Lauritano, Leopoldo (1889-?)

Born Naples, Italy, Dec. 30, 1889.

Died ?, after 1942.

Lauritano was a Brooklyn-based Camorra leader who ran a coffeehouse/saloon at 113 Navy Street and also conducted a lucrative murder-for-hire business.

Born in the Naples area near the end of 1889, Lauritano reached the United States in 1906 and was naturalized an American citizen in January 1915. He lived and worked in the area of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and participated in the operation of the infamous Navy Street Gang. His brother Anthony appears to have been acquainted with if not involved with the gang.

In the 1910s, as the Sicilian Mafia and Neapolitan Camorra in the New York area cooperated to monopolize rackets, Lauritano became a sort of sergeant-at-arms for the budding syndicate. He commanded what may have been the first Brooklyn-based murder-for-hire organization.

It was to Lauritano that Bronx Mafia boss Ciro Terranova allegedly ran to contract a hit on Joe DeMarco in 1916.


Camorra bosses took offense at Morello-Terranova actions and decided to dissolve the partnership and eliminate as much of the Sicilian Mafia leadership in New York as possible. Lauritano gunmen were employed later in 1916 to perform the executions, which resulted in the deaths of Terranova's brother Nicholas and aide Charles Ubriaco.

According to testimony from hitman Johnny "Lefty" Esposito, Lauritano paid his gunmen a steady salary to keep them on retainer. (Esposito complained that Lauritano lowered his pay as a result of the accidental killing of Lauritano friend Charles Lombardi during the DeMarco hit.)

In 1918, Lauritano was arrested for his involvement in the 1916 murder of Giuseppe Verrazano at the Italian Gardens in Manhattan. While held for that crime, he was tried and convicted of manslaughter in connection with another killing. He was sentenced to serve 20 years in state prison. The 1920 Census found him at Clinton State Prison in Dannemora.

On Jan. 12, 1926, Lauritano was released from prison on parole. He had served just seven and a half years of his original 20-year sentence. He was immediately rearrested on a 1918 indictment in the Verrazano murder case. On Jan. 14, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Selah B. Strong released Lauritano on a habeas corpus writ. Strong noted that he had dismissed the murder indictment against Lauritano two and a half years earlier.

Lauritano's discharge resulted in an bitter public feud between Justice Strong and Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Dodd. Strong insisted that Dodd had approved the dismissal of the murder charge in the summer of 1923. Dodd denied having any part in the dismissal.

In March of 1927, Lauritano was taken into custody as a material witness against accused Camorra assassin Anthony "Shoemaker" Paretti. He was held on $100,000 bail at the Raymond Street Jail in Brooklyn. Paretti went to trial that June. Camorra leaders Lauritano, Allessandro Vollero and Pellegrino Morano were all called to testify. All denied knowing Paretti. Lauritano further denied knowing his fellow witnesses and any members of the Navy Street Gang.
Paretti was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison. Lauritano's testimony caused him to be tried for perjury.

The perjury trial began on Feb. 10, 1927. On the following day, Assistant District Attorney James I. Cuff confronted Lauritano with a photograph showing him at a gathering of the Navy Street Gang. Lauritano changed his plea to guilty and admitted that he lied about his associations with gang members.

On March 1, Justice James C. Cropsey of Brooklyn Supreme Court sentenced Lauritano to serve five years in Sing Sing Prison. According to reports, Lauritano narrowly avoided a more serious sentence because his perjury occurred two days before the effective date of the strict Baumes laws.

After his release, Lauritano went to live with his brother Anthony on Adelphi Street in Brooklyn. The two worked together on Navy Street. Documentation on Lauritano after the start of World War II is lacking.


Sources:
  •  "10 held when gunman exposes 23 murders," New York Tribune, Nov. 28, 1917, p. 16.
  •  "Armored car owner queried on Marlow," New York Times, July 11, 1929, p. 1.
  •  "Assassin, hired at $15 a week, admits part in 6 murders," New York Tribune, June 7, 1918, p. 16.
  •  "Convicts at trial refuse to testify," New York Times, July 1, 1926.
  •  "Dodd charges plot to Justice Strong," New York Times, Jan. 28, 1926.
  •  "'Judge, I lied,' he says," New York Times, Feb. 12, 1927.
  •  "Justice accuses Dodd of blunder," New York Times, Jan. 29, 1926.
  •  "Lauritano held in $100,000," New York Times, March 27, 1926.
  •  "Paretti witness gets five years," New York Times, March 2, 1927.
  •  "'Shoemaker,' fugitive for 10 years, surrenders on indictment for murder by Navy St. Gang," New York Times, March 17, 1926.
  •  Leopoldo Lauritano Naturalization Petition No. 12129 dated Jan. 28, 1915.
  •  Leopoldo Lauritano World War II draft registration, 1942.
  •  U.S. Census of 1920, Clinton Prison at Dannemora, Jan. 7, 1920.