Ness, Eliott (1903-1957) - U.S. Treasury Dept.

Born Chicago, IL, April 19, 1903.

Died Coudersport, PA, May 16, 1957.

While Eliot Ness was not quite the one-man show depicted on television and radio and in the movies, he was a key player in the government's assault on Al Capone's Chicago crime empire.
Ness led a band of eight young men, titled the "Special Prohibition Unit" but remembered as "The Untouchables" for their refusal of enormous bribe offers. The group conducted a frontal assault against Capone's bootleg brewery operations while other government agencies picked away the crime lord's underbosses and allies and assembled the tax evasion case that would jail Capone in 1931.

Ness later led a municipal police force as Cleveland's Director of Public Safety in the late 1930s. In the job, he thoroughly modernized the city's police department while cracking down on corruption, violent labor activity, gambling and contraband alcohol. News headlines largely ignored his successes, however, and focused on the decapitation murder cases in the Kingsbury Run area that stymied Ness and on his anti-labor image. Ness saw additional bad press as the result of a drunk driving accident in 1942 and was forced to resign his post.

In 1947, former safety director Ness ran as a Republican for mayor of Cleveland. He lost the Nov. 4 election in a landslide to Democrat Thomas A. Burke, having sacrificed much of his personal wealth in the campaign.

Ness eventually left public service and became president of the Guaranty Paper Company and the North Bridge Industrial Corp. in Pennsylvania. He died at his home in Coudersport, PA, on May 16, 1957 (his remains reportedly were cremated), just before his autobiographical "The Untouchables" was published. The book, which exaggerated Ness's importance in the Capone fight and glossed over his failings, became enormously popular and spawned the myth of Eliot Ness.

The Untouchables by Eliot Ness with Oscar Fraley.

Hennessy, David (1857-1890) - New Orleans PD

Born New Orleans, LA, 1857.

Killed New Orleans, LA, Oct. 16, 1890.

Police Chief David C. Hennessy of New Orleans was ambushed by Mafia assassins on his way home from work late on the night of Oct. 15, 1890. Hennessy was less than a block from the house he shared with his widowed mother when shotgun blasts from across Girod Street knocked him to the ground. Two of his assailants then approached and fired into his midsection with high-caliber rifles. The chief was still able to stand and return fire with his revolver. The assassins fled. Hennessy stumbled around the next corner and collapsed. When fellow police officers reached him, Hennessy reportedly said he had been shot by "the dagoes."

The location where Chief Hennessy was gunned down by Mafia assassins.
The chief was returning home in the glow of electric streetlights on the
raised sidewalk to the right. Mafia gunmen hid in the shadow
of the long, sloping roof to the left.

While the Sicilian criminal society bore the whole blame for Hennessy's death the following morning, many others in the New Orleans community had motive for acting against Hennessy. Among these were the Provenzano clan, who, despite their friendly stance toward the chief, might never have forgiven him for his role in the capture and deportation of their infamous leader, Giuseppe Esposito, in 1881.

Many in the Democratic establishment also had reason to fear and despise the chief. In 1881, Hennessy killed Chief of Detectives Thomas Devereaux in a gunfight. Devereaux was well connected in the local Democratic party and was close friends with private investigator Dominick O'Malley (who was later known to be working for the Matranga Mafia organization). The corrupt old-line Democrats also might have feared the charismatic Hennessy because he was committed to the anti-immigrant, anti-political-machine reform platform of Mayor Shakespeare.

The Matranga organization was likely infuriated when Hennessy backed the rival Provenzanos in a court battle resulting from a Provenzano attack against Matranga men in the summer of 1890.

Finally, the chief apparently threatened to reveal some damaging information about affluent and influential Sicilian merchant Joseph Macheca (affiliated with the Matrangas) and his friends at the retrial of the Provenzanos late in 1890. Hennessy appears to have gained the information from Italian government sources.

Hennessy is credited with being the first law enforcement professional to identify the Mafia in America and attack it with some degree of success. He must also be viewed as law enforcement's first martyr in the fight against organized crime.

Related Links:

Fiaschetti, Michael (1881-1960) - New York PD

Born Morolo, Italy, Feb. 8, 1882.

Died Brooklyn, NY, July 29, 1960.

Detective Michael Fiaschetti might be forgotten but for a boastful 1928 autobiography entitled, "The Man They Couldn't Escape." (After a printing in England, it was published in the U.S. with the title "You Gotta Be Rough.") In the book, Fiaschetti describes his adventures as a member of and a commander of New York's Italian Squad.

A native of central Italy (about 50 miles east of Rome), Fiaschetti arrived in the U.S. about 1895. He and his family spent some time in the Boston area before moving to New York. Fiaschetti was naturalized an American citizen. He joined the New York Police Department in 1908 and was initially assigned to a beat in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Fiaschetti quickly won appointment to serve under Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino on the NYPD Italian Squad. He worked with Petrosino for just half a year. The young detective clearly idolized the tough Petrosino, who was known for somewhat brutal tactics. In his autobiography, he noted that he acquired a preference for physical force and a collection of knowledgeable stool pigeons over the subtler deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes. He also scoffed at the code of omerta. Criminals on their deathbeds may not inform on the guy who shot them, Fiaschetti argued, but that's only because there's no way that could benefit them (and it could be dangerous for the loved ones they leave behind). But, if given a choice between being sent up the river and ratting on a criminal confederate, Fiaschetti said nearly every underworld character would sing.

Fiaschetti battled kidnappers, black handers and lottery racketeers during his career. While he was not directly involved, the death of the powerful Giosue Gallucci, racket king of Italian East Harlem, occurred during Fiaschetti's tenure.

The Italian Squad was gradually dismantled after Petrosino's 1909 assassination in Sicily. The squad was briefly resurrected under Fiaschetti's leadership years later. In 1920, the new squad chief traveled to Italy in disguise, duplicating the assignment that cost Petrosino his life. Fiaschetti's "old school" methods and tactlessness with political leaders resulted in the end of the Italian Squad in 1922.

Fiaschetti ran a private detective agency for some time and toured the country giving lectures on law enforcement. He returned briefly to public service when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York appointed him third deputy police commissioner in charge of city markets. That position was eliminated in 1938.

He died in the summer of 1960 at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in Brooklyn.

Related Links:

Dimaio, Francis (1864-1954) - Pinkertons

Born Philadelphia, PA, March 4, 1864.

Died Delaware, 1954.

Pinkerton Detective Francis P. Dimaio performed critical roles in the resolution of a number of high-profile cases from 1890 through 1920. (The photo at right was taken during his retirement, when Wild West historian James D. Horan documented Dimaio's contributions to law enforcement in several books.)

Dimaio's most recognized role was as a member of the "Who are those guys?" band that pursued Wild Bunch leaders Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Dimaio's pursuit occurred in South America, and it appears unlikely that he was ever within practical reach of Butch and Sundance. The detective was in Argentina on another matter when word came that the two outlaws had also arrived in that country.

Dimaio mobilized local law enforcement and plastered Wanted posters everywhere. Butch and Sundance fled into the jungles as the rainy season arrived to prevent any pursuit. As conditions improved, word came out of Bolivia that the two outlaws had been shot to death.

But Dimaio's more significant efforts were against the Mafia in the United States. He went under cover, posing as an apprehended Sicilian counterfeiter, into the Orleans Parish Prison to learn the story behind the 1890 assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy. Demaio succeeded in extracting useful information from one of the gunman. Terribly under weight and very ill from the conditions in the prison, Dimaio was removed from the prison as the case against the Hennessy assassins began. He needed more than a year by the ocean in Atlantic City, NJ, before he was again fit for assignment.

Later on, Dimaio contributed to the break up of a Mafia blackmailing operation in the western Pennsylvania and Ohio region (see Oldfield). He made it a point to learn Mafia methods and customs from Sicilian sources and used that information to infiltrate Mafia units in the U.S. As a regional supervisor of the Pinkertons, Dimaio supervised a group that aggressively targeted Mafia kidnapping in the Midwest.

Dimaio eventually retired from the Pinkerton Detective Agency to start his own private detective firm in Philadelphia. He lived to a ripe old age, retiring to a hotel in Delaware. History lost track of him there, but evidence suggests he died in 1958 at the age of 94.

Read more about Dimaio in:
Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia.

Cavolo, Charles (1891-1958) - Cleveland PD

Born Vietri di Potenza, Italy, March 6, 1891.

Died Cleveland Heights, OH, April 23, 1958.

Detective Charles S. Cavolo was born in southern mainland Italy in 1891 and came to the United States as a teenager in 1907. His family settled on Cleveland's infamous Mayfield Road.Cavolo grew up alongside many who would become Cleveland mobsters. But he decided to take another path, and joined local law enforcement.

Cavolo's familiarity with Italians and Sicilians and his background on Mayfield Road equipped him to challenge the local Mafia on its home turf. During the Prohibition Era, he was highly successful in organized crime cases.

In 1926, he nabbed a Cleveland gangster for importing a Chicago gunman for a hit against a local man. The following year, he worked on two well-publicized murder investigations, those of Samuel Volpe (a sewer contractor found frozen and riddled with bullets in early March) and Louis Nobile.

As a key member of the Cleveland Police Black Hand Squad, Cavolo helped local newspapers to decipher an underworld feud in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Gang leader Frank Lonardo was murdered in fall of 1929. His own bodyguard Frank Alessi was suspected. Bootlegger and convicted cop-killer Carmello Licarti was found dead in a Cleveland gutter in early April 1930, a bullet wound in his head and mud stuffed in his mouth. By the end of the month, Alessi - the suspect in the Lonardo murder - was dead. Cavolo immediately arrested Frank Brancato for that killing.

Cavolo was momentarily discredited in February 1931, when it was reported that he helped murderer and thief Ross Valore win parole. Cavolo was able to prove that he had no part in the parole. He underscored his position on Valore by securing a statement from the convict's wife that implicated Valore in six murders.

The detective tracked the Hymie Martin-Solly Hart gang to Buffalo, NY, in summer of 1931. The gang was wanted for stealing $45,000 worth of jewelry. Cavolo's bloodhound sense also led to the arrest of Carmine Pigano (alias Benny Nacci) on Cleveland streets in 1938. Pigano was wanted in Dearborn, Mich., in connection with the 1930 kidnapping of a nine-year-old boy.

In 1940, as head of the police automobile bureau, Cavolo unearthed a tire theft ring with headquarters in Cleveland and Buffalo. Stolen tires were transported to a Buffalo clearinghouse. Police estimated that the thieves had earned a million dollars through the racket.

Bruno, Joseph "Dovi" (1889-1946)

Born Barcellona, Messina, Sicily, Feb. 11, 1889.

Died Oct. 22, 1946.

Joseph Bruno (Giuseppe Dovi) was a key man in the Philadelphia organization of Salvatore Sabella. Sabella stepped down as boss at the conclusion of the Castellammarese War in 1931.

Bruno's role in the Philly mob is unclear between 1931 and 1936. Some sources believe he competed with John Avena for dominance in the regional Mafia. When Avena was killed in 1936 - the result of a feud with the Lanzetti brothers that began during Salvatore Sabella's reign - Bruno became the undisputed authority in the Philly Mob.

Bruno lived outside Philadelphia, first in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and later in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Bruno ruled the Philadelphia underworld for a decade until his death of natural causes.

There is no family relationship between Joseph Bruno and later Philly Mob boss Angelo Bruno.

Related Links: