If and only if you’re near the Pioneer Valley, plan to hang out with nerds on Monday night. I’ll be there!
Mafia nerds, rejoice and be refreshed! I’ll be speaking Monday evening, August 13th, at Nerd Nite Noho, a monthly gathering at the World War II Club in Northampton, Massachusetts. Join us! I’ll be in a double header: the other half of the evening will be on feminist comics. So much cool, they turn off the A/C. (Just kidding. It’s very comfortable. And there’s a bar!)
When the Patriarca family tried to take over Springfield, Massachusetts, in the late Eighties, the local Genovese crew struck back.
In the 1960s, Ralph “Whitey” Tropiano and Salvatore Annunziato, both of the Colombo family, ran New Haven together in a grudging alliance. Tropiano, who once killed his whole crew to save his own skin, was in charge of the bookmakers while the diminutive former boxer, who once fought as “Midge Renault,” headed labor.
Tropiano and one of his bookmaking associates, William Grasso, were going to go into the trash hauling business together, when their attempts to create a monopoly were revealed. Grasso was convicted and sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. This turned out to be the greatest stroke of luck in his criminal career.
Mafia relations in Massachusetts can be divided into two eras: before Patriarca and after him. For a generation following the end of Prohibition, the various gangs in Boston were run semi-independently and each leader was the equal of any boss of Springfield, in the western part of the state. Joseph Lombardo, regarded by most Mafia historians as a long time underboss in Boston, was said by Vincent Teresa to be the chair of a council of New England bosses. In this formulation, Springfield came under Boston’s jurisdiction. The undisputed boss of Springfield, who was “Big Nose” Sam Cufari in those years, would require, for at least some activities, the permission of “Mr. Lombardo” in Boston.
After Patriarca consolidated Boston and Providence’s operations, he went on to forge strong relationships with the Genovese and Colombo families of New York. His principal rivals in Boston were the Irish gangs, the Winter Hill Gang chief among them.
In the federal pen, Grasso’s cellmate was Ray Patriarca, Sr. When Grasso returned to Connecticut in 1978, he had a new protector. His old mentor, Whitey Tropiano, who had avoided indictment in the conspiracy with Grasso, was the victim of an unsolved murder in 1980. Thomas “The Blond” Vastano, was a Genovese associate who was said to be running the family’s gambling operations in Connecticut, was killed the same year.
Illegal gaming would figure prominently in Grasso’s demise. By 1989, Big Nose Sam had passed away and his successor, “Frankie Skyball” Scibelli, was in prison. His associate, Anthony Delevo, was running the Springfield crew in his absence. Meanwhile, the Scibelli family held a monopoly in the Springfield area on illegally retrofitted video game machines. S&M was a distributor of pool tables, video game machines, and the like to area restaurants, bars, and clubs, owned first by Albert “Baba” Scibelli, brother of Frankie Skyball, and later by Baba’s son-in-law, restaurateur and real estate developer Michael Cimmino.
The game machines in question were fixed in such a way that venue owners were not only complicit but active in the conspiracy. They could adjust how often players won, and split proceeds 50-50 with S&M. It was a lucrative racket: one venue that kept records earned $40,000 over four months through these machines. The existence of the gaming racket was revealed in a massive raid in 2001.
Like Grasso, Frank Salemme’s rise through the ranks of the Patriarca organization began in prison, where he met soldier Anthony Morelli in 1957. Through Morelli, Salemme was introduced to the crime family he would later attempt to take over with support from Whitey Bulger.
Bulger and his close associate, Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi, were both long time FBI informants by 1989. Bulger became an FBI informant in 1975, and his Somerville based Winter Hill Gang’s activities were largely overlooked by law enforcement as a result. Flemmi, who also moved between the Winter Hill and Patriarca circles, was what Professor Elin Waring calls a connector of co-offending networks.
Ray Patriarca Sr. died in 1984. Three years later, Grasso became underboss to Ray Patriarca, Jr, when the new boss’ first choice went to prison. Meanwhile, by 1986, Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme had become a trusted aide of Whitey Bulger. He fought on the Winter Hill side of the Irish Gang Wars, then went into hiding after participating in a 1968 car bombing targeting the lawyer of an informant on the Patriarca crime family. He was caught and imprisoned in 1972. After his release from prison in 1988, Salemme promptly began working to take over the Patriarca family. By the time of the shooting, in June, 1989, he was the right-hand man of Bill Grasso, underboss of the Patriarca family and the organization’s most powerful member.
Other Patriarca capos resented Grasso and Salemme for their proximity to the Patriarcas, but also for their ruthlessness and lack of loyalty to their fellows. Chief among the disgruntled captains was Vincent “The Animal” Ferrara.
Salemme was injured in what appears to have been an attempted assassination, in a drive-by shooting outside an IHOP, on the morning of the sixteenth of June, 1989. That afternoon, William Grasso’s body was found by fishermen, on the bank of the Connecticut River in Wethersfield, near the Massachusetts border.
While the drive-by attack on Salemme was carried out in public view, and in broad daylight, the men who took down William Grasso used another, time tested Mafia approach to execution. His trusted associates picked him up for a meeting that never was.
Grasso, who was sixty-two and a recent widower, was famously cautious as well as dangerously violent, so he clearly trusted the company with whom he traveled. The four who took Grasso for his last ride were Gaetano Milano, a newly made man in the Patriarca family; his childhood friend and business partner, Frank Colantoni Jr.; and the Pugliano brothers, Frank and Louis. Like Flemmi, the Pugliano brothers and Gaetano Milano were connectors linking the internally feuding New England family and the Springfield crew.
All four were long time residents of the Springfield area. Milano, who was born in Naples, came to the area as a teenager: he graduated from Longmeadow High School. The Pugliano family has owned and operated a restaurant in Hampden, just outside Springfield, Massachusetts, since 1934. Frank “Pugs” Pugliano was described in 1990 as an associate of the Patriarca Family but a “made” member of the Genovese Family, of which the Springfield crew is a part.
Milano and Colantoni were in their mid-thirties, and the Pugliano brothers, in their early sixties. The man they were supposedly going to see was another elder in the New England mob scene: Carlo Mastrototaro, who ruled Worcester. Mastrototaro, who died in 2009 at age 89, was supposed to mediate a dispute between Grasso and Springfield interests regarding territories for the illegal vending machines that S&M distributed. Frank Pugliano, according to the indictment, set up the talks that led to Grasso’s shooting.
At the time of the shooting, Grasso and Milano were passengers in a van being driven by Louis Pugliano, along with Louis’ brother and Milano’s friend. Gaetano Milano shot Bill Grasso once in the neck, killing him. Colantoni helped his friend dispose of the body and clean the van. That was on the thirteenth of June. Three days later, coming out of an IHOP in Saugus, Massachusetts, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was the target of a drive by shooting, which he survived by running into a nearby pizza shop.
Although the killing and dumping of Grasso’s body all happened in Genovese territory, initial suspicion for the two shootings fell on the Patriarca family: captains Vincent Ferrara, Joseph A. Russo, and Robert Carrozza.
At his murder trial in 1990, Milano described the killing as the outcome of a conflict among leadership in the Patriarca family. The shooters in the attack on Salemme, and the Springfield hitmen, all maintained that they were likely to be killed by their victims if they did not strike first. It would be seven more years before Whitey Bulger’s control of the FBI, and his use of agents to spread rumors like these among his enemies, would become public knowledge.
Between the Winter Hill Gang’s false flag and genuine threats from Grasso against the Scibelli family monopoly, and considering the close relationships of Milano and his associates to the warring families, it seems likely that a consortium of Patriarca capos, led by Ferrara, could have obtained the active support and participation of the Springfield crew, in their successful strike against Grasso. The support for Milano in Longmeadow in raising his bail, as I’ve written previously, was notable. This coordinated takedown of the leader, in all but name, of the New England crime family, would likely have been seen as mutually beneficial by both Mafia families. Its orchestration by an Irish gang leader in Boston was not even suspected by the participants, much less by its victims.
It appeared that few people mourned the passing of William Grasso. Although he was considered deeply loyal to the Patriarca bosses, the other capos resented Grasso, and his soldiers hated and feared him. The funeral was highly surveilled, but no mafiosi came to pay their respects to the almost universally despised gangster. He was laid to rest beside his wife, Anna.
Despite the suspicion that fell on the Patriarca capos who had opposed Grasso and Salemme, Ferrara and his presumed allies did not benefit from the shootings. In the immediate aftermath, Patriarca men from Providence were put in charge of Connecticut to replace the slain Grasso. Hartford, which had always been an open city, reportedly came under the control of the Genovese family.
Frank Salemme’s bid for power was successful, at least for a time. The career criminal who was not eligible to become a made man under Patriarca Sr., because of his mixed Italian and Irish heritage, was the family’s de facto leader in 1991. Just two years after he was nearly killed by them, Salemme came to lead the organization whose former boss and namesake wouldn’t have him as a member. His son, Frank Salemme, Jr., was reportedly a made man in his father’s crime family.
After a 1995 federal indictment for racketeering, Salemme learned his associates in the Winter Hill Gang were informants. More details came out in Bulger’s 1997 trial. In 1999, Salemme, still in prison, flipped on Bulger and was rewarded with witness protection.
Salemmi was on release from prison and living under an assumed name in Atlanta when the body of nightclub owner, Steven DiSarro, was discovered in Providence in 2016. Salemme is currently on trial in connection with the 1993 murder, attributed to Frank Jr., who died in 1995 from lymphoma.
Last summer, Mayor Domenic Sarno proclaimed June 2017 Immigrant Heritage Month in Springfield, Massachusetts. To kick off the event, Sarno was quoted on the city’s Facebook page:
“I’m a first generation Italian/American. My parents, Alfonso and Clara Sarno are Italian immigrants, who as children survived underground in Italy during the Nazi occupation of World War II. My dad, a barber, and my mom, a seamstress, legally immigrated to Springfield and became American citizens. They opened their own businesses. They made sure to make myself, my sister Giovanna and brother Alfonso Jr. proud to be American, but they never let our family lose touch of our Italian roots and foundation of family – “a familia,” [sic] – faith, education, traditions and of course our food. I continue to instill these values in my own family with my wife Carla and daughters Cassandra and Chiara.”
Although Mayor Sarno calls himself a first generation Italian-slash-American, the truth is more complicated. The mayor’s paternal great-grandparents lived in West Springfield as early as 1906. While they lived here, their son, Domenico, was born.
They returned to Italy sometime before 1920, taking their young family with them.
That year, Prohibition began in the United States, as did a period of ascendance for American fascism. The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 put a quota on Italian and other non-WASP immigrants, greatly reducing their numbers. The war in Europe slowed Italian immigration to the US to a trickle.
In the decades after WWII’s end, many families from Italy immigrated and settled in Springfield, including a young Al Bruno. The Sarno family moved back to Springfield in 1948. Domenico Sarno, who was born here in 1910, returned with his wife and their children, all of whom were born in Italy and yet, American citizens through Domenico’s status. Their son, Alfonso Sarno, the popular barber shop owner and father of the mayor, was twelve years old.
Today, Mayor Sarno uses his office to harass and intimidate South Congregational Church and the families they shelter from federal immigration. Advocates for refugee families criticize Sarno as “publicly inhospitable” to new immigrants. The mayor plays the respectability card when immigration comes up, such as when Trump called Haiti and African countries “shithole countries,” and Sarno pointed out that Dr. Harry Dumay, the president of Elms College, in Chicopee, where his oldest daughter is a student, is a native of Haiti. Sarno is quoted saying “No one is against legal immigration aspects, especially those who have played by the rules.” But he criticizes the legal activities of Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, a resettlement agency, describing them as “using” Springfield as a ‘designated resettlement site.’
Springfield may not be a proclaimed sanctuary city, but that doesn’t mean Mayor Sarno can’t make different choices, ones that are more honest and less wasteful. He could prevent local law enforcement resources being diverted to assist a federal agency, refrain from launching a targeted investigation into one church’s status, and tell his family’s whole immigration story, not a version that make his political points.
Sarno’s personal and political base is an immigrant community that maintains close ties to its ancestral home, language, religion, and culture. He has many relatives on both sides of his family who have made Springfield their home. Not everyone who has sought refuge on these shores—from poverty, conscription, corruption, and war, as many southern Italians have—has been as lucky. Mayor Domenic Sarno, the son of immigrants, had the good fortune to be born the grandson of a native-born American citizen.
The Mayor did not respond to my requests for an interview.
Organized crime in Springfield, Massachusetts has long been controlled by a faction of the Genovese family, based in New Jersey and originally led by Willie Moretti. Rackets in Hartford, and elsewhere in Connecticut, are controlled by the local crew in Springfield. In other parts of the state, organized crime is dominated by the Patriarca Family, also known as the New England Crime Family.
The Patriarca and the Genovese use the Connecticut River as a line of demarcation, with exceptions for the big cities. Springfield and New Haven have always belonged to the Genovese, along with the rest of Massachusetts on the west side of the Connecticut. But these old boundaries have sometimes been contested, such as when William Grasso encroached on Springfield in the late 1980s. Further complicating relations between the neighboring families, there is a pool of seasoned gangsters who have long histories of affiliation with both the Patriarca and Genovese.
Despite being led by a New Jersey Family, most of the crew’s members and leadership have been Springfield locals who trace their roots to the same two villages in the region of Naples, Italy, as Pasqualina Albano and Carlo Siniscalchi. Pasqualina’s family was important in Springfield, even before Prohibition. Her uncle, John Albano, who like her was born in Bracigliano, is heralded as one of the founding fathers of Springfield’s Italian-American community, in a 1976 history that calls John’s son, Felix, the King of Little Italy. Felix is the father of labor leader John “Jack” Albano, and grandfather of the former mayor of Springfield, Michael Albano.
In the decade before Prohibition, the elder John Albano and his son, Felix, were already in the alcohol distribution business. But John was dead before the start of Prohibition, and his two oldest sons died young. The eldest daughter of his brother, Louis, and her husband, Carlo Siniscalchi, took over the liquor distribution business from Pasqualina’s late uncle and cousins. Carlo was killed within a year, and Pasqualina, before Prohibition’s end in 1933. One of their orphaned sons, named after his father, lived with Louis’ son, his uncle Antonio Albano, as a young man, in 1940. Antonio, a grocer like his father, opened a store in 1942 that remained in the family until 2015.
In New Haven, Connecticut, Colombo Crime Family member Ralph “Whitey” Tropiano shared turf with Salvatore Annunziato, a boxer and the son of a bootlegger, for decades, despite their mutual hatred. (Rumor was that Tropiano had been given New Haven for his part in killing Moretti, who was compromised by advanced syphilis, and about to testify before the US Senate in 1951.) Tropiano’s protege was William Grasso, who became underboss to Ray Patriarca, Jr, when the new boss’ first choice went to prison.
The first boss of Springfield’s Genovese crew that I know of, after Prohibition, was “Big Nose Sam” Cufari, born Salvatore Cufari in 1901 in Bianco, Reggio di Calabria. Calabria, the region south of Naples, is home to the Ndrangheta, an organization similar to the Sicilian Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra. Cufari lived in Springfield by the 1920 census and can be seen returning from Cuba with his wife in 1932. Another Springfield associate with ties to pre-Castro Cuba is Carlo Mastrototaro, who occupied positions in both the Patriarca and Genovese families.
Sam Cufari was arrested in 1943 for bookmaking. By 1948, he was the acknowledged boss of Springfield, running his family from his newly opened restaurant, Ciro’s. One of Cufari’s soldiers was Al Bruno. Other Cufari associates who would be active gangsters in Springfield for decades were Felix Tranghese and Felix’s first cousins, once removed, Frankie “Skyball” Scibelli and his brothers, Albert (called “Baba”) and Anthony. Frankie Skyball was first arrested at age twenty, in 1932.
The Scibelli and Tranghese families both trace their roots back to Quindici, the same place Carlo Siniscalchi was born. Quindici is in Avellino, on the provincial border with Salerno. Its neighbor on the other side of the border is Bracigliano, where Pasqualina Albano, his wife and successor in bootlegging, was born. The nearest large city is Naples.
The vast majority of Italian immigration to the US occurred between 1900-1915, and their descendants have few ties to the old country. But in many of the families from Bracigliano and Quindici who live in the Springfield area, movement between the two places has never ceased.
After WWII, a number of immigrants from Bracigliano and Quindici arrived in Springfield, which had hosted an “Italian colony” since around 1878. Many of these new immigrants had ties to the city, in some cases, for generations: their ancestors worked here before the Great War, or they had family members still living in the area. Immigrants from Bracigliano include the late boss, “Big Al” Bruno, and Amedeo Santaniello, a long-time second in command of the Springfield crew. Grasso’s killer, Gaetano Milano, came from Naples as a young child with his parents, not long after WWII.
In 1961 Frankie Skyball was turned in to police by a nun, for running a gambling ring from the phone booths at Providence Hospital, a crime for which he served nineteen months in jail. He had a son-in-law, Victor C. DeCaro, who disappeared in 1972 after Skyball dropped him off at work. (Rumor was that Victor was cheating on his wife, Skyball’s daughter.) DeCaro’s body was pulled from the Connecticut River two months later. Sometime during the 70s, when Frankie was still in his fifties, he had a cancerous lung removed. Scibelli served a federal prison sentence in 1976. In the next few years, he lost both his parents. Cufari died a natural death in 1983 and Frankie succeeded him.
Mastrototaro was Patriarca’s second in command in 1984 when he was arrested with future Springfield boss Al Bruno on gaming charges. Bruno was convicted of racketeering and gambling in 1987. In 1988, he was arrested again for gambling operations. This time his co-conspirators included two brothers and their wives: his long-time second in command, Amedeo Santaniello; Amedeo’s wife, Anna; his brother Italo; and Italo’s wife, Josephine.
Anthony Delevo followed Scibelli in 1998, passing over Al Bruno, who moved his family to Florida. Meanwhile William Grasso of New Haven, known for his ruthlessness, was becoming the head of the Patriarca Family in all but name.
Carlo Mastrototaro had a reputation among his peers as an honest man. The same source that ties him to Lansky and Cuba, the published memoir of Patriarca associate Vincent Teresa, says of Mastrototaro that if he owed you money and you disappeared for six months, when you returned, he would still have that money for you, down to the penny. According to testimony from his killers, Grasso thought he going to the arbitration of a dispute about vending machine territories in Springfield—Genovese territory—with Mastrototaro, who was seventy years old at the time. Grasso was 62.
The Patriarca underboss was shot and killed in a moving van on Interstate 91, in June 1989. His body was found near the Connecticut River the same day another high ranking Patriarca member, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, was wounded in an attempt on his life.
Grasso’s killer was Gaetano Milano, of East Longmeadow. Milano was born in Naples in 1951 and immigrated when he was three years old. He graduated from Longmeadow High School, married, and had two children. In the late Seventies, he was a boxing promoter. Later, he went into business with his childhood friend Frank Colantoni, Jr., as owners of a nightclub, Club 57, in Southwick. (Nightclub ownership in Springfield is a family business, one that deserves a separate post.)
William Grasso was asked to the meeting by Frank Pugliano. (Pugliano reportedly approached Jimmy Santaniello early in 2004 to set up a meeting with Mastrototaro, when several gangsters sought Santaniello’s tribute, following Al Bruno’s murder. Jimmy is of no known relation to Amedeo.) Brothers Frank and Louis Pugliano are both named as participants in Grasso’s killing. Frank is identified both as a “Patriarca associate” and as a made member of the Genovese Crime Family. The Pugliano brothers are a few years older than Carlo Mastrototaro. Frank Colantoni, Jr. was 35 at the time of the murder, and Milano, 37.
Before a suspect was named in Grasso’s killing, the following March, Milano was arrested along with Frank Pugliano on charges of conspiracy and racketeering. But he was free on bail in October 1989, four months after the murder, sponsoring the induction of Vincent Federico into the Patriarca crime family. Federico, 30, was on a 28 hour furlough from the Massachusetts Corrections Institute at Shirley on “family business.”
Milano owed his freedom to a number of friends and family members, both his own and of his friend, Frank Colantoni, Jr., who together raised Milano’s $1.6M bond with the equity in their homes. Milano and his wife mortgaged two houses, one of them a duplex. His parents put up their home, as did his uncle, his brother and sister-in-law, and on his wife’s side, another brother- and sister-in-law. Colantoni’s mother put up her house, despite the danger that her own son would need the equity; he was arrested a few months later.
Other people of no known kinship to Gaetano Milano, who put up equity from their homes for his freedom, include Claudio Cardaropoli, whose family immigrated from Bracigliano with a young Al Bruno, and owned Springfield real estate with Milano in 1978. Francesco and Rosa Ferrentino of Hampden also put up $75,000 equity from their newly constructed home. Francesco’s brother, Mario Ferrentino, was suspected with Gaetano Milano of intimidating Mario’s co-defendant and witness against him in a manslaughter trial, the month before Milano’s bail was raised.
Emilio Fusco, who arrived in 1989 or 1990 from Quindici, was a protegee of Baba Scibelli, Frankie Skyball’s brother. Baba sponsored Fusco’s membership in the Genovese family. In 2000, Emilio and his wife were arrested on gambling charges with other known members of the Springfield crew.
When Skyball got out of prison in 1998, he retired from the Mafia and passed on leadership to Al Bruno. Bruno, who had already survived one attempt on his life, in 1993, was assassinated in 2003 on orders from his protegee, Anthony Arillotta. Among those tried in Bruno’s murder was Emilio Fusco, who fled to Italy and was extradited. Felix Tranghese cooperated with the police investigation into Bruno’s murder, allowing prosecutors to convict Genovese acting boss Artie Nigro. Tranghese was sentenced to four years in prison, and has returned to the Springfield area.
Tranghese was made acting boss after Bruno’s death, but Arillotta was soon recognized as the leader of the Springfield Crew. Tranghese, who is 66 this year, later testified that he was “‘shelved’ by a group of young upstarts in 2006.” Arillotta was succeeded by Albert Calvanese, upon the latter’s release from prison, in 2011. Arillotta, imprisoned in 2009, returned to Springfield in 2017 after serving eight years for his part in two murders, of Bruno and another man, his brother-in-law Gary Westerman. Recently, it’s been reported that the Springfield Crew is led by Amedeo’s son, Ralph Santaniello, with his father’s backing. However Ralph, 50, charged last year in a federal extortion case, is expected to plead guilty on 6 November 2017.
Two of Arillotta’s co-defendants, brothers Freddy and Ty Geas, are serving life sentences. Fusco, sentenced to 25 years for racketeering, will be in prison until 2032. Gaetano Milano was convicted of the murder of William Grasso and sentenced to 33 years. He is scheduled for release in 2033.
The story of Corleone’s influence on the Mafia extends to dozens of cities and towns throughout the United States.
Springfield, Massachusetts, has been controlled by the Genovese crime family for as long as there has been a mafia presence in New England. The marriages of Pasqualina Albano Siniscalchi Miranda, called the “Bootleg Queen” of Springfield’s Little Italy by the local newspapers of the time, may be among the earliest documented relationships between the crime families of New York and Springfield.
At the onset of Prohibition, in 1920, Vito Genovese went into bootlegging in New York with his childhood friend, “Lucky” Luciano, as well as Frank Costello, Gaetano “Three Finger Brown” “Tommy” Lucchese, Meyer Lansky, and “Bugsy” Siegel. Prohibition was a period of enormous growth for organized crime, and it was during this time period that the Sicilian Mafia became the most powerful force among the gangs of New York. Neapolitan immigrant Michele Miranda, also active in the Mafia in New York at this time, was an associate of both Tommy Lucchese and of Gaetano Reina’s crime family in the Bronx: Reina is from Corleone.
In western Massachusetts, Carlo Siniscalchi, an immigrant from Quindici, a small village in Naples, was about to become the Bootleg King of Springfield’s Little Italy. His 1915 marriage to Pasqualina Albano, who was born in the neighboring town of Bracigliano, calls him a saloon keeper from Brooklyn. The couple lived on the South Side and had five children. In Springfield, Carlo reportedly made and sold first candy, and then macaroni. On the eve of Prohibition, according to the federal census, Carlo owned a candy store. Within a year, he was killed by a fellow bootlegger, whose supply Siniscalchi had cut off. Indications are that his widow continued the business.
Two years into Prohibition, Costello, Luciano, and their closest Italian associates joined the Sicilian Mafia crime family led by Joe “the Boss” Masseria. Genovese’s work for Masseria would extend from bootlegging to extortion and murder. He and Frank Costello are both said to be associates of Pasqualina Albano’s second husband, Antonio Miranda, whom she married sometime between early 1923 and the fall of 1924. Antonio and Michele Miranda are brothers from San Giuseppe Vesuviano, in the same region of Naples as Quindici and Bracigliano, a hotbed of Camorra activity.
Like Pasqualina’s first husband, Carlo, Antonio Miranda was from Italy by way of New York. Miranda’s travel records call him a carpenter or joiner. In January 1923, he appears on the manifest of the Conte Rosso, joining his brother Michele at an address on Broome Street, in Little Italy, Manhattan. A year later, Michele appears on the Conte Verde, rejoining Antonio half a block away on Mott Street. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics later reported that Michele traveled frequently to Italy, and the same appears to have been true of Antonio, who returned again from Naples in October 1924, this time to his new wife, Pasqualina, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The first week of February, 1930, Antonio Miranda died from septicemia. Local news reported the infection started on his foot, with the removal of a callus. A college student donated blood for a transfusion, in an unsuccessful attempt to save Miranda’s life. The certificate of his death reveals that the infection that killed Antonio was of a more intimate nature. A pelvic infection, and not a surgical site on his foot, was the origin of the blood infection that killed Antonio Miranda. Although the most common causes of such an infection are gonorrhea and syphilis, Miranda’s case was reportedly caused by a bout of the flu.
Non-Italians in Springfield had long regarded “the Italian colony” as a world apart from their own: a foreign, dirty, and dangerous place. Little was known of the wealthy real estate developer who had married the widowed “Bootleg Queen.” His funeral was lavish, on a scale not seen before in Springfield. Mourners arrived from distant cities, deflecting discreet inquiries from journalists. On the day Antonio Miranda was buried in St. Michaels Cemetery, flowers rained down upon the procession, delivered by an airplane rented for this purpose.
The same month Antonio died in Springfield, Joe Masseria, in New York, allegedly ordered two murders: Gaspar Milazzo in Detroit, and Gaetano Reina in the Bronx. These hits sparked the Castellammarese War, which would rage for a year and a half. Vito Genovese is said to have murdered Reina, whom Masseria suspected of helping his archrival, Salvatore Maranzano, in Brooklyn. Genovese and Michele Miranda, also known as Mike, became close near the end of the war. The two were arrested together on murder charges, on which they were acquitted.
Much of what’s known of Miranda’s personal life comes from a Federal Bureau of Narcotics profile. The birth date and relations in the FBN report have been mostly corroborated by census records and travel manifests. He married Lucia DiLaurenzo in 1926, and they had one child, a son. Michele and his wife can be seen traveling together on the same manifest with gangster Davide Petillo and his sister, in October 1932. (Petillo gets a mention in another post, Gay Liberation and the Mafia.)
Two and a half years after Antonio’s death, and one month after Michele and Lucia returned to New York, Pasqualina was killed in a drive by shooting. She was in her car, parked across the street from the home of one of her employees in an illicit distillery operation. The attack came in the early hours of the morning, as Pasqualina sat with her “trusted lieutenant” in bootlegging, Michele Fiore. Fiore, described in the news at the time as having spent more of his time in America inside of prison than out, was a relative by marriage, the brother of Pasqualina’s sister’s husband. The following year, Fiore was killed in a barber shop. None of their attackers were ever identified.
Michele Miranda was respected among the gangsters in New York as a peace broker. He was a made member of the Genovese crime family, which had once been, in the years before Prohibition, the Morello-Terranova gang of East Harlem. Miranda was Vito Genovese’s consigliere from 1957 until his retirement, in 1972. He died the following year.