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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Gentile, Nicola (1884-c1970)

Born Siculiana, Sicily, June 12, 1884

Died Sicily, c1970.

"Zu Cola" Gentile was a Sicilian Mafioso who traveled the United States as a sort of underworld handyman.

Born in the southern Sicilian community of Siculiana in 1884, he arrived in the U.S. at age 19. Much of his time in the U.S. was spent in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri. He was a trusted confidant of New York Mafiosi from the early 1900s through the Castellammarese War. He was called upon to mediate a dispute between the Morello-Lupo clan and boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila in the 1920s. He also was called upon to mediate disputes involving Chicago and Los Angeles crime bosses and underworld rivals in New York City.(1)

Gentile made a number of trips across the national criminal network and briefly served in leadership roles the Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh Mafia families. He was on intimate terms with Pittsburgh bosses Gregorio Conti and John Bazzano, and Cleveland bosses Joe Lonardo and Frank "Ciccio" Milano. He served as a capodecina and counselor in the Pittsburgh Mafia and as temporary commander of the Kansas City mob.(2)

Gentile experienced several close calls. The most dramatic occurred when he was called to the Chicago underworld coronation of Salvatore Maranzano at the conclusion of the Castellammarese War. Then Pittsburgh boss Giuseppe Siragusa had made some secret accusations against Gentile, and Gentile was summoned for a disciplinary hearing that easily could have resulted in his execution. In a face-to-face meeting with host Al Capone, Gentile denied the charges and threatened to behead any person making them. Capone, who recalled meeting Gentile in the days of Mafia boss Mike Merlo, was impressed by Gentile's courage. Siragusa backed off.(3)

In 1937, facing narcotics charges from a federal arrest in New Orleans, LA, he returned to Sicily. After World War II, when Luciano was deported to Italy, the U.S. narcotics enforcement agents believed the two men teamed up in Sicily to arrange drug smuggling into the U.S.(4)

About the time of his escape to Sicily, Gentile decided to write about his Mafia experiences. A manuscript was shared with American agents in Italy. It was translated to English and later turned over to the FBI. Gentile was advised to do no more writing. However, a 1963 book named Vita di Capomafia, he cowrote with journalist Felice Chilante, repeated and expanded upon the material in the earlier manuscript. A series of articles based on the book was run in Italian newspapers. Gentile's early manuscript, published book and articles were used by U.S. law enforcement officials as corroboration (possibly also as foundation) for the tales told by Mafia informant Joe Valachi.(5) (It is likely that bits of Gentile's work were provided to Valachi to fill the considerable gaps in his personal underworld knowledge.)

Gentile received an underworld death sentence for his violation of the Mafia's code of silence. However, his assigned killers took no action against him, allowing him to die of old age.(6) Gentile's passing was not noted by the American press.(7)

Related Links:

  1. . Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  2. . Gentile. Gentile's leadership of an American Mafia crew is also noted in Gage, Nicholas, "Mafioso's memoirs support Valachi's testimony...," New York Times, Sunday, April 11, 1971, p. 51. His work as a traveling troubleshooter is noted in Messick, Hank, Lansky, New York: Berkley, 1971.
  3. . Gentile.
  4. . Hinton, Harold B., "Luciano rules U.S. narcotics from Sicily, senators hear," New York Times, Thursday, June 28, 1951, p. 1.
  5. . Gage.
  6. . Blickman, Tom, "The Rothschilds of the Mafia on Aruba," Transnational Organized Crime, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1997, Transnational Institute website: .
  7. . In 1971, Gage, closed with, "Nothing has been heard about him in recent years, but he is believed to be still alive."