Genovese circa 1959
|Born||November 21, 1897|
Risigliano, Tufino, Italy
|Died||February 14, 1969 71) (aged|
Springfield, Missouri, U.S.
|Resting place|| Saint John Cemetery,|
Queens, New York
|Other names||"Don Vitone"|
|Spouse(s)||Donata Ragone (first wife), |
Anna Genovese (m. 1932)(second wife)
|Relatives||Michael Genovese (cousin)|
|Allegiance||Genovese crime family|
|Conviction(s)||Conspiracy to violate federal narcotics laws (1959)|
|Criminal penalty||15 years' imprisonment (1959)|
Vito Genovese (Italian: [ˈviːto dʒenoˈveːse, -eːze]; November 21, 1897 – February 14, 1969) was an Italian-American mobster who rose to power during Prohibition as an enforcer in the American Mafia. A long-time associate and childhood friend of Charles Luciano, Genovese took part in the Castellammarese War and helped shape the rise of the Mafia and organized crime in the United States. He would later lead Luciano's crime family, which was renamed the Genovese crime family in his namesake.
Along with Luciano, Genovese helped the expansion of the heroin trade to an international level. In 1937, he fled to Italy, and for a brief period during World War II, he supported Benito Mussolini's regime in Italy for fear of being deported back to the United States to face murder charges. He returned to the United States in 1945. Genovese had served as mentor to Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the future boss of the Genovese crime family.
In 1957, Genovese vied for the boss of bosses title by ordering the murder of Albert Anastasia and the botched murder attempt of Frank Costello. Immediately following this, he called a mafia summit to consolidate his power, but the meeting was raided by the police. In 1959, his reign was cut short as he was convicted on narcotics conspiracy charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison. While he and his underling Joe Valachi were in prison together, Valachi killed an inmate he thought to be a hitman sent by Genovese. Valachi then became a government witness. Genovese died in prison on February 14, 1969.
Vito Genovese was born on November 21, 1897, in Risigliano, a frazione in the comune of Tufino, in the Province of Naples, Italy.His father was Frances Felice Genovese and his mother Nunziata Aluotto. Vito had a sister Giovanna Jennie (m. Richard Prisco) along with two brothers, Michael and Carmine, who also belonged to Genovese's crime family. His cousin, Michael, became boss of the Pittsburgh crime family.
Genovese was 5 ft 7 in (170 cm). He and his family lived a quiet life in a house in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.
As a child in Italy, Genovese completed school only to the American equivalent of the fifth grade.In 1913, when Genovese was 15, his family immigrated to the United States and took up residence in Little Italy, Manhattan. Genovese started his criminal career stealing merchandise from pushcart vendors and running errands for mobsters. He later collected money from people who played illegal lotteries. At 19, Genovese spent a year in prison for illegal possession of a firearm.
By the 1920s, Genovese started working for Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, the boss of a powerful Manhattan gang. Luciano and his close associates started working for gambler Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein, who immediately saw the potential windfall from Prohibition and educated Luciano on running bootleg alcohol as a business.Luciano, Frank Costello, and Genovese started their own bootlegging operation with financing from Rothstein.
In 1930, Genovese was indicted on counterfeiting charges when police found $1 million of counterfeit US currency in a Bath Beach, Brooklyn workshop.Later in 1930, Genovese allegedly murdered Gaetano Reina, the leader of a Bronx-based gang. Reina had been a Masseria ally, but Masseria decided to kill him after he began to suspect him of secretly helping Masseria's archrival, Brooklyn gang leader Salvatore Maranzano. On February 26, 1930, Genovese allegedly ambushed Reina as he was leaving his mistress's house in the Bronx and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun. Masseria then took direct control of the Reina gang.
In early 1931, the Castellammarese War broke out between Masseria and Maranzano. In a secret deal with Maranzano, Luciano agreed to engineer the death of his boss, Masseria, in return for receiving Masseria's rackets and becoming Maranzano's second-in-command.On April 15, 1931, Luciano had lured Masseria to a meeting where he was murdered at a restaurant called Nuova Villa Tammaro on Coney Island. While they played cards, Luciano allegedly excused himself to the bathroom, with the gunmen reportedly being Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis, and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel; Ciro "The Artichoke King" Terranova drove the getaway car, but legend has it that he was too shaken up to drive away and had to be shoved out of the driver's seat by Siegel. Luciano took over Masseria's family, with Genovese as his underboss.
In September 1931, Luciano and Genovese planned the murder of Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano had received word that Maranzano was planning to kill him and Genovese, and prepared a hit team to kill Maranzano first. On September 10, 1931, when Maranzano summoned Luciano, Genovese, and Frank Costello to a meeting at his office, they knew Maranzano would kill them there. Instead, Luciano sent to Maranzano's office four Jewish gangsters whose faces were unknown to Maranzano's people. They had been secured with the aid of Lansky and Siegel.Luciano subsequently created The Commission to serve as the governing body for organized crime.
In 1931, Genovese's first wife, Donata Ragone, died of tuberculosis and he quickly announced his intention to marry Anna Petillo, who was already married to Gerard Vernotico.
On March 16, 1932, Vernotico was found strangled to death on a Manhattan rooftop, and on March 28, 1932, Genovese married his widow, Anna, who was Genovese's cousin via her mother, Concetta y Cassini Genovese.
In 1934, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of mobster Ferdinand Boccia. Genovese and Boccia had conspired to cheat a wealthy gambler out of $150,000 in a high-stakes card game. After the game, Boccia demanded a share of $35,000 because he had introduced the victim to Genovese. Rather than pay Boccia anything, Genovese decided to have him murdered. On September 19, 1934, Genovese and five associates allegedly shot and killed Boccia in a coffee shop in Brooklyn.
On June 18, 1936, Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison as a result of his conviction on pandering.With Luciano's imprisonment, Genovese became acting boss of the Luciano crime family.
On November 25, 1936, Genovese became a naturalized United States citizen in New York City.In 1937, fearing prosecution for the Boccia murder, Genovese fled to Italy with $750,000 cash and settled in the city of Nola, near Naples. With Genovese's departure, Costello became acting boss.
Genovese established one of the largest black market operations in southern Italy, together with the Italian gangster Calogero Vizzini. Vizzini sent truck caravans loaded with all the basic food commodities necessary for the Italian diet rolling northward to hungry Naples, where their cargoes were distributed by Genovese's organization. All of the trucks were issued passes and export papers by the AMGOT administration in Naples and Sicily, and some corrupt American army officers even made contributions of gasoline and trucks to the operation.According to Luke Monzelli, a lieutenant in the Carabinieri assigned to follow Genovese during his time in Italy: "Truckloads of food supplies were shipped from Vizzini to Genovese — all accompanied by the proper documents which had been certified by men in authority, Mafia members in the service of Vizzini and Genovese."
After bribing some fascist party members, Genovese became a friend of Galeazzo Ciano, Benito Mussolini's son-in-law; it is believed Genovese provided Ciano with cocaine.Genovese donated nearly $4 million to Mussolini's fascist party by the end of World War II. He was also awarded the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and made a commendatore, after he participated in helping create a new fascist party headquarters in Nola.
In 1943, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of Carlo Tresca, the publisher of an anarchist newspaper in New York and an enemy of Mussolini. Genovese allegedly facilitated the murder as a favor to the Italian government. On January 11, 1943, a gunman shot and killed Tresca outside his newspaper office in Manhattan.The shooter was later alleged to be Carmine Galante, a member of the Bonanno crime family. No one was ever charged in the Tresca murder.
When the Allies invaded Italy in September 1943, Genovese switched sides and quickly offered his services to the U.S. Army. New York governor Charles Poletti was given a personal gift from Genovese which was a 1938 Packard Sedan, which he accepted. Genovese was appointed to a position of interpreter/liaison officer in the U.S. Army headquarters in Naples and quickly became one of Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories' (AMGOT) most trusted employees. Poletti and the entire AMGOT department were completely unaware of his history.
In the summer of 1944 in New York, Genovese was implicated in the Boccia murder by mobster Ernest "The Hawk" Rupolo, a former Genovese associate. Facing a murder conviction, Rupolo had decided to become a government witness.
On August 27, 1944, U.S. military police arrested Genovese in Italy during an investigation into his running of a black market ring. It was revealed that Genovese had been stealing trucks, flour, and sugar from the Army. When Agent Orange C. Dickey of the Criminal Investigation Division examined Genovese's background, he discovered that Genovese was a fugitive wanted for the 1934 Boccia killing. However, there was seemingly little interest from the Army or the federal government in pursuing Genovese.
After months of frustration, Dickey was finally able to make preparations to ship Genovese back to New York to face trial, but came under increasing pressure. Genovese personally offered Dickey a $250,000 bribe to release him, then threatened Dickey when the offer was refused.Dickey was even instructed by his superiors in the military chain of command to refrain from pursuing Genovese, but refused to be dissuaded.
On June 2, 1945, after arriving in New York by ship the day before, Genovese was arraigned on murder charges for the 1934 Boccia killing. He pleaded not guilty.On June 10, 1946, another prosecution witness, Jerry Esposito, was found shot to death beside a road in Norwood, New Jersey. Earlier, another witness, Peter LaTempa, was found dead in a cell where he had been held in protective custody.
Without anyone to corroborate Rupolo's testimony, the government's case collapsed, and the charges against Genovese were dismissed on June 10, 1946. In making his decision, Judge Samuel Leibowitz commented:
I cannot speak for the jury, but I believe that if there were even a shred of corroborating evidence, you would have been condemned to the (electric) chair.
With his release from custody in 1946, Genovese was able to rejoin the Luciano family in New York; however, neither Costello nor Moretti was willing to return power to him. In 1946, Lansky called a meeting of the heads of the major crime families in Havana that December. The three topics which would come under discussion were: the heroin trade, Cuban gambling, and what to do about Siegel and the floundering Flamingo Hotel project in Las Vegas. The Conference took place at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba and lasted a little more than a week.
On December 20, during the conference, Luciano had a private meeting with Genovese in Luciano's hotel suite. Unlike Costello, Luciano had never trusted Genovese. In the meeting, Genovese tried to convince Luciano to become a titular boss of bosses and let Genovese run everything. Luciano calmly rejected Genovese's suggestion:
There is no Boss of Bosses. I turned it down in front of everybody. If I ever change my mind, I will take the title. But it won't be up to you. Right now you work for me and I ain't in the mood to retire. Don't you ever let me hear this again, or I'll lose my temper.
Genovese was now a capo of his former Greenwich Village Crew. However, on October 4, 1951, Moretti was assassinated by order of the Mafia Commission; the mob bosses were unhappy with his testimony during the Kefauver Hearings, and were worried, with the syphilis now affecting his brain, he might start talking to the press. Costello appointed Genovese as the new underboss.
In December 1952, Anna Genovese sued her husband for financial support, and later divorce in 1953, as well as testifying to Vito's involvement in criminal rackets, an unheard-of action by the wife of a mob figure.Two years earlier, she had moved out of the family home in New Jersey. She asked the judge for $350/week. Vito filed a counter-suit for divorce on the grounds of desertion. According to Anna Genovese, Vito Genovese ruled the Italian lottery in New York and New Jersey, bringing in over $1 million per year, owned four Greenwich Village night clubs, a dog track in Virginia, and other legitimate businesses. Both claims were ultimately dismissed in the New Jersey Superior Court appellate division, in 1954. In 1953, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of mobster Steven Franse. Genovese had tasked Franse with supervising Anna while he hid in Italy. Outraged over Anna's potential love affairs and her lawsuit against him, Genovese ordered Joseph Valachi, to set up Franse's murder. On June 18, 1953, Valachi lured Franse to his restaurant in the Bronx, where Franse was strangled to death by Pasquale Pagano and Fiore Siano (Valachi's nephew).
During the mid-1950s, Genovese decided to move against Costello. However, Genovese needed to also remove Costello's strong ally on the Commission, Albert Anastasia, the boss of the Anastasia crime family. Genovese was soon conspiring with Carlo Gambino, Anastasia's underboss, to remove Anastasia.
In early 1957, Genovese decided to move on Costello. Genovese ordered Vincent Gigante to murder Genovese family boss Costello, and on May 2, 1957, Gigante shot and wounded Costello outside his apartment building.Although the wound was superficial, it persuaded Costello to relinquish power to Genovese and retire. A doorman identified Gigante as the gunman, however, in 1958, Costello testified that he was unable to recognize his assailant; Gigante was acquitted on charges of attempted murder. Genovese now became boss of what is known as the Genovese crime family and promoted his longtime lieutenant, Anthony Strollo, to underboss.
In late 1957, Genovese and Gambino allegedly ordered Anastasia's murder. Genovese had heard rumors that Costello was conspiring with Anastasia to regain power. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia arrived at the Park Central Hotel barber shop in Midtown, Manhattan, for a haircut and shave. As Anastasia relaxed in the barber chair, two men with their faces covered in scarves shot and killed Anastasia. Witnesses were unable to identify any of the gunmen and competing theories exist today as to their identities.
In November 1957, immediately after the Anastasia murder, after taking control of the Luciano crime family from Costello, Genovese wanted to legitimize his new power by holding a national Cosa Nostra meeting. Genovese elected Buffalo, New York boss and Commission member, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino, who in turn chose northeastern Pennsylvania crime boss Joseph Barbara and his underboss Russell Bufalino to oversee all the arrangements for the Apalachin meeting.Cuba was one of the Apalachin topics of discussion, particularly the gambling and narcotics smuggling interests of La Cosa Nostra on the island. The international narcotics trade was also an important topic on the Apalachin agenda. The New York garment industry interests and rackets, such as loansharking to the business owners and control of garment center trucking, were other important topics on the Apalachin agenda.
On November 14, 1957, powerful mafiosi from the United States and Italy convened at Barbara's estate in Apalachin, New York.The meeting agenda included the resolution of open questions on illegal gambling and narcotics dealing, particularly in the New York City area. State trooper Edgar D. Croswell had become aware that Barbara's son was reserving rooms in local hotels along with the delivery of a large quantity of meat from a local butcher to the Barbara home. That made Croswell suspicious, and he therefore decided to keep an eye on Barbara's house. When the state police found many luxury cars parked at Barbara's home they began taking down license plate numbers. Having found that many of these cars were registered to known criminals, state police reinforcements came to the scene and began to set up a roadblock. When the mobsters discovered the police presence, they started fleeing the gathering by car and by foot. Many Mafiosi escaped through the woods surrounding the Barbara estate. The police stopped a car driven by Bufalino, whose passengers included Genovese and three other men, at a roadblock as they left the estate; Bufalino said that he had come to visit his sick friend, Barbara. Genovese said he was just there for a barbecue and to discuss business with Barbara. The police let him go.
On June 2, 1958, Genovese testified under subpoena in the U.S. Senate McClellan Hearings on organized crime. Genovese refused to answer any questions, citing the Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution 150 separate times.
Luciano allegedly helped pay part of $100,000 to a Puerto Rican drug dealer to falsely implicate Genovese in a drug deal.On July 7, 1958, Genovese was indicted on charges of conspiring to import and sell narcotics. The government's star witness was Nelson Cantellops, a Puerto Rican drug dealer who claimed Genovese met with him. On April 4, 1959, Genovese was convicted in New York of conspiracy to violate federal narcotics laws. On April 17, 1959, Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, where he tried to run his crime family from prison.
In September 1959, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of mobster Anthony Carfano. Angered at the murder attempt on Costello, Carfano had skipped the Apalachin meeting in protest. In response, Genovese decided to murder him.On September 25, 1959, Carfano and a female companion were found shot to death in his Cadillac automobile on a residential street in Jackson Heights, Queens.
In April 1962, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of Anthony Strollo after concluding that Strollo was part of the plot that put him in prison. On April 8, Strollo left his house to go for a walk and was never seen again. His body was never recovered.
In 1962, an alleged murder threat from Genovese propelled mobster Joseph Valachi into the public spotlight. In June, Genovese supposedly accused Valachi, also imprisoned in Atlanta, of being an informer and gave Valachi the kiss of death.In July, Valachi supposedly mistook another inmate for a mob hitman and killed him. A $100,000 bounty for Valachi's death, had been placed by Genovese. After receiving a life sentence for that murder, Valachi decided to become a government witness.
On August 24, 1964, Ernest Rupolo's body was recovered from Jamaica Bay, Queens. His killers had attached two concrete blocks to his legs and tied his hands. It was widely assumed that Genovese had ordered Rupolo's murder for testifying against him in the 1944 Boccia murder trial.
Genovese died of a heart attack at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, on February 14, 1969. He is buried in Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens.
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Carlo Gambino was an Italian-American crime boss of the Gambino crime family. After the Apalachin Meeting in 1957, and the imprisonment of Vito Genovese in 1959, Gambino took over the Commission of the American Mafia until his death from a heart attack on October 15, 1976. During more than 50 years in organized crime, he served only 22 months in prison for a tax evasion charge in 1937.
Charles "Lucky" Luciano was an Italian-born gangster, who operated mainly in the United States. Luciano started his criminal career in the Five Points gang and was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate. Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in the United States for the establishment of The Commission in 1931, after he abolished the boss of bosses title held by Salvatore Maranzano following the Castellammarese War. He was also the first official boss of the modern Genovese crime family.
Salvatore Maranzano was an organized crime figure from the town of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, and an early Cosa Nostra boss who led what later would become the Bonanno crime family in New York City. He instigated the Castellammarese War in 1930, to seize control of the American Mafia, winning the war after the murder of rival faction head, Joe Masseria, in April 1931. He then briefly became the Mafia's capo di tutti capi and formed the Five Families in New York City, but was murdered on September 10, 1931, under the orders of Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who established an arrangement in which families shared power to prevent future turf wars: The Commission.
Frank Costello was an Italian-American crime boss of the Genovese crime family. In 1957, Costello survived an assassination attempt ordered by Vito Genovese and carried out by Vincent Gigante, however, the altercation persuaded Costello to relinquish power to Genovese and retire. Costello died on February 18, 1973.
Joseph Michael Valachi was an American gangster in the Genovese crime family who is notable as the first member of the Italian-American Mafia to acknowledge its existence publicly. He is credited with popularization of the term cosa nostra.
Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria was an early Italian-American Mafia boss in New York City. He was boss of what is now called the Genovese crime family, one of the New York City Mafia's Five Families, from 1922 to 1931. In 1930, he battled in the Castellammarese War to take over the criminal activities in New York City. The war ended with his murder on April 15, 1931, in a hit ordered by his own lieutenant, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, in an agreement with rival faction head, Salvatore Maranzano.
The Castellammarese War was a bloody power struggle for control of the Italian-American Mafia that took place in New York City from February 1930 to April 15, 1931, between partisans of Joe "The Boss" Masseria and those of Salvatore Maranzano. The war's namesake was derived from the Sicilian town of Castellammare del Golfo, the birthplace of Maranzano. Maranzano's faction won, divided New York City's crime families into the Five Families, and declared himself capo di tutti capi. However, he was soon murdered in September 1931, on orders of Lucky Luciano, who established a power-sharing arrangement called "The Commission", a group of Mafia families of equal stature, to avoid such wars in the future.
The Havana Conference of 1946 was a historic meeting of United States Mafia and Cosa Nostra leaders in Havana, Cuba. Supposedly arranged by Charles "Lucky" Luciano, the conference was held to discuss important mob policies, rules, and business interests. The Havana Conference was attended by delegations representing crime families throughout the United States. The conference was held during the week of December 22, 1946 at the Hotel Nacional. The Havana Conference is considered to have been the most important mob summit since the Atlantic City Conference of 1929. Decisions made in Havana resonated throughout US crime families during the ensuing decades.
The Genovese crime family is one of the "Five Families" that dominate organized crime activities in New York City and New Jersey as part of the American Mafia. They have generally maintained a varying degree of influence over many of the smaller mob families outside New York, including ties with the Philadelphia, Patriarca, and Buffalo crime families.
The Apalachin meeting was a historic summit of the American Mafia held at the home of mobster Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara, at 625 McFall Road in Apalachin, New York, on November 14, 1957. Allegedly, the meeting was held to discuss various topics including loansharking, narcotics trafficking, and gambling, along with dividing the illegal operations controlled by the recently murdered Albert Anastasia. An estimated 100 Mafiosi from the United States, Italy, and Cuba are thought to have attended this meeting. Immediately after the Anastasia murder that October, and after taking control of the Luciano crime family, renamed the Genovese crime family, from Frank Costello, Vito Genovese wanted to legitimize his new power by holding a national Cosa Nostra meeting.
The Five Families are the five major New York City organized crime families of the Italian American Mafia, formed in 1931 by Salvatore Maranzano following his victory in the Castellammarese War.
See also: 1929 in organized crime, 1931 in organized crime and the list of 'years in Organized Crime'.
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Stefano "Steve" Ferrigno was a New York City mobster of Sicilian origin who led an important Italian criminal gang in the 1920s. Ferrigno was murdered along with Alfred Mineo during the so-called Castellammarese War.
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Albert Anastasia was an Italian-born American mobster, hitman and crime lord. One of the founders of the modern American Mafia and the founder and boss of Murder, Inc., Anastasia was boss of what became the modern Gambino crime family. He was also in control of the New York waterfront for most of his criminal career, including the dockworker unions. He was murdered on October 25, 1957, on the orders of Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino; Gambino subsequently became boss of the family.
Vito Genovese's throne, from which he ruled as "Boss of All Bosses" of the Mafia in the New York area, rested on the coffins of several predecessors -- in whose murders he is believed to have conspired. ...
It took ten years and a lot of shooting to kill Giuseppe Masseria—he was Joe the Boss to the underworld—but his enemies found him with his back turned yesterday in a little Italian restaurant in Coney Island, and when they walked out into
| Genovese crime family |
Frank "Chee" Gusage
| Genovese crime family |
| Genovese crime family |
Gerardo "Gerry" Catena
| Genovese crime family |
Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo
| Capo di tutti capi |
Boss of bosses
as chairman of the commission