Reassigning Joseph Barbara

One of the website changes that will probably draw some criticism is the removal of Joseph Barbara from the Scranton-Pittston, Pennsylvania, crime boss list.
Barbara is generally believed to have taken control of the crime family after the murder of boss John Sciandra in 1940 and to have served as boss until his own death in the summer of 1959. There are a number of problems with this accepted “history.”
First, there is no evidence that Barbara ever gave orders to anyone in the Scranton-Pittston Mafia. That organization was controlled from the turn of the Twentieth Century by the “Men of Montedoro.” (Barbara was from Castellammare del Golfo, not Montedoro.) Except for the insertion of Barbara into the succession of bosses, every other underworld leader of the region from 1903 through the middle of the 1990s had been born in Montedoro. There is little reason to believe that an exception was made in Barbara’s case.
Second, there is no evidence that John Sciandra was killed in 1940 or at any other time. There are newspaper stories speaking of his death by natural causes in 1948 or 1949.
Third, Barbara seems to have had a very strong link to the Castellammarese population in Endicott, New York. The men closest to him were also from Castellammare. That Castellammarese outpost was mentioned in Joseph Bonanno’s autobiography as the site of a meeting between Bonanno and Magaddino. While there are connections between Barbara and the Mafia of Scranton-Pittston, these seem to be secondary.
Finally, it seems very clear from the chain of events related to the 1957 meeting of Mafiosi at Barbara’s country home in Apalachin, New York, that Barbara was at that time an underling of Stefano Magaddino. It was Magaddino – after urging from Tommy Lucchese (probably prompted by Vito Genovese) – who scheduled the meeting at Barbara’s home. That is not something that could have been done unless Magaddino was Barbara’s superior.

Written by 

Editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer. Publisher of American Mafia history website mafiahistory.us. Moderator of Mafia-related online forums. Author of Wrongly Executed? Coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime. Contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime. Writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.

2 thoughts on “Reassigning Joseph Barbara

  1. I’m so glad this is finally being corrected. John Sciandra was a relative, and I remember reading this history to my grandfather who said “That’s not right. John Sciandra died of natural causes.” When you look in old newspapers, it’s clear Sciandra died in 1949 of natural causes, not 1940 via murder. This has been often reported incorrectly for years, but it’s known that Barbara first started working for the Maggadino family, so his transition to boss in NEPA doesn’t make sense on that alone. Then when you add that his “ascendancy” coincides with a death that didn’t happen until a decade after it was said to have happened, and in a totally different way, it starts to make less sense.

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