Anthony Celantano, outwardly the owner of a busy shoeshine stand on Kenmare Street, actually was an important Italian-American gang leader in Manhattan's Little Italy in the 1910s.
In 1913-1914, his Kenmare Street Gang battled against the East Village-based Jimmy Curley Gang, led by James "Jimmy Curley" Carioggi (Carioggi was also known as "Gold Mine Jimmy" because of the gold-filled teeth in his mouth). Celantano was nearly killed in that conflict. On Feb. 12, 1914, seven Curley Gang members burst into the Tivoli Restaurant, 341 Broome Street, where Celantano and his wife were dining. Curley's men drew revolvers and robbed the restaurant and its patrons. One of the intruders drew a knife and repeatedly stabbed Celantano in the abdomen. The seven gangsters scattered, but police apprehended three of them, including Carioggi and underling Joe "Orlando" Lopanto. Celantano's wounds were believed at the time to be fatal, but he eventually recovered at St. Francis Hospital.
When police arrived, they found that Carioggi had been taken inside the bookstore of John Morelli, 418 East 13th Street, by three bystanders: Tony Cordici, Andrew Enea and John Sicca. Carioggi was rushed to St. Francis Hospital with two gunshot wounds to his abdomen. He died shortly after arriving there.
Celantano was still recovering from his stab wounds at the same facility. Detectives questioned him about the Carioggi murder. "I don't know anything about it," was all Celantano would say. The Jimmy Curley Gang had a number of other rivals - police recalled that Carioggi was suspected in the 1913 shooting of Tommy Lynch of the Gas House Gang - and the authorities could not make a case against the Kenmare Gang.
Some time after Celantano returned to work, New York Police Detective Amedeo Polignano went under cover in an effort to penetrate his organization. Polignano in spring 1915 had dealt a blow to anarchist forces in New York by revealing a bomb plot against St. Patrick's Cathedral. Immediately after that, he turned his attention to organized crime and an interstate lottery (known to authorities as a "policy" racket) syndicate he believed was controlled by Celantano.
Posing as a new immigrant, Polignano went to work as a bootblack at Celantano's shoeshine stand, 10-12 Kenmare Street. He periodically played the lottery and expressed an interest in its operation. He always expressed gratitude toward Celantano for giving him work at the shoeshine stand. Eventually, he served as a trusted messenger for the policy syndicate and distributor of policy slips. He remained under cover until Feb. 10, 1917, when New York Police arrested twenty-one members of the policy ring, including Celantano. (One of the suspects, Pasquale Lampassa, a bartender from East Harlem, was charged with bribery, after he offered detectives $38 and promised them another $42 if they would let him go.)
Though Celantano was charged only with possession of policy slips, Polignano testified before Magistrate Corrigan in West Side Court that Celantano was the leading policy racketeer in the country. According to the detective, Celantano received winning lottery numbers by cable from Italy and then transmitted the numbers to associates around New York and across the country. Police Captain Thomas J. Tunney estimated for the press that the syndicate was bringing in profits of between $600,000 and $1,000,000 a year from the lottery.
Celantano attended his Feb. 15 arraignment dressed in a rich, fur-lined overcoat, with diamond rings glittering on his fingers. Polignano described his suspicions regarding the prisoner: "He kept to himself, save for a small circle of friends, and although we watched him for months, we were never able to connect him with enough to furnish conclusive evidence. But we were sure we had the right man in him. He was too prosperous. His shoe shining stand was busy enough to bring him in a good living, but it couldn't account for his automobiles and diamonds and his fine apartment."
The detective further testified that he learned of intense competition among gangs for control of the policy racket. He said more than twenty murders were committed in the rivalry, including a number that took place at the notorious Murder Stable up in East Harlem.
- "Unarmed; held for murder," New York Sun, July 17, 1913, p. 14.
- "Gunmen stab enemy," Tacoma WA Times, Feb. 12, 1914, p. 1.
- "Diners are held up by gunmen in N.Y. restaurant," Pendleton OR East Oregonian, Feb. 12, 1914, p. 1.
- "James Carioggi," New York City Death Index, certificate no. 7386, March 3, 1914.
- "East Side gang leader shot dead," New York Tribune, March 4, 1914, p. 2.
- "Gang ethics balk quest for slayer of 'good' gunman," New York Evening World, March 4, 1914, p. 4.
- "Noted gangster killed," New York Times, March 4, 1914, p. 1.
- "Policy kings taken in bomb squad raid," New York Sun, Feb. 12, 1914, p. 4.
- "Bootblack breaks up big policy ring," New York Sun, Feb. 16, 1917, p. 4.
- "Prisoner is accused as policy ring head," New York Tribune, Feb. 16, 1917, p. 13.