Monday, October 15, 2018

Life + 99 Years - The Searing Story of Twisted and Amoral Minds

Nathan Leopold JrLife Plus 99 Years. was half of the famed duo Leopold and Loeb, murderers of 14-year old Bobby Franks in 1924 on the south side of Chicago.

Life plus 99 Years, is an autobiographical work which commences with the day after Leopold's sentencing, and which was designed to ingratiate the author with the parole board. As such it is a fascinating multi-layered work - the reader has to work at keeping in mind that the writer was the perpetrator of a heinous crime made all the more horrendous by the fact that its only motivation was the thrill of the idea. A must read for anyone interested in the workings and effects of our criminal justice system.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Carmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family

Carmine “the Snake” Persico has been identified by the FBI and the Justice Department as the longtime head of the New York Cosa Nostra Colombo crime family.

Although incarcerated in 1987 due to his conviction in the 1986 famous Mafia Commission federal RICO caseCarmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family, he reputedly still runs the Colombo crime family from prison. He made his name in the Profaci crime family as part of the hit team that shot and killed mob boss Albert Anastasia in a New York barbershop in 1957.

Anastasia, known as “The Mad Hatter” and “The Executioner,” was the co-creator of Murder Inc., the notorious enforcement arm of organized crime in New York in the 1940s. A famous photo was taken of the slain Anastasia, lying dead next to a barber’s chair as detectives look on.

In 1961, during a conflict between the Gallo crew and Joe Profaci, the Profaci crime family boss, Persico switched sides and attempted to strangle and kill his friend and fellow hit man Larry Gallo, which earned him the nickname “the Snake.” The attempted strangulation in a darkened bar was fictionally re-created in “The Godfather, Part II.”

Frank DiMatteo, who describes himself as a mafia survivor and previously wrote “The President Street Boys: Growing Up Mafia,” offers a “street level” view of the Colombo boss in “Carmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family.” Michael Benson, a true crime author who wrote “Betrayal in Blood,” is the co-author of this book.



As Mr. DiMatteo notes in the book, his mother knew Persico when they were teenagers in Brooklyn, and his father was a bodyguard and driver for the Gallo brothers. He grew up in Brooklyn around the Gallo crew and heard numerous stories about Persico.

“Some men’s lives are measured by wealth and power. By that standard, Carmine John Persico, Jr. is a very successful man. His blood family is estimated to be worth upward of $1 billion,” the authors write in the beginning of the book. “Even allowing for inflation, he became one of the richest gangsters ever. His superpower was instilling fear. He made many thousands afraid, and they paid to stay safe.” But as the authors also point out, Persico’s life from street kid to mob boss might best be measured by the pain, suffering and death that he caused.

“Using a combination of brashness, cunning, and an appetite for extreme violence, Carmine Persico rocketed from gangbanger on a Park Slope, Brooklyn street corner to boss of the Colombo crime family, where he reputedly became the longest-reigning godfather in modern Mafia history — mostly from behind the bars of a federal penitentiary,” the authors tell us.

The book covers in detail the internecine mob war between the Gallos and the Profaci crime family, with each faction murdering and attempting to murder each other. The Gallo crew put a bomb in Persico’s car, but the detonation failed to kill him. The war ended with Profaci’s death and the murder of Crazy Joe Gallo in a restaurant.

Joseph Colombo, once a Profaci captain, later took over the organization and renamed it the Colombo crime family. Persico became a Colombo captain and later the boss of the crime family.

The book also tells of a Persico enforcer whose story would be unbelievable if told in a novel or film. The authors tell us that as Persico was heading to prison he chose Gregory “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa as his battle leader. Persico’s man was a mass murderer and a sociopath. “He was nuts, thought he was James Bond, and told his kids that he worked for the government.”

In a sense it was true, as the Colombo hit man was a longtime FBI informant. From the 1960s on he was involved in extortion, murder and other crimes. He told his fellow mobsters that he enjoyed killing people. “Scarpa’s actual cooperation with the U.S. Government went at least as far back as 1964 when the feds used him to help solve the ‘Mississippi Burning’ murders of three civil rights workers in 1964,” the authors inform us. “Somewhere there is a tape of Scarpa cajoling a KKK member to disclose where the bodies are buried.” And by cajoling, the authors write, they mean he beat the KKK member and stuck a gun in his mouth. Scarpa later died from AIDS.

The story of Carmine Persico, the Gallo brothers and the internecine mob war has been covered previously in several books, including a fine satirical novel, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” by Jimmy Breslin.

“Carmine the Snake,” written in a conversational style with street vernacular and sprinkled with Frank DiMatteo’s personal anecdotes and reminiscences, offers another look at the infamous crime boss.

Thanks to Paul Davis.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Frank Sinatra and the Mob

"Sinatra and the Mob"

Frank Sinatra always denied his ties to the Mafia, and neither government investigators nor the press could make the rumors stick- until now. In an excerpt from their book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan uncover the full extent of the immortal crooner's connections with Lucky Luciano and other infamous Mob figures.

Sinatra: The Life, by Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan


Debut March 18, 1939.

In a studio on West 46th Street in New York City, a band was playing Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." It was a simple place, a room with couches and lamps, hung with drapes to muffle the echo from the walls. This was a big day for the musicians, who were recording for the first time.

A skinny young man listened as they played. The previous night, at the Sicilian Club near his home in New Jersey, he had asked if he could tag along. Now, as the band finished playing, he stepped forward and spoke to the bandleader. "May I sing?" he asked.

The bandleader glanced at the studio clock to see if they had time left, then told the young man to go ahead. He chose "Our Love," a stock arrangement based on a melody from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. Standing at the rudimentary microphone, he launched into a saccharine lyric:

Our love, I feel it everywhere Our love is like an evening prayer ... I see your face in stars above, As I dream on, in all the magic of Our love.

Unseasoned, a little reedy, the voice was transmitted through an amplifier to a recording device known as a lathe. The lathe drove the sound to a needle, and the needle carved a groove on a twelve-inch aluminum-based lacquer disc. The result was a record, to be played on a turntable at seventy-eight revolutions per minute.

The bandleader kept the record in a drawer for nearly sixty years. He would take it out from time to time, with delight and increasing nostalgia, to play for friends. The music on it sounds tinny, a relic of the infancy of recording technology. Yet the disc is kept in a locked safe. The attorney for the bandleader's widow, an octogenarian on Social Security, says the singer's heirs have demanded all rights and the lion's share of any potential income derived from it, thus obstructing its release.

The disc is a valuable piece of musical history. Its tattered adhesive label, typed with an old manual machine, shows the recording was made at Harry Smith Studios, "electrically recorded" for bandleader Frank Mane. Marked "#1 Orig.," it is the very first known studio recording of the thousand and more that were to make that skinny young man the most celebrated popular singer in history. For, under "Vocal chor. by," it bears the immaculately handwritten legend: Frank Sinatra

A year after making that first record, at twenty-five, Sinatra told a new acquaintance how he saw his future. "I'm going to be the best singer in the world," he said, "the best singer that ever was."

A Family from Sicily

Io sono Siciliano ..." I am Sicilian.

At the age of seventy-one, in the broiling heat of summer in 1987, Frank Sinatra was singing, not so well by that time, in the land of his fathers. "I want to say," he told a rapt audience at Palermo's Favorita Stadium, "that I love you dearly for coming tonight. I haven't been in Italy for a long time-I'm so thrilled. I'm very happy."

The crowd roared approval, especially when he said he was Sicilian, that his father was born in Sicily. Sinatra's voice cracked a little as he spoke, and he looked more reflective than happy. At another concert, in the northern Italian city of Genoa, he had a joke for his audience. "Two very important and wonderful people came from Genoa," he quipped. "One ... Uno: Christopher Columbus. Due: mia Mamma ..."

This second crowd cheered, too, though a little less enthusiastically when he mentioned that his father was Sicilian. "I don't think," he said wryly, "that they're too thrilled about Sicilia." It was a nod to northern Italians' feelings about the island off the southernmost tip of the country. They look down on its people as backward and slothful, and because, as all the world knows, it is synonymous with organized crime. It is the island of fire and paradox, the dismembered foot of the leg of Italy. Sicily: at ten thousand square miles the largest island in the Mediterranean, a cornucopia of history that remains more remote and mysterious than anywhere in Europe.

The island's story has been a saga of violence. Its ground heaved to earthquakes, and its volcanoes spat fire and lava, long before Christ. Its population carries the genes of Greeks and Romans, of Germanic Vandals and Arabs, of Normans and Spaniards, all of them invaders who wrote Sicily's history in blood.

"Sicily is ungovernable," Luigi Barzini wrote. "The inhabitants long ago learned to distrust and neutralize all written laws." Crime was endemic, so alarmingly so that a hundred years ago the island's crime rate was said to be the worst in Europe. By then, the outside world had already heard the spectral name that has become inseparable from that of the island-Mafia.

The origin of that word is as much a mystery as the criminal brotherhood itself, but in Sicily "mafia" has one meaning and "Mafia"-with an upper case "M"-another. For the islanders, in Barzini's view, the word "mafia" was originally used to refer to "a state of mind, a philosophy of life, a concept of society, a moral code." At its heart is marriage and the family, with strict parameters. Marriage is for life, divorce unacceptable and impossible.

A man with possessions or special skills was deemed to have authority, and known as a padrone. In "mafia" with a small "m," those who lived by the code and wielded power in the community were uomini rispettati, men of respect. They were supposed to behave chivalrously, to be good family men, and their word was their bond. They set an example, and they expected to be obeyed.

The corruption of the code and the descent to criminality was rapid. Well before the dawn of the twentieth century, the Mafia with a capital "M," though never exactly an organization, was levying tribute from farmers, controlling the minimal water supply, the builders and the businessmen, fixing prices and contracts.

Cooperation was enforced brutally. Those who spoke out in protest were killed, whatever their station in life. The Mafia made a mockery of the state, rigging elections, corrupting the politicians it favored, and terrorizing opponents. From 1860 to 1924, not a single politician from Sicily was elected to the Italian parliament without Mafia approval. The island and its people, as one early visitor wrote, were "not a dish for the timid."

Frank Sinatra's paternal grandfather grew up in Sicily in the years that followed the end of foreign rule, a time of social and political mayhem. His childhood and early adult years coincided with the collapse of civil authority, brutally suppressed uprisings, and the rise of the Mafia to fill the power vacuum.

Beyond that, very little has been known about the Sinatra family's background in Sicily. The grandfather's obituary, which appeared in the New York Times because of his famous grandson, merely had him born "in Italy" in 1884 (though his American death certificate indicates he was born much earlier, in 1866). Twice, in 1964 and in 1987, Frank Sinatra told audiences that his family had come from Catania, about as far east as one can go in Sicily. Yet he told one of his musicians, principal violist Ann Barak, that they came from Agrigento on the southwestern side of the island. His daughter Nancy, who consulted her father extensively while working on her two books about his life, wrote that her great-grandfather had been "born and brought up" in Agrigento. His name, according to her, was John.

In fact he came from neither Catania nor Agrigento, was born earlier than either of the dates previously reported, and his true name was Francesco-in the American rendering, Frank.

Sicilian baptismal and marriage records, United States immigration and census data, and interviews with surviving grandchildren establish that Francesco Sinatra was born in 1857 in the town of Lercara Friddi, in the hills of northwest Sicily. It had about ten thousand inhabitants and it was a place of some importance, referred to by some as piccolo Palermo, little Palermo.

The reason was sulfur, an essential commodity in the paper and pharmaceutical industries, in which Sicily was rich and Lercara especially so. Foreign companies reaped the profits, however, and most locals languished in poverty. The town was located, in the words of a prominent Italian editor, in "the core territory of the Mafia." The town lies fifteen miles from Corleone, a name made famous by The Godfather and in real life a community credited with breeding more future American mafiosi than any other place in Sicily. It is just twelve miles from the Mafia stronghold of Prizzi-as in Prizzi's Honor, the Richard Condon novel about the mob and the film based on it that starred Jack Nicholson.

It was Lercara Friddi, however, that produced the most notorious mafioso of the twentieth century. Francesco Sinatra's hometown spawned Lucky Luciano. Luciano was "without doubt the most important Italian-American gangster," according to one authority, and "head of the Italian underworld throughout the land," according to a longtime head of the Chicago Crime Commission. One of his own lawyers described him as having been, quite simply, "the founder of the modern Mafia."

Luciano, whose real name was Salvatore Lucania, was born in Lercara Friddi in 1897. Old marriage and baptismal registers show that his parents and Francesco Sinatra and his bride, Rosa Saglimbeni, were married at the church of Santa Maria della Neve within two years of each other. Luciano was baptized there, in the same font as Francesco's first two children.

In all the years of speculation about Frank Sinatra's Mafia links, this coincidence of origin has remained unknown. Other new information makes it very likely that the Sinatras and the Lucanias knew each other. The two families lived on the same short street, the Via Margherita di Savoia, at roughly the same time. Luciano's address book, seized by law enforcement authorities on his death in 1962 and available today in the files of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, contains only two entries for individuals who lived in Lercara Friddi: one a member of his own family and the other a man named Saglimbeni, a relative of the woman Francesco Sinatra married. Even if the Sinatras and the Lucanias did not know each other, Luciano's later notoriety makes it certain that the Sinatra family eventually learned that they and the gangster shared the same town of origin. Kinship and origins are important in Italian-American culture, and were even more so in the first decades of the diaspora.

As a boy, Frank Sinatra could have learned from any of several older relatives that his people and Luciano came from the same Sicilian town. He certainly should have learned it from Francesco, who lived with Sinatra's family after his wife's death and often minded his grandson when the boy's parents were out.

Francesco, moreover, survived to the age of ninety-one, until long after Luciano had become an infamous household name and Frank Sinatra an internationally famous singer. Sinatra himself indicated, and a close contemporary confirmed, that he and his grandfather were "very close." Late in life, he said he had gone out of his way to "check back" on his Sicilian ties. And yet, as we have seen, he muddied the historical waters by suggesting that his forebears came from Sicilian towns far from Lercara Friddi.

That the Sinatra family came from the same town as a top mafioso was not in itself a cause for embarrassment. The reason for the obfuscation, though, may be found in the family involvement with bootlegging in Frank Sinatra's childhood and, above all, in his own longtime relationship with Luciano himself, the extent of which can now be documented for the first time.

* * *

There was only one school in Lercara Friddi, and few people there could read or write. Francesco Sinatra was no exception, but he did have a trade-he was a shoemaker. He married Rosa, a local woman his own age, when both were in their early twenties, and by the time they turned thirty, in 1887, the couple had two sons. As the century neared its close, thousands of Sicilians were going hungry, especially in the countryside. There were food riots, and crime was rampant.

In western Sicily, the Mafia's power had become absolute. Palermo, the island's capital, spawned the first capo di tutti capi, Don Vito, who would one day forge the first links between the Sicilian Mafia and the United States. His successor, Don Carlo, operated from a village just fourteen miles from Lercara Friddi. Some of the most notorious American mob bosses - Tony Accardo, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante - were, like Luciano, of western Sicilian parentage.

By 1889 Francesco and Rosa had moved to a working-class suburb of Palermo. Two more sons were born there, but died in infancy, possibly victims of the cholera epidemic that ravaged the neighborhood in the early 1890s. One and a half million Sicilians were to leave the island in the next twenty-five years, many going to Argentina and Brazil and, increasingly, to the United States.

Francesco Sinatra joined the exodus in the summer of 1900. At the age of forty-three, he said goodbye to Rosa and their surviving children-there were by now three sons and two daughters-and boarded a ship for Naples. There he transferred to the British steamer Spartan Prince, carrying a steerage ticket to New York. At Ellis Island, on July 6, he told immigration officials he planned to stay with a relative living on Old Broadway in Manhattan. He had $30 in his pocket.

Francesco found work, and soon had enough confidence to start sending for his family. His eldest son, Isidor, joined him in America, and Salvatore, just fifteen and declaring himself a shoemaker like his father, arrived in 1902. Rosa arrived at Christmas the following year, accompanied by Antonino, age nine, and their two daughters, Angelina and Dorotea, who were younger. Antonino-Anthony Martin or Marty, as he would become in America-was to father the greatest popular singer of the century.

The Statue of Liberty smiled, Frank Sinatra would say in an emotional moment forty years later, when his father "took his first step on Liberty's soil." For many Italian newcomers, however, the smile proved illusory.

(Continues...)

Copyright 2005 Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan
All right reserved.
ISBN: 0-375-41400-2


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

THE MAFIA: Mafia Wars, Mafia Gangs and the Origins of Organized Crime

THE MAFIA: Mafia Wars, Mafia Gangs and the Origins of Organized Crime.

If ever a comparison had to be made with the Mafia, it would be in the shape of the government who seek to dominate and control the human pullets who reside and fluctuate in rising and increasing numbers around the world: there is a separate system, way of living, rules to adhere, policies to be followed, allies that are fashioned, societies, political parties, education and more. The mafia’s around the globe, I’m talking California, Los Angeles, Mexico, Russia, Sicily, America, Europe, China, Japan, Columbia, Mexico, New York, Africa, Asia, and wherever - else gang affiliation may be present, is stocked in a box full of redemption for the prison like estates that leave the poor – poorer and the rich – richer. It’s like an urban act of political reverberation. The noise is to awaken the injustice and signal a message to those in their community perimeters. The map of Los Angeles has been marked in a color coded print to highlight the hundreds and thousands of gangs that inhabit its southern outskirts, and not just it’s outskirts, but farther east with places like Culver City and Santa Monica having small interferences with the Crips. This book looks at Mafia families and gangs across the world, their rise to power, and their ultimate criminal abuses and wicked deeds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Last Rites for the Mafia? Fughedaboudit!

We were a little too quick on the trigger to give traditional organized crime its last rites. And why not?

Over the past 20 years, armies of Goodfellas have ratted out their fellow mobsters. And the men who stuck with omerta? They’re in jail or rotting in a graveyard.

In some U.S. cities, the mob is nothing more than a bunch of old boys playing pinochle, kibitzing about the good old days. But from the 1920s to the 1980s, the mob was “bigger than U.S. Steel” in the words of underworld sage, Meyer Lansky. As American as apple pie.

Two stories over the past week ended the fiction the Mafia is toe-tagged in the morgue.

First, New York’s Five Families were abuzz — and somewhat fearful — at the release of Gene Gotti.

You know the name. The 71-year-old younger brother of John “The Teflon Don” Gotti was sprung after a 29-year jolt in the big house.

What law enforcement insiders told the New York Post is that it’s taken the Gambinos and others 20 years to recover from the disastrous John Gotti years. That era kicked off with a spectacular rubout of Gambino mob chief Paul “Big Paulie” Castellano in front of Manhattan’s Sparks Steakhouse in 1985.

John Gotti brought a lot of unwanted attention to the crime empires and the downward spiral began.

That meant heat and the late 20th-century implosion of the Mafia as we once knew it. But like the Viet Cong, just when you think it’s over, they pop out of a bush and put a cap where the sun don’t shine.

Gene Gotti’s return would set back the clock of criminality. “The Gambinos are running smoothly – gambling, pills, construction unions, etc.,” one law enforcement official told the New York Post. “The last thing they want is someone to put them back in papers and on TV.”

And it’s not just the American Mafia’s Big Apple heartland showing new signs of life.

In Canada, it appears a bloody, old-fashioned gang war is unfolding from Montreal to southern Ontario.

The latest salvo was a classic gangland-style hit on Hamilton real estate broker Albert “Al” Iavarone, 50, shot to death in the driveway of his Ancaster home two weeks ago. Iavarone didn’t have a criminal record and wasn’t a member but as mom cautioned, “careful of the company you keep.”

That emerged on Thursday as Hamilton cops announced they had made an arrest in the 2017 murders of mob prince Angelo Musitano and veterinary assistant Mila Barberi. Musitano had reportedly found God and had long gone straight. Barberi picked the wrong boyfriend, Saverio Serrano, 41, the son of mob figure Diego Serrano. He was wounded in the Vaughan attack.

Cops say Iavarone was close to two of the accused killers. Very close to one.

Police have repeatedly alluded to a power struggle among the established Calabrese clans in the GTA and newer ‘NdrĂ ngheta upstarts. And there will be blood.

“Many ‘Ndrangheta cells in GTA and Italy are involved in a violent fight,” Dubro said.

“This is a big story of a major and very deadly Calabrian mob fight for coke territory and power in GTA/southern Ontario.”

Dubro adds that it’s all connected. He suggested an Iavarone relative may have pulled the trigger on Ang Musitano and it’s payback on drugs and a personal beef.

“There’s lots of moving parts in this mob war — a complex cast of characters from the GTA, Italy, USA, Mexico and Canada.”

Dead? Not by a long shot.

Thanks to Brad Hunter.


Crime Family Index