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1966: Hoover discusses Italian ‘criminal fraternity’

Less than a decade after Apalachin,
FBI director is U.S. organized crime expert

Events in Apalachin, New York, in November 1957 prompted many questions about U.S. organized crime that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, were unable to answer. Less than a decade later, Hoover testified as an expert on organized crime, as he presented his 1967 budget request to Congressional subcommittee. He discussed the nature of La Cosa Nostra and Bureau achievements against the organization during 1965. This page contains the portion of his statement dealing with organized crime and his answers to several related questions from Chairman John J. Rooney (D-NY). The material was drawn from Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1967, Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations - Department of Justice, Feb. 10, 1966, U.S. House of Representatives, 89th Congress, 2nd Session, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966, p. 271-279. Page numbers from that document are shown with the text. Highlighting has been added to call attention to the names of crime figures within the text.

Federal budget hearings, 1966

Page 271

Organized crime

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover: Turning to the field of organized crime, our work in that area continues unabated. Organized crime extends into so many areas of endeavor and covers the activities of such a large number of individuals that a substantial amount of manpower must be continuously utilized to maintain the required coverage.

Organized crime, the aggregate of the continuing types of racket activities which traditionally have been the most lucrative, and which often require the corruptive cooperation of law enforcement and its


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political superiors in order to survive, has been found to be one of the top financial operations, by dollar volume, in this country.

The criminal endeavors which typify organized crime include such activities as gambling, narcotics, extortion in its varied forms, usury - known in the underworld as shylocking, loan sharking, and the juice racket - labor racketeering, and the production and distribution of illicit alcohol. Though not all-inclusive, these categories well demonstrate “organized ” crime in that they are continuing criminal enterprises which require day-in, day-out attention and some form of organization to successfully maintain, as contrasted to the “one shot" types of crime such as stickups, muggings, burglaries, and individual car thefts.

Over the years, of the basic racket activities mentioned before, gambling is probably the most important. This is particularly true inasmuch as income from bookmaking, policy or numbers, lotteries, dice, card games and the like, provides the “investment capital” which enables this Nation’s racket leaders to branch out into other related fields, such as shylocking and narcotics.

The investment of capital thus acquired in such activities in turn produces an extremely high rate of return, and is illustrative of the manner in which organized crime maintains a pyramiding operation through which funds illegally acquired are used in turn to finance and expand related racket activities. At the same time, a portion of the tremendous profits realized from these various racket ventures enables organized crime to corrupt law enforcement officials and other persons in positions of responsibility to gain protection for its key operations and to insulate the racket leadership against prosecution.

La Cosa Nostra

La Cosa Nostra is the largest organization of the criminal underworld in this country, very closely organized and strictly disciplined. They have committed almost every crime under the sun from murder, torture, and kidnaping. I remember one particular case where they kidnaped a man they thought was not to be trusted. They hung him on a butcher’s hook for three days and tortured him until he died. Such are the types of activities engaged in by La Cosa Nostra members.

La Cosa Nostra is a criminal fraternity whose membership is Italian, either by birth or national origin, and it has been found to control major racket activities in many of our larger metropolitan areas, often working in concert with criminals representing other ethnic backgrounds. It operates on a nationwide basis, with international implications, and until recent years it carried on its activities with almost complete secrecy. It functions as a criminal cartel, adhering to its own body of “law” and “justice” and, in so doing, thwarts and usurps the authority of legally constituted judicial bodies.

As operative in this country, La Cosa Nostra is broken down into groups, geographically or by population concentration, with each such group referred to as “family.” The leadership in each “family” consists of the following officials in the order of importance named: “boss,” “underboss,” “consiglieri” (counselor), a varying number of “caporegima” (captains), and the general membership, each of whom is referred to as a “soldier,” an “amico nostro” (friend of ours), or, in some sections of the country, a “button man.”


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J. Edgar Hoover


The “soldiers” ordinarily are the “action” men for this organization, carrying out assignments from superiors involving a variety of activities which could range from the mere running of an errand to the commission of a “contract” murder. They provide La Cosa Nostra’s enforcement arm, carrying out acts of intimidation and violence to maintain this organization’s supremacy in the racket field.

The most powerful and most respected “bosses” make up the top ruling body of La Cosa Nostra, which is referred to as the “commission.” This select group of top leaders functions as a board of directors and as a final arbitration board, setting policy, assigning territories, resolving disputes, and, if the situation is of sufficient importance, meting out discipline. The balance of power on the “commission” rests with the leaders of New York City’s five “families,” with New York considered the unofficial headquarters. A composite estimate of the best sources available indicates that the national membership exceeds 5,000, and a number of these sources have reported that there are more than 2,000 members in the New York area alone.

To date, investigation has accounted for the existence of some two dozen individual La Cosa Nostra “families” operating in this country. The most powerful are those headed by “commission” members.

It is interesting to note, however, that membership on the “commission” is not without its problems. In 1957, for example, Frank Costello resigned his position of leadership in New York City after being wounded in the head by one of Vito Genovese’s gunmen, and Albert Anastasia was shot and killed in a Manhattan barbershop — thereby making room on the ruling board for Carlo Gambino. In January 1959, Joe Ida fled to Italy, where he renounced his American citizenship the following year, rather than stand trial in Federal court on charges arising out of his attendance at the November 14, 1957, meeting of hoodlums at Apalachin, N.Y. In February 1960, Vito Genovese started serving a fifteen-year prison sentence on a Federal narcotics charge. In 1964, Joe Bonanno was arrested and deported by Canadian authorities, expelled from the “commission,” and ostensibly kidnaped at gunpoint from a Manhattan street corner. In June 1965, Salvatore (Sam) Giancana was jailed on a Federal contempt charge at Chicago, Ill.

With respect to almost every activity in which La Cosa Nostra engages, a close examination will reveal an underlying theme of extortion. To enforce its extortionate demands and to maintain interior discipline La Cosa Nostra always maintains among its members specialists in mayhem and murder.

This organization’s main forte may well be the atmosphere of fear it is capable of creating, revolving around the various forms of violence used to maintain its demands. Its most drastic, and probably its most effective, enforcement technique is murder, and it may be said that in reality this organization is composed of professional assassins in that, particularly in earlier years, a prospective member’s final test for acceptance into La Cosa Nostra was his successful participation in a gangland slaying on the orders of leaders in this group.

Some 60 members of this organization were murdered in a scant two-year period as part of an internal struggle for dominance over the entire organization during the early 1930’s. Numerous other murders of members prior to this criminal civil war have also been cited as


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preliminary reasons for the gang war. Alliances between members of La Cosa Nostra and other ethnical criminal groups, subsequent to that time, resulted in the murder of those not malleable to the control and dominance of La Cosa Nostra.

These gangland murders have continued through the years and police officials have testified as to the vast numbers slain: Chicago with approximately 1,000 gangland-style murders since 1919, only two of them solved, and Boston with some two dozen since March 1964 being just two such examples.

While La Cosa Nostra has been found to be the dominant organized criminal group in this country, organized crime is not entirely its exclusive province, in that it works in cooperation and in concert with leading racket figures from a variety of other ethnic groups.

The close association of Meyer Lansky, generally recognized as one of the most powerful racketeers in this country, with the leadership of La Cosa Nostra can be traced back more than thirty-five years, to a time when this Italian group was undergoing reorganization and forming the basis for what has since developed into the vast criminal combine it is known to be today. Lansky and a number of other important racket figures who look to him for leadership and representation comprise the most skilled practitioners of professional gambling in this country. Those who could be said to be included as members of this group for the most part represent the acumen necessary for the successful operation of casino gambling, and also possess the business shrewdness often necessary in accomplishing organized crime’s broad infiltration into legitimate enterprises.

At another level it is emphasized that literally thousands of individuals of various ethnic backgrounds are active in the actual mechanics of major illegal gambling operations under the control and “protection” of important members of La Cosa Nostra. This is particularly true of this type operation in cities such as New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Boston.

In addition, there are groups in Philadelphia which operate at the pleasure of “Commission” representative Angelo Bruno of that city. In Detroit, there is a significant Syrian racket group which operates under general control of La Cosa Nostra.

In New York City and Boston, there remains a scattering of Irish racket figures who retain certain influence and respect in the underworld. For example, this element still has a voice in racket activities on the New York waterfront’s North River piers. The ultimate control on the North River, however, and on the remainder of the New York port, including New Jersey facilities, rests with the leadership of the Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino “families” of La Cosa Nostra. The Irish racket element in Boston has also submitted itself to the control and direction of Raymond Patriarca, New England La Cosa Nostra “boss.”

Taken as a whole, La Cosa Nostra, operating in concert with other less important racket groups, presents a serious threat to the well being of our society by virtue of its parasitic drain on certain phases of our economy, due to tribute paid by business enterprises and labor organizations which have been infiltrated, and because of this element’s ability to corrupt law enforcement and politics in order to protect their operations and further their illegal acts.


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Rep. John J. Rooney

Rep. Rooney

Rep. John J. Rooney: Mr. Director, I should like to ask you whether or not the facts contained in your remarks were known to the Bureau previous to Valachi’s being moved out of the Atlanta penitentiary?

Mr. Hoover: I would say all the Valachi information was known to the Bureau or had been obtained from informants of the Bureau.

Mr. Rooney: Has Valachi been of any assistance to the Bureau in the prosecution of any criminal as a result of which there has been a conviction?

Mr. Hoover: There has been no person convicted as a direct result of any information furnished by Valachi.

Mr. Rooney: There is pending for decision the matter of permitting Valachi, this murderer, to write a book from which he would possibly obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars. What is your feeling with regard to permitting such a thing as this to happen, which would also cause reflection upon the good name of a great many Italian-Americans in this country?[ * ]

Mr. Hoover: My feeling is that no person who is incarcerated in a penitentiary, particularly a Federal penitentiary, should be allowed to write and have published any book, whether for money or not, while he is incarcerated. I think this is highly improper.

I submit three charts showing the membership of La Cosa Nostra by cities and key members and a typical family.

(Discussion off the record.)

Accomplishments in the organized crime field

Mr. Hoover: We have been making steady progress in our drive against the organized criminal element in this country. In addition to the previously existing statutes which have been applied to the activities of organized crime where possible, Congress passed a series of acts designed specifically to aid in the war against the hoodlum and racketeering elements.

Since the passage of the first of these new laws in September 1961, over 250 individuals have been convicted and more than one-third of a million dollars in fines, savings, and recoveries have been obtained. There are also some 200 individuals who have been indicted and awaiting trial or who have been arrested and are awaiting grand jury action in connection with the statutes. Prosecutions under these statutes have been steadily increasing as evidenced by the current high of ninety convictions during 1965 as compared with fifty-six in the prior year.

In addition, under the more recently passed Sports Bribery Act, two individuals have been convicted so far during the present fiscal year.

(Discussion off the record.)

Mr. Hoover: A most recent item of anticrime legislation enacted by Congress is the amendment to the interstate transportation in aid of racketeering statute, aimed at prosecuting hoodlums and racketeers engaged in the interstate aspects of professional arson. A report accompanying this legislation at the time of its consideration by Congress cited an example of two arsonists who traveled from New Jersey to Ohio on a professional contract to destroy an establishment insured for more than $2 million. It is anticipated that this amendment will help the Government deprive organized criminals of still another of their illicit, but highly lucrative, enterprises.


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Still another weapon which is being employed effectively against the forces of organized crime in both the Chicago and New York City areas is the holding of Federal grand jury probes in conjunction with offers of immunity to certain leading hoodlum figures.

Dissemination of criminal information

Because our investigations of organized crime inevitably uncover violations within the primary jurisdiction of other Federal, State, and local law-enforcement agencies, the dissemination of this information is a vital function of our criminal intelligence operations.

During the fiscal year 1965, some 195,000 items of information were furnished to these other agencies, representing an increase of more than 8,000 over the previous year. This dissemination program permits these other agencies to utilize information developed by the FBI in prosecuting subjects for violations of laws over which they exercise jurisdiction.

For example, the Bureau’s office at Chicago, Ill., instituted a procedure whereby during the past two years highly successful gambling raids have been conducted by local authorities based upon search war rants obtained by affidavits signed by FBI agents. This cooperation has been responsible for a substantial reduction of gambling in the Chicago area and, thus far has resulted in the arrest of 780 individuals, 159 convictions, and the destruction or confiscation of some $280,000 worth of gambling paraphernalia and proceeds.

This chart which I present to the committee depicts this gambling operation and the results achieved from our dissemination regarding it.

Accomplishments in the fight against organized crime

This statement which I offer as an exhibit gives additional details regarding our work and accomplishments in the fight against organized crime.

It also deals with organized crime in the New York area where we have had excellent cooperation with the local authorities.

Mr. Rooney: Without objection, we shall insert the Director’s statement entitled “Accomplishments in the Fight Against Organized Crime” at this point in the record.

(The statement follows:)






Five La Cosa Nostra “families” are located in New York City, which has come to be accepted as the unofficial headquarters of organized crime in the United States. Accomplishments of the FBI’s drive against organized crime within recent months to contain vice and racketeering there by our investigations and Federal prosecution, as well as our dissemination program, include the indictment of Vincent John Rao, a “consiglieri” in the Luchese “family,” by a Federal grand jury in New York City on five counts of perjury; the conviction of four members of the Luchese “family” for contempt in refusing to testify under immunity before a Federal grand jury (Anthony Castaldi, Andimo Pappadio, and Salvatore Scillitano each received prison terms of two years, while Carmine Tramunti received one year); the offer of immunity before a Federal grand jury to “Commission” member Thomas Luchese, himself, following which he allegedly collapsed and had to be hospitalized; and the conviction of Peter Castellana (a member of “Commission” member Carlo Gambino’s “family”) and Joseph


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Pagano (a member of “Commission” member Vito Genovese’s “family”) for violations of the National Bankruptcy Act.

On November 10, 1965, guilty sentences were returned in Federal court in New York City against six individuals charged in a case involving the theft of over $1 million in blue chip stock certificates from a New York City brokerage house. John Lombardozzi, brother of notorious New York racketeer, Carmine Lombardozzi, and himself a member of La Cosa Nostra, was the principal subject convicted in this case. Our investigation in this matter also resulted in the recovery of approximately $400,000 of the stolen securities.



In Chicago, Illinois, for example, a similar drive against the leading racket figures has proved extremely effective within recent months. “Commission” member Sam Giancana was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal on June 1, 1965, for an indefinite term following his refusal to testify under an offer of immunity before a Federal grand jury probing the activities of organized crime. Some three weeks later Murray (The Camel) Humphreys, another high -ranking mobster, evaded a subpoena ordering his appearance before the same grand jury. Arrested by FBI agents in Norman, Oklahoma, where he had fled to avoid the subpoena, Humphreys was returned to Chicago. He finally appeared before the grand jury in August and allegedly perjured himself on a number of occasions rather than be cited for contempt as Giancana. On November 23, 1965, he was indicted for perjury. Following his arrest by FBI agents on the same day and his release to the United States Marshal, Humphreys was released on bond. Late that evening he was found in his Chicago apartment by his brother in need of assistance and was subsequently declared dead of natural causes, possibly a heart attack.

On September 21, 1965, Louis Roland Tornabene, a Chicago “strip joint” operator and reputed lieutenant of hoodlum Gus Alex, was sentenced to one year in the custody of the Attorney General (to be followed by five years’ probation) for violating the Federal Housing Administration Matters Statute. His brother, Anthony John Tornabene, also reputedly one of Alex’s lieutenants, was convicted on October 19, 1965, in United States District Court at Chicago on similar charges.

On September 16, 1965, Sam DeStefano, allegedly one of the major “juice” (usurious loan) operators in the Chicago area, was convicted in local court as the result of information supplied by the FBI- and sentenced to three-to-five years in jail for bribing two witnesses to an armed robbery in 1963.

On May 13, 1965, labor racketeers Angelo Inciso and Ralph Polk (who reportedly ordered the 1961 murder of labor official John Kilpatrick) were sentenced to one year and three years, respectively, after pleading guilty under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act to charges of illegally using strike funds.

On May 14, 1965, Felix (Milwaukee Phil) Alderisio, one of Giancana’s closest underworld associates in the Chicago area, was fined $ 7,500 and sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment in a Federal court at Denver, Colorado, on charges of having violated the Extortion and Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Statutes. Also convicted with Alderisio were Ruby Kolod, an official of the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Israel (Ice Pick Willie) Alderman, a Nevada gambling figure. Kolod was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and fined $7,500; Alderman was sentenced to three years and fined $5,000.



Also hard hit in recent months has been the La Cosa Nostra leadership in the Detroit, Michigan, area. In June, 1965, Peter Victor Cavataio pleaded guilty to a charge of Fraud Against the Government in that he had raised the amount of retail dealers’ food-stamp forms under the Government’s welfare program. He was fined $12,000 on October 4, 1965.

In July, Raffaele Quasarano was arraigned in Federal court for violating the Fraud Against the Government Statute by making false statements and misrepresentations in a financial report to the Small Business Administration. And, in September, 1965, James (Biffo) Maccagnone received a five -year Federal prison term for having harbored Thomas Viola, a former member of the Detroit underworld, who had become an FBI fugitive when he escaped from the Ohio State Penitentiary in 1960. Also in September, local authorities


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obtained gambling convictions - partly as the result of information supplied by the FBI - against Edward (Brokey) Guarrella; Salvatore (Fat Sam) Pagano, an associate of “Papa John” Priziola; Sebastian (Buster) Lucido, brother of Sam Lucido; and Robert Johns, reportedly a “front” for Tony Giacalone.

In sworn testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Cavataio and Guarrella were described as “lieutenants” in the Detroit “Mafia” organization; Maccagnone as a “section leader”; Priziola as a member of the “ruling council”; and Quasarano, Sam Lucido, and Giacalone as “administrators and heirs apparent.”



In Ohio, partly as the result of information originally supplied by the FBI, the three DeNiro brothers (Louis, Michael, and Frank) were convicted in Federal court on August 23, 1965, for having conspired to avoid paying estate taxes on nearly $ 400,000 in taxable assets left by their brother, Vincent, reportedly one of the top racket figures in Youngstown, Ohio, at the time of his murder in 1961.

On June 17, 1965, Jasper Joseph (Fats) Aiello - another notorious Youngstown hoodlum - was convicted in local court on a charge of abortion after having been arrested by FBI agents on an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant. And, on October 1, as the direct result of information supplied by the FBI, George Besase and five other Ohio racketeers were convicted in the United States District Court at Toledo, Ohio, on charges of income tax evasion.



Typical of what may be achieved under the new antigambling legislation enacted by Congress in 1961 was a raid on a crooked dice game by FBI agents aboard the steamship “City of Keansburg” in the Port of New York on the evening of August 5, 1965. In addition to seizing a number of crooked dice being used in the game, the agents also arrested the four operators of the game, who came under the general control of Sam DeCavalcante, a La Cosa Nostra leader in the Elizabeth, New Jersey, area.

This was followed up the next month by a series of raids in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Hammond, Indiana, areas, which resulted in the arrest of 14 persons charged with violating the Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Statute. Of the five accused of operating a “floating crap game" across State lines in the Philadelphia area, three were members of Angelo Bruno’s La Cosa Nostra “family," including John Cappello, one of Bruno’s top “caporegima.” Those arrested in Indiana included nine tavern owners and operators who have been charged with selling baseball betting tickets and utilizing Western Union ticker service in order to obtain final results of the games involved.

On June 9, 1965, Angelo (Monge) Rossetti, operator of “Sportsday Weekly,” a major race wire service in which a leading east coast hoodlum had a financial interest, was convicted in the United States District Court at Boston, Massachusetts, of violating the Interstate Transmission of Wagering Information and Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Acts. He was subsequently sentenced to serve two two-year terms (ordered to run concurrently).

On July 29, 1965, William Al Gerhart - operator of a plush gambling casino which catered to the resort-hotel trade at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia – was convicted of violating the Interstate Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Act. He is awaiting sentence. When FBI agents raided Gerhart’s Casino in September 1963, they discovered that a number of the dice tables had been wired in order to cheat the customers.

The Sports Bribery Statute enacted into law during 1964 enabled the FBI to arrest two Chicago gamblers in 1965 on charges of bribing a pair of Seattle, Washington, University basketball players to “shave points” in a game with the University of Idaho. The hoodlums’ interest in controlling and influencing sports, however, dates back many years and has long been a concern of law enforcement officials throughout the country. In September 1959, for example, FBI agents arrested Paul (Frankie) Carbo and a group of his associates for violating the Anti-Racketeering and Extortion Statutes in connection with an attempt to “muscle in” on the ownership of the then welterweight boxing champion of the world, Don Jordan. Carbo was, at that time, recognized as the underworld czar of boxing in the country. He is also a member of Vito Genovese’s La Cosa Nostra “family.” In May, 1961, Carbo and three other racket figures were


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convicted in the United States District Court at Los Angeles, California, and sentenced to long terms in prison.

(Discussion off the record.)



* Chairman John J. Rooney (D-NY) one day earlier was critical of the idea that federal prisoner Joseph Valachi might be permitted to have his autobiography published. Rooney asked Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to present an accounting of the enormous costs of Valachi’s incarceration to that point. Katzenbach was uncertain that anything could be done to prevent a Valachi book from being published. (While Valachi’s autobiography, already written at the time of Rooney's criticism, was used as source material for Peter Maas’s The Valachi Papers, the autobiography itself was never published. It became the property of the U.S. government and is held at the JFK Presidential Museum. This website has made the text of the document available. See: Valachi’s ‘The Real Thing’)