THE HIT LIST – A City-By-City Ranking of North America’s Top Mob Murders of All-Time
BY SCOTT M. BURNSTEIN
Top Ten Mafia Murders
Top 5 Gambino Family Mob Murders of All-Time
1 Albert (The Mad Hatter) Anastasia – The boss of what became the Gambino syndicate for most of the 1950s, the power-hungry Anastasia was famously slain by gunmen as he lay in a barber’s chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel on the morning of October 25, 1957. Numerous notorious mobsters have been connected to the never-solved mega mafia hit, still nobody knows for certain who permanently dispatched the ‘Mad Hatter.’ Organized crime experts and historians believe Anastasia’s savvy underling Carlo Gambino conspired with other East Coast dons and the National Commission to bump off his boss and assume command of the Family, giving it it’s current name.
2 Paul Castellano – Powerful, but incredibly unpopular and isolated from his troops, Castellano, the Gambino’s boss in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was shot dead in the middle of Manhattan rush-hour traffic as he stepped from his car in front of Sparks Steak House on December 16, 1985. Castellano was a victim of ascending capo John Gotti’s aspirations to be don and Gotti successfully rallied the rest of the Family against the arrogant and out-of-touch Godfather, orchestrating his assassination so he could take the reins himself. Gotti was actually present at the hit, watching from a car across the street alongside his soon-to-be underboss, Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, who would go on to eventually turn on New York’s “Dapper Don” and his testimony at trial would lead to Gotti’s conviction on the Castellano murder.
3 Vincent (The Executioner) Mangano – One of the original bosses of the “Five Families,” Mangano frequently fought with his underboss, Albert Anastasia, during his two-decade reign atop of what would become the Gambino Crime Family, and was killed on April 19, 1951 when Anastasia finally took action ordering his and his brother’s slayings. Vincent Mangano’s body was never discovered, while Philip Mangano, his younger sibling and longtime consigliere, was found dead in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
4 Roy DeMeo – A Gambino capo and hitman, known for his diverse rackets and lust for murder, the out-of-control DeMeo, tied to dozens of gangland homicides, was slain by his own “Gemini Lounge crew” members on January 10, 1983 after being lured to one of their houses for a purported meeting that was in fact a death trap. Then-Gambino boss Paul Castellano ordered the murder contract, feeling that DeMeo could pose a threat to him with all of DeMeo’s mounting legal problems and his unstable behavior.
5 Frank (Frankie D) DeCicco – The key in the plot to kill don Paul Castellano, being a Castellano protégé, DeCicco became underboss when John Gotti had Castellano murdered and first took control of the Family, but was blown up by a car bomb on the afternoon of April 13, 1986 on orders from Genovese and Lucchese Family bosses for the high-profile unsanctioned hit. DeCicco was killed outside the Veterans and Friends Social Club in Brooklyn, where he had just attended a meeting with “The Dapper Don”, an intended target, who averted the slaying by the bomber mistaking Gambino soldier Frank (Frankie Hearts) Bellino for Gotti, as he and DeCicco approached the explosive-strapped vehicle.
Top 5 Bonanno Mob Murders of All-Time
1 Carmine (The Cigar) Galante – Adversarial, secretive and power-obsessed, Galante, the high-profile Bonanno Family Godfather was felled in dramatic fashion, shot dead as he lit his trademark cigar after a lunch on the patio of Joe and Mary’s Italian Restaurant on July 12, 1979 in Brooklyn. Photographs of the crime scene, with the deceased Galante clenching his final stogie between his teeth, became iconic and the infamous mob hit set off two years of unrest in the faction-heavy syndicate. The one-time underboss to family-founder Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, when Bonanno retired to Arizona the diminutive, yet feisty Galante, who made a fortune in narcotics, moved fellow don candidate Philip (Rusty) Rastelli aside – helped greatly by Rastelli’s imprisonment – and declared himself the new ‘Boss of bosses’ in the New York underworld. This declaration and Galante’s continued stepping on the toes of the other East Coast Godfathers, led to the murder contract being issued by the Commission and carried out by his own men. Later in his life, Galante had begun relying on and interacting practically solely with a group of “zip” Sicilian immigrants. His bodyguards, Cesar Boneventre and Baldo Amato, were at the forefront of Galante’s personal army and they betrayed their boss, helping arrange his murder in exchange for promotion to capos once Galante was out of the way. When a hit team burst into Joe & Mary’s on Knickerbocker Avenue at 2:45 p.m., Boneventre and Amato fled and allowed them to blow Galante and two of his lieutenants away in front of a restaurant full of horrified patrons.
2 The Three Captains Hit – Depicted in the classic Johnny Depp-Al Pacino mob flick Donnie Brasco (1997), a trio of Bonnano capos, Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato, Philip (Phil Lucky) Giancone and Dominick (Big Trinny) Trinchera, were called to a purported sitdown at Brooklyn’s Embassy Terrace social club and café for peace talks on May 5, 1981, but were ambushed with gunfire and killed when they arrived. Indelicato was the leader of a break-off faction of the Bonannos that opposed imprisoned don Rusty Rastelli, Carmine Galante’s successor, and his two main supporters on the street, captains, Joseph (Big Joey) Massino and Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano, in the wake of Galante’s slaying. Massino and Napolitano were part of the hit team that took out Sonny Red, Phil Lucky and Big Trinny and while Massino was destined for meteoric heights (most powerful U.S. don of the 1990s), Sonny Black would meet a similar fate three months later.
3 Salvatore (Sal the Ironworker) Montagna – Called “The Bambino Boss” by the New York press, due to him being a baby-faced 36 when he took over the Bonanno Crime Family as “acting boss,” Montagna was deported to Montreal in 2009 and killed there on November 24, 2011, following his attempt to wrestle control of the Canadian mafia from imprisoned Quebec don Vito Rizzuto, locked up for his role as an imported gunmen in the “Three captains hit” almost 30 years earlier. First, Sal the Ironworker joined forces with Rizzuto’s two right-hand men, Raynald Desjardins and Joe Di Maulo and began attacking members of Rizzuto’s inner-circle and immediate family. Montagna’s alliance with Desjardins and Di Maulo was short-lived and in September 2011, Desjardins survived an assassination attempt, alleged to have been ordered by his former break-away ally. Two months later, Montagna was lured to a house in a Montreal suburb owned by a Desjardins lieutenant and attacked. Avoiding death at the house, Sal the Ironworker bolted on foot and led his assailants on a chase that ended with him being shot twice in the back of the head and left sprawled out in a shallow riverbed. Desjardins and seven others are facing charges and a 2015 trial on the Montagna murder. Di Maulo was killed on Rizzuto’s orders before Rizzuto died of cancer in December 2013.
4 Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano – Played by actor Michael Madsen in the movie Donnie Brasco, Napolitano was killed on August 17, 1981, once it was revealed that he had mentored and proposed for membership in the Bonanno Family undercover FBI agent, Joe Pistone, codenamed; Donnie Brasco. Napolitano knew his fate and went to a meeting at the house of Bonanno mobster Ronald (Ronnie the Monkey Man) Fillicomo after giving his valuables to his wife and telling her to relay a message to Pistone that he didn’t hold a grudge. Once he got to the Monkey Man’s house in Brooklyn, Sonny Black, was shot to death by Filicomo and button-man Frank (Curly) Lino. After the pair of gunmen failed to finish him off on the first go-around of shots, Napolitano implored his killers to “Give me one more and make it a good one.” His hands were chopped off as a symbol of him allowing a member of law enforcement to shake hands with made members of the mob.
5 Cesar Bonventre – The suave, lethal and increasingly-popular Sicilian capo and leader of the Bonanno’s Zip faction, Bonventre gained too much power for his boss Rusty Rastelli’s liking and on April 17, 1984, he was shot dead by Louis (Louie Ha Ha) Attanasio, as he fought for his life in an attack that began while driving in a vehicle and then spilled onto the floor of a Rastelli-owned factory. Bonventre was one of the nation’s largest drug distributors and a mastermind of the Pizza Connection heroin case. The FBI suspected him as a triggerman in multiple gangland slayings during his stay in New York during the 1970s and early 1980s
Top 5 Lucchese Family Murders of All-Time
1 The Lufthansa Heist Murders – In the months after the Lucchese Family’s legendary Irish crew leader James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke engineered the biggest robbery in U.S. history, stealing over eight million dollars of cash and jewelry from the Lufthansa Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport, Burke decided to kill several of his co-conspirators, both to cut ties between him and the daring heist and so he could pocket the majority of the proceeds of the score himself. Lucchese mob associates Marty Krugman, Richard Eaton, Tommy Monteleone, Louie Cafora, Joseph (Joe Buddha) Manri, Robert (Frenchy) McMahon and Parnell (Stacks) Edwards all wound up dead over the next six months, as did wiseguy Paulo LiCastri, the Gambino Family’s liaison to the heist, Theresa Ferrara, Monteleone’s girlfriend and Joanna Cafora, Louie Cafora’s, recent bride, for their knowledge of the headline-grabbing robbery. Jimmy the Gent, a longtime confidant of Queens-based Lucchese capo Paul Vario and someone the FBI connected to dozens of gangland homicides in his multiple decades in the rackets, died in prison in 1996, serving a 20 year-sentence for shaving points in college basketball games. A number of the murders linked to the Lufthansa Heist hit parade, were depicted in the gangster film classic, Goodfellas (1990), where Robert De Niro was cast as Burke.
2 The Mafia Cop Murders – Disgraced NYPD detectives Louie Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa worked as a personal hit team for Lucchese Family don, Vittorio (Little Vic) Amuso and his underboss Anthony (Gas Pipe) Casso during the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s. The pair of mob moles with badges were convicted on eight different counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2006. Lucchese associates Jimmy Hydell and Otto Heidel, syndicate soliders, Bruno Facciolo and Anthony DiLapi, Gambino Family capos Eddie Lino and Bobby Boriello and an innocent man named Nicky Guido, the victim of mistaken identity, were each victims of the cops-turned-mercenaries’ body-trail.
3 William (Billy Bats) Bentavena – A “made” member of the Gambino Crime Family recently released from prison after serving six years on a drug-dealing bust, Bentavena was killed by enraged Lucchese associate Thomas (Two-Gun Tommy) DeSimone on June 11, 1970, in a murder that was depicted on the silver screen in probably the most iconic scene from Goodfellas, with Joe Pesci portraying Two-Gun Tommy and grizzled mob character actor Frank Vincent playing Billy Bats. Hours after Bentavena was sprung from the clink the month before, he got into a verbal altercation with DeSimone at his coming home party when Billy Bats began making fun of the notoriously hot-tempered DeSimone regarding a childhood shoe-shine business DeSimone once ran. Less than three weeks later, Bentavena was lured to Lucchese-run bar and lounge, The Suite in Queens and was attacked by DeSimone and Jimmy the Gent Burke, DeSimone’s mentor and one of the most respected and feared non-Italian mobsters ever. While in the process of driving Billy Batts’ body upstate to bury it, DeSimone, Burke and close friend and Lucchese associate Henry Hill discovered Batts was still alive in the trunk, leading them to pull over and stab him another 30-40 times to finish him off. Bentavena was allied with a young, up-and-comer in the Gambinos, named John Gotti, some 15 years away from ascending to “Teflon Don” status, but juiced in enough at that juncture to get permission to whack Two-Gun Tommy before the decade was through (January 4, 1979). Pesci won an Oscar for his role as DeSimone.
4 Anthony (Buddy) Luongo – Short-lived boss of the crime family for a year in the mid-1980s, Luongo was allegedly killed by his own protégé, Little Vic Amuso and his crew on orders from jailed Lucchese don, Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corrallo, Luongo’s own mentor, on December 12, 1986. Drawn to Amuso’s hangout, The 19th Hole Bar and Grill in Brooklyn, Luongo was driven by Amuso to a house nearby where he received two bullets in the back of the head as he sat down at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee. Luongo was clipped for being too greedy and wanting to isolate Corrallo from his troops and gangland assets, a situation the power-driven Amuso took advantage of to launch his own bloody reign atop the Lucchese throne in the years to come.
5 (tie) Vincent Papa – Lucchese Family drug lieutenant and racketeer, Papa was killed inside the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, stabbed to death on July 26, 1977 by members of the Aryan Brotherhood on a contract taken out jointly by Lucchese leaders and Genovese Jewish narcotics enforcer Herbie Sperling, when they found out Papa had made a deal with then-U.S. Prosecutor and future New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, implicating dirty cops. The Lucchese’s representative in the notorious French Connection drug conspiracy, Papa subsequently masterminded the follow-up French Connection heroin heist from New York Police Property Clerk’s Office, where 400 kilos of uncut ‘H’ disappeared in 1971 from the office’s evidence room and reappeared on the streets. Sperling would eventually be charged for ordering Papa’s jailhouse slaying, but was acquitted at trial, where an AB named Theodore (Tattoo) Blasko was convicted for the actual murder. A fictionalized version of Papa was converted into actor Tony Lo Bianco’s “Sal Bocca” character in the smash-hit film made on the case (The French Connection), starring Gene Hackman that won the Oscar for best picture.
5 (tie) Dominick (The Gap) Petrilli – One-time driver and bodyguard for Tommy Gagliano, the syndicate’s don that preceded crime family namesake Tommy (Three Finger Brown) Lucchese, Petrilli was slain December, 9, 1953, felled by a trio of gunmen as he sat on a bar stool in the Bronx. Rumors had been swirling that he was cooperating with law enforcement following his return from Italy, where the narcotic lieutenant had been deported a decade earlier. It was widely believed on the street at the time of his death that Petrilli had traded information on his fellow mobsters in the Luccheses in exchange for the United States allowing him to come back to New York.
Top 5 Genovese Family Mob Murders of All-Time
1 Willie Moretti – The Genovese Family’s longtime overseer of it’s affairs in New Jersey, an eventual syndicate underboss and one of the real-life models for Godfather saga scribe Mario Puzo’s Vito Corleone character, Moretti was killed by a hail of bullets from gunmen who stormed into Joe’s Elbow Room on October 4, 1951 as he lunched with associates around 11:30 a.m. in the Cliffside Park, NJ eatery. The motive for Moretti’s slaying, ordered by his boss Albert Anastasia, was Moretti’s worsening syphilis that was ravishing his mind and making his fellow Mafiosi worried about the repercussions. Moretti, notoriously bombastic and blunt, was incredibly close with and helped aid the ascensions of Hollywood actors and singers, like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, inspiring the scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone tells his girlfriend of how his father, Don Vito, made someone “an offer they couldn’t refuse,” to get a famous crooner out of a contract with a band. According to gangland street lore, Moretti made big band leader Tommy Dorsey “an offer he couldn’t refuse,” in letting Sinatra out of a hindering contractual agreement that he had signed early in his career. Martin and Lewis were scheduled to be at the lunch where their “padrone” was executed, but skipped out when Lewis fell ill with the mumps. More than 5,000 people attended Moretti’s funeral.
2 Tommy Eboli – Groomed by legendary New York dons, Charles (Lucky) Luciano and the syndicate’s namesake, Vito Genovese, Eboli, the Family’s boss in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was rubbed out on July 16, 1972 when he bumped heads with the administration of his own Borgata and had a falling out with the Gambinos over fronted drug money that was never repaid. A lone gunman on the back of a passing truck caught Eboli, himself believed to have been a triggerman in over 20 murders during his days as one of Luciano’s and Genovese’s top assassins, exiting his girlfriend’s Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment and getting into his chauffeured Cadillac, unloading six shots into the car and killing him instantly.
3 Anthony (Tony Bender) Strollo – The syndicate’s capo in Greenwich Village and the man in charge of the Family rackets on the New Jersey waterfront for much of the mid-Twentieth Century, Strollo disappeared after leaving his house on the morning of April 8, 1962. His body has never been found and nobody has ever been charged with his murder. Tony Bender took over as “acting boss” when Vito Genovese was sent to jail in 1959, but quickly began feuding with the imprisoned Godfather, who put out the contract on his head from behind bars.
4 Ralph Coppola – Close friend and protégé of current Genovese street boss Barney Bellomo, Coppola was named capo of Bellomo’s crew when Bellomo went away to prison in the 1990s and let his ego get the best of him, leading to his disappearance on September 16, 1998. According to federal prosecutors, Bellomo and acting street boss Frank (Farby) Serpico ordered the hit on Coppola, whose body has never been unearthed.
5 John (Johnny Coca-Cola) Lardiere – Known forever as the “So, what are ya gonna do now, tough guy?” murder, Lardiere, a Genovese soldier on a 24-hour furlough from prison for the Easter holiday, was allegedly killed by soon-to-be capo Michael (Mikey Cigars) Coppola, at a Bridgewater, New Jersey motel on April 4, 1977. Lardiere, thought by Genovese brass to be considering becoming a cooperator, was met by Coppola, sporting a .22-automatic pistol, as he got out of his car at the motel to meet a girlfriend of his for a quick rendezvous. Upon trying to fire, Coppola’s gun jammed, leading Johnny Cokes to remark, “So, what are ya gonna do now tough guy?,” and Mikey Cigars promptly pulling a .38 revolver from an ankle holster and unloading four shots into him at point-blank range. Coppola was charged with the murder and other racketeering offenses in 1996 and went on the lam, before finally being apprehended and tried, where he was convicted of the racketeering, however acquitted of the Lardiere hit.
Top 5 Colombo Family Murders of All-Time
1 (tie) Joe Colombo – The syndicate’s namesake and the youngest American mob don of the 1960s, Colombo was shot on June 28, 1971 as he took the podium to speak at an Italian Unity Day rally in Columbus Circle, dying seven years later after being permanently shelved and disabled because of the attack. Colombo’s wipe out was arranged by Joseph (Crazy Joey) Gallo, an enemy of his dating back years that had just been released from prison stemming from his activity in the crime family’s first civil war a decade earlier. The gunman in the Colombo shooting was a black hoodlum named Jerome Johnson, who was killed on the spot by an unidentified assailant to keep him from speaking of his connection to Crazy Joe and his plot to overthrow the increasingly-political Godfather. Before he was put out of action, Colombo founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, which was gaining considerable traction in the time surrounding his shooting.
1 (tie) Joseph (Crazy Joe) Gallo – Fearsome renegade capo and genuine New York celebrity gangster, Crazy Joe went to war with syndicate bosses on two separate occasions for control of the crime family, first against Family founder, Joe Profaci, in the early 1960s ending up in prison and finally against Family namesake Joe Colombo, ending up shot dead on his 43rd birthday while he ate a late-night meal at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy on April 7, 1972. Less than a year earlier, Gallo had orchestrated the shooting of Colombo at his Italian Unity Day rally, putting the Godfather on the shelf for the rest of his life (the don would die an invalid seven years later) and drawing the ire of the American mafia’s National Commission for the unsanctioned attempt to assassinate a boss. While in prison, Gallo studied philosophy and made alliances with African-American gangsters, a relationship that scared his superiors in the mob. For the 16 months he was alive following his incarceration, Gallo gravitated to the counterculture, moving to Greenwich Village, writing poetry and racially integrating his crew. The night of his passing he spent the evening at The Copacabana with his close friend, Hollywood actor Jerry Orbach (Detective Lenny Briscoe in the long-running television series, “Law and Order”). Leaving Orbach at the Copa, Crazy Joe stopped at the recently-opened Umberto’s, where he was spotted by new Colombo don Joe Yacovelli’s bodyguard and driver, Joseph (Joe Fish) Luparelli, who tipped off his boss to Gallo’s whereabouts. There have been numerous mob hit men named as possible suspects in the high-profile slaying, but no charges were ever filed in the case.
2 William (Wild Bill) Cutolo – The magnetic, fearless and lethal Colombo Family underboss was too popular in the eyes of boss Alphonse (Little Alley Boy) Persico and when Persico was about to be shipped off to prison on a parole violation, Cutolo wound up dead on May 26, 1999. Called to what he thought was to be a meeting with Little Alley Boy that afternoon at the house of Colombo soldier, Dino Saracino, Wild Bill was killed by Saracino, his cousin Dino Calabro and soon-to-be acting boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli, in the residence’s basement, shot twice in the back of the head. Cutolo was a capo and Sergeant at Arms in the Colombo War of the early 1990s, known as a rare combination of “earner” and “hitter,” and aligned against Little Alley Boy and his dad, imprisoned don, Carmine (The Snake) Perisco, for the battle of syndicate supremacy. Initially forgiven for his betrayal by the Persicos at the conclusion of the disharmony and promoted to underboss, they didn’t trust him to keep things quiet when they were both away from their New York mob kingdom locked up behind bars. Cutolo’s body wasn’t discovered until almost a decade later by which point Little Alley Boy and his No. 2 in charge Jack (Jackie Sambuca) De Ross, Wild Bill’s one-time best friend, had been convicted of the murder.
3 Joseph (Joe Jelly) Giolelli – Crazy Joe Gallo’s top enforcer, Giolelli was killed May 16, 1961, after being taken deep sea fishing by associates of his in the crime family and never coming home, the first casualty of the syndicate’s war of the early 1960s, where Gallo took on Family-founder Joe Profaci. Joe Jelly’s murder was depicted in the Oscar-winning film and gangster epic The Godfather, as Gallo and his crew received a package following his demise containing his clothes and a dead big-mouth bass, letting them know that Giolelli “slept with the fishes.”
4 Nicholas (Nicky Black) Granico – The most powerful of the casualties of the Colombo’s early 1990s shooting war, Nicky Black’s slaying on a Brooklyn street corner, as he sat at a red light in his Toyota Land Cruiser on January 7, 1992, raised eyebrows later on in an investigation into and the trial of retied FBI agent Lin DeVecchio. Accused but acquitted of aiding Persico loyalist and convicted hit man Greg (The Grim Reaper) Scarpa in the bloody conflict, DeVecchio was specifically tied to the Granico murder by federal prosecutors, accused of pulling strings to get an FBI surveillance team removed from following Granico so Scarpa could unload on him from a passing van unfettered. Nicky Black was a gritty and respected capo that sided with Vittorio (Little Vic) Orena against the Persicos in the war for the Family throne. Scarpa, a legendary mob hit man and FBI top-echelon confidential informant, was convicted of the Nicky Black hit along with three others related to the Colombo infighting, dying behind bars of the AIDS virus he attained via a blood transfusion he received due to a bleeding ulcer.
5 Calogero (Charlie the Sidge) LoCicero – Godfather Joe Profaci’s consigliere and mentor to the menacing Greg Scarpa, the 64-year old mafia statesman that helped negotiate the end of the first Colombo Family civil war was gunned down as he sat drinking a strawberry milkshake at Carlisi’s Luncheonette in Borough Park on April 18, 1968, possibly by his protégé Scarpa. The reasons for LoCicero’s slaying have been widely-speculated upon, some tying it to the Bonanno Family conflict others to backbiting in his own Borgata or retribution from his own son for ordering the murder of his grandson.