About the Lucchese crime family
The Lucchese crime family is one the “Five Families,” of the nationwide phenomena known as La Cosa Nostra, that dominates the city of New York and the surrounding areas.
The Lucchese family originated in the early 1920s with Gaetano “Tommy” Reina serving as the first Boss until his death in 1930. Reina’s murder was one of the first major deaths to take place during the two year war for control of the La Cosa Nostra rackets nationwide. This war came to be known as the Castellammarese War, being named after the hometown in Sicily of Salvatore Marazano the leader of the Castellammarese Clan. Reina’s death was ordered by Joe “The Boss” Masseria when Masseria discovered that Reina had pledged allegiance to Maranzano, even though he had been a long time supporter of Masseria. After Reina’s death, Masseria installed Joseph “Fat Joe” Pinzolo as the Boss of the Reina Family, much to the chagrin of the top two lieutenants in the family Tommy Gagliano and Tommy Lucchese. Furious with this perceived betrayal by Masseria, Gagliano and Lucchese secretly defected to Maranzano and in 1930 Lucchese was able to lure Pinzolo to a Manhattan office building where Pinzolo was murdered.
This ushered in the era of “The Two Tommies.” With Pinzolo’s murder, as well as major defections by some of the future’s most influential mobsters including Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lanksy, Vito Genovese, etc., the scales greatly tipped in favor of Maranzano. It was not long after Pinzolo’s death that Masseria was finally murdered, ending the Castellammerese War and solidifying Gagliano and Lucchese’s control of the newly dubbed Gagliano Crime Family. Though many of the younger mobsters had thrown their allegiance to Salvatore Maranzano during the Castellammerese War, they soon began to realize that Marazano was just as greedy and hidebound as Masseria had been and even more unwilling to listen to reason. Marazano put the final nail in his coffin when at a meeting to reorganize the National Crime Syndicate he surprised everyone by declaring himself “Boss of Bosses.” Maranzano had organized all of the Italian Mafia groups into “families” and created a total of 26 families around the country that would each have their own Boss and Underboss to control the day to day activities of the family. This all was very much to the liking of the other mobsters in attendance until Maranzano then proclaimed that each of the Bosses would owe allegiance to him as the “Boss of Bosses.” A group of younger mobsters, known as the “Young Turks,” lead by Lucky Luciano and including Gagliano and Lucchese decided that Maranzano needed to go and in 1931 they made their move and got rid of Maranzano. Luciano kept the family structure that was created by Maranzano, however he added a third member to the family hierarchies called the Consigliere. The Consigliere, or counselor, was meant to be the voice of reason for the Boss and Underboss, and was usually a relative or close friend that the Boss could trust to be a straight shooter and give him the answers he needs to hear not the ones he wants to hear. The last change Luciano made was getting rid of the “Boss of Bosses” title in favor of a ruling body that would be known as “The Commission.”
The Commission’s purpose was to regulate families’ affairs and resolve all differences between the families. The original Commission was made up of the Bosses of the Five Families of New York, Luciano, Joe Bonanno, Joe Profaci, Vincent Mangano and of course Thomas Gagliano. It also included the Boss of the Chicago Outfit Al Capone as well as Stefano Maggaddino who was the Boss of the Buffalo Crime Family. During this time, the 1930s and 1940s, Gagliano and Tommy Lucchese led their family into profitable areas including the trucking and clothing industries. When Luciano was sent to prison for pandering in 1936, a rival faction took control of The Commission. This alliance included Vincent Mangano, Joe Bonanno, Stefano Maggaddino and Joe Profaci, and these four men used their influence and power to control organized crime in America. Thomas Gagliano understood he was in a vulnerable position and was careful to avoid opposing this new alliance. Gagliano was always a quiet man who avoided the media and stayed off the streets. He preferred to pass his orders to the family through his Underboss Tommy Lucchese as well as a few other close allies. In contrast, Lucchese was the public face of the family who carried out Gagliano’s orders. In 1946, it was Lucchese who attended the Cosa Nostra Havana Conference in Cuba on behalf of Gagliano. Gagliano kept such a low profile throughout his life that virtually nothing is known about his activities from 1932 until he retired or died some time between 1951 and 1953.
Lucchese Takes Over
After Gagliano finally retired or died, Lucchese became Boss of the newly named Lucchese Crime Family. Lucchese continued with Gagliano’s policies and made the Lucchese Family one of the most profitable in New York. Lucchese established control over Teamsters union locals, worker’s co-ops and trade associations as well as rackets at the new Idlewild Airport (the original name of JFK Airport). Lucchese also expanded the family rackets in Manhattan’s Garment District and in related trucking industries around New York City. He also built close relations with many powerful New York politicians, including Mayors William O’Dwyer and Vincent Impellitteri as well as members of the judiciary who aided the family on numerous occasions. Throughout his entire time as Boss, Lucchese made sure to keep a low profile and saw to it that his men were well taken care of.
When Lucchese became Boss, he also helped his friends Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino in their fights to take control of their families. The three plotted to take over The Commission by murdering family bosses Frank Costello of the Luciano Family and Albert Anastasia of the Anastasia Family (formerly the Mangano Family). In 1957 Costello narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, but saw the writing on the wall and stepped down as boss paving the way for Genovese to take over what would now be known as the Genovese Crime Family. Also in 1957, Albert Anastasia was murdered in the Barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel, allowing Gambino to become Boss of the newly named Gambino Crime Family. Once he helped his two friends take over their respective families Lucchese immediately began conspiring with Gambino to remove Genovese from power. Genovese had become too ambitious in their eyes and had been trying to set himself up as the “Boss of Bosses” and seemed to be on a path to success until the disastrous Apalachin Meeting in 1957. Over 100 mobsters from around the country had gathered for the Meeting and before they knew it, it was being raided by New York State Troopers who had grown suspicious of the number of out of state vehicles that were gathering in the small town of Apalachin. This caused Genovese to lose a great deal of respect in the underworld as it had been his idea for the meeting which had resulted in roughly 60 high ranking mobsters being arrested. In 1959, with the assistance of Luciano Costello and Meyer Lansky, Lucchese and Gambino had Genovese arrested and effectively removed from the underworld for good.
Gambino and Lucchese assumed full control of The Commission following Genovese’s arrest and in 1960 they backed the Gallo brothers in their rebellion against Profaci Family Boss, Joe Profaci. Gambino and Lucchese saw the war as a way to take over rackets from the distracted Profaci Family and reap the benefits of their disorganization. They soon also would uncover a plot by Joe Bonanno to assassinate them and they used their control of The Commission to strip Bonanno of his role as Boss. This power play started a war within the Bonanno Family and served to strengthen both the Lucchese and Gambino families. In 1962, the alliance between the Gambinos and Luccheses would become even stronger when Carlo Gambino’s oldest son Thomas married Lucchese’s daughter Frances. Lucchese would live a quiet stable life until his death from a brain tumor on July 13, 1967. At the time of his death, he had not spent a day in jail in 44 years. Lucchese left his family in a very powerful position and they had a stronghold in the neighborhoods of East Harlem and The Bronx. The estimated membership of the Family at this time was about 200 made men and thousands of associates. Lucchese had intended for longtime Capo Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo to succeed him, however since he was imprisoned at the time he named another longtime Capo, Carmine Tramunti, as Acting Boss until Corallo’s release.
Tramunti, the French Connection, Corallo and the Jaguar
At the time he was appointed the Temporary Boss, Carmine “Mr. Gribbs” Tramunti was in ill health. With Boss-in-Waiting Anthony Corallo in prison, Tramunti was expected to hold power until Corallo’s release. Tramunti faced a number of criminal charges during his tenure as Acting Boss and was eventually convicted of financing a large heroin smuggling operation that would come to be known as “The French Connection.” This operation was responsible for distributing millions of dollars in heroin along the East Coast during the early 1970s. Before the French Connection trial went to court, the seized heroin that was being stored in the NYPD evidence storage room was stolen in a brazen scheme. Hundreds of kilograms of heroin worth $70 million was stolen from the evidence lockup and replaced with bags of flour. Officers only discovered the theft when they noticed insects and rats eating the so-called “heroin.” The scope and depth of the theft is still unknown, but officials suspect the thieves had assistance from corrupt NYPD officers. In 1974, after Tramunti was finally incarcerated, Corallo finally took charge of the family.
Corallo came from the Queens faction of the family and received his nickname “Tony Ducks” from his ease at “ducking” criminal convictions. Corallo was a Boss squarely in Lucchese’s mold. He was heavily involved in labor racketeering and worked closely with Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters President, during the 1940s and 1950s. Corallo also had close ties to multiple labor unions and appointed his longtime friend Salvatore “Tom Mix” Santoro as the Underboss of the family to oversee and supervise all of the labor and construction rackets in New York. Corallo also appointed Christopher “Christie Tick” Furnari as the Lucchese Family Consigliere and with this hierarchy in place the Family prospered, particularly in the areas of narcotics trafficking, labor racketeering and major illegal gambling.
Corallo was very much an old school gangster and refused to discuss business during sit-downs, fearing that the FBI was monitoring the conversations. Instead, he used the car phone in the Jaguar owned by his bodyguard and chauffeur. Salvatore Avellino and Neil Migliore would switch off as Corallo’s driver and bodyguard and they would shuttle Corallo around town while he discussed business on the car phone. This method of conducting business would ultimately be Corallo’s downfall.
During Corallo’s leadership, the Lucchese Family New Jersey Faction grew considerably and became major earners for the Family. Corallo would go on to induct the two leaders of the New Jersey Faction, Anthony Accetturo and Michael Taccetta. These two men reportedly controlled most of the loansharking and illegal gambling operations in Newark, New Jersey at the time. Corallo grew so comfortable with Accetturo and Taccetta’s leadership of the Jersey Crew that he eventually began to allow them to more or less run their crew as a semi-autonomous entity. The Jersey Crew was, at one point, even considered it’s own family by law enforcement with Accetturo labeled the Boss and Taccetta the Underboss. Corallo’s relaxed method of controlling the Jersey Crew would in the future play a significant role in the downfall of the Lucchese Family.
In the early 1980s the FBI finally managed to plant a bug in the Jaguar and were able to record Corallo speaking at great length about mob affairs including illegal gambling, labor racketeering, drug trafficking and murder. Corallo was eventually arrested and put on trial with the heads of the other Five Families at the time. This would become known as the infamous Mafia Commission Trial. On December 16, 1985, in the midst of the Mafia Commission Trial, John Gotti had Gambino Boss Paul Castellano murdered without the approval of the Commission. This cardinal sin caused the Lucchese and Genovese families to team up and plot Gotti’s murder to avenge the death of Castellano. The Lucchese Genovese alliance failed to kill Gotti but they did manage to kill his Underboss Frank Decicco and would temporarily be content with this killing, but would still look to get their revenge on Gotti for the next several years.
In 1986 the Mafia Commission Trial finally took place and at the end of it Corallo, Santoro and Furnari were all found guilty and each sentenced to 100 years in prison. During the trial, as Corallo realized that the entire Lucchese hierarchy was about to be decimated, he chose Anthony “Buddy” Luongo as Acting Boss. However, Luongo disappeared in 1986 and Corallo’s ultimate choice to succeed him was Vittorio “Vic” Amuso. Allegedly both Amuso and Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso were candidates for the job and evidence suggests Corallo wanted Casso, but Casso convinced him to select Amuso instead. Amuso officially became Boss in January 1987 when Corallo, Santoro and Furnari were officially sentenced. Amuso made Casso his Underboss in 1989, allowing him to exert great influence over family decisions. Corallo and Santoro both died in prison and Furnari was eventually released in 2014.
Amuso and Casso: The Disaster Duo
During the late 1980s the Lucchese Family went through a period of great turmoil. Vic Amuso and his fierce Underboss Anthony Casso, the first members of the Family’s Brooklyn wing to head the Family, instituted one of the most violent reigns in American Mafia history. Both men were heavily involved in labor racketeering, extortion, drug trafficking and committed many murders. Amuso and Casso were strong rivals of Gambino Family Boss John Gotti and strong allies of Genovese Family Boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante. They both made their reputation earlier in 1986 when, angry over the murder of Gambino Boss Paul Castellano, Corallo and Gigante gave them the contract to kill Gotti. On April 13, 1986 a car-bombing killed Gambino Underboss Frank Decicco but missed Gotti. The assassination attempt sparked a long and confusing tension between the three crime families with many deaths on all sides.
During the late 1980s, Amuso began demanding 50% of the profits generated by the Jersey Crew. New Jersey leaders Anthony Accetturo and Michael Taccetta refused Amuso’s demand and in retaliation Amuso and Casso ordered the entire Jersey Crew killed. This is now known as the infamous “Whack Jersey” order. He summoned them all to a meeting in Brooklyn, however fearing for their lives all of the Jersey Crew members skipped the meeting and went into hiding. Taccetta and Accetturo were later put on trial in 1990, as both Amuso and Casso were implicated in a case involving the fitting of thousands of windows in New York at over-inflated prices, and the pair went into hiding that same year naming Alphonse “Little Al” D’Arco as Acting Boss.
For the next few years Amuso and Casso ruled the family from afar and ordered the execution of anyone they deemed troublesome, either they were considered rivals or potential informants. All of this convinced many Lucchese wiseguys that Amuso and Casso were no longer thinking or acting rationally. What followed next was a series of botched murder attempts on family members suspected of being informants. Ironically, these murder attempts would be the catalyst that caused several family members to actually turn informer. One of the biggest was Capo Peter Chiodo. Amuso ordered the killing of Chiodo, who along with Casso was in charge of the Windows Case operation. Chiodo was shot 12 times but still survived. After Amuso ordered hits on Chiodo’s wife and sister, a major violation of longstanding rules against women being harmed, Chiodo did finally turn state’s evidence and provided the entire Windows Operation that eventually controlled $150 million in window replacements sold in New York City. Amuso had also earlier sanctioned a hit on Jersey Crew Boss Anthony Accetturo, who was on trial in 1990 and also cooperated with the government.
The planned executions went as high as Acting Boss Al D’Arco. Furious over the failed hit on Chiodo, Amuso set up D’Arco to be killed at a Manhattan hotel. This hit, however, came undone after D’Arco saw a man hide a gun in his shirt then slip it into the bathroom. Recognizing this as a classic setup for a hit, D’Arco fled for his life and turned himself over to the authorities to spare him and his family from Amuso and Casso and their increasingly erratic demands. D’Arco was the first Boss of a New York crime family, acting or otherwise, to become an informant. Casso had also reportedly conspired with Lucchese Family Consigliere Frank Lastorino and several others to murder Steven “Wonderboy” Crea, Amuso’s Underboss of the Bronx, as well as Gambino Family Acting Boss John “Junior” Gotti, son of the imprisoned John Gotti, along with members of the Genovese Crime Family once again. However, due to massive indictments, none of the plots were committed.
Law enforcement eventually caught up with the two fugitives. On July 29, 1991, the FBI captured Amuso in Scranton, Pennsylvania and on January 19, 1993 the FBI captured Casso in Mount Olive, New Jersey. Amuso steadfastly refused all offers of cooperation from the government and was convicted on all charges in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison. In contrast, Casso quickly agreed to a deal in March of 1994 and started revealing family secrets. One of the biggest secrets was that Casso had been paying two NYPD detectives, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, to provide Casso with sensitive police info and even perform contract killings. In 1998, however, prosecutors tore up the deal after accusing Casso of lying about other mob turncoats and bribing guards, among other things. As a result, the court ordered no leniency for Casso at his sentencing and he was sentenced to 13 consecutive life sentences.
Although he had been sentenced to life in prison, Vic Amuso remained the official Boss of the Lucchese Crime Family until 2009 when longtime Acting Boss Steven “Wonderboy” Crea had his parole restrictions removed and was officially promoted to Boss of the Lucchese Crime Family. A February 2004 New York Post article stated that the Lucchese Crime Family consisted of about 9 Capos and 82 soldiers. In March 2009, an article in the New York Post state the Lucchese Family now consisted of approximately 100 made members. The Lucchese Crime Family is believed to be on an upward swing thanks to the leadership of Crea and is still very much involved in organized crime. A 2013 indictment stated members and associates of the Genovese, Lucchese and Gambino crime families control waste disposal businesses by dictating which companies could pick up trash at certain locations and extorting protection payments preventing further extortion from other mobsters.
In June 2013, the New York FBI office reduced the number of agents focused on investigating the Five Families to 36 agents divided into two squads. In the past, the FBI had a separate squad of 1-20 agents investigating each crime family. It is believed that this scaling back of the amount of agents covering organized crime has created an environment that is conducive for the continued growth of all Five Families and that soon enough La Cosa Nostra will once again have a stranglehold on New York City. Only time will tell what will really happen, but the Lucchese Crime Family has reportedly added multiple members to its ranks and is continuing to flourish from the government’s lack of investigations.