Russell Bufalino

Russell Bufalino (born Rosario Alberto Bufalino; Italian pronunciation: [roˈzaːrjo alˈbɛrto bufaˈliːno]; October 29, 1903 – February 25, 1994) was an Italian-American mobster who became the crime boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family known as the Bufalino crime family, which he ruled from 1959 to 1989. He was a cousin of attorney William Bufalino, the longtime counsel for Jimmy Hoffa.[1]

Russell Bufalino
Russell Bufalino.jpg
Rosario Alberto Bufalino

October 29, 1903
DiedFebruary 25, 1994(1994-02-25) (aged 90)
Resting placeDenison Cemetery, Swoyersville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Other names"McGee"
"The Old Man"
OccupationCrime boss
Spouse(s)Carolina "Carrie" Sciandra
RelativesBill Bufalino (cousin)
AllegianceBufalino crime family
Conviction(s)Extortion (1977)
Conspiracy (1981)
Criminal penaltyFour years' imprisonment
10 years' imprisonment

Early yearsEdit

Bufalino was born on October 29, 1903, in Montedoro, Sicily,[2] and immigrated with his family to the United States through the Port of New York in 1906, settling in Buffalo, New York, where he became a criminal during his teenage years.[3] He married Carolina Sciandra, who came from a Sicilian Mafia family.[4] Bufalino worked alongside many Buffalo mobsters, some of whom would become top leaders in the Buffalo crime family and other future Cosa Nostra families along the East Coast of the United States. These relationships proved very helpful to Bufalino in his criminal career. Family and clan ties were important to Sicilian-American criminals; they created a strong, secretive support system that outsiders or law enforcement could not infiltrate. A significant friendship was with his first boss, John C. Montana, and fellow immigrant from Montedoro.

In the early 1920s, Bufalino started working with Joseph Barbara, another upstate New York bootlegger in Endicott, New York. Bufalino later moved to Kingston, Pennsylvania in 1940.[3] The Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family controlled organized crime activities in Pittston, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York areas.

In the early 1950s, the Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to have Bufalino deported several times, but had never been successful over 15 years as the Italian government would not readmit him to the country.[5][6]

Bufalino met truck driver Frank Sheeran in 1955, when Bufalino offered to help him fix his truck; Sheeran later worked jobs driving him around and making deliveries.[7] Bufalino had introduced Sheeran to Teamsters International President Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa, who became a close friend to Sheeran, used him for muscle, including the assassination of recalcitrant union members and members of rival unions threatening the Teamsters' turf.[8][9] According to Sheeran, the first conversation he had with Hoffa was over the phone, where Hoffa started by saying, "I heard you paint houses"—a mob code meaning: I heard you kill people, the "paint" being the blood that splatters when bullets are fired into a body.[10]

Apalachin meetingEdit

In 1957, after taking control of the Luciano crime family from boss Frank Costello, boss Vito Genovese wanted to legitimize his new power by holding a national Cosa Nostra meeting. Genovese elected Buffalo, New York boss and Commission member, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino, who in turn chose northeastern Pennsylvania crime boss Joseph Barbara and Bufalino to oversee all the arrangements.[11][12]

On November 14, 1957, powerful mafiosi from the United States and Italy convened at Barbara's estate in Apalachin, New York.[13][14] Cuba was one of the Apalachin topics of discussion, particularly the gambling and narcotics smuggling interests of La Cosa Nostra on the island. The international narcotics trade was also an important topic on the Apalachin agenda.[15] The New York garment industry interests and rackets, such as loansharking to the business owners and control of garment center trucking, were other important topics on the Apalachin agenda.[16]

A local state trooper named Edgar D. Croswell had been aware that Carmine Galante had been stopped by state troopers following a visit to Barbara's estate the previous year.[17] A check of Galante by the troopers found that he was driving without a license and that he had an extensive criminal record in New York City. In the time preceding the November 1957 meeting, trooper Croswell had Barbara's house under occasional surveillance.[17] He had become aware that Barbara's son was reserving rooms in local hotels along with the delivery of a large quantity of meat from a local butcher to the Barbara home.[17][18] That made Croswell suspicious, and he therefore decided to keep an eye on Barbara's house.[19] When the state police found many luxury cars parked at Barbara's home they began taking down license plate numbers. Having found that many of these cars were registered to known criminals, state police reinforcements came to the scene and began to set up a roadblock.[18]

Having barely started their meeting, Bartolo Guccia, a Castellammare del Golfo native and Barbara employee, spotted a police roadblock while leaving Barbara's estate. Guccia later said he was returning to the Barbara home to check on a fish order. Some attendees attempted to drive away but were stopped by the roadblock. Others trudged through the fields and woods ruining their expensive suits before they were caught.[20] Many Mafiosi escaped through the woods surrounding the Barbara estate.[21]

The police stopped a car driven by Bufalino, whose passengers included Genovese and three other men, at a roadblock as they left the estate; Bufalino said that he had come to visit his sick friend, Barbara.[22][23] All those apprehended were fined, up to $10,000 each, and given prison sentences ranging from three to five years, however, all the convictions were overturned on appeal in 1960.[17][24][22]

Later years and prisonEdit

Following Barbara's death in June 1959, The Commission recognized Bufalino as the official family boss.[5]

In 1972, after singer Al Martino had the role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather stripped from him and given to Vic Damone, he went to Bufalino, his godfather, who then orchestrated the publication of various news articles that claimed director Francis Ford Coppola was unaware of producer Albert S. Ruddy giving Martino the part.[25] Damone eventually dropped the role because he did not want to provoke the mob, in addition to being paid too little.[26][25] Ultimately, the part of Johnny Fontane was given to Martino.[25][26]

On April 20, 1973, Bufalino was arrested in a Scranton night club in an FBI raid, charged with interference with interstate commerce, obstruction of justice, gambling and transporting stolen property, but later released on $50,000 bail.[6]

In 1977, Bufalino was indicted on extortion charges after Jack Napoli, who was in the Witness Protection Program, testified that Bufalino had threatened to kill him for failing to pay a $25,000 debt to a jeweler in New York.[5] As soon as Bufalino was indicted, he took steps to reduce the possibility of further criminal charges. He named caporegime Edward Sciandra as acting boss and removed himself from the day-to-day operations of the family.[5][27] On August 8, 1978, Bufalino was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment for his part in the extortion attempt.[5] He served almost three years.[28]

Bufalino was released in May 1981, but was indicted again, this time for conspiring to kill the witness, Napoli. The main prosecution witness, Jimmy Fratianno, said that he and Michael Rizzitello had been asked by Bufalino to kill Napoli in 1976.[28] In November 1981, Bufalino was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, held at United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.[5]

Decline and deathEdit

With Bufalino again in prison and the family under federal investigation, the organization's strength began to wane. In 1989, Bufalino was released from prison, and the operations of the remainder of the Northeastern family were given to Billy D'Elia.

On February 25, 1994, Bufalino died of natural causes at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston, Pennsylvania, aged 90. He is buried in Denison Cemetery in Swoyersville, Pennsylvania.

In popular cultureEdit

Bufalino is portrayed by Joe Pesci in the 2019 Martin Scorsese film The Irishman. Pesci was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.


  1. ^ Fowler, Glenn (May 15, 1990). "William Bufalino Sr., 72, Lawyer For Hoffa and Teamsters' Union". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  2. ^ Investigations, United States Congress Senate Committee on Government Operations Permanent Subcommittee on (November 30, 1963). "Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics: Hearings Before the United States Senate Committee on Government Operations, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Eighty-Eighth and Eighty-Ninth Congresses". U.S. Government Printing Office – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b "Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, portrayed by Robert De Niro - 'The Irishman': 12 of the Film's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations". The Hollywood Reporter.
  4. ^ "Bufalino Crime Family Now & Then: Does it Exist Today?". November 27, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Investigations, United States Congress Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on (November 30, 1983). "Profile of Organized Crime, Mid-Atlantic Region: Hearings Before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-eighth Congress, First Session, February 15, 23, and 24, 1983". U.S. Government Printing Office – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b "18 Charged After F.B.I. Raids on Crime Figures Upstate and in Pennsylvania". April 22, 1973.
  7. ^ "Frank Sheeran". Biography. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  8. ^ "Where is Hoffa?". 8 HD I-Team. November 13, 2006.
  9. ^ Brandt, Charles. I Heard You Paint Houses.
  10. ^ Tonelli, Bill (August 7, 2019). "The Lies of "The Irishman"". Slate. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  11. ^ Glynn, Don (November 11, 2007). "Glynn:Area delegates attended mob convention". Niagara Gazette. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  12. ^ McHugh, Ray (August 26, 1963). "Federal Attack, Internal Fights Trouble Crime Clan". Lodi News-Sentinel. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  13. ^ Fitchette, Woodie; Hambalek, Steve (November 15, 1957). "Top U.S. Hoods Are Run Out of Area After 'Sick Call' on Barbara" (PDF). Binghamton Press. Binghamton, NY. p. 1.
  14. ^ Fitchette, Woodie; Hambalek, Steve (November 15, 1957). "Hoods Run Out of Area--" (PDF). Binghamton Press. Binghamton, NY. p. 8.
  15. ^ "Narcotic Traffic Called Topic In Apalachin Talks". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. February 28, 1960. p. 1. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  16. ^ "Narcotics Agent Calls Racketeers Black-Handers". Toledo Blade. July 1, 1958. p. 2. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  17. ^ a b c d Blumenthal, Ralph (July 31, 2002). "For Sale, a House WithAcreage.Connections Extra;Site of 1957 Gangland Raid Is Part of Auction on Saturday". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  18. ^ a b Narvaez, Alfonso A. (November 21, 1990). "Edgar D. Croswell, 77, Sergeant Who Upset '57 Mob Meeting, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  19. ^ "Host To Hoodlum Meet Dies Of Heart Attack". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. June 18, 1959. p. 7. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  20. ^ "20 Apalachin Delegates Are Convicted; Officials Hail Intelligent Verdict". The Telegraph. December 19, 1959. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  21. ^ "Apalachin Raid on Mafia Reverberates 50 Years Later" Archived February 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Mafia News
  22. ^ a b "United States of America, Appellee, v. Russell A. Bufalino, Ignatius Cannone, Paul C. Castellano,joseph F. Civello, Frank A. Desimone, Natale Evola, Louis A.larasso, Carmine Lombardozzi, Joseph Magliocco, Frank T.majuri, Michele Miranda, John C. Montana, John Ormento,james Osticco, Joseph Profaci, Anthony P. Riela, John T.scalish, Angelo J. Sciandra, Simone Scozzari and Pasqualeturrigiano, Defendants-appellants, 285 F.2d 408 (2d Cir. 1960)". Justia Law.
  23. ^ Tully, Andrew (September 2, 1958). "Mafia Raid Confirms 20-year Undercover Findings by T-Men". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  24. ^ "20 Apalachin Convictions Ruled Invalid On Appeal". Toledo Blade. November 29, 1960. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  25. ^ a b c Mark Seal (March 2009). "The Godfather Wars". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  26. ^ a b Jones 2007, p. 50.
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H. (October 24, 1981). "Man Convicted of a Conspiracy to Kill Witness" – via

Further readingEdit

  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-02-864225-3.
  • Neff, James. Mobbed Up: Jackie Presser's High-Wire Life in the Teamsters, the Mafia, and the FBI. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-87113-344-1.
  • Scott, Peter Dale. Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-520-08410-0.
  • Birkbeck, Matt. The Quiet Don. New York: Berkley Books, 2013. ISBN 978-0425266854.
  • Brandt, Charles. I Heard You Paint Houses. New Hampshire: Steerforth Press, 2005. ISBN 1-58642-077-1.
  • Pennsylvania Crime Commission. Report On Organized Crime. Office of the Attorney General, 1984..
  • Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs. Profile of Organized Crime: Mid-Atlantic Region. United States Senate, 1984.
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-8160-5694-1.