The racket driver and future governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, called him "the king of rackets." And there is no doubt that Vito Genovese was one of the ugliest, most lovable and treacherous bosses in Mafia history.
Genovese was born on November 27, 1897 in the small town of Risigliano located in the province of Naples, Italy. He reached the equivalent of a fifth-grade education in Italy when he traveled to New York in 1913 to hang out with his father, who came to America a few years earlier. Genovese's family settled in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, and soon Genovese worked for a young rising gangster named Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Genovese also became cramped with mob robbers such as Frank Costell, Joe "Adonis" Dot and Albert Anastasia. But he didn't particularly like hanging out with Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.
The first time Costello introduced Genovese Lansky and Siegel as their partners in various criminal pursuits, Genovese said, "What are you linking to. Hit us with a bunch of Hebes?"
Costello said, "Take it easy, Don Viton? You're no stranger to yourself."
Due to the involvement of the criminal master of Lansky and the muscle provided by Siegel, the prohibitive era of the Fire Twenties was very profitable for Italian mobsters. They also joined Irish mobster Owney "Assassin" Maddan and his partner Big Bill Dwyer, known as the "King of Rum Runners," and was the largest distributor of illegal alcoholic beverages throughout the United States.
In the mid-1920s, the biggest Italian mafia boss in New York was Joe "The Boss" Masseria, a pig-headed bandit barely five feet tall who was said to be holding a "mastiff for choking" on the table. "Masseria took Luciano, Costello and Genovese under their wing, and Luciano put her as their second in function, or" Underboss. "The problem was that Masseria didn't like her people hanging out with anyone who wasn't Sicilian, especially mentioning Lansky, Siegel, Madden, and Dwyer. The Masseria did not favor either Genovese, who was from Naples, or Costello (real name Castiglia), who was from Calabria, but Masseria tolerated both men, for they were Italians after all. But Masseria would not have exalted Genovese and Costello if anything above all was a mere Mafia soldier, and this did not overlap with Lucian and his friends, Italian or otherwise.
1927 Benito Mussolini banished the Mafia from Sicily; imprisoning some and killing others. Salvatore Maranzano, from the vicinity of Castellammare Bay in Sicily, fled to the United States with another group of mob exiles. Maranzano's boss, Don Vito Cascio Ferro, was jailed for life by Mussolini and his police chief, Caesar Mori. Thus, considering that the American Mafia was inferior to the Sicilian brand, Maranzano decided that he would be able to retrieve all the rackets of Masseria and his cohorts without too much trouble. Or at least problems he couldn't handle. This led to what historians have called the "Castellaras War".
The mobster, who met Maranzano shortly after Maranzano arrived in America, later said, "When we arrived it was very dark. We were brought before Maranzano, who acted absolutely magnificent, with two guns tucked in the waist, and about ninety boys who were also armed to the teeth surrounding him. I thought I was in the presence of Villa Punch. "
From 1927 to 1930, Castellamarese's war raged throughout New York. Men were killed in front of and in front of the pool, Italian members-only clubs, all-day dining, bars and restaurants, and even in the streets as they exited their cars. The killers fired rifles from moving cars, roofs and tinted doors. When the dust cleared, 50 bodies were piled up on the streets, for which Luciano considered the wisdom of his affection for Masseria. Lansky, who was closest to Lucian, warned Lucian to "wait for the war. Let the bosses kill each other, then we can go in and take him over."
It is not clear who was first thought of this, but in the spring of 1931, Luciano and Lansky had a secret meeting with Maranzano at the Maranzano Central Office. At this meeting, it was decided that Luciano and his colleagues would switch sides to the Castellar War and return Maranzano. This, of course, meant drawing Masseria, which Luciano had nothing to do with.
Luciano thought the best solution was to seduce Masseria into a situation where the Masseria cartridge usually feels completely comfortable. And this, of course, went on strike at a four-star Italian restaurant.
According to Rick Cohen's beautiful book on the hard-working Jewish mob, Luciano asked Masseria on April 15, 1931, to dine in Brooklyn, far from the Masseria stronghold in Little Italy, Manhattan. Luciano told Masseria: "We're going to Scarpato in Brooklyn. Scarpato is repairing the sauce like in the old country, with shells and good olive oil."
The mere mention of the food caused a drool to drain from Masseria's lips, so he readily agreed to Lucian's request. The two men took Masseria's bullet-proof sedan from the lower east side of Manhattan to Brooklyn and sat down at a table in the back of Scarpato. In just a few short hours, Masseria ate more food than the average person could eat in two days. When his stomach was full, Masseria asked for a deck of cards so he and his best friend Luciano could play some poker.
Around 3 p.m., Luciano excused himself and entered the men's room. Seconds later, four men broke through the front door of the restaurant. They consisted of an eclectic group of Genovese, Anastasia, Siegel, and a very capable Jewish assassin named Red Levine. They reportedly fired 20 shots at Masseria; some of them actually relate to their intended purpose. Masseria was rolling on her back, dead as was the card she was holding. In the photos in the newspaper the next day, all that was visible was Masseria's right bloody hand, palm up, holding an ace of diamonds. From that moment on, mobsters regarded diamonds as a curse. Some even sent bags of diamonds to the enemy, warning him that he was about to join Masseria in that warm place downstairs without air conditioning.
With Masseria now dead, four assailants were rushing to the waiting car, with Ciro Terranov very nervous at the wheel. Terran was shaking so hard he couldn't bring the car into gear. Siegel angrily pushed Terranova aside and drove the getaway car himself. A few years later, Terranova was expelled from the port of Luciano as Luciano agreed with Siegel, Levine and Genovese that Terranova had no hose.
When Luciano finally left the men's room, he found several nervous waiters, bullet holes in the walls and tables, and a dead Masseria on the floor. When police arrived shortly afterwards, Luciano told the law he couldn't see anything because, "I was in the bathroom, I didn't hear anything."
Ever since the waiters clashed, and the police themselves have shown a strong aversion to Masseria, no one has ever been arrested for Masseria's murder, and it is doubtful that the police have ever sought his killer.
When Maranzano heard of Masseria's death, he was beside himself. Maranzano immediately named himself the winner of the Castellamarese War and the new Mafia boss. Immediately, Luciana made him his right man.
A few weeks after Masseria's death, Maranzano convened a meeting of every mobster in New York, reportedly over 500 men. The meeting was held at a large warehouse in the Bronx, near the Harlem River. At this meeting, Maranzano divided these men into five separate families of criminals. He named Lucky Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Tommy Luchese, Joe Profaci and Joe Bonnano as the five heads of these families. Maranzano also named each of the commanding families or "Underboss," and Genovese named the "Underboss" of the Luciano family.
Of course, Maranzano also called himself "the boss of all bosses," or "Capi de Tuti Capi," and this was not comfortable for Luciano and the other mafia leaders, who were tired of always ruling over them, taking a large chunk of their he asks.
Although Maranzano promised that his new organization, which he called "Cosa Nostra" or "Our Matter," would keep peace and well-being at the forefront of their operations, Maranzano felt completely different in secret. He immediately compiled a list of people he wanted dead because he believed their ambitions were a threat to his leadership. Luciano, Costello and Genovese were on that list. Maranzano invited Luciano, Costello, and Genovese to a meeting at the Maranzano midtown office. At this meeting Maranzano planned that Vincent "Mad Dog" Cole, a particularly evil Irish killer, would kill all three men. Maranzano paid Cole $ 25,000 in advance, with another $ 25,000 after the dirty deed.
However, Luciano had a mole in Maranzano's inner circle, allegedly Tommy Luchese, and Luchese gave Luciano directions. On the day of his intentional death, neither Luciano, Costello, nor Genovese were anywhere near Maranzan's office. Instead, Luciano sent four Jewish gangsters, selected by Meyer Lansky and led by Red Levine (who was also one of the shooters in Masseria's murder) to Maranzano's office. Four murderers posing as police detectives forcibly walked past Maranzano's bodyguards in the outer office and raided Maranzano's inner office, where they shot and kicked Maranzano.
The four killers were then rushed out of Maranzan's office, followed by Maranzan's former bodyguards, who were now looking for new jobs. The men descended the stairs and threw themselves straight at Crazy Dog Cole, who was carrying a machine gun in a violin case. They told Cole that Maranzano was already dead and beaten him before officers showed up. Cole talked and followed the killers from the building, receiving only $ 25,000 pay day without firing shots.
With Masseria and now Maranzano out of the way, five mob families have been able to move forward. However, Genovese, along with Anastasia, the crowd's most beloved killer, began scouting out of control.
First, Genovese's wife (unknown name) suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. Word on the street was that Genovese killed his wife and made her body disappear, because he fell in love with a woman named Anna. The only problem was that Anna was already married to a man named Gerard Vernotico. This was only a small obstacle to Genovese, who killed Vernotico aboard and then married Anna two weeks later, on March 30, 1932.
In 1934, things began to fall apart at Genovese, when he was involved in an extortion plot. One of his conspirators in the plot was Ferdinand Boccia. Genoese, fearing that Boccia was a weak link and would click, killed Boccia himself. This would later return to persecution to Genovese.
In 1936, Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey examined organized crime, and in particular Luciano and Genovese. After Luciano was convicted of a prostitution charge, allegedly orchestrated by Dewey himself, Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison. Before leaving for his time, Luciano named Genovese the head of Luciano's family. But in 1937 Genovese was charged with Bocci's murder, which had happened three years earlier. Instead of eating the same fate as his friend Luciano, Genovese fled to Sicily, a year after Genovese became an American naturalized citizen. As Genovese could not control the Luciano family, Luciano complained from prison that Frank Costello was now the head of the Luciano family.
While Genovese was in Sicily, he was indeed a very busy man. After allegedly taking $ 750,000 in cash with him, Genovese sent that money to work for him on the street. This was, of course, impossible without the friendship and cooperation of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was intimately involved in the Second World War, as an enemy of the United States. Genovese paid for the construction of a Mussolini power plant in Nola, located in southern Italy. Genovese then gave $ 250,000 to build the municipal building Mussolini wanted to build. Whenever Genovese lacked cash, he contacted his wife, Anna, of America, who was engaged in Genovese's business operations while in his self-styled exile. During this time, Anna Genovese made frequent trips to Italy to refill her husband's coffee.
To show his gratitude to the greats of Genovese, Mussolini bestowed upon Genovese the Order of the Crown of Italy, a high civilian honor. And since one good turn deserves another, in 1943, Genovese staged a murder in New York City Mussolini by the namesake, editor of the Italian newspaper Carlo Tresa, who mixed pot against Mussolini in his radical Italian newspaper Il Martello, which was sold in Italian communities in America. The hit was allegedly made by oncoming mobster Carmine Galente, who shot Tresa in the back of the head as Tresa strolled along Fifth Avenue near 13th Street.
In 1944, Mussolini's empire collapsed. Seeing the manuscript on the wall, Genovese flipped through the pages and began working for the United States military, basically as an informant, which led the military to the collapse of black market operators Genovese works with. Soon it became wise for the military why Genovese was so willing to work with them. It seemed that every time the military closed down a black market operation that Genovese also ran, Don Vitone took over that operation.
As the war ended and all the witnesses against Genovese were either dead or missing, Genovese returned to the United States. Without evidence against Genovese, prosecutors simply dropped the Boccia case against him.
Genovese immediately tried to regain control of the Luciano family, but Costello, with the help of Lansky and Anastasia, was too firmly entrenched. So Genovese set aside his time. With his wife, he moved to a luxury home in Atlantic Highland, New Jersey, and found himself in the guise of a civilian-minded businessman who heavily donated to a number of charities, including scouts from America. In fact, Genovese was heavily involved in the narcotics business, gracing millions and collecting his war chests to fight for his return to the top.
Genovese had less difficulty when, in 1953, Anna Genovese, in claiming physical and emotional distress, sued Genovese for divorce. During the trial of their divorce, which was reported daily in the press, Anna Genovese said her husband had executed millions of dollars in European bills and raised between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000 a week from Italian lottery games. This caused much outrage among his mafia cohorts and delayed his planned coup for controlling mafia families.
Genovese waited until 1957 to carry out the attack. Since returning from Italy, Genovese has been estimated to have raised around $ 30 million in "toy money" through drug trafficking, Italian lotteries and his activities with corrupt unions, which he would invest in treason. The three main obstacles to accomplishing his mission of controlling the Mafia were Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia and Meyer Lansky. Since Lansky was Jewish and therefore had no right to be in the mafia, Genovese thought he would take Costello and Anastasia, Lansky would have no choice but to fall in line.
Genovese tried to grab the first bite of an apple when he sent stunned former boxer Vincent "The Chin" Gigante in 1957 to ambush Costello in the lobby of the Costello & # 39; s Avenue Avenue apartment building. He pointed Gigante with his gun and said, "This is for you, Frank!" But the Gigante shot fired Costello with only his head. An ambulance rushed to the hospital and Costello returned to his own bed the same night. True to the omerta code, when Gigante was captured and taken to court, Costello refused to identify Gigante as his assassination attempt.
Genovese's second moving line was more successful. On October 25, 1957, Genovese arranged for the murder of Anastasia, whom two men had filled with lead while sitting in a barber's chair at the Sheridan Park Hotel. Genovese originally gave the murder contract to his ally Joe Profaci, the head of one of the Mafia's five families, and Profaci allegedly subcontracted that he had hit the insane Joe Gallo with the Red Hook Brooklyn crew. Anastasia's murder was never solved and over the years several men have privately taken credit for the hit, including Gallo.
With Genovese still seeking his mafia takeover, Costello and Lansky, with the approval of Luciano, now expelled to Italy, devised a plan to expel Genovese from the commission forever without killing him. They enlisted the help of an aspiring mobster named Carlo Gambino, who himself sought to climb to the top. Gambino contacted Genovese about a proposed mutilating international drug deal that would make them a ton of money. Although Genovese banned narcotics in his crew, Don Vitone did not realize that the ban was being extended to him, so he greedily agreed. At the time, Gambino, though due to his faulty ties to the police, agreed to arrest Genovese on a drug conspiracy charge. However, the Fed needed proof before they could try and convict Genovese.
The handsome Gambino knew a convicted juvenile drug lord who was rotting in a Sing Sing prison named Nelson Cantellops. He approached Cantellops through a mediator and suggested that if Cantellops testify in court that he witnessed Genovese involved in several big money deals, Gambino would arrange for Cantellops to be paid an incredible sum of $ 100,000, probation and parole. To do this, Costello, Lansky and Luciano would contribute $ 50,000 and Gambino would invest the other $ 50,000.
Luciano later said of the stabbing: "We had to pay him (Cantellops) well."
Cantellops considered the proposal for about two seconds and agreed to receive the bribe.
An anonymous tip was then sent to the New York Narcotics Bureau, who said Cantellops would be willing to trade information about Genovese for its freedom. With Genovese being such a big fish and Cantellops barely enough, the government readily agreed.
In 1958, Genovese and twenty-four members of his crew were arrested for violating the new Narcotics Control Act.
In 1959, at the Genovese trial, Cantellops was a star witness for a full four weeks. Cantellops has sworn an oath that he has personally witnessed Genovese and his friends buy numerous drugs over the years. He also said he acted as a courier for Genovese for two years, carrying heroin from New York to various other cities across the country. Cantellops testified that on one occasion he was accompanied by Genovese at a meeting in the Bronx to discuss how to conduct territories selling heroin.
Based on the almost exclusively testimony of Nelson Cantellops, Genovese and all 24 of his colleagues were found guilty. Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in prison for serving time in the federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia.
While in prison, Genovese continued to run his criminal family through mediators. Mobster Joe Valachi later testified before the subcommittee of John L. McClellan that he became extremely paranoid at Genovese Prison because he knew he was framed. Genovese did not trust anyone, and even ordered the execution of his top aide Tony Bender, just because Bender, of course, was suspected of involvement in the plan.
In prison, Genovese developed nervous symptoms and severe heart problems. Vito Genovese died of a heart attack on February 14, 1969, while still in prison. He is buried in Saint John's Cemetery in Queens.
In the 1972 movie The Valachi Papers, starring Charles Bronson, Genovese was played by actor Lino Ventura. And in the 2001 TV movie The Boss, the role of Genovese was played by actor Steven Bauer.