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

Omerta in Utica

Omerta in Utica

Nothing could tear apart these early Mafia families in Utica, New York. Not even murder.

Pietro Lima and his brother-in-law, Dominick Aiello, were in a hurry the night they were killed, summoned by a late night phone call. It was November, and the men left home in such a rush that neither was fully dressed; they’d thrown coats over slippers and pajamas. The men were found dead in their car in the morning, evidently shot at close range by someone sitting in the back seat. In other words, they were executed by someone they trusted. Though never charged, it’s widely believed that the powerful Falcone brothers were behind their deaths.

 

Pietro Lima
Pietro Lima

The Falcones were long time associates of Pietro Lima and his extended family, who had been running and distilling illicit alcohol in Utica since the start of Prohibition. Even after its repeal in 1933, the families continued to dodge taxes with their unlicensed stills. They were also part of a network of criminals that spanned the United States. Despite indictments for conspiracy in the early 1940s, the Falcones were not identified by federal investigators as Mafia bosses until their arrest at the famous 1957 gathering in Apalachin, New York.

 

The elder of the two murder victims, Pietro Lima, was born in 1869 or 1870 in Bagheria, a few miles from the city of Palermo. He immigrated around the turn of the century with his wife, Providenza Aiello, and their oldest child, Grace. They settled first in Brooklyn, where the rest of Pietro and Providenza’s children were born. By 1920, the family had moved, with several of their extended relations, to Utica, in Oneida County, New York, about 75 miles east of Lake Ontario. Across the water was Prince Edward Island, in Canada. It was a good location for transporting alcohol into the US during Prohibition, an activity Pietro was involved in with the husband of his niece, Rosario Gambino. The two were stopped together in 1924 in a car full of Canadian ale, but they were able to overturn their conviction the following year on the grounds the police did not have a search warrant.

Joseph Lima 1928 Utica
Joseph Lima

In 1928, Pietro and Rosario were both prosperous business owners in Utica, and the fathers of large families. Rosario, formerly a longshoreman, owned a gas station. Pietro, a grocer, owned his home next door to his eldest daughter, Grace, and her husband. His son, Joseph, was most likely being groomed to take over the family business. He had been married for four years to Nellie Caputo, whom he’d vigorously courted in her family’s Brooklyn bake shop, and they had one child, a son.

Based on interviews the police conducted with family members, Nellie sparked the fateful argument that November by remarking on how Joseph had let “some Italian girl” wreck his car. The fight escalated and Nellie left the house with their son, going to the home of Rosario Gambino, a couple blocks away.

The Lima, Aiello, Gambino, and Falcone families, all of whom moved to Utica in the years leading up to Prohibition, were related by marriage, as well as through their criminal activities. All recent immigrants from Palermo and Bagheria, they also shared a connection in Brooklyn, having spent time there, upon their arrivals in the US, living in the same Cobble Hill neighborhood. A Falcone stood as godfather to Joseph Lima, in 1901 in Brooklyn, and the Caputo family bakery where Joseph wooed Nellie is still operated by the original owner’s descendants.

It’s not clear why Nellie went to the Gambino home after her argument with her husband. Perhaps she spent a lot of time with Angelina Gambino, making it a natural choice. She may have come to know the Gambinos well in Brooklyn and sought them out as old friends after her marriage brought her to Utica. But she could not have been ignorant of the power play she was about to make.

At around ten o’clock that night, Joseph Lima and his father, who’d both been drinking, decided it was time to bring Nellie back home. They got one of Joseph’s brothers, Charlie, and Grace’s husband, Lawrence, to go with them to the Gambino home to retrieve her. But Nellie refused to leave with them, and Rosario Gambino backed her up, increasing the stakes for the Lima men. He said she could stay the night if she wanted.

Peter Gambino Utica 1928
Peter Gambino

Eventually, Joseph and the other young men left, but Pietro Lima remained in his onetime partner’s driveway, drunk and yelling insults at the house. Close to midnight, Rosario came outside again with his eighteen year old son, Peter, and told Pietro to go home. Pietro refused. Rosario then told his son to move their car, and as Peter started to comply, he saw Lima reach for a gun. Peter leaped in front of his father to protect him. A gun fired, and Peter went down, hit in the chest.

More shots were fired—both Pietro and Rosario were armed with handguns—and the two men managed to seriously injure one another. Rosario was shot in the stomach, and Pietro was struck at least twice, in the leg and the scrotum.

Pietro’s sons and son-in-law returned to the scene, and Charlie and Lawrence took Rosario Gambino, who was evidently the most seriously injured, to the hospital in their car. Meanwhile Pietro and the young Peter Gambino limped off together to find a doctor for themselves. They made it a few blocks before the older man collapsed. His gun was dropped into a sewer, and later retrieved from its catch basin as evidence.

Police arrived at the Gambino home, and the women inside would not let them in, so officers broke in and began searching for evidence. They quickly found Rosario’s gun, hidden in a warming oven. Joseph Lima arrived and claimed to be there to visit his wife, who had been ill. He demanded to know what was going on.

On the street corner where Pietro Lima collapsed was a cafeteria from which an ambulance was called to take the two injured men to the same hospital as Rosario. All three men were operated upon. Peter Gambino had been struck in the collarbone, but was expected to survive.

By the following morning, Rosario was dead. He left a widow and ten children, the youngest under two. A collection was taken at the viewing, to pay for his burial. The following day Peter, still in the hospital, was finally informed of his father’s death. Nearby, Pietro Lima was recovering from his own injuries, and expecting to face manslaughter charges upon his release.

Following news of Rosario’s death, it was reported in the newspaper in Utica that Nellie’s relatives were coming from Brooklyn to take her home with them. Police found Pietro’s discarded gun, as well as those stashed in the Gambino home, and learned that Peter Gambino’s injury came not from Pietro Lima, but from the gun of his late father. A suit was filed by the dead man’s estate against Pietro Lima, to support the widow and children.

As bad as it seemed, immediately after the shooting, it appears that the families worked things out. The manslaughter case against Pietro would be hard to press without the cooperation of the Gambinos. Peter was the only witness to his father’s shooting. In the end, Pietro was charged only with having an unregistered gun, and even in this, his niece, whom he had widowed, pleaded with the judge for a lenient sentence. The practical reasons are clear: better that Pietro was free and earning to support both their families, than for him to be imprisoned. Pietro Lima pleaded guilty to the gun charge and got a suspended sentence and a fine, on the understanding he wouldn’t be prosecuted in Rosario Gambino’s death.

Six years later, when it was Pietro and Dominick who were killed, money and family ties once again kept the victims’ families silent. Four years after her husband’s murder, Paolina Aiello was discovered to possess a high volume, state of the art “super still” in her home. After massive arrests in an alcohol conspiracy netted the Falcone brothers, reporters came around to Mrs. Aiello’s little grocery, which she had run from the family’s garage since the early years of her marriage. She had nothing but good things to say about Mr. Falcone, whom she had known for twenty years and whose son, a lawyer, was married to Mrs. Aiello’s daughter. It was Mrs. Aiello whose real estate holdings financed Salvatore Falcone’s $20,000 bail.