Capone, Alphonse (1899-1947)

Born Brooklyn, NY, Jan. 17, 1899.

Died Palm Island, FL, Jan. 25, 1947.

Capone was a brutal Neapolitan mobster who became a powerful force in the American Mafia. Though he served as one of the architects of the nationwide criminal Syndicate, Capone never earned full acceptance by his Sicilian associates. Control of the underworld of his adopted Chicago eluded him until very near the end of his racket career.

Capone grew up in the Five Points Gang. He was a fearsome enforcer for Five Points leader Johnny Torrio. When Torrio later established himself in Jim Colosimo's Chicago vice rackets, Torrio and Frank Yale of Brooklyn arranged for Capone to make the move west in 1919.

Capone quickly rose to the top of the Colosimo-Torrio crime empire, which thanks to Torrio and Capone, included bootleg liquor among its enterprises. Torrio narrowly escaped death on Jan. 24, 1925, and retired, leaving the gang to Capone.

Al Capone's desire to control all of Chicago, including the local branch of the exclusively Sicilian Unione Siciliane, and his utter brutality ensured that the city's underworld was in a near constant state of warfare from 1925 to 1930. His tinkering with the Unione offended old-line Sicilian Mafiosi. Old friends Capone and Yale - both vassals of Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria - had a falling out. Legend says it was over the hijacking of liquor shipments.

When Yale was murdered in 1928, Capone initially was not suspected. But weapons used at the scene reportedly were linked to Chicago gangland murders, including the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Capone is generally believed to have been responsible for the that Massacre of non-Italian North Side gangsters in February 1929 and a horrific triple-murder in May of that year which put an end to a rebellious Sicilian conspiracy within his organization.

The bloodletting drew the attention of East Coast Mafiosi. A mid-May conference of Chicago gang leaders was held in Atlantic City to iron out differences. Beyond Capone and his right-hand man Frankie Rio, attendees at the convention are unknown. It appears likely that the bosses of East Coast criminal organizations were present.

Following the Atlantic City meeting, Capone was arrested in Philadelphia on a weapons charge. Some believe he orchestrated the arrest. He remained in prison for most of a year.

When he emerged from prison, Capone found the nation's Mafia groups preparing for war and he backed his old boss Masseria. As his part in the Castellammarese War, Capone sent regular financial contributions to Masseria and eliminated Castellammarese ally Joe Aiello in September of 1930.

Capone saw his New York ally destroyed by Charlie Luciano's treachery in April of 1931. But the Chicago gang leader hosted the crowning of opposing Mafia general Salvatore Maranzano as the new boss of bosses in order to heal the old wounds.

Luciano then disposed of Maranzano in September 1931. Capone quickly arranged another underworld convention. Luciano refused the boss of bosses title. A new Commission of powerful Mafia leaders was installed to mediate differences between crime families.

Capone had only about a month to enjoy the new underworld order. His trial for tax evasion began in October. On Nov. 24, 1931, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, in addition to more than a quarter million dollars in taxes, interest and fines. In jail, an existing case of syphilis reportedly began to eat away at his mind and body. He served about seven and a half years of his sentence.

He emerged from prison on Nov. 16, 1939, virtually incapacitated and was never again involved in underworld affairs. He retired to Palm Island, Florida, and died on Jan. 25, 1947. The causes of death were listed as stroke and pneumonia.

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Bufalino, Rosario "Russell" (1903-1994)

Born Montedoro, Sicily, Sept. 29, 1903.

Died Kingston, PA, Feb. 25, 1994.

Bufalino rose to the leadership of a Pittson, Pennsylvania, based Mafia Family. The Family territory included northeastern Pennsylvania and part of upstate New York.

Bufalino became acting boss for the Family possibly as early as 1949 but certainly by the mid-1950s. He succeeded to the top spot in the Mafia organization upon the death of John Sciandra. Former boss Santo Volpe likely served in an advisory capacity until his death near the end of 1958.

Some believe Joseph Barbara served as boss of the Pittston Mafia from about 1949 through 1957. However, this appears to be an expansion of Barbara's underworld role encouraged by media sensationalism following the 1957 Apalachin convention. Barbara appears to have served as capodecina of a remote Buffalo Mafia outpost in Endicott, New York.

Bufalino avoided law enforcement notice until late in 1957, when the Apalachin revelations put him in the spotlight. In the wake of Apalachin investigations, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service discovered that Bufalino's claim of a U.S. birth was false and began work to have him deported. That effort ultimately failed when Italy refused to accept him.

Bufalino won an acquittal when he was tried as leader of an interstate burglary ring in 1969. He also was acquitted when charged with conspiracy, extortion and robbery in 1973.
By the 1970s, Bufalino was regarded as one of the more influential crime bosses. He is widely believed to have had a part in the disappearance and murder of former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa was known to have a close relationship with Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran, a Bufalino lieutenant. When Hoffa was released from prison and attempted to retake control of the Teamsters' union, Bufalino is widely believed to have ordered Hoffa eliminated in order to maintain the status quo.

Bufalino's courtroom luck wore out in 1977, when he was convicted of extortion. After his appeals failed, he entered Danbury CT Federal Prison in 1978, leaving Edward Sciandra and William D'Elia to run the Pittston Crime Family in his absence. Bufalino was released from prison in 1981 but was almost immediately convicted of conspiring in an attempted murder of a government witness. He went back to prison in 1982, serving six years and eight months of a ten-year sentence.

Bufalino died Feb. 25, 1994, at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston, Pennsylvania. His apparent successor as boss of the Pittston Crime Family was D'Elia. Edward Sciandra reportedly remained involved from a distance - his home was in Bellmore, New York. Sciandra later retired to Florida, where he died in July of 2003.

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Buchalter, Louis "Lepke" (1897-1944)

Born New York, NY, Feb. 6, 1897.

Executed Ossining, NY, March 4, 1944.

Louis "Lepke" Buchalter had the distinction of being the first organized crime lord to be sent to the electric chair.

New York-born Buchalter was the administrative head of a Syndicate enforcement group known in the media as "Murder, Inc." Under Lepke, the Murder, Inc., group performed cold-blooded hits (devoid of detectable motive) ordered by the Mafia's ruling commission.

Buchalter, who worked closely with Joe Adonis and Albert Anastasia, also controlled labor unions in Manhattan's garment industry and apparently dabbled in narcotics trafficking.

He was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary in April of 1940. The 1940 arrest and subsequent court testimony of admitted Murder Inc. killer Abe "Kid Twist" Reles aided New York State prosecutors in convicting Lepke of murder.

Legal wrangling delayed the execution of a death sentence until 1944, when Lepke was electrocuted in Sing Sing prison.

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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," (; and "New England Mafia Homepage" (
  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.

Petrosino, Joseph (1860-1909) - New York PD

Born Padula, Italy, Aug. 30, 1860.

Killed Palermo, Sicily, March 12, 1909.

Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino achieved great success in the fight against Italian and Sicilian organized criminal groups in the United States. When he attempted to take the fight to the Mafia's home island, he was assassinated.

On a visit to Palermo in western Sicily, officially to gather information on the identities of Mafiosi who might have fled to the U.S., Petrosino was shot through the body, in the throat and in the head while he stood beside a garden in the Piazza Marina on March 12, 1909. He was 48.

His visit to Sicily was supposed to have been a secret. But many sources agree that Police Commissioner Bingham released fairly specific information about the trip through the New York Herald and other newspapers before Petrosino landed in Europe. Mafiosi in the U.S. were able to mobilize their Old World fellows to act against the lieutenant.

Many believe Vito Cascio Ferro, a Mafia leader on both sides of the Atlantic, organized and/or participated in the assassination. (An often retold and probably untrue story has Cascio Ferro excusing himself from a dinner party thrown by a local government official to do the deed. Cascio Ferro promptly returned to dinner afterward.) It is also known that several mafiosi traveled to Sicily just before the attack on Petrosino.

Petrosino joined the New York City police department in 1883, despite failing to meet the department's height requirement. Capt. "Clubber" Williams was his mentor. He rose through the ranks, reaching the detective sergeant level in 1895 under then-police commissioner (and later U.S. President) Theodore Roosevelt.

Petrosino would be considered brutal by today's standards. He did not hesitate to use threats and force to extract information from street thugs. While his tactics would be frowned upon by many today, they were accepted at the time (forensic science was in its infancy) and highly effective. Petrosino was placed in charge of the Italian Squad, a group of Italian and Sicilian officers whose job was to check organized criminal activity in ethnic neighborhoods.
Petrosino's greatest successes came against transplanted Neapolitan criminals - those belonging to the Camorra. He was less fortunate in dealing with the Sicilian Mafiosi, but may have been on the verge of acquiring some very effective tools in the form of documentary evidence from Italian police agencies.

Among Petrosino's more noteworthy adventures were: saving Angelo Carbone from execution by extracting a murder confession from another man; deporting Camorra leaders Tony Strolle and Enrico Alfano; and identifying both the victim and the perpetrators of the infamous barrel murder in 1903 (though the ring leaders, including Ignazio Lupo, Vito Cascio Ferro and Giuseppe Morello, managed to escape prosecution).

Many of Petrosino's cases were chronicled in a 1914 series of newspaper articles by A.R. Parkhurst under the title, "Perils of Petrosino." His career was also the subject of a number of pulp fiction volumes in the U.S. and Italy.

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Oldfield, Frank (1867-1916) - Postal Inspection

Born Ellicott City, Maryland, Jan. 1867.

Died Athens, Ohio, May 25, 1916.

John Frank Oldfield, who went by the name of "Frank," and his younger brother Clarence for a time held local government jobs in their native Howard County, Maryland. They were key men in the Republican Party of Ellicott City (at a time when political rallies often were indistinguishable from street gang clashes). Into the late-1890s, Frank Oldfield served as the sheriff of Howard County.

During the Administration of President William McKinley, Frank Oldfield joined the United States Postal Inspection Service, while Clarence Oldfield became an inspector for the Customs Service. Continued political activity momentarily cost Frank Oldfield his job in the fall of 1899. After his return to the Postal Inspection Service, Frank Oldfield became the most renowned member of what was at the time the highest ranking federal law enforcement agency.

Oldfield worked primarily in the Midwest, but he also had occasion to travel. His authority as a postal inspector gave him law enforcement powers throughout the U.S.

In the early 1900s, he assisted in the conviction of a former congressman for taking bribes related to the purchase of postage stamp dispensing machines. Oldfield also cracked down on several Ohio postmasters he found were taking money from the till and some postal patrons who were using the mails for gambling and pornography.

Oldfield mobilized local government agencies against a growing ring of Mafia black handers in Ohio known as the Society of the Banana. While many of the underworld group's illegal activities were not mail-related, the Society's practice of extorting money through mailed threats brought the case to Oldfield's desk. He succeeded in breaking up the ring, led by Salvatore Arrigo, Francesco Spadera and Salvatore Lima, by 1909.

During his investigation of the Society, Oldfield tracked down branches in Indiana, Illinois, New York, California and Oregon, and established links between the Arrigo-Spadera mob and the alleged assassins of both New Orleans' Police Chief David C. Hennessy and New York Detective Joseph Petrosino. In the summer of 1909, Oldfield arrested Charles Vicario at Bellefountaine, Ohio, charging him with being a fugitive and with having knowledge of the Petrosino assassin.

Oldfield and his family settled in the community of Athens, Ohio, about 75 miles southeast of Columbus. Oldfield spent his final years battling cancer. He died in Athens on May 25, 1916. A small news item in the newspaper of nearby Lancaster, Ohio, stated, "J.F. Oldfield, former postal inspector and famous as one of the shrewdest detectives in the federal service, died at his home here following a long illness from cancer. Oldfield gained national fame in the Black Hand cases in northern Ohio."