American Mafia History Website

Articles - Table of Contents

Very often new historical data becomes available and causes our old assumptions to be revised or abandoned. Over time, many underworld legends appearing on these pages have given way to more defensible statements. Additional revisions are sure to be made in the months and years ahead. Articles presented here are the product of knowledge that was available to their authors at the time of their writing (article completion dates are noted below). Some of the articles - particularly older ones - may not reflect even the original author's current views on the subject matter.

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Just How Organized Was Calabrian Crime?
Rocco Racco

By Thomas Hunt, 2015

"There are a number of unanswered questions related to the American Mafia's incorporation of Calabrian gangsters - those who trace their origins to the southernmost portion of the Italian mainland. We may ask: How did this combination occur? Precisely when did it occur? Was it the result of a decision of the American Mafia as a whole or did it result from decisions of individual crime families? Were Calabrian gangsters welcomed on an individual basis or was a Calabrian crime network consumed by the Mafia en masse? This last question touches on a subject that I have found particularly interesting..."

Underworld boss, FBI informant Bompensiero
Frank Bompensiero

By Thomas Hunt, 2017

"Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero was a longtime high-ranking southern California Mafioso assassinated in 1977 for providing information to the FBI. Born in Milwaukee, WI, on Sept. 29, 1905, Bompensiero was an active part of the southern California underworld in the Prohibition Era. He settled in San Diego with his wife Thelma Sanfilippo (Thelma had also been born in Milwaukee). Early in 1931, he was convicted of violating the National Prohibition Act and sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison..."

Sinistro: The Underworld Career of Giuseppe Morello
Giuseppe Morello

By T.Hunt, 2015

Giuseppe Morello was the first known boss of bosses of the American Mafia. While he was a unifying force initially, he later became a central figure in underworld conflicts and was an early casualty of the Castellammarese War. Morello was born on May 2, 1867, to Calogero and Angela Piazza Morello in Corleone, Sicily. A sister, Maria, was born several years later. Calogero Morello died in the early 1870s, and Angela subsequently married Bernardo Terranova. The couple had three sons, Vincent, Ciro and Nicholas "Coco," and three daughters, Lucia, Salvatrice "Dora," and Rosalia ...

The Barrel Mystery (1919)
William Flynn

By W.J.Flynn, 1919

"The Barrel Mystery" book by William J. Flynn is presented here as a window into the operations of the Turn-of-the-20th-Century Morello Gang. Giuseppe Morello, boss of bosses of the U.S. Mafia, oversaw extensive counterfeiting operations, "Black Hand" extortion and other illegal rackets. His gang was responsible for the brutal 1903 Barrel Murder, from which the book gets its name. Flynn guided Secret Service investigations that resulted in the successful prosecution of Morello and members of his organization for counterfeiting. ...

The Capone of New Jersey: Abner Zwillman
Abner Zwillman

By T.Hunt, 2014

One of the more powerful and influential New Jersey underworld figures of the Prohibition Era and beyond, Abner "Longie" Zwillman became known as the "Al Capone" of his state. A political powerhouse in the Newark area, Zwillman amassed a fortune through rum-running, gambling and coin-operated machines. He was regarded as generous with friends and underworld associates. But his downfall was his stinginess with Uncle Sam...

Gangland Profile: Frank Bonomo
Frank Bonomo

By J.Dugard, 2013

Frank Bonomo was a long-time member of the Bonanno Crime Family, who briefly may have served as a capodecina (group leader) during the late 1970s. Equally adept at avoiding the attention of law enforcement and the wrath of rivals, he survived the New York gangland "Banana War" and lived to the age of 86.

What Do We Know About Frankie Yale?
Frank Yale

By T.Hunt, 2013

Frankie Yale was a Brooklyn gangster and businessman with ties to Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria and Al Capone. His 1928 assassination coincided with dramatic changes in the Brooklyn underworld and the Mafia of the United States. Yale apparently was born Jan. 22, 1893, in Longobucco, a town in the southern mainland Italian region of Calabria. The original spelling of his surname was probably "Ioele"...

Autobiography: 'The Real Thing'
Joe Valachi

By Joe Valachi, 1964

Portions of the famous Mob informant's life story in his own words. Valachi recalls his early career as a burglar, his participation in the Castellammarese War, his induction into the American Mafia and more. Valachi's recollections, originally written at the urging of the United States government, formed the basis of the Peter Maas book, The Valachi Papers, but differ significantly from the Maas account.

Bay-Area Informants
Joseph Cerrito

By Edmond Valin, 2013

As the FBI entered the fight against organized crime on a national level, it benefited from considerable information supplied by confidential informants from within the Mafia families of northern California.

'Banana War' Informant
Bill Bonanno

By Edmond Valin, 2011

During the Banana War of the 1960s, law enforcement benefited from data provided by an informer within the Bonanno Crime Family. Researcher Edmond Valin argues that the informer could only have been Joseph Bonanno's son, Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno.

Stefan Cicale Testimony - U.S. v Joseph Young
Stefan Cicale

Edited By J.Dugard, 2010

A gruesome murder in a reportedly haunted, old, Staten Island mansion provides a window into the operation of the Bonanno Crime Family of New York. Turncoat witness Cicale testifies in the October 2008 case United States v. Joseph Young.

Super Bowl Shakedown

By C.Walker, 2010

Around the globe, billions of dollars will be gambled on this single game, much of it will be wagered online. Last year, the Internet gambling industry generated in an estimated $10 billion to $12 billion, according to Capital HQ gaming analyst Michael Tew. About half of those revenues came from Americans.

Gangsters in Southwest Michigan
Buster Domingo

By D.Critchley, 2008

Historians have neglected the role played by Berrien County, Michigan, in the history of Chicago and New York organized crime. The Berrien cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph were linked to three significant incidents in American organized crime history.

Revenge Killing in Miami: George Byrum
Clockwise from bottom: DeMeo, Castellano, Gaggi

By J. Dugard, 2007

Elizabeth Bethel, a chambermaid at Miami's Ocean Shore Motel, unlocked the door to Room 23 at about noon on July 14, 1976. After setting a fresh batch of towels down on a chair, she began making one of the room's two beds. It was the only piece of furniture noticeably disturbed.

The Man in the Shadows: Sam Pollaccia
Pollaccia and Yale

By T. Hunt and L. Cafiero, 2008

Some underworld legends, often repeated in mob history books and long cherished by Hollywood, will have to be revised or discarded due to continuing discoveries related to a shadowy Mafia figure named Saverio "Sam" Pollaccia.

New Orleans Mafia Feud, 1868-72
Jackson Square heart of the French Quarter

By T. Hunt and M. Sheldon, 2008

On Wednesday evening, Oct. 28, 1868, the Innocenti political brigade suspended its violent Presidential election season rampages through Republican neighborhoods and headed indoors. Members held a large rally at the Orleans Ballroom on Bourbon and Orleans Streets.

Badges in Little Italy: New York's Italian Squad
Joseph Petrosino

By T.Hunt, 2007

After completing an evening meal of fish and pasta at the Cafe Oreto on March 12, 1909, Joseph Petrosino walked into the Piazza Marina, a wooded, public square just to the south of the busy docks of Palermo, Sicily. Petrosino, a New York police lieutenant, leader and founder of the Italian Squad, was in Italy to gather evidence against Italian fugitives living in New York.

The Good Killers: 1921's Glimpse of the Mafia
Wounded Magaddino

By T. Hunt and M.A. Tona, 2007

"Diu miu!" The shout drew Michael Fiaschetti's attention to the figure silhouetted in the dim gray light passing through the hotel window. Fiaschetti was on self-imposed guard duty, ostensibly protecting barber Bartolo Fontano from gangsters who wished him dead.

Gambino Family Chronicles, 1980-2002

Feb. 2006 testimony of Michael DiLeonardo

Paul Castellano had sent some emissaries to talk to me about it. My brother Robert was with the Colombo family, and being he was with that family, we have no say and no influence on their politics or anything that they do. So this is a way to tell me this is Cosa Nostra. This is the way the rules are. Your brother was there. They killed him and that's it. There's no questions to be asked.

Clutch-Hand Confusion: Joe Morello
Giuseppe Morello

By T.Hunt, 2011

There is no more mysterious and confusing figure in American Mafia history than the powerful Giuseppe Morello, who more than once climbed to the pinnacle of the society's leadership.

White-Collar Mafioso: Tommy Lucchese
Tommy Lucchese

By T.Hunt, 2006

Despite running one of New York's smaller underworld units, Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese was one of the more successful American Mafia bosses of the post-Prohibition era. Abundant evidence of his business acumen suggests he was among the few mob chiefs who could have succeeded in life without underworld ties.

King of the Brooklyn Docks: Albert Anastasia
Albert Anastasia

By T.Hunt, 2005

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

Chicago's Man in Vegas: Anthony Spilotro
Anthony Spilotro

By T.Hunt, 2006

Anthony Spilotro wasn't much to look at. His build certainly wasn't threatening. He stood just five feet, six inches tall and weighed in the neighborhood of 160. His small stature led underworld colleagues to call him "Tony the Ant" and "The Little Guy."

The Disappearance of Teamster Boss Jimmy Hoffa
Jimmy Hoffa

By T.Hunt, 2005-06

The disappearance of former Teamster President James Riddle Hoffa in 1975 sparked a public debate that continues to this day. Despite claims to the contrary, no one knows for sure what became of Hoffa or who was responsible.

Remembering "Boo Boo": Max Hoff
Max Hoff

By P.Desmond, 2003

Max "Boo Boo" Hoff was born in 1893 in South Philadelphia, a son of poor Russian-Jewish, immigrants. After quitting school, Boo Boo worked for several years as a cigar store clerk. His salary allegedly was raised from $12 a week to $15 after the proprietor noticed how Boo Boo's amiable personality appealed to customers.

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet: Joe Masseria
Joe Masseria

By T.Hunt, 2002

Before his ascendance to the position of lord of the Sicilian-Italian Underworld, Giuseppe Masseria busied himself with the various criminal activities that were found in great abundance in turn-of-the-20th-Century lower Manhattan.

Counterfeit Capone? A Puzzle
Al Capone

By T.Hunt, 2002

Conspiracy theorist is not at all a new line of work. And one of the more unusual conspiracy theories relating to organized crime dates back to 1931 and the accusation of an ersatz Capone.

Wrongly Executed? The Case of Charles Sberna
Journalist Walter Winchell

By T. Hunt, 2006-07

Patrolman John H. A. Wilson, an 11-year member of the New York Police Department, was on strike-duty in front of the E. J. Barry drug warehouse at 54 Fulton Street in lower Manhattan. Employees of the warehouse had walked off the job, and Wilson was sent to ensure picketers behaved themselves.

When Outlaws Became Heroes
Actor James Cagney

By T.Hunt, 1992

A period of continuous celebration for the upper crust, of defiance and confusion for the rest, the 1920s contributed more than a typical decade's worth of images to our national identity. To mention the "Roaring Twenties" is to conjure up countless mental pictures of history-shaping trends and events.

Is There Really A Mafia?
Raymond Patriarca

By T.Hunt, 2002

The most basic question confronting the American Mafia historian is: "Does an American Mafia exist?" In our post-Valachi age, when books, movies and television shows about the Mafia are everywhere, it may seem a silly question.

Charlie Lucky's Lasting Legacy
Charlie Luciano

By T.Hunt, 1986

Charles "Charlie Lucky" Luciano seized control of the Italian-American underworld in 1931. As the most powerful criminal leader, Luciano was able to unite regional crime groups across the United States under a system of his own choosing.

Memoirs of a Murder Man - The Barrel Murder
Arthur Carey

By Arthur Carey, 1930

"Italians who came to this country at the beginning of this century had a penchant for grouping into small colonies. They came in great numbers to New York City and settled in districts which became known as Little Italys. The colonization laid them open to attacks by various criminal organizations from the Old World who brought with them much experience in murder and blackmail. In 1902 and 1903 members of these colonies were terrorized by a series of outrages and murders. Bodies were found in sacks, boxes, and barrels in various sections of the city..."