Giuseppe DiPrimo (the surname is sometimes written De Priema or De Primo) was a New York City counterfeiter associated with the Giuseppe Morello Mafia. DiPrimo was imprisoned at Sing Sing with Isadoro Crocevera, Giuseppe Giallombardo and Salvatore Romano in March of 1903 after being convicted of passing counterfeit currency in Yonkers, New York.
During the course of the counterfeiting investigation, Secret Service Agent William Flynn allowed DiPrimo's underworld associates to believe that DiPrimo was providing evidence against them. Flynn did this in an effort to convince the other suspects to cooperate. The ploy was unsuccessful. DiPrimo's perceived violation of the underworld code had an undesired effect. It led to the brutal Mafia slaying of his brother-in-law Benedetto Madonia (the "Barrel Murder").
Newspapers of the time, unaware of Flynn's manipulations, attributed Madonia's killing to a squabble over counterfeiting racket proceeds. In a series of articles published years later, Flynn fessed up to the divide-and-conquer effort that cast suspicion on DiPrimo and triggered the April 1903 murder of Madonia.
Secret Service surveillance of the Morello organization gave authorities information on the Barrel Murder perpetrators even before they could identify the victim. Flynn's agents had spotted Morello gangsters with a newcomer to the city on the night before a dead body matching the newcomer's description was found in a barrel on a city sidewalk. Morello and a number of his men immediately were rounded up for the homicide. The victim's identity could not be established until Flynn suggested that NYPD Detective Joseph Petrosino take a photo of the murdered man to show to DiPrimo in Sing Sing Prison. DiPrimo recognized it as his visiting brother-in-law, Madonia.
Most of the suspects were quickly released. Morello enforcer Tomasso Petto was indicted for the Madonia murder. Of those arrested, he was the only one bearing incriminating evidence - a pawn ticket for DiPrimo's watch. Identification of the defendant proved to be a problem, and the case against Petto went nowhere. He was eventually released and fled the city.
DiPrimo reportedly swore revenge against the Lupo-Morello organization for Madonia's death. It was widely believed and widely published (in stories that appeared to use NYPD Detective Sergeant Joseph Petrosino as source) that DiPrimo tracked Petto to the northeastern Pennsylvania communty of Browntown and killed him there in October 1905. William Flynn insisted, however, that the timing was wrong for DiPrimo to be the killer, as he had not yet completed his prison term at the moment Petto was shot to death. (This is a close call. Available prison records show an entry date for DiPrimo but not a release date. He could have been paroled long before the date of Petto's murder, but his earliest release with good time allowance would have been too late - around the middle of November 1905.)
DiPrimo traveled back across the Atlantic. According to legend, he later was gunned down in Italy.
- "Caught with counterfeit money," New York Tribune, Jan. 2, 1903, p. 9.
- "New counterfeit fives," New York Evening World, Jan. 3, 1903, p. 1.
- "Counterfeit $5 bills," New York Times, Jan. 4, 1903, p. 2.
- Flynn, William J., Daily Report, April 20, 29, 30, 1903, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 9, National Archives.
- "Came from Buffalo,” Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, Apr. 21, 1903, p. 7.
- "Mysterious murder in village of Browntown," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 23, 1905, p. 1.
- "Black Hand leader killed," Scranton PA Republican, Oct. 23, 1905, p. 4.
- "No clue discovered," Wilkes-Barre PA Record, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 5.
- "No clue whatever yet," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 1.
- "Petto, the Ox, murder victim," New York Sun, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 5.
- "May have good clue," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 25, 1905, p. 1.
- "Revenge on Black Hand," Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1905, p. 1.
- "Di Primo one who hated him," New York Sun, March 14, 1909, p. 2.
- Sing Sing Prison Inmate Register, New York Department of Correctional Services, Series B0143, New York State Archives, Albany, NY, No. 54088, p. 269.
- Flynn, William J., The Barrel Mystery, New York: James A. McCann Company, 1919, p. 13-14, 16-22.
- Petacco, Arrigo, translated by Charles Lam Markham, Joe Petrosino, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974, p. 9, 14.