One of the Mafia’s most feared hit men has died at the age of 86.
George Barone is suspected of personally murdering at least 20 people during his reign of terror on New York’s mob-run waterfront. But he eventually turned ‘rat’ to put many of his old organised crime colleagues behind bars.
The gangster became an informer after his own Genovese family put a price on his head. He was one of only three members of the ultra-secretive family ever to break ‘omerta’, the mob’s traditional code of silence.
It emerged today that Barone died of natural causes on Tuesday while in witness protection. The former Second World War hero, who served with the Marines on Iwo Jima, returned to become a founder member of the Jets - the street gang later immortalised in the musical West Side Story. But in real life Barone was more about killing than choreography.
When he was quizzed over how many people he had ‘whacked’, Barone famously told prosecutors: ‘I didn’t keep a scorecard. A lot. Many.'
Infamously gruff but co-operative at the same time, Barone last year said: 'I’m 85. I don’t remember the specifics. I was in a war [referring to the Second World War]... I killed a lot of people. 'And I was in a war on the West Side of New York. A lot of people were killed on both sides.'
He worked as an enforcer for the Genoveses and was said to have been a broker when the family split New York’s docks down the middle with the rival Gambinos.
The Gambinos received Staten Island and Brooklyn; the Genoveses got New Jersey and Manhattan, he later testified.
Barone helped bring untold millions into the Genovese coffers. He even landed the son of boss Vincent 'The Chin' Gigante a lucrative industry job
He was a man of terrifying brutality but also a man of honour - serving a seven-year jail term in the 1980s without spilling any details of the Mafia operations. But he decided to flip in 2001 after Mob boss and one-time friend Gigante put a contract on his head. ‘I went bad,’ he said.
Barone earned a grudging respect from his federal handlers. FBI spokesman James Margolin told the New York Daily News: ‘George Barone’s criminal conduct cannot be ignored, but neither can the immense value of his expert insight and testimony.'
Barone said he was edged out of the Mob by a new generation of gangsters who tried to strip him of his union control and then plotted to kill him
He said: 'They’ve been trying to kill me for years now. They haven’t made it yet and they’re not going to.' And he was right.
Thanks to David Gardner
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