Vito Genovese

Posted: 13th April 2011 by admin in Genovese Family, New York

Vito Genovese

Date of Birth- November 27th, 1897
Located- New York
Worked For- Guiseppe Masseria; the Genovese Family
Date of Death- February 14th, 1969

Born November 27th, 1897 in Rosiglino, Tufino (a Province of Naples, Italy), Vito “Don Vito” Genovese was just an Italian boy from a small family. No one knew he would one day become one of the most feared Dons in New York crime. He was 15 years old when he came to America with his Father, Mother, and two brothers Michael and Carmine in 1912. Initially they settled in Queens, New York, but shortly after he moved to lower Manhattan to live with relatives.

It was during this time, the early 1920’s, that Vito began his Mafia career. He worked for New York Boss Guiseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, who liked Genovese because he was prone to violence- a very important trait in the crime world. Starting with extortion and bootlegging, he soon moved on to more important projects for the family. The boy was arrested and sentenced for 60 days in jail when he was caught carrying a gun. Though it was never proved, he was believed to have been the shooter of Gaetano Reina, which eventually led to the start of the Castellammarese War.

Vito made a friend in another young man by the name of Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Having worked the slums of New York City together, they would remain friends for 40 years (until Luciano’s death). It was with Luciano that Genovese helped to change the face of the Masseria family. During the Castellammarese war, in April 1931, Luciano began to plan for the betrayal and assassination of “Joe the Boss”. Vito was one of the four gunmen that murdered Masseria. Later on that year, when Luciano arranged a hit on Salvatore Maranzano- the victor of the Castellammarese war- he maneuvered himself into a position of being one of the strongest gangsters in the country. With Masseria and Maranzano gone, he created the Luciano crime family, appointing his old buddy Vito Genovese as the Underboss.

Things were looking bright for Genovese; he became a naturalized United States citizen in New York City on November 25th, 1936. Not long after, Luciano was convicted of pandering charges and was shipped off to prison, leaving Vito as the acting boss in his absence. When 1937 rolled around, however, Vito was indicted for the 1934 murder of Ferdinand Boccia. In order to avoid a prison sentence he fled the country to Italy, his place of birth, settling in a city outside of Naples: Nola.

If he was doing well in America, it was nothing compared to how well Vito’s career flourished while in Italy. He became a prominent Mafia Boss; befriending Benito Mussolini and even becoming the drug source for Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law. While in Italy, he was even awarded the highest civilian medal Mussolini could bestow upon him. After the allied invasion in Naples, in 1944, Genovese was given the position of interpreter/liaison officer in the U.S. Army headquarters; he quickly became one of the most trusted employees of the American Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT). As a favor to Mussolini and the government, he was acquitted for the murder of a Carlo Tresca, of which he had been charged with a year prior.

During this time, Vito was running a large black market operation with a powerful Sicily mob Boss named Calogero Vizzini. On August 27th, 1944, Military Police finally cracked down on the black market ring and Genovese was arrested. One of the agents from the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Army, Orange C. Dickey, rummaged around for information on Vito’s past and, when finding that he was wanted on murder charges back in New York, decided to bring him back to America to face trial. After months of preparing and trying, Agent Dickey began to run into some resistance; bribes were being handed down, and even the military chain of command was asking for the release of Genovese. Dickey did not buckle under pressure, and Vito was returned to New York.

Genovese was dismayed to find, upon his re-entrance to New York, that the top spot in the Luciano family that he had long coveted was not to be his. Frank Costello had stepped in as acting boss after he had fled to Italy, and a well known New Jersey racketeer by the name of Willie Moretti had become Underboss. Neither man was willing to give up their positions. In response, Vito was demoted back to caporegime of his old Greenwich Village crew. Biding his time, he began to go after Ernest “The Hawk” Rupolo and more importantly Peter LaTempa, two hoodlums who had turned to the state as witnesses, claiming they were involved in the hit on Boccia that Genovese had done. Though LaTempa sought protective custody from the government, he was found one week after Vito’s return to America, his gallstone medication having been poisoned. Without his testimony, Vito was acquitted of all charges.

When the 1950’s rolled around, Genovese put a hit out on Costello, Moretti and Albert Anastasia. Costello was the only survivor, but the fear was enough to make him relinquish control of the Luciano family to Genovese. Vito took over, becoming Don Vito of the Genovese Crime Family; his two brothers, Carmine and Michael “Mike the Pipe” joined him at the height of his power. Though the coup against Costello, Moretti and Anastasia was supported by two of the best earning caporegimes in the family, Anthony Strollo and Anthony Carfano, Vito would allegedly arrange for the murders of the two men at a later date.

More than ever, Genovese wanted to be recognized, and to have his position within the family confirmed by several of New York’s best and brightest Mafiosi. He arranged for the Apalachin Conference on November 14th, 1957, to take place in a rural town- Apalachin, New York. The meeting, unfortunately, went terribly wrong. When a New York State Police Trooper, Edgar Croswell, saw that the meeting house (a farm owned by mobster Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara) was teeming with mobsters, he called in reinforcements and had the place surrounded. The attendees, having been alerted, fled the meeting in total chaos. Not only did this prevent Genovese’s well crafted plan to seize the power he wanted, it alerted the authorities, as well as the public, to the existence and force of La Cosa Nostra.

In 1959 Don Vito was convicted of selling heroin; it upset many of the court goers to see that a low-level thug who claimed to have met Genovese- was the chief witness, as it appeared he was lying. Years later, said witness would redact his testimony, stating he was offered a reduced prison sentence for implicating Genovese. Vito was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, but it was just business as usual. He ran his family from his jail cell, carrying on such acts as ordering a hit upon Ernest Rupolo- the man that had betrayed him years earlier.