Costello, Frank (1891-1973)

Born Lauropoli, Cassana allo Ionio, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, Feb. 18 1891.
Died New York, NY, Feb. 18, 1973.

Costello was born Francesco Castiglia in the Province of Cosenza, Italy, in 1891 (he reported an apparently incorrect birth date of January 26, 1891, on his naturalization petition) and was taken to New York by his family at age four, arriving on April 2, 1895. His family settled first in Italian East Harlem (108th Street), within the territory of the Terranova Mafia clan, and later relocated to Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

As a youth, Costello involved himself in the street gangs of the Five Points. (Calabrian immigrants were clustered in the lower Manhattan neighborhood.) He was discharged after teenage arrests for assault and robbery, but he was jailed for a year after a concealed weapon conviction in 1915. He eventually was initiated into the Mafia but often worked independent criminal enterprises with non-Italian partners.

Costello moved wholeheartedly into illegal alcohol distribution during Prohibition Days. His bootlegging enterprises are believed to have extended beyond New York City. He became known as the "Prime Minister of the underworld," because he cultivated extensive contacts among elected government officials and bureaucrats and could provide insurance that law enforcement would provide protection for the enterprises he sponsored.

An application for citizenship was approved in September of 1925. Within three months, Costello was indicted in New York federal court for participating in a liquor conspiracy.

During the Castellammarese War, Costello nominally served Joe Masseria's New York organization. Following the 1931 assassination of Masseria, Costello became a top aide to Masseria's successor, Salvatore "Charlie Luciano" Lucania.

Costello reportedly had a hand in busy New York night spots. He was said to have financial interests in Casino de Paree, Cotton Club, Ubangi Club and Stork Club. He also busied himself with gambling ventures in the post-Prohibition 1930s, obtaining official government approval to place slot machines everywhere in New York. That brought him into direct conflict with reform Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who, despite court protection of the slots, collected all the machines in 1934 and personally destroyed them with a sledge hammer. Costello later held a financial interest in the Piping Rock casino in Saratoga, New York.

In this period, Costello became friendly with syndicated columnist Walter Winchell. When Winchell received threats, Costello reportedly provided bodyguards for the columnist.The racketeer was also friendly with Collier's Weekly journalist Quentin Reynolds.

Costello's political influence was considerable. He attended the 1932 Democratic National Convention.

Lucania was taken out of action by compulsory prostitution charges in 1936.  In mid-June of that year, Lucania began a sentence of thirty to fifty years in prison. He was first held at Sing Sing Prison, not far from the city, and could continue to manage the affairs of his crime family from there. Weeks later, he was moved upstate to Clinton Prison in Dannemora. Lucania underboss Vito Genovese would have taken over the crime family, but Genovese left the United States for Italy in December 1936. He remained out of the country through the Second World War.

Costello became acting boss of Lucania's Manhattan-based crime family and an important member of the Mafia Commission, arbiter of disputes in the Sicilian-Italian underworld of the U.S.

Genovese was arrested in August 1944 by the American military in postwar Italy. He was returned to the U.S. the following year to stand trial on an old murder charge. In 1946, Lucania was deported permanently to Italy, leaving Costello momentarily alone atop Lucania's old Mafia organization. Due to the mysterious death of a key witness, the government was unable to prosecute the murder case against Genovese, and Genovese was freed. He once again became a power in the crime family and a rival to the authority of Costello.

Costello found hosts for his slot machines in Louisiana, where they were looked after by "Dandy Phil" Kastel. In the 1950s, Kastel and Costello opened the Beverly Club casino in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans.

Costello's position in the crime family was weakened through appearances before the Kefauver Committee in February and March 1951, the October 1951 murder of his New Jersey-based lieutenant Willie Moretti and a 1956 conviction for tax evasion. During this period, the U.S. government also revoked his citizenship and moved to have him deported.

On May 2, 1957, while Costello was free pending a legal appeal, he was shot in the head by a would-be assassin. The bullet only grazed his scalp. Costello bled but survived. Greenwich Village mobster Vincent Gigante, a loyal Genovese follower, was arrested for the shooting. Gigante was released after Costello refused to identify him as the shooter.

In October of that year, Costello's closest underworld ally, fellow Calabrian Albert Anastasia, was murdered. Costello is believed to have resigned as crime family boss at this time, turning the organization over to Genovese. In October 1958, Costello's final appeal was rejected, and he was sent to Atlanta Federal Prison.

Genovese joined him in Atlanta the following spring, when he was convicted of federal narcotics conspiracy charges. Costello was released from the prison in June 1961.

Costello returned to a private life in New York with his wife Loretta. On February 7, 1973, he suffered a mild heart attack in their Central Park West apartment. He was taken to Doctors Hospital on East End Avenue and Eighty-seventh Street. On the morning of February 18, with Loretta by his side, he died following another heart attack. He was buried in St. Michael's Cemetery in Elmhurst, Queens.

Related Link:

  • "Add Memo to desk," New York Sun, March 5, 1935, attachment to Whitley, R., Letter to J. E. Hoover, FBI file no. 62-35793-1, April 25, 1935.
  • "Excerpts from final day's proceedings hear in the Senate group's crime inquiry," New York Times, March 22, 1951, p. 26.
  • "Frank Costello dies of coronary at 82; underworld leader," New York Times, Feb. 19, 1973, p. 1.
  • "Lucania sentenced to 30 to 50 years; court warns ring," New York Times, June 19, 1936, p. 1. 
  • "Salvatore Lucania...," FBI report NY 62-8768, file no. 39-2141-9, May 5, 1946, p. 1-3, 10.
  • "Vito Genovese," FBI report, file no. 92-2938-5, Jan. 31, 1958, p. 3.
  • Bonanno, Joseph, with Sergio Lalli, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.
  • Dewey, Thomas E., Twenty Against the Underworld, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1974.
  • Francesco Castiglia birth certificate, Cassana allo Ionio, Feb. 18, 1891.
  • Katz, Leonard, Uncle Frank: The Biography of Frank Costello, New York: Drake Publishers, 1973.
  • Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, Part 7, New York - New Jersey, Hearings before the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, U.S. Senate, 81st Congress 2nd Session, 82nd Congress 1st Session, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951
  • Petition for Naturalization, no. 61756, May 1, 1925, District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
  • SAC Atlanta, "Vito Anthony Genovese," FBI memorandum to director, file no. 92-4594-1, April 13, 1960.
  • U.S. v. Frank Costello, Civil 133-28, March 9, 1959.
  • Wolf, George, with Joseph DiMona, Frank Costello: Prime Minister of the Underworld, New York: William Morrow & Company, 1974.

Corallo, Antonio "Tony Ducks" (1914-2000)

Born East Harlem, NY, Feb. 12, 1914.

Died Springfield, MO, Aug. 23, 2000.

"Tony Ducks" Corallo served some jail time for trafficking narcotics as a kid and gradually became a big shot in the Gagliano-Lucchese Family in New York.

Some believe he directly succeeded Tommy Lucchese as boss of the Family in 1967, but it appears that he was passed over at that time because he was serving a prison sentence for bribing the New York City water commissioner. Carmine Tramunti appears to have served as boss until he was put behind bars and Corallo was released.

Corallo guided the Lucchese Family into labor racketeering, construction and waste hauling rackets. Corallo is believed to have been a key participant in bid-rigging and bribery schemes involving New York City government contracts. He was tied to former Tammany boss Carmine DeSapio in a 1969 case.

The FBI identified the 71-year-old Corallo as long-time leader of the Lucchese Family in 1985, as authorities moved against the Mafia Commission members in New York. Police agencies had bugged a car, which was owned by a Corallo confidant and often used by Corallo, and then followed that car around for four months, picking up pieces of conversations.

Corallo was sentenced to 100 years in prison after the Commission trial. He died Aug. 23, 2000, within the federal prison hospital in Springfield, MO.

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Coppola, Michael (1900-1966)

Born Fisciano, Salerno, Italy, July 29, 1900.
Died Oct. 1, 1966.

"Trigger Mike" Coppola became a major figure in the New York Mafia upon the death of Joe Masseria in April of 1931. A highly regarded gunman to that point, Coppola was given control of many of the Bronx and East Harlem rackets formerly controlled by Ciro Terranova, who slipped into retirement.

Coppola entered the U.S. as a child. In 1918, he became a citizen upon his father's naturalization.[1]

As a young man in East Harlem, Coppola involved himself in hold-ups. In 1922, he reportedly was convicted of grand larceny and served a prison sentence at Sing Sing. Upon his release from prison in March 1925, he involved himself in gambling and bootlegging.[2] The gangster allies of his youth included Tommy Lucchese, Joseph Stracci and Joseph Rao. Coppola appears to have become a significant member of Charlie Luciano's inner circle, based in downtown Manhattan, later in the decade.[3]

Coppola is believed to have been involved in some way in the armed robbery of Magistrate Vitale's Bronx banquet in 1929 - a banquet attended by Terranova and a number of his underworld and political allies. That robbery and the subsequent recovery of all items taken exposed city government connections with the mob. Following the robbery, attendee John "Zacci" Savino was found to be in possession of a letter referring to Vitale and the holdup. The letter was signed "M.C."[4]

In spring 1930, Coppola was noted traveling from Cuba to Florida in the company of Luciano ally Meyer Lansky.[5] Authorities suspected Coppola in the late 1930s of involvement in the smuggling of narcotics into the United States.[6]

New York Police believed he had a role in setting up the November 1946 beating death of Republican political organizer Joseph Scottoriggio in East Harlem. Scottoriggio had been actively supporting Frederick Bryan against underworld-favored Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Coppola's old friend Joey Rao and later Coppola himself were taken into custody as a material witness following the killing. Early in 1947, authorities sought Coppola's wife Doris and her father David L. Lehmann, believing they knew something about the Scottoriggio killing. By summer, Doris was located and brought before a grand jury.[7] Early the next year, Doris, then twenty-seven, died during childbirth at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York.[8] Some insist that Michael Coppola arranged her death in order to eliminate a witness to the Scottoriggio slaying.

Coppola's rackets included a monopoly on coin-operating vending and gaming machines. He was also involved in numbers gambling, sports bookmaking, loansharking, labor racketeering and perhaps narcotics. His territory included areas in Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan, as well as Miami Beach, Florida. Miami Beach became his home around 1950.[9] Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno oversaw some operations for Coppola.[10]

An odd gangland connection was uncovered in February 1955. Authorities investigating Buffalo Mafioso Joseph DiCarlo learned that DiCarlo had recently hosted a wedding reception for his daughter said to have cost $35,000. DiCarlo had avoided paying a Prohibition Era government fine by pleading poverty, and investigators believed the wedding proved DiCarlo was lying. It was discovered, however, that the bills for the lavish wedding reception had been sent not to DiCarlo but to Michael Coppola.[11]

In the early 1960s, Coppola was indicted for evading income taxes during the years 1956-59. According to prosecutors, he owed a total of $385,494 in addition to penalties of up to $40,000. While there were no financial records of Coppola's dealings, the IRS calculated his taxes by approximating his net worth. In 1962, Coppola was sentenced to a year in prison, four years' probation and a $40,000 fine. He served nine months of his prison term and was released in late November.[12] By 1964, the government claimed that Coppola's tax debt had risen to almost a million dollars. A settlement of $400,000 was reached in May of 1964.

In 1963, informant Joseph Valachi identified Coppola as a leading figure in the U.S. Mafia.


  1.  Coppola's date of birth is not entirely certain. Doerner, Fred W. Jr., "Crime conditions in the Miami Division," FBI report, file no. , NARA record no. 124-10208-10000, Nov. 15, 1963, p. 55; Walsh, Edward T. Jr., "Paul Joseph Correale," FBI report, file no. 92-4264-9, NARA record no. 124-90066-10151, Sept. 26, 1960, p. 13.
  2.  FBI interview with Coppola, Jan. 14, 1939.
  3.  Doerner, Fred W. Jr., p. 55; FBI interview with Coppola, Jan. 14, 1939.
  4.  "Vitale guests granted writ; hit '3d degree,'" Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 31, 1929, p. 1.
  5.  Passenger manifest of S.S. Gov. Cobb, departed Havana, Cuba, on April 2, 1930, arrived Key West, Florida, April 2, 1930.
  6.  Walsh, Edward T. Jr., p. 13.
  7.  "Mrs. Coppola still gone," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1947, p. 27; "Beaten party aide visited by Dewey," New York Times, Nov. 7, 1946, p. 15; "Election captain dies of beating; Dewey and police pledge capture," New York Times, Nov. 12, 1946, p. 1; "Scottoriggio death still is unsolved," New York Times, Nov. 13, 1946, p. 1; "Mrs. Coppola held in election killing," New York Times, July 16, 1947, p. 1; Turkus, Burton B., and Sid Feder, Murder, Inc.: The Story of the Syndicate, reprint of 1951 edition, New York: Da Capo Press, 1992, p. 129.
  8.  "Mrs. Coppola dies after baby is born," New York Times, March 19, 1948, p. 48; New York City Death Index, certificate no. 6862, March 18, 1948; "5,000 at Coppola rites," New York Times, March 23, 1948, p. 27.
  9.  Doerner, Fred W. Jr., p. 55.
  10.  Walsh, Edward T. Jr., p. 13, 15; SAC Miami, "Miami winter season 1958-1959," FBI memorandum to Director, File no. 62-75147-29-742, NARA record no. 124-90110-10015, p. 7.
  11.  "Some of DiCarlo party bills reported going to 'Trigger,'" Buffalo Courier Express, Feb. 17, 1955.
  12.  Doerner, Fred W. Jr., p. 55.

Colosimo, Vincenzo "Jim" (1878-1920)

Born Colosimi, Calabria, Italy, Feb. 16, 1878.

Killed Chicago, IL, May 11, 1920.

"Big Jim" Colosimo was a vice racketeer and political power broker in Chicago just after the turn of the 20th Century. His primary illicit business enterprises appear to have been gambling rackets and the management of a string of social clubs and brothels.

Colosimo was repeatedly victimized by Black Hand extortion and, for reasons largely unknown, sent to New York for aid. He called for Johnny Torrio, who partnered in a Brooklyn-Manhattan gang leadership with Frankie Yale, to move west. Torrio settled in Chicago around 1909 and immediately put an end to Colosimo's Black Hand troubles.

In 1919, Five Points Gang enforcer Al Capone, who was wanted on murder charges in New York, decided to follow in Torrio's footsteps and joined Colosimo's Chicago organization.

With the arrival of Prohibition, Torrio and Capone wished to expand their illicit enterprises into bootlegging. Colosimo, perhaps fearing to compete with established underworld gangs in the import of alcohol, reportedly refused.

Colosimo was assassinated May 11, 1920. It is widely believed the hit was performed by Yale at the request of Torrio and/or Capone.

The Colosimo-Torrio-Capone group was not a Mafia organization, and, in fact, was presenting growing problems for the true Mafiosi in town - the Gennas and later the Aiellos. The Gennas might have been partly responsible for Colosimo's death. Colosimo also went through an ugly divorce just before his death, and his former brother-in-law was apparently suspected by police.

Whoever the responsible parties were, Torrio and Capone were the main beneficiaries. They took over Colosimo's businesses and formed a full-fledged gang.

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