Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.
For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.
Murder, violence and corruption are words synonymous with organised crime. Its long and bloody history influences all our lives whether we know it or not. But what lies behind these shadowy organisations? Where did they come from and how did their influence become so widespread? In this extraordinary book, leading crime investigator Martin Short reveals the shocking truth of how the Mafia and other criminal organisations maintain their strength through public demand, as well as extortion and murder. The Rise of the Mafia traces the roots of modern organised crime. Martin Short has met hundreds of people with first-hand knowledge and has interviewed some of the most powerful mob masters and informers in the business as well as speaking with key police and FBI officers.
|Publisher:||John Blake Publishing, Limited|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||699 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Rise of the Mafia
The Definitive Story of Organized Crime
By Martin Short
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2009 Martin Short
All rights reserved.
The City of Brotherly Love
On a March evening in one of America's largest cities the boss of the Mafia crime family was shotgunned to death outside his home.
Four weeks later the family's consigliere (elder statesman) was found dead in the trunk of a stolen car. Tortured, stabbed and repeatedly shot, his body was surrounded with torn $20 notes to symbolize that he was killed for being greedy. The same day his brother-in-law was found shotgunned to death. Naked, brutally tortured, bound hand and foot and stuffed in an undertaker's body bag he had been dumped on a deserted street.
In September the body of a capo (a lieutenant in the crime family) was discovered near an isolated landfill. He had been shot three times in the back of the head.
That October another victim was found, also shot in the head: the family's chief loanshark, the boss of its extortionate moneylending business. His body was bound with his hands behind his back and stuffed inside two green plastic rubbish bags. He had $500 in his pockets and was still wearing his gold watch. In Mafia language this denotes that he was killed not in some casual mugging but for crimes against the family.
In December a florist's delivery man called at the home of a union boss corruptly involved with the crime family. The poinsettias he carried concealed his real gift: six bullets with which he shot the union man in the face and head in front of his victim's wife.
Twelve months after the old boss's murder his successor met his death on his front porch. His killers detonated a massive bomb packed with finishing nails from across the street.
Chicago in the 1920s? New York in the 1930s? No. Philadelphia in the 1980s. In four years more than twenty Philadelphia mobsters would be slaughtered in a civil war of such violence that nothing in America compares with it since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
To most Americans, and indeed to any Britons who recall the late revolution in the colonies, Philadelphia means the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It is the city of Benjamin Franklin and the city where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When W. C. Fields visited Philadelphia he found that it was closed. On balance, however, he said he would rather be there than dead. If you belong to the Philadelphia Mafia there is no such choice. Either way, you're dead.
If a Mafia necrophile goes to Philadelphia he should head for south Philly where, if he has a strong stomach, he should dine at a restaurant known until recently as Cous' Little Italy. Cous' (pronounced Cuzz'es and named after its former superb chef) has had to change its name. It was developing a reputation for losing customers – not because they didn't like the food but because they died soon after eating there.
The Philadelphia mob war began after a meal at Cous'. On the evening of 21 March 1980 Angelo Bruno, boss of the city's crime family, left the restaurant and climbed into the front passenger seat of a car belonging to John Stanfa, his driver and bodyguard. Stanfa drove Bruno the few blocks to his home at 934 Snyder Avenue where at 9.50 p.m. he double-parked. He then wound down the window on Bruno's side. A man stepped out from behind a parked car, thrust a sawn-off shotgun through the window, put it behind Bruno's right ear and fired. Nobody saw a thing.
Angelo Bruno died instantly. In Mafia language his was an honourable death: painless, without mutilation and taking place in public outside his own home. Understandably his wife Sue did not feel this way. Photographers arrived to capture the Don's grotesque appearance in death for the world's press the following day. The indignity continued. Bruno was left in the car for hours while neighbours gawked and television crews gathered their footage. Finally the neighbours, who were mostly Italian, realized his indignity was also theirs, shouting, 'Take him away, take him away,' until he was finally removed to the morgue.
Philadelphians reacted in widely differing ways to the killing, revealing America's schizophrenic attitude towards the Mafia. Neighbours were interviewed on local television. 'A wonderful person. He couldn't be any better,' said one woman. 'He was a peaceful man, he wasn't violent,' said another. 'We all play numbers, we all go to the racetrack, know what I mean?' explained a man. 'We all cheat a little bit, but this man didn't play narcotics and that's why he's dead today.'
Most south Philadelphians seemed to think of Bruno more as a grandfather than a godfather. Their attitude is typical. Just as millions of drinking Americans do not condemn those who sold liquor in Prohibition, people who gamble see little wrong in those who run illegal lotteries and betting shops. To them the racketeer is a public servant, not a public enemy.
A Jesuit priest went much further in his column in the Daily News when Bruno died, writing:
Do you think he was any more ruthless than a David Rockefeller, onetime chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, who called in many a loan on strapped businessmen? What about the people Mafia hit men blow away?. ... I'll say this, take all the men the Mafia may have liquidated over the last half-century and they're like a drop of blood compared to the legalized murders sanctioned by President Nixon and Henry Kissinger and the CIA.
Mike Chitwood, a veteran Philadelphia policeman, was working in the homicide squad when Bruno was killed. Chitwood grew up among the Italians of south Philadelphia and knows the way they feel. 'Angelo Bruno? You could never find anybody say a bad word about him. Because they [the Mafia] always were, "nice to the people". People needed help – they couldn't pay their gas bill, electric bill, whatever – these guys would pick up the tab.
'Angelo Bruno had a reputation for being a gentleman, a family man, close to his wife and children. He was a respected member of the community and with his intelligence and business sense he could probably have been a financier or industrialist. I think he was so well-liked because he was non-violent and he wouldn't involve himself in the drug trade. A lot of people respect that.'
Press and television took up the theme of non-violence, praising Bruno as the 'gentle' or 'docile Don'. Yet there was glee in the way reporters were anticipating 'more mob rubouts soon'. They seem to regard organized crime as an amusing sideshow and the death of a top mafioso is deemed to have no impact on the rest of society. Such slaughter is irrelevant to the world at large because the mafiosi 'only kill each other'.
The police, the FBI and the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, however, realized Bruno's importance. They knew him to be one of the most powerful crime bosses in America, not simply the head of the Philadelphia family but a member of the nine-man 'National Commission' that was alleged to govern the Mafia's affairs from coast to coast. He was on the 'board of directors' of the most profitable corporation in America.
Angelo Bruno Anneloro was born in Sicily in 1910. Brought to America as a child it seems that he soon joined the network of immigrants who were rapidly becoming the most powerful force in the country's underworld. The police first picked him up in 1928 for reckless driving. He was later arrested many times but convicted only twice: for gambling and operating a still. In American law such offences are called 'misdemeanours' and are not viewed as serious crimes or felonies. Because Bruno was never convicted of a felony the Catholic church granted him a Christian burial. When he did go to jail in October 1970 it was for contempt. He had refused to answer questions asked by New Jersey's Commission of Investigation. He stayed in jail for thirty-two months and was freed only on medical grounds. Despite this imprisonment he hailed America as the best country in the world. On the Fourth of July he hung out flags.
His daughter Jeanne recalled him: 'They never pinned anything on him. They couldn't prove he did anything wrong. He never dealt in drugs, he never dealt in prostitution, pornography or murder. Even his speech was clean.' Jeanne remembers her father as a jolly man with a fine singing voice, who could play the violin and piano. She still finds it difficult to believe what organized-crime experts say about her father.
As far back as the 1950s Bruno was identified by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics as 'one of the upper echelon of the Mafia organization in the Philadelphia area' who held a policy-making role. Yet not even the FBN said that he was involved in drugs.
His Mafia career took off in 1959 when Joe Ida, then Philadelphia's boss, fled to Italy to avoid arrest. The National Commission entrusted the family to the care of Ida's under boss, Antonio Pollina, until a successor was chosen. Pollina wanted the job permanently so he ordered the murder of his main rival, Angelo Bruno. The man entrusted with killing told Bruno of Pollina's plot. Bruno complained to the National Commission which made him boss and authorized him to execute Pollina. But Bruno refused and for this non-violence he was first dubbed the 'gentle Don'.
It seems inconceivable that so benign a man should rise to the top of the Mafia, yet Bruno was not an enforcer. He was a moneymaker and above all else organized crime exists to make money. He oversaw the rackets that were fundamental to the mob – illegal gambling and loansharking – in greater Philadelphia, an area of more than 6 million inhabitants. He also controlled the rackets in vacation towns on the south New Jersey shore, notably Atlantic City, the one-time 'queen of the resorts', only 60 miles from Philadelphia.
For many years Bruno owned legitimate businesses, starting with a grocery store. By the 1950s he ran one company which dealt in aluminium goods and another ambiguously named Atlas Extermination. Later he moved into vending machines and cigarettes. He owned land in Florida which, he said, accounted for most of his wealth. He had bought when land in the sunshine state was very cheap and had benefited like many other investors from its huge real estate boom. Bruno told his daughter, 'Anybody who makes money illegally these days must be crazy. There are so many opportunities to make money the right way.'
Police experts argue that when mafiosi like Bruno buy up businesses or land it does not mean they are really 'legitimate' or reformed characters. They use these assets to 'launder' or disguise their criminal income or as fronts for further criminal activity. This way they gain a spurious respectability which, in Bruno's case, protected him from public hostility. Behind his veneer of good citizenship Bruno was, say the police, little better than his murderous Mafia compares. He may have played the part of the 'gentle Don' but in the four years before he died his crime family murdered at least seven people. They included a cigarette smuggler, a professional arsonist who had turned witness against a Philadelphia mobster, a gambler who had a fight with another family member, a shady judge and three drug traffickers. None of the dead were themselves mafiosi but each had upset the interests of the Bruno crime family.
Theories as to why Bruno was executed abound. The one most to his credit is that he abhorred drug-trafficking of any sort. Drugs had become the Mafia's biggest moneymaker. The families have little if any control over America's cocaine or marijuana trade but they dominate the heroin market in the north-eastern states. A huge market had also built up in Philadelphia for methamphetamine, PCP or 'angel dust', and quaaludes. The younger mafiosi wanted to muscle in on the market but Bruno would have none of it.
'My father got to be too good for his own good,' says Jeanne Bruno. 'People were into drugs ... and my father was against it. A lot of people wanted to make money, most likely, and they were dissatisfied because my father stuck to his beliefs....'
Other experts say that Bruno was killed over Atlantic City. For years this rundown resort had not been worth fighting over but in November 1976 the state of New Jersey made it the only place outside Nevada where casino gambling was legal. Organized-crime figures from all over America wanted this piece of Bruno territory. New York's five families, especially the huge Gambino and Genovese outfits, were not going to sit back while Philadelphia ran the lucrative rackets which are always part of 'legitimate' casino business. Henceforth Atlantic City would be an open city, like Las Vegas and Miami, with New York taking the lion's share. According to one theory Bruno was killed by his own followers for surrendering to New York. According to another he was killed by a New York family because he had told them to keep out.
There is a simpler explanation. Bruno stood in the way of younger men. Philadelphia's 'Young Turks' killed off the old Don just as an earlier generation of New York mafiosi had wiped out the old 'Moustache Petes' from Sicily in 1931. Philadelphia's Young Turks were hardly young. The entire family was ageing and the oldest of them realized that if they did not remove Bruno soon they might die before he did.
Phil Testa, Bruno's under-boss, was particularly aggrieved. 'Chicken Man' as he was known (he once ran a chicken business) felt Bruno did not confide in him. He complained about this to other family members in a conversation in November 1977 at a business bizarrely named the Tyrone Denittis Talent Agency. None of them knew the FBI was listening.
TESTA: So what's going to happen Harry? Did you hear anything about the new consigliere?
HARRY 'THE HUNCHBACK' RICCOBENE (a caporegime): Not a thing. Not one thing!
FRANK 'CHICKIE' NARDUCCI: he [Bruno] never says nothing to us. I'm capi [caporegime] and I don't know. I presume he [Testa] don't know either.
RICCOBENE: What the hell, he don't know! How are we gonna know?
NICODEMUS 'NICKY' SCARFO: And he's the 'under' [under-boss]!
RICCOBENE: If I ask him [Bruno] the first thing he might say is 'What's the interest? What's your interest in knowing?'
NARDUCCI: Well, don't they have to ask us anyway?
* * *
NARDUCCI: You know who I think would get it? This is off my head, just thinking. I would think your uncle, Nicky [Nicolo Piccolo] ... because he's up there. He's no kid. He's about 75 ain't he? He's not a young man.
SCARFO: Well, that's just it. I mean ... just keeps it up in the old age bracket. ... Not that I'm against old age, but I know now if I lived to be 75 I don't think I want no headaches. I'd leave it to the younger generation.
* * *
TESTA: I'm going to tell you something. This is in my heart. I know who is qualified but I know he [Scarfo] will never get it because there is too much opposition right now. ... He knows this fucking thing better than a lot of guys. I'm talking about the young generation. ... He's got smarts. He's not a kid you know. He's 48, I mean ... how old do you have to be to, ah ... get somewhere ...? How old are you Nick?
SCARFO: 48. I'll be 49.
TESTA: I think you're old enough. I don't ... understand. They look at us like we was kids. [Testa was 52.]
* * *
RICCOBENE: Well, see nobody can take the initiative in this thing.
TESTA. Why not?
RICCOBENE: Because you can be ostracized.
TESTA: Ostracized? What the hell is that? That word I don't understand.
RICCOBENE (laughing): You become an outlaw. ... You need backing. ... You see, it isn't like it used to be, where everybody was invited. Today ... they are only gonna invite certain people. And the certain people are going to be the ones that are gonna give him [Bruno] the vote. ... If it could be like the old days, then you could go around him a little ... you know, use the power. You talk to all your potential close associates. Then you ... nominate somebody. You propose him! 'I propose this guy!' And somebody seconds the motion. And then there is a vote between them. If nobody goes against the guy that is selected, it's all over.
NARDUCCI: Over here [meaning the USA in comparison with Italy] he's not even bounded by the 'Cigars' [the Mafia chieftains]. He just proposes 'A' and that's it. Whatever he says.
* * *
Testa then guesses that Bruno will choose Nicolo Piccolo because he has to keep a balance between Calabrians and Sicilians in the family and Piccolo is a Calabrian.
TESTA: ... because he's looking at it not as La Cosa Nostra. He looks at it like it's two factions. Let's face it. So he wants to satisfy ... a faction.
SCARFO: Which is very wrong.
TESTA: Of course it's wrong. ... You're supposed to look at this thing, La Cosa Nostra ... that's the end of it.
Excerpted from The Rise of the Mafia by Martin Short. Copyright © 2009 Martin Short. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 The City of Brotherly Love,
2 La Mala Vita,
3 The Land of Opportunity,
4 What is this Thing Called Thing?,
5 Tales of Bosses and 'Made' Men,
6 The Politics of the Saloon,
7 The Nobbled Experiment,
8 Al Capone – Public Enemy, Public Servant,
9 Voices from Prohibition,
10 Always Pay Your Income Tax,
11 The Outfit, the President and the CIA,
12 The Unholy Alliance,
13 Racketeers, Racketbusters and Tammany Hall,
14 The Fall and Rise of Lucky Luciano,
15 The Cleveland Story,
16 Gambling with the Mob,
17 Las Vegas – the House that Bugsy Built,
18 The Mob, the Boardwalk and Atlantic City,
19 Sinatra – His Way,
20 On the Waterfront,
21 The Mob Keeps on Trucking,
22 The Chokehold on New York Construction,
23 One Big Octopus,
24 New Scams for Old,
25 Banks, Wall Street and Three-piece Suits,
26 The Political Fix,
27 Can the Mafia Survive?,
28 'Reports of Our Death are Greatly Exaggerated',
29 Organized Crime Goes Global,