Giancana, Sam (1908-1975)

Born Chicago, IL, June 15, 1908.

Killed Oak Park, IL, June 19, 1975.


Known as "Momo" and "Mooney," Sam Giancana became boss of the Chicago Mafia organization in 1956. After a rollercoaster career, he was assassinated in 1975.

Giancana was born to parents Antonino and Antonina DeSimone Giancana, immigrants from Castelvetrano, Sicily. (They and their daughter Antonina entered the U.S. through New York City on Dec. 22, 1906, aboard the S.S. Sicilian Prince. At that time, they were heading to Chicago to stay with a brother-in-law, Nicola Sciarcota, 567 Harrison Street. Antonino became a produce peddler.) There are conflicting birthdates for Sam Giancana in various records. One birth certificate obtained by the FBI showed a birthdate of May 24, 1908, and a certificate filing date of June 30, 1908. Church Baptismal records indicate a birthdate of June 15, 1908, and a Baptism date of Dec. 15, 1908. A document filed by Giancana as an adult showed his birthdate as June 15.

Giancana grew up in the 42 Gang on Chicago's west side. He was arrested often in the late 1920s (22 times in 1928 alone). Some of those arrests were on serious criminal charges, but none of the cases made it to trial.

He did serve time in prison 1930-31 for burglary and was behind bars once again in 1939-42 after a federal alcohol tax violation. Those sentences helped earn him notice among the big-time Chicago Mafiosi.

In 1933, he became a bodyguard for Outfit bigshot Tony Accardo. In September of that year, Giancana was married to Angelina DeTolve in Chicago.

In 1948, with Accardo then the big boss, he graduated to the position of the family's primary enforcer. By 1950, he was specializing in gambling and associating with Hollywood stars. When authorities began focusing their attention on Accardo, he turned the day-to-day operations over to Giancana.

In 1959, Giancana earned the notice of the local press by throwing an extravagant wedding for his daughter Antoinette and Carmen Manno. The reception, estimated to cost $15,000, was held on the 19th floor of the LaSalle Hotel. Among the 700 invitees were Accardo, Marshall Caifano, Joey Glimco, Sam Battaglia and Phil Alderisio.

Giancana is believed to have had connections with the Kennedy family of Massachusetts and to have assisted in John F. Kennedy's Presidential election in 1960. Some sources have claimed that Giancana and Kennedy shared mistresses and passed information to each other through their women.

It appears Giancana had good reason to feel that he was betrayed by the Kennedy Administration, as Attorney General Robert Kennedy put enormous legal pressure on the Chicago crime lord. After serving a sentence for contempt of court, Giancana eventually fled the United States for Mexico in 1966 (he had traveled to Mexico repeatedly in the 1950s and early 1960s).

U.S. authorities convinced Mexico to shove Giancana back across the border in 1974. Aging and in declining health, he was ordered to appear before a Senate panel in July 1975.

Just days before his scheduled appearance, an unknown gunman ended Sam Giancana's life. An elderly caretaker at Giancana's home discovered his dead body on the floor of a basement kitchen at 11 p.m. on June 19, 1975. Police seven small-caliber bullet wounds to Giancana's head and neck. Clearly some of Giancana's associates believed he was in no condition to take a fall and do jail time at that point.

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