Corn Sugar and Blood And the Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia

Chapter I

“Big Ange” and the Death of the Cleveland Mafia

In 1983, Angelo Lonardo, 72, one-time Cleveland Mafia boss, turned government informant. He shocked family, friends, law enforcement officers and particularly, criminal associates with his decision which was made after being sentenced to life plus 103 years for drug and racketeering convictions. The sentence came after a monumental investigation by local, state and federal agencies had all but wiped out the Cleveland Mafia.

“Big Ange” as he was called, was the highest ranking mafioso to defect. He testified in 1985 at the Las Vegas casino “skimming” trials in Kansas City and in 1986 at the New York Mafia “ruling commission” trials. Many of the nation’s biggest mob leaders were convicted as a result of these trials.

During his testimony, Lonardo told how at age 18, he avenged his father’s murder by killing the man believed to be responsible. He further testified that after that murder, he was responsible for the killings of several of the Porrello brothers, business rivals of his father during Prohibition.

Chapter II

Birth of the Cleveland Mafia

During the late eighteen hundreds, the four Lonardo brothers and seven Porrello brothers were boyhood friends and fellow sulphur mine workers in their hometown of Licata, Sicily. They came to America in the early nineteen hundreds and eventually settled in the Woodland district of Cleveland. They remained close friends. Several of the Porrello and Lonardo brothers worked together in small businesses.

Lonardo clan leader “Big Joe” became a successful businessman and community leader in the lower Woodland Avenue area. During Prohibition, he became successful as a dealer in corn sugar which was used by bootleggers to make corn liquor. “Big Joe” provided stills and raw materials to the poor Italian district residents. They would make the booze and “Big Joe” would buy it back giving them a commission. He was respected and feared as a “padrone” or godfather. “Big Joe” became the leader of a powerful and vicious gang and was known as the corn sugar “baron.” Joe Porrello was one of his corporals.

Chapter III

The First Bloody Corner

With the advent of Prohibition, Cleveland, like other big cities, experienced a wave of bootleg-related murders. The murders of Louis Rosen, Salvatore Vella, August Rini and several others produced the same suspects, but no indictments. These suspects were members of the Lonardo gang. Several of the murders occurred at the corner of E. 25th and Woodland Ave. This intersection became known as the “bloody corner.”

By this time, Joe Porrello had left the employ of the Lonardos to start his own sugar wholesaling business.

Porrello and his six brothers pooled their money and eventually became successful corn sugar dealers headquartered in the upper Woodland Avenue area around E. 110th Street.

With small competitors, sugar dealers and bootleggers, mysteriously dying violent deaths, the Lonardos’ business flourished as they gained a near monopoly on the corn sugar business. Their main competitors were their old friends the Porrellos.

Raymond Porrello, youngest of his brothers was arrested by undercover federal agents for arranging a sale of 100 gallons of whiskey at the Porrello-owned barbershop at E. 110th and Woodland. He was sentenced to the Dayton, Oh. Workhouse.

The Porrello brothers paid the influential “Big Joe” Lonardo $5,000 to get Raymond out of prison. “Big Joe”

failed in his attempt but never returned the $5,000.

Meanwhile, Ernest Yorkell and Jack Brownstein, small-time self-proclaimed “tough guys” from Philadelphia arrived in Cleveland. Yorkell and Brownstein were shakedown artists, and their intended victims were Cleveland bootleggers, who got a chuckle out of how the two felt it necessary to explain that they were tough. Real tough guys didn’t need to tell people that they were tough. After providing Cleveland gangsters with a laugh, Yorkell and Brownstein were taken on a “one-way ride.”

Chapter IV

Corn Sugar and Blood

“Big Joe” Lonardo in 1926, now at the height of his wealth and power left for Sicily to visit his mother and

relatives. He left his closest brother and business partner John in charge.

During “Big Joe’s” six-month absence, he lost much of his $5,000 a week profits to the Porrellos who took advantage of John Lonardo’s lack of business skills and the assistance of a disgruntled Lonardo employee. “Big Joe” returned and business talks between the Porrellos and Lonardos began.

They “urged” the Porrellos to return their lost clientele.

On Oct. 13th, 1927 “Big Joe” and John Lonardo went to the Porrello barbershop to play cards and talk business with Angelo Porrello as they had been doing for the past week. As the Lonardos entered the rear room of the shop, two gunmen opened fire. Angelo Porrello ducked under a table.

Cleveland’s underworld lost its’ first boss as “Big Joe” went down with three bullets in his head. John Lonardo was shot in the chest and groin but drew his gun and managed to pursue the attackers through the barbershop. He dropped his gun in the shop but continued chasing the gunmen into the street where one of them turned, and out of bullets, struck Lonardo in the head several times with the butt of his gun. John fell unconscious and bled to death.

The Porrello brothers were arrested. Angelo was charged with the Lonardo brothers’ murders. The charges were later dropped for lack of evidence. Joe Porrello succeeded the Lonardos as corn sugar “baron” and later appointed himself “capo” of the Cleveland Mafia.

Chapter V

The Cleveland Meeting

The trail of bootleg blood continued to flow with numerous murders stemming from the Porrello-Lonardo conflict.

Lawrence Lupo, a former Lonardo bodyguard was killed after he let it be known that he wanted to take over the Lonardos’ corn sugar business.

Anthony Caruso, a butcher who saw the Lonardos’ killers escape was shot and killed. It was believed that he knew the identities of the gunmen and was going to reveal them to police.

On Dec. 5th, 1928, Joe Porrello and his lieutenant and bodyguard Sam Tilocco hosted the first known major meeting of the Mafia at Cleveland’s Hotel Statler. Many major Mafia leaders from Chicago to New York to Florida were invited. The meeting was raided before it actually began.

Joe Profaci, leader of a Brooklyn, N.Y. Mafia family was the most well-known of the gangsters arrested. Within a few hours, to the astonishment of police and court officials, Joe Porrello gathered thirty family members and friends who put up their houses as collateral for the gangsters’ bonds. Profaci was bailed out personally by Porrello. A great controversy over the validity of the bonds followed.

Several theories have been given as to why the meeting was called. First, it was thought that the gangsters, local presidents of the Unione Siciliane, an immigrant aid society infiltrated by the Mafia, were there to elect a new national president. Their previous president, Frankie Yale had been recently killed by order of Chicago’s notorious Al Capone. Second, it was believed that the meeting may have been called

to organize the highly lucrative corn sugar industry. It was also said that the men were there to “confirm” Joe Porrello as “capo” of Cleveland.

Capone, a non-Sicilian was reported to be in Cleveland for the meeting. He left soon after his arrival at the

advice of associates who said that the Sicilians did not want him there.

Chapter VI

The Second Bloody Corner

As Joe Porrello’s power and wealth grew, heirs and close associates to the Lonardo brothers grew hot for revenge.

Angelo Lonardo, “Big Joe’s” 18-year-old son along with his mother and his cousin, drove to the corner of E. 110th and Woodland, the Porrello stronghold. There Angelo sent word that his mother wanted to speak to Salvatore “Black Sam” Todaro. Todaro, now a Porrello lieutenant, had worked for Angelo’s father and was believed to be responsible for his murder. In later years it was believed that he was actually one of the gunmen.

As Todaro approached to speak with Mrs. Lonardo whom he respected, Angelo pulled out a gun and emptied it into “Black Sam’s stocky frame. Todaro crumpled to the sidewalk and died.

Angelo and his cousin disappeared for several months reportedly being hid in Chicago courtesy of Lonardo friend Al Capone. Later it was believed that Angelo spent time in California with his uncle Dominick, fourth Lonardo brother who fled west when indicted for a payroll robbery murder in 1921.

Eventually Angelo and his cousin were arrested and charged with “Black Sam’s” murder. For the first time in Cleveland’s bootleg murder history justice was served as both young men were convicted and sentenced to life. Justice although served would be shortlived as they would be released only a year and a half later after winning a new trial.

Chapter VII

Rise of the Mayfield Road Mob

On October 20th, 1929, Frank Lonardo, brother to “Big Joe” and John was shot to death while playing cards. Two theories were given for his death; that it was in revenge for the murder of “Black Sam” Todaro and, that he was killed for not paying gambling debts. Mrs. Frank Lonardo, when told of

her husband’s murder screamed, “I’ll get them. I’ll get them myself if I have to kill a whole regiment!”

By 1929, Little Italy crime boss Frank Milano had risen to power as leader of his own gang, “The Mayfield Road Mob.” Milano’s group was made up in part of remnants of the Lonardo gang and was also associated with the powerful “Cleveland Syndicate,” Morrie Kleinman, Moe Dalitz, Sam Tucker and Louis Rothkopf. The Cleveland Syndicate was responsible for most of the Canadian booze imported via Lake Erie. In later years they got into the casino business. One of the their largest and most profitable enterprises was construction of the Desert Inn Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. Dalitz would become known as the “Godfather of Las Vegas.”

Joe Porrello admired Milano’s political organization, the East End Bi-Partisan Political Club and, seeing the value in such influence, wanted to ally himself with the group. Milano refused. Later, Porrello was reported to have affiliated himself with the newly formed 21st District Republican Club. He hoped to organize the Woodland Avenue voters as Milano was doing on Mayfield road.

Chapter VIII

More Corn Sugar and Blood

By 1930, Milano had grown quite powerful. He had gone so far as to demand a piece of the lucrative Porrello corn sugar business. On July 5th, 1930, Porrello received a phonecall from Milano who had requested a conference at his Venetian Restaurant on Mayfield Road. Sam Tilocco and Joe Porrello’s brother Raymond urged him not to go.

At about 2:00 p.m., Joe Porrello and Sam Tilocco arrived at Milano’s restaurant and speakeasy. Porrello, Tilocco, and Frank Milano sat down in the restaurant and discussed business. Several of Milano’s henchmen sat nearby. The atmosphere was tense as Porrello refused to accede to Milano’s demands.

Porrello reached into his pocket for his watch to check the time. Two of Milano’s men, possibly believing that Porrello was reaching for his gun opened fire. Porrello died instantly woth three bullets in his head Simultaneously, a third member of Milano’s gang fired at Tilocco who was struck three times but managed to stagger out the door toward his new Cadillac. He fell to the ground as the gunmen pursued him, finishing him off with another six bullets.

Frank Milano and several of his restaurant employees were arrested but only charged with being suspicious persons. The gunmen were never actually identified. Only one witness was present in the saloon when the shooting started. He was Frank Joiner, a slot machine distributor whose only testimony was that he “thought” he saw Frank Milano in the restaurant during the murders.

Cleveland’s aggressive and outspoken Safety Director Edwin Barry, frustrated by the continually rising number of bootleg murders, ordered all known sugar warehouses to be padlocked. He ordered a policeman to be detailed at each one to make sure that no sugar was brought in or removed.

Meanwhile, the six Porrello brothers donned black silk shirts and ties and buried their most successful brother. The showy double gangster funeral was one the largest Cleveland had ever seen. Two bands and thirty-three cars overloaded with flowers led the procession of the slain don and his bodyguard. Over two hundred fifty automobiles containing family and friends followed. Thousands of mourners and curious on-lookers lined the sidewalks.

Cleveland’s underworld was tense with rumors of imminent warfare. Porrello brother Vincente-James spoke openly of wiping out everyone responsible for his brother’s murder.

Three weeks after his brother’s murder, Jim Porrello still wore a black shirt as he entered the I & A grocery and meat market at E. 110th Street and Woodland. As he picked out lamb chops at the meat counter, a Ford touring car, its’ curtains tightly drawn, cruised slowly past the store. A couple of shotguns poked out and two lasts of buckshot were fired, one through the front window of the store and one through the front screen door.

The amateur gunmen got lucky. Two pellets found the back of Porrello’s head and entered his brain. He was rushed to the hospital.

Chapter IX

“I think maybe they’ll kill all us Porrellos”

“I think maybe they’ll kill all us Porrellos. I think maybe they will kill all of us except Rosario. They can’t

kill him – he’s in jail.” Thus Ottavio Porrello grimly but calmly predicted the probable fate of he and his brothers as he waited outside Jim’s hospital room. Jim Porrello died at 5:55 p.m.

Two local petty gangsters were arrested and charged with murder. One was discharged by directed verdict and the other was acquitted. Like almost all of Cleveland’s bootleg related murders, the killers never saw justice.

About this time, it was rumored that the Porrello brothers were marked for extermination. The surviving

brothers went into hiding. Raymond, known for his cocky attitude and hot temper spoke like his brother James did of seeking revenge. Raymond was smarter though, he took active measures to protect himself.

On August 15th, 1930, three weeks after James Porrello’s murder, Raymond Porrello’s house was leveled in a violent explosion. He was not home at the time since he had taken his family and abandoned his home in anticipation of the attack.

Four days later Frank Alessi, a witness to the murder of “Big Joe” Lonardo’s brother Frank, was gunned down. From his death bed, he identified Frank Brancato as his assailant. Brancato was known mainly as a Lonardo supporter and suspect in several murders. Brancato was acquitted of Alessi’s murder.

Chapter X

In March of 1931, Rosario Porrello was paroled from Ohio’s London Prison Farm where he had served one year for carrying a gun in his car.

In mid-1931, National Mafia “capo di tutti capi” (boss of all bosses) Salvatore Maranzano was killed. His murder set in motion the formation of the first Mafia National Ruling Commission created to stop the numerous murders resulting from conflicts between and within Mafia families and to promote application of modern business practices to crime.

Charles “Lucky” Luciano was the main developer of the commission and was named chairman. Also named to the commission were Al Capone of Chicago, Joe Profaci of Brooklyn and Frank Milano of Cleveland.

In Dec. of 1931, Angelo Lonardo and his cousin Dominic Suspirato were released from prison after being acquitted of “Black Sam” Todaro’s murder during a second trial. Because he had avenged his father’s death and (for the most part) gotten away with it, he became a respected member of Frank Milano’s Mayfield Road Mob.

The thirst for revenge had not been satisfied for members of the Lonardo family. It was generally believed

that “Black Sam” Todaro instigated and perhaps took part in the murders of “Big Joe” and John Lonardo. However it was believed by members of the Lonardo family that the remaining Porrello brothers, particularly the volatile John and Raymond and eldest brother Rosario still posed a threat because of

the murders of Joe and James Porrello.

On Feb. 25th, 1932 Raymond Porrello, his brother Rosario and their bodyguard Dominic Gulino (known also by several aliases) were playing cards near E. 110th and Woodland Avenue. The front door burst open and in a hail of bullets the Porrello brothers, their bodyguard and a bystander went down. The Porrellos died at the scene. Gulino died a couple of hours later. The bystander eventually recovered from his

wounds.

Several hours after the murders, Frank Brancato, with a bullet in his stomach, dragged himself into St. John’s hospital on Cleveland’s west side. He claimed he was shot in a street fight on the west side. A few days later, tests on the bullet taken from Brancato revealed that it came from a gun found at the Porrello brothers murder scene. Although never convicted of either of the murders, Brancato was convicted of perjury for lying to a Grand Jury about his whereabouts during the murder. He served four years after a one to ten year sentence was commuted by Governor Martin L. Davey.

In 1933, Prohibition was repealed. The bootleg murders mostly stopped as organized crime moved into other enterprises. Angelo Lonardo continued his crime career as a respected member of the Cleveland family eventually rising through the ranks to run the northeast Ohio rackets in 1980.

In early 1933, in a sequel to the tragedy of the large Porrello family, Rosario’s son Angelo, 21, was killed in a fight over a pool game in Buffalo. It was said that he and his Uncle John were there trying to muscle in on the corn liquor business.

******

Carmine "Lilo" Galante – The Cigar

He was as vicious as Mafia boss Vito Genovese, as ambitious as Vito Genovese, and he was deeply involved in the heroin business as was Vito Genovese. However, Carmine “The Cigar” Galante, would not die of natural causes as did Vito Genovese (albeit in prison). Instead, Galante was murdered in one of the most memorable mob hits of all time. After his body was filled with lead, he lay sprawled on his back in the tiny backyard patio of a Queens restaurant, his trademark cigar clenched tightly between his teeth.

Camillo Galante was born on February 21st, 1910, at 27 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Because both his parents, Vincenzo, a fisherman, and his wife (maiden name Vingenza Russo) had been born in the seaside village of Castellammarese del Golfo in Sicily, Galante was a pure first generation Sicilian/America. Galante had two brothers and two sisters, and when he was in grade school, Galante ditched his given name Camillo, and insisted he be called Carmine instead. Over the years it was shortened to “Lilo,” which was the name most of his associates called Galante.

Galante first got into trouble for petty theft from a store counter when he was fourteen years old. But since he was a juvenile at the time, an account of this arrest is not in his official police record.

At various times, Galante attended Public High Schools 79 and 120, but he dropped out of school for good at the age of fifteen. Galante was in and out of reform school several times, and was considered an “incorrigible delinquent.”

From 1923 to 1926, Galante was ostensibly employed at the Lubin Artificial Flower Company at 270 West Broadway. However, this was a ruse to satisfy the law that Galante was gainfully employed, when, in fact, he was engaged in a very lucrative criminal career.

In December 1925, Galante was arrested for assault. However, money changed hands between Galante’s people and crooked policemen, and as a result, Galante was released without serving any prison time. In December 1926, Galante was arrested again, but this time he was found guilty of second degree assault and robbery, and sentenced to two-to-five years in prison. Galante was released from prison in 1930, and in order to satisfy his parole officer, he got another sham “job” at the O’Brien Fish Company at 105 South Street, near the Fulton Fish Market.

However, it was not Galante’s nature to stay on the right side of the law. On March 15th, 1930, five men entered the Martin Weinstein’s shoe factory on the corner of York and Washington Streets in Brooklyn Heights. On the 6th floor of the building, Mr. Weinstein was in the process of getting his weekly payroll together, under the protection of police officer Walter De Castillia of the 84th Precinct. The five men took the elevator to the 6th floor. While one man stood guard at the elevator, the other four men burst into Mr. Weinstein’s office. They ignored the $7,500 sitting on the table, and opened fire on Officer De Castillia, a married father of a young girl, with nine years on the force. Officer De Castillia was hit six times in the chest and he died instantly.

The four men walked calmly back to the elevator and joined their cohort, who was guarding the elevator operator Louis Sella. Stella took the five men down to the ground floor. He later told the police that the men had exited the building, calmly walked to a parked car, got into the car, and fled the scene. When the police arrived minutes later from the station house just 2 blocks away, the killers were nowhere to be seen. Sella described the five men as “early to mid-twenties, with dark skin and dark hair.” Sella said the men were all “very well-dressed.”

The police theory was, that since no money had been taken, that this was a planned hit on Officer De Castillia. On August 30, 1930, Galante, along with Michael Consolo and Angelo Presinzano, were arrested and indicted for the murder of Officer De Castillia. However, all four men were soon released due to lack of evidence.

On December 25th, 1930, four suspicious men were sitting in a green sedan on Briggs Avenue in Brooklyn. Police detective Joseph Meenahan just happened to be in the area. He spotted the men in the sedan, drew his gun, and approached the sedan cautiously. One of the men shouted at Meenahan, “Stop right there copper, or we’ll burn you.”

Before Meenahan could react, the firing commenced from the green sedan. Meenahan was shot in the leg, and a six-year-old girl walking nearby with her mother was seriously wounded. The driver of the sedan had trouble starting the car, so the four men leaped from the sedan and tried to escape on foot. Three of the men manged to flee the area by jumping on a passing truck, but the fourth man slipped as he tried to get onto the truck and was apprehended by the wounded Meenahan. That man was Carmine Galante.

When Meenahan brought Galante to the station house, a group of detectives, angry that one of their own had been wounded, started to give Galante the “police station tuneup.” Despite getting his lumps, Galante refused to give up the identities of the men who had escaped. He was subsequently tried and convicted as one of the four men who had robbed the Lieberman Brewery in Brooklyn. On January 8th, 1931, Galante was remanded to Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. He was later transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, where he remained until his release on May 1st, 1939.

While Galante was in prison he was given an IQ test that revealed he had a lame IQ of only 90, which, even though Galante was well into his twenties, equated to a mental age of 14-years-old. It was also noted that Galante was diagnosed as having a “neuropathic psychopathic personality.” A physical evaluation showed that he had a head injury incurred in a car accident when Galante was 10-years-old, a fractured ankle when he was eleven, and that Galante was showing the early signs of gonorrhea, probably incurred at one of the many brothels controlled by the mob.

In 1939, after he was released from prison, Galante was again given sham employment at his old job at the Lubin Artificial Flower Company. In February of 1941, Galante obtained membership in Local 856 of the Longshoreman’s Union, where he ostensibly worked as a ” stevedore.” However, it is likely Galante very rarely showed up for work; one of the perks of being a member of the Mafia.

There is no record of the exact date, but Galante was induced as a made member of the Bonanno Crime Family in the early 1940’s. Despite the fact his boss was Joe Bonanno, at the time the youngest Mafia boss in America, Galante performed many hits for Vito Genovese, all throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s.

While Genovese was in self-imposed exile in Italy (he was wanted on a murder charge and flew the coop before he could be arrested), Genovese became fast pals with Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Mussolini had a stone in his shoe in America called Carlo Tresa. Tresa was causing Mussolini much agita by incessantly writing anti-fascist sentiments in his radical Italian-language newspaper, Il Martello, which was sold in Italian communities in America.

Genovese sent word back to America to Frank Garofalo, underboss to Joseph Bonanno, that Tresa had to go. Garofalo gave Tresa contract to Galante, who shadowed Tresa for a few days to determine the best time and place to whack him.

On January 11th, 1943, Tresa was walking along Fifth Avenue near 13th Street, when a black Ford sedan pulled up along side him. The Ford stopped and Galante jumped out, hot gun in hand. Galante blasted Tresa several times in the back and in the head, killing the newspaper editor instantly. Amazingly, Galante was seen by his parole officer fleeing the scene, but due to the wartime rationing of gasoline, the parole officer was unable to follow the black Ford containing Galante and the smoking gun. No arrest were ever made for the Tresa slaying.

In 1953, Bonanno sent Galante to Montreal, Canada to take control of the Bonanno Family interests north of the boarder. Besides the very lucrative Canadian gambling rackets, the Bonannos were heavy into the importation of heroin, from France into Canada, and then into America – the infamous French Connection. Galante supervised the Canadian drug operation for three years. But in 1956, the Canadian police caught wind of Galante’s involvement. Not having enough evidence to arrest Galante, they instead deported Galante back to America, classifying Galante as “an undesirable alien.”

In 1957, Genovese called for a big summit of all the top Mafioso in America, to take place at the upstate New York Apalachin residence of Joseph Barbara, a captain in the Buffalo crime family of Stefano Magaddino. In preparation for this meeting, on October 19th, 1956, several New York crime bigwigs were summoned to Barbara’s home to go over the guidelines of the proposed meeting; the prime purpose of which was to anoint Genovese as the Capo di Tutti Capi,” or “Boss of all Bosses.”

After the meeting ended, driving on his way back to New York City, Galante was nabbed for speeding near Birmingham, New York. Because his driver’s license had been suspended, Galante gave the police a phone one. He was immediately arrested and sentenced to 30 days in prison. However, the tentacles of the Mafia also reached right into the police department in upstate New York. After a few mobbed-up New York lawyers made the right phone calls to upstate New York, Galante was released within 48 hours. Yet, a state policeman named Sergeant Edgar Roswell took note of the fact that Galante had admitted to the police he had stayed the night before at the Arlington Hotel, as host of a local businessman named Joseph Barbara. This prompted Roswell to pay especial attention to the Barbara residence in Apalachin, New York.

Less than a month later, on November 17th, 1957, at the insistence of Don Vito Genovese, Mafia members from all over America made their way to the Barbara residence. These men included Sam Giancana from Chicago, Santo Trafficante from Florida, John Scalish from Cleveland, and Joe Profaci and Tommy Lucchese from New York City. Galante’s boss Joe Bonanno decided not to attend, and he sent Galante instead.

Sergeant Roswell took note of the fact that on the day before the nearby Arlington Hotel had been booked to the rafters with suspicious-looking out-of-towners. Roswell asked the right questions, and he was able to confirm that the man who made the reservations for these men was Joseph Barbara himself. Roswell drove to the Barbara resident and he spotted dozens of luxury cars parked outside, some with out-of-town plates.

Roswell called for back-up, and in minutes, dozens of state troupers arrived with guns drawn. The troupers raided the Barbara residence and chaos ensued. Men wearing expensive suits, hats, and shoes bolted from the house. Some were immediately arrested; some made it to their cars and drove off the property before roadblocks could be put in place by the police. Others jumped out of the windows and hightailed in through the thorny woods. One of these men was Carmine Galante, who hid in a cornfield until the police had left the Barbara residence. Then made his way back to Barbara’s home, and made arrangements for his safe passage back to New York City.

The next day, when the news of the raid on Barbara’s house hit American newspapers, blowing the lid off the misguided idea that the Mafia was a myth, Galante went into the wind, or in mob terms, he “pulled a lamski.” On January 8th, 1958, the New York Herald Tribune wrote that Galante had run to Italy to hook up with old pal Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano, who was in exile in Italy, after serving nine years in American prison on a trumped-up prostitution charge. Another report said that it was not Luciano Galante was with, but rather Joe “Adonis” Doto, another mob boss in exile in Italy. On January 9th, the New York Journal American said Galante was not in Italy at all, but in Havana, Cuba, with Meyer Lansky, a longtime member of the National Crime Commission, who had numerous casino interests in Cuba.

In April 1958, it was somehow leaked that Galante was now back in the United States and living somewhere in the New York area. The local law went to work, and in July, Galante was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics while he was driving near near Holmdale, New Jersey. He was charged with taking part in a major heroin deal, one of many Galante had been involved with. Also arrested in the same case were Vito Genovese, John Ormento, Joe Di Palermo, and Vincent Gigante. Galante, again making use of his cadre of New York attorneys, was released on $100,000 bail. Galante’s lawyers were able to delay any further legal proceedings for almost two years. It wasn’t until May 17th, 1960, that Galante was formally indicted, and again released on bail.

On January 20th, 1961, Galante’s trial finally began, and the judge, Thomas F. Murphy, revoked Galante’s bail, ordering Galante to be put right into the slammer. However, Galante’s luck held up when, on May 15th, a mistrial was declared. It seemed the foreman of the jury, a poor chap named Harry Appel, a 68-year-old dress manufacturer, had the misfortune of falling down a flight of stairs in a building on 15th Street in Manhattan. After the medics arrived and Appel was taken to a nearby hospital, it was determined that Appel had suffered a broken back. No one had seen Appel fall, nor did the hurt and frightened Appel say that anyone had pushed him. However, although they had no definite proof, law enforcement believed that Appel had been pushed by a cohort of Galante’s, with a warning not to say anything to anybody, and they would allow Appel and members of his family to live.

Galante, now feeling alive and chipper, was released from prison, secured by a bond of $135,000.

Alas, but all good things must come to an end.

In April 1962, Galante’s second trial commenced.

At the trial, there was a bit of mayhem in the courtroom, when one of Galante’s co-defendants, a nasty creature named Tony Mirra (who was said to have killed 30-40 people) became so unhinged, that he picked up a chair and flung it at the prosecutor. Luckily for the prosecutor, the chair missed him and landed in the jury box, forcing the frightened jurors to scatter in all directions. Order was restored to the court, and the trial proceeded, which was bad news for both Galante, and for Mirra. Both men were found guilty, and on July 10th, 1962, Galante was sentenced to thirty years in prison. Mirra also was sent to prison for a very long time. It is not clear if any additional time was tacked onto Mirra’s sentence for the chair-throwing incident.

Galante first was sent to Alcatraz Prison, which was located on an island fortress in San Francisco Bay. He was then moved to the Lewisburg Penitentiary, in Leavenworth, Kansas, before serving the final years of his prison term in the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. Galante was finally released from prison on January 24th, 1974, all full of fire and brimstone, and ready to get back into business. However, Galante was to be on parole until 1981, so he had to be careful not to keep a high profile. Unfortunately, being in the background was not in Galante’s makeup.

While he was in prison, Galante made it known that when he got out of prison he was going to take control of the New York Mafia by the throat. The accepted head of the five New York City Mafia families at the time was Carlo Gambino, the head of the Gambino crime family. Gambino was shrewd, and generally quiet and reserved; well-respected for his business acumen, and his ability to keep peace amongst his own family, as well as the other Mafia families. However, Galante had to use for Gambino, or his method of doing business.

By the time of Galante’s release, his boss Joe Bonanno had been forced to “retire,” and was living in Tuscon, Arizona. The new Bonanno boss was Rusty Rastelli. But since Rastelli was in the slammer at the time, Galante took over as the “street boss” of the Bonannos. Still, Rastelli was considered the boss of the Bonannos, and was none too happy about how Galante was strutting his stuff on the streets of New York City.

Galante took the unusual step, and not appreciate by other Bonanno crime family members, of surrounding himself with Sicilian born Mafioso like Caesar Bonventre, Salvatore Catalano, and Baldo Amato. Theses men were derisively called “zips” by the American Mafia, due to the quick way they zipped through the Italian language. These zips were heavily involved in the drug trade, and in direct opposition to those in the Genovese Crime Family, which was run by Funzi Tieri, every bit as cunning and vicious as Galante.

Galante had a minor setback, when in 1978, he was arrested by the Feds for “associating with known criminals,” which was a violation of his parole. While Galante stewed in prison, he began ordering his men to kill mobsters in the Genovese and Gambino crime families, who were cutting in on Galante’s worldwide drug operation. With Carlo Gambino now dead (from natural causes), Galante figured he had the muscle to push the other crime family bosses into the background. From prison he sent out the message to the other bosses, “Who among you is going to stand up against me?”

On March 1st, 1979, Galante’s was released from prison and walking on air because he truly believed the other crime bosses were afraid of him. Like Vito Genovese before him, Galante envisioned himself as “Boss of All Bosses,” and it was only a matter of time before the other bosses cowered before Galante and handed him the title.

However, Galante underestimated the might and will of the other Mafioso bosses in New York City. While Galante swaggered around the streets of New York City, the other bosses held a meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, deciding Galante’s fate. At this meeting were Funzi Tieri, Jerry Catena, Paul Castellano, and Florida boss Santo Trafficante. These powerful men voted unanimously, if mob peace was to exist in the streets of New York City, Galante had to go. Rastelli, who was still in jail, was consulted, and even the aged Joe Bonanno, living in Arizona, was asked if he had any reservations at his former close associate being hit. Both Rastelli and Bonanno signed off on Galante’s murder contract, and Galante’s days were numbered.

On July 12th, 1979, it was a hot and sticky summer day, as the 69-year-old Carmine Galante’s Lincoln pulled up at 205 Knickerbocker Avenue, in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. For more than 50 years, Knickerbocker Avenue had been the turf of the Bonanno crime family, and over the years numerous mob sit-downs had taken place in one of several storefronts on the block.

Carmine Galante stepped out of the Lincoln, then he waved goodbye to the driver: his nephew James Galante. Carmine Galante was wearing a white short-sleeved knit shirt, and, as was his custom, he was sucking on a huge Churchill cigar. Galante strutted inside the tiny restaurant, and was greet by Joe Turano, the owner of Joe and Mary’s Restaurant. Galante had made this visit to meet with Turano, and with Leonard “Nardo” Coppola, a close associate of Galante’s, over some undetermined mob business.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., Cappola strolled into the restaurant, accompanied by zips Baldo Amato and Cesare Bonventre, who were cousins, and from the same village as Galante’s parents: Castellammarese del Golfo. By this time Galante and Turano had already finished their meal, so while the three newcomers sat inside and had their lunch, Galante and Turano slipped outside into the backyard patio, and sat under a yellow-and-turquoise checked umbrella. After Cappola, Bonventre, and Amato finished dining, they joined the other two men outside. Galante and Turano were smoking cigars and drinking espresso coffee laced with Anisette (only tourists and non-Italians drink Sambuca).

Galante was sitting with his back to a small garden, while Amato sat to his left and Bonventre to his right. Turano and Cappola sat on the opposite side of the table, their backs to the door leading to the restaurant.

At approximately 2:40 p.m., a four-door, blue Mercury Montego double parked in front of Joe and Mary’s Restaurant. The car had been stolen about a month before. The driver, wearing a red-striped ski mask that covered his face, stepped out of the car and stood guard, holding a.3030 M1 carbine rifle menacingly in his hands. Three other men, also wearing ski masks, jumped out of the car and jogged into the restaurant. They sped past the few startled diners who were still eating lunch, and rushed into the patio area.

As they entered the patio, one masked man said to the other, “Get him, Sal!’

The gunman called “Sal” began firing a double-barrel shotgun several times at Galante, propelling Galante, as he was rising from his chair, onto his back. Galante was hit with 30 pellets, one knocking out his left eye. Galante was probably dead before he hit the ground, his cigar still stuck tightly between his teeth.

As Galante was shot, Joe Turano yelled,”What are you doing?”

The same gunman turned to Turano, and with the shotgun pressed against Turano’s chest, he blasted Turano into eternity.

Cappola jumped up from the table, and either Amato, or Bonventre (it’s not clear which one did the shooting) shot Cappola in the face, then five times in the chest. Cappola landed face down, and the killer with the shotgun, blasted off the back of Coppola’s head.

The three masked men then hurried from the restaurant, and into the waiting getaway car. According to witnesses outside the restaurant, the car sped up Knickerbocker Avenue to Flushing Avenue, then disappeared around the corner. Bonventre and Amato, who were both wearing leather jackets despite the stifling heat, soon followed the three gunman out of the restaurant. They calmly walked down the block, got into a blue Lincoln, and drove away, like they had nary a care in the world.

Galante’s body was laid out in the Provenzano-Lanza Funeral Home at 43 Second Avenue on the Lower East Side. The crowds that usual accompany a Mafia wake of this kind were notably absent. Galante was buried on July 17th at Saint John’s Cemetery in Queens. With the Feds doing the counting, only 59 people attended Galante’s funeral mass and burial. The Feds also reported that not one Mafia made man was captured on surveillance cameras, either at the wake, or at the funeral.

One Fed, commenting at the sparse turnout, said, “Galante was so bad, people didn’t want to see him, even when he was dead.”

Even though the newspapers played up the killing with gruesome front page photos, the general public seemed imperious to the magnitude of the event. A young boy strolled up to a police officer standing guard the wake.

“Was he an actor?” the kid said to the cop.

The cop replied, “No, he was a gangster.”

Howard Hughes and the Silver Slipper

Another of Las Vegas’ most iconic signs belonged to the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall. Originally opened in 1950 on the Last Frontier property, it was named the Golden Slipper because the Silver Slipper name was already taken, but shortly after they opened, the Silver Slipper folded and the name moved to its new home on the Las Vegas Strip. The Silver Slipper was never a big casino, but due to its central Strip location and proximity to the Last Frontier, it was very popular with families and offered the best 49-cent breakfast buffet in town.

I find it interesting from a marketing perspective that most of the Strip hotels used desert or pioneer themes for their casinos: Hacienda, Sands, Aladdin, Dunes, Frontier, Sahara, Desert Inn, Stardust, El Rancho Vegas, and the Bonanza. A few hotels even referenced their Cuban and South Florida roots: Flamingo, Tropicana, and the Riviera.

Considering that hotels and casinos on the Strip didn’t begin sprouting up until the late 1940’s with the El Rancho Vegas and Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo, it’s interesting that they all chose to stay within a particular set of themes, but then again the mafia has never been known for their creativity or risk taking, unless said risk-taking involves a new and improved style of murder or extortion. I guess they were less concerned about design awards and more interested in the skim.

Riding the wake of the sale of his Trans World Airways for $546,549,171, Howard Hughes came to Las Vegas with an eye on the future and a boatload of cash, but Hughes wasn’t convinced Las Vegas was where he wanted to set up shop. After two years of bouncing back and forth between the East Coast and Las Vegas, and some careful study of Las Vegas’ financial potential, Hughes decided to stay and moved into the two top floors of the Desert Inn with the resolve to reshape the Las Vegas landscape. Why? Who knows, but Howard Hughes found sufficient intrigue to keep him an active participant in Sin City’s growth and with a billion dollar bankroll, he was an instant force. In fact, his name was so big, the Nevada Gaming Commission all but rolled over when it came time to review his application to own a casino. Something that took most potential owners months and years to complete, with Howard Hughes, the ink was dry before his aides left the hearing.

So what’s the Silver Slipper got to do with Howard Hughes? It seems fair to say that when Hughes’ moved to Las Vegas, his apparent bi-polar behavior and companion paranoia was well established. Hughes moved into the Desert Inn with the express agreement he would stay no longer than 2 months. This arrangement was fine with the ownership, but the penthouse suites on the top two floors were earmarked for the hotel’s stable of high-rollers that came to play over the Christmas holidays, and Hughes’ staff who were all Mormons, non-gamblers, non-drinkers, and they just weren’t spending money at the casino or bar. Hughes was asked to leave and when push came to shove, Hughes wrote a check for $13.2 million, assumed ownership of the Desert Inn, and launched a spending spree unlike anything Las Vegas had ever seen.

But Hughes wasn’t satisfied and as his neurosis and paranoia grew. Memories of the McCarthy anti-communist hearing also began to weigh on his psyche. This was amplified by the fact that his suite faced the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall across the street and the rotating slipper rotating on the Strip marquee would reflect light into his room. It not only get him up at night, he got the notion that hidden in the toe of the shoe were cameras with the sole intent of photographing the Desert Inn, his suite, and the hotel entrance all in an effort to chronicle his comings and goings. So incensed by the sign, Howard Hughes sent a telegram to his chief aide, “I want you to buy that place, that damn sign is driving me crazy, it goes round and round and round.” On April 30, 1968, Howard Hughes bought the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall for $5,360,000 million, and rumor has it that his first edict was to stop the rotating Silver Slipper and fill it with concrete. Surveillance cameras or not, Howard Hughes would finally get a good night’s sleep. Maybe.

The Hughes Corporation owned the Silver Slipper until June of 1988 when it was purchased by Margaret Elardi who owned the Frontier Hotel and Casino next door. The Silver Slipper was demolished shortly thereafter with plans to expand the Frontier, but a union strike and tough economic times put an end to that.

Today, the iconic Silver Slipper sits perched above Las Vegas Boulevard at the Neon Museum just north of downtown Las Vegas. The slipper is available to see 24/7, but the museum is only open by appointment only. Go to their website for more information about their tours and costs. For anyone who revels in the nostalgia of “Old Vegas,” a trip to the museum is well worth the trip.

Howard Hughes moved to Las Vegas on November 24, 1966 and died on April 5, 1976 at the age of 70. His impact on Las Vegas in the 60’s and 70’s is monumental and came at a time when mafia interests were waning and corporate Wall Street interest was on the rise. We’ll look into this fascinating time in Las Vegas’ history in future posts.

Origins of Baccarat

Baccarat is known as the card game of the rich and famous. Baccarat was so enigmatically linked with the wealthy upper classes and rich and famous and as a result many people shunned the game its triumphant emergence online.

Baccarat is one of the easiest of casino games to learn and play and can really generate some excitement when played at an online casino. There is no skill involved in the game as the rules determine each hands action. The only variable involved is the betting. In short, Baccarat is a game of chance.

Baccarat is thought to have originated in either France or Italy during the middle Ages. The word baccarat is a derivative of the Italian word for zero. In the middle ages the game was played using Tarot cards as opposed to the modern day card used today.

As Baccarat’s popularity increased across Europe, as with most of the other forms of gambling in those days there was some rigorous opposition from the Church. The Church viewed Baccarat as the game of the devil and those who played it were carrying out the devil’s work.

Tarot cards were first used in a game of Baccarat by Felix Galguiere. The Etruscan nine gods are said to be the basis for Galguiere’s version of the game. In this early edition of Baccarat, dice were rolled to determine the fate of a woman since the nine gods required the sacrifice of a blond virgin.

A roll of either an eight or nine made her a priestess; a six or seven and she was banned from religious activities; a number less than six and she walked into the sea and disappeared.

This early Baccarat variant became the game of choice for the upper classes and aristocracy and eventually evolved into ‘Chemin de Fer’ and European Baccarat it is thought that this took place at approximately 1500. The game, even though extremely popular, was illegal at first, as any form of gambling was. Eventually, the government made it legal and placed taxes on it. This made the game even more popular because people could rationalize that they were doing something for the good of the poor when they played baccarat thanks to the tax involved. The game began to lose its popularity during Napoleon’s reign when it was again outlawed. It remained illegal until the early 1900’s. At around this time many of the grand casinos were established along the French Riviera.

This version is the one that eventually made it way over to America but was a different version of the game that came from England. Baccarat was legal in England during the period that it was illegal across the rest of the Continent.

The English version of Baccarat reached the shores of Argentina in early 1950, where it was called ‘Punto y Banca’. When the game eventually reached Havana, the aim of the game had differed somewhat as now the player played against the house. It is this version, American Baccarat that was played in the casinos in Havana.

The Capri Casino version is the Baccarat variant that migrated to Las Vegas in the mid 1950s via Francis Renzoni, after a Las Vegas casino opened a baccarat pit. The game began it new life in America as an unpopular addition to the casino game selection. Las Vegas adapted the game and made the banker the UK casino or house position. This made it possible to bet for or against the house with the banker position. This is the Baccarat variant that is now so popular in the United States, England and Australia.

Before the game of baccarat had reached Las Vegas, it was already being played in New York and Florida. The game was played at the Saratoga race track and at the Palm Beach resort in 1910, forty years before it was played in Las Vegas.

Since its origins in the Europe during the Middle Ages, Baccarat has steadily made it’s way across each continent eventually becoming one of the most famous and respected casino games in the world.

There are variations in play depending on the location at which you are playing, so it is always best to check the house rules. And, as so may other forms of gambling, baccarat has made its way onto the internet. Most online casinos offer baccarat games with some variation in house rules; the biggest I have found is that there are only two hands: the banker and one player. Again, it’s advised to check the house rules before you play. Some online casinos also play the game with a single deck of cards, which is unusual in a land-based casino.