Buccola, Philip (1886-1987)

Born Palermo, Sicily, Aug. 6, 1886.

Died Palermo, Sicily, 1987.

Buccola (also "Bruccola") is widely believed to have ascended to the leadership of the Boston-based Mafia Family in the Prohibition Era.

Some sources indicate he became boss upon the death of Gaspare Messina in 1924.(1) One problem with this view is the fact that Messina did not die in that year - Nick Gentile indicates that Messina briefly served as American Mafia boss of bosses about 1930.(2) Gentile's account fits better with the traditionally accepted 1932 timing of Buccola's recognition as Boston boss by the national Mafia commission.

Born in Palermo, Sicily, Buccola arrived in the United States in the fall of 1920 and worked for a time as a fight promoter. He appears to have led a Sicilian gang in Boston's East Side for a while.(3) His education, relative affluence and links to the Palermo underworld served him as he rose to the top of Boston's Sicilian underworld.(4)

Buccola might have cooperated with non-Mafia bootlegging czar Charles "King" Solomon and the rest of the Seven Group ("Big Seven") in rum-running operations in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is possible that Solomon's leadership in the New England bootlegging rackets was a cause of some friction between him and Buccola. At least one source indicates that Solomon's 1933 murder was ordered by Buccola.(5)

The relationship between Buccola and Mafioso Joe Lombardo is something of a mystery. It appears that Lombardo, deemed responsible for the December 1931 assassination of Irish Gustin Gang boss Frankie Wallace,(6) was at least part of a New England-wide Mafia leadership in the 1940s. There are several theories regarding Lombardo's poorly documented role: He might have been an overall boss, using others as front men or division leaders;(7) He might have served as Buccola's underboss;(8) or he might have led a faction within the North Side Mafia.

Based upon information provided by turncoat Vincent Teresa, Lombardo was overall boss near the end of the Prohibition Era. It remains possible, however, that Lombardo was less a regional crime czar than an influential member of a panel of Mafia leaders, which might have included Boston's Gaspare Messina and Providence's Frank Morelli.

Targeted by law enforcement as a result of assuming control over Morelli's Rhode Island operations around 1947,(9) Buccola retired to his estates back in Sicily in 1954. Day-to-day Mafia affairs in Providence and Boston were turned over to Raymond Patriarca. Buccola kept a hand in Boston affairs while chicken farming outside Palermo. He reportedly died at the age of 101 in 1987.(10)

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  1. . A number of organized crime websites insist that Gaspare Messina died in 1924 and was replaced by Buccola. See: Machi, Mario. "New England - Boston, MA," AmericanMafia.com (http://www.americanmafia.com/Cities/New_England-Boston.html); and "New England Mafia Homepage" (http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Academy/4448/).
  2. . Gentile, Nick. Vita di Capomafia (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963). Interestingly, the statement of FBI investigator James F. Ahearn to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1988 (Organized Crime 25 Years After Valachi) indicates that Buccola was not identified as Boston Mafia head until the late 1940s.
  3. . Teresa, Vincent. My Life in the Mafia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1973), p. 44.
  4. . O'Neill, Gerard and Dick Lehr, The Underboss (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989) p. 31. O'Neill and Lehr suggest that Buccola was sent to Boston by Palermo Mafia authorities in order to take command there.
  5. . O'Neill, Gerard, op. cit, p. 32.
  6. . O'Neill, Gerard, op. cit, p. 15-17.
  7. . Teresa, Vincent, op. cit, p. 43-44. Teresa suggested that the Sicilian criminal organizations in various New England areas, such as Boston, Providence, Springfield, were run as separate crime families through the 1940s. He explained that Lombardo, based at his Pinetree Stables in Framingham, served as boss of bosses for the New England region.
  8. . O'Neill, Gerard, op. cit. p. 17.
  9. . According to Vincent Teresa, Lombardo in 1947 selected East Side gang leader Buccola to assume leadership authorities previously held by Frank Morelli. This scenario is repeated in Peterson, Virgil W. The Mob (Ottawa IL: Green Hill Publishers, 1983), p. 384.
  10. . O'Neill, Gerard, op. cit. p. 31.