Organized crime and illicit traffic in narcotics

Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, 1965

We have added the introductory and Mafia-related portions (forty-seven pages) of the 1965 report, Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics, to the Government Documents section of the website. This document provides some history for the American Mafia as well as extensive leadership and membership lists of the crime families in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Buffalo and Boston/Providence. Names, criminal activities and law enforcement reference numbers are provided for hundreds of Mafiosi.

Valachi Memoirs

UPDATE (Oct. 25, 2020): The first 1,045 pages (and 1,078 pages in all) are available online. There are just 122 pages of Valachi’s text left to digitize and format.

  • Part 1 – Complete, 313 pgs, numbered 1 thru 299*.
  • Part 2 – Complete, 307 pgs, numbered 300 thru 599*.
  • Part 3 – Complete, 300 pgs, numbered 600 thru 899.
  • Part 4 – 158 pgs, numbered 900 thru 1025, 1096 thru 1103, 1106 thru 1115, 1138 thru 1140, 1158 thru 1163, 1165 thru 1168, 1179, 1180.

UPDATE (Feb. 18, 2020): The total number of Valachi manuscript pages online has reached 888, including the first 826 consecutive pages. Visit The Real Thing section of the website to see what is available.

UPDATE (Jan. 7, 2020): Dozens of new pages have been added to Part 3 of the Valachi manuscript The Real Thing. The total number of available document pages is now 761. That includes the first 687 consecutive pages.

  • Part 1Complete, 313 pgs, numbered 1 thru 299*.
  • Part 2Complete, 307 pgs, numbered 300 thru 599*.
  • Part 3 – 108 pgs, numbered 600 thru 666, 670, 761, 762, 771, 772, 798 thru 801, 803 thru 805, 808, 809, 826 thru 830, 832 thru 853.
  • Part 4 – 33 pgs, numbered 1096 thru 1103, 1106 thru 1115, 1138 thru 1140, 1158 thru 1163, 1165 thru 1168, 1179, 1180.

*Note: Some page numbers are used more than once, causing the page count to disagree with the page numbers.

UPDATE (Dec. 12, 2019): Part 2 of the Valachi manuscript The Real Thing is now available in its entirety. There are 307 pages, numbered 300 through 599 (with some numbers used more than once). Visitors may now read the first 621 consecutive pages of the manuscript. An additional 77 pages are available in scattered portions of Parts 3 and 4. The total number of pages now online is 698.

  • Part 1 – Complete, 313 pgs, numbered 1 thru 299.
  • Part 2 – Complete, 307 pgs, numbered 300 thru 599.
  • Part 3 – 45 pgs.
  • Part 4 – 33 pgs.
  • Current overall – 698 pgs.

UPDATE (Dec. 5, 2019): Fifty-four pages have been added over the past ten days. These have all gone the second section of the Valachi manuscript, The Real Thing. That section now features a total of 247 pages, including the first 243 consecutive pages. With the first section already entirely in place, visitors can read through the first 556 pages of the memoirs (due to the insertion of information between already numbered pages, this includes from Page 1 through Page 535). An additional 77 pages are available in scattered portions of the third and fourth section, bringing the total number of pages now online to 637.

UPDATE (Nov. 25, 2019): Another fifty-six pages have been added to the second section of the Valachi manuscript, The Real Thing. Available page totals are shown here:

  • Section 1 – Complete – 313 pages, numbered 1 through 299*
  • Section 2 – 193 available, including the first 189 pages of the section (allowing visitors to read from numbered Page 1 through numbered Page 481 – a total of 502 consecutive pages*).
  • Section 3 – 44 available.
  • Section 4 – 33 available.
  • Current overall total = 583 pages.

(* Valachi inserted some pages between previously numbered pages, so total page count does not match the assigned page numbers.)

UPDATE (Nov. 15, 2019): Twenty-two more pages were added to the second section of the Valachi manuscript, The Real Thing, bringing its total to 137 available pages (Visit: ) The total number of online document pages – all four sections – has reached 527. Consecutive available pages run from Page 1 through Page 407. Due to oddities in the page numbering (some sheets were inserted between previously numbered pages), this actually includes a total of 428 consecutive pages of the manuscript.

UPDATE (Nov. 12, 2019): Twenty-two pages were added for the second section of the Valachi manuscript, The Real Thing, bringing its total to 115 available pages. (Visit: ) The total number of online document pages – all four sections – has reached 505. The second section includes discussions of the Castellammarese War, Salvatore Maranzano and the post-Maranzano Mafia. There are nearly 400 consecutive available pages from the start of the document.

UPDATE (Nov. 9, 2019): With the addition of 65 more pages, the first section of the Valachi manuscript, The Real Thing, is now all set. (Visit: ) The pages are numbered 1 through 299. However, some of the page numbers are duplicated. The actual total number of pages available in this section totals 313. In the section, Valachi describes his home life, friendships, his career as a burglar, time in prison and his early associations with Mafia organizations in East Harlem and the Bronx. The manuscript has been divided into four sections. The total number of pages – all sections – now available online is 483.

Nov. 8, 2019 – About 100 pages were recently added to the Joseph Valachi memoirs on the website, bringing the total pages to 418. It is our goal to make all pages of Valachi’s The Real Thing manuscript – the source material for a book entitled, The Valachi Papers – available to our web visitors.

The document, which runs well over one thousand pages in length, has been divided into four sections. We now have available 248 pages of the first section, 93 of the second section, 44 of the third section and 33 of the fourth section.

We have added an introductory “Contents” page with direct links to all available pages.

The latest article by Edmond Valin examines the FBI’s fairly abrupt adoption of the term “La Cosa Nostra” in the early 1960s to refer to traditional Sicilian-Italian organized crime. Valin digs through FBI records to turn up the earliest sources of the term and considers the reasons it may have been preferred by federal authorities over the traditional term, “Mafia.”


Cover of Wrongly Executed

In his book on The Barrel Mystery, legendary crime-fighter William Flynn discussed what he viewed as the two great organized outlaw elements in American society: violent political radicals or “Reds” and a growing Sicilian underworld organization he knew as “The Black Hand.” Flynn feared that the Red and the Black might someday combine to form “a mixed brand of terrorism… that would bring every decent citizen to shudder…”

The two elements did combine in the person of Charles Sberna. Son of a leftist radical who fled the U.S. to avoid punishment for orchestrating a series of bloody terrorist bombings, Sberna became the son-in-law of former U.S. Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello. Given that background and his own history of criminal and anti-social behavior, is it possible that Sberna was viewed with impartiality and a presumption of innocence when brought into court accused of killing a New York City police officer?

Sberna claimed to have had no role in the 1937 killing of Patrolman John H.A. Wilson or in the criminal activity related to that killing. Co-defendant Salvatore Gati admitted his own participation but insisted that Sberna was not present. Their jurors were unconvinced. Sberna and Gati were convicted of first-degree murder. Each took his turn in the Sing Sing Prison electric chair.

But there was something odd about the case: Sing Sing Warden Lewis Lawes had no doubt on the evening of January 5, 1939: He had just presided over the execution of an innocent man. The prison chaplain and many guards also felt that Sberna had been sent to his death unjustly.

Lawes made his feelings known in a published book a short time later. Syndicated Broadway columnist Walter Winchell called attention to flaws in the case against Sberna in the summer of 1939 and again early in 1942. According to Winchell, the government knew that District Attorney Thomas Dewey’s office had sent an innocent man to the chair and was providing “hush money” payments to Sberna relatives. Since then, opponents of capital punishment have included Sberna’s name in collections of those deemed “wrongly executed” and have used the case as a somewhat vague example of the possibility of death penalty error. Still, little is known about Sberna or the circumstances that led him to the electric chair.

The story is a complex and controversial one, involving celebrity attorneys, Mafia bosses, violent political radicals, media giants and ruthless establishment figures, all set in a period in which Americans sought stability and government-imposed order after years of political upheaval, economic depression and Prohibition Era lawlessness.

I first became aware of Charles Sberna’s story during research into U.S. capital punishment errors. Archived newspaper columns by Winchell revealed a tale worthy of retelling. Email conversations with publisher Rick Mattix relating to the startup of the On the Spot Journal of “gangster era” crime history led me to assemble an article on the Sberna case for the journal’s December 2006 issue. My decision to fully explore the Sberna case soon followed.

I examined court documents, the careers of prosecutors and elected officials, the history of law enforcement efforts against the early Mafia and the American anarchist movement, the questionable philosophies and courtroom tactics of D.A. Thomas Dewey and his assistants, and the known and suspected crimes of the men who might have participated with Gati in the murder attributed to Sberna. Much of what I found was deeply troubling.

A fair trial may have been denied to Charles Sberna. Given the mood of the time, the background of the defendant and the circumstances of the case, a truly fair trial may have been impossible.

The product of my research, Wrongly Executed? – The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna’s 1939 Electrocution, is now available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats. For more information and purchase options, visit the Wrongly Executed? website:

(I wish to express my appreciation to Christian Cipollini, C. Joseph Greaves, Ellen Poulsen and Robert Sberna for their support and assistance on this project.)