By Thom L. Jones for Gangsters Inc.
It was not quite the dog days of August, but almost. The temperature was in the upper eighties by mid-day, baking the cracked asphalt that shimmered under the relentless rays of the noon-day sun, beating down on the city like a blow-torch, tempered by the 80 degrees of humidity.
In Bushwick, Brooklyn, inland from whatever on-shore breezes may have been blowing in from the East River, there was no relief from the wilting heat. Granita peddlers pushing carts of shaved iced, held umbrellas over their wares, as they passed by men in undershirts, sitting on basket-weave chairs, playing radios, and swigging beer from paper-bagged bottles. Women gossiped on street corners, wafting their babies with fans; laundry hung limply from lines strung between alleys, starched stiff by the sun’s heat.
A brown Lincoln limousine, carrying two men, meandered down Knickerbocker Avenue, cruising past Bushwick Park where men were playing the bocci courts and barbecuing chicken and chops on portable grills, the blue smoke hardly lifting in the heavy air.
It was Thursday, July 12th 1979, just another summer day in this part of New York.
Bushwick, which derived from the Dutch word for refuge, originally settled by mainly German immigrants, had a huge influx of Italians between the two world wars. Many of the inhabitants still did not speak English, and lots of them were of Sicilian descent, living in rows of mostly three-story, six-unit, wood-frame or brick-faced walk-ups. However, the population was down to 120,000 from the 1970 census, many people moving south to Staten Island or east into Queens, giving way to the influx of Hispanic groups gradually taking over the district.
In the not too distant future, the avenue would become known as ‘The Well’ for its never ending source of drugs and narcotic arrests.But although things were changing, one thing was constant- this area was still the lair of the Bonanno crime family- a fearsome group of Mafia mobsters, who had claimed these streets over sixty years before, and the passenger in the car was probably its most fearsome member.
The Lincoln pulled up at number 205, a small, nondescript building, wedged in between a neighbourhood law office and a pizza parlour, on the north side of the avenue, between Jefferson and Troutman Streets. The sign above the door said 'Joe and Mary, Italian-American Restaurant,' the windows clouded by dingy yellow curtains.
The passenger nodded goodbye to the driver, his nephew, 43 years old James Galante, and stepped out into the street.
As the car rumbled off towards Flushing Avenue, the man checked his cash roll- $860, slipping it into the pocket of his pale blue slacks, along with his Medicare and social security cards. He was wearing a white short sleeved knit shirt, and as always, was sucking on a cigar. Small, somewhere between five-three and five-five, and a stocky 170 pounds, what hair he had left, was wispy and gray to white, strung around his swarthy head like a monk’s tonsure. He was 69 years old, and could have been anyone’s grandpa checking in for a cheap lunch. In fact, he was Carmine Galante, one of the most dangerous hoodlums ever to operate in the organized mob underworld of New York.
Here in the heartland of his criminal empire, he probably felt as safe as houses. He had less than three hours to live.
Galante was born on the lower East Side of Manhattan on February 21st 1910, at 27 Stanton Street. His parents both came from Sicily, from the seaside village of Castellammarese del Golfo. His father Vincenzo had been a fisherman there before immigrating to America. He was twenty-eight when Carmine was born, and was then working as a labourer. Carmine’s mother, Vingenza Russo, was twenty-five when he was born. He was one of five children, brothers Sam (Rosario) and Peter, and sisters Angelina and Josephine. He was christened 'Camillo,' but as he grew up, his school friends changed this to Carmine, and it stuck with him the rest of his life.
He also called himself at various times: Joseph Russel, Carmine Galento and Louis Volpe. These were just three of the nineteen aliases the FBI, and the five the FBN pinned on him over the years they investigated him. He attended Public Schools 79 and 120, quitting at age fifteen.
He was soon in trouble. His first arrest occurred in 1924, when he was fourteen, for stealing trinkets from a store counter, but as he was a juvenile, the actual charge is not included in his police record. He was sent to a reform school as an incorrigible delinquent. From 1923 until 1926, he was employed by Lubin Artificial Flower Company at 270 West Broadway. This was one of the many legitimate jobs he recorded for tax purposes and for the benefit of his various parole officers in the years to come. By 1930, he was working as a sorter at the O'Brien Fish Company at 105 South Street, near the Fulton Fish Market.
On December 12th 1925, he pleaded guilty to an assault charge, and a year later, again in December, was sentenced to prison for a two to five year period for second degree assault and robbery.
On the morning of Saturday, March 15th 1930, police officer Walter O. De Castillia, reported for duty at the 84th Precinct house at 72 Poplar Street, in Brooklyn Heights. A nine year veteran, married with a young daughter, he lived in Jamaica, Queens.
The station sergeant sent him around to Martin Weinstein’s shoe factory in the seven-story red-brick building on the corner of York and Washington Streets, just a few blocks to the east, to watch over the owner who was making up his factory payroll this morning.
At about eleven o’clock, De Castillia was sitting in an inner office on the sixth floor of the building, with the owner. $7500 was laid out on a desk and Martin Weinstein was personally assembling his employees wage envelopes, when four gunmen burst into the main office and strode across to where the two men sat. As officer De Castillia rose, reaching for his holstered revolver, he was struck twice in the chest and once in the leg by a fusillade of at least six shots. He died instantly. The gunmen turned, walked back out of the office along the corridor to the elevator, where a fifth gunman was guarding Louis Sella the lift operator. The men entered and went down to the street level, casually walking to a parked car, in which they drove off. At no time did any of the gunmen attempt to retrieve the small mountain of cash that was stacked on the owner’s desk.
Sella described the gunmen as young, early to mid-twenties, dark skinned with dark hair, and all well-dressed. Although a small army of uniformed officers and detectives descended on the scene, no trace of the gunmen was found. It was thought at one stage in the investigation that the killing was personal, a grudge killing by one or more of the shooters, although this theory never developed legs.
Five months later, on August 30th 1930, Carmine Galante was arrested and indicted in the murder of the officer. He was later released for lack of evidence. Arrested along with Galante and also released, were twenty-seven year old Michael Consolo, who subsequently became Galante’s bodyguard, and one of his cousins, Angelo Presinzano, who stayed close to him for many years, right up to his death in fact, and was his best man when Galante married in 1945.
It's possible that about now, Galante started to work under capo Frank Garafolo, who was also the under boss of the Bonanno crime family at this time.
Michael Joseph Consolo, however, didn't last the full nine yards with 'Lilo.' A Sicilian born and naturalized American , at the age of 65, in April 1968, he was shot dead on the street near his home on 76th Street in Rego Park, Queens. Two in the head, four in the back. He'd apparently picked the wrong side in the Bonanno War which had been rumbling along for the previous two years. It was rumoured he'd teamed up with Frank Mari to form an alliance with Paulo Gambino, Carlo's elder brother, on behalf of Gaspare Di Gregorio, who had taken over the ruling of Bonanno family, following a convoluted inter-family dispute revolving around Joe Bonanno appointing his son, Salvatore, (Bill) as the family counsellor, after a majority vote by the crew skippers confirmed it.
Consolo may well have been killed for all the wrong reasons. He had been seen talking to Bill Bonanno outside the Brooklyn Superior Court, as both men waited to give evidence regarding a confused shoot-out that had occurred on Troutman Street, on January 28th 1966. The Di Gregorio faction may well have come to believe he was switching sides so had him killed. He may also have been killed by another, second group of Bonanno dissidents who were also involved in the ongoing struggle that became known among law enforcement circles as 'The Banana Split.'
Another victim of this inter-family struggle was Calabrian born, Frank Mari, a close friend of 'Little Angie' Tuminaro, the linchpin in the famous 'French Connection' case. He disappeared in September, 1969. Mari was the top killer in the Di Gregorio group, who had been the lead shooter at Troutman Street, and had allegedly killed Bill Bonanno’s bodyguard, Sam Perrone in March 1968.
Frank ‘Frankie T’ Mari had been inducted into the Bonanno family in 1956, in a ceremony conducted at a house in Elizabeth, New Jersey. At the age of 30, he made his bones. His sponsor, the man who would vouch for him, was Carmine Galante.
‘Frankie T’ was one of the last men to get into Cosa Nostra before the Commission, the governing body of the American Mafia, ordered the books to be closed. That day, in the basement of the house, watched over by Tommy Luchese, Albert Anastasia, Richie Boiardo, ‘Lilo’ and others, the induction ceremony was performed. Galante insisted, according to a news report by Nicolas Pileggi, that Mari become part of his crew. He knew a good earner when he saw one, and Mari had a taste for the drug business, dealing through Tuminaro and Anthony DiPasqua.
It looked as though Mari’s murder was a ‘reprisal’ killing, but again, he may have been hit not by the Joe Bonanno faction, his apparent enemies, but in fact by his own people, led by Philip Rastelli, who could have been making a play to set in place his own bid to take over the family, which in fact he did a few years later. Frank Mari was the heir successor to Paul Sciacca, a man to whom he was very close. He was the man who headed the family after Di Gregorio stood down. Mari’s niece had married Sciacca’s son. Blood is thicker than water. Never more so than in mob families.
Mari and Frank Adamo were last sighted at the 19th Hole Bar and Grill on 86th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, and then just disappeared off the face of the earth.
The 1960s were confusing times for the crime family of Joseph Bonanno.
On December 25th 1930, a police detective, Joseph Meenahan, had his suspicions aroused by the actions of a group of men in a green sedan parked on Driggs Avenue, just a few blocks north of the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Drawing his gun he approached the car, at which point, one of the men shouted at him, something like: 'Stop right there copper, or we'll burn you.' The redoubtable detective then busted a few caps as a shoot-out occurred. The officer’s overcoat was riddled with bullets, and he was wounded in the leg. A six-year old girl walking nearby with her mother, was seriously wounded in the cross-fire. Unable to start their car, three of the four gunmen escaped by leaping onto a passing truck. The detective was able to catch and disable the fourth, who turned out to be Carmine Galante, who had missed his footing and fallen into the street.
Taken to the police station, he was worked over by a group of detectives and brutally beaten. He was later identified as one of a gang of four who had robbed the Lieberman Brewery in Brooklyn. He never admitted to anything, including the identities of his accomplices, and after a trial, was sentenced by Judge Conway in King’s County Courthouse, Brooklyn, on January 8th 1931, to Sing-Sing prison, and then to Clinton Prison, Dannemora, where he remained until his release on May 1st 1939.
In prison, he was tested, and a medical report indicated that he had a low IQ (90) and the mental age of a 14 year old (Galante (right) was into his early twenties at this time,) was emotionally dull, and diagnosed as a neuropathic psychopathic personality. Dr. Baker, who carried out the examination, also stated that Galante was shy, had no knowledge of current events or any items of common knowledge. A medical check revealed that he had injured his head in an auto accident when he was ten years old, had fractured an ankle at eleven and by the time he had reached twenty, was showing signs of gonorrhoea in his system. He'd lead a busy life up to this point!
On his release from prison, he went back to his old job at the Lubin Artificial Flower company. On February 3rd 1941, he joined Local 856 of the Longshoreman’s Union, sponsored by his elder brother Sam, and for a time, worked as a stevedore on Piers 14 and 21 for the New York and Cuba Steamship Company.
Sometime in September, he had either left that job, or was moonlighting on another, because he showed his employment as a labourer at the General Electric Plating Company on Grand Street, in Manhattan’s Little Italy area, a business owned by Sal Farranto.
By August 1943, he was working for a cartage company, called Knickerbocker Trading, operated by one Nate Mesovetsky. The job was apparently organized for him by Johnny Dioguardi, an up-coming hood in the Mafia crime family we know today as the Luchese, and it paid him the princely sum of $27 a week. According to police records he lived on his release, either with his mother or sisters, which might account for the variety of address he often quoted: 329 East 101 Street, New York; 876 New Lots Avenue, Brooklyn and 202 Mott Street, New York.
He was working this job, when he was pulled in and questioned by the police in connection with the murder of Carlo Tresca, the anarchist newspaper publisher, whose brutal killing on a New York street, back on January 11th had made international headlines.
Leaving his office in a building on the corner of 15th Street, at 9.45 p.m., Tresca and a friend had crossed to the corner of 5th Avenue when a small man, dressed in a brown overcoat, ran down the street, shot Tresca twice, and then leaped into a waiting car, that sped off west in the direction of Chelsea. Two men employed by the Norwegian consulate, were walking east on Fifteenth Street, and heard the shots. One of them, Mentz Von Erpecom, later described the car. He had served in the Automobile Corps of the Norwegian army, and he knew his motors. A .38 calibre revolver was found in the doorway of the 5th Avenue entrance to Tresca’s office building, indicating a second killer was waiting there to cover that doorway. The gun was traced to Philadelphia, but there, the trail went cold.
No matter how hard the police and federal authorities tried, they could not pin the murder on Carmine Galante. They followed him around for days, spotting him meeting with friends and associates at his favourite haunts: the Spring Valley Social Club on Elizabeth Street; The Musical Club at 18, Prince Street; a candy store on the corner of Mott and East Houston Street, and Jean’s Clam Bar on Emmons Avenue, in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. They hauled him in for questioning, catching him leaving a restaurant on Elizabeth Street and pulled in his criminal associates, but to no avail.
There were so many rumours surrounding him, according to police intelligence:
Galante was a bootlegger, and he was part of a gang headed by Frank Garofalo.
Garofalo was said to be his cousin (possible, they both had strong family ties to Castellammarese del Golfo.)
Galante was associated with Frank Citrano, a.k.a. ’Chick Wilson,’ who apparently lead a gang on the Lower East Side out of a building at 250 Mott Street.
Underworld sources claimed that the driver on the night of the killing was possibly 'Joe Beck' Di Palermo, Galante's life long drug partner, or maybe he was just in the car at the time. Witnesses testified that there were at least three people in the Ford that drove away from the scene of the shooting. Two days earlier, the same car had tried to run Tesca down as he crossed a street.
The car, a Ford, registration IC-9272, was identified by reliable witnesses as leaving the scene of the crime. A few hours before Tresca was shot, Galante, wearing a brown overcoat, was seen in this vehicle, driving away from a meeting with his parole officer, Sydney Gross, from the agency office at 80 Centre Street, in downtown Manhattan. His behaviour this particular evening, aroused the suspicion of Gross, who alerted two of his agents. A parole investigator called Fred Berson followed Galante to the car, parked in Lafayette Street, but was unable to tail him, because war time petrol rationing restrictions had grounded all but essential city officers. He did however, note the plate number on the vehicle.
Berson was convinced Galante was tied into the Tresca shooting and made waves. He was subsequently dismissed from the service following a letter sent to the board by a fellow parole office, who a few weeks later shot himself, leaving a suicide note stating he had killed himself because of what he had been forced to do to Berson.
Files in the New York District Attorney's office contain information in memos dated January through August 1944, that Carmine Galante, Frank Citrano, Tony Garappa and Joe and Pete Di Palermo, were paid $9000 for carrying out the hit on Tresca, the money coming to them via Joe Parisi, a member of the Teamsters Union, and close associate of Albert Anastasia and Vincenzo Mangano, the administration of what is now known as the Gambino Family.
In addition to files held by the FBI, ( Tresca was apparently an informant for the agency, and had in fact had a meeting with his case agent the day he died,) which confirmed that Galante worked for both Garafola and Joe Bonanno, an unsigned 8 page document, copies of which are held by several research libraries, advances what could be the most in-depth scenario of the men and organizations behind the killing of Tresca. It was most probably written by Girolamo Valenti, a member of the Italian-American Victory Council, and a close friend and associate of Tresca’s
In 1946, Louis Pagnucco, an assistant district attorney investigating the murder, got around to interviewing one of the dozens of minor characters that filled so much space throughout the inquiry into Tresca’s murder. The man was a low level street hood, who had just come out of prison for attempted murder, called Ernest 'The Hawk' Rupolo. According to his testimony, shortly after his release, he had met two old friends at the Mapleton luncheonette in Brooklyn.
His friends, Gus Frasca and George Smurra, had filled him in on the latest news. They claimed that they, along with Galante, had killed Carlo Tresca and had been well paid for the job. Rupolo also picked out of a photograph line out, the face of Frank Garofalo who he claimed he had seen often at the Mapleton luncheonette with his friends.
Ten years later, Rupolo retracted his story, stating that all he knew was about a rumour going around that Vito Genovese had given the order to kill Tresca and that Galante had done the job.
Finally the Parole Authority had Galante re-committed to prison on November 23rd 1943, for 'cohabiting with known criminals', in particular his bosom buddy, Joseph Di Palermo. It was the classic manoeuvre, still used to-day 60 years down the track, when the law wants to put some one away, but has no real case against him.
However by now, Carmine obviously had some powerful friends, because just a year later, on December 21st 1944, he was released, after months of lobbying and legal procedural work by a number of very high-powered and influential attorneys. He may have also been supported financially, by donations from the American Labour Party, controlled by Luigi Antonini, who had formed an allegiance with Generoso Pope the head of the popular Italian newspaper, Il Martello, published in New York. Both of these men had seen Tresca as an obstruction to their political ambitions. There was also rumours floating around that the Teamster’s Union funnelled money through Joe Di Palermo to the Galante defence fund.
Closer to the root of the affair, Tresca had publicly humiliated Frank Garofalo, about having an affair with an assistant United States attorney, called Dolores Facconti. Also, on September 8th 1942, a dinner party was held in the Manhattan Club Hall by the War Savings Bond Committee of Americans of Italian Extraction. When Tresca entered and saw Garafola was present, he shouted, ‘ Even that gunman is here,’ and turned and left.
Garofalo and Pope were close, in business and on a personal level, so the killing of Tresca perhaps suited them both, for perhaps quite different reasons.
In 1954 William B. Herlands, the New York director of investigation under Thomas Dewey, governor of the state, carried out an inquiry into events that had taken place during the early years of the Second World War, regarding the security of America’s eastern seaboard and possible Mafia connection. During this investigation, Charles Siragusa, a senior agent in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, claimed he had a source in the New York County D.A.’s office who had been given information that Lucky Luciano, the then head of what is now known as the Genovese Crime Family, knew the identity of the men involved in the murder of Tresca. Luciano, it was claimed, offered to disclose the identities of these murderers in return for outright parole and permission to remain in the United States. Luciano was at the time in prison on a 30 year prostitution sentence, facing deportation, if ever released. Dewey allegedly rejected the offer.
Carlo Tresca and Carmine Galante remain inexplicably linked into one of the most complex political murder mysteries of war time America. As Eric Ambler states in his book A Coffin For Dimitrious, ‘in these affairs what counts is not who pulls the trigger, but who pays for the bullet.’
At the relatively young age of 34, Carmine Galante had come of age in the Italian-American underworld. Some sources state that he was taken directly under the wing of Joe Bonanno himself, the head of what the NYPD called ‘The Castellammarese Gang‘, or 'La Marese', becoming the boss’s driver and bodyguard.
On February 10th 1945, he married Elena Ninfa Marulli, always referred to as Helen, who was 28, and lived on Shepherds Avenue, Brooklyn, at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, on Pitt Street in the East Village. She had been his alibi the night Tresca was killed, confirming they both had been to the movies near Time Square, watching the new release, ‘Casablanca,‘ then spending the rest of the evening at a hotel. His best man was his cousin, Angelo Presinzano, also known as 'Little Moe' who was two years older than Galante.
'Moey' as Presinzano was also called, was a short-ass like Galante, and had a rap sheet dating back to 1927 for rape, homicide and violations of the narcotic law . He was, later in life, big in the drug business, which was par for the course with many of the members of the Bonanno Family.
Lilo and his wife moved into 274 Marcy Avenue, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, only a few blocks from where the Irish cop had arrested him in that wild shoot-out fifteen years before. They shared the three-story house with some of Helen’s family and another group called Leggio, who were related to Helen. Like almost everything in Galante’s life, the house was not registered in his name, but rather these other boarders. It is fascinating to speculate on Galante’s early married life- a typical New York couple starting out on their big adventure- Helen, frying bacon and eggs for breakfast, and then heading off each morning to work as a saleslady at the Cambridge Grocery Store, at number 104 on 1st Avenue, and Carmine, jumping into his car and heading off somewhere to kill someone.
Galante was caught by the law one more time in the 1940’s when he was arrested outside number 5, Berkley Place, near Prospect Park in Brooklyn on September 4th 1947, loading up equipment into a Cadillac. The gear had been used in the operation of an illegal alcohol still. He and three others, including his old pal, Joseph Di Palermo, were released on bail of $500 on charges of alcohol tax violation, pending action by a Federal Grand Jury (see photo below).
Throughout his criminal career, Galante and 'Joe Beck' as Di Palermo was known in the mob, worked closely, especially in the field of narcotic trafficking. Di Palermo was one of the mob’s consummate drug operators, still being chased by the law for his drug dealings, even well into his 80’s. His other claim to fame of course, was that he was the guy Joseph Valachi tried to kill in Atlanta. But Joe bonged the wrong guy, which kick-started a whole chain of events setting the Mafia on its ear. That's an entirely different story for another time.
By the early 1950’s, Carmine Galante (right) had solidified his position in the Bonanno crime family, and was still getting into trouble with the law. On Dec 16th 1950, the cops raided a crap game operating out of 235 West 18th Street, in the Lower East End of Manhattan, arresting 51 people, include Galante, who was charged with operating the game. By now, he had acquired the nickname that would stick with him the rest of his life. Addicted to cigars, especially the big, fat Cuban Presidente brand, he was hardly ever seen without one stuck in the side of his mouth. He became known as ’Lelo’ or 'Lilo', which can mean cigar, or little cigar in Italian slang.
At this time, Joe Bonanno's crime family numbered perhaps 300 made or inducted members, and an unknown number of associates. It was one of the smaller of the five New York Mafia clans, but was highly unified and well organized.
Joe's principal administration consisted of Frank Garofalo, John Bonventre and Carmine Galante. There were at least eight capi or crew skippers, each controlling thirty or more soldiers and the capo closest to Joe Bonanno was a man called Gaspar Di Gregorio, the same one who would come to replace Joe when the family dispute arose in the 1960's. The family's bookmaking and number business in Brooklyn and Manhattan's Lower East Side had grown significantly during the 1930's and through the years of the second World War.
The police were also after Galante again, this time, for a killing that went down early in 1950. On January 2nd Dominick Idone was telephoned at his home at 171, Mulberry Street. He left late in the evening, and was shot dead. Just why he was murdered, has never been established.
He'd had a long, and honourable career in the mob, going back to August 17th 1913, when he had been arrested for his part in the massive gang brawl between 'The Gopher Gang' and 'The Hudson Duster Gang', at the Bay Hotel in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
In addition to sighting Carmine Galante for the hit, the cops put out an all-points bulletin on the Di Palermo brothers, Joe and Charlie, Louis (Gigi) Armonte, Sal Megrino and Joe Mistratta. This could have been one of up to 80 killings attributed to Galante by various law enforcement authorities, and another one that of course, was never solved.
Sometime in 1952 or perhaps 1953, Joseph Bonanno made the big decision to leap himself, into the world of drug trafficking. He sent Galante north into Canada to establish a bridgehead in Montreal.
Here, he linked up with Luigi Greco, a Sicilian who had taken over the narcotic business of Harry Davis after he had been murdered in 1946. Greco worked alongside the Cotroni brothers, Vic, Joe and Frank, and had a partner called Frank Petrula.
Calabrian born Vic Cotroni, who may have been the first Mafia boss of the city, with an arrest record dating back to 1928, became so close to Galante that he became godfather to one of his children. By 1954, Galante had developed such a power base in Montreal, the underworld referred to him as a mammasantissima, a big boss. According to the FBN, Galante at this time, also formed an alliance with John Ormento, a capo in the Lucchese crime family, and they began moving massive amounts of drugs from Cuba and Montreal into New York, Chicago and Dallas. By 1959, the Cotroni brothers were supplying Galante and Ormento with up to 50 kilos of pure heroin a month.
Joe Bonanno and his son Bill, have both written books about their lives in the Mafia. Among other things, these two volumes are noticeable for their lack of reference to Galante. Joe, the boss, and foundling father of the family that still bears his name, 78 years after he assumed command over it, does not mention Carmine Galante once in his 400 page plus epic. Son Salvatore (Bill) offers up a few words on an 'ex-group leader'
‘of ours who had been committed of drug trafficking and whose case we maintained an active interest in for a variety of reasons…we were only marginally interested in how Lilo’s case stood.’
Interestingly enough, The New York Times in July 1979, printed an article in which Bill Bonanno claimed to be a godfather of one of Galante’s children, and he also stated in regards to Galante’s killing:
‘It got my attention, but there was no emotional stress. That is just part of the risk of living that life style.’
This is the man Carmine Galante, who was apparently Joe’s bodyguard, driver and confident, the man who most probably assumed the under boss position after the retirement of Frank Garofalo and then John Morales.
It’s not that the father and son lied, more that their version of the truth was less than perfect, and that they saw things the way they wanted them to be rather than as they where. These were two men who would whisper to the deaf or wink at the blind.
Carmine Galante and his lock on the heroin trafficking business that brought huge rewards into the family, was not an image the Bonanno father and son wanted to perpetrate as part of their legacy being men of honour.
Galante while in Montreal, lived at 4069 Dorchester Street, with Luigi Greco as a flat mate. He opened the Bonfire Restaurant at 546 DeLane Boulevard in partnership with Harry Ship, a local gambling czar and long time underworld figure, and operated a business called Alpha Investments, registered in Doral Province, Quebec, with Helen his wife, listed as an officer of the company. Lillo brought up from New York, Earl Carluzzi, a professional criminal, and ex-thief, to help him organize the unions for the hotel, restaurant and nightclub workers.
Galante’s mission in Canada was seemingly to make it a major staging post in the importation of heroin from Sicily and Marseilles, for forward shipment into New York. In a report to J. Edgar Hoover from the SAC (Special Agent in Charge) New York Office, it states that, 'Carmine Galante was the Mafia’s No 1 man in Montreal and that he takes 10% out of all the rackets in the city.'
While living in Canada, Galante became a good friend and mentor to an up and coming hoodlum, called Johnny "Pops'' Papalia, who one day would become the Mafia boss of Hamilton, Ontario, and who in turn would also get shot dead, in 1997, in a Canadian version of one group of gangsters trying to take control of another. The gangland version of Médecins Sans Frontièrs.
But all good things must come to an end, and in 1955, Carmine gets deported from Montreal as an undesirable alien. He placed Helen’s brother, Tony Marulli, in his place to oversee his interest, but he got kicked out as well, in 1956.
Through the 1950’s the FBI kept an eye on Galante, not as a member of the Mafia, but as a 'hoodlum.' Hoover never acknowledged the existence of a nationwide organized crime group that we now know as Cosa Nostra, until after Joseph Valachi’s disclosures in 1963.
Carmine Galante operated a number of legitimate business that kept Hoover's men busy in terms of surveillance. One, Rosina Costume Co. Inc. was a contract cutter for major dress manufacturers. Galante was listed as its Secretary-Treasurer and his wife Helen, as Vice-President. Another was Latamer Shipping Company based at 10, East 49th Street, New York. This was set up as an import-export company, but the feds were convinced he was using it as part of a world-wide distribution network involving his drug business. And then there was ABCO Vending Machine Company located at 501 New York Avenue, Union City, New Jersey. This business was interesting for a number of reasons:
It manufactured, sold and placed pin-ball and cigarette vending machines across New Jersey. At one time 'Bayonne Joe' Zicarelli a powerful capo in the Bonanno family and archetypal political fixer, worked with Galante in the business. There was a scandal involving a link by telephone direct from the company into the West New York police department, but the most interesting thing about it was a particular member of the board of directors, which consisted of Sam Atkins, B.B. Azarow and Steven Schwartz.
Sometime, perhaps as early as 1949, certainly from 1953, Carmine Galante was leading a double life. He had a wife and three children, in Brooklyn, and another 'wife' and two children in New Jersey. His second 'family' lived with him at Apartment 2D, 2330 Linwood Avenue, in suburban Fort Lee. The new woman in his life, who he could have been involved with as early as 1948 or 1949, was called Anne or Antoinette Acquavella, formerly Caputo. She was small, dark haired and very attractive, according to the neighbours. Just what she saw in a stump like Galante is hard to imagine. The union produced two daughters, Mary Lou born in 1950 and Nina, born in 1954. Galante stayed with Acquavella for the rest of his life, although they were never formally married. Being a staunch Catholic, he never divorced his wife Helen. However, an underworld source claimed, he 'would shoot you dead in church during High Mass.'
According to the neighbours, Galante was back and forward into his New Jersey home, but most often, arrived about five in the morning. During this period, he was driving a black Cadillac. In order to legitimize his two daughters, he arranged for Anne to marry Steven Schwartz, the man who served as a director of ABCO Vending, in New Jersey, although this was purely a marriage of convenience. Schwartz had also been closely involved with Galante in Montreal. While they lived in New Jersey, Galante’s de facto wife worked as a dispatcher for the Calandrillo Trucking Company located in Lodi. In 1955, Galante was also partners in a pastry shop at 13, Prince Street in Lower Manhattan, called De Matteo and Galante.
During 1956 and 1957, agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, another agency with a keen interest in him, tracked Galante as he travelled from New York to Miami, and in 1958 to Cuba to meet with French, Canadian and American drug dealers.
On November 9th 1956, Galante was in court again, this time in rural northern New York, where Judge Klausner sentenced him to 30 days in the Broome County Jail and fined him $100 for speeding. Galante had many such speeding infringement throughout his life and was seemingly a pretty careless and reckless sort of driver. But this particular infringement stirred up quite a hornets nest.
In October 1956, a State Trooper patrolling the highway near Binghampton, at about ten in the evening, pulled a car over that was speeding through the town of Windsor. There were four men in it, and the driver produced a license that was obviously not his. It turned out to belong to the front seat passenger, a man called Joseph Di Palermo, of 246 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan. Trooper Leibe escorted the car to the police substation in Binghampton, where the driver was identified as Carmine Galante.
Inquires revealed that he and Di Palermo, along with Frank Garofalo and John Bonventre, the other occupants of the car, had spent the previous night, October 17th, at the Arlington Hotel, as hosts of a local businessman called Joseph Barbara. Galante was held in the station jail while further inquiries were being conducted. Within 24 hours, phones were ringing hot, as a battery of lawyers with connection, were telephoning politicians in Albany trying to get them to intercede.
A couple of days later, a group of police officers from West New York arrived in Binghampton, and tried to bribe Sergeant Edgar Croswell of the State police into letting the case drop. The offer was $1000 in cash. In due course, indictments were laid against the Public Safety Commissioner, the police chief, a detective captain and a detective sergeant of West New York, a town in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York. A report subsequently issued by the New Jersey Law Enforcement Council stated that the involvement of these four senior city officials with organized crime went much deeper than just trying to fudge a traffic ticket.
Interestingly enough, the lawyer who represented Galante at his hearing was none other than Donald W. Kramer, the mayor of Binghampton! Carmine did his 30 days in the local nick- the Broome County Jail- which he served through November, and while there, was visited by his wife, his brother Sal and someone unknown to the authorities-one Nicholas Marangella. 44 year old Nicky 'Glasses' Marangello, a small man, with slicked-back hair and thick glasses, would have his moment of fame twenty-three years down the track, when he operated as the family under boss alongside Philip Rastelli, at the time Galante was murdered.
In August 1957, almost a year after the debacle at Binghampton, Joseph Bonanno took a holiday to Rome and Sicily. He claimed in his biography, that he was invited to do this by Fortune Pope, who would shout him the trip. Pope’s father, Generosso, a very wealthy Italian publisher, had been at the centre of the Carlo Tresca murder case, linking Bonanno and Galante through Frank Garofalo who had retired as the under boss of the family, and returned to live out his life in Sicily.
Joe makes no mention of the historical meeting that brought together the Mafia chiefs of the old and the new countries, except very obliquely. He goes on about a meal at a restaurant and the altercation he has with a cheeky waiter, but that is all. No mention of Galante, no mention of Charley Luciano, no mention of Genco Russo, the top mafioso in Sicily. Another lapse, another shifting of light and shadows; the cup is not half-filled it is half empty. Joe's biography, interesting though it appears on first reading, is a cornucopia of information deflected from the straight and narrow.
The meal, which lasted twelve hours, occurred on October 12th at Spano, a famous Palermo fish restaurant on the Piazza Politeama, near the waterfront. The group ate in a private alcove, starting their gargantuan meal with pasta con le sarde, a classic Sicilian dish, created around pasta, sardines, anchovies and fennel, a meal that traces its history back to the Arab occupation of the island.
The diners that night at this private party were all Sicilians, but half of them were oriundi, long time residents in America. They had gathered together, two days earlier, in the Sala Wagner, a sumptuous suite on the mezzanine floor of one of the oldest hotels in Palermo, Albergo e delle Palme, The Hotel des Palmes, once the grandest of Palermo’s mansions, on October 10th for a convention that would last four days. It has been suggested that the conference was instigated by Charley Luciano, the Naples based former head of his own Mafia family in New York, exiled from America in 1946, and now living permanently in Italy.
The American contingent included in addition to Bonanno, Carmine Galante, John Bonventre, Frank Garofalo, Antonio, Giuseppe and Gaspare Maggadino from Buffalo, Johnny Priziola who ran Detroit, John Di Bella, Santo Sorge and Nick Gentile, who strictly speaking was Sicilian but who had spent over thirty years as part of the American Mafia, before returning to his homeland.
Sorge is one of those figures that moves through the Mafia landscape like some kind of Van Helsing, a mythical character, searching not to destroy vampires, but to kill off, by guile and corruption, the bureaucrats in the law enforcement organizations that were seeking to eliminate his agencies of power and prestige. A man with contacts into the most important Mafia heads in America, equally at home with their counterparts in Sicily and most of all, a man with huge political influence in Italy. He maintained a respectable front in America, through directorships in Rimrock International Oil Company of New York and the Foreign Economic Research Association. Born in Mussomeli in Caltanisetta province, Sicily, he had become a naturalised American nine years before this meeting.
In 1967, Sorge brought a libel suit against the City of New York and two senior police officers, both retired. Chief Inspector John F. Shaney, former head of the C.I.B. and Ralph Salerno, former supervisor of detectives, were also named in the defamation and libel case asking $418,000 in damages.
Sorge was under indictment in Palermo, Sicily for criminal conspiracy as an alleged member of the Mafia, and the two police officers had given expert testimony for the prosecution. Salerno had testified that Sorge had close relationships with both Vito Genovese and Charley Luciano, when he had been alive, Carmine Galante and Joseph Bonanno. The two police officers had in fact been instructed by Police Commissioner Vincent L. Broderick to testify before Judge Aldo Vigneri of the Palermo Penal Court, who had visited America in order to accept depositions. The judge had also gone to visit Joe Valachi in Washington.
According to Joe:
‘Santo Sorge belongs to the the Cosa Nostra. It is my personal knowledge that his function was to go and come from America to Italy and vice-versa, carrying out tasks that I don’t know. I was never able to understand to what family he belongs. He was a close friend of all Cosa Nostra bosses.’
Sorge was also deep into another libel suite brought against Parade Publications for $1,160,000 on the basis of a magazine article which had said that Sorge was listed by former FBN Commissioner, Harry Anslinger, as the number 5 boss in the top 10 bosses of the American underworld.
The libel suit against New York and the two officers was dismissed on March 19th 1968.
Santo Sorge was without doubt, one of the great 'unknowns' of the American Mafia.
Sorge’s cousin in Sicily, Giuseppe Genco Russo, led the Sicilian contingent at the Palermo meeting, along with the two La Barbera brothers, Salvatore and Angelo, also Vincent Rimi of Alcamo and Diego Plaja, Don Mimi La Fata, Calcedonio Di Pisa, Salvatore Greco, and Charley Luciano. Almost every man in the meeting was a drug trafficker. Some years later, Italian judge, Aldo Vigneri, issued warrants, indicting them for 'organizing the drug traffic to the United States via Sicily.'
Also present during these four days of high level power talks was one Tommaso Buscetta, (Don Massino,) a member of the Porta Nuova Mafia family of Palermo city, and the most important pentiti or Mafia informer in Sicily, when he broke the code of omerta in 1984. It was he, who revealed that the meeting took place and disclosed for the first time the link between the American and Sicilian arms of the Mafia.
Just what went on here for four days has never been disclosed in detail, but what went on over the next thirty years seems to indicate that the American delegation asked their Sicilian counterparts to take over the export and distribution of heroin into the United States. It may also have been the time that Galante discovered the benefit of using home grown boys from Sicily, back in New York, and the beginning of the flow from Sicily into America, of the men who came to be known as the zips.
Salvatore Greco ran a fleet of merchant ships, under Honduras flags, that transported huge amounts of heroin, purchased through Frank Coppola, an old friend of Luciano, into Cuba, and the Sicilians were going to be flooding drugs into the United States with or without the American Mafia's help, so it probably made sense for everyone to cooperate. The zips would be a vital link in the chain connecting the importation and distribution of heroin on the eastern seaboard in the years to come.
Another interesting bye-product of the meeting in Palermo was the suggestion that it determined and organized the murder of Albert Anastasia, who was gunned down in a barber shop in a mid-town Manhattan hotel, eleven days after the convention in Palermo had ended. Italian police documents submitted to Judge Vignari in 1964 stated that the Palermo meeting confirmed the elimination of Anastasia, to be organized by Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino, and that two sicari (assassins) were to be sent over to New York to do the shooting.
Every man and his dog seems to have killed 'The Mad Hatter,' so why not a couple of Sicilian hit men?
Eighteen days after Anastasia’s death-on November 12th 1957- an elite group of Cosa Nostra members met secretly in Livingston, New Jersey from about noon, until five the next morning. Twenty four hours later, Sergeant Edgar Croswell, the same state trooper approached in 1956 and offered a bribe to release Galante, stumbled over almost the entire American Mafia leadership attending another conference at the home of Joseph Barbara near the village of Apalachin. (David link in here to my Apalachin Story.)
Like some hoodlum college of cardinals, they had come to congregate at the See of Apalachin to convene something, no one ever learned just what, as the meeting broke up in chaos and men fled or were arrested, leaving the property.
It is more than possible, that both Bonanno and Galante attended this meeting. Joe claims he wasn’t there; a man detained simply was carrying his driving license. Galante was certainly not detained, but may have been one of the possible 40 or so men who escaped the police blockade. FBI files indicate he avoided police by hiding in a cornfield. One of Barbara's housekeepers tentatively identified Carmine Galante, as being one of several men who were still at Barbara's a day after the fiasco.
One of the men who was detained, was a 60 year old Sicilian called Salvatore Tornabe, who lived on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. He was employed as a salesman by the Sunland Beverage Company, which was owned by Joe Magliocco, the under boss of the Profaci Mafia family. Both Magliocco and Joe Profaci were among the men detained by the state troopers lead by Croswell. Among Tornabe’s effects, the cops found a note written partly in English and partly in Italian by Tornabe. It kept referring to and 'Acqua-Velva', which may have been a phonetic spelling of Acquavella, and not a reference to the after shave lotion. The note seemed to suggest that both Tornabe and Galante may have been staying with Barbara on the night before the police raid.
According to Douglas Valentine in his biography of the FBN, one of the attendees at the hotel summit meeting in Palermo, was Philip Buccola, who had headed up the Boston branch of the Mafia before returning to live permanently in Sicily in 1954. He made a return visit to the USA, arriving in Boston two weeks before the mob meeting took place, and the FBN, while bugging his phone, discovered about Apalachin, and that in fact agents of the bureau had tipped off Sergeant Croswell about what was about to take place. This was never confirmed by Croswell.
After the disclosure and publicity generated by the Apalachin bust, Galante disappeared from view. An article in the New York Herald Tribune dated January 8th 1958, claimed he had fled to Italy to link up and seek refuge with Charley Luciano, for whom he 'used to run drugs in Harlem.' Another report had him meeting up with Joe Adonis, another major ex-New York mobster living in exile in Italy. On January 9th the New York American Journal reported he had been seen in Havana on January 7th and it was suggested he was seeking to move in on the lucrative gambling concession at the Sans Souci Hotel and Casino. He may also have detoured to the Dominican Republic. For a man with a reported IQ of 90, he was fluent not only in a number of Italian dialects, but also in French and Spanish, and sure knew how to handle air line schedules.
By April 1958, he was back in New York, and reportedly staying in suite 10A of the Alrae Hotel on East 64th Street.
In July, he was indicted as part of a major, and complex drug bust carried out by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Among the many gangsters who were hauled in on this, were Vito Genovese, John Ormento, Joe Di Palermo, and Vincent Gigante. Released on bail, Galante went on the lam, staying free until June 2nd 1959.
It's interesting to observe that both the FBN and the FBI were both keeping tabs on Galante at this time. Special Agent in Charge E.J. McCabe, (FBI,) noted in an internal memo, that 'Carmine Galante is one of the most important hoodlums we have under investigation.'
The FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) received a tip-off, and working in conjunction with the New Jersey State Police, two of their top agents, Marty Pera and Bill Rowan, set out to arrest him. They tracked him down to a home owned by Gary Muscatello of Union City. With two companions, Galante drove away from this property at 212, North Sunset Drive on Pelican Island, on the south Jersey shore, in a white Chevy convertible, plate number-RI 8208.
On the Garden State Parkway, near Holmdale, the cops pulled him over. With him in the car, was the ubiquitous Angelo Presinzano, and another cousin, Anthony Macalusco. They were all arrested.
Just how Galante got caught on this occasion, reveals a fascinating insight into the machinations of the Bureau of Narcotics, the only federal agency at this time, that really understood the Mafia and how it worked. George Gaffney, who headed the New York office of the bureau for four years, claimed that although 'their entire national budget was only 4% of all federal law enforcement expenditure, and their force only totalled 187 agents nationwide, they were responsible for 20% of the federal prison population, and put away more Mafia hoods than all other agencies combined.'
Agent Pera, through a New York Police contact, obtained a wiretap on the telephone of Joseph Notaro, a skipper in a Bonanno crew based in Newark, New Jersey. ('Bayonne Joe' Zicarelli was a soldier in his crew at this time.) Notaro acted as a message centre for Galante. Checking calls, Pera discovered the name of one Sal Giglio, a fifty-three year old mobster connected into both Notaro and Galante. He was in essence their point man in Cuba, linked into a group of Corsican drug smugglers based there. He had also operated out of Montreal, replacing Tony Marulli, as Galante’s manager, sometime in 1957, working closely with Quebecois gangster, Lucien Rivard, who was a major drug dealer and illegal arms importer into Canada from Cuba, where he ran a casino.
Giglio also worked with Peppe Cotroni, and his brother Vic, the major drug smugglers, to re-establish the drug pipeline between Montreal and Marseilles, France.
While this was going on, Pera's partner, Agent Bill Rowan, had come across a copy of a Canadian newspaper, that featured a wedding photograph of Giglio, and his new bride, Florence Anderson, a waitress at the El Morocco Casino, in Cuba, ( a favourite meeting place for Galante, Giglio and their European dealers,) taken on March 22nd. The problem was, Sal's first wife, Mary Fanale, wasn't in on the plot.
Pera visited Giglio at his home at 2760 Grand Concourse, in the Bronx, and while Mary was happy, cooking away in the kitchen, the two men sat in the living room, where Pera disclosed the incriminating photograph.
Using this as a hard edge, he persuaded Giglio to drop a dime on his friend and partner, Carmine, and in return, Mary would hear nothing about this other bride down in Cuba. Sal presumably kept on doing what he did best, drug trafficking through Cuba and Montreal into New York. Somehow, Galante never learned of his perfidy, which would have resulted in instant death for Giglio; seemingly the FBN kept its word, and Giglio was still alive in 1970, when he surfaced in Los Angeles, and was arrested on an old 1959 drug charge still outstanding against him. He was last heard of living in Florida in 1998, at the grand old age of 92!
On June 3rd Carmine Galante was released on bail of $100,000, by Judge Sylvester Ryan of the Southern District Court. It would take almost a further two years before he came to trial on his drug trafficking offences. He surrendered to the Federal Court, Southern District, on May 17th 1960, pleading not guilty before Judge M.C. Cohey, and again was released on bail. During this period, he was living at 40 Park Avenue, in Manhattan. He finally went to trial on January 20th 1961, the presiding judge, Thomas F. Murphy, revoking his bail. On May 15th there was a mistrial declared. One of the jurors, the foreman in fact, a man called Harry Appel, a 68 year old dress manufacturer, fell down a flight of stairs, in a building off 15th Street in Lower Manhattan, and broke his back injuring himself severely. It was generally believed that he fell, mainly because he was pushed. This time, Galante was allowed bail, and went free on bond of $135,000.
His second trial began in April 1962, and there was chaos in the courtroom when one of the defendants, Anthony Mirra, an upcoming associate of the Bonanno family, and a man as equally as vicious and unstable as Galante, picked up a chair and threw it at the prosecutor. It missed him, and smashed into the jury box. Other defendants screamed and shouted throughout the proceeding, but in the end, to no avail. Galante was found guilty.
On July 10th 1962, he was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The U.S. Congress had passed a draconian Narcotics Control Act in 1956, signed by President Eisenhower on July 18, and Galante was one of 206 big time Mafia gangsters caught by authorities under this law, according to testimony given by Henry Giordano, commissioner of the FBN, at the McClellan Committee Hearings in 1963. Galante was held in the Federal Detention Centre, at 427 West Street, New York before being sent first to Alcatraz and then to Lewisburg Penitentiary, Leavenworth and finally Atlanta to serve out his sentence. It would be the longest time he was to spend behind bars. He was eventually released from prison in January, 1974, but would remain on bail until 1981.
His time in Lewisburg Penitentiary was not totally unpleasant. He had his own cell in G Block, known by the inmates as Mafia Row, and it was here that he developed a life long interest and pleasure in growing plants and flowers. He was also allowed three cats as company, and spent many hours in the prison jail, keeping fit. He became a close friend of Jimmy Hoffa, and apparently ruled the block with an iron hand.
Back in New York, he was ready and anxious to resume his life of crime, take over the Bonanno crime family and become the dominant mobster in the city. To make a point that he was back, he allegedly arranged to have the bronze doors on the tomb of Frank Costello, (who had died the previous year,) in Greenwood Cemetery, blown off their hinges. He also threatened to do some awful things to Carlo Gambino, who he hated with a passion for his part in the Commission’s (the ruling council of the American Mafia) decision to overthrow Joseph Bonanno. According to police informers, when he spoke of Gambino, he would literally quiver with rage. In addition, he had to resolve the problem of the leadership of his own crime family.
Following the ‘Banana War’ and the de-throning of Joe Bonanno in the late 1960’s, there had been a series of boss re-placements in the family. On August 28th 1973, the current head, Natale Evola died of cancer, and was replaced by Philip 'Rusty' Rastelli. When Galante emerged from federal prison, he made it quite clear he was going to be the top dog. Rastelli, who was no slouch himself in the toughness stakes, resisted the move, until one day his son-in-law, James Fernades was gunned down in broad daylight on a Brooklyn street. 'Rusty' got the message and moved aside gracefully, but as it turned out, only temporarily.
Galante listed his official residence at this time, as Apartment #8, 160 Waverley Place, in Greenwich Village, but in fact lived with Anne his live-in partner, at apartment #20B, 155 East 38th Street in Murray Hill. The FBI kept him under observation, jogging near the East River Drive, moving in and out of L & T Cleaners on Elizabeth Street in Little Italy, one of the business’s he owned, stopping to choose fruit at his favourite store in the village, Balducci’s, or lingering over an espresso and pastries at De Roberts on First Avenue before lunching at Tre Amic restaurant on Third Avenue. Sometimes they watched him as he walked through the teeming streets of Lower Manhattan, like a patriarchal Don moving through a village in Sicily, balding and with a bent walk, puffing on the perennial cigar, his people, the paesani, approaching him to touch his arm or bow in reverence, like a scene out of some Mafia movie.
Mobsters in New York, salivated over the thought of what they thought they were, rather than accepting the reality of what they in fact, really were-dysfunctional criminals on the road to nowhere. The line between myth and reality blurred considerably following the screening of The Godfather in the earl 1970’s.
Nearing seventy, Galante seems to have given up driving, and when he needed to travel by car, he used a bodyguard, or often his favourite daughter, the beautiful, dark-haired, Nina, his youngest child by his de facto wife, who would chauffer him in a gold coloured Eldorado. At least every two weeks, he would cross over to Brooklyn, and visit a business run by his son-in-law, Louis Volpe, called the Magic Lantern Bar, at 1625 Bath Avenue, in Bensonhurst, and would sit all night conducting what seemed to be business meetings with his associates.
He was often observed with dark-skinned, swarthy Italians, and they spoke only in the Sicilian dialect as they discussed their business. These were the hungry and ambitious young Mafiosi he had imported from the island following his visit there in 1957. He was allowing them to set up their own crews and establish business interests, especially on Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn- bakeries, pizza parlours, pastry shops, and cafes. These were the zips, men who would become his right arm- soldiers and bodyguards- who talked so fast, they had this nickname pinned on them by the Italian-American gangsters, who formed the main structure of the Bonanno crime family. The imports were a different breed to their American counterparts. Some sources claim the knick-name also referred to the Sicilian term for 'bumpkin,' others that is was a verbalization of the Italian food ziti. The zips were also known as siggies or geeps. Ironically, the older, original Sicilian Mafiosi who operated before Prohibition, often called ‘Moustache Petes,’ were also referred to as zips.
According to Vincent Teresa, a Boston hoodlum who had served time in prison with Galante, '…these Sicilian mafiosi will run into a wall, put their head in a bucket of acid for you if they’re told to, not because they’re hungry, but because they’re disciplined. They have been brought up from birth over there to show respect and honour, and that’s what these punks over here don’t have. Once they’re told to get someone, that person hasn’t a chance.'
Between his release from prison in January 1974, and his lunch appointment on July 12th 1979, Carmine Galante lead a hectic schedule.
He took over a betting and loan-sharking racket operating in Pennsylvania Station that netted $500,000 a year. He put the pressure on a number of associates of Annielo Dellacroce, the Gambino family under boss, to sell him their interests in sweat shops in Manhattan, at heavily discounted rates. This may have been in retribution for Dellacroce ordering the murder of some of Galante’s drug dealing associates. The two men apparently hated each other with an unbridled passion
In March 1975, he travelled to Miami, Florida, booking into room 110 at the Diplomat Hotel on South Ocean Boulevard. He was registered there from the 27th until April 4th. On April 2nd he was arrested by agents of the Broward County Organized Crime Task Force for failing to register with the police that he was a convicted felon.
Galante travelled to Los Angeles in August, 1975, to meet up with his contacts in Orange County. According to a source close to the Anaheim Police Department, he was organizing a possible take-over of the pornography rackets in Southern California.
‘Lilo’ was spotted meeting with people at Disneyland, dressed like a tourist in a white T shirt, sporting a ‘Coney Island hat’ and puffing away on his usual cigar. He was first spotted strolling down Main Street, and then he was seen in earnest conversation with a group of men as they banged around on the go-cart stand. He also spent time on payphones located outside the park’s main entrance, near the Mickey Mouse train stop.
The major mob player in the porno business of Southern California, up to this time, was the Gambino Family through their capo, the seventy-one year old Ettore ‘Tony Russo’ Zappi. He and his son, Anthony, were managing the business using North Hollywood based William Haimowitz, a protégé of Zappi’s, who had moved from New York and set up shop with the help of Jimmy ‘The Weasel’ Fratiano, a member of the L.A. family, and Anaheim based John Lombardozzi, the brother of another powerful capo, Carmine Lombardozzi, who belonged to Carlo Gambino‘s crime family back in New York.
Galante’s man in the porn business, Mickey Zaffarano, was making major inroads into the industry, stealing business away from the Gambino representatives, and one of the reasons for Galante’s visit, may well have revolved around these activities. Galante was also seen with these people at a restaurant in a major city in Los Angeles County, and meetings between porn operators and the Mafia representatives took place while Galante was visiting the area. Underworld sources indicated that Galante also had ambitions to consolidate Colombo and Luchese family members who operated here in Southern California, into one super family.
In the early 1960s, organized crime had established a west coast base of operations in the San Fernando Valley. The Colombo crime family sent people out with money to start their west coast operations. It became the very first pornography business that created a corporate structure for the different parts of the business - distributing, producing, recruiting participants for the movies, filming, packaging, advertising, they created different corporate identities to make law enforcement think it was all owned by different people. Joe ‘The Whale’ Peraino and his brother Louis, both made men in the Colombo crime family, were the producers of the innovative and ground-breaking film, ‘Deep Throat.’
There was obviously a deep load of potential money-making opportunities to be mined in Southern California for someone like Galante. He also was casting his ambitions beyond Los Angeles, and was tracked making visits to both Reno and Lake Tahoe.
A few weeks before he made this trip, on June 28th, his eldest daughter by Anne Acquavella, Mary Lou, married Craig Tobiano at Our Saviours Catholic Church, on Park Avenue. The wedding was followed by cocktails at 5.30 p.m. then dinner, in the Cortillion Room of the august Pierre Hotel, across the street from Central Park. As mob weddings go, it wasn’t that big a deal, with only 160 guests attending.
Dyker Heights is a quiet, residential neighbourhood in south-west Brooklyn, butting onto Bay Ridge. Its population is 70% Italian-American. When it was first developed as a housing area in 1895, it was listed as ‘The handsomest suburb in Greater New York.’ It’s home to the Scarpaci Funeral Home on 86th Street, long a final resting place for many New York Mafia mobsters.
A few blocks to the north-west, 80th Street, runs between 10th and 11th Avenues. Here, on this narrow, one-way road, lined by neat, red-bricked houses, with orderly front yards, the sidewalks lined with maple trees, a van was parked, sometime between the evening of Monday October 6th and Tuesday, 7th 1975 . When police came to investigate what seemed to be an abandoned vehicle, they found inside, the bodies of two men, each wrapped in a blanket, secured by a cord. Each victim had been shot in the head, and according to the medical examiner, had been dead at least 24 hours.
The van had been reported stolen from the Bath Beach area the previous weekend.
The men were identified as George Adamo, aged 33, of Brooklyn, and Charles LaRocca, aged 28, of Jackson Heights, Queens. They were both associates of the Gambino family, and known narcotic traffickers.
They may well have been the victims of a complex mob message sent to Galante by a man he apparently hated and feared-Annielo Delacroce- the underboss of the Gambino crime family, using the boss of another family to get the point home.
It’s likely these two men had been dealing drugs with ‘Lilo,’and Carlo Gambino, a close friend of ‘Funzi’ Tieri, head of the Genovese family, finding out, had arranged with him to have the men killed by some of Tieri’s top killers. These men were part of a New Jersey based crew of the Genovese family, that had shifted its power base over to Brooklyn, following the death of it’s capo, notorious and legendary Mafioso, Angelo ‘Gyp’ DeCarlo. The new skipper, Frank Casina, was very close to Tieri, and another soldier in this crew was Tommy Lombardi.
‘Funzi’ Tieri, it’s believed, contacted Angelo Presinzano, using Tommy Lombardi as a go-between, and gave him a message to deliver to his cousin :
‘Tell ‘Lilo’ if he has anything coming, let him come round and see me.’
Whatever else he was, Galante certainly was not a fool, and never bothered to try and recover whatever was outstanding. Alphonse Tieri, slight in stature, well into his sixties, was not only the boss of probably the biggest Cosa Nostra family in America, he also had a reputation for unbridled ferocity. A man who dressed in $1000 suits and sported mountains of expensive jewellery, he could turn a monster hoodlum into a puppy with a well-chosen word or even just the right look.
The two dead men had been close to Carmine Consalvo, another underworld drug dealer, a major cocaine trafficker, who had taken a dive off his condominium in Fort Lee, New Jersey, a month earlier, to be followed later in the year by his brother Frances, better known as Frank, who went free-fall from the fifth floor of a high rise in Little Italy, Manhattan. Underworld sources claimed the men were killed by members of Vincent Gigante’s crew. The authorities came to dub these two killings, ‘The Murder of the Flying Consalvos.’ Frank had been a driver for Dellacroce in the early ‘70’s, and both men were thought to be associates of the Gambino family.
These four killings in 1975, may have been only part of a series of underworld hits that went down following Galante’s release from prison, as he fought to re-establish his power base on the streets of New York, and other mobsters like Dellacroce and Alphonse Tieri went out of their way to make it difficult for him to do so.
The New Jersey based Bank of Bloomfield went into receivership in December, 1975, mainly, by offering unsecured loans to mobsters from New England to Florida via various Teamster’s locals. Arnold Daner a business associate of the bank’s chief executive, Robert Prodan, gave evidence that $25000 was paid from the bank’s funds via intermediaries, to Carmine Galante during 1975. ‘Lilo’ was a man who looked at any source it seems, to provide him with the lubrication necessary to keep the wheels of his empire rolling.
In August 1976, Galante organized the purchase of a summer home for his newly married daughter, paying $60,000 for a property at the corner of Tulip Avenue and Wakeman Road, in Hampton Bays, Long Island. He would often spend his weekends here gardening, enjoying his love of plants which he had developed during his long incarceration in federal prison on his drug conviction. On Labour weekend he organized a meeting among crime bosses at this secluded holiday hideout. Among those attending was Russell A. Bufalino, the mob boss of North East Pennsylvania, and the ubiquitous Angelo Presinzano.
On Friday, September 25th 1976, 62 year old Andimo Pappadio and his wife returned home in his Cadillac, from an evening out. As he was parking his wife’s Cadillac into their garage, prior to moving his own onto their driveway, he noticed a maroon coloured sedan sitting across the street from his luxurious home on Eva Drive in Lido Beach. He went across to investigate and was felled by shotgun blasts fired from with the car, which roared of down the street, as his wife Eleanor Rose came running and screaming out of their house.
Pappadio, a capo in the Luchese Family, and a major enforcer of his family’s interests in the garment centre of New York, had worked with Galante in the 1950’s, in the junk business. NYPD intelligence units posed that Pappadio had moved in on some of Galante’s gambling business, when ‘Lilo’ was away in prison, and this was pay-back time. Like so many underworld killings, this one was never solved.
In April, 1977, ‘Lilo’ was back in the south, this time visiting a sick crime associate who was hospitalized in Dallas. In August he was again in Miami, appearing in the US District Court before a Grand Jury. As he always did, Galante took the 5th and was then taken into custody, being released on bail of $50,000 on September 3rd.
Returning to New York, he went to stay at the summer home at Tulip Lane, on Long Island, and fell down some stairs. He was taken to the local hospital, treated for a groin injury, and released. Four days later, the FBI surveillance team tailing him, saw him go into a mob social club at 1657, Bath Avenue, in the Bensonhurst district of Brooklyn.
On the night of July 6th 1977, two men humped 210 gallons of gasoline into Giuseppe’s Pizza Restaurant in Ambler, Pennsylvania. They had intended to light a fuse and watch the building go up from a safe distance. Instead, they got careless, and ‘boom’. There was nothing left of one of them but biscuit size pieces, but the second was identified as Vincenzo Fiordilino of Brooklyn, the 22 year old nephew of Giovanni Fiordilino, a member of the Bonanno family. The bombing, according to police intelligence, was one of dozens of torch jobs blowing up pizza parlours in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York. They believed Carmine Galante was orchestrating a move to push the Gambino family out of the cheese business, a hugely lucrative operation supplying hundreds of restaurants across the tri-state area, one that Joe Bonanno had controlled in his halcyon days, through companies like Grand Cheese Products Inc. of Font Du Lac, Wisconsin. It was another example of Galante’s determination to aggravate Dellacroce and the administration of the Gambino family.
Before his visit to Florida, a year following the first of the six killings that would occur across New York, a story circulated that Galante had put out an A.P.B. on ‘The Son of Sam’ killer, ordering his small army of Mafiosi and associates to use all their underworld contacts to help track down the killer. David Berkowitz was in fact captured on August 10th but as a result of detective work by the Yonkers police department and not as a result of some mob informant.
On October 11th Galante was arrested by US Marshals operating out of the SDNY office and taken into custody on charges of parole violation. He had been caught in a surveillance sweep meeting with known mobsters. He was committed to prison in 1978, at the medium-security federal prison at Danbury, Connecticut, and placed under 24 hour a day guard as threats had been made against him.
During the time he was in prison, he was visited often by Anthony Spero. He had became the consigliere, or counsellor of the Bonanno Family in 1968 after Joe Bonanno and his immediate family left New York for Tucson, Arizona., at the end of the Bannana War. The diminutive Spero dated back to the 1950's, when he was a soldier under Carmine Galante in Brooklyn and later moved up to Capo, or crew chief. A serious money-maker for the family, he generated revenue in gambling, loan-sharking, hotel and motel franchising and in the taxi-limousine service. An avid bird-fancier, he kept 300 exotic birds on the roof of his social club on Bath Avenue, in Brooklyn. He had been seen making frequent trips to Lewisburg to visit the imprisoned Carmine Galante in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Through Spero, Galante kept control of his troops, issuing messages and orders.
The court ordered the release of Carmine Galante in October 1978 on the basis of a brief filed by Jerry Rosenberg as Galante's petitioner. Rosenberg, serving life without parole, known in the prison system as ‘Jerry the Jew,‘ was convicted of killing two policemen in New York City during a hold up in May 1962. But a correspondence school in Illinois has granted him two law degrees. A paperback has been written on his life, and Hollywood turned that into a TV movie titled ‘Doing Life.’ The diminutive Galante and hyper-active Rosenberg would indeed have made an ‘odd couple’ at Auburn Prison, in upstate New York.
On March 1st 1979, Galante left Milan Prison in Michigan, and flew into La Guardia Airport. He was back in the volcano, as Joe Bonanno used to refer to New York, and had four months to live.
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