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 had  mistresses in common - Judith Campbell Exner was said to have dated both men - and passed information to each other through their women friends.

Following John Kennedy's election to the White House, Attorney General Robert Kennedy put enormous legal pressure on the Chicago crime lord. Giancana responded by suing to end FBI surveillance. 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. A Senate panel hoped in summer 1975 to have him testify on his reported connections to a CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Before his appearance could be scheduled, 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. The murder initially was attributed to a power struggle within the Chicago Outfit. Johnny Roselli, a well-traveled Chicago mobster who also was connected to the CIA's anti-Castro plot, was found murdered a year later. This caused some to speculate that both killings had something to do with the work done with the CIA.

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