Life changes fast.
Life changes in an instant.
- Joan Didion
George Scalise was born in Calabria in 1896. When he was two, his family emigrated to New York and settled in Brooklyn. At seventeen, along with a partner in crime, Joe Alfono, he was arrested and imprisoned for four years on charges under The White Slave Traffic Act. He was essentially caught pimping. On his release from the pen, in Atlanta, he returned to Brooklyn to live with his father, Frank, a tailor, and worked at menial jobs, as a garage washer, job hand in factories, a grease monkey, an odd-job man; then a driver for undertakers, until at some time he linked into Frankie Yale’s crew in Brooklyn. He became a good friend and protégée of Anthony Carfano.
He eventually prospered to the point when he opened his own undertaker's salon. It was a happier place than it should have been. In the rear, he operated a speakeasy with Yale who became the first mobster in New York to transport booze in a hearse. Scalise developed into a major labor racketeer; a professional union fixer and manipulator for the Mob. He met up with Lepke Buchalter and Jacob Shapiro, two of New York’s most deadly Jewish criminals and major union racketeers who had joined forces sometime after 1922, and worked with them as they developed control of parts of the garment industry in Manhattan. Buchalter had probably started out working for Arnold Rothstein, the infamous Jewish criminal entrepreneur, and after his murder in 1928, Buchalter assumed a dominant position in the rackets. Whatever skills Scalise developed from his relationship with these two served him well in his life of crime.
In 1929, his first official involvement in labor matters was the setting up of Local 272 in the Teamsters Union, opening its office in the same building used by Anthony Carfano, who rented premises on the second floor, above a barber shop at 649 Union Street, Brooklyn.
Sometime during 1934, he and Carfano founded Local 174 in The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, the largest union of its type in the United States. Under Carfano’s patronage, Scalise would come to control unions representing beauty parlors, garbage workers, ash-can handlers, builders and elevator operators, distillery workers and butchers. The two men would share as much as 50% of the dues paid by the workers.
On Carfano’s recommendation, in July 1934, Scalise (right) became eastern vice-president of the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEIU) and by 1937, its president. In 1936, he chartered Bronx Local 32E of the BSEIU as his home local. He was investigated by Thomas Dewey, the New York County DA on 52 counts of bribery, embezzlement, labor racketeering and convicted of theft of $100,00 from the union. He was sentenced to a term of ten to twenty years in prison.
In 1940, the year Dewey prosecuted Scalise, the New York District Attorney's office suggested that the amount of money extorted by the crooked organizer could be in excess of a million dollars. Almost seventeen million in today’s terms.
In 1955, Carfano and Scalise, along with Sol Cilento, treasury secretary of The Wire Workers Union, AFL, were indicted on charges of union kickbacks to the tune of $300,000, funds stolen from the union. As usual, Carfano’s charge was dismissed, this time by Judge Jonah J. Goldstein.
A New York prosecutor said, “the union is to Scalise what a jemmy is to a burglar.”
He purchased a 27 room mansion situated on Takora Trail, Lake Mamanasco, in Ridgefield, Connecticut, paid for entirely by union funds. He bought it as a weekend retreat in the late 1930s.
From around 1920 until Carfano's death, the two were close in a relationship that was based on the common goodness of greed. Describing his relationship with the Genovese crew boss, Scalise once said, “We’re partners. He gets half of everything.”
They had it right in The Book of Proverbs, “Greed has twins, each named 'Give Me!'”
In his later years, Scalise gave up his life of criminal malfeasance, left Brooklyn, and settled once again in Connecticut where he died in 1989, aged ninety-three. He had outlived his partner-in-crime by thirty years. The malodorous union-fixer and the street-smart-hood had been a formidable duo in their war on honesty and the labors of all decent working men and women trying to earn a living.
In one of the interminable confusions of Mafia lore where names overflow with vowels and often overlap each other in syllabic context, Anthony Carfano moved in a circle that included not just Vincent Alo but also Vincent Rao. Both, certainly one of them, may have had shares in Marino's Restaurant in Manhattan, a place that would play a critical part in the last hours of Carfano's life. Both worked scams with Carfano in New York and Florida. One venture, in particular, seemed to be an attempt by Carfano to go legitimate and also involved his brother August. It pertained to the lathing industry. Lathing and plaster were a process used to finish walls and ceilings in American buildings up to the end of the 1950s when drywall replaced it.
Westchester Lathing was a company formed in 1951 by Carfano and his brother August. Its office was at 9 West Prospect Avenue, Mt. Vernon. August said that his brother was a gambler and his move to a shareholding in the company was “probably because he wanted a legitimate business interest.” The office was also the registered address of Ace Lathing. The directors of these two companies included Carfano, his brother, and son Francis, along with Charles and Vincent Rao. In May 1960, the New York State Investigation Committee charged that Ace and Westchester had along with others, conspired to inflate the cost of erecting a clubhouse at Yonkers Raceway by $4 million. The clubhouse was part of a State-funded $21 million dollar improvement program at one of the biggest racecourses in New York. A refurbishment between 1956 and 1958 that was carried out by contractors either owned by the mob or deeply linked into them. The construction was done at inflated prices, costing taxpayers millions in overruns and shady contracts. Most of the workers at the raceway belonged to the crooked Local 32E of the BSEIU, the same one set up in 1936 by Carfano's crooked union pal, George Scalise.
Vincent Rao, a capo, or crew boss in the Mafia Luchese crime family, controlled Yonkers and the surrounding area on behalf of his branch of the mob, as they had done for most of the 20th Century. Nothing moved, in construction, anywhere in Yonkers unless Rao gave his okay.
In April 1951, the IRD issued a list of 2500 leading gangsters across America whose tax returns were being reviewed in what they referred to as “a thorough going over.” In the list under the “C's” was Anthony Carfano. The revenue department of the government was not the only ones watching him.
The FBI was keeping tabs on Anthony Carfano over the years, gathering Intel on him, keeping him close to their bureaucratic hearts. According to a report published by the bureau in December 1957, Carfano and his close friend Albert Anastasia were apparently making a play to take over the New York and Brooklyn waterfronts. It was an enormous enterprise.
In Brooklyn alone, over 8000 longshoremen serviced around 75 piers handling 54% of all traffic into the seaboard of New York generating almost $2 billion of business annually. In 1951, State Governor Thomas Dewey instigated the founding of the New York Crime Commission following revelations about the stranglehold organized crime had over New York's dockland disclosed in the Kefauver Senate investigation. In September 1952, the NYCC began its investigation into the waterfront rackets and issued subpoenas against 303 politicians, unionists and underworld figures, including Joe Adonis, Vincent Rao, Vito Genovese. Longy Zwillman and Anthony Carfano.
The take-over by Anastasia and Carfano was happening during March 1953 and there was considerable angst in law enforcement circles that their actions might trigger an underground war. At a mob sit-down, it was agreed Anastasia and Carfano would keep Brooklyn while New York stayed in the hands of other hoodlums. It's an interesting interpretation of events, probably sourced through informants, but rendered less than logical when we consider that a) Anastasia's crime family had ruled the Brooklyn docks for years, back to 1929 or even earlier and b) the new York waterfront along with that of New Jersey, had been the fiefdom of the Genovese family for almost as long.
Sometime in 1953, Anthony Carfano went out one evening to a jazz club. It was called, “The Vogue Room” and was one of the dozens of such clubs that skirted West 52nd Street between 5th and 7th Avenues in Midtown Manhattan. He didn't just go for the music, though. We have no record of what went on that night in a street filled with sound and rhythm, but we do know who he met with. Not a vicar in sight. Instead, there was a caucus of crooks that included Johnny “Futto” Biello, Frank Costello, John Dioguardi, Joe Stracci, Joe Pizzo and Big “Jim” O' Connell. Apart from O'Connell, all were “made members” of New York’s Mafia.
This meeting was observed and subsequently reported on by Robert W. Greene, a journalist who would, one day, win not one, but two, Pulitzer Prizes for his investigative reporting into criminal activities. He was, at this time, working as a senior staff investigator for the New York Crime Commission and was tracking gangsters across the city, gathering intelligence to help support the committee's investigations.
On any given night across the five boroughs, meetings like this would have taken place, as hoodlums met other hoodlums to plan, and plot the distribution of their illegal aspirations, drafting the moves of their pawns across the biggest chess board in the world, with no ticking metronome to bother them. Their illegal aspirations including gambling, numbers, hi-jacking, drug dealing, prostitution, money laundering. Their legal targets were not just the docks and the garment trades and the fish, meat and vegetable markets and the construction industry and the hospitality world, they even went after dirt and rubbish. Nothing was ever too much trouble to the mob as long as it rewarded them with buckets of dollar bills covered in the face of Benjamin Franklin.
The waste disposal industry has long been a cash cow for the Mafia gangs in New York. It's an easy business to enter and relatively simple to control. It's legal and local governments pour money into it as it's an essential service.
In September of 1954, The Jamaica Sanitation Company was formed with its office on 157th Street in Jamaica, Queens. It's management was staffed by guys called Pogey and Joey Surprise, Frankie the Bug and Little Augie. Behind the scene was Vincent Squillante, otherwise Jimmy Jerome, a major force in the New York garbage business and alleged godson of the deadly Albert Anastasia. Pogey Toriello was a book-maker and strong arm-man for the mob. Frankie The Bug Caruso was a drug dealer who worked in the Genovese family. Your standard, run of the mill board of directors.
The shareholders put up money, the business ran for two years, then closed down, selling off its routes and equipment to another dodgy firm ready to fill the vacuum. Carfano's legitimate dividends were paid to his wife Lillian while no doubt the cash siphoned off went to stuff his money clips and safety deposit boxes. The company made lots of money by simply increasing its service charges, dramatically. One customer, “Hamburger Express,” in Bayside, had its monthly fee increased from $12 to $60. No one dared to query the changes. Among their many and varied career highlights, one of the board, Joey Surprise, aka Joe Feola, had done time for murdering a police officer in 1935. He would go the hard way in 1965 when he was killed and buried in one his waste dumps in New Jersey.
On January 11th, 1956, Frank Costello had lunch with Frank Ericson, one of his gambling partners, the most notorious bookmaker in America and an immensely wealthy man with real estate holdings in New York alone worth $10 million, and Anthony Carfano, a man Costello had known for over forty years. They met at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Lane. In their company was a former commissioner of the IRD, Joe Schoenbaum, Myer Lansky, Frank Livorsi and Costello's bodyguard, Jim “Big Jim” O'Çonnell, a man whose history with Costello dated back to Prohibition when he had been a “flotilla commander” for Costello's booze convoys. Frank moved in very eclectic circles. He hosted these kinds of meetings often through his tenure as the boss of the Luciano Mafia family. He mixed not only with gangsters but also with politicians, alderman, judges, men at the highest level of the city's administration. Not for nothing did they call Frank “The Prime Minister of the Underworld.”
Later in the year, on May 18th, a group of racketeers met one afternoon in Suite 2003 of the St. Mortitz Hotel at 50 Central Park South in Manhattan. According to another investigator for the New York Crime Commission, Edward Jones, there were 35 of them, including Vincent Rao, Mike Coppola, Joey Rao, Benny Levine, Meyer Lansky and Ben Novack, the owner of the palatial Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. Although his name was not listed, (the informant who supplied Jones with the details did not recognize everyone present,) it's a given that Anthony Carfano would have been one of the people attending. Whatever these men discussed, it's almost certain gambling was one of the main items on the agenda and if so, it would have been almost impossible not to have included Carfano. The informant believed it involved Frank Costello and something called “The Eastern Syndicate,” although no other evidence emerged to confirm this. “Syndicate” as a term, became fashionable after organized crime was nationalized by the Kefauver Commission between 1950 and 1952. There was another mob meeting held on August 21st in Hot Springs, Arkansas which may have evolved from the one in New York but whatever developed was never publicly disclosed by the FBI or the Crime Commission.
Sixteen months later, on the evening of Sunday, October 25th, 1957, Carfano drove into the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, parked his car and made his way up the stairs into the elaborate funeral home of Andrew Torregrossa and Sons on 79th Street. Since 1929, this funeral director has been burying the citizens of Brooklyn, and mobsters from all over town.
Carfano had come to pay his respects at the Sunday night wake of mob boss Albert Anastasia, who had been gunned down the previous Friday morning while in a barber shop on 7th Avenue in Manhattan. Police detectives who had staked out the building in the hopes of collecting information on underworld figures noted that Carfano was the only known criminal to make it to the death watch that night.
He and Anastasia had been good friends, had in fact dined together, the night before Al's final haircut. They traced their friendship back to the 1920s when Frankie Yale had employed Albert as an armed guard on his beer trucks shipping alcohol into New York from Long Island. They had mixed business and pleasure over the years, broken bread and shared wine. The day Anastasia died, Carfano and three other men were observed renting a room in the hotel where the barber shop was located. They had sat upstairs talking, while Al had been downstairs, dying.
For nearly sixty years, historians have puzzled over the killing of Anastasia and the reasons for his murder and the identities of the shooters. Declassified files from the FBI throw new light on what was the first major boss murder in New York in twenty-six years. For some reason not disclosed, a group within the family believed they were under threat of death from Anastasia and simply beat him to the kill-shot.
These men were, Charles Dongarra, a Sicilian-born capo in the family, along with Joe Gallo, Joe Riccobono, the family consigliere, Andrew Alberti and Joe Biondo, Anastasia's underboss. For the assassination, they choose Stephen Grammanta and a family associate called Joe Cahill, major heroin dealers from the Lower East Side. On the morning of Anastasia's murder, Alberti was seen in conversation with his boss a few minutes before Albert went down into the barber shop. Following the killing, these men were summoned to a Mafia “sit-down” held at the palatial home of Genovese capo Richard Boiardo in Livingston, New Jersey and after persuading the heads of the other four families that their actions were taken only in self-defense, were pardoned. Carlo Gambino, a little, weasel of a man, who the Genovese family thought of as a jackal, took over the leadership and lead the family until his death from natural causes in 1976. Four years after Anastasia's murder, Andrew Alberti walked out, early one morning, onto the patio of his luxurious home in the Bronx, and blew his head off with a shotgun.
As he sat in quiet meditation in funeral parlor C, thinking back over the years he had known Albert, Carfano maybe gave a thought to his own mortality. He little knew that he had only two years left. His own Gethsemane waited for him in a Greek tragedy that lay ahead, because he did not understand or relate to how the rules that governed his life were being re-written by a man obsessed by control and with his own appetite for power never satisfied.
At midnight, on November 26th, a police task force raided the homes of 15 alleged mobsters in Nassau County. They arrested seven they found at their residences. Carfano was one of those caught in the net. The raid was part of a harassment against known hoodlums following the debacle at Apalachin, in upstate New York, when dozens of mob bosses and their aides were arrested at the country home of Joseph Barbara on November 14th.
In 1922, he's at 649 Union Street in Brooklyn, then in Sackett Street, around the corner. By 1923, he has moved to 4407 4th Avenue. Between 1928 and 1929 it looks like he's flatting with Giuseppe Masseria at an apartment at 65 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. In 1929, he's somewhere in Mt Vernon. At the time of his son Francis' wedding to Margaret Jeffers in 1943, he's living at 54 Kings Avenue in Atlantic Beach, Long Island.
The wedding reception which was attended by hundreds was held on the roof garden of the St George Hotel in Brooklyn, at one time the biggest hotel in New York. Francis had graduated from the La Salle Military Academy and was working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. He would go on to serve as an officer in the Army during World War Two. On July 2nd, 1942, when he and his wife were living in an apartment at 1050 Union Street, he was posted to Fort McClellan, Alabama, as a special officer with the rank of second lieutenant. An honorable man, unlike his father, who ironically believed himself to be a man of honor, Francis would live to be almost 71 and die in Florida on February 17th, 1992, where he was buried, as a veteran, in the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, fifty miles to the north of Tampa.
Three years after his son's wedding, Carfano and his wife have moved to 83 Clayton Avenue in Atlantic Beach. When he is subpoenaed by the New York Crime Commission investigating waterfront racketeering in 1952, he gives the address of his mother's home in Mt Vernon, 35 North 10th Street, and also 130 South Colombo Avenue in the same town. This happened to be the address of a Nash motor car dealership. By the time of his death he is also showing a Manhattan apartment-4F- located at building number 2, on 5th Avenue as a place of abode, and a strange, little, single story house in Plunkett Street, Hollywood, Florida, which he may have rented out to his son. Then there were the places in Miami Beach, the hotels where he lived when visiting Florida, mainly The Wofford and The Caribbean, both on Collins Avenue.
As the 1950s were drawing to a close, Anthony Carfano, rapidly approaching the status of a senior citizen, showed no signs of letting up. Men of the Mafia are in the job for life. You go in alive and come out dead. By choice, many of them hustle until they die. Vincent Alo kept going until he fell over at the age of 94. One time boss of the Genovese family, Jerry Catena, was almost 100 when he finally went. Albert “Chinky” Facchiano, a soldier in the family, was indicted at the age of 96 and was recorded on a wiretap as offering to clip someone if required.
It's interesting to speculate on just how far Carfano would have gone in the mob, but his future or lack of it was already ordained. Most of his life lay behind him like a ghost of memories past, and his future was a corpse lying in wait. He'd crossed all his bridges and burned them behind, leaving nothing more than a nihilistic memory waiting to be confined to the history books.
The murders of Anthony Carfano and Janice Drake has been reported over the last fifty-six years by crime historians, news reporters, and writers in general. And almost all have had it wrong. It seems no one has sat down and thought out what the evidence really shows.
What it shows is this:
Friday, September 25th, 1959, Carfano was in Manhattan. He had driven there from his home in Atlantic Beach, on Long Island, in his new, black, $6500 Cadillac. Or then again, maybe he had stayed the night on the island, at his apartment, on 5th Avenue, just a little way north of Washington Square Park. Perhaps he was in town for business. Maybe shopping. He and his wife had planned to head off the next day to go on holiday. We don't know his itinerary that day. What is known, based on police files, is that early in the evening, he made his way to the Copacabana, the famous Manhattan night spot on East 60th Street.
Opened in 1940, it was owned by Monte Prosner, Jules Podell and Frank Costello, who at this time was part of what was one of the largest if not the largest, Mafia families in America. He had also been its boss, until 1957. Frank and Anthony Carfano were buddies going back to the early 1920s, maybe sooner. They were part of the same clan. Brothers in crime.
Carfano arrived at the club about six in the evening. At some time after his arrival, according to The Schenectady Gazette, dated September 28th, 1959, he was seen having a violent argument with two men. Just who they were has never been determined, and what, if any, connection they might have had to the events that were about to unfold later in the evening.
In the cocktail bar, he met up with his young and beautiful friend, Janice Hansen Drake. She was there with one of her friends, Mrs. Shirley Segal. Also in the bar, along with his accountant, was Anthony Strollo, better known in the underworld as Tony Bender. Aptly named. A man so crooked and devious, he found it hard to walk a straight line. It was rumored when he shook hands with someone, he always inventoried his fingers.
He was the man Friday to Vito Genovese who had taken over control of the crime family in 1957. Frank Costello had been shot one night returning to his apartment building overlooking Central Park. Although only slightly wounded, he got the message and stepped down. The man who allegedly tried to kill him, but somehow missed at less than ten feet, was a burly, overweight thug, a Mafia soldier called Vincent Gigante. His crew boss was Tommy Eboli, an ex-boxer like Gigante, and reportedly, a dangerous, psychopathic hoodlum with a very short fuse. He was a man apparently hated and distrusted by the rank and file of the family, who behind his back, referred to him as “Lon Chaney” the Hollywood actor famous for his portrayal of “Frankenstein the Monster.” Eboli, it was claimed, drove the car that brought Gigante to Costello's home the night of the shooting.
Strollo (left), whose legitimate front was that of real estate broker, was into drug trafficking, extortion, loan sharking, bookmaking, and controlled the family's business in Greenwich Village. A man who it was alleged shifted allegiances according to how the deal suited him. He changed sides like a chameleon shedding skin. About seven, he left the group to head off for dinner at a mob favourite, Marino's Italian Restaurant, at 716 Lexington Avenue, near 58th Street. Vincent Alo, a Genovese Family soldier had points or a shareholding in Marino's which might explain why it was so popular with the criminal underworld. Although it was believed by the new York police and the FBI that Alo ran Carfano’s Bronx based crew, he himself had followed his boss down to Florida and by 1936 had bought a house in Hollywood, in Broward County while maintaining a home on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.
Mrs Segal had arranged to meet her husband, Irving, a stockbroker, there for dinner, so Carfano left his car in the care of the doorman at the Copacabana, and the group of three went by taxi to the restaurant. There, they met Irving and found there was no table for four available so they joined Strollo and his group at theirs, Table 15. One of the men dining with Strollo was Tony Mirra, a thirty-two year old mobster, who with Vincenzo Mauro, also at the table, and an aide to Strollo, worked the gay bars in Greenwich Village, extorting and blackmailing whoever was the most susceptible and supervising the drug trafficking that was endemic in these clubs. Strollo's right-hand, Mauro, forty-three, was a tall, burly man, known for his violent nature and propensity for drug-dealing. In 1952, he had badly injured the black singer and entertainer, Billy Daniels, at the Strollo owned Gold Key Club on West 56th Street, for flirting with a white woman in the bar. The fact that the woman, Martha Braun, was his wife, did not save him from the ferocity of Mauro, a confirmed racist and listed on law enforcement files as “a merciless and vicious killer.”
Carfano had spaghetti and clam sauce for dinner. We know this, because at some stage in the evening having enjoyed the meal so much, he asked his waiter to get the sauce recipe from the chef, Gian Marino. This was later reported in police records as being part of the Carfano's possessions when his body was examined.
At around 8:30-8:45 pm, Janice Drake received a telephone call from her 13-year-old son, Michael, from their apartment at 63-60, 102 Street, Forest, Hills. She explained to her table that she would have to leave soon, to be with him. All he had for company was their Welsh Terrier that they called “Gussie.” Her husband, Allan Drake, was appearing at The Lotus Club in Washington D.C. as a back-up to the famous crooner, Tony Martin, so she was the only one available to care for their child. Allan Drake rang the restaurant himself at some stage to wish Carfano a good trip, as he and his wife, Lillian, were due to head off to Hot Springs, Arkansas on Saturday. Janice also spoke to her husband. Just how Drake knew his wife was at Marino's has never been explained. That was the last time Anthony Carfano, Allan and Janice spoke to each other.
For Allan Drake, that was also the night the laughter died.
A few minutes later, as everyone was sipping their espressos from the new Rube Goldberg coffee machine that looked like a jukebox and enjoying liqueurs, the waiter approached the table and told Carfano that there was another telephone call for him. He could take it in the bar. When he returned, he was white-faced and agitated. He told Janice they have to leave at once as he had an important appointment. He pulled out his fist-sized money roll and dropped a small snowstorm of bills on the table to cover the tab. In the men's room, he met a friend, a jeweler, and asked him to go and fetch his car from The Copacabana, an eight-minute walk away. The man agreed and returned soon with the vehicle. He is the last man to talk to Carfano and Drake before they die. Except for their killers.
The stage was set.
Almost every report over the years since that night has stated that the men who carried out the killings were hidden in the back of the car when Carfano drove away from Marino's. This is patently absurd. How would the doorman at the nightclub or the man sent to fetch it not notice them? How would they access the car without causing enough damage to be obvious? How would they bypass the anti-theft ignition device? Why would the killers make Carfano drive all the way to Queens to murder him when there were plenty of handy spots close by in Manhattan? This is the biggest, single fallacy perpetrated by writers reporting on this mob killing, since 1959.
The killers, in fact, were waiting for Carfano a twenty-minute drive away, (in 1959 police clocked this journey at this time,) near LaGuardia Field Airport. And that's where he was headed, leaving the restaurant sometime between 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm. At his destination, Carfano parked the Cadillac at The Travellers Rest Hotel, on the corner of Ditmars Avenue (now Boulevard), and 94th Street. He had perhaps an hour to live, and two more blocks to drive, to his death.
He and Janice moved into the cocktail bar and sat down to talk and drink with two men. “They were, smart, well-dressed, business types,” so said the hostess on duty, 27-year-old Caroline Oetkers. We have no idea what was discussed in the bar that night, although Joseph Kelly the barman, noticed they seemed to be having a serious conversation. About 10:20 pm, the four got up to leave and then met another man in the hotel lobby. They stopped briefly to talk with him, then they left and drove off, Anthony behind the wheel, south down 94th Street. Presumably the driver and his passenger thought they were heading for her apartment, in Forest Hills, a short drive to the south. The passengers had different ideas.
About half a mile from the airport as the Cadillac approached the cross-street-at 25th Avenue, it slowed down for some reason. There was a barrage of shots, flashing an eerie light into the car interior, the sound alerting the resident of the house nearby, and a woman walking her dog, further down the roadway. The car juddered to a halt, it's nearside front wheel mounting the curb. The woman saw a man exit the car and stand by the trunk, apparently examining a package, before he and a second man who had emerged from the vehicle, disappeared into the night. A bus passed by, and one of the passengers, a woman, glanced out and remarked to her seat mate on how strangely the Cadillac was parked, with the driver snuggling into the breast of his female passenger. The car had stopped outside number 24-50, a two-story apartment house. The resident next door, telephoned the police reporting gunshots outside his home. Within the next ten minutes, the police received a further six telephone calls reporting the incident. The first officers on the scene, Patrolmen Charles Simmons and William Woods reported that the car's engine was running and the headlights were on at approximately 10:40 pm when they arrived. Squad cars responded from all over the area, and by 11:00 pm there were at least fifteen, blocking off the street and the avenue.
After the crime scene had been fully examined, the bodies were removed in the early hours of Saturday morning and transported to Queens General Hospital in Jamaica, where autopsies would be carried out.
Although the police spent hundreds of hours investigating various leads and checking out every motor vehicle parked in the area of The Travellers Rest and the surrounding thoroughfare, interviewed staff and guests, door-knocked houses up and down the streets in the area and shook down all their informants, the investigation struggled to find traction.
A spokesperson for the NYPD stated, “This (the killings) was not anticipated, nor was it unexpected. Carfano has been familiar to the files of our underworld investigations for the past thirty-five years."
On April 14th, 1960, a 35-year old Long Islander, Thomas Garibaldi, 35, a laborer, of 20 Ingram Drive, Hicksville, a suspect in a narcotics case, along with ten other men, members or associates of the Mafia which had been in operation from 1950 until 1959 when the ring was bust by The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was questioned about the murders and held on $75,000 bail, but it was a trail that soon ran cold. Like the case itself.
Approximately four minutes after the shooting, William F. Chapman, who worked as a pharmaceutical chemist for Wyeth International, in Radnor, Pennsylvania, was driving from The Travellers Rest Hotel on the way to visit a relative of his mother, who lived in Flushing. He had stopped at the hotel for street directions. Travelling south towards Astoria Boulevard, he suddenly had to brake sharply, as two men, one tall, one short, rushed across the road in front of him, on 92d Street, from a patch of waste ground. It was only two blocks from the killing. One of the men actually collided with the car's fender. The second running man was about five ten, one eighty pounds, about thirty years old with short, cropped hair. Chapman noticed he was wearing an overcoat and gun-metal colored gloves. He glared at Chapman as though it was his fault, then the two men entered a car, an Oldsmobile or a Lincoln, parked on the roadside, headlights on, which took off at high speed after the two men clambered into the back seats. Chapman, on his return to Pennsylvania late on Saturday, and hearing about the Carfano killing, telephoned the FBI the following day to report this incident, but it was never followed up, and the Bureau subsequently denied having received the message.
Seven weeks later, Chapman was contacted by Detective Martin Dillon of the NYPD. This was as a result of another report Chapman made to the police in Westchester, Pennsylvania, where he lived. He subsequently visited New York and stayed at The Travellers Rest Hotel which was paid for by the New York police department. From there, Dillon had taken him to various police precincts and shown him a selection of police “mug” shots. Chapman had also worked with a police artist to recreate the features of the men he had seen that night.
This all came to light because of a mob informant called Joseph Valachi. A Genovese Family soldier and the first member of the Mafia to publicly acknowledge the existence of the secret criminal mob, as an organization with links across America. In his testimony before, during and after a congressional hearing on organized crime, in Washington D.C. which ran from September 25th until October 9th, 1963, he confirmed that the killing of Carfano had been ordered by Vito Genovese, then serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking.
The District Attorney for Queens re-opened the Carfano cold case and started digging. Chapman who now lived in Boreham Woods, near London, was one of his finds. The DA sent two of his aides, John Santucci and Frank Smith to England, in the last week of September. They stayed at The Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London, tracked down Chapman who was then in Bombay, and arranged for him to return to England so they could interview him. From Mafia mug-shots taken by the interviewers, the ones created with Detective Dillon previously, Chapman identified the two men he almost ran down that night four years before as John Franzese and John Lusterino. They were an interesting combination if they were indeed the killers.
Both were skippers, or crew chiefs, in what is known today as the Colombo Crime Family of South Brooklyn, run in 1959 by Joseph Profaci who had founded it in 1930/31 or earlier. John “Johnny Tarzan” Lusterino was a cousin of famous NYPD narcotics detective Robert Leuci, infamous as “The Prince of the City.” In 1972, Lusterino was kidnapped while leaving the home of his mother and never seen again. He was a victim in what was then called by the media, “The Gallo War”, an internecine dispute within the Profaci mob, by that time referred to as 'The Colombo Family,” by the law. Franzese, currently in prison and due for release in 2017 when he will be 100 years old, has been a criminal and a killer almost from the time he left school. He is one of the oldest, active members of Cosa Nostra in America.
When brought in for questioning by the Nassau County District Attorney, Franzese claimed he knew nothing about the Mafia and was just a hard working tailor.
The two men were certainly capable of killing Carfano but why would they be the chosen hit men? There were enough available among the hundreds of soldiers and associates that filled the ranks of the family Genovese ran.
Although the Queen's DA had plenty of evidence and statements from a number of witnesses, he could not put it together in a fashion that would allow him to indict anyone. The Grand Jury investigating the double homicide was dismissed in February 1964 and the investigation fizzling out for the second time, was consigned to the history books.
There are so many loose ends. Following them takes us up one dark alley after another.
Arlyne Brickman, a mob groupie and prostitute, claimed in her biography, Mob Girl, that a few days after the killings, Tony Mirra (right) confessed to her that he was one of the killers. When Carfano and Drake left Marino's, Mirra was still with the group, finishing dinner. How he found his way to The Travellers Rest, and into Carfano's car is hard to explain. He may well have been the third man who arrived as the group were leaving. It's a pinch he substituted and went with the Cadillac while one of the original men who had been waiting in the cocktail bar went off to manage the getaway car. It seems a clumsy way to organize a hit. What if Mirra's car had broken down en route to La Guardia Field? What if he had been pulled over for some reason by the police? It's possible he was part of the killing team, although there must be caution in determining that.
The shooting took place outside a house, Number 24-50, located about fifty feet north of 25th Avenue, on the west side of the street. It was a place known to the police and the district attorney's office as a potential drop-off point for drugs smuggled through La Guardia Field. The police questioned the occupiers, but nothing developed from this lead. Had Carfano stopped here to pick up a drug package? Was this the object the dog lady saw being examined by the man standing at the car's trunk? It would explain why the car had not crashed as Carfano was being shot. If he had just started the motor, maybe the car was not even in gear when he died?
Carfano was never arrested or indicted on any charges relating to drugs. There is no evidence anywhere that connects him into this area of criminal enterprise. In theory, trafficking in narcotics was frowned upon by the leaders of the Mafia. Not for any altruistic reason. Simply that the Federal Bureau of Narcotics went after dealers with almost a holy passion and were extremely effective in their drive to arrest and convict drug traffickers. The real danger to the mob was that men facing lengthy prison spells could save themselves by becoming informants. Genovese himself had gone to prison as a direct result of this sequence of events.
Interestingly, The Spokane Daily Chronicle of September 29th, 1959, claimed Carfano died as the result of a war within the Mafia to control the one billion dollar narcotics racket.
Throughout 1958 into late 1959 the FBN was carrying out a huge operation targeting 29 suspects in a conspiracy involving the importation and distribution of heroin from Canada via Montreal mob boss Vic Cotroni, into New York. Tony Mirra was one of these, working with people like Carmine Galante, the alleged underboss of the Bonanno Mafia family and Angie Tumanaro (one of the major players in the infamous French Connection Case of the early 1960s) and John Ormento, both crew chiefs in the Luchese family and perhaps two of the biggest drug dealers in town.
Ormento was a frequent visitor to Marino's which the FBN observed was used by the ring as one of their “drops” for their distribution channel. In Sicily, Mafiosi would meet for mangiata e parlata, eat and chat. Here, in New York, the tradition was just as deeply entrenched. The drug agents observed Tony Mirra on one occasion, in discussion with Ormento over dinner in the restaurant and late in June 1958, tailed him to a meeting in a room at The Park Sheraton Hotel with Ormento and Vinnie Mauro. Mirra was out on bail on his drug trafficking indictment the night he met Carfano at Marino's. He was found guilty on all charges and in 1962 was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
So, was Anthony Carfano into the heroin business, playing it so low, that even the ever-vigilant FBN did not have him on their radar? Did he die over a drug deal gone bad? Again, like so many of the theories that manifest themselves in the analysis of Carfano's killing, there is no evidence one way or the other. It's easy to put his murder down to the vendetta of a Machiavellian, power-crazed, narcissistic psychopath like Genovese, and that may well have been the way he died. Nevertheless, it's intriguing that his car stopped outside that one, particular house, in a street twelve blocks in length and filled to overflowing with homes in what the media referred to as “a quiet, substantial Queens neighborhood.”
As J.M. Darhower, the author said, “there’s no such thing as coincidence. There are no accidents in life. Everything that happens is the result of a calculated move that leads us to where we are.”
Complicating matters even more for the police investigators, according to an article published in The New York Times on August 23rd, 1963, the dog lady claimed, “she saw three men get into a car and speed from the scene.” So that gives us three killers on 94th Street and a further two suspects on 92nd Street a few minutes later.
Detectives soon established robbery was not the motive for the crime. Janice had $70 in her purse, wore expensive jewelry and had the lavish stole still draped around her shoulders. Carfano had almost $2000 in cash in his pockets, most of it folded into a silver money clip embossed “From Joe and Jenny.” Maybe Joe was his brother Giuseppe? The police also found a red leather address book that contained some interesting names, addresses and telephone numbers. Four, in particular, caught their eyes: Frank Costello, Tony Bender, Mike Miranda, a senior statesman in the Genovese Family, and Anthony Doto, brother of Giuseppe (Joe), the old friend of Anthony who had been deported back to Italy in 1956.
He also had in his pocket, the business card of one Nathan Voloshen, a crooked lobbyist who worked Washington until he was convicted in 1970 of using US House Speaker John McCormack's office to peddle influence. Voloshan had helped George Scalise in some shady deals in 1958, and it was believed Carfano was going to seek Voloshan's help in his forthcoming tribulations with the McClellan Commission on labor racketeering.
The investigators working for the DA's office in 1963 were anxious to speak to two men, Anthony Strollo, the devious mob boss who had shared his dinner table with Carfano and Drake, and one Frank Casino, Italian name, Francesco Cucola, aka “Little Casino.”
Strollo was not available, however. He was missing, presumed dead, since leaving his Fort Lee, New Jersey, home, late on the evening of April 8th, 1962.
It was alleged by Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg a New Jersey based career criminal who died in 2014, that Strollo was picked up about ten in the evening at his home at 1015 Palisades Avenue, Fort Lee, by a man driving a Cadillac called Giuseppe “Pepe” Sabato, a soldier in the New Jersey branch of the family, and driven to a parking lot at the back of the Milestone Restaurant on US Route 9W in Englewood. Here, Tommy Eboli along with a man called Dom DeQuarto were waiting in a panel truck and murdered Strollo, who learned the hard way as Nicky Martinez pointed out, “that those who kill friends get killed by friends.”
Konigsberg believed Strollo's body was buried on an up- state New York farm. He claimed that Jerry Catena, then the family underboss, and Eboli had planned the murder following instructions of Genovese passed on through his brother Michael. Vito was apparently enraged to discover that Vinnie Mauro was doing drugs with the support of Strollo and had been arrested by the FBN. Genovese had ordered his family not to touch narcotics, believing the bad publicity generated by arrests and trials might jeopardize his hopes for parole. There was only one answer to this kind of insubordination. It no doubt helped that Eboli apparently hated Strollo with a passion.
Edna Strollo reported her husband missing to the Fort Lee police on April 12th and that's where he will no doubt be, forever.
Valachi claimed in his testimony, that Casino had been the man who telephoned Carfano at Marino's. He said that Carfano trusted Frank implicitly, and would have acted on the call because it must have been important enough if it came from him. Casino was a member of the twenty-one soldier crew that Carfano ran in the Bronx through Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo, the same one with points in Marino's.
Fifty-six-year-old Casino, a bug-eyed, mousy man, was once linked into the mob-controlled artichoke business under Ciro Terranova, which was busted by law enforcement in 1937 and had been investigated for operating gambling joints in Montauk and other parts of Suffolk County. Newsday referred to him as “a gambling syndicate mobster.|”
Born and raised on 1st Avenue Manhattan, he had gone to parochial school on 115th Street until the sixth grade, then Public School 83 until the age of fifteen when he left the education system. His police record dated back to 1925, with his latest arrest in 1957. He lived with his wife, Kathyrn, in an apartment at 6H, 765 Riverside Drive in Upper Manhattan, maintained he was a Broadway ticket broker and one of his claims to fame at the time was that he was considered a suspect in the murder of Albert Anastasia. He was also, according to an FBI informant, a close friend and associate of “Pogey” Toriello, the same one involved in the Jamaica garbage scam. Toriello who lived in an apartment in Flatbush also had a home in Miami and was suspected of working closely with Carfano in his gambling activities in Florida. Cucola/Casino proved to be another elusive link in a chain of evidence that would never come full circle.
If Casino (left) did make that fateful telephone call, was he in fact one of the two men waiting for Carfano and Drake in the bar at The Traveller's Rest? If he was, it's almost certain he would have been one of the killers.
And then there was Janice. The blonde beauty. The New Jersey eye-candy who seemingly loved the excitement of being a gangster's “moll.” Maybe. Maybe not.
Frank O'Connor, the Queens District Attorney called her “a top-flight courier for the mob.” he also claimed she was no innocent victim. “She was involved directly and deeply with Pisano,” he said, “and if we can find out why she was shot, we will have the key to the murder. We know they met by appointment. She has been known to have consorted with known criminals all her life and was considered to have been top flight in the higher echelons of the underworld.” He added that his office and the FBI were discussing her possible role as a drug courier for the mob, and as someone who helped transfer money from point to point, and information too confidential to send by mail or telephone. The NYPD detective bureau claimed she and Carfano met at least twice a week when he was in New York. The DA was also quite adamant that Carfano was in the “junk” business dealing in drugs on a big scale.
The FBI told reporters, "Mrs. Drake was far from being an innocent bystander." The Associated Press relayed, "She is held to be, in some quarters, an important cog in some phases of Mob operations."
Janice seems to have been a New York version of Virginia Hill, the infamous Chicago mob bunny and paramour of the Jewish mobster, Benjamin “Bugsy” Segal.
Was she really all of this, or simply a mob groupie like Arlyne Brickman? This far removed, it's unlikely the truth will ever emerge.
There was, however, the other incident, involving dining, dancing and whatever, and then sudden death the next day for her partner.
During the evening of February 8th, 1952, Janice went out on the town, hitting the bars and clubs in Greenwich Village with Nat Nelson, a 37-year-old wealthy, playboy, garment industry figure. The next morning, the ubiquitous Arlyne Brickman, his current squeeze, turned up at his apartment at 360 West 55th Street, near Columbus Circle, to find him dead with a bullet hole in the head, amongst five others in various parts of his body.
He had been having problems with two of the most venomous men in the Luchese Mafia Family, Jimmy Plumeri aka “Mr Needles” or “Blackie” to his friends, and his nephew, Johnny Dioguardi, who ran their family's garment industry scams. Nelson and Plumeri were partners in a trucking business called Ell-Gee Carriers Corporation and Nelson had been skimming money out of the business. The problems were seemingly resolved by small-arms fire. Janice was taken in and questioned by the detectives at the 54th Precinct but could offer no information that would help them in their investigation. Years later Plumeri boasted to some of his friends, “I killed that son of a bitch.”
It was widely rumored Janice had done it again, this time with mob boss Albert Anastasia in October 1957, the night before he was shot dead while having a shave in the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue. She and Carfano had entertained the boss of what is now called The Gambino Crime Family, but the only evidence produced to verify this are some newspaper articles and a story in a detective magazine.(4)
The FBI had been monitoring Anastasia for months and observed that he often dined with Carfano. The evening before his death he did indeed meet him and there was a third diner, but this was a man, subsequently identified as Santos Trafficante, the mob boss of Tampa, Florida. There is no mention in FBI files that Janice Drake was there that night. Records of the NYPD 18th Precinct dated November 20th, 1958 show that on the day of Anastasia's murder, four known members of New York's underworld occupied a room in the hotel above the barber shop. One of those men was Carfano. Maybe they had been waiting to meet Albert after his short-back-and-sides?
Let's not forget the two from Texas: 43-year-old Nick Cassio and Johnny Grisaffi aka “Johnny Brazil.” Both were reported as being in New York during the period of the Carfano murder.
“Known Dallas hoodlums, killers for hire,” a Texas police officer was quoted as saying about them, “These men are capable of anything.” They had been part of the notorious Hollis de Lois Green gang that terrorized Dallas and south-east Texas for years. Green, who was 34 when he was shot-gunned to death on Christmas Eve, 1948, was alleged to have personally murdered 22 men in his short life. His gang of dope peddlers, hijackers, thieves and professional assassins, operated not just in the Texas area but also nationwide and were known colloquially as “The Forty Thieves.”
September 29th, 1959, it was reported in The New York World-Telegram and Sun that the police in New York had had asked their counterparts in Dallas to pick them up and hold them for questioning in the murder of Carfano and Drake. The New York DA had called Texas Ranger captain, Jay Banks and sought his help. It turned out to be another one-way street to nowhere.
The other troublesome thing is the gunshot wounds. Most sources claim Carfano was shot three times and Janice twice. They had wounds to the back of the head but strangely, Carfano had been shot through the left cheek and Janice through the right temple, which would indicate the shooter was standing outside the car when those shots were fired. From the back seat, those side-head wounds would have been almost physically impossible. And yet?
In images of the death scene, both of the car's front windows are closed. Were they open at the time of the shooting, if so did the police close them for some reason? Highly unlikely. Were the front doors of the car ajar when the gunmen opened up? Possible. So were there three gunmen that night? One in the rear and one on each side of the Cadillac when the shooting started? It would seem a highly dangerous maneuver from the rear seat assassin's perspective. Then again, three killers make sense if in fact the car had stopped at the house. The third man could well have been with the car from its journey at the Traveller’s Rest Hotel, the man met in the foyer. Maybe Carfano and two of his companions had gone into 24-50 before returning to the Cadillac. Which means there was a fourth man handling the escape car. Although witnesses speak only of two men running from the Cadillac after the shooting, it's quite possible another man could have been there, melting into the shadows. We must not forget the testimony of the dog lady. Speculation? Of course. Possible? As good as any other conclusions drawn about this complex and confusing case.
And why was Anthony Carfano murdered?
Janice Drake we know was just along for the ride, so her death is easy to explain. Maybe. Or was she also part of the packaged hit?
His? Like the way, he was killed, a little bit more complicated. Deputy Chief Inspector Walter F. Henning said, “There is no dearth of suspects in this case.”
Cicero, the Roman philosopher and lawyer has handed down what is known to-day as the “Ciceronian Standpoint.” He would ask in court, Cui bono? Who benefits?
The theories run as follows:
He was killed to stop him testifying at The McClellan Senate Committee hearings which had been running since 1957. At the time of his death, he was under subpoena by the committee. He had already undergone a preliminary interview by investigators but had refused to testify. His knowledge of improper activities within unions was significant. Carfano knew many of the major players, where the bodies were buried, and had himself, over the years been the object of scrutiny by law enforcement in this area. Certain people were so concerned he might spill the beans when he was questioned, they decided to make sure he never got the chance.
He had been shot by men working for the Jewish gangster, Meyer Lansky, for trying to muscle in on Lansky's Cuban gambling interests. It's possible but extremely unlikely. Cosa Nostra worked with the Jews to make money for themselves, but it was unheard of for them to approve a boss killing by a Jewish mobster. Vincent Alo, Carfano's point man in The Bronx was also the family's controller of Lansky and there has never been any suggestion that he was in on the killing of Carfano. Robert Lansky in his exhaustive biography on Lansky, Little Man, makes no mention, anywhere in his book of Carfano.
The hit had been ordained by a group concerned by Carfano's ongoing suspect relationship with Janice Drake. This particular theory conveniently overlooks the fact that the object of their concern met her own date with destiny at the same time as her ageing paramour.
His murder was a way of extracting revenge. Michelino (Mike) Clemente was boss of Longshoremen’s Local 968. A major power on the Manhattan waterfront, he was also a member of the Genovese crime family. It was suggested that he was the model for the character “Johnny Friendly” in the movie On the Waterfront. A man of such stature within the family that Vito Genovese met with him the night before he was due to hand himself into the authorities to begin his prison term early in 1960. According to a FBI document dated May 1961, Clemente was discussing family business with an associate called Al De Stefano. Clemente, who worked under Vincent Rao, told De Stefano that Anthony Carfano was murdered by his own crew because of the way he had “mistreated them.”
Carfano died at the hands of a group of Young Turks within the Genovese Family, anxious to wipe out the old-timers to make way for their own advancement.
He was clipped over a game of golf!
According to the FBI, Carfano had arranged a game with Jerry Catena, the underboss of the family. It was a threesome, along with Tony Strollo. It was alleged that Genovese instructed Catena not to attend, and when Carfano complained to Genovese of Catena's failure to show up, the boss used this as an example of Carfano being a troublemaker and issued the hit on him.
He checked out because he refused to contribute to legal costs being incurred by many of the family who were either in prison or awaiting trial. He himself had never served a prison sentence, and he was expected to help those less fortunate.
It was more than likely, however, that Anthony Carfano was a victim of what Sandra Lombardo, the daughter of Meyer Lansky, called “The Long Mean Season of Bloodshed.” It had started in the spring of 1957. Frank Costello was shot but survived. A month later came the killing of Frank Scalise, a capo in the Mafia Family run by Albert Anastasia. Later in the year, Anastasia himself was gunned down by two killers.
Genovese had been itching to remove Costello ever since he had returned to New York in 1946 from his self-imposed exile in Italy. He had watched and waited. Wilie Moretti, Frank's cousin and number two was murdered in 1951. Joe Adonis had taken voluntary deportation in 1956. John “Padre” DeNoia and Rocco “The Old Man” Pelligrino, two of Frank's staunchest allies, both powerful and highly respected within the family, retired and by 1957, Costello was as isolated as a Muslim with a Jewish bible.
Over the next 18 months, bodies kept turning up on the streets of New York as Genovese allegedly carried out a “cleaning up” program to rid himself of people attached to his crime family who had come under suspicion for acts of treachery or because they were suspected of being police informants. One of the most significant, Cristoforo Rubino, responsible according to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, for nearly 20% of all heroin trafficking in New York, was shot dead outside a social club in Bushwick, on the night of July 17th, 1958. Although part of the Profaci Crime Family of South Brooklyn, Rubino had strong links to Genovese and was about to become a government, witness. The last thing Don Vito needed at that moment in time. Then in February 1959 occurred the death of Abner Zwillman, a powerful and influential Jewish gangster, based in New Jersey. A man very close to Jerry Catena, the Jewish criminal kingpin died in mysterious circumstances that were officially confirmed as suicide.
According to a New Jersey member of the crime family, Vito was orchestrating this cleansing from his rented, modest house in Atlantic Highlands on the Jersey coast. Although his prison sentence had been confirmed, he was free on bail, until he lost his appeal and went off to Atlanta Penitentiary in February 1960.
Joe Valachi claimed that following the abortive attack on Frank Costello, Genovese had called a special meeting of all his crew skippers. Carfano was the only one who refused to attend because of his loyalty to Frank. Eventually, he was persuaded to “come in,” to the conclave which was either held in the New Jersey home of Genovese, or a Manhattan mid-town hotel. His tardiness left a bitter taste with the Don. This whole area is murky and based solely on the word of Valachi. It may or may not have happened; whatever transpired, Carfano was marked down as a target, around this period, although the actual execution did not take place for over two years. Genovese had no intention of allowing Frank Costello to fill any vacuum he left behind, and he did not trust any of Costello's old friends especially those that defied him. There's one thing to be said for inviting trouble. It generally accepts. This seems the most logical explanation for the killing of Carfano.
Genovese was a Borgia of a man in terms of his lust for power and status within the Mafia, and Carfano may simply have been an irritation who got in the way of these ambitions simply through his links into Costello.
The Knickerbocker News dated June 17th, 1961, reviewed a book by John Starr called The Purveyor which claimed that the New York state police were tipped off about the mob meeting at Apalachin by Anthony Carfano. It's something to ponder over. Did he get his revenge on Genovese for the face-losing incident involving Costello and drop a dime on the biggest known Mafia conclave held in the United States? It's a tantalizing hypothesis that, unfortunately, can never be confirmed.
Anthony Carfano's murder was probably signed off by three men, meeting in a grubby, little, dirty spoon in Thompson Street, in Lower Manhattan, a hole-in-the-wall called the Napoli e Notte Café (right). The three, Tommy Eboli, Jerry Catena and Mike Miranda were running the Genovese Family on behalf of Vito, through his brother Michael, a capo in the family, who would visit Genovese in New Jersey, helping him out as he spent most of his time with lawyers, fighting his sentence, and then travelling to Atlanta Penitentiary on a regular basis, after Vito was imprisoned, acting as a conduit into the administration Vito had set up prior to entering prison. Michael became known within “The Westside,” (the name the family used when referring to itself,) as il messaggero, “the Messenger,” a unique position within the Mafia families of New York, and one which is apparently carried on to this day.
Michael Genovese claimed to be a public relations counsel for the New York Waste Paper and Packers Association. It's a strong possibility that here, in Thompson Street or in a Howard Johnson restaurant on Queens Boulevard at 63rd Street which was billed as the biggest roadside diner in the world, where they also met, these three men would have set up the killing details on Anthony Carfano.
Nonetheless, there is, as seems par for the course in this investigation of Carfano's murder, another way the hit may have gone down.
According to Valachi, he was told by Vinnie Mauro that Strollo was shocked and angered by the killing of Carfano. He apparently knew nothing about it. For almost sixty years, it has generally been believed that Strollo was the set-up guy behind the killing of Anthony Carfano. In this account, he was not the bait that night at the Copa and then later at Marino's. The FBI claimed that Genovese had organized the hit himself directly, before he went away to prison, using two men from Alo's Bronx crew to do the job. He passed the contract to Frank Casino directly who in turn, used the two other men to act as the killers. The men were continually frustrated in trying to dime Carfano because he always seemed to be with Strollo, with who he had close ties in the family. The men actually asked permission from Genovese to go ahead and simply kill both men at the next opportunity. Genovese put a stop on that, and the gunmen had to wait until that fateful Friday night. Valachi's confirmation that it was Cucola who rang Carfano at Marino's gives a certain amount of credence to this version.
However, an FBI CI (Confidential Informant) in New York, confirmed to his handler, SAC Leonard Coy in 1963, that one of the killers was nicknamed “Buster.” The informant claimed that Cucola/Casino had spoken to “Jerry Moore” the nickname of Gerardo Mosciello, a soldier in the Patty Eboli crew, and confirmed that the New York District Attorney, Frank O'Connor, had evidence that “Buster from Harlem” was one of the killers.
The only man in the family, at least known to law enforcement, with the Buster alias, at this time, was Sebastian Ofrica, a 43-year-old Brooklyn-based soldier who also belonged in the crew of Patty Eboli, (brother of Tommy,) rather than being part of the one that was ran by Vincent Alo. Another one-way street, or dead-end or red herring?
Just to complicate matters even more, on August 20th, 1965, The Long Island Star Journal reported that four employees of The Travellers Rest Hotel claimed Carfano and Drake were seen having dinner with Frank Costello in the hotel before leaving on that one-way journey. They obviously did not sit down to a second dinner that night, so in that context, the appearance of Costello seems highly unlikely. Over the years, some sources have claimed it was Frank who rang Marino's that night to inform his friend he had just learned about the contract out on Carfano's life. This newspaper report may be the basis for this apparent misinformation which has been handed down over the years.
The final tab on the final piece in this complex and frustrating jigsaw of a crime is the telephone call that lured Carfano and by default, Drake, to their deaths. Joe Valachi was certain that the man who called Marino's that night was Frank Casino. How did he know where Carfano was at that precise time? Where did he ring from? His home in uptown Manhattan or was he at the hotel near LaGuardia Field? If Strollo was not in on the kill, who was the link between the victims and the men waiting to kill them? Was it Mauro or Tony Mirra or was there another player in the melodrama who has remained hidden all these years? If Frank Casino was running the hit on behalf of Genovese, one on one, how was he moving his pieces to achieve mate? Carfano and his party had moved to Marino's on a whim, so the message to the killers had to have generated from the restaurant at some stage after the arrival of their target. There can be no other logical explanation. From the moment Anthony Carfano and Janice Drake walked through the doors of that Italian restaurant they were dead people. Someone at Marino's must have contacted Casino in order to start the engine of desire that came to a stop on that dark street in Queens. The little, pot-bellied gangster and the statuesque blonde had a rendezvous with death. He would take their hands and lead them into his dark land.*
Tryon Edwards stated, “Mystery is another name for our ignorance: if we were omniscient, all would be perfectly plain.”
The thing we have to remember in trying to come to terms with this complicated and Byzantine series of events is that the absence of evidence isn't evidence of its absence. Death was a place with many well-known faces, according to Lars Keppler. There was it seems, a veritable theatre cast involved in making Anthony Carfano go away.
Even dead, he stayed an enigmatic figure. His funeral would be reported with the same degree of confusion that surrounded his murder.
After the autopsy, his body was taken to Macken Mortuary at 52 Clifton Avenue, Rockville Centre, Nassau County, and held there prior to the burial.
It was a singularly insignificant funeral ceremony, almost as though it didn't happen. Particularly when compared to the Barnum and Baileys circus that Carfano had organized for Frankie Yale, all those years before. Denied an ecclesiastical burial in Greenfield Cemetery, Long Island, the body was laid to rest at noon on October 7th, following a brief service at non-sectarian FernCliffe Cemetery, in Westchester County. Only 12 relatives and friends attended. The manager at the Charles Bacigalupo Funeral Home at 36 Mulberry Street performed the committal.
Carfano's son Francis, who was living n Laurence, Nassau County, widow Lillian, brother August, and the widow's brother, Louis De Salvio, were the only close family who had gathered to say good-bye. In 1961, quietly and without fuss, his coffin was removed and installed in the De Salvio family mausoleum in Greenfield.
That's one version. As reported in The New York Times.
Version two from The Brooklyn Eagle has the burial taking place on September 30th at Greenfield Cemetery, with a hearse and one car containing only three passengers, being pursued by NYPD detectives and investigators from Nassau County anxious to check on who would be attending the funeral. The police finally backed off and allowed the ceremony to take place in peace the next day in the cemetery chapel. Carfano was buried with his favorite grey fedora and his wife's embroidered handkerchief. The hat was apparently an old Italian custom to ensure that the deceased need not go into the presence of his Maker, uncovered.
It gets even more complicated. The De Salvio mausoleum is in fact located not at Greenfield but in Section 47 of Calvary Cemetery, Flushing, Queens one of the oldest and the largest burial grounds in the United States with over 3 million interments. So, not only do we not known for certain why Carfano was killed, or who killed him, we don't seem to know for sure where he is buried!
Janice Drake was laid to rest at Holy Name Cemetery, Westside Avenue, Jersey City on Tuesday, September 29th. Her memorial stone, is small, and unassuming, simply carrying the one word “Drake.” The ex-nightclub dancer from New York's Latin Quarter, and winner of 32 beauty contests, including Miss New Jersey, was buried quietly by her husband and son and highly respectable and grieving relatives, father Harold, and step-mother June, in a brief, six-minute service. Hollywood stars, comedian and singer Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, sent a floral wreath to join those sent by Tony Martin and singer Eileen Barton.
Sometime later, Allan Drake left New York and moved to Los Angeles, where he re-married, Wanda Owens, a Playboy bunny, bought a home in Tarzana, had another son and lived out his life playing minor roles on television. He died there in 1986. His son by Janice, Michael Jeffrey, grew up, married at 23, and moved to Spain where he became a doctor of medicine. On his return to America, he became a resident at Jamaica Hospital in Queens before opening a private practice in Florida. He died in 2010 from prostate cancer.
Like smart mob bosses the world over, Anthony Carfano died almost penniless, showing personal possessions of less than $10,000 when his estate was filed for probate at the Nassau County Surrogate's Court in October 1959. About the amount, he would probably spend in a good month on food and entertaining and travel expenses.
The FBI in a dispatch dated October 15th, 1959, claimed that Carfano had received 5% as a cut on all the high stakes “ziganette” card games played across New York City. If true, it must have paid him an enormous amount over the years, probably millions of dollars. He had also, according to the report, financed dice games across New York for years. His cut on those must have also been considerable. He ran a stable of twenty racehorses at Saratoga and in Miami, betting huge amounts on their races. Again, according to the FBI, he controlled all the cigarette vending machines in Miami, and along with Joseph Massei and Joseph Indelicato, the jukebox business in the metro area. An FBI informant had disclosed to his handler that Carfano generated $18000 a month, net, out of a liquor distributor he controlled. All of this revenue quietly disappeared on his death. The street earnings would, as always in the tradition of the Mafia, been shared out among a select group of his peers. His legal earnings? No doubt his many millions were squirrelled away somewhere. Perhaps in Nassau, West Indies banks, a favorite off-shore cache for gangsters operating in New York, or in safe-deposit boxes on-shore, or bundled in waterproof wrapping and hidden somewhere.
A report in The Jamestown Post-Journal on October 6th, 1959, estimated Carfano's worth as $50 million ($406 million in today's money) based on estimates from the inland revenue.
Not far from 57 Sullivan Street, where Charles Maturo had lived before his violent death, probably at the hands of Carfano's crew, sixty years later, five blocks to the north, a man dressed in pajamas and dressing gown would be seen some days, wandering the side-walk, talking to himself, making funny faces at passing pedestrians, stopping every now and then to have a conversation with a parking meter. Vincent Gigante. The man who tried to kill Frank Costello, and now the boss of Carfano's crime family in the early 1990s.
Gigante was three years old when Maturo died so they never met, but they were linked irrevocably by the thread connecting them and Carfano into the Mafia folklore that had emerged from these mean streets at the turn of the 20th Century. One wonders what Carfano would have thought of Gigante? Did he even know this soldier in the crew of another family skipper? The man who shot one of his best friends and was ultimately perhaps the link into his own death because of that. Would Don Vito turn in his grave at the thought of an apparent nut-case running one of the most powerful Mafia clans in America? A man who couldn't even shoot straight. Gigante was, of course, anything but a mental misfit, and used this ruse for many years to try and stave off law enforcement investigations into his criminal activities.
It's about a twenty-minute walk from Sullivan to Oliver Street, not very far from Oliver to 2nd Avenue where Joe the Boss Masseria lived; close by is Mulberry and Mott and Elizabeth Streets, Prince and Kenmore and Hester. A labyrinth of thoroughfares and tenements where lived gangs from Naples, Calabria and Sicily; teeming streets, the wellspring of the New York Mafia, which spawned here, and then spread out across the city in the years that followed the birth of the 20th Century. A mythos that came to weave itself into the great American Dream. The streets paved with gold, everything for the taking, power and prestige and above all money to be made by the truckload for those prepared to scheme and kill.
Antonio Carfagno alias Anthony Carfano, also known as Little Augie Pisano or The Kid or just plain Gus, was certainly one of its founding members; one of the thousands who would come to plague the city and the country in the years that stretched ahead. New York is a swell place. However, beneath its epidermis lies a world as far removed from the reality of normal humans as Camelot was from the House of Kennedy. The Mafia is the biggest bunch of thieves and murderers and drug traffickers and extortionists and union manipulators that Gotham City has had to tolerate since it's founding in 1624.
The Road to Perdition, the 1998 graphic novel, and film box-office success in 2002, is more than just a story about man’s inhumanity, or a sonnet to revenge and retribution; it is essentially a kind of urban acatalepsy, an elegy to the impossibility of comprehending not the universe, but the form and content of criminality that exists among us, like a hidden and silent parasite feeding off our fears. In real life, Carfano and his peers helped shape that paradigm over the long and weary years America suffered at their hands. In 1931, gangsters ruled New York and there was nothing anyone could do about it. This was a fact, according to the then District Attorney, Thomas Crain.
He may have been small in stature, but Gus left behind a print the size of Big Foot. He was a man, who found out the hard way that the consequences of second-guessing the boss are almost always fatal. Contention within Cosa Nostra often leads to murder. Death has habitually been the final arbitrator in the Genovese family's disputes where fratricidal killings are not uncommon.
With everyone in his life gone, Lillian passed on in 1975, his son in the early 1990s, and his brothers and sisters now surely dead, Carfano is simply a footnote in a chronicle of the past. To most people interested in the Mafia, a criminal more famous for the way he died than the way he lived, perhaps because like all unsolved crimes, there is a mystique that enthralls and captivates us all. It's something that goes back thousands of years. Sophocles and Euripides fascinated the Ancient Greeks with their plays that combined mystery and drama and Cicero captivated Roman audiences with his defence of criminals in court. The bad guys always intrigue, especially when they go out hard.
Nick Tosches, the author, nailed it when he wrote in Vanity Fair Magazine, about Arnold Rothstein who was murdered thirty years before Anthony Carfano died his own, violent death:
“Speculation has roamed wildly in a desire to identify not only the hand that pulled the trigger but also the interplay of hidden forces that controlled the hand. Speculation has led nowhere, nor will it lead anywhere hence.”
Tosches also believed that the only true secrets are those that remain hidden. The only true mysteries, those that can never be solved. The killings of Anthony Carfano and Janice Drake fold into that apriorism, seamlessly.
The Greeks had a word, ubique, which over the years came to be known in the English language as ubiquitous. It means “everywhere.” Rummaging through the archives of America's Mafia history, I can think of no better word to describe “Little Augie”. It's an obituary that may well have pleased him.
Carfano was it seems, everywhere, doing everything and was every man’s mobster. Except one.
Criminal record of Anthony Carfano:
1916, Mount Vernon, N Y., felonious assault, gun, discharged.
1918, Brooklyn, loafer act, discharged.
1919, New York, grand larceny, turned over to Yonkers, dismissed.
1921, Brooklyn, grand larceny, discharged.
1922, Brooklyn, possession of a gun, discharged.
1925, Saratoga Springs, N. Y., suspicion, discharged.
1926, Brooklyn, gun, discharged.
1933, Miami, Fla., concealed weapon, found guilty, fined $100 and costs or 30 days.
1933, Brooklyn, fugitive on a murder count. Union City, N. J., arrested and discharged.
1946, Manhattan, vagrancy, discharged.
1955, New York City, conspiracy to extort. That was the welfare fund of the Distillery Workers Union. He was found guilty on that charge, but the case was later reversed by the appellate division of the State of New York.
He died, summarily, amid the luxurious surroundings in which he preferred to live: a shiny new car, a pretty blonde, and a pocketful of money. What did it profit him?
- Edward J. Allen, Merchants of Menace
Practically everything important happens at night.
- Earl Wilson
- (1) The Origin of Organized Crime in America. New York: Rutledge 2009.
- (2) Shadow of the Racketeer: Scandal in Organized Labor. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
- (3) Capone. John Kobler. Michael Joseph Ltd. London, 1971.
- Capone. Laurence Bergreen. MacMillan. London, 1994.
- (4) The Deseret News, September 26th, 1959.
- The Palm Beach Post, September 27th, 1959.
- The Chicago Tribune, September 27th, 1959.
- The Reading Eagle, Pennsylvania. March 20th, 1966.
- Confidential Detective Cases v10n06 (1960-04.Detective House.)
* With acknowledgement to Alan Seeger.
Copyright ©Thom L. Jones 2015