The Chicago Syndicate: Stefano Maggodino
Showing posts with label Stefano Maggodino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stefano Maggodino. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo: History, Hits and Headquarters

The first book to chronicle the history of the Mafia in Buffalo, NY has hit the bookshelves. "GGangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo: History, Hits and Headquarters" is the first book to "put it all together," as former Buffalo News reporter Lee Coppola stated.

Buffalo author and tour business owner Michael F. Rizzo spent the last 10 years gathering information from the FBI, books, newspaper articles and listening to tales from others to write this book. "I started the writing 10 years ago," stated Rizzo, "but put it aside for a while. Last fall I decided I wanted to put the story together and approached The History Press who became my publisher."

Rizzo spent the next six months working almost non-stop to complete the book for a summer release. "It was a grueling six months where my family saw little of me at times, but the end product was worth every minute."

The book includes less-known gangsters, but concentrates on the Buffalo Mafia and its former leader Stefano Magaddino and its history from the early 1900s through the 1980s. Hundreds of people are named and dozens of murders, many unsolved, are detailed. The final chapter includes hundreds of addresses for the amateur sleuth to check out.

Although concentrating on Buffalo, the book delves into the Rochester and Hamilton families, which were once under Magaddino's control. "I couldn't write the Magaddino history without including some of the areas he controlled. The man was as powerful as Al Capone, but because he and his people kept out of the spotlight there is little known or written about him."

The 256 page book is action packed, the first of its kind, with 691 references and over 75 photos, some never seen before, and others very rare.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mob Boss Dies

Frank J. Valenti, Rochester's notorious mob boss who oversaw local organized crime during its heyday of gambling parlors, prostitution and extortion, died last Saturday at age 97.

While atop Rochester's organized crime mob hierarchy in the 1960s and '70s, Mr. Valenti was so infamous that the Democrat and Chronicle ran a regular update on his doings under the heading, "Spotlight on Rochester's Gambling Czar."

Mr. Valenti had been living in a nursing facility near Houston. His death was confirmed by four people, including retired law enforcers and people close to the family, who asked not to be identified. A death certificate was filed in Texas Wednesday.

Bart Maimone, who provided fuel to Mr. Valenti's construction business in the 1960s and '70s, said he would always remember Mr. Valenti as fair and generous, despite any criminal ties he may have had.

Once, Maimone said, he was prepared to go into business with a local company with organized crime ties and Mr. Valenti urged him not to. "He never wanted me to get involved with that," said Maimone, noting that he learned this week of Mr. Valenti's death.

Gentlemanly and handsome, Mr. Valenti fit a Hollywood stereotype of a gangster who could be both diplomatic and violently tyrannical.

That Mr. Valenti lived to almost a century may come as a surprise to those who saw him in 1964 when, for court appearances, he was disheveled, haggard and claimed he suffered from heart ailments and ulcers triggered by the constant attention from law enforcement. But Mr. Valenti often seemed able to appear on death's doorstep for court appearances, only to vigorously recover for meetings with his capos.

Mr. Valenti's travels read like a mob history. In 1957, he and his brother, Constenze "Stanley" Valenti, were two of the mobsters at the infamous Apalachin conference, a Mafia summit meeting held in Apalachin, near Binghamton.

Six years later, when mob turncoat and killer Joseph Valachi helped federal authorities detail the reach of organized crime, Frank and Stanley Valenti were two of the more than 300 Mafioso whom Valachi identified as central figures.

Mr. Valenti was considered to be "the most significant person" in organized crime in Rochester, said local lawyer and former district attorney Donald Chesworth, who was involved in mob investigations when he worked with the FBI in the 1960s.

With his charm, dapper attire and swept-back white hair, Valenti always seemed the center of attention within any crowd.

Rochester resident Diane Lamanna remembers meeting Mr. Valenti at a local restaurant/bar when she was a teenager. She was waiting for a friend when she struck up a conversation with him and complained about how she never had money. "He was polite," she said. "He was a total gentleman." After he left, Lamanna found a napkin he'd left her with a tip about a horse running in a race that evening. Bet on the horse, he'd written. She paid no attention. After she told her friends about the meeting, they informed her just whom she'd been talking to. And, sure enough, they checked and the horse had won.

Born in Rochester, Mr. Valenti ascended through the organized crime ranks as would-be challengers mysteriously disappeared or were slain.

"It was an interesting time and there were a lot of murders," said Hugh Higgins, an FBI special agent in Rochester during the mob era. "But they were killing one another."

Mr. Valenti moved to Pittsburgh in 1961 — "exiled" there according to news accounts — after a conviction on a voting fraud in Rochester. There, he became a prominent figure in organized crime, before returning to Rochester in 1964 and seizing control of gambling and prostitution. But Mr. Valenti apparently avoided drug trafficking, as that criminal enterprise began to grow, Mr. Higgins said. "It's a funny kind of world, but I think Frank had some morals."

The Rochester enterprise during the late 1950s and much of the '60s was linked to the Buffalo-based Maggadino crime family.

"They broke away from the Maggadino family and they were considered, quote, unquote, a 'renegade' group as far as La Cosa Nostra goes," said Richard Endler, a retired federal prosecutor. But Mr. Valenti also had connections with the powerful New York City-based Bonanno family.

Mr. Valenti was able to use that influence to instill fear in local bookmakers who always paid a portion of their illicit earnings to Mr. Valenti and his clan, said local lawyer Robert A. Napier, whose father, the late Robert C. Napier, defended many of those same bookmakers.

Napier said his father thought Mr. Valenti was able to use "more bravado than actual muscle" because of the Bonanno connection.

Constantly under police surveillance at his Henrietta home, Mr. Valenti grew wary of the law enforcement attention and in 1970 hatched a plot to direct police attention toward others. The ploy worked. "There were a bunch of bombings," Higgins said. "We always attributed it to civil rights leftist organizations. Turned out it was the mob."

Mr. Valenti groomed and schooled some young men who would become Rochester's organized crime leaders, including Salvatore "Sammy" Gingello, arguably the region's most famous Mafia underboss. "Valenti took Sammy under his wing," said former Rochester police Officer Ralph "Butch" Bellucco, who now has a private investigation business.

Mr. Valenti's basement was the site of initiation ceremonies, in which newcomers to the crime family agreed they would never spill Mafia secrets, would break laws only with the consent of their mob leaders, and would not sleep with a comrade's girlfriend or wife.

Some of those same neophyte mobsters decided to wrest control from Mr. Valenti when they decided he was pocketing too much of the illicit gains. In 1972, one of his closest associates was fatally shotgunned.

After a federal prison stint for extortion, Mr. Valenti moved to Arizona and stayed there for years. Meanwhile, Rochester erupted into violent gang wars between rival teams that, coupled with toughened law enforcement, destroyed the organized crime ranks. Mr. Gingello was killed in a 1978 car bombing.

Mr. Valenti was father of five daughters. His wife, Eileen, passed away years ago.

Thanks to Gary Craig

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mob Tour is Another Highlight for Niagara Falls

When the mob takes you for a ride, don’t expect to be home any time soon.

When Michael Rizzo, founder of Mob Tours, takes you for a ride, it takes about 90 minutes and some of the highlights along the way include former hideouts, hangouts and homes of Niagara Falls, N.Y.'s best-known criminals.

Some of the history he talks about on the tour relates to former mafia don Stefano Magaddino and his brothers, Gaspare and Nino, who ruled Western New York with iron fists.

“There are about a dozen locations that we go past, and we tell some stories about bookmaking and the history of Stefano Magaddino,” said Rizzo. “Everything is from the 1920s to the 1970s. We talk about prohibition, bootlegging, and we see some sites where there were some bombings, murders, bookmaking operations and where people lived.”

Rizzo, 43, a businessman, author and historian, came up with the idea about five years ago. He started research because there is so much history shared between the city of Niagara Falls, N.Y., criminal activity and the mob. He put it aside for awhile, then last year decided to look into running a tour.

Mob Tours opened in mid-June and will run weekends and holidays. Reservations can be made through the website, www.themobtours.com. Tickets cost $29.95.

Rizzo said while the Magaddinos were alive, the city was known as a sin centre. “We just try to capture some of that former drama and entertain our visitors for a short time, so that they have another reason to remember their visit to the Falls.”

Rizzo said historical accuracy is an important aspect of the tour. While there is very little information available about Magaddino in general circulation, as a researcher he knew where to find it and is now making it available with his tour. He hopes the tour appeals to fans of organized crime, "The Sopranos," or mafia movies.

Included is a stop at the Magaddino Museum, which features one-of-a-kind memorabilia from the Magaddinos era and the Niagara Falls mob.

Magaddino, known to be involved in the bookmaking and bootlegging trades, was a respected – and feared – head of the mafia in the 1930s and early 1940s. He controlled a considerable amount of territory in the Buffalo and Niagara area and had influence in southern Ontario, especially in the Toronto-Hamilton area.

“People in the circle obviously knew him. He had a large territory, but he was not well documented over the years. He didn’t make a lot of press noise, so up until Apalachin in 1957 he was pretty much unknown,” said Rizzo.

The infamous Apalachin crime 'conference' – a meeting of the most powerful mafia heads of the day, coming from The U.S., Italy and Canada – was held Nov. 14, 1957 at the home of mobster Joseph 'Joe the Barber' Barbara in Apalachin, N.Y. Police became suspicious after they noticed expensive cars with licence plates from around the country starting to arrive. Officers raided the meeting, causing mafiosi to flee into the woods and the surrounding area. The get-together proved disastrous for the mob, and many underworld bosses were detained and indicted. That meeting confirmed for the first time the existence of a national crime syndicate.

Until then, the Federal Bureau of Investigations refused to acknowledge such a thing even existed.

That meeting was planned as an opportunity for some of the most powerful mafiosi to socialize and resolve problems within their organization relating to gambling, casinos and narcotics operations.

Appalachin has been referred to in a number of movies, including the 1990 film "Goodfellas," 1999's "Analyze This," and in the novel "The Godfather Returns."

Don Stefano Magaddino was known as “the undertaker,” because the family owned a funeral parlour in Niagara Falls, N.Y. “The funeral home is about half a mile from the casino and it was open until the 1990s. It’s now sitting vacant,” said Rizzo.

At one time, there was talk of turning that property into a mob museum, but nothing has materialized.

Asked if he had concerns about his own safety for starting a business that tells mob stories, Rizzo said it crossed his mind. But he’s basically talking about “ancient history,” he said, because Magaddino has been dead more than 30 years.

“Most of the family is out of the area, but there are a few people still around,” said Rizzo. “After Stefano died, the (mob) family changed hands so his family is not in it any longer.”

He noted the tour is more about the history of Stefano Magaddino and his relationship with the city, and not necessarily about the Niagara Falls or Buffalo mafia.

“I’m actually surprised that there aren't any books about him yet, considering how long it has been since he died. And that he had such a big area, you would think someone would want to put a book out about him,” said Rizzo.

Magaddino has been mentioned in books, but nothing has been written specifically on him.

While his name was often associated with the city of Buffalo – and one book on the mafia even referred to him as the old don of Buffalo – he lived in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and later in Lewiston, N.Y.

In November 1968, the FBI raided Stefano’s home in Lewiston, along with several others that belonged to members of his family including his son, Peter Magaddino. The father and son were arrested and charged with interstate bookmaking. One source says when the FBI searched Peter Magaddino’s home, they uncovered close to $500,000 in cash inside a bedroom wall. Another source claims the money was found in a suitcase under a bed.

The street where the family lived in Lewiston was referred to as Mafia Row.

Stefano Magaddino, who had a number of heart ailments over the years, died of a heart attack in hospital July 19, 1974. He was 82. He is remembered for being a crime boss for more than 50 years – possibly the longest reign in history.

Thanks to Tony Ricciuto

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And the Oscar goes to ... Gregory DePalma?

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Gregory DePalma, Vincent "Chin"Gigante, Joe Bonanno, Gennaro Angiulo, Stefano Maggodino, Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce
Friends of mine: Ilario Zannino

Gregory DePalma, the powerful Gambino family captain, allegedly bragged about his Academy Award-caliber performance playing a desperately ill man looking for a sentence reduction. It worked; a federal judge jailed DePalma for less than six years instead of the 13-year maximum back in 1999.

There was just one problem: The federal government was secretly taping DePalma's post-sentencing review. And now he's back in court, allegedly battling another debilitating illness as prosecutors attempt to convince another jury that DePalma is a racketeer.

The 74-year-old mobster, sitting at the defense table with an oxygen tube in his nose and his feet resting on a small stool, is the latest Mafiosi caught in a medical controversy over competency to stand trial. The government inevitably insists the defendant is a healthy candidate for prosecution; the defense is equally insistent that he is not.

"Surveillance photos will show you Gregory DePalma on the move, an energetic, active man," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Marrah said in his opening statement at the reputed mobster's trial in Manhattan.

Not so, said defense attorney John Meringolo. DePalma was "a broken-down man who has a big mouth and is living through the past," Meringolo argued.

Trying to dodge prosecution through illness _ the "Sicilian flu," as federal agents once derisively called it _ is a long-standing Mafia defense. The most famous of all was Vincent Gigante, the so-called "Oddfather" who avoided conviction for nearly three decades by publicly acting like a loon.

Gigante strolled through his Greenwich Village neighborhood in bathrobe and slippers, whether it was time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Gigante avoided conviction from 1970, when he first launched the ruse, until a 1997 conviction for racketeering and murder conspiracy.

FBI agents serving Gigante with a subpoena once found him standing naked in a running shower, clutching an open umbrella.

"With some of these guys, it would be hard to tell if it's dementia or just the way they are," said mob expert Howard Abadinsky. "They're that nutty."

The majority of cases run to heart problems rather than head cases.

Joe Bonanno, one of the founding fathers of New York City's mob, was summoned to testify in 1985 at a federal prosecution of the Mafia's ruling "Commission." Then 80, he was retired and living in Arizona - where he was definitely too ill to take the witness stand, said his lawyer, William Kunstler. The stress of testifying, Kunstler insisted, was too much for the octogenarian mobster. Bonanno did 14 months for contempt, coming out of prison in 1986. He died ... 16 years later, at the ripe old age of 97. Kunstler had died seven years earlier at 76.

Ilario Zannino, an associate of New England mob underboss Gennaro Angiulo, managed to avoid prosecution - albeit temporarily - after he was hospitalized with heart problems in 1985. He died in jail 11 years later at age 74.

Buffalo boss Stefano Maggodino, following his arrest, once claimed he was too sick to get fingerprinted. At a bedside arraignment, he told the assembled authorities, "Take the gun and shoot me. That's what you want!" He survived for another five years.

Not everyone lived as long as those three. Aniello "Neill" Dellacroce was arraigned by telephone in April 1985 from his Staten Island home, where he was laid up with heart disease and cancer. Dellacroce was dead before the end of the year.

"When you start to think of the lifestyles these guys live, there's a good chance it's not going to be so healthy," said Abadinsky. "One of the things that always fascinated me is that these guys didn't die earlier."

The Gigante case, with a mob boss feigning dementia to maintain his freedom, has become part of pop culture. Junior Soprano, on the hit HBO show, went from malingering to menacing mobster this year when he shot nephew Tony in a case of mistaken identity. The long-running hit TV show "Law And Order" did an episode using the Gigante premise. And author Jimmy Breslin did an entire book, "I Don't Want to Go to Jail: A Good Novel," that parodied Gigante with a character called Fausti ("The Fist") Dellacava.

"Gigante got a lot of exercise walking around the Village," Abadinsky said of the mobster who lived to age 77. "He just said he was nuts."

Thanks to Larry McShane

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