with. Their compensation packages, intended to domesticate them, only made them more formidable. Gabellotti were handsomely rewarded for managing estates. They used their earnings to buy land, and their powerful positions in the social networks of their towns to enrich themselves, materially and by reputation. 

Thieves who could be relied upon to negotiate with or limit the damage done by other thieves were like an attack dog with whom a relationship is cultivated. The thief, whatever the arrangement, remains dangerous to deal with.

Gabellotti hired and fired, gave opportunities to ambitious and violent young men to rise in power behind them (but not too high), extorted, inserted themselves as middlemen, fenced stolen goods, and performed a variety of functions of use to the good citizens and the criminal elements in his neighborhood. Today they might be subjects of Austria, tomorrow of Spain, but regardless if you were a nobleman or a beggar, you knew that the most powerful man in your village was still the mafioso. 

The mafioso acts like a force of nature, as if his community would grind to a halt without his counsel, and catastrophe would descend without his direct intervention. His actions, combined with the beliefs of those around him that he is capable of even more than they’ve seen, quite literally make a man into a mafioso. He doesn’t call himself by that label and doesn’t want to be called one. The people who fear him won’t even think of him with such a derisive term. To them, he is an honorable Sicilian gentleman. He does what they would do, if they were able.

The mafioso makes himself indispensable to every segment of society. His neighbors live in terror of offending him. Obedience requires that they focus on the mafioso’s demonstrated generosity, and turn a blind eye to his disagreeable actions. He can broker peace between warring bandits, underwrite Church festivals, and allows half the town to break the law in ways generally regarded as harmless and desirable, such as gambling, or avoiding taxes. 

By sending the unemployed youth of the town to clean the piazza twice daily, he makes friends of the shop owners, and the middle class shoppers who will patronize a tidy piazza and avoid a dirty one. Like a capitalist, the mafioso uses his power to increase his power. The public face of it looks like public works and charity, but his “boys” could show up with their brooms at someone’s house, late at night, to complete another kind of chore for their don. 

This is the other side of the coin, the part his neighbors have to simultaneously fear and blot out of their consciousness, because to fight back or oppose the mafioso must be unthinkable for his reign to continue. His public image is molded to the values of Sicilian society, until he represents the rugged self-sufficiency of countrymen and their extended families, obedience to the family patriarch, and indifference bordering on apathy to the state.

Admiration of the mafioso as the epitome of masculinity, Sicilianità, and entrepreneurship valorizes the Mafia’s brand. Every borgesi couple who comes home from shopping to sing to their neighbor the praises of the man who keeps the piazza so clean, increases his value. So does every thief who finds a ready buyer for his goods, the housewife who cannot afford a tax on her flour and so does not pay, because she buys from the mafioso’s grocery, and the parish priest who beams upon the young men of his town, sent by the feast’s sponsor — none other than the don — to hoist a saint upon their shoulders for the procession.

They tell the stories the mafioso wants to hear, because it makes life easier. Maybe they will win a little favor, or at least avoid being singled out for abuse. It’s the price people pay for a bit of security, when there is only one purveyor. The mafioso maintains a monopoly on protection so long as no one can do better. And for a long time in Sicily, no one even tried. The state didn’t care enough about the safety of peasants to provide a police presence the equal of the don. It was more than a matter of training and deploying law enforcement professionals. They would have to accomplish something no one ever had in Sicily before. No official police force had ever won the trust of the majority of Sicilian people. 

People taught their children to fear and obey the mafioso and people close to him, but never to speak ill of them, because they were dangerous and vengeful. Never to share any details about their families with strangers, and especially with the police, because information, however harmless it seemed, could be used to extort or blackmail, and you couldn’t put it back in the bag again: whoever you told could pass it along as a kind of goodwill currency to the Mafia, who would convert it to cash. 

The Mafia kidnaps for ransom. They burn crops and steal cattle. They charge for protection from their crimes, and for the privilege of working and the honor of working for them again next season. There is always some new way they could take even more. The only defense against a strong Mafia is constant vigil, an obsession drilled into the children, for their own protection and the safety of the family. The reasons are lost, because they’re complicated, particularly for young children; but the directives remain and, since they are shared among one’s peers, are enshrined in the social unconscious. We don’t talk about family matters in public. We don’t criticize the Mafia

It becomes ingrained in the personality and psychology of the Mafia victim as well as the future mafioso. They accept it as the natural order that violent people achieve formal power and become many times more dangerous. That it’s deadly to oppose the Mafia, and the gravest threat is to their image as the rightful possessors of civic authority. 

The mafioso can never say he is a mafioso, because the Mafia is the original Fight Club. The first rule of the Mafia is we don’t talk about the Mafia. Ask a Mafia boss whether the Mafia exists and he will say that it doesn’t. Asked if he is a member, the mafioso may laugh and say of course he isn’t; how could he belong to an organization that doesn’t exist? The work of inventing, naming, and promulgating the mythology of the Mafia is left to its victims and enemies. La Cosa Nostra? The name is an invention of the three-letter acronym-loving Federal Bureau of Investigation. No, the mafioso might say, he is a member of an Honorable Society, made up of gentlemen like himself. The farthest thing from a brigand, he is a civic-minded community leader who has enjoyed some modest business success. The people respect him out of love and admiration, not fear. That is the story that those who live in fear of the Mafia are compelled to repeat. They tell of safe streets, fathers home for dinner, a clean and thriving downtown. The mafioso is a bootstrapper, a natural born leader destined to rise, and entitled to his success. Propaganda paints the Mafia in tones of loyalty, not betrayal; leadership, not intimidation and murder; the natural order, not oppression. 

When propaganda echoes a trusted narrative, it’s accepted more easily. This contributes to more widespread acceptance, which reduces pressure on the state to fight corruption and organized crime. The Mafia “fan” believes most people are evil and lazy; that only an industrious, principled, and physically potent man can lead an orderly society; that he must be given free rein to do so, using any means necessary; and that he is owed a generous reward for his leadership, because the alternative for the masses is tragic: chaotic lives, full of meaningless suffering. Mafia propaganda makes a heroic case for itself: the killer is a natural leader, and the thief is more deserving than the farmer. Everyone who isn’t the Mafia is dehumanized by this narrative.

Propaganda was first deployed to fight the Mafia’s most significant battles—to disarm their opponents, and for social and institutional acceptance. I can see why the stories had to come into existence, from the perspectives of both the perpetrators and their victims, how they save face in the presence of an implacable foe. The amygdala says submit, and survive, but the higher mind needs an explanation to survive the humiliation and carry on the necessities of life. 

It’s different for those of us who have never truly feared a violent criminal. We didn’t grow up in their territory, we’re not in competition with them, we’re just people who enjoy a little violent fantasy every now and again. For an hour or two, the gangster is our ally, or our avatar. He never looks at us in a way that makes our guts turn to water. 

Alphonse Capone, murderer, grinning around a cigar

When someone’s first mental image of the Mafia isn’t Toto Riina blowing up a highway, but Al Capone grinning around a cigar, they don’t feel incensed at what has been stolen from them; instead, there is a sense of recognition and desire. They are tricked into doing free labor for a small class of criminals. Cheering on the family that only loves itself—especially when it’s someone else’s family—is not just wicked, it’s foolish. People who “like” the Mafia fail to correctly register the level of danger, because they do not look at the stories the Mafia tells through any other lens but the Mafia’s. When they start to fall for the propaganda, believing they’re part of the “we” in “Our Thing,” Mafia fans forget everything but their own fear and greed.

From an economic perspective, Mafia fans are children clapping for a malevolent Tinkerbell. They’re courtiers sighing over the Emperor’s new clothes. They identify with the fantasy of near-absolute power, and don’t understand why a benevolent authoritarian regime can never be realized. Politics, economics, psychology, and history are all outside the Mafia worldview. Fans maintain their illusion of strength today, at the cost of their freedom tomorrow. By giving consent to gangsters, everyone loses the most fundamental human freedoms imaginable—to think, believe, feel, and hope without fear or restraint.

Giovanni Falcone, killed with his wife and three police agents by Toto Riina and his collaborators in the Capaci bombing, pictured above

The first Mafia gang in Sicily

The first Mafia gang in Sicily

A cattle rustling gang from Corleone were the first documented members of the Sicilian Mafia in history.

The 1830s were hard times in Sicily. Feudalism ended a generation before, and the common lands on which peasants once scraped out an existence were closed to them. Competition from Russia and the United States in the international wheat market, combined with legal “reforms” in Sicily, made life very difficult for the poorest peasants. In this charged atmosphere, the first Mafia gangs appeared in western Sicily.

Typically, armed gangs in the countryside of western Sicily organized around kinship ties and personalities. Mainly young and unmarried men came together to operate in the summer and dispersed to their homes in the winter. Successful bandits had client-patron relationships with mafiosi, who bought their stolen goods (or protected their broker) and provided some protection from police. Bands without such relations were quickly destroyed. Even those with Mafia connections did not typically survive beyond the youth of their founders, distinguishing gangs from more durable social organizations.

In January 1834, members of the armed gang led by the Palumbo brothers of Corleone were actively pursued by police, but were welcomed into their parents’ homes and even counted in the Church census. Although most of its members were killed by police, the escape of its leaders is remembered in popular legend. 

Two pairs of brothers whose families were bound through compareggio formed the nucleus of the gang. Bernardo Palumbo and his younger brother, Antonino, were the gang’s leaders. Antonino Palumbo’s godparents were the parents of Biagio and Paolo Jannazzo, who were in the Palumbo brothers’ gang. Active from 1832 until their destruction in 1836, there were as many as eighteen members, fifteen of whom are known from vital records. They were young peasant men between the ages of twenty-two and thirty, most of them from Corleone. 

Most notable in Mafia history, this Corleone-based gang was documented in the years just preceding the first record of Luca Patti’s cattle rustling ring, covering the same territory in the interior of the province of Palermo. Many consider Patti the first instance of a Sicilian mafioso in recorded history, but his ring appears to have had a predecessor, or possibly competition, in the Palumbo brothers’ gang. 

When I first wrote about the gang in 2016 I called them the Rapanzino gang, after another leading member: Giuseppe Castro. The nickname refers to abduction, a common category of Mafia crime. Castro was often named in combination with Nicolò Ciavarello, who was called “Puntillo,” a name which means “stubbornness.” 

The other members were:

Salvatore Blanda, from Prizzi

Calogero Caponetto, from San Giuseppe Jato

Luciano Catania

Antonino Leone

Leoluca Mondello

Filippo Pecorella

Giuseppe Petralia, from Palazzo Adriano

Giuseppe Piazza, aka Francesco Piazza, aka Baglione

and Salvatore Pomara, aka Reina

The gang rose to police attention in 1833. Despite being officially wanted men, several members were reported to be living with their parents and siblings in the Church’s census of households in Corleone, taken early in 1834. Appearing in the same census is Don Pietro lo Cascio, one of two police captains leading the pursuit. 

Sometime in 1834 or 1835, three members of the gang escaped from the jail in Corleone with two other prisoners, one of them a cousin of one of the escaping gangsters. Three more members, including the Palumbo brothers, were reportedly guillotined in Palermo in December 1835. It’s rumored that the brothers and possibly “Baglione” Piazza, the third brought to Palermo, escaped justice. The same month, thirteen members escaped from prison in Palermo and got the gang back together. In March, bounties were set on them all. They were picked off by police, killed and arrested, through mid-July. 

Although the gang was almost entirely exterminated by police, the descendants of their closest family members include an impressive roster of mafiosi. Along with Giuseppe Morello’s stepfather Bernardo Terranova and Michelangelo Gennaro, 1920s boss of Corleone’s Mafia, the Fratuzzi, are Morello counterfeiters Pasquale and Leoluca Vasi, New Orleans connector Serafino Saltaformaggio (father-in-law of Lucia Terranova), and the current boss of the Genovese Family: Barney Bellomo.


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What happened to Frank Borgia?

What happened to Frank Borgia?

Los Angeles sugar man Frank Borgia died as he lived.

Borgia was a tough subject for Mafia Genealogy, considering he has no death certificate, and I couldn’t find a record of his birth. My interest is in the relationships among mafiosi, which often explain why they do what they do. Joe Ardizzone (1881-1931) and Frank Borgia (c. 1893-1951), both active in Jack Dragna’s (1891-1956) Los Angeles Mafia, were said to be cousins with roots in Piana dei Greci. Frank Borgia claimed to have been born in Gela (today, called Terranova). His parents, known from Frank’s marriage and migration records, were from Piana dei Greci (today, Piana degli Albanesi).

Los Angeles gangsters Frank Borgia and Joe Ardizzone are first cousins, once removed.

There is no death record for Borgia because he disappeared: what they call a “lupara bianca” in Sicily. By most accounts, Mafia associate and vineyardist Frank Borgia was last seen early in December 1951. Judith Moore says it happened six months later, after a wedding the following June. I found one fleck of shaky evidence, written long after the fact, which said Borgia came home to his wife a few days after he was reported missing in December (Blackstock, 2015). Based on this, it looked as though he went missing, came home, and then disappeared for good. However, his return was falsely reported in contemporary sources, and later ruled out by police. I emailed Joe Blackstock about his 2015 reporting and he graciously responded:

“Unfortunately, shortly after that column was published I learned that the information about the reappearance of Borgia was incorrect. A hint that he had returned was later concluded by police to be false information.” (Personal communication, 18 April 2022.)

The marriage of Frank Borgia and Pauline Enna. The license (top portion) is witnessed by Jack Dragna and Frances Rizzotto.

Joe Ardizzone and Frank Borgia are first cousins, once removed. It was likely Joe’s brother, Stefano, who Frank Borgia called his uncle and destination contact when he emigrated in 1914 (Manifest of the Caserta). Borgia and Jack Dragna were also very close, though they were of no relation. In 1922, Frank Borgia and Jack Dragna married a week apart. Jack and his future wife were the witnesses at Frank’s marriage to Pauline Enna (Marriage of Frank Borgia and Pauline Enna, 1922).

Frank Baumgarteker, wife Mary, and son Herbert, in a 1924 passport application.

In November 1929, wealthy Austrian-born vineyardist and trucking contractor Frank Baumgarteker (1886-1929) disappeared (Frank Baumgarteker passport application, 1924; Missing man in purple car, 1929; Baumgarteker’s wife asks grand jury, 1930). He was a close friend of Frank Borgia’s; both owned property in Cucamonga. (Upland, Ontario, and Rancho Cucamonga are all within three miles of one another.) Police believed Baumgarteker was “taken for a ride” and buried in the desert. His body was never found. Borgia and Ardizzone were suspected in the wealthy man’s disappearance.

Map showing locations of Sunland (where Joe Ardizzone once lived), Upland and Rancho Cucamonga, an hour from Sunland; the Mojave Desert, and at the bottom of the screen, San Diego and Tijuana. (c) OpenStreetMaps contributors.

Bootlegger Tony Buccola (c. 1888-1930) made enemies among his Italian colleagues, who ran him out of town for years. When they let him return to Los Angeles, out of sympathy for his sick mother, Frank Borgia made a show of forgiving Buccola, befriending him, and giving him a job. Tony’s brother George said that Borgia, Ardizzone, and Dragna, the same men who had run him out of town, had taken Tony out just a few nights before he disappeared, in May 1930. George blamed the three powerful mafiosi for his brother’s disappearance (Moore, 1997).

The year after Buccola went missing, Joe Ardizzone survived two attempts on his life, one of them in a hospital, then vanished in October. He’d been on his way to Joe Cuccia’s ranch to pick up his cousin, Nick Borgia, who’d just come from Italy and was staying at Cuccia’s. This time, Jack Dragna and Frank Borgia were suspected in the Iron Man’s disappearance. Joe’s brother Frank Ardizzone told one investigating officer, “Don’t bother looking for any enemies. It’ll be one of his friends that did it” (L.A. cellar searched for bones of Ontario vintner, 1949).

“Don’t bother looking for any enemies. It’ll be one of his friends that did it.” —Frank Ardizzone

Borgia managed a wholesale grocery for George Niotta (1889-1955). According to Dragna and Niotta descendant J. Michael Niotta, Borgia tricked Big George, who could not read or write, into signing over the grocery to him. Serendipitously for Niotta, this resulted in Borgia being the only one indicted for bootlegging, despite both being involved.

Through his wholesale business, Borgia was a “sugar man,” supplying brewing ingredients to moonshiners during Prohibition: the crime for which he was arrested in December 1931 (Frank Borgia posts bond for rum trial, 1931; Niotta, 2017, p. 54). By the time he was convicted and went to prison in 1935, Prohibition was over. He served not quite two years and was released in November 1937 (Washington, McNeil Island prison records).

After prison, Frank Borgia worked in manufacturing, bought property, and became wealthy and influential. He was once again a big rancher, and now also an industry representative and business community leader (OPA drops wine grape ceilings, 1944; CC directors elected at meet, 1951).

In March 1951 the Kefauver hearings were televised. Late that year, Frank sold his winery in Cucamonga for $125,000 (Dragna pal, 1951). According to his wife, it was some grape acreage that he sold (Long-missing, 1951). Either way, this windfall prompted an extortion attempt, planned by Jack Dragna and executed through a secret partner, Gaspare Matranga (1898-1971), a San Diego mafioso from Piana dei Greci (Gaspare Matranga 73 dies, 1971). (There is a thicket of relationships among US Mafia families from Piana dei Greci.) Borgia complained strenuously to Dragna about Matranga’s demands for $25,000 from the sale of his vineyard (Valin, n.d.; May, 2009).

Several sources report that his Cadillac was found abandoned in Tijuana, an hour’s drive south of San Diego (Dragna pal, 1951; Niotta, 2017, p. 61). The car was reported to San Diego police by Tijuana authorities on 14 December, and the SDP notified Mrs. Borgia, who arranged for the car to be recovered (Missing vintner, 1951).

Judith Moore wrote about Borgia’s end in the San Diego Reader and a book about San Diego Mafia boss Frank Bompensiero, titled A Bad, Bad Boy. According to Moore, Borgia went to the wedding of a family friend’s daughter in San Diego, driving himself in his black Buick Roadmaster (Moore, 1999). (The 1950 Cadillac coupe de ville and 1950 Buick Roadmaster are similar in appearance.) He checked into a room in the U.S. Grant and drove to the wedding venue, St. Joseph’s Cathedral. There are photos of the guests throwing rice and smiling, the author tells us, and Borgia identifiable among them (Moore, 1999). She doesn’t reproduce the photograph or tell us what other evidence she has besides Demaris’ book.

In her account, after the wedding he went back to his hotel and parked in the hotel garage. Early that evening in June 1952, Tony Mirabile, who was Frank Borgia’s best friend, picked him up from his hotel and took him to Joe Adamo’s house. There, Frank Bompensiero and Jimmy Fratianno were waiting with a rope with which they strangled Borgia to death. His body was never found. His car was retrieved from the parking garage when a hotel employee notified the San Diego police (Moore, 1999).

Moore’s story comes partly from Ovid Demaris’ novel, The Last Mafioso, which was written using interviews of Jimmy Fratianno, some 25 years after the events described. The murder in Joseph Adamo’s house, and the shakedown by Dragna and Matranga, both appear in Allan May’s account. He dates the plans to murder Borgia vaguely to the early 1950s, and doesn’t mention the wedding (May, 2009). Sifakis (2006) confirms the extortion and involvement of Dragna, Matranga, Bompensiero, and Fratianno.

In newspaper coverage of Frank Borgia’s disappearance, and mentions of it in news of his estate, it’s consistently reported that Frank Borgia left home on the second of December 1951 and had not been seen since (Missing vintner not in Hanford, 1951; Trustee is asked, 1952; Moonshine king’s widow, 1952). 

Pauline Borgia, Frank’s wife, was evidently used to her husband’s long absences, assumed he’d left home on a business trip, and further assumed he’d gone to Hanford, north of Bakersfield, when she received checks he’d written from their bank. (For those unfamiliar with 20th Century banking practices, a paper check with the bearer’s signature on the reverse was presented to the bank for funds, and following the exchange, the endorsed check was returned to the writer by mail.) The checks, it was later discovered, had been left by Borgia on an earlier trip in anticipation of buying some grapes (Missing vintner, 1951). 

Whether she feigned ignorance or practiced it regularly in her marriage, Pauline was not much help in determining her husband’s whereabouts. The most reliable testimony is the one given by Jimmy Fratianno. He is the only witness who has spoken about the murder. 

There might be some truth in Moore’s version, but she offers no evidence of it in her book. The details she provides beyond what Demaris published are unprovable (who is the friend’s daughter who married?) or contradicted by a preponderance of evidence (the type of car Borgia drove and where it was recovered, the month and year he disappeared). The author has passed away, so we cannot ask her. In April I emailed the Wylie Agency, which represents the late author’s estate, hoping to access notes on her investigation into Frank Borgia’s disappearance, but I’ve had no response. 

What we know about Frank Borgia is that he evidently died as he lived: betrayed by his friends, and then gone without a trace. 

Sources

Baumgarteker’s wife asks grand jury inquiry of disappearance of mate; asserts police inactive. (1930, April 27). The Sun (San Bernardino, CA). Vol. 66 No. 58. P. 7. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SBS19300427.1.7&srpos=18&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Frank+Baumgarteker——-1

Blackstock, J. (2015, June 1). Vintner’s disappearance still a mystery despite plenty of ‘clews.’ Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. https://www.dailybulletin.com/2015/06/01/vintners-disappearance-still-a-mystery-despite-plenty-of-clews/ 

CC directors elected at meet. (1951, November 15). The Cucamonga Times (Cucamonga, CA). P. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/747935010/ 

Dragna pal, long missing, feared slain. (1951, December 26). Daily News (Los Angeles, CA). P. 8. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DNLA19511226.1.8&srpos=18&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Frank+Borgia——-1 

Frank Baumgarteker passport application. (1924). “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99DQ-KRV?cc=2185145&wc=3XC5-82Q%3A1056306501%2C1056394301 : 22 December 2014), (M1490) Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925 > Roll 2459, 1924 Apr, certificate no 386850-387349 > image 696 of 761; citing NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.)

Frank Borgia posts bond for rum trial. (1931, December 25). San Pedro News Pilot. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SPNP19311225.2.66&srpos=3&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Frank+Borgia——-1 

Gaspare Matranga, 73, dies; Mafia tie recalled. (1971, July 6). The Sun (San Bernardino, CA). P. C-3. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SBS19710706.1.21&srpos=1&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Gaspare+Matranga——-1 

Long-missing Cucamonga man’s friend vanishes. (1951, December 27). The Sun (San Bernardino, CA). P. 16. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SBS19511227.1.16&srpos=8&e=——195-en–20-SBS-1–txt-txIN-Borgia——-1 

Manifest of the Caserta. (1914, December 5). Line 12. https://heritage.statueofliberty.org/passenger-details/czoxMjoiMTAwNTM4MDMwMTA5Ijs=/czo4OiJtYW5pZmVzdCI7

Marriage of Frank Borgia and Pauline Enna. (1922, April 23). “California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8F1-LYX : 9 March 2021); citing Los Angeles, California, United States, county courthouses, California; FHL microfilm 2,074,277.

May, Allan. (2009, October 14). Frank Bompensiero San Diego hit man, boss, and FBI informant. http://www.crimemagazine.com/frank-bompensiero-san-diego-hit-man-boss-and-fbi-informant 

Missing man in purple car. (1929, November 29). San Pedro News Pilot. Vol. 2. No. 230. P. 7. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SPNP19291129.2.79&srpos=11&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Frank+Baumgarteker——-1

Missing vintner not in Hanford. (1951, December 28). San Bernardino Sun. P. 1. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SBS19511228.1.1&srpos=3&e=——195-en–20-SBS-1–txt-txIN-Borgia——-1

Moonshine king’s widow named estate trustee. (1952, August 29). Daily News (Los Angeles, CA). P. 41. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DNLA19520829.1.41&srpos=4&e=——195-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Borgia—-1952—1 

Moore, J. (1997, January 9). San Diego mafia in the 1950s used slayings to enforce rules. San Diego Reader. https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/1997/jan/09/cover-honest-to-god-crooks-with-blood-on-their-han/

Moore, J. (1999, February 11). How Frank Bompensiero met his fate in Pacific Beach. San Diego Reader. Retrieved from https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/1999/feb/11/concert-shot-dark/ 

Moore, J. (2009). A bad, bad boy. Reader Books.

Niotta, J. M. (2017). The Los Angeles sugar ring: Inside the world of old money, bootleggers, & gambling barons. The History Press.

OPA drops wine grape ceilings. (1944, July 22). San Pedro News Pilot. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SPNP19440722.2.70&srpos=11&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Frank+Borgia——-1 

Sifakis, C. (2006). The mafia encyclopedia. Infobase Publishing. P. 211.

Trustee is asked for Frank Borgia’s $500,000 estate. (1952, August 8). Daily News (Los Angeles, CA). P. 15. Retrieved from https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DNLA19520808.1.15&srpos=5&e=——195-en–20–1–txt-txIN-Borgia—-1952—1 

Valin, E. (n.d.) Salvatore Piscopo. The man who betrayed Johnny Roselli. The American Mafia. Retrieved from https://mafiahistory.us/rattrap/salvatorepiscopo.html 

Washington, U.S., U.S. Penitentiary McNeil Island, Photos and Records of Prisoners Received, 1887-1939 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

Want to know more about how I find records and histories that illuminate the lives of Mafia members and their associates? I break down the search for Frank Borgia’s records for my biggest fans in a post on Patreon.

How did Lucia Terranova’s first Mafia marriage end?

How did Lucia Terranova’s first Mafia marriage end?

For years, I assumed Lucia Terranova’s first marriage ended with her husband’s murder in 1903.

Lucia Terranova is the oldest of the Terranova children, the half-sister of New York City boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello. She was born in Corleone in 1876. At sixteen, she emigrated with her parents and younger siblings to New York City. 

The financial panic of 1893 put the family in dire straits. Unable to find work, Giuseppe scouted in Louisiana among their extended kin and associates from Corleone. On this trip, he likely brokered Lucia’s marriage to a young man from a Mafia family, Antonino Saltaformaggio. Lucia married him shortly after turning eighteen.

For years, I assumed Lucia Terranova’s first marriage ended with her husband’s murder in 1903. Then I saw this census record.

The 1900 census, taken in June, shows Lucia living with her parents and unmarried siblings in New York City, and working as a cigar maker. FamilySearch has them indexed as the “Tresanobe” family, and Lucia as “Lizzie” — but Warner, Santino, and Van ‘t Riet found them, and gave the sheet number in their 2014 article in Informer (p. 45). This is definitely Lucia Terranova’s family.

This document is a considerable update on her life. Lucia Terranova married Saltaformaggio in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, on 3 February 1894, Mike Dash wrote in his book, The First Family, citing private information from the family (2009, pp. 113-114). Cynthia, a descendant of Santo Calamia and Teresa Saltaformaggio wrote on an Ancestry message board in 2001, looking for members of Lucia’s family. She gave the same date and place of the marriage, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, and adds they had one child named Serafino, who was known as “Joe Fino.” (Warner et al cite this message board post in their article as evidence of Lucia’s first marriage.) Teresa is Antonino Saltaformaggio’s sister. 

Santo Calamia was a gangster in New Orleans and an associate of Giuseppe Morello’s. Santo and Teresa, called “Tessie,” married in 1901. He led a bloody assault on the Luciano brothers in their grocery/saloon in the summer of 1902 on behalf of the mafioso Francesco Genova. While Calamia was in jail awaiting trial, his brother-in-law Antonino Saltaformaggio was a frequent visitor. (Calamia, in turn, visited Morello when he was imprisoned in Atlanta.)

I conversed by email with Cynthia and her brother, Ken, in 2019. They said Joe Fino was born around 1900, that Lucia’s second family with Vincenzo Salemi had no idea she’d been married once before, and that a Salemi granddaughter they’d spoken with thought Lucia might have had a daughter named Jennie while the family was living in Texas.

The document Ken sent as evidence of Joe Fino’s existence is a Social Security application for Joe Feno, born on the first day of 1901 in New Orleans to Tony Feno and “Rose Bazline,” which is not “Lucia Terranova,” even if you squint. Joe died in 1980. I haven’t been able to find him in census records from his childhood under either name, Serafino Saltaformaggio or Joseph Fino (or “Feno”) so I don’t know who raised him. When he registered for the draft for the first World War, he named Vincent Balznie, who might be related to Rose. Searches for either of them have not turned up any results so far.

Lucia appears in the census as a single woman with no children, living with her parents and siblings. She and her sister, Salvatrice, worked as cigar makers. If the reportage that Antonino left a wife and infant son in Louisiana at his death in April 1903 is correct, Lucia returned to her husband sometime after the census and they had a child. Based on Joe Feno’s self-report, he was born either two months after the census was taken, or six. (His draft card and Social Security application do not give the same date of birth.) If Joe was two or three years old, he might still have been called an infant in the newspaper.

If the documents point to the right age for Lucia’s son, she was pregnant when the census was taken. I can imagine her returning to her family (despite the long journey) to give birth to her first child. She was a young woman with no close, female blood relations in Louisiana. But would she have gone to her family and then worked in a factory while pregnant? This seems unlikely. Joe Feno’s draft card doesn’t specify a place of birth, but his Social Security application says he was born in New Orleans.

Before seeing the 1900 census, I’d assumed Lucia rejoined her family after her husband’s death, and left her son with the Saltaformaggios in New Orleans. I suppose she might have left and rejoined her husband, or been erroneously reported in the 1900 census, but neither seems as likely as that she left him in Louisiana sometime between their marriage in February 1894 and the 1900 census in June. 

Within a year after her marriage, Lucia’s parents and siblings moved on to Bryan, Texas, where they fell ill with malaria. They moved back to New York early in 1897. It seems probable that of all the times Lucia might have rejoined her family, it would be on their way out of the South. As for the rumor that she had a daughter named Jennie while living in Texas, this doesn’t match up with the fact that she was married to Antonino Saltaformaggio at the time. By the traditions of both their families, a daughter should have been named Caterina, after Antonino’s mother. If the child’s father didn’t claim her, she would have been named after Lucia’s mother. I’ve seen Jennie as a nickname for Giovanna and even for Vincenza, but not for Angelina.

We don’t know for sure, but it’s been theorized that Saltaformaggio was killed in retaliation for Santo Calamia’s attack on the Luciano brothers. Coincidentally, Saltaformaggio was killed the same month as Benedetto Madonia, the “Barrel Murder” victim of Morello’s counterfeiting gang, in New York City. If Saltaformaggio was having marital problems with the sister of the most powerful mafioso in the entire United States, that could have shortened his life, too.

As for Joe Feno, what if Antonino Saltaformaggio was his father, and “Rose Bazline” was a woman he lived with in the years after Lucia left him: the unnamed wife from the newspapers? The scenarios in which Lucia leaves Antonino and then returns seem less probable than one in which she remains with her family in New York. 

The man she would marry next, Vincenzo Salemi, was a member of her brothers’ gang. Dash’s account of the double in-law marriage between the Morello-Terranova and Salemi families differs from the story the records tell. Giuseppe Morello, a widower since 1898, had a child out of wedlock in 1901. This prompted his mother to search for an appropriate wife for him. Dash says Marietta, Giuseppe’s sister, was dispatched to Corleone to bring back the Salemi sister Giuseppe had chosen from a couple of photos. With them came Vincenzo, their brother.

According to a 1910 emigration record, Vincenzo Salemi first arrived in New York City in 1901. I haven’t yet found a record for Vincenzo’s arrival before his marriage in New York. Five months after her husband’s murder, Lucia Terranova appears on the Sardegna, coming back from Sicily with her older half-sister Marietta, Marietta’s young daughter, and both Salemi sisters. The Salemis say they’re joining their cousin Sebastiano Di Palermo, a known Morello gangster, at the same address where the Terranova family lives. Vincenzo is not on this voyage. And Sebastiano Di Palermo is not a cousin of the Salemi sisters.

It would seem that Giuseppe did not pre-select his bride, since both sisters made the voyage. Nicolena’s older sister, Francesca, returned to Corleone and married in 1905.

Lucia and Vincenzo married right after Christmas in 1903, the same month in which Nicolena married Giuseppe. Lucia and Vincenzo’s marriage record indicates this was a first marriage for them both. They had six children together before Vincenzo was killed in a gang war in 1923.

Sources

Babin II, D. (2015, April 28). Bumped off on the bayou: the macaroni wars. Retrieved 2 February 2019 from https://louisianamafia.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/bumped-off-on-the-bayou-the-macaroni-wars/  

Critchley, D. (2009). The origin of organized crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931. Routledge.

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American Mafia. Random House.

Manifest of the Konigin Luise. (1910, October 22). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T3-YGKT?cc=1368704&wc=4XBX-3J7%3A1600412417 : 26 January 2018), Roll 1588, vol 3499-3501, 3 Nov 1910 > image 788 of 1303; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Manifest of the Sardegna. (1903, September 23). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G16T-KLP?cc=1368704&wc=4FMB-7NB%3A1600272377 : 26 January 2018), Roll 396, vol 718-719, 22 Sep 1903-23 Sep 1903 > image 578 of 683; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Marriage of Vincenzo Salemi and Lucia Terranova. (1904). Certificate no. 249. NYC DORIS website. Retrieved 29 March 2022 from https://a860-historicalvitalrecords.nyc.gov/view/4571088  

The Murdered Italian Found at Whitecastle. (1903, May 7). Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA).

Terranova household. (1900, June 12). Lines 52-59. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6S7W-S88?cc=1325221&wc=9B7R-HZG%3A1030551901%2C1035804001%2C1036212201 : 5 August 2014), New York > New York County > ED 907 Borough of Manhattan, Election District 21 New York City Ward 32 > image 56 of 92; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Warner, R., Santino, A., and Van ‘t Riet, L. (2014, May). The early New York mafia: an alternative theory. Informer Journal. Pp. 4+. 

Did the Mafia begin with the Sicilian Vespers?

Did the Mafia begin with the Sicilian Vespers?

A commonly told origin myth of the Sicilian Mafia would make the secret, criminal organization over 700 years old. But is it true?

By the oldest claims, the Mafia is more than seven hundred years old, dating back to Norman rule and the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, or even earlier, to the Emirate of Sicily, in the 9th Century. 

What was the Sicilian Vespers?

In 1266, the younger brother of France’s King Louis IX, Charles I of Anjou, took Sicily from the Swabian dynasty. The new Angevin king increased taxes on Sicilian subjects, and this coupled with abuse by French soldiers, sparked a peasant revolt called the Sicilian Vespers. Anyone who looked or sounded French was killed by the Sicilians.

The result of the Sicilian Vespers was not self-rule, but the division of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. After Charles was ousted from the island of Sicily, he retained the mainland Kingdom of Sicily while Peter III of Aragón was crowned King of Sicily beyond the Lighthouse, or the Kingdom of Trinacria, by the island’s barons. The Aragonese dynasty held Sicily for the next four hundred years. 

Beginning with Peter III, Sicily was ruled from Palermo by the Sicilian branch of the Aragonese dynasty, with a strong parliament in which the Sicilian language was spoken. A period of relative independence, in the 14th century, forged a Sicilian national identity, distinct from their ethnic heritage, or the lands from which their rulers came.

This golden age for the island of Sicily is the time that Mafia propaganda reaches back to for nostalgia. They try to take credit for forcing out a foreign monarch, and the “good old days” when the king ruled from Palermo, and Sicilian was spoken with pride. The Mafia’s version of history glosses over the next five hundred years, in which Spanish kings held Sicily and ruled its people into misery with neglect and taxation. 

Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led the successful revolution against the Bourbons

The Mafia has attached itself, when convenient, to independence movements for Sicily. Its power was decisive in the revolutionary movement which united Italy, for the first time ever, in 1860, after several failed attempts. But it followed this coup by supporting a Sicilian independence movement, briefly, before settling into a cozy arrangement with the Christian Democratic party. The Mafia’s wild political swings betray its true purpose: to bring about circumstances from which Mafia bosses could materially benefit.

A timeline of Sicilian foreign rule

The time frame during which the Vespers origins camp requires belief in a Mafia—with no evidence to support its existence—is truly vast. “Proof” in the form of 19th Century mafiosi who claim the Mafia’s origins were in the Sicilian Vespers is not a primary form of evidence, coming as it does 600 years after the fact, but only tells us how old the legend is. 

Most theories of Mafia formation cluster in the early-to-mid-1800s. If you had to pick a year when the Mafia began, it might be 1838: the year Luca Patti, son of Giuseppe, a gabellotto from Corleone, was said to be leading a cattle-rustling ring which stretched to Messoiuso and Termini Imerese (Hess, 1973/1998, p. 98; Dash, 2009, p. 83).

In discussing Mafia origins, the question of “when” might be resolved with a mean or average of proposed start dates. For other aspects of Mafia formation—who, how, with what resources, and why—a longer, qualitative discussion is in order. To continue exploring an array of theories on how the Mafia began in Sicily, follow this link to the Mafia Genealogy blog at Patreon. Associates who support Mafia Genealogy have access to this and other exclusive content.

Introduction to my work on Patreon

Sources

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American Mafia. Random House.

Hess, H. (1998). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth. (E. Osers, Trans.). London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. (Original work published 1973)

Title image:  I vespri siciliani, by Michele Rapisardi

The destruction of Antonino Luciano

The destruction of Antonino Luciano

The Mafia came for Luciano and he fought back.

They turned the store into a fortress, drilling holes to allow shooters to defend the entrance from the second floor, and stashing guns behind a sofa in the card games annex. Although they had a saloon and had started keeping later hours, the brothers began closing at 9 PM (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). Vincenzo Vutera parked himself there a few days before the shootout, and remained a guest of the Lucianos until he was carried out by the coroner’s office.

Read Parts I, II, and III in this four-part series on the Macaroni Wars:

New Orleans, 1905: Who is Sam Sparo?

The 800-pound gangster

Francesco Motisi, alias Genova

The Macaroni Wars, in most tellings, covers primarily the 11 June 1902 shootout in the Luciano brothers’ store. The larger story of the conflict begins with Francesco Genova’s arrival, around 1900, and continues until Tony Luciano’s death in 1903. At least seven men died in a fight that was ostensibly over a small pasta factory. As with the Mafia wars that came before and after it in New Orleans, the true spark, actors, and stakes in the violence have sometimes been distorted or overlooked. The Mafia came for Luciano and he fought back. He wasn’t a mafioso, but as a Sicilian man, he and his adversaries shared certain outlooks and principles. Men of Luciano’s class were the model of gentleman that mafiosi like Genova strove to emulate.

Sketch of Antonino Luciano from his trial

Antonino Luciano was born in 1866 in Palazzo Adriano, the son of a master builder (Atto di nascita Salvatore Luciano, 1875). In 1894, he married Ignazia Chiovaro in Mezzomorreale, a district of Palermo (Atto di matrimonio Antonino Luciano and Ignazia Chiovaro, 1894). The civil announcement of their marriage calls Luciano a “possidente,” which translates to “landowner,” and means that he owned enough property that he did not have to work for a living.

Antonino and Ignazia emigrated in 1895 to New Orleans (Manifest of the Montebello, 1895). They may have lived in Donaldsonville, 75 miles away, for a time before opening a grocery on Poydras Street in New Orleans in 1897. Their first child was born in February 1898. Salvatore, Antonino’s younger brother, arrived in time for the 1900 census, in which he appears in his brother’s household, working as a clerk in their grocery store. Ignazia gave birth to a daughter later that year.

Francesco Genova and Paolo Di Christina, both fugitive killers using aliases, were criminal associates from Sicily. Di Christina may have first worked for Antonino Luciano as a salesman at his New Orleans store before they jointly opened a pasta factory in Donaldsonville. Genova, who had quickly established himself as the leading mafioso in New Orleans, was the driving force behind Di Christina in a plot to take over the factory. 

Di Christina made himself a disagreeable partner in the venture, so that hiring a manager and splitting the proceeds became the most sensible solution (Bloody battle, 1902; Kingman, n.d.). Genova used the split to place even more of his men in the business. Vincenzo Vutera, a grocer in financial ruin, was one whose bitterness at owing money to Luciano was easily turned to Genova’s advantage. 

According to a most unreliable source, a 1902 article titled “The other side of the vendetta story,” one of the raiders that night, Bartolo Ferrara, lived with the Luciano family in New Orleans for a long time, and conducted their correspondence. When he wanted to open his own store, Tony advanced him money and merchandise (The other side of the vendetta story, 1902). Ferrara died in debt to the Lucianos, on their books owing $288.81. His partner in his new store owed Luciano a similar amount. Vutera, and even Joseph Calamia, a successful grocer in the neighborhood, also owed Luciano money.

By the spring of 1902, Tony must have known he was in trouble. If he did not yet know he was being played by Di Christina, or that Genova was his more powerful, silent partner, he would soon. Tony recruited a cousin, Louis Luciano, who came from Tampa with his wife, to add his manpower to the defense (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). Louis, who made cigars, opened a small factory in an outbuilding behind Tony’s store. 

A month after Louis’ arrival, Salvatore saw an opportunity: Genova and Di Christina were sitting together on a wagon across the street, and Salvatore fired at them. They chased him into the Lucianos’ store, where they were forced to retreat from Tony, ready at the defense. No one was seriously harmed, and Genova refused to press charges, but privately Salvatore was warned to leave the country or “pay for his assault upon the leader of a secret order of Sicilians who swear by stilettoes” (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). In “The other side of the vendetta story,” it’s Salvatore who offers an ultimatum to Genova—leave or die—and his rash stubbornness is presented as the reason violence erupted a month later.

The Lucianos prepared to defend themselves. Although they had started keeping later hours, they began locking the doors at 9 PM (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). Joseph Calamia, who knew of the changes, led four men into the store just as the Lucianos were closing for the night. With him were Bartolo Ferrara; Joseph Gerrachi, who worked for Luciano as a manager of his macaroni factory; and two men whose descriptions are vague and contradictory, Galdarone and Scaffino. In the same article that names Joe Galdarone as a wagon driver for Tony Luciano, and Vincenzo Scaffino, a fruit dealer with a stand nearby, they are called “two vagabonds who wash the holds of fruit ships” (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). Another writer calls them drifters recruited for the attack (Kingman, n.d.). Police sought but did not find them, further frustrating efforts to identify the two men.

Unloading bananas, New Orleans (Library of Congress)

When Calamia and his gang entered the Poydras Street storefront, Salvatore Luciano was writing a letter to his mother. His brother and cousin were in an annex at the rear of the store, playing cards with Vincenzo Vutera, who was a guest in their boardinghouse. As many as three of Calamia’s men, one of them Bartolo Ferrara, rushed in and stabbed Salvatore many times with knives and stilettos. The attack came so quickly that Salvatore did not even have time to reach for his gun. Louis was wounded in the chest or shoulder. Tony Luciano shot and wounded Gerrachi and Calamia, who both ran off. After his accomplices stabbed Salvatore Luciano, Vutera shot him in the head. Tony Luciano then shot Vutera, perhaps with all three of the bullets the coroner found in the big man’s torso; he died on the scene. 

Calamia’s injury was slight, but Gerrachi, who was shot in the urethra or the bladder, died in the hospital weeks later (Death of Giuseppe Gerachi, 1902). Both men told police they’d come to the Lucianos’ on business and been caught in the crossfire of a fight they knew nothing about.

Police interviewed other survivors and witnesses, including Ignazia and Annie, Louis’ wife, but their testimonies contradicted one another and the physical evidence. Tony and his family members were arrested; he was held overnight. With what would prove to be characteristic boldness, Bartolo Ferrara visited Tony in jail after the shooting, and tried to have him released. If he’d succeeded, Tony later said, he was sure Bartolo would have tried to kill him.

The next day, Antonino was released from jail to attend his brother Salvatore’s burial. He came home to find his brother’s remains being attended to by a mortician. Tony stayed beside the body for hours, praying. In the afternoon Ignazia had a fainting spell and went upstairs to rest; she was in the first trimester of what would prove her most difficult pregnancy.

In the hours before the viewing, a police officer spotted an “ugly” man lurking around the Luciano establishment on Poydras Street. The officer drove him away twice, but apparently didn’t recognize the little grocer from Julia Street as one of the assailants from the night before (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). 

The store was full of mourners when Ferrara entered. Salvatore was laid out in a coffin on the card table in the annex. His face was covered with a cloth. Ferrara made his way to the body he had stabbed nine or a dozen times the night before. His victim’s grief-stricken brother sat beside him as if in a trance. Bartolo lifted the gauze from Salvatore’s face and kissed him on the lips. Tony stirred, but did not display any anger. 

Ferrara was playing a dangerous game, pretending to be so intimate with the deceased. Tony would bring them closer. I’m glad you came, Tony murmured. Let’s go out to the yard and talk. He led his colleague to an enclosure, where he had a shotgun hidden. In broad daylight, and with dozens of witnesses close by, he stuck the barrel end in Bartolo’s chest and shot him four times, then used the gun stock to beat his head to a pulp. Ferrara was still breathing when police arrived, though he could not speak. He lived for twenty minutes (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902).

Antonino Luciano evaded indictment in the deaths of Vutera and Gerrachi, but he went to trial for the brutal murder of Bartolo Ferrara. His defense attorney was Chandler Luzenberg, who would go on to defend Tony’s assassin.

Tony had the resources to hire the best legal counsel available. Although his storefront on Poydras was described as a cheap boarding house whose clientele were mainly Sicilian farm laborers, New Orleans historian John Smith Kendall writes, as storekeepers in New Orleans “The Lucianos were men considerably above their occupation in education and abilities.” (Kendall, 1911, p. 45, col. 1, para. 3). A “possidente” when Antonino married, at emigration he was listed as a merchant, distinguishing him from the vast majority of Sicilian men arriving in the port of New Orleans, almost all of whom were farm laborers. His other brother, John, followed their father’s profession and worked as an architect in Italy; their sister, Rosa, was a school teacher. However, most of Tony and Ignazia’s wealth was tied up. At the time of the dispute with Di Christina, Tony had $8,000 invested in the Donaldsonville macaroni factory (More murder in the feud of Sicilians, 1902). In an inventory conducted while Luciano was on trial, the value of the store’s equipment and inventory was a fraction of this amount, and their liquid assets were about $650 (Succession of Ignazia Chiavaro, 1903). (Multiply these numbers by thirty for their approximate 2022 values, adjusted for inflation, or use the Inflation Calculator.)

While awaiting trial, Luciano’s wife, Ignazia, moved the family business to a new location near the jail/police station where Tony was held. Pregnant, with two young children, and her husband on trial for murder, she ran the store alone, making deliveries and fetching merchandise from the port with a horse-drawn wagon. While out on business, Ignazia’s wagon was struck by an electric car, and she broke her leg in the accident. After weeks of convalescence, she broke the leg again. Ignazia delivered a baby girl on December 4th, and died hours later (Death of Ignazia Luciano, 1902; Luciano lured to a mafia murder, 1903). 

After her death, an inventory of the Luciano estate was conducted: standard practice to protect the assets belonging to their young children. The total value was about eight thousand dollars. In addition to Bartolo Ferrara and his business partner, Salvatore Lo Biundo, both of whom carried three-digit debts with the Luciano store, regular customers included the mother of Antonio Saltaformaggio, whose brothers were mafiosi in Corleone; “A. Cusimano,” most likely Vutera; and Joseph Calamia (Succession of Ignazia Chiavaro, 1903).

Luciano was acquitted of killing Ferrara in February 1904. He had become more religious during his confinement. Upon his release, he paid for a celebratory saints’ day dinner to be served to the jury in his trial and the residents of the jail with whom he’d lived for months (Peña, 2018). His celebration was cautious and short lived. Soon after reuniting with his family, his infant daughter died (Death of Ignazza Antonina Luciano, 1903). 

In freedom, he lived like a hunted man. Though he had evaded legal consequences for the men he killed, Tony Luciano remained marked for death by the Mafia. In his last months on Earth, Tony watched everyone but close kin with suspicion. He retreated to his new business, a store and saloon like the old place on Poydras, but operating within sight of the police station.

In May, Sam Sparo moved into a rented room nearby, and became a regular fixture in Tony’s family saloon. Noting that the widower did not do his own marketing—for fear of assassination—Sparo offered to shop for the Luciano family when he went to get his own provisions. Tony’s brother and sister, who had come from Sicily to help after his wife died, were still living with him, caring for his two young children, and helping to keep his businesses running. John Luciano and local police regarded the newcomer with suspicion, but Tony appeared to trust his new friend (Luciano lured to a mafia murder, 1903). 

He invited Sparo to join him for a short wagon trip to Snell’s photography studio at the corner of Rampart and Canal, where new proofs of Luciano’s family, posed in front of their store, awaited his examination. After inspecting the portraits together, they left the third-floor studio. On the first landing, Sparo hesitated and Luciano, abandoning his usual caution, went down the stairs first. Sam shot him in the back at such close range, Tony’s jacket caught fire. He turned and Sam continued unloading his weapon into Luciano’s body. Tony managed to return fire, but missed his target. He died soon after arriving in the hospital (Kendall, 1911; Babin, 2015).

So thoroughly did Genova destroy Luciano with his campaign of vengeance that no one came to his wake. Police officers and news reporters were drafted to carry his coffin to the tomb (Luciano lured to a mafia murder, 1903; Work of the dreaded mafia, 1903).

A year later, John Luciano disappeared while on collections rounds for his late brother’s estate. He’d gone into the Louisiana countryside in the company of a known mafioso from the Gulotta (or Culotta) family. His fate is still unknown (Fear that John Luciano is missing, 1904; Babin, 2015).

Sources

Atto di matrimonio, Antonino Luciano and Ignazia Chiovaro. (1894, November 18). Record no. 13. “Italia, Palermo, Palermo, Stato Civile (Tribunale), 1866-1910,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L97B-VZRL?cc=2051639&wc=MCTM-4M9%3A351055601%2C351055602%2C351736301 : 22 May 2014), Palermo > Palermo > Matrimoni 1892-1903 Cittadinanze 1866-1896 Morti 1866-1868 > image 457 of 2836; Tribunale di Cagliari (Cagliari Court, Cagliari). 

Atto di nascita, Salvatore Luciano. (1875, January 21). Record no. 13. “Italia, Palermo, Palermo, Stato Civile (Tribunale), 1866-1910,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G97B-V5JH?cc=2051639&wc=MCTM-2WL%3A351055601%2C352853301%2C954437801 : 22 May 2014), Palermo > Palazzo Adriano > Nati, pubblicazioni, matrimoni, cittadinanze, morti 1867-1875 Indici decennali (vari) 1866-1875 Nati, pubblicazioni, matrimoni, cittadinanze, morti 1876 Indici decennali (vari) 1876-1885 > image 1139 of 1584; Tribunale di Cagliari (Cagliari Court, Cagliari).

Babin II, D. (2015, April 28). Bumped off on the bayou: the macaroni wars. Retrieved 2 February 2019 from https://louisianamafia.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/bumped-off-on-the-bayou-the-macaroni-wars/ 

Bloody battle. (1902, June 12). The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA). 

Death of Giuseppe Gerachi. (1902, July 1). “Louisiana, Orleans Parish Death Records and Certificates, 1835-1954,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS9Z-T99D?cc=3559088 : 28 March 2020), > image 1 of 1; Louisiana, Department of Health. Bureau of Vital Records, New Orleans.

Death of Ignazza Antonina Luciano. (1903, March 17). “Louisiana, Orleans Parish Death Records and Certificates, 1835-1954”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:CT14-GQ3Z : 9 April 2020).

Death of Ignazia Luciano. (1902, December 5). Vol. 128, P. 900. Ancestry.com. Louisiana, U.S., Statewide Death Index, 1819-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002. State of Louisiana, Secretary of State, Division of Archives, Records Management, and History. Vital Records Indices. Baton Rouge, LA, USA.

Kendall, J. S. (1911, October 1). The Mafia in New Orleans. The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 33.

Kingman, W. A. (n.d.) The Axeman of New Orleans. Retrieved 29 January 2019 from Serialkillercalendar.com

Luciano lured to a mafia murder. (1903, August 10). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 1.

Manifest of the Montebello. (1895). “Louisiana, New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820-1945,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G5V7-WZV?cc=1916009&wc=MFVK-VNL%3A1029673801%2C1029690701 : 8 October 2015), 1820-1902 (NARA M259) > 081 – 1 Apr 1895 – 31 Dec 1895 > image 86 of 343; citing NARA microfilm publications M259 and T905 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

More murder in the feud of Sicilians. (1902, June 13). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). Pp. 1+.

New Orleans, Louisiana, City Directory, 1897 Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

The other side of the vendetta story. (1902, June 15). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 10.

Peña, C. G (2018, October 8). Death over a diamond stud: the assassination of the Orleans parish district attorney. Arcadia Publishing. 

Sicilians in battle to death. (1902, June 12). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA).

Succession of Ignazia Chiavaro, Inventory of estate. (1903, January 26). Images 1791- 1810 of 1995. Case Papers, 1880-1929; Author: Louisiana. Civil District Court (Orleans Parish); Probate Place: Louisiana Notes: Civil District Court Case Papers, No 69203-69337, 1902 Ancestry.com. Louisiana, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1756-1984 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Work of the dreaded mafia. (1903, August 12). The Minneapolis journal. (Minneapolis, Minn.). Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045366/1903-08-12/ed-1/seq-1/>

Francesco Motisi, alias Genova

Francesco Motisi, alias Genova

The New Orleans Mafia boss killed more men with lies than with bullets.

After the lynching of nineteen Italians in the New Orleans jail, there was a period of relative calm in which people outside the Sicilian community were not troubled by violence from the Mafia. What is usually described as a hate crime against Sicilians, was the culmination of a battle over control of the docks between two Mafia gangs. Charles Matranga and his Stupppagghieri emerged triumphant, and enjoyed a decade without serious opposition. 

The respite ended with the arrival of Francesco Motisi, alias Genova. The convicted murderer had been on the run with his family, living first in London and then New York City, where he became associated with Giuseppe Morello. He arrived in New Orleans around 1900 and started calling himself “Genova.”

Francesco Genova appeared to be an Italian gentleman, the sort the American press found charming and Sicilians rightly regarded as dangerous to cross. Genova closely fit the mold of the old country mafioso. He owned a successful business in New Orleans, heard and settled disputes, dispensed advice and favors, and was well-informed about his newly adopted community. It appears that no one recognized him, or knew that Genova was an alias.

Francesco Motisi was born on 24 June 1862 in Mezzomorreale-Oreto, a district of the city of Palermo. He married Cristina Pedone in 1892 and their first five children were born in Palermo. 

Francesco Genova’s closest co-conspirator, Paolo Di Christina, was also a fugitive murderer from Palermo, living in New Orleans under an alias. They were in the driver’s seat of a wagon together when Salvatore Luciano fired upon them in May 1902. When Luciano missed, he signed his own death warrant. Genova’s refusal to press charges, or even admit to a police officer that he’d been shot at, were exactly what one would expect from a mafioso. The court date came, and neither of the wronged parties appeared before the judge. The message was clear: Salvatore and his brother, Antonino, knew judgment was coming for them. 

Genova was not present at the shootout in the Luciano brothers’ place on Poydras Street, but he undoubtedly set it in motion. His multi-fronted war upon the Luciano brothers spans years, and begins soon after his arrival in New Orleans. As described in the previous installment, he staged a takeover of Antonino Luciano’s Donaldsonville macaroni factory by planting key personnel, including Luciano’s partner, Di Christina, Vincenzo Vutera, and Joseph Gerrachi. These men also came to the shootout to prevent Antonino from intervening while members of a raiding party assassinated his brother, Salvatore. 

If his cunning is not yet evident, consider the third front on which Genova attacked: the Luciano brothers’ reputation. 

“Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.”

It’s been said that “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.” A story Genova spun for the news, “The other side of the vendetta story,” (1902) gained traction, and was reported as fact. Genova let it be known that his aunt and uncle in Palermo were suppliers of Antonino Luciano’s store in New Orleans. The honest and elderly merchants sent him consignments of goods and he returned payment. But over time, his payments became less consistent. When questioned about this, Luciano’s reply was surprising. He suggested they send their daughters to him, because he was sure he could find them good husbands in America. Even more surprising was that Genova’s aunt and uncle did as Luciano advised, and he met their daughters at the dock when they arrived. However, he immediately refused to assist them. The two young women managed to find cheap rooms on Poydras Street and worked menial jobs to survive. When their parents learned their fate, they cut ties with Luciano. Salvatore, Tony’s hot-tempered brother, decided to mend the rift by marrying one of the sisters and courted her, but was rebuffed. 

Genova, learning of these events, was outraged. As the hero of his tale, he resolved to rescue his cousins and take revenge upon Luciano. He came from Palermo to New Orleans, studied his enemy’s businesses, and emulated them at close range, directly competing with Luciano’s enterprises, beginning with his store on Poydras Street. Genova’s aunt and uncle began supplying his store on Julia Street instead of Luciano’s. Soon, Francesco Genova was successful enough to consider buying a macaroni factory.

To understand why Genova wanted to take over Luciano’s businesses does not require a romantic tale of family honor and virtue. The traditional mafioso seeks a monopoly in his territory: at a minimum, over his own profession, in which he is self-employed. This pattern is repeated everywhere by old school mafiosi. Pasta was big business in Louisiana, the bar for entry was low for Sicilian immigrants, and situated as Tony Luciano’s factory was, in the midst of thousands of Sicilian agricultural workers, at the confluence of two major waterways, it might as well have been printing money. Best of all, it was a legal venture. Using violence and intimidation to achieve a business advantage is a classic Mafia mode of operation.

The story of how Genova came to be living in New Orleans, and chose to buy a factory 75 miles away in Donaldsonville, was contrived purely to defame Luciano. It paints the Lucianos in such an unflattering light, there’s no way the story came from them. If there were any truth to it, Tony could have revealed Genova’s true identity to the press. Francesco Motisi was a wanted man in Italy, and local law enforcement would have been glad for a reason to deport the mafioso.

As the aunt and uncle were a fiction, so were certain other parts of Genova’s story. He did not outperform his competitors through shrewd and honest dealing, but by spreading gossip and threats among Luciano’s customers, and making himself a useful friend to his biggest debtors. Genova’s words were his principal weapon in the Macaroni Wars. His threats, backed up by his intimidating new friends, diverted Luciano’s stream of customers toward Genova’s store.

Despite the Lucianos being massively outgunned in the shootout, Tony managed to kill one of Genova’s men, mortally injure another, and wound his captain. The following day, another of Genova’s men was shot dead. Their war raged through Luciano’s imprisonment, and continued after his release. Bodies showed up in the vicinity of Donaldsonville. Luciano’s old friends and neighbors in that town moved away, in fear for their lives.

Sam Sparo, a hitman who’d spent months wearing down Luciano’s defenses, finally ended the Macaroni Wars on the stairs outside a photography studio, a few blocks from Luciano’s home in New Orleans. Genova’s campaign to destroy his business, happiness, security, and reputation was complete. No one from the Italian community attended the viewing or proceeded with the body to the funeral. Since he had no family or friends left in the city, police officers and members of the press were drafted into service as pallbearers to carry Antonino Luciano to his final resting place.

Genova continued to rule the Mafia of New Orleans. After the trial for Vutera’s death, Di Christina, who was a witness, left town for New York. On the strength of a letter of recommendation from Genova, Di Christina found work with Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo as a bartender and counterfeiter. He did not remain long, and returned to New Orleans.

Francesco and his wife had five children who were born in Palermo, and four more in New Orleans, two of whom died in infancy (Birth of Salvatore Motisi, 1894; Birth of Giovanni Battista Matissa, 1905; Birth of Ignazio Motisi, 1906; Francisco Motisi family, 1911; Find a grave, n.d.). Although Francesco was still hiding behind an alias, vital records found for his family in New Orleans use the surname “Motisi” or a close approximation (i.e. “Matissa”).

In 1907, investigation into the Walter Lamana kidnapping and murder identified a number of suspects, among them a “Mr. Cristina,” who might have been Paolo. Being a known mafioso in New Orleans, Genova was taken into custody and questioned with regard to the crime, but was eventually released for a lack of evidence. Italy sent his criminal records to the US, and Genova/Motisi took the opportunity to leave the country with his wife and children.

Francesco Motisi appears in the 1911 census in Liverpool as a fruit merchant, living with his wife, their eight children, the youngest born in England in 1908, and a servant (Francisco Motisi family, 1911). Thom L. Jones (2019) writes that, according to the Italian Mafia historian Salvatore Lupo, he later went back to Palermo where he was again active in organized crime.

Di Christina seemed poised to take over the Mafia in New Orleans upon Genova’s departure, but his old boss intervened. In 1908, Giuseppe Morello, who was by this time regarded as the boss of bosses in the United States, visited the city and gave his public approval to Di Christina’s challenger, Vincenzo Moreci, sparking another war among the mafiosi of New Orleans.

Sources

Birth of Francesco Motisi. (1862, June 24). M.O. v. 864 n. 31. https://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/detail-registry/?s_id=877229 Img. 117 of 330

Birth of Giovanni Battista Matissa. (1905, July 22). “Louisiana, Orleans Parish Vital Records, 1900-1964,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QGVC-HWMT : 19 October 2018), Giovanni Battista Matissa, 22 Jul 1905; citing Birth 22 Jul 1905, New Orleans, Orleans, Louisiana, United States, certificate ; Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge.

Birth of Ignazio Motisi. (1906, July 8). “Louisiana, Orleans Parish Vital Records, 1900-1964,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QGVC-5TDF : 19 October 2018), Ignazio Motisi, 8 Jul 1906; citing Birth 8 Jul 1906, New Orleans, Orleans, Louisiana, United States, certificate ; Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge.

Birth of Salvatore Motisi. (1894, September 15). https://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/detail-registry/?s_id=877235 Img 156 of 433.

Critchley, D. (2009). The origin of organized crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931. New York: Routledge.

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American Mafia. Random House.

Fear that John Luciano is missing. (1904, July 4). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 9.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 February 2019), memorial page for Ignazio Domenico Motisi (28 May 1903–14 Jan 1906), Find A Grave Memorial no. 140476117, citing Saint Roch Cemetery #01, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .

Francisco Motisi family. (1911). “England and Wales Census, 1911,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XWTM-V3Z : 21 December 2018), Francisco Motisi, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, Lancashire, England; from “1911 England and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast(http://www.findmypast.com : n.d.); citing PRO RG 14, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

Gauthreaux, A. G. (2014, February 4). Italian Louisiana: History, heritage & tradition. Arcadia Publishing.

Italians held for barrel murder. (1903, April 16). The World (New York, NY). Pp. 1-2. 

Jones, T. L. (2010, November 10). The sun king of the mafia. Retrieved 6 February 2019 from https://gangstersinc.org/profiles/blogs/the-sun-king-of-the-mafia 

Jones, T. L. (2019, April 7). Out of Africa: The story of New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello.

https://gangstersinc.org/profiles/blogs/out-of-africa-the-story-of-new-orleans-mafia-boss-carlos-marcello

Kendall, J. S. (1911, October 1). The mafia in New Orleans. The Times Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 33.

Krist, G. (2014). Empire of sin: A story of sex, jazz, murder, and the battle for modern New Orleans. Crown. 

Manifest of the SS Argentina, Line 21. (1919). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T4-GZ1W?cc=1368704&wc=4X1L-Q3K%3A1600482430 : 26 January 2018), Roll 2716, vol 6335-6336, 5 Jan 1920-7 Jan 1920 > image 1105 of 1261; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Marriage of Francesco Motisi and Cristina Pedone. (1892, July 16). V. 157 No. 15.

https://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/detail-registry/?s_id=877206 Imgs. 387 and 422 of 585.

The other side of the vendetta story. (1902, June 15). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 10.

Rawson, R. (n.d.). The life and times of Vito Di Giorgio. https://www.nationalcrimesyndicate.com/the-life-and-times-of-vito-digiorgio/

Work of the dreaded mafia. (1903, August 12). The Minneapolis journal. (Minneapolis, Minn.). Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045366/1903-08-12/ed-1/seq-1/>

Read the last part in this series on The Macaroni Wars: The destruction of Antonino Luciano

The 800-pound gangster

The 800-pound gangster

News of the shootout at the Poydras street boardinghouse described one of the victims as weighing “fully 800 pounds.” 

One of the first men killed in the Macaroni Wars was Vincenzo Vutera, placed in the Luciano’s business to suppress the opposition during a raid led by Santo “Joseph” Calamia. Like Vutera, Calamia is described as a “big, fat man” who could nonetheless move quickly. Straining credulity, local reporting on his death claims Vutera’s weight was “fully 800 pounds” (Sicilians in battle to death, 1902).

Another standout quality Vutera possessed was being from Corleone, the hometown he shared with Calamia’s professed brother-in-law, Giuseppe Morello, and his actual brother-in-law, Antonino Saltaformaggio, whose body turned up in a canal near White Castle in 1903. Hundreds of people from Corleone emigrated to Louisiana for work, with most of them dispersing into the plantations along the Mississippi River. Several families from Corleone lived in Donaldsonville, at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Bayou Lafourche

1895 map of Louisiana showing the course of the Bayou Lafourche before it was dammed.
In this 1895 map, New Orleans is centered, just south of Lake Pontchartrain. The Mississippi River enters the frame from the northwest and intersects Donaldsonville and the Bayou Lafourche between the “S” and the “I” in “LOUISIANA.”

In 1902, after a particularly bad flood season, the bayou was dammed, and a series of locks were discussed but never built. With access from the river blocked, 130 miles of navigable stream through coastal wetlands became accessible only from the Gulf of Mexico. The temporary dam permanently harmed the economy and health of Bayou Lafourche, Donaldsonville, and the surrounding area. The Mississippi no longer supplied fresh water to the bayou, devastating the ecosystem. The city of Donaldsonville, once the capital of Louisiana, entered a period of decline from which it did not rally until automobile traffic replaced riverboats as the primary form of transportation. 

For the owners of a macaroni factory in Donaldsonville, the new dam was bad news. Easy access to half a dozen towns they might have provisioned along the bayou was suddenly cut off. Antonino Luciano had $4,000 tied up in the factory: about $129,000 in 2022 dollars. His partner was the duplicitous Paolo Di Christina, a mafioso in league with Francesco Genova. 

Genova had sworn to destroy Luciano, and Di Christina was part of his plan. Step 1: Place men loyal to the Mafia boss in the business to be overtaken. Step 2: Make the business a source of debt and woe for the rightful owner. Step 3: Sap the owner’s funds, credit, and good name, until he has no choice but to abandon the property to his antagonistic partners. The Mafia has attacked business owners this way for most of its existence. 

The showdown on Poydras Street in New Orleans was an escalation of a fight that began in the Donaldsonville macaroni factory. In the story that unfolded in the newspapers, and echoes in more contemporary tellings, Vincenzo Vutera is sometimes painted as an ally of the Luciano family, brought down from Donaldsonville to aid them in defense against Genova’s men, and at other times described as a plant, one of several men Genova either installed or turned to his purposes.

Illustration of the interior of the Poydras Street store/saloon/boardinghouse accompanying coverage of the shooting in The Times-Democrat (Bloody battle, 1902).

Vincenzo Vutera was born in Corleone in April 1872, and emigrated as a young man with his mother and his first cousin, also named Vincenzo Vutera, who was three years older. The older cousin returned to Corleone and married there in 1906, which is how I can be sure he was not the one shot to death in New Orleans in 1902.

Vutera married his first cousin, Giovannina “Jennie” Cusimano, in Donaldsonville in 1894. His wife’s godparents were her first cousin, once removed and her husband. They were also the parents of Los Angeles Mafia boss Jack Dragna. Dragna and Vutera (and Cusimano and Dragna) are second cousins.

A family tree including Vincenzo Vutera, his same name cousin, his wife, and Jack Dragna
A family tree showing the lines of direct descent shared by Vincenzo Vutera, his emigrating cousin, his wife, and the mafioso Jack Dragna. In this diagram, the godparent relationship Giovannina Cusimano has with her aunt and uncle is illustrated with solid green lines. Vincenzo Vutera, his mother, and his same-name cousin who emigrated together are connected by dotted black lines. All the people with a blue outline migrated to Louisiana. (Jack Dragna’s parents later emigrated to New York, where he grew up. Read more about the Dragna family’s early life in America in Informer.)

An expanded family tree including everyone from the first tree plus Vutera's widow's second husband, Vincenzo "Charles" Peranio.
After Vutera’s death, his widow remarried to another first cousin, Vincenzo Piranio. The fathers of Vincenzo Piranio and Jack Dragna, each marked with a pink upper left quadrant in this tree, were both born of unknown parents. They married first cousins Anna and Rosalia Vutera.

Vutera’s same-name cousin has a maternal uncle, Mariano Colletto, who was a captain in the Fratuzzi, the Mafia of Corleone. The older Vutera may have run into some kind of legal trouble in Louisiana: in November 1901, one of the cousins ran an ad claiming not to be the V. Vutera who was decided against in a local court case. The younger Vincenzo Vutera was, at the time of his death, a grocer with a store in Dorseyville, eleven miles from Donaldsonville, which he ran under the name “A. Cusimano” because his own credit was so poor. The real A. Cusimano was Vincent’s brother-in-law and first cousin, Antonino Cusimano, who named Vincent as his destination contact when he emigrated to White Castle—near Donaldsonville—in 1897.

In January 1902, a notice ran for a “Constable Sale.” At auction were the provisions and equipment from Vincenzo Vutera’s Dorseyville grocery, being sold to satisfy his obligation to “A. Luciano.” The same Antonino Luciano who Genova swore to destroy was one of Vincenzo Vutera’s creditors. 

The same Antonino Luciano who Genova swore to destroy was one of Vincenzo Vutera’s creditors.

Given this history, it’s little wonder that Genova found a willing accomplice in Vutera. “The Lucianos thought it rather strange when Vincenzo Vutera, the big, fat storekeeper, who was running a general merchandise place in Dorseyville under the name of Cusimano, to deceive his old creditors, came to their place a few evenings back and asked for a bed,” The Times-Picayune reported. The Lucianos, who had turned their business into a fortress, welcomed him into their boardinghouse.

Vutera’s debt with Luciano and the auction to pay it were not reported in the days following his death in the shootout. Instead, there was confusion about whose side of the deadly conflict Vutera had fought on. Had he been placed there by Calamia? Or, as Tony Luciano told the police and reporters, did Vutera die in a vain attempt to defend his brother Salvatore Luciano, the target of the attack?

New Orleans police believed Tony’s statement was a ruse. Based on statements from other witnesses and evidence on the scene, members of Calamia’s party killed Salvatore Luciano, and then Tony, his brother, killed Vincenzo Vutera. Tony may have also shot Joseph Gerrachi, who died weeks later in the hospital, and Joseph Calamia, who took two bullets in his left hand. Both Vutera and Gerrachi are described in the newspapers as managers of Luciano’s macaroni factory. A Luciano cousin who was injured in the shootout claimed Vutera was a traitor who had brought Gerrachi with him from Donaldsonville. 

That evening, with Tony Luciano in custody, police told him Vutera had fired Gerrachi from his position in the factory. This appeared to confirm for Luciano his realization that Vutera (and perhaps also Gerrachi) had betrayed him, because it elicited from Luciano the names of the men who had invaded along with Calamia. Gerrachi, who was described as a merchant from Donaldsonville, was one of them, as well as Bartolo Ferrara, and two men who evaded arrest, Vincent Scaffino and Joe Galderone. Di Christina was seen across the street, immediately after the attack. Genova, the most powerful mafioso involved, was not part of the raid, but it was for the restoration of his honor that Salvatore Luciano was killed. Salvatore, Tony’s “hot-headed” brother, shot at Genova and Di Christina a month earlier, and was warned to leave the country or forfeit his life. 

Vincenzo Vutera was playing cards in the annex, to the rear of the store, with Louis and Tony Luciano when Calamia and his men arrived. Salvatore Luciano, sitting near the annex, was killed by multiple stab wounds and a gunshot wound to the head. Vutera was killed by three gunshot wounds that entered the right side of his body, lacerating his lungs and liver, and a knife wound to the head. It’s likely that Vincenzo shot Salvatore, who had already received mortal injuries, and then Tony killed Vincenzo. In his pockets were a knife that had shattered on the impact of another bullet aimed at his chest, and some letters signed from “A. Cusimano.” Based on the letters, the coroner correctly assumed this was Vutera’s alias and included it in his death certificate. 

Death record for Vincent Vutera, alias A. Cusimano, of Dorceyville, Louisiana. Married merchant, age “42 Yrs?” died from multiple gunshot wounds on 12 June 1902 in New Orleans.

Luciano avoided indictment in the Poydras Street shootings. Calamia stood trial for Vutera’s murder but was acquitted for lack of evidence. Vincenzo Vutera was only thirty years old, though the coroner indicated he was much older. He left a wife and four children, the youngest just four months old. Jennie Cusimano remarried a few years later to Charlie Peranio, born Vincenzo Piranio in Corleone, with whom she had two more children. 

On this sheet of the 1910 census, taken in Dorseyville, Louisiana, the first family listed is Jennie’s. Vincenzo Peranio, a grocer, is the head of household. Jennie’s uncle and father-in-law from her first marriage, Leoluca Vutera, an elderly widower, lives with them.

Sources

Babin II, D. (2015, April 28). Bumped off on the bayou: the macaroni wars.

Bloody battle. (1902, June 12). The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA).

Constable sale. (1902, January 11). The Weekly Iberville South (Plaquemine, LA). P. 2.

Kendall, J. S. (1911, October 1). The Mafia in New Orleans. The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 33.

Kingman, W. A. (n.d.) The Axeman of New Orleans. Retrieved 29 January 2019 from Serialkillercalendar.com

Krist, G. (2014). Empire of sin: A story of sex, jazz, murder, and the battle for modern New Orleans. Crown. 

Luciano lured to a mafia murder. (1903, August 10). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). P. 1.

More murder in the feud of Sicilians. (1902, June 13). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA). Pp. 1+.

Notice. (1901, November 20). The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA).

Sicilians in battle to death. (1902, June 12). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA).

Read Part 3 in this series on The Macaroni Wars: Francesco Motisi, Alias Genova