Abbatemarco, Michael (1894-1928)

Born Brooklyn, NY, Sept. 3, 1894.
Killed Brooklyn, NY, Oct. 6, 1928.

Known as "Mike Schatz" ("Schatz" is a German word for "sweetheart") or "Mike Shots," Michael Abbatemarco was an influential Brooklyn gangster of the Prohibition Era. He was a top lieutenant in the Frank Yale organization of Brooklyn. His relatives are counted among the early building blocks of the Profaci Crime Family presence in the Gowanus area.

The Abbatemarco family roots extend back to the southern portion of the Province of Salerno in Italy. Michael Abbatemarco's parents, Anthony and Rose, traveled to the the United States in the mid-1880s. By 1910 they were settled in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. Michael was born Sept. 3, 1894, in Brooklyn. He grew up in the Italian neighborhoods of Carroll Street, President Street and Union Street. As a teenager, he worked for a time with his father at a "manure dump," making fertilizer. He later worked for a meat market and as a truckman. In the Great War, Abbatemarco served his country in Europe with the Army's Sixteenth Engineers and returned home in April 1919.

Early in 1920, he was living in his parents home, 265 Third Avenue in Brooklyn, in the same Gowanus neighborhood where he grew up. His brother Frank, then 21, and 17-year-old sister Christina also lived there. Their neighbors and close friends were the Cardellos. Michael Cardello, a stonecutter, and his wife Antoinette, had six sons and four daughters ranging in age from one year to 25 years.

The Prohibition Era provided enormous rewards for those willing to break the law, and Michael Abbatemarco apparently gave into the temptation. He moved to Manhattan's Catherine Street, just across the East River from Brooklyn, and became involved in rum-running. At about the same time, Abbatemarco took a bride, an Irish-American woman, Tessie McNab. The couple had a son in 1921 and named him Anthony.

The dangers of illegal activity quickly became apparent. Michael Abbatemarco and two companions were arrested for smuggling Jan. 7, 1922, at the South Fourth Street Pier in Brooklyn. A customs inspector arrived at the pier while Abbatemarco and his associates were moving an unknown cargo from the S.S. St. Mary, just arrived from Havana, to a motorboat. Shots were fired, and one of the smugglers, Richard Price, was wounded. Several other men who were part of the smuggling effort escaped in the motorboat. Abbatemarco appears to have avoided any significant punishment for his activities at the South Fourth Street Pier.

Michael moved himself and his family back to Brooklyn around 1923. His young son, Anthony, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in January of 1926. For years, memorial notices were posted in newspapers to mark the sad anniversary of the incident.

Through the Prohibition Era, Michael Abbatemarco increased in importance within the Brooklyn underworld organization of Frankie Yale. Some suggested Abbatemarco held a monopoly on Prohibition Era beer sales. He became a leading figure in the underworld following the murder of Yale in July 1928, though most sources agree that Anthony "Little Augie Pisano" Carfano succeeded to the leadership of Yale's organization.

Immediately after Yale's death, Abbatemarco purchased a flashy new automobile and changed his address. He moved from his home at 321 First Street in Brooklyn to a two-story yellow brick home at 38 Seventy-Ninth Street in the borough's Bay Ridge section. But Abbatemarco did not have long to enjoy his new riches.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7, 1928.
On the evening of October 5, 1928, Abbatemarco played poker at a coffeehouse, Union Street and Fourth Avenue, with several other men, including Tony and Jamie Cardello. It was after 3 a.m. when Abbatemarco left the card game for home. Jamie Cardello reportedly walked him to the curb. A gangster by the name of Ralph Sprizza may have been with Abbatemarco at the time. Abbatemarco got into his coupe and drove away. He and the car were next seen at 4:15 a.m. in front of 2421 Eighty-Third Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Abbatemarco was slumped dead behind the wheel with bullet wounds in his neck, forehead, right cheek and chest. The car's engine was still running.

A young man named Jack Simon, who was walking by just before the killing, told police he saw a man get out of the stopped car. He recalled hearing some gunshots a short time later and turned to see the man walking through a vacant lot to 84th Street. Police discovered a just-fired handgun in the lot.

Detectives explored a number of motives for the slaying of Abbatemarco: He may have been double-crossed by an underworld associate, he may have been disciplined for double-crossing someone else, he may have been a casualty of a civil war in the former Yale gang, or he may have been killed due to a personal grudge or romantic affair.

Abbatemarco's funeral
Abbatemarco's funeral was nearly as impressive as that of his former underworld boss, Yale. His coffin, of silvered bronze, had an estimated value between $6,000 and $10,000. The funeral cortege included more than 100 cars and fourteen cars of floral decorations. Due to his service in the Great War, a military honor guard - eight riflemen from the Eighteenth Infantry, First Division, at Fort Hamilton - participated in the funeral. Anthony Carfano was conspicuously absent from the funeral, though he reportedly sent a large floral piece - a tower of roses topped by a fluttering dove. Newspapers noted that Carfano had not been in Brooklyn, except for quick visits, since the murder of Yale. John "Ross" DeRosa, believed to be a manager of Carfano's interests in the borough, did attend the Abbatemarco services. Burial was at Holy Cross Cemetery. Abbatemarco's wife Tessie and mother Rosa wept and swooned at the gravesite.

In February of 1929, police arrested Ralph "The Captain" Sprizza, 33, in connection with the murder of Michael Abbatemarco. Sprizza, originally from Naples, was largely a product of the same Gowanus neighborhood as Abbatemarco and had served two prison sentences for burglary. A member of Profaci's crime family, he was said to have been the last person to see Abbatemarco alive. Police suggested to the press they had evidence that Sprizza fired the bullets that took Abbatemarco's life. Sprizza denied any involvement in the killing.

Abbatemarco's brother Frank, nephew Anthony Abbatemarco and relative Joseph Magnasco went into the Brooklyn-based Profaci Crime Family. They became associated with the President Street crew that later became controlled by the Gallo brothers. Frank Abbatemarco and Joseph Magnasco were both murdered. Anthony Abbatemarco increased in underworld stature as Joseph Colombo took over the leadership of the Profaci family. He became a strong faction leader in the Profaci-Colombo organization and eventually rose to the position of crime family underboss.

Sources:

  •  New York State Census of 1915.
  •  Passenger manifest of S.S. Cheribon, sailed from Naples, arrived New York City March 9, 1887.
  •  SAC New York, FBI memo, NARA #124-10287-10228, June 22, 1964.
  •  United States Census of 1910.
  •  United States Census of 1920.
  •  United States Census of 1930.
  •  World War I Draft Registration Card of Michael Abbatemarco, June 1917.
  •  “Brooklyn engineers home on the Panaman,” Brooklyn Standard Union, April 23, 1919, p. 12.
  •  “Man fleeing from customs inspector is shot twice,” New York Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, p. 14.
  •  “Obituaries,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 2, 1922.
  •  “In memoriam,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Jan. 5, 1928, p. 16.
  •  “Uale friend slain in car as he sits at driving wheel,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 1.
  •  “Uale’s successor slain in auto by lone gunman, jealousy in gang hinted,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 1.
  •  Daniell, F. Raymond, “Yale successor slain near place where chief died,” New York Evening Post, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 1.
  •  “Uale gang leader slain like his chief,” New York Times, Oct. 7, 1928, p. 1
  •  Rogers, Wilbur E., “Search for rival whom slain gang chief had defied,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7, 1928, p. 1.
  •  “Beer racket clue at Philadelphia in gang slaying,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 8, 1928, p. 1.
  •  “Gang chief buried with honor guard,” New York Evening Post, Oct. 10, 1928, p. 1.
  •  “Wife of slain beer racketeer swoons in rite at son’s grave,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Oct. 10, 1928, p. 13.
  •  “Throng at funeral of slain Uale aide,” New York Times, Oct. 11, 1928.
  •  “Arraign suspect in gang murder of Abbatemarco,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 5, 1929, p. 5.
  •  “Killing of aide to Uale is laid to man in quiz,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Feb. 5, 1929, p. 1.