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Mobsters – Joe Bonanno – The Youngest American Mafia Boss Ever
Joseph Charles Bonanno was born on January 18, 1905 in Castellammare del Golfo, a small town on the west coast of Sicily, Italy. When he was three years old, his father Salvatore Bonanno moved the family to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. They lived there for about 10 years, but Salvatore, caught in a police traffic jam, was forced to move her family back to Sicily.
In Sicily, Salvatore Bonanno was allegedly involved in mafia activities. His son Joseph followed in his footsteps and was also heavily involved in mafia crimes. In 1924, to escape Mussolini’s attack on the Mafia, Bonanno fled Sicily by boat to Havana, Cuba. In Havana, Bonanno was placed on a Cuban fishing boat, illegally landing him in Tampa, Florida. Bonanno was terrified in Jacksonville, Florida when he was briefly detained by immigration officials. Bonanno somehow got out of this jam, and he made his way to New York as fast as he could.
In New York, Bonanno quickly made contact with other mobsters from Castellammare del Golfo who had already established an illegal presence in America. Truth or not, Bonanno told people from his hometown that his father Salvatore was a big mobster from Sicily. This eased Bonanno’s transition into the fraud business.
Bonanno quickly rose through the ranks and soon became the boss of his small crime family. Another Italian mobster tried to move into Bonanno’s territory, leading to a sit-in led by three powerful mobsters, including Bonanno’s cousin Stefano Magadino, a mob boss in Buffalo, New York, and Salvatore Maranzano, a top mobster. who was from Bonanno’s hometown of Castellammare del Golfo. With the deck stacked in his favor, Bonanno won the hearing and was given control of his own family, in addition to that of a rival gangster.
In 1927, Maranzano engaged in a bloody all-out mob war against Joe “The Boss” Masseria for control of all the rackets on the East Coast of the United States. It was known as the “Castellammarese War”. By this time, Bonanno had become Marancano’s right-hand man, or the rank of captain. Charles “Lucky” Luciano held the same position with the Masseria gang. Maranzano approached Luciano with an offer to leave Masseria and join Maranzano’s forces. Luciano, seeing the writing on the wall, and also because Masseria frowned upon Luciano’s alliances with non-Sicilians such as Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, agreed to kill Masseria so that Maranzano would now be the number one mob boss in America.
Luciano lured Masseria to a small Italian restaurant in Coney Island. While Luciano was relieving himself in the men’s room, Bugsy Siegel, along with three of his top Jew killers, broke in and shot Massaria.
Maranzano immediately called for the summons of all mobsters in New York. At this meeting, Maranzano created five crime families with five bosses, one of whom was Luciano. Maranzano also proclaimed himself “Capo de Tuti Capo” or “Capo of all bosses”.
Luciano hadn’t imagined the path his organization would take with Maranzano in charge of five families. So once again Luciano used four Jewish assassins, this time led by Red Levine, to stab and shoot Maranzano in his downtown office.
Luciano, trying to unite all the mafia bosses (five families) in New York, called for a meeting with Bonanno. The purpose of this meeting was to assure Bonanno that Luciano’s intentions were, despite Maranzano’s death, to preserve the concept of the five families.
At this meeting, Bonanno told Luciano, “I have no problem with you.”
That was exactly what Luciano wanted to hear. As a result, Luciano placed Bonanno as the head of the former Maranzano family, changing the name to “The Bonanno Family”. Bonanno was only 26 years old at the time, making him the youngest ever mob boss in America.
Bonanno’s illegal empire, teaming up with gangsters like Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and Vito Genovese. In order to protect himself from possible prosecution by the police, Bonanno also engaged in several legal enterprises as well as illegal activities such as fraud, extortion, kidnapping, gambling and drug dealing. Bonanno also dipped his sticky fingers into the clothing center and bought himself pieces from B&D Coat Company and Morgan Coat Company. In order to increase the fortunes of his clothing companies, Bonanno uses the power of the Garment Workers Union to give himself an advantage over the legitimate companies in the garment center.
Of course, this meant paying the local police to look the other way, while Bonanno schemed and brutalized his way to the top of the clothing industry. It was so easy to bribe the police, most of whom were Irish, Bonanno once said, “All the Irish cops made payments.”
Bonanno also invested in a Wisconsin cheese factory. In addition, Bonanno was also part of Sunshine Dairy Farm in Middletown, New York, and Anello and Bonanno Funeral Home in Brooklyn. Bonanno’s most enterprising work was probably the invention of double-decker coffins, which were used exclusively by Anello and Bonanno Funeral Home. These coffins were assembled so that a second body could be stored under the one intended for burial. This determined the need to dig a grave for the victim of mob destruction.
Although Luciano and Bonanno were equals in the mafia concept of the five crime families, Bonanno considered himself to be more traditionally faithful to the mafia concept followed in Italy. Bonanno, in his book A Man of Honor, later wrote: “Luciano was so Americanized that he operated with the most primitive consideration: to make money. Men of my tradition have always regarded wealth as a by-product of power. Such men of my tradition were primarily in the people business.”
In 1937, Luciano was arrested, tried and convicted on trumped-up prostitution charges by Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Luciano was sentenced to 30 years in prison. However, after World War II, Dewey, now the governor of New York, commuted Luciano’s sentence to time served and had Luciano deported back to Italy. This arrangement suited Luciano as he could still rule his empire from across the ocean with little or no difficulty. Luciano’s release was reportedly orchestrated by Frank Costello and Joe Bonanno, who reportedly passed Luciano’s hat to five mob families and donated the loot, believed to exceed $250,000, to Dewey’s campaign coffers, which were used. Dewey in the unsuccessful 1948 presidential election, which was won by Democrat Harry Truman.
By the early 1960s, Bonanno had expanded his empire into the state of Arizona, an area open to any mob boss who wanted to take control. And Arizona, located near California, Bonanno, becoming more and more ambitious and greedy, thought that he could move to California and take over the rackets of Frank DeSimone, who was the boss of the Los Angeles mob.
However, Bonanno’s biggest mistake was when he decided to start infiltrating Canadian rackets, which angered his cousin Stefano Magadino, a Buffalo mob boss who considered Canada his sacred domain.
In the early 1960s, Bonanno began to have problems with his own family (they felt he was spending too much time outside of New York), as well as with the bosses of other families, which included the Mafia Commission, as it was now called. its members. Bonanno’s greatest ally in the Commission was Joe Profazzi of Brooklyn. In 1962, Profaci died after a long battle with cancer, and was replaced by Joe Magliocco, who was not considered as strong and fearless as Profaci.
Bonanno felt it was time to act and approached Magliocco with a plan to kill the bosses of the other three families: Carlo Gambino, Tommy Lucchese and Bonanno’s cousin Stefano Magadino, as well as Frank DeSimone of Los Angeles. Magliocco agreed, and he ordered the hit to his new boss, Joe Colombo. However, instead of following Magliocco’s orders, Colombo reported the treacherous activities to Gambino, Lucchese and Magaddino. As a result, Magliocco and Bonanno were ordered to appear before the Commission to explain their actions.
Bonanno ordered the other three bosses to hike, but Magliocco sheepishly agreed to appear before the Commission. At this meeting, Magliocco confessed his actions and threw himself on the mercy of the Commission. Inexplicably, the Commission agreed to spare Magliocco’s life. However, Magliocco’s punishment was banishment from his own crime family, and Magliocco was no longer considered even a low-ranking member of La Cosa Nostra. In other words, Magliocco lost his “button” forever.
Because Bonanno refused to appear before the Commission, members of the commission removed leadership of the Bonanno family and replaced him with Gaspar DiGregorio. The move split the Bonanno family in two, with some members joining DiGregorio and others joining Bonanno.
On the night of October 21, 1964, the night before his appearance before the New York Grand Jury, Bonanno was walking down Park Avenue with his lawyers when suddenly two men jumped out of a car. They grabbed Bonanno and threw him into another car. What happened next is conjecture.
When Bonanno appeared in court 19 months later, his story was that he was kidnapped by his cousin, Stefano Magaddino, and held at a farm in Buffalo. Bonanno said Magadino repeatedly urged him to quit the Mafia with death threats. Bonanno said he refused and instead tried to strike a deal in which his newborn son, Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno, would take control of the Bonanno crime family. Bonanno, against the wishes of the Commission and many of his own criminal families, had already appointed his son as his “consiglieri”. Magaddino, speaking for the rest of the commission, said Bonanno flatly refused Bonanno’s offer. Bonanno said he was released after a few months and spent the remaining 19 months in exile hiding in Tucson, Arizona.
However, this story holds very little water. If Magadino did find Bonanno in custody, there is very little chance that Bonanno would have ever left Buffalo alive after giving up leadership of his family and following the plan to kill the three Commission bosses.
The most likely story is that Bonanno arranged to have himself “kidnapped” so that behind the scenes he and his son Bill could take over Mob rackets across the country.
While Bonanno was “absentia”, DiGregorio called for a meeting with Bill Bonanno to discuss how they could peacefully coexist as a family. When Bill Bonanno arrived at the meeting on Troutman Street in Brooklyn, he and his men were greeted by a hail of gunfire. However, it was late at night and due to the darkness and poor aim of both groups no one was hurt.
The next two years after the return of the elder Bonanno were called the “Banana War”. Because he was unable to eliminate Bill Bonanno, the Commission replaced DiGregorio with Paul Sciacca, who was considered a tougher and more capable mobster than DiGregorio.
In 1968, after years of bloodshed on both sides, Joe Bonanno suffered a heat stroke and announced his retirement. After Bonanno and his son Bill moved to Tucson, Arizona, the two Bonanno family groups merged under Sciacca.
While Bonanno was in Tucson, where he was supposedly allowed to store all the rackets he had assembled there, there were several bombing attempts: at the homes of Joe and Bill Bonanno, and at the homes of some of their Tucson crime associates. No one was killed, however, and soon other New York bosses believed Bonanno when he said he would stay out of the East Coast rackets entirely and focus solely on Arizona.
In 1983, after serving time for conspiring to obstruct a Grand Jury investigation into his two sons’ business in Arizona, Joe Bonanno inexplicably wrote his autobiography, Man of Honor. The Bonanno book went into great detail about Bonanno’s role in the rise of the Mafia in America. The rest of the mob moss in America was outraged that Bonanno would break his “omerta” vow. The head of the Bonanno crime family at the time, Joe Massino, started calling his family the Massino Family, but the name never stuck. Massino himself became a government informant in 2005, the highest-ranking mobster in America ever to do so.
Joe Bonanno died peacefully of a heart attack on May 11, 2002 at the age of 97, outliving his mob contemporaries by two to four decades.
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