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King of the Brooklyn Docks: Albert Anastasia

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Note: This article was written in 2005. Sources that have become available more recently call into question some of its data and conclusions.

Albert Anastasia

Anastasia

Few gangsters have cast a greater shadow on American society than Albert Anastasia of Brooklyn. For much of three decades, the man who was called "The Mad Hatter" and "The Lord High Executioner" helped to shape the organized underworld in the United States.

Though history has focused on his explosive brutality and his short fuse, Anastasia was arguably a criminal visionary. With his Brooklyn friends Joe Adonis and Vincent Mangano, Anastasia brought a never-before-seen level of organization to waterfront labor racketeering. Over time, he came to control the International Longshoremen's Association and the entire Brooklyn waterfront.

Just as Anastasia began to set his sights on bigger and better rackets, he came into conflict with an old friend, a man who was just as ambitious and perhaps a bit more ruthless than Anastasia himself. The clash with Vito Genovese would result in Anastasia's death on a barber shop floor in 1957.

Early Days

Umberto Anastasio was born in Tropea, a village in the Calabria region of southern Italy. The date of his birth is somewhat uncertain. February 26, 1902, appears to be the most reliable date. But some sources prefer September 26, 1902 (which is carved into his gravestone), and a few insist on moving his birthdate to 1903.

The Anastasio family grew to include nine boys and three girls. The family patriarch, a railroad worker, died some time before the start of the Great War in Europe. One of his sons and two of his daughters died at a young age.

As teenagers, Umberto and his brothers Giuseppe and Antonio found work as deck hands on tramp steamers. They sailed the Atlantic until deciding, apparently at different dates, to jump ship in New York City.

Umberto settled in Brooklyn on September 12, 1917. There he set to work as a longshoreman and came into daily contact with the toughs and racketeers of the waterfront. Al Capone, who did not head west to Chicago until 1919, was apparently one of Umberto's early contacts.

Tough Tony Anastasio

'Tough Tony'

Umberto's brothers Giuseppe and Antonio eventually joined him at the Brooklyn docks. Another brother, Salvatore Anastasio, moved to New York and entered the priesthood.

In the 1920s, Umberto adusted his identity. He began to use the Anglicized first name of Albert. And he also changed the final vowel of his surname from an O to an A.

The reason traditionally given for his adoption of the name "Anastasia" is that he had deliberately chosen a life of crime and did not want to bring disgrace on the rest of his family. But that rationale is difficult to accept. If Anastasia wanted to distance himself from his kin, he could have done so more effectively by chosing a surname like "Jones." And, in fact, it appears he maintained relationships with his brothers in America after the name change. Their family connection was widely known.

It seems more plausible that Anastasia, like other gangsters of the period, used variant spellings of his name to create problems for law enforcement. The "Anastasia" spelling might have stuck merely because that name was constantly in the American news in the 1920s.

During that decade, an American widow named Nance Leeds married Prince Christopher of Greece. The new princess took the Greek name Anastasia because it sounded similar to her original given name. As an American link to royalty, Princess Anastasia of Greece and her family were celebrated in the media. By the middle of the 1920s, another Princess Anastasia was in the news. She was the daughter of assassinated Czar Nicholas II of Russia. It was believed by some that the Czar's daughter survived the violent takeover of the Bolsheviks and settled in Germany.

Condemned To The Chair

Electric Chair

Sing Sing's
electric chair

In March of 1921, Albert Anastasio (he apparently was still ending his name with an O at this time), was arrested along with another man. The two were charged with killing an Italian longshoreman. The victim was initially named Joe Turino in the newspapers, but later FBI reports called him George Turello.

Anastasia was convicted of murder in July. He was sentenced to die of electrocution and moved into a "death cell" at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York.

As his attorneys pursued legal appeals, his friends on the outside sought to help the convicted murderer in other ways. The key witnesses in the state's case began to disappear. Some changed their stories, at least one moved away, and others reportedly met violent ends.

Anastasia

Anastasia

When a retrial was finally granted on some technical grounds, the state found that it had no case. In spring of 1922, Anastasia was discharged for lack of evidence.

He walked out of the Sing Sing "death cell" and back into a free life. The experience made him an instant underworld celebrity and taught him a method for dealing with law enforcement. Witness testimony was a prosecutor's main weapon. Threats and violence against witnesses were an effective countermeasure.

Anastasia's criminal record from 1922 on, is largely a collection of unsuccessful prosecutions. In August of 1922, he was arrested in connection with a July 16 homicide. The charge was dropped for lack of evidence. In April of the following year, police nabbed Anastasia for felonious assault. After the arrest, the witnesses against him suddenly changed their stories, and he was freed.

Brooklyn Feud

In the early 1920s, an underworld feud raged in New York City. Many of its battles were fought in the streets of Brooklyn and of Manhattan's Lower East Side. While some of the violence of the period was due to conflicts among bootlegging groups, much of it was a deliberate effort by Brooklyn-based boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila to hold onto his position.

D'Aquila had been voted into the boss of bosses role following the incarceration of previous supreme underworld chief Giuseppe Morello in 1910. D'Aquila developed an underworld spy network in order to keep tabs on Mafia families across the United States. In some cases, he installed allies into leadership positions in other families to ensure their cooperation.

Giuseppe Morello

Morello

When Morello won an early release from prison, D'Aquila was more concerned for his status than ever. At a meeting of Mafia leaders in the early 1920s, D'Aquila backed Morello and members of his supportive faction into a corner. Rather than argue with the boss of bosses, Morello and his closest allies left the meeting. After they left, D'Aquila pronounced their exit a terrible offense and declared the group in open rebellion.

Morello and allies went into hiding to escape the D'Aquila sentence of death. But Morello loyalists remained in the city and conducted a guerrilla campaign against the D'Aquila faction.

Anastasia appears to have been involved in the feud. A newspaper report from April 1923 noted that an Albert Anastasio of Brooklyn was shot several times while driving on Sackett Street. The account noted that the same man had been taken into custody a month earlier in connection with the murder of Antonio Busardo of Bensonhurst. He was released for lack of evidence.

Busardo had been connected with another murder, and police assembled evidence of a vendetta feud that accounted for at least five deaths.

The 1923 Sackett Street incident occurs nowhere in published accounts of Anastasia's life and is noticeably missing from FBI files on the gangster. It is possible, though unlikely, that some other "Albert Anastasio" was involved.

Anastasia would not be around to continue the feud. In June of 1923, he was arrested for carrying a revolver. He was convicted and sentenced to two years at Blackwell's Island Penitentiary. By the time he was released, D'Aquila was a boss in title only. The real power in New York City rested with Morello faction champion Giuseppe Masseria.

Building The Syndicate

By the later 1920s, Anastasia had entered into partnership arrangements with Joe Adonis (Giuseppe Doto), Willie Moretti and Augie Pisano (Anthony Carfano). He was friendly with Vito Genovese and others who worked closely with rising star Salvatore "Charlie Lucky Luciano" Lucania. It appears likely that he was also acquainted with Frankie Yale.

Brooklyn docks

Brooklyn docks

His major criminal interest was at the waterfront. Anastasia gained control of union locals of the International Longshoremen's Association and could extort regular payments from both dock workers and their employers.

As 1930 arrived, another underworld war began. "Joe the Boss" Masseria, after disposing of D'Aquila in 1928, began following in the old boss of bosses' footsteps. He started to influence matters in other crime families and in other regions. Rather than strengthen his position as underworld leader, his meddling caused many American Mafiosi to oppose him.

Masseria imposed leadership changes on families in Detroit, Brooklyn and the Bronx. He took sides in an underworld conflict in Cleveland and also backed Al Capone in his war against established Sicilian family in Chicago.

Backed by families in Detroit, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Chicago, a Brooklyn group of Mafiosi who originated in the Sicilian town of Castellammare del Golfo rose in rebellion under the leadership of Salvatore Maranzano.

Charlie Luciano

Luciano

Luciano and his allies joined the Masseria outfit. But eventually, Luciano negotiated with the enemy. In April 1931, he set up a hit on Joe the Boss himself.

According to some accounts, Anastasia served as one of the gunmen who, at Luciano's behest, entered Scarpato's Nuova Villa Tamaro restaurant at Coney Island and pumped lead into Masseria on April 15. (Just two months later, Anastasia was granted permanent residence in the U.S. under the Registry Act of 1929. An illegal entry into the country barred others from citizenship, but Anastasia would find a way around the restrictions.)

Maranzano immediately declared himself boss of bosses, in the tradition of Morello, D'Aquila and Masseria. But Mafia bosses around the country - including those previously allied with Maranzano - would not stand for any more meddling in their affairs. Maranzano was killed in his Park Avenue offices in September of 1931.

With Luciano's support, a Commission of top bosses was formed in order to resolve inter-family disputes, and the old boss of bosses system was discarded.

Anastasia may have had a dual role in the new order. He served as underboss to the Brooklyn family led by Vincent Mangano (D'Aquila's old organization). According to legend, he also played an intermediary role between Mafia leaders and a Brooklyn-based enforcement wing that became known as Murder Inc. (The name of the enforcement group was apparently taken from a book written by former prosecutor Burton Turkus. However, Turkus clearly intended to apply the nickname "Murder, Inc." to the entire nationwide underworld syndicate he uncovered. He did not use it as a proper name for the enforcement group.)

Louis Buchalter

Buchalter

Often described as a group of killers on retainer, Murder Inc. was overseen by Louis "Lepke" Buchalter. The organization had member cells around the country. When a "hit" was ordered by the Commission, a killer would be sent out to do the deed with an ice pick, a rope, a stiletto or a firearm. The ice pick was a favorite weapon. As effective as a stiletto, the pick could be found virtually everywhere in the days before home refrigerators. It was quick and easy to use and could not be linked in any meaningful way to its wielder.

This enforcement group was useful to the Mafia for two major reasons. First, by utilizing veteran assassins (the best apparently were drawn from the poor Jewish neighborhhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn), it assured that "hits" would not become misses. A level of professionalism was brought to the practice of murder. Second, law enforcement would be thwarted because the actual killer would have no relationship to the victim. Prosecutors would have great difficulty pinning the murder on the right party. Even when the perpetrator was caught, his motive would be largely a mystery.

Anastasia administered Murder Inc. at the Mafia Commission level, where non-Italians like Buchalter were not permitted. Anastasia's leadership role in the group resulted in the nickname of "Lord High Executioner."

Good Fortune

Law enforcement continued to have trouble getting charges to stick to Anastasia through the early 1930s.

He was suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of Isidore Juffe in 1932, but his role could not be proven in a courtroom. He was arrested twice in August of 1932 - first on suspicion of committing a Brooklyn homicide with an ice pick and then for consorting with known criminals. He was discharged both times. In August of 1933, witnesses identified him as the killer of a Brooklyn laundryman. Those witnesses later changed their stories, and Anastasia was let go.

While the police had a difficult time holding onto Anastasia, a Canadian-Italian woman managed to land him for good.

Elsa Bargneti, who was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1914, entered the United States through Detroit in 1934 and made her way to Brooklyn. She and Anastasia were married two years later, when he was 36 and she was 24. The couple had a son a year later. He was named Albert Jr.

Abe Reles

Abe Reles

The year 1939 turned out to be a troubling one for the leaders of Murder Inc. The murder of Peter Panto, a crusader against racketeer involvement in organized labor, caused much law enforcement energy to be focused on the Mafia's hit squad. Abe Reles, one of Murder Inc.'s hired killers, was charged with Panto murder and decided to betray his underworld associates rather than fry for the crime.

Reles testimony helped police to more fully understand dozens of previously unsolved murders and the roles of Anastasia and Buchalter. They were able to link Anastasia in particular to the killing of Panto and to the assassination of Teamster union official Morris Diamond.

With Reles as a witness, Brooklyn District Attorney William O'Dwyer was able to win convictions against a number of mob hit-men. Buchalter would eventually get the chair for his involvement in the murder for hire organization.

O'Dwyer felt certain of winning an important conviction against Anastasia as well. His feelings changed, however, when Reles was found dead five stories below his room window at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Reles had been held at the Half Moon under armed guard while awaiting trial. A few tied-together bedsheets draped out the window suggested that Reles might have been trying to escape from police custody. But the distance his body traveled away from the hotel wall indicated that he had been thrown.

Legends say Anastasia had managed to get to Reles even while he was guarded by lawmen.

O'Dwyer's case against the Lord High Executioner collapsed. But the Brooklyn D.A. kept the pressure on. The Mafia Commission was forced to disband Murder Inc. and find other means of organizational discipline, and Anastasia was forced to change addresses for a while.

Steps Toward Legitimacy

The beginning of American involvement in the Second World War provided Anastasia with a means to vanish from New York for a while and simultaneously improve his image.

Anastasia is an army sergeant

Anastasia becomes
an army sergeant

He enlisted in the armed forces on May 18, 1942. With his experience on the Brooklyn docks, he proved valuable to the military as an instructor. He was made a technical sergeant and assigned to the education of military longshoremen at Indiana Gap. Pennsylvania.

The military turned out to be Anastasia's route to U.S. citizenship.

He took advantage of a special act of Congress, which granted speedy naturalization to aliens serving in the American armed forces, to become a citizen on June 29, 1943. He didn't mention any of his previous run-ins with the law on his citizenship application.

At the end of the following year, the army discharged him because he was overage. He was nearly 43 at the time.

In the mid-1940s, Anastasia decided to move away from Brooklyn and follow his longtime friend Joe Adonis to the country setting of Fort Lee, New Jersey. The Brooklyn home held in the name of his wife was sold for $25,000. The Anastasias built a new, 35-room, 5-bathroom house, valued at more than $75,000 at #75 Bluff Road in Fort Lee. The property was put in the name of Albert and Elsa Bargneti. The hillside mansion, just around the corner from Adonis's home, overlooked rolling hills and the Hudson River.

In October 1945, Anastasia showed the degree of his influence over New York's longshoremen. A strike, relating to an inter-union power struggle, crippled the city's docks from October 1 to 22. Anastasia then assembled his Brooklyn allies and brought them back to work. As the Brooklyn docks opened again, the strike collapsed, and the entire New York waterfront was opened for business.

Friction Between Old Friends

As the 1950s opened, Anastasia was a focal point for state and federal racketeering investigations. Government officials named Anastasia as one of the leading figures in a national crime syndicate that ran rackets in major U.S. cities and sentenced its own members to death for disobedience.

Anastasia's name was in the newspapers regularly, causing a great deal of concern for his underworld partners. He was labeled as the Mafia's chief thug, as a smuggler of heroin, as a corruptor of the labor movement.

Willie Moretti

Moretti

At the same time, Anastasia's old buddy Willie Moretti was getting himself into trouble. According to legend, Moretti's mind was affected by syphilis, and he was talking too much, about too much, to too many people. With government investigators calling mobsters to televised hearings all across the country, Moretti was becoming a great liability.

Curiously, Anastasia and Moretti were reportedly trusted with a sensitive assignment in October 1951. The syndicate wished to provide a handsome payoff to a jailed bookmaker to ensure that he would not rat out his underworld colleagues. Anastasia and Moretti were asked to take the money to the bookmaker's representative. Moretti's "thing" was gambling (he also dabbled in entertainment, reportedly helping Sinatra become a star), so he was a natural choice. But Anastasia's inclusion in the assignment smells like a setup.

Some of the money disappeared on the way.

Anastasia insisted to the bosses on the Commission that he knew nothing about the missing money. The Commission, dominated at the time by a conservative Sicilian faction, decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, just for the moment.

On Thursday, Oct. 4, 1951, Anastasia reportedly was warned to stay away from restaurant called Joe's Elbow Room, which was located near his home on Palisades Avenue in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. Late in the morning, Willie Moretti was killed at that restaurant. Some sources suggest that Anastasia was forced to take a role in setting up the murder of his old friend. Anastasia reportedly asked for and was granted the use of Moretti's driver/bodyguard for the day.

Four men, already at the restaurant when Moretti arrived alone, invited him to their table. The group joked in Italian and laughed for a while together. Two of the men then drew handguns and fired into Moretti's head and face.

According to the press, the old chief of Murder Inc. received word that he should retire at once or he would be next. It seems Anastasia looked into the possibility of retiring to the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. But the community convinced him he was not wanted there.

Apparently deciding against retirement, Anastasia opted instead to improve his stature in the Sicilian-Italian underworld. He moved against his conservative family bosses, the Manganos, and seized control of the organization.

Philip Mangano was found dead in a Canarsie swamp. Vincent Mangano was not found at all. Ever. Anastasia became boss of the family and shifted the balance of power on the Commission.

Tony Strollo

Tony Strollo

His new prestige as boss coupled with his influence at the Brooklyn docks made him a considerable force in organized crime. He also had investments in clothing companies and a small interest in garment workers unions. Through his brother Antonio - a longshoreman union official known at the time as "Tough Tony" - Anastasia was gaining influence with the Manhattan dockworkers. With ally Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo (a capo in Costello's group), he was also becoming a force on the New Jersey shore.

Left unchecked, Anastasia might have come to own all of the New York-New Jersey waterfront and to threaten the lucrative garment district rackets jealously guarded by other crime families. In a short time, his power and wealth might have entitled him to the old designation of boss of bosses.

On the Commission, Anastasia became a strong supporter of Frank Costello. Costello had become the boss of the old Morello-Masseria-Luciano family after Luciano was deported and underboss Vito Genovese exiled himself to Italy to avoid a U.S. murder prosecution. With help from Tommy Lucchese, who succeeded to the leadership post in the Reina-Gagliano family, Costello and Anastasia could counter the influence of New York's ultra-conservative Mafiosi like Joe Bonanno and Joe Profaci.

Trouble With The Tax Man

The new Fort Lee home turned out to be a problem for Anastasia. He could not have afforded to build such a structure on the income he claimed on his tax documents. Federal treasury agents hoped to succeed where local and state law enforcement officials had failed so many times before.

A case for tax evasion was assembled against Anastasia beginning in 1948. At issue were his tax returns for the years 1947 and 1948. During that period of time, Anastasia paid $2,788 in taxes on a reported income of $18,769. The government estimated that it was owed $14,521 in taxes on income that must have been at least $51,075.

One of the more damaging witnesses against Anastasia was a Fort Lee plumber/pipefitter named Charles Ferri. According to Ferri, he did $8,700 worth of work on Anastasia's home. He linked Anastasia directly to payments for the work by noting that he was handed $1,000 from Anastasia himself.

One of the scheduled witnesses in the federal trial did not appear. Anastasia bodyguard Vincent Macri, expected to testify against his boss, was found dead April 25, 1954, in the trunk of his automobile parked in the Bronx.

The jury in the case decided it was hopelessly deadlocked on November 21, 1954, and a mistrial was declared by Judge Albert E. Mondarelli.

The Treasury reloaded and took another shot at Anastasia in spring of 1955. Oddly, Charles Ferri could not be located. After the first trial, he and his wife quickly left Fort Lee and headed south, settling in Miami, Florida. But, even when tracked to the Sunshine State, the Ferris could not be found.

Investigators did find blood spatters in the Ferri's Miami home. They concluded that Anastasia, free on $10,000 bail, was using his favorite legal defense technique.

Just as the second tax evasion trial was set to begin, federal prosecutors received a surprise. Anastasia's attorney Anthony A, Calendra of Newark announced that his client had decided to plead guilty to tax evasion.

The move was a strange one. The Treasury had managed only a mistrial in the first go-round, and its case had not improved with the loss of Ferri. Perhaps things in New York were getting a little hot for Anastasia, and he needed an extended vacation.

Judge Thomas M. Madden imposed a sentence of one year in jail and a $20,000 fine. The punishment was considerably shorter than the possible maximum of five years per count. On June 14, 1955, U.S. Marshal Joseph Job took Anastasia by airplane to federal prison at Milan, Michigan.

Citizenship threatened

Anastasia

Anastasia

While he was fighting the IRS, Anastasia came under attack from the INS - the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the federal Justice Department.

The first round of that bout was won by the government. On April 27, 1954, federal district Judge William A. Smith signed a denaturalization order against Anastasia. It was decided that the longtime racketeer had lied about his background in his citizenship application. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pierre Garvan was forced to wait for the appeals process to run its course before beginning a formal deportation proceeding.

Three months after he entered prison on the tax evasion conviction, Anastasia received word that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia had sided with him. By a 2-1 ruling, the court reversed Judge Smith and restored Anastasia's citizenship.

Efforts to remove Anastasia from the United States continued into 1956. On May 14 - a month and a half after his early release from Milan - the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case, essentially backing the decision of the Appeals Court.

Anastasia's celebratory mood was dampened by news of the death of his brother Giuseppe Anastasio. Giuseppe had risen to the position of pier hiring boss. He was a popular man at the docks. Anastasia saw to it that his brother had a lavish funeral. The cortege was said to be a mile long.

Betrayal

In 1957, the Mafia Commission became aware that Anastasia's crime family was selling Mafia memberships. Underboss Frank Scalise was known to be filling his pockets through the practice. The sale of membership was expressly forbidden, as it exposed the organization to untrustworthy individuals and to law enforcement infiltration.

It appears that Anastasia attempted to rectify the situation himself by ordering the execution of Scalise. Because Scalise was a friend of Luciano and the recently deported Adonis, Anastasia decided to send word to his two old colleagues in Italy before the deed was done.

Mafiosi have never been particularly strong in the forgive-and-forget department. Though Anastasia was taking proper corrective action, the Scalise problem - coupled with the earlier Moretti problem - left Anastasia with two black eyes. Anastasia was momentarily weakened.

Wounded Frank Costello

Costello

Anastasia buddy Frank Costello was the target of an assassination attempt. Costello survived, as the assassin's bullet, fired at his head, just grazed his scalp.

Some in the city believed that the botched hit at Costello's apartment house was the result of a falling out between Costello and Anastasia. Those in the know suggested that it merely indicated that Vito Genovese's patience was at an end.

Genovese left the United States before the Second World War, hiding out in Mussolini's Italy. After the war, he came back across the Atlantic. Eventually he sought to take family leadership from Costello and apparently decided that a hit was the easiest way.

Even the screwup turned out to be sufficient. Costello got the message, along with a new part in his hair. He retired as family boss. Genovese took over the family.

Anastasia, devoted friend of Costello, became instantly opposed to Genovese on the Commission and vaguely swore revenge on whoever was responsible for the hit on Costello. Though Bonanno and Profaci also had little use for the uncouth and unSicilian Genovese, they saw an opportunity to break up the alliance that had been their nemesis. They cooperated as Genovese moved against Anastasia.

At 10:20 in the morning on Oct. 25, 1957, Anastasia stopped into the barber shop at the Park Sheraton Hotel (the same hotel at which Arnold Rothstein was killed years earlier) for a shave and haircut. He frequented the establishment operated by Arthur Grasso. That morning, he sat in the fourth of twelve barber chairs and leaned back as barber Joseph Bocchino placed a hot towel on his face.

Two masked gunmen burst into the shop and unloaded handguns into the 55-year-old Anastasia's body. The former Murder Inc. chief was hit in his head, back, right hip and left hand. Witnesses said he lunged from the chair and attacked the reflection of his attackers in the mirror in front of him before collapsing dead in a pool of blood on the floor.

Anastasia's body on barbershop floor

Anastasia's body on a barbershop floor

Anastasia had once slipped free of the electric chair only to meet his end in a barber chair.

Police investigators puzzled over the absence of Anastasia's driver and bodyguard Anthony Coppola at the time of the boss's murder. Coppola would say nothing to police except that he was at his home in Fairhaven, New Jersey, when he learned of Anastasia's death. Police held Coppola in custody as a material witness.

Whodunnit?

With Anastasia responsible - directly and indirectly - for so many deaths, vendetta was certainly a possible motive for his assassination. Underworld competition was another possibility. Police set to the task of sorting through the long list of the mob boss's enemies.

Eventually, the story of the Anastasia hit came together. It suggested that Genovese cultivated a momentary alliance with Bonanno and Profaci and Anastasia's Sicilian underboss Carlo Gambino, in order to rid himself of Anastasia.

Without a Murder Inc. entity to assign the job to, the Commission allegedly handed responsibility to Profaci's family. According to some legends, Profaci assigned the task to "Crazy Joe" Gallo and his brothers. Gallo, who subsequently led a revolt within the Profaci-Magliocco-Colombo family, seemed to admit involvement in the assassination later in his life.

An alternative history has been proposed in more recent years. In that account, the assignment is handed to Joe Biondo, a member of Anastasia's own family. Biondo reportedly directed members of his crew to eliminate the boss.

With Anastasia gone, Gambino became boss of the family that still bears his name. Biondo became his underboss.

The press published many theories relating to the Anastasia assassination. Some suggested that the crime lord had fallen victim to his own ambition, running into a conflict over the numbers racket with Vito Genovese or over garment district rackets with Johnny Dioguardi. Some felt Anastasia was bumped off by an Irish mob looking to establish its influence along the docks or by a young faction in the Mafia trying to wipe out the old guard.

An intriguing speculation published in New York newspapers in January 1958 involved Anastasia being disciplined for attempting to move into Havana gambling without permission from Santo Trafficante (Tampa boss) and Meyer Lansky, who controlled that racket and served as a conduit for the investment of U.S. Mafia families. Anastasia reportedly did meet with representatives of the Cuban government just before meeting his end.

One simple theory seemed to capture the truth: Anastasia had gotten too big.

Saying Goodbye

Anastasia murder headline

Anastasia's murder is
front page news
around the country

There was no Mass of Christian Burial for Anastasia. His family did not request one, feeling that it would be inappropriate considering the way he lived his life and his unrepentant nature. As many as 30 murders were directly attributed to Anastasia. The Murder Inc. organization he helped to found and to run was believed to be responsible for many more deaths.

A poorly attended Sunday night wake was held in Parlor C on the second floor of Andrew Torregrossa's funeral home at 1305 79th Street in Brooklyn. Police were keeping an eye out for underworld characters who might choose to pay their respects. They identified only Augie Pisano.

Early the next morning, the press noted that William V. Bradley and Thomas W. Gleason, officials of the International Longshoremen's Association, showed up to pay their respects. Neither man would speak with reporters.

A simple ceremony was conducted in front of an inexpensive coffin (the press said it cost $900, in contrast with the many thousands of dollars spent on brother Giuseppe's coffin). Elsa wept loudly and nearly collapsed. She was led to a chair by Albert Jr., then in his twenties and recently graduated from college. Father Salvatore Anastasio prayed over his brother's corpse and the placed two rosaries in the dead man's hands. The priest did not travel to the cemetery.

The coffin was closed at 10:40 a.m. and a small crucifix was placed on it. The funeral cortege consisted of one car of flowers, the hearse and four cars for family members.

Anastasia could not be buried in a Catholic cemetery. He was interred in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.

In February 1958, Elsa Bargnesi Anastasia left the family home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and returned to Canada. Reporters located her at a large, two-story brick house in the North End neighborhood of Toronto's North York suburb. Her decision to leave was apparently a hasty one. On March 10, 1958, a Newark, New Jersey, court dismissed her application for U.S. citizenship because she did not appear for a hearing.

"Tough Tony" Anastasio remained a force on the New York waterfront until his death after a heart attack on March 1, 1963.