2/14/1969 - Though a violent ending of strangulation, stabbing, or gunfire might have been more appropriate given the life he has led and the many murders he has ordered, infamous mob boss Vito "Don Vito" Genovese passes away from an old age heart attack in Springfield, Missouri at the age 71 ... behind bars of course.
Born to Felice and Nunziata Genovese on November 27, 1897 in Risigliano, Italy (near the city of Naples), Vito is born into family of criminals and murderers that also produces two brother Mafia members, and a cousin who eventually will run a crime family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Standing 5'7" at his full height, Vito ends his schooling in roughly the fifth grade, and with his family, at the age of 15, emigrates to the United States, living in the Little Italy section of Manhattan. Settling on a miscreant career path, the transplant is soon stealing merchandise from pushcart vendors, running errands for local gangsters, selling protection to local businesses, and making new friends such as future New York City crime boss, Charles "Lucky" Luciano. His proclivity for violence evident to his hoodlum peers (his first two arrests are for being in possession of firearms), in the early 1920s, Genovese starts working for powerful New York City criminal, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria (as does Luciano), in the gangster's bootlegging and extortion rackets ... and as ordered, executing bloody murders. 1930 a watershed year for the budding thug, along with being indicted on counterfeiting charges when a million bucks in funny money is found in a Brooklyn workshop (the case will be dropped when witnesses refuse to testify or simply vanish), on orders from Masseria, Genovese kills mobster Gaetano Reina, a Masseria underling the boss thinks is helping his rival, Brooklyn crime lord, Salvatore Maranzano ... a hit accomplished by tracking his target to the man's mistress' home in the Bronx, and shooting him in the back of the head with a shotgun when he leaves. Reina eliminated, for services rendered, Masseria then gives Genovese the murdered gangster's gang to run.
Reina And Family
And so, Genovese begins compiling a criminal resume that moves from hitman to New York crime boss, and guarantees him an eternal stay in Hell:
*During the Castellammarese War (the area of Sicily from which Maranzano came from, in the period of a year, over 60 mobsters will be killed) pitting Masseria against Marazano for control New York City's criminal underworld, Genovese will side with Luciano in the betrayal of his boss, joining Albert Anastasia, Bugsy Siegel, Joe Adonis, and Ciro "The Artichoke King" Terranova (the getaway driver) as the hit squad that kills the gang leader at the Coney Island restaurant, Nuova Villa Tammaro (quite conveniently, right after Luciano, dining with his boss, has excused himself from their table to use the restroom) on April 15, 1931 as the mobster plays solitaire.
Masseria And His Ace Of Spades
*Participates in the "victory" meeting in which New York City is organized into five crime families, all working for the capo di tutti capi, "Boss of Bosses," Maranzano ... Luciano made the head of one of the families, makes Genovese one of his underbosses, and second in command.
*Knowing he, Luciano, and Frank Costello have been marked for murder by Maranzano, Genovese helps plan the murder that takes out Marazano first (Irish gangsters, posing as expected tax agents kill the mobster in his downtown office).
Boss Of Bosses No More!
*First wife dead from tuberculosis, Genovese falls in love with his cousin, the already married Anna Petillo Vernotico ... no problem though, the couple marries in 1932, two weeks after Mr. Vernotico is found on a Manhattan rooftop, strangled to death.
*Flim-flaming a wealthy gambler out of $150,000 in a high stakes card game, Genovese kills crook Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia when the man demands his $35,000 cut from the caper (1934).
*In 1936, when Luciano is convicted of pandering and sent to Sing Sing Prison, Genovese becomes the acting boss of the Luciano Crime Family ... but not for long.
*Boccia is pulled out of the Hudson River in 1937, and with killer Ernest "The Hawk" Rupulo implicating Genovese for the murder, worried about prosecution for the crime, the mobster flees the United States and returns to Italy with $750,000 in cash, setting up a new batch of rackets in the city of Nola, near Naples (in New York City, gangster Frank Costello steps up to active boss, with mobster Willie Moretti as his underboss).
*In Italy, Genovese goes into business with Calogero Vizzini, a powerful Scilian mob boss, running an enormous black market operation, while becoming a good friend to Galeazzo Ciano (Genovese is his cocaine supplier), dictator Benito Mussolini's son-in-law. As a favor to Mussolini's Italian government, in January of 1943, Genovese orchestrates the execution of a Mussolini opponent in New York City, having anarchist newspaper publisher Carlo Tresca gunned downed outside the man's Manhattan office.
*When Italy is invaded by the Allies in 1943, Genovese changes sides, and offers his services as an interpreter and liaison officer to the United States army. Offer accepted, when not helping the Americans, Genovese (a naturalized American citizen by this time) improves his financial standings by stealing trucks, flour, and sugar from the army, then turning around and selling the goods on the black market.
Genovese In Italy (With Sunglasses) - With Sicilian Outlaw
*Arrested and sent back to America to stand trial for the Boccia murder, charges are dropped for the case in 1946 when the two witnesses scheduled to testify in support of killer Rupolo's contention that Genovese planned and participated in the slaying, both die ... one shot to death on a road in New Jersey, the other, under protective custody, found dead in his prison cell. Dead man walking, Rupolo will eventually be tracked down himself ... vanished for years, the killer is recovered from Jamaica Bay, Queens on August 24, 1964, his hands tied behind his back and both feet encased in blocks of solid concrete.
*Participates in the mob meeting that takes place with Lucky Luciano in Havana on October 29, 1946, in which the execution of Bugsy Seigel is authorized.
*Back in America, with the Boccia case behind him, Genovese wants to run the Luciano Family again ... but Costello and Moretti decline giving up power ... and a new set of murders begin ... Moretti is gunned down while eating lunch at Joe's Elbow Room Restaurant in New Jersey on October 5, 1951 (Moretti is said to be the gang figure who places a gun in bandleader Tommy Dorsey's mouth to get a young Frank Sinatra released from his contract ... and until illness forces a cancellation, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin are scheduled to break bread with the gangster at the very lunch where he is gunned down) ... though he survives, on May 2, 1957, Frank Costello is shot in the head by future crime boss, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante (Gigante calls out, "This is for you, Frank," a split second before he fires, causing Costello to turn towards the source of the statement, movement which is just enough to cause the bullet fired to barely miss the gangster's brain) as he enters the lobby of his apartment building, and decides to retire ... and in October of 1957, mob boss and Costello supporter, the head of Murder, Inc., Albert Anastasia, is assassinated while getting a shave and haircut at the barber shop in the Park Sheraton Hotel.
*When his wife decides to divorce him in 1952, Genovese takes out his ire on Steven Franse, a crime pal the gangster had given the assignment to of watching out for Anna Genovese while he was in Italy, blaming Franse for not stopping or reporting his wife's affairs ... treachery the gangster repays by having his former pal beaten, and then slowly strangled to death.
*Known as the Apalachin Meeting, to finalize his assumption of power, Genovese arranges for a gathering of the most powerful crime figures from around the country at the New York farm home of gangster Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara on November 14, 1957, but the plan backfires when state troopers and local authorities investigate the large gathering (more than 60 members of the Mafia will be arrested, many after trying to escape through a muddy nearby forest in silk suits and dress shoes). Fiasco, the meeting results in organized crime, in the form of the Costa Nostra, being exposed to the authorities ... and the humiliated gangsters turning on each other.
*Testifying before the U.S. Senate McClellan Hearings in 1958, citing his Fifth Amendment rights 150 separate times, Genovese evades answering any government questions.
*The man, along with Lucky Luciano, responsible for making the heroin trade an international racket, Genovese is arrested for conspiring to import and sell narcotics ... found guilty and sentenced on April 17, 1959 to 15 years at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, before leaving for prison, the gangster sets up a group of high-level family members to oversee the organization in his absence, while retaining final say on all criminal matters from his cell ... criminal matters such as ordering the murders of mobsters Anthony Carfano (9/25/1959 for ignoring the Apalachin Meeting ... Carfano and a female companion, actress Janice Drake, are shot to death and found in a Cadillac parked in residential Queens) and Anthony Strollo (4/8/1962 for allegedly working with the government to get Genovese convicted on the drug trafficking charges ... the gangster leaves his house to go on his routine daily walk, and is never seen again).
Carfano & Drake
Personal killings and ordered deaths, Genovese's penchant for murderous mayhem backfires horribly on the mob in 1962, when believing fellow convict and family member Joe Valachi (Valachi is married to Carmela Reina, the oldest daughter of Gaetano Reina, the mobster Genovese murdered in 1930) has informed on the mob boss, he places a contract on the hoodlum and buses him on the cheek, giving Valachi the "Kiss of Death" that marks him as a dead man (in reality, Valachi has done nothing wrong except to be caught running narcotics for Genovese). Not willing to be taken out, Valachi then arms himself with a lead pipe, and believing he is about to be attacked, beats to death an inmate he mistakes for a Mafia hitman, Joseph DiPalermo. Oooops, murder charges pending, to escape attacks from Genovese, and for revenge, Valachi makes a protective custody agreement with Federal agents and begins singing, the first Mafia soldier ever to break Omerta, the criminal code of silence, and testify about the internal workings of organized crime.
Genovese - 1958 Narcotics Arrest
Valachi About To Testify
A bad apple of the most rotten kind, Genovese's story finally ends at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, when the gangster suffers a heart attack and dies at the age of 71 (he is buried in the Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens), with a postscript that due to the mobster's expansion of the drug trade, the failed Apalachin Meeeting, and his mishandling of Valachi's loyalty the golden age of organized crime ends, and mob bosses and their soldiers across the country begin making long stays in national prisons ... a dismal coda to a dismal life!