Friday, February 17, 2017


by Jeff Canarsie

This list, isn't really devised by a certain statistic, it's merely based on three factors.  Sadly, you're not going to see any names from today's time period, and that's mainly because the bosses who really made an impact on organized crime in this country are all gone.  Todays mob boss is very different from yesterdays. What are the three factors? 

1.  Longevity
2. Impact on family and organized crime in general
3. Intelligence and perseverance.

These three(not in ascending order) are the brightest of the bunch.


Carlo Gambino
This is a no brainer.  Carlo was perhaps the most shrewd and Machiavellian of the bunch.  Not only did he align himself with the Castellano's, but he put
himself into power by playing all sides against one another, ultimately using his abilities to place himself as the head of a crime family. 

He was an incredible businessman, and an effective Judas in every sense of the word.  He was not only able to bridge the gap between many crime families, but was successfully able to stay out of prison his entire life.  The power base he created along with Lucky Luciano and others has stood the test of time. The Gambino crime family was not the most powerful mob family in the United States for decades for nothing.

He was behind some of the biggest scandals within the Mafia.  Not only did he set up Joey Gallo's execution, but he setup Albert Anastasia's, Vincent Mangano's, and  Salvatore Maranzano's.  

Albert Anastasia lays dead
Of those murders, perhaps Anastasia's was the biggest.  Carlo had realized long before that backing Albert Anastasia was the right move, but he also realized that at his age versus Anastasia's that he would likely never become boss, so he went to the Gallo brothers to assassinate Albert.  The rest would be history as the Gallo's walked into the Park Sheraton hotel barber shop and blew Anastasia's head off.  Later Gambino would hire the Gallo's to hit Joe Colombo, but that was years down the line.

Gambino would go on to form the Commission with Lucky Luciano, and take over as boss of his own family.  The Gambino's would overtake the waterfront, and garment district.  Gambino would also go on to feed information to the Government about Luciano which would ultimately lead to Luciano's expulsion from the United States, rendering Luciano powerless and placing the Godfather of the organized crime in a "consigliere" type of role until the end of his life.  That move made Carlo Gambino "Capo di tutti capi"- boss of all bosses.


Vincent "The Chin" Gigante
Perhaps not the brightest in the beginning of his career in the mafia, Vincent really focused, and for over 30 years was able to avoid being arrested and or indicted for any crime.  Early in his career he worked directly for Vito Genovese as his bodyguard and driver. He ran with a small crew based out of the Triangle social club, off Sullivan street in Manhattan.  Gigante would stay based of Sullivan street his entire career.

1957 was a monster year for Gigante.  If you have ever seen the film "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight," Gigante came right out of that movie and novel by Jimmy Breslin.   Vito Genovese ordered that then boss Frank Costello be removed from power.  Genovese was not a patient man, and felt he had waited long enough to take over the reigns and set the wheels in motion for Vincent Gigante to kill Frank Costello.  The problem was, even though Vincent had been practicing his shooting skills, he missed the target, or rather failed miserably.  What happened was, Vincent was in the hallway waiting in the shadows for Costello to enter his apartment building.  Rather than stay quiet and just shoot, he yelled "Hey Frank this is for you," Frank turned an cocked his head slightly and the bullet ending up grazing the side of his head.  Had Vincent just stayed silent Costello would have been dead.

What went down as a botched hit, and should have gotten Gigante killed, because not only did Costello recognize Gigante but the doorman did as well.  Costello was angry, but saw the writing on the wall and went into an early retirement.  Costello would have the last laugh on Genovese however years later when someone let the Government know where the drugs were coming from in the city. It's long been suggested that Costello is the one who informed the feds about Genovese importing heroin into the country from Sicily. It led to Genovese getting a life term and got Gigante seven years.  It might not have been an eye for an eye, but it was silent justice.

As Gigante walked out of prison, he became a caop and eventually took over the Genovese crime family.  He would consolidate every racket in the city.  He owned the Concrete Club, New York Coliseum,  Fulton Fish Market, the garment district, Jacob K. Javits Center, labor unions, drywall unions, private waste industry, and rug trafficking.  He took over the Housewreckers Union(local 95). The money came pouring in.

He was responsible for the Philadelphia debacle with Angelo Bruno. He gave silent permission for Bruno to be killed, then backed off giving the word, only to promise the Commission that he would enact revenge(in the killing of Antonio Caponigro, Frank Sindone and Joe Salerno).  He then would go on to see Phil Testa killed and then directly signed off on the rise of Nicodemo Scarfo, which turned out to be more headaches than he imagined.  He signed off on the murders of Frank Narducci and Rocco Marinucci for the murder of Philip "Chicken man" Testa.

He was the first boss to use a "front-boss," which isn't much different than a street boss.  He was fully in control of the Genovese crime family behind the scenes while Anthony Salerno stood out in public as the front boss.  For that Salerno would end up getting 100 years in prison in the Commission case and would die in prison with his lips sealed.

Gigante would become "capo di tutti capi," after John Gotti was sentenced to life in prison.  Gigante also had feigned mental illness for almost his entire career in crime.  What began as small little incidents became full blown theatrics as Gigante would place himself into mental hospitals periodically in an effort to stifle the Government.  His act would go on for 30 some years, even fooling those around him.  While many bosses would not allow themselves to be seen unshaven and wearing dirty clothes, Gigante took the act full swing as was able to stay off the radar for decades.

Eventually it would catch up to him.  Salvatore Gravano testified that Gigante was in fact, stable, ready, and was the leader of the Genovese crime family.  The FBI was unable to catch him on a wiretap and to my knowledge only had a single phone call where Gigante was caught acting "normal."  The FBI began arresting his family in an effort to put pressure on Gigante.  It worked, Gigante caved and the act was over.  He would end up dying in prison.


Raymond Patriarca
A lot is not written about Raymond Patriarca outside of New England. In fact, I doubt many mob aficionado's know who he is.  Outside of New York, let's face it, not many know the other players.  Sure, you may know who Al Capone is, but do you know who Frank Balistrieri is? How about Russel Buffalino?  All have there place in the history of the mafia, but Raymond Patriarca actually had a seat on the com
mission, and not many people know that.

Ray was as powerful as other bosses.  His strength came from politics and sheer willingness to be violent.  What isn't known, and I speculate that because Rhode Island is such a small state, is that Patriarca's power and strength came from the fear of others.  He was the boss of the New England mafia for 30 plus years and believe me that's not by accident.

In his teenage years, he was charged with various crimes including, murder, hijacking, armed robbery, safe cracking, white slavery(wtf?), and auto theft.  In the 1930's he was considered public enemy number one.   Early on he established ties into the political arena, even getting an early release based upon his ties to the local government.  There was a scandal, yet Patriarca walked out of the prison.  Those political ties would keep Patriarca out of prison and allow him to control all of New England.

Patriarca took over the New England mafia in the 1950's when Phillip Buccola fled the country to avoid prosecution for tax evasion.  Patriarca was ruthless and brutal.  In one instance Patriarca demanded that an older member kill his own son, due to a debt owed to Patriarca.  The man refused so Patriarca shelved the member.  However, from my own personal knowledge this was more of a test of loyalty and the man was brought back into the fold.

Patriarca would be directly responsible for killing seven members of the McLaughlin gang, who at the time was interfering with both the Winter Hill Gang(Whitey Bulger) and Patriarca's own loansharking rackets in Boston, Mass.

Ray Patriarca(teenage years)
What is NOT reported, is that he and James "Whitey" Bulger had a very close friendship, and both made a lot of money together via the waterfront and drugs.  Patriarca allowed Bulger to earn and even gave him small territories in Massachussetts to work from.  The long standing idea that Bulger was ratting everyone out in the Italian mafia just isn't exactly accurate.  In many cases Bulger did in fact give the federal government information on the Angiulo's, but did no provide information on Patriarca.  In addition any "Angiulo crime family" monikers are wrong.  The Rhode Island mafia is still called the Patriarca crime family.

In the 1970's Patriarca was indicted on murder conspiracy charges and was sentenced to ten years in federal prison where he was able to continue running the crime family from the behind the wall. Under Patriarca's direction Providence, which was once a foundry and steel iron town, became a clean and safe city to live in.  Granted, politics were rigged and city jobs were for those who could pay to get the job, the city was relatively a great place to live. 

Federal Hill, is where Patriarca would set up shop.  His COIN-O-MATIC was his headquarters, and everyone on Federal Hill adored Ray.  Not only would he not allow anyone on the hill to go without, he would enforce that everyone was safe and sound, and in turn the residents on the hill would call Ray anytime there was any problem or any suspicious behavior.  That's how Ray was able to lay way under the radar for so long.  He insulated himself, but integrated himself into the neighborhood and they responded by protecting him.

He was very close to Carlo Gambino, and the heads of the other five families.  To give a boss from New England(which is no longer the case) a full seat on the commission, and carte blanche speaks volumes as to the respect and power that Patriarca had earned. When Patriarca died, the Rhod
e Island mafia died with him.  They are still there, continuously moving the base from Boston to Providence, but it's not the same.

Now some of you may be wondering why Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, or maybe even why Al Capone is not on my list.  There are reasons why.  Lucky Luciano should have his place in history. He was the Godfather of organized crime.  He is responsible for the very creation of the mafia five family structure, the rules, the commission and more. 

Where I tend to veer away from him, while he has his place, was because his run was short. He wasn't able to stay off the radar.  He was in many instances enjoyed the fame and cameras that followed him. He is, and always will be important and the figurehead, but there are others who did more with less than he did.

Al Capone on the other hand, I find to be personally a bit of a joke.  He was powerful yes, but what people forget is that he wasn't the boss of bosses ever.  He was in Chicago, and at the time there were other rivals as powerful as he was.  Granted he did kill most of the them, but he wasn't singular.  He was a part of a bigger group.  While he will go down in history as the first showboating mob boss, we also have to remember that Chicago has ALWAYS answered to New York and not the reverse.

Meyer Lansky was gangster.  He was more gangster than most.  He was a man who is the godfather of the rackets to so many different criminal groups it's not funny.  He was deadly, and taught the American mafia how to earn.  His place in history, is very safe.  He may not get street cred because
of his Jewish roots, but believe me, he's the real deal.  He not only invented Las Vegas, but was behind some of  the biggest mob hits of all time.  Without Lansky and Luciano the mob would never have been what it was, or is.  Just thought I would mention them, in case people got a little bent about my choices.

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